The start of the new year means another annual Small Pond feature: a look at my favorite books and movies from the previous year.
As always, we start with numbers. 2012 saw new highs for both books read (96) and movies seen (43). June and December tied for most books read, with each at 13. December was my movie-watching month at 11 movies.
In no particular order, here’s what I liked last year. Check out the links and think about adding these books and movies to your 2013 to-read and to-watch lists.
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Hands down, this is the best movie I saw in 2012. It’s the best movie I’d seen in a long time. I was entranced the entire time. The story, the characters, the settings – every element came together to form a beautiful movie. I was in unapologetic tears by the end. It’s out on DVD now, and it’ll be one of my first purchases in 2013. If you don’t take any other entertainment recommendation from this post, take this one: go watch Beasts of the Southern Wild. You won’t regret it.
Redshirts by John Scalzi – Star Trek (in all its incarnations) is one of my favorite TV series. If you’ve ever watched the show, you’re familiar with the redshirt phenomenon in which actors with no lines other than “Aaarrrrggghhhh!” die helplessly on screen to advance the plot or a regular character’s development. Scalzi embraces the phenomenon in a twisting novel that both honors and ridicules redshirts.
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward – Ward elegantly tells the story of Esch and her family as a hurricane approaches their Mississippi home. The family pulls together and apart at the same time. It was a great book.
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin – A great look at Lincoln’s ascendancy to the presidency and the men who wanted to hold the office in his stead. Goodwin’s style kept the detail-rich book moving along.
Winter’s Bone – The movie is slow, but that’s part of its charms. It’s bleak, both in character and setting, but it created a mood that I enjoyed.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – Ivey walks the lines between magical realism, outright fantasy, and survival tale. She doesn’t answer every question, and some answers may not be what they first appear. The characters are well-drawn.
The Story of Sushi by Trevor Corson – Corson follows a class of sushi students in California and uses their lessons as jumping points for chapters about sushi history, sushi etiquette, fish markets, and so on. If you like sushi, check out the book, but prepared to be hungry for sushi at every meal while you’re reading it.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – It could have felt like a bad writing class assignment — base a character or scene off these old-timey photos — but Riggs creates a world I didn’t want to leave. I’m so happy to know there’s a sequel planned for a summer 2013 release.
The Avengers – It’s not a deep movie that will teach you about yourself or about how others live. And that’s a good thing. The Avengers was a fun, summer blockbuster that delivered bang-up action, quippy/witty dialogue, and even some character moments. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Honorable Mention: Tremé – I discovered and watched all 3 seasons of this HBO series over a month and a half this fall. It starts shortly after New Orleans begins to recover from Katrina and follows an ensemble of characters (chefs, bar owners, DJs, lawyers, police, musicians, etc.). The cast is excellent. The music is awesome (get yourself the soundtracks from the first 2 seasons). A truncated season 4 will be the show’s last, and I’m going to miss these people and their stories.
Those are the 9 favorites that topped the list. Why 9? Because 9 book covers and movie posters fit nicely into the annual graphic. But there were some other books and movies I liked: Swamplandia by Karen Russell, Once upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, the 7 Up series, Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, From Time to Time, and The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.