Year End Wrap: New Beginnings

With this post, I’ll be beginning my fourth year of (somewhat) regular blogging. This is an unusual streak for me. Mostly I blog on reading and movies, with short breaks for other things. But I’m signing up for the Post a Day WordPress Challenge this year. In 2011, I’ve joined a few reading “challenges” too, which are linked in the sidebar. There is a modest amount of reading ‘required’ for these – not so much that I cannot do my own independent reading. I’ll most likely do Tribeca and Toronto in the film festival category this year, though the idea of Berlin or San Sebastian continues to intrigue me.

Looking back at 2010 in Books:

Three of the top 5 books I read this year were from the Booker Long/Short list: my favorite was Emma Donoghue’s Room, which is simply the most inventive novel I’ve read in many a year. My choice for the top prize (Booker), but it was not to be. As inventive as Donoghue’s novel was, Graham Rawle’s Woman’s World was arguably even more so. Snip, snip.

Paul Auster’s Sunset Park is here as well. Ok, so for me it’s almost automatic if Auster has a new book out. Rounding out the top 5 are the two other Booker nominees: Damon Galgut’s In A Strange Room, hardly a novel at all, but a fictional memoir which reminded me of Sebald in some ways; and David Mitchell’s latest, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.

Other recommended reads from last year included new novels by Willy Vlautin and Ian McEwan, and an early work by Kurt Vonnegut. The complete list (all 66) is here. I seem to be in the 50-60 book per year range, which is just about right. I still work full time after all, and I’m decidedly not a fast reader.

Looking back at 2010 in Movies:

Looking at my list, I see that other than festivals, I don’t see many films in theaters anymore. Although I’m not into New Year’s Resolutions, I hereby resolve to see more new films this year. Netflix is great, but…

Keeping that in mind, three of my top 5 films last year were released in 2009: I went wild over teh Spike Lee musical joint Passing Strange, although I  seem to be in the minority on this one; I loved Crazy Heart which I saw almost a year ago now, and Almodovar’s Broken Embraces. And I just saw the terrific Micky Ward bio-pic, The Fighter. If Christian Bale doesn’t win an Oscar here, then there is no justice. The entire list is here. Which has got me thinking that I’ll try a new approach this year: I’m thinking I’ll section out my film list for 2011 into three parts: First run films, Festival films and DVD’s.

Taking a look at the festival films, many of them are the best films I see all year.

At Tribeca (the 10th Annual Tribeca Film Festival will be held April 20 – May 1): Sibel Kekilli won the award for Best Actress in a feature film (When We Leave (Die Fremde)). Well deserved, both her performance and the film itself (i.e., the director, Feo Aladag won for best narrative feature film as well) were brave and stunning. This movie will break you fucking heart. It’s been playing at film festivals for nigh on a year, and winning awards. Will someone distribute this in the US already??  The Indian film Road, Movie was a joy. My Tribeca blog is here.

Toronto International Film Festival: I’ve attended three years in a row now and 5 overall, so maybe I qualify as a TIFF veteran. One of the largest and well-organized film fests in the world, there was much to like again this year. Cirkus Columbia from Bosnia was a wise and funny film with a transcendent ending. Brilliant movie-making. Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia for the Light is an example of why I go to film festivals in the first place. This documentary (visually stunning and politically ferocious) was absolutely breath-taking – and a film that you’ll likely never see unless yo saw it there. I wish that were not the case, but I fear it is. This news release claims otherwise. Hope so.

Happy cinema viewing and reading for 2011!

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