Yes Julie Andrews has been at it again people, and from the crowded mass of pop ephemera swirling through the blogosphere, airwaves and into my head, she has plucked the following highlights in a year when I continued to listen to lots of music ( be thankful for hour long commutes each way to work I say...especially when they're air conditioned!), watched more TV than last year (thanks largely to my boyfiriend working in Bathurst 4-5 days a week, most weeks this year; I missed him terribly but I caught up on TV shows), and kept reading books and magazines to keep my inner information junkie happy and not climbing up the Empire State Building terrorising people with media publications in hand....
Ah movies. What a nice way to spend 2-3 hours. Locked away in a dark room watching lights flicker on and off..... hmm that sounds a great deal like a psych unit, and while my friends may universally agree I could do with some time in a strait jacket watching pretty lights, I was in fact referring to watching a movie in the air conditioned comfort of a cinema with the day to day realities of life kept at bay for just a little while. I didn't see as many movies as last year which had a great deal to do with the weekends being often spent alone while Steve caught up on his various projects (poor guy - he is exhausted after a very busy year) and a busy work schedule, which centres on making sure that my bosses are managed hour by hour every day of the working week, which means I recoil from set times for almost everything outside of work... oddly cinema chains find it odd when I tell them when I want to see a movie as opposed to when they want to program it so I often just went without. But when I did make through the hallowed doors of Dendy (mostly) or Event Cinemas, these are the movies that really captured my attention, my heart and my soul:
A French movie about a delightful group of society's rejects who live in a secret home in a rubbish dump collecting society's detritus, essentially hiding from the world till a pressing social issue (arms control) forces them to intervene, and intervene with force and humour, in the world they have shunned. Gorgeously inventive and a real treat.
I AM LOVE
Centering on a Russian woman who married years ago into a very wealthy Italian family, the movie looks at what happens when life has fossilised in place but the heart still yearns for true freedom and fulfillment. It is so beautifully filmed, it looks like a masterpiece of art, and the music and acting is sublime.
A SINGLE MAN
Exquisite. The movie looks like a beautifully illuminated painting, Colin Firth (with Julianne Moore as his tortured bestie gal pal) is magnificent as a tortured older gay man in the 1960s unable to recover from the death of his younger long term partner, from who's funeral he was excluded by a family unable to accept their son, brother etc was gay. Truly sad yet heartwarming too, this is a movie that examines how lonely life can be, and yet how hopeful too.
TOY STORY 3
So much fun and yet so tender and heartwarming all at once, this movie is a brilliant example of the idea that a sequel does necesaarily have to be a diminution of the original movie, but can build and grow on it in wholly new ways. It makes you realise how fleeting life is, but also how rich are the bonds with those we truly get to know well.
THE BLIND SIDE
This movie, about a very strong-willed white Southern woman who takes a troubled but enormously sports-talented African-American boy into her family with wonderful results (after a bumpy road at times) could have been one of those cloying ten-hankies movie of the week efforts so laden with treacle and corn it's a cart full of corndogs at a country fair, but instead it manages with nuance and feeling to look at how unfair life can be for some, but how selfless love can make such a difference even in the most challenging of situations.
I love French movies. They look at life in a totally different way to American movies, and in this case, a woman who's a Bohemian at heart (and would have been painted as an out and out loser in an America where winning and success is everything), who's done as she liked all her life causing issues with her more sensible daughter, finds some kind of redemption through unexpected circumstances. Wonderful!
And finally THE REBOUND, which is an enjoyable but slight romantic comedy that I mainly chose to see because the male lead, Justin Bartha is very cute! Yes I was that shallow and guess what? While not an Oscar contender, it was fun to watch and worth spending some time in the dark for.
No, not the one in London that whizzes people back and forth across the metropolitan sprawl of the UK's capital (although it would be lovely to see along with London and all of Europe....must get there soon!) but rather then glowing plasma box in the corner bringing all sorts of pop cultural goodies (and more than it's fair share of travesties too... just about any reality program bar Survivor on Channel 9 anyone?) into our homes, and ever more congested brains.
I did get to see more TV this year (and no, el gato, the Apple program that turns my iMac into a Personal Video Recorder still isn't installed! LOL) thanks to more nights spent at home (and sadly not with my often far away man) and the gems that held my attention this year are:
BIG BANG THEORY
It's made being clever and nerdy almost hip! Well not quite but it is funny and the thing that I like most about it is that the humour stems from it's characters, who are treated with affection not derision, and not from cheap, obvious jokes (although there are some of those and they are funny too!).
