It’s been another exciting year, and we want to thank you all for reading and, if applicable, posting comments on our blog.  Once again, we would like to close out the year with summary remarks about good and bad stuff related to film, music, books, politics, and family. 

Best Film Experiences:

  • Jim:  Slumdog Millionaire, Inglourious Basterds, and The Blind Side. Three very different films with one thing in common: a compelling story.  See my March 2 post for extended comments on Slumdog, and our joint review of Inglourious Basterds in our October 29 post.  As for The Blind Side, I confess that I went to see it begrudgingly, figuring it would subject me to two hours of eye-rolling melodrama.  On the contrary, this simple but powerful film had me in tears the entire evening.  And I’m no sentimentalist…
  • Amy:  Jim chose the ones you’ve heard of, so here are a few older ones you might not have seen: 1927 Academy Award winning Sunrise.  I am not a big fan of silent films but this one is amazing, a perfect movie. Another oldie but goodie is The Red Shoes.  Finally, Murder!  I am slowly working my way through all the works of Hitchcock and this was one I marked off the list this year.  It’s classic Hitchcock, which is to say, suspense with heart and soul.  Finally, this one isn’t an oldie, but since I spend a great deal of time watching children’s films I will give a shout out to my friends Charlie and Lola.

Worst Film Experiences: 

  • Jim:  Little Children—Three of my pet peeves in contemporary Hollywood films are:  1) stilted dialogue, 2) gratuitous sex scenes, and 3) plotlines that encourage viewers to root for a character to commit adultery.  Well, this movie features all three of these vices.  Some thematic originality or insight into truth might have helped to redeem the film despite these flaws.  But, alas, this one was disappointing down to the last, contrived and implausible, scene.
  • Amy:  The Reader, Japanese Story, and Summertime are three that standout in their badness.  There are bad movies which are flawed in one way or another (poor writing, bad acting, etc.) and then there are movies that are faulty on a deeper level; like people who are really smart that you enjoy being with as long as you don’t think about what they are actually saying.  These films would fall into the latter category.

Best Musical Experiences of the Year: 

  • Jim:  Wilco (The Album).  Jeff Tweedy & Co. have been making great music since the mid-90s, and their latest effort is more of the same.  2009 is also the year that I discovered the Kings of Leon.  Thanks to Jason Fortner for his insistent introduction to the beauty of the Followill brothers’ musical world.
  • Amy:  It isn’t a specific album but I loved my Christmas music this year. One of my faves included Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas, “What Child is This” by Andrea Bocelli, and Mary J. Blige and Emmylou Harris’ Light of the Stable.  They all strike the chords of awe, sadness, and rejoicing that I love about the season.

Favorite Songs of the Year:

  • Jim:  “Breathe” by U2.  This song slaps you in the face, spins you in circles, then sits you down and caresses you into ecstasy.  What begins as an almost tuneless rapid-fire narrative resolves into one of the most melodically satisfying songs in the U2 repertoire.  Check out that entrancing combo of cello and guitar as well as the memorable lyrical images—e.g., “people born of sound” wearing songs “like a crown” and “the roar that lies on the other side of silence.”  Oh yeah.
  • Amy:  See my comments above about Christmas songs.

Jim’s Favorite Sports Moment of the Year:  The season-long dominance of the Saints and Colts (two of my favorite teams), both of whom earned home field advantage throughout the NFL playoffs.  I’m not naïve enough to think both will make it to the Super Bowl (#1 seeds almost never meet in the championship).  But I’m hopeful that one of them will play on Super Sunday.

Jim’s Most Disappointing Sports Moment of the Year:  The Detroit Tigers’ squandering their division lead on the last day of regular season.  It wasn’t so much a moment as a week-long, fated collapse.  Ugh.

Amy’s Best Eating Experience of the Year:  New Orleans’ restaurant Mona Lisa’s eggplant parmesan.  Spicy marinara sauce, crispy eggplant in a creative setting with friendly folks.  And the service is great—at the Mona Lisa everyone is treated like a regular.

Amy’s Worst Eating Experience of the Year:  “Zucchini and Basil Soup.”  In an attempt to cleanse our bodies of toxins, Jim and I did a cleanse diet which excluded all cheese, eggs, wheat, soda, and basically anything you might enjoy eating.  The diet was actually not that bad, but this cold “soup” was definitely the low point.

Most and Least Satisfying Reads of the Year:

  • Jim:  Antony Flew’s There is a God, in which the former atheist chronicles his journey to belief in God and masterfully summarizes the three main considerations which prompted him to embrace theism.  I’ve also greatly enjoyed the Arts and Letters Daily blog.  My least satisfying read was Kwame Appiah’s Cosmopolitanism—an attempt to salvage shared moral values while affirming cultural relativism.  I kept waiting for an argument, but it never came.  And until the very end I hoped Appiah would rescue his project from incoherence.  My hopes were never realized.
  • Amy:  Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth, Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit and Same Kind of Different as Me were all inspiring.  They just don’t write them like that anymore.  I didn’t like The Girls from Ames.  Also, on three separate occasions, I began reading The Shack, but I couldn’t complete it.  Bad theology and even worse writing.

Political High Point of the Year:  Our hopeful sides want to celebrate the seemingly grass roots movement afoot in our country against government expansion and irresponsibility.  But our cynical sides tell us that it’s all just more talk that will, in the end, be undermined by profiteering.

Political Low Point of the Year:  The revelation that (now former) Green Czar Van Jones was a Marxist…or perhaps the revelation that (now former) White House communications director Anita Dunn was a Marxist sympathizer.  Or (speaking of Marxism?) perhaps the real low point was the health care bill.

Most Outrageous News Events of the Year:  The balloon boy hoax (what can you expect from a couple who would name their kid “Falcon”?) and Bernie Madoff (an appropriate surname, until the Ponzi schemer artist got busted) and climategate (when scientists feel they have to fudge numbers, this should give pause to even the most dogmatic believers in their theory).  Ah, the hits just keep on coming, don’t they?

Our Kids’ Most Memorable Statements of the Year:

Bailey:  “I think cussing is just adults’ way of whining.” 

Sam:  “Dad, just try to name a breakfast cereal I don’t like.”

Maggie:  “I think the wind is God whispering ‘I love you.’”

Andrew:  “I never want to get married, ‘cuz you have to kiss someone every day.”

Most Satisfying Shared Experiences of the Year: 

  • Jim:  Walking around the French Quarter together at the ETS conference in November.  Also, our August vacation in Houston with the incomparable Newcomb family. 
  • Amy:  Our various bike rides together as a family; also, seeing two of our kids become communicant members of our church and sharing the communion experience with them.

New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Jim:  To get to bed before midnight more than half of the time
  • Amy: To put Ranch Pringles behind me once and for all

Happy 2010 everyone!  And happy new decade as well!!

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