Sunday, January 06, 2013

My Best Of--but only the more obscure films and books

As I look over the books and movies I saw in 2012, I have to say it was a pretty good year in this regard.  
These are a few of the older books I read in 2012 or the more obscure 2012 movies.

1)      MEMORY, Donald Westlake. This was a recent publication of Hard Case Crime, but it certainly would top my list any year. The protagonist, an actor, is beaten senseless by the husband of a woman he beds for one night. The rest of the book follows him as he tries to remember who is, what he is, how to solve this dilemma. If you want to learn how to plot, how to climb inside someone’s head, this is the book for you. Not a boring page in the book.

2)      MONTANA, 1948, Larry Watson. A small book, full of pain, full of graceful writing. A dying Sioux woman will not allow her employers, the town sheriff, to call for the town’s doctor, his brother. Powerful stuff as we watch events unfold through the eyes of a boy.

3)      RED BAKER, Robert Ward. I can’t say enough good things about this story of man who loses his job and everything else when he can’t come to terms with the loss. Just terrific. Newly available as an ebook.

4)      THE SILENT LAND, Graham Joyce. What if you woke up at a ski lodge and everyone else had disappeared. This book explores that notion through a young couple. Haunting and it shows that white can be as dark as black.

5)      WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN A CASTLE, Shirley Jackson, Probably you read this a long time ago. Reading it again makes you notice so much more.

Five of the Best Short Stories I read this year

1)      The Babysitter, Robert Coover
2)      Things I Learned in Fairy Tales, Roxanne Gay, PROTECTORS
3)      Tetanus, Joyce Carol Oates, GIVE ME YOUR HEART
4)      Girls in Their Summer Dresses, Irwin Shaw
5)      A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor, THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF THE 20th CENTURY


1)      LE HAVRE, A great little movie that shows that community is everything for an African boy who turns up portside in a small French town.

2)      THE DEEP BLUE SEA-The wife of a judge falls in love with an air force pilot during the Second World War. He is not worthy of her love, which makes it all the more interesting. Rachel Weisz is brilliant in this moody little piece.

3)      A SEPARATION. When an Iranian couple wishes to separate, it turns out to be almost impossible. Insightful, sad, complex.

4)      AUGUST 31, OSLO. A day in the life of a recovering drug addict as he leaves his treatment facility to interview for a job.

5)      STARLET, A young woman meets an older one at a garage sale and they both impact the other’s life in surprising ways.Dree Hemingway is Ernest's great granddaughter and she is wonderful as is her co-star, Besedka Johnson, who has never acted before now.

6)      FOOTNOTES-A father and son, both Talmudic scholars, cannot move beyond earlier grievances.

Television-This will be the least unexpected choices, I am afraid

1)  MAD MEN-The best year yet was the 2012 season

2) BREAKING BAD-Since it was divided into two parts, it is hard to evaluate but I have faith in this one to have the nerve to take it to the mat,

3). The 2012 Presidential Election-horrible, sad, sickening, surprising yet the outcome made it worth it.When people mention 2016, I want to cry. Can't do it again.

4. VEEP/GIRLS-And these shows confirmed every impulse we had about politics in Washington or spoiled girls in New York

5. PARENTHOOD, When I needed a cry, this one was standing by and Peter Krause is the actor I would most like to have as my Dad. In effect, his family has two Moms.

6.  BIG BANG THEORY-Always there when I needed a laugh.

Not the greatest seasons for THE GOOD WIFE, JUSTIFIED, WALKING DEAD, MODERN FAMILY. And no new TV shows this fall showed much promise.


Kelly Robinson said...

Good picks. Nice to see someone else can like both Donald Westlake and Shirley Jackson.

Anonymous said...

Patti - Couldn't agree with you more about Montana 1948 - what a great book!

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Irwin Shaw...I had clearly forgotten about this fine writer. Flannery O’Connor is another forgotten author I have been meaning to read this year.