Oh no, we are being invaded by dastardly evil aliens pretending to be super cool, caring and nice again....so far so been there, done that, let me blog about my discontent at recycled show ideas (funny since this is a remake of the 80s mini-series but a very modern, well written, non-cheesy one). But this show is clever, timely and full of pithy social commentary that places it in a class all it's own.
Such a clever, funny sitcom. Its reasonably conventional in it's set up, mirroring the classic family sitcom in lots of respects, but rather than cloying Cosby Show saccharine, this show, which can be quite touching and heart warming when it so chooses, is witty, edgy and laugh out loud funny. Oh, and they portray the gay couple as no idea to any other family! Ground breaking indeed.
This is another show that could have been overshadowed by its Stargate franchise predecessors, but instead, after a slow start during which I wondered if it had legs to carry itself forward, it's grown into a very cleverly written show about power, longing for home, and the way people can be selfish even when the need for drawing together for the common good is needed.
This show is the fabbest campest best thing ever! A great cast of compelling characters, wonderful songs and singing, and socially relevant storylines including one that resonates with me concerning the crushing effects of being teased for your sexuality (something I endured for years at school), this show is fun to watch and thought provoking and heart warming all at once, without missing a single beat! Get your Gleek on people - this show is way better than sliced bread and far better at dancing!!
There are plenty of other shows I love that I check out from time to time like Sanctuary, Cougartown and Collectors (still like my fix of blue rinse TV), as well as wonderful documentary series on the ABC like Last Chance To See, as well as the shows I have bought on DVD and hope to watch one day (aspirational TV I call it!) like Weeds, Bored To Death, Community and Breaking Bad.
Here's to becoming rich enough that I have time to just sit back and watch them all, in what is really a golden age for TV right now, where the shows are better written and better put together than many movies.
Ah books! You have enriched my life more than I can possibly quantify, from the moment I discovered the Ladybird books as a child (which had such ground breaking social story lines as 'Daddy goes to work; Mummy stays home and goes shopping'. Yep, ground breaking! LOL) to recently reading some fascinating sci-fi books, books have widened the scope of my world, made me think, and taken me to the most amazing places without leaving the comfort of my bed. (Hmm this spiel is sounding not unlike an Oscars introduction speech by two stiff as glittery cardboard actors).
These days alas, my boss, VISA, expects me to leave my bed five days a week to work so reading is not as easy as it was back in the day especially given my predilection for thick large sci fi paperbacks which weigh the man bag down terribly. Help may be at hand though when I get my Mac Air next week, my light as air Apple laptop, which will allow me to download all manner of e-books for easy reading on the go. Of course my preference is still for actual books I can hold in my hand, but if e-books mean I can read more, then I will be downloading like a crazy man.
Anyway, here are the books that did manage to get read or are being read and why I like them:
ARE YOU THERE VODKA, IT'S ME CHELSEA? (Chelsea Handler)
She is rude, crude and utterly irreverant but oh how she makes me laugh with her politically incorrect, say it like it is observations. She is a no holds barred commedienne who speaks frankly about life, love and family and the way life doesn't always work out quite the way we want.
EVOLUTIONARY VOID (Peter F Hamilton)
Peter F Hamilton is my favourite sci-fi writer bar none. He writes galazy spanning space operas, populated by well rounded characters in fully-fleshed out worlds that explore what it means to be human when you can manipulate your genetic structure (old people can rejuvenate themselves back to approximately 20 years of age every 50 years or so, meaning many people in the future live for hundred of years), travel through the stars and download your consciousness into a vast Artificial Intelligence (AI). This book is the last one in the Commonwealth series and having just got for my birthday, mere days ago, I haven't read much of it yet, but already it's as absorbing and gripping a read as anything this fascinating author has written.
CLEO (Helen Brown)
I adore inspiring books about animals - always have, always will. Of course as with most things I love, I am also just as able to be cynical and gently ridicule them too, but in the case of this book, written with such soul-stripped-bare honesty by the mother of the family, I am content to be genuinely moved by the way one small bundle of feline fur managed to renew a family touched by terrible tragedy. A wonderful read.
MATTER (Ian M Banks)
This man can write! He is like Peter F Hamilton in so far as he constructs beautifully realised, complex worlds, but Ian M Banks' great gift is that he is able to imbue his stories with an epic grandeur and poetry such is his ability with words, while making eminently unputdownably (it is so a word!) readable stories. I am in the middle of this, and enjoying it thoroughly.
ONE DAY (David Nicholls)
What a clever book. It looks at two people, a man and a woman, who meet at university via a one night stand, and who keep in touch from that point on, always meeting up on the same date every year. It charts their loves, losses, and the way their lives don't play out in the expected manner, and the impact this has on your view of life, living and relationships, especially those from your youth. Very cool.
I love music. No secret there, unless of course you barely know me, in which it's a huge, city spaning, continent-dawrfing, mind-bending revelation! Well, not really, but gosh that was a fun sentence to write so let's just pretend it is shall we? Now, as per usual, and to, I am sure, my boyfriend's despair, I acquire new music, whether it be from HUM (my favourite CD store) or, as we like to call it The iTunes (Sheldon's mum in Big Bang Theory calls it that and we liked it anmd so it stuck), like other people breathe. So finding just a few albums or songs I loved this year wasn't easy but here goes:
CORNUCOPIA OF CHRISTMAS (Annie Lennox)
I adore Christmas albums. The really good ones reflect the artist's personality, but also engender the sort of warm and fuzzy feeling everyone hopes for from the season. As would be expected from an artist of her calibre, this album is beautifully arranged and sung, and creates the most wonderful sense of Christmas-ness (also a word thank you) that I used as the musical accompaniment for decorating the tree this year with the boyfriend. I am absolutely smitten with this Christmas-tastic piece of music!
HEAD FIRST (Goldfrapp)
The funky bouncy Goldfrapp sound I love is back! Not that I didn't like the down tempo electronica of her last effort, which was deliciously languid, but Alison Goldfrapp has come back with catchy, melodically drenched, extremely danceable songs that sweep you up into euphoric bliss.....well, as close as one can get to that when commuting to and from work!
BODY TALK 1 & 2 (Robyn)
I love Robyn! Not just because she writes incredibly infectious pop songs that resonate in your mind long after the iPod has gone silent, or because she's Swedish (and you know how goods the Swedes are at interesting non-cookie cutter pop) but also because she comments with great intelligence on the human condition, something sadly lacking in the songs of popettes like Britney and Kylie (who though their songs be lovely, as they themselves are lovely, don't really cut down to the marrow of what it means to love, and lose and sometimes win, which Robyn does as naturally as breathing). She is an amazingly talented lady who gets me thinking even as my feet start irresistably a-tappin'.
PLASTIC BEACH (Gorillaz)
They are often touted as the world's first truly virtual band, and backed by Blur's Damon Albarn, among others, they have certainly harnessed new and emerging technologies to create an undeniably catchy sound with an intriguing premise to match - none of the members of Gorillaz are real (though Damon et al are touring the band right now so virtual has seeped into real to some extent). It's good fun pop with clever lyrics.
Another very clever Scandinavian, Icelandic gay man Jonsi (part of the brilliantly clever Sigur Ros band) has created a fresh, vibrant album that alternately dances, and sweetly glides, across the soundscape of your soul. It is one of thise albums that possesses a wholly original melodic beauty and I can listen to his music over and over, with my ears tickled and my sould fulfilled. Great one-of-a-kind music.
NIGHT WORK (Scissor Sisters)
Fabulous dirty fun! I have loved their music ever since I saw them on Malaysian satellite TV singing "Take Ya Mama", filled with the hooky trashy but hightly clever pop they have become known for, and this album resonates with the same trapped-in-a-nightclub-all-night-and-loving it- vibe. I saw them in concert this year with my boyfiriend (one of his birthday gifts) and they put on a highly charged poptastic show. Enormously clever, highly melodically infectious brilliance.
Those 6 albums are but a smattering of the music fabulousness I experience this year. Other notable releases by Kylie Minogue (Aphrodite - loved the whole album, a rarity for Kylie and me), Jamiroquai (WhiteDustRockStar - back to their funky white soul they do very well) , Uffie (Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans) and songs by Madcon (Glow), Groove Armada (Paper Romance), P!NK (Raise Your Glass), Washington (1997), Underworld (Always Loved a Film), Ting Tings (Hands), Nerina Pallot (Everythings Illuminated), Duck Sauce (Barbara Streisand) and Glee Cast (Safety Dance - brilliant clip too!). Check some or all of it out!
So that's it pop culture wise for another year my friends. May you discover funky, wonderful, cool things of your own and enjoy the endless creativity of mankind in whatever form takes your fancy!