Rick Robinson said...

It has been a very long time since I read Girls in Their Summer Dresses, Irwin Shaw. I'd almost forgotten about it, a wonderful story. I have only read a couple of those novels.

Deb said...

I'd have to say Richard Ford's Canada was the best book I read this year with The Silent Land a close second. I didn't go to the movie theater at all, but saw plenty via Netflix--my favorite being the documentary "The Queen of Versailles" about a couple who went from astounding wealth (on paper) to close to bankruptcy.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I loved CANADA and have put that on some other list I did.
Watson is way underknown as a writer, I think.
How can you not, Kelly?
Rich-pretty sure you can read it online. Flannery is well remembered in US lit classes I think.

Anonymous said...

Good list. I haven't seen any of the movies but read several of the books and stories. Agree on Montana 1948.

A few other books worthy of mention:

Stewart O'Nan, The Odds - I know you read this one
Matt Ruff, Bad Monkeys (also The Mirage)
Warren Ellis, Crooked Little Vein

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Bad Monkey sitting on my shelf. Although I like the O'Nan book a lot, it was not one of my favorite O'Nans so I didn't include it. But any O'Nan is better than most anyone else.
I think I just saw that Ellis has a new book out.

Jeff-I am looking at the Pacific as I type this. Incredible.

Charles Gramlich said...

Definitely a big fan of Big Bang theory. I thought the Walking dead was pretty good. Haven't seen those movies.

Todd Mason said...

Kelly Robinson...I'm not sure I know too many well-read people who Don't like Westlake and Jackson's least some of each...

I'll disagree about THE GOOD WIFE, but I'm not sure I've seen too much brilliant work among the new series, either...even if VEGAS, MAGIC CITY and THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE were all solid, and CALL THE MIDWIFE interesting enough. The best new comic series you missed, I suspect, by never venturing over to Adult Swim: Michael Ian Black's savage infomercial parody series, YOU'RE WHOLE ( and the perhaps excessively chaotically surreal THE ERIC ANDRE SHOW ('s TOTALLY BIASED WITH W. KAMAU BELL was pretty solid when I've seen it, as well (

Todd Mason said...

(VEEP more confirms what people think is wrong with politics, and GIRLS actually wants to endorse spoiled women-children...given how much attention spoiled man-children have been given in popular culture, I suppose it's past time for something other than the career of Madonna Ciccone to come down on this side, but one of the reasons I like THE GOOD WIFE is that it is mostly about adults...who are adults...)

Todd Mason said...

Also among the best comic drama easy to miss this past year, if you were looking to "traditional" media exclusively: BURNING LOVE

George said...

I agree that MAD MEN had a strong season. So did DOCTOR WHO (I miss Karen Gillian!). Richard Ford's CANADA sits in the on-deck circle. I'm surprised no one has mention DOWNTON ABBEY.

Anonymous said...

I liked the latest series of THE WALKING DEAD. GOOD WIFE wasn't bad but was much more variable in quality than previous series. Too much of Kalinda's husband, Eli Gold, Alicia's annoying daughter and Louis Canning for my taste.

Jeff M.

PS - Enjoy, Patti! We're finally warming up here this week (50 by Wednesday) but you're in paradise.

Rick Robinson said...

I left "paradise" so I'm here looking not at the Pacific but at trees. Lots of them, being blown by the wind' it's a very windy day here, with some rain. But then it's winter in Portland, OR, os it's to be expected. Since I mostly read, and genre fiction at that, I'm not really qualified to comment on this one, I guess.

Chris said...

Wow, Patti, as much as we both read and watch movies, of the stuff you list the only thing I've read is the Flannery O'Connor story. I have Memory and I'm about 1/3 of the way through Red Baker right now. I didn't keep track of the movies I saw, and for books . . . I'd say almost all my favorites were nonfiction.

Todd Mason said...

Warren Ellis interviewed: