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 some summary remarks about good and bad stuff related to film, music, books, politics, and family.
Best Film Experiences:
- Jim: Shutter Island and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Though these are films in different genres, they are both superbly directed, well-acted, and have compelling stories. And both films successfully transport the viewer into an alternate reality (or two). But while Shutter Island leaves you questioning your perception of the world, Dawn Treader inspires you with the hope of transcending it. Oh, and Toy Story 3 was brilliant, too—transporting the viewer in still another way.
- Amy: No Man of Her Own, Emma, and Tangled. In reviewing my viewing choices this year, I must acknowledge that my standards have lowered a bit this year. These films are a bit more movie than film but great nonetheless. No Man is a fab film noir starring Barbara Stanwyck. While there are enough adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma to sink the Titanic, this one is excellently done and it’s two discs long! I just took our two youngsters to Tangled a few days ago as an act of love and ended up laughing (and crying) along with them.
Worst Film Experiences:
- Jim: This is an easy call: Greenberg. What a colossal waste of time. Yet, this reviewer at A.V. Club recommended it, while admitting that this film, like all of director Noah Baumbach’s comedies, is “plotless, self-consciously literary, and populated by characters who flat-out suck from the time they roll out of the bed until they angrily switch out the lights at night.” He’s right about that much. But he also finds the film to be “hilarious” and “a pleasure to look at.” I wonder if we watched the same film.
- Amy: Inception. Maybe this film doesn’t deserve to be called the worst I watched, but it was such a disappointment that I am placing it in the worst experience category. I anticipated a smart and mind-bending experience. What I got was an action movie with a side-serving of love story. I actually fast-forwarded several sections of shoot-me-up. A close second is The Last Air Bender. I only make it second because I couldn’t actually make myself watch this much anticipated live action version of our most beloved Nickelodeon show. I had heard it was awful and made the kids watch it. Even they hated it. M. Knight Shyamalan, you’re killing me!
Best and Worst Musical Experiences of the Year:
- Jim: Josh Ritter’s So Runs the World Away and Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs. I actually purchased both of these CDs on the same day, so I spent the next month in musical bliss, bathing in the musical beauty. For the most part, I avoided stinkers, due mainly to my careful research before purchasing new music. But what I could not avoid was hearing the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” everywhere I went. Blecch!
- Amy: I am starting to sense a pattern of shallowness in my aesthetic sense this year. I am sensing a New Year’s resolution coming on. Anyhoo, my musical selections were mostly limited to good workout music (“Stuck to You” by Nikka Costa, “Strip Me” by Natasha Bedingfield and “The Way I Are” by Timbaland). I have just purchased albums by Rosanne Cash and Emmylou Harris, which I hope to enjoy in the New Year.
Jim’s Favorite Sports Moment of the Year: Two of my three favorite NFL teams playing in the Super Bowl. Well, the run-up to the Super Bowl was actually more satisfying than the game itself, which at times felt like watching my kids fight. I was sad for my Colts but thrilled for my Saints, with whom I have suffered as a fan since the early 1980s. Who Dat!!!
Jim’s Most Disappointing Sports Moment of the Year: All of the LeBron James summer free agency hype, culminating in an hour-long ESPN James announcement TV special. LeTacky and LeShameless. My interest in the NBA and respect for ESPN have declined faster than the U.S. economy.
Amy’s Best Eating Experience of the Year: While attending a conference with Jim in Atlanta, we “attempted” to visit the Atlanta Art Museum. We sighed with regret as we took an afternoon siesta and mumbled something about going to the Art Museum. We didn’t make it to the museum, but we did make it to the restaurant adjacent to the Museum. I had rabbit with pumpkin ravioli. That’s right—rabbit and let me tell you, Bugs Bunny was tasty!
Amy’s Worst Eating Experience of the Year: If we are talking overall experience, it would have to be an ill-fated family trip to Cracker Barrel. The bad side was the service, which was horrible and slow; also, the food was cold and the manager snapped at me when I pointed this out. The up side was that, in the end, our dinner was on the house. I also hosted a dinner party at which I unfortunately served grey soup; not a shining moment in my culinary career.
Satisfying Reads of the Year:
- Jim: Howard Storm’s My Descent into Death was the most engrossing and inspiring book I’ve read in years (see my May 30 post). Keaton, the classic Buster Keaton biography by Rudi Blesh, was also excellent (see my August 8 post). I also enjoyed numerous short stories by Flannery O’Connor.
- Amy: The Help by Kathryn Stockett and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley were both great book club selections this year. I spent a good part of the year reading books with Bailey and Maggie so for tween boys I recommend the Gregor the Overlander series or Mr. Popper’s Penguins and The Moffats.
Political High Point of the Year: Kicking (a lot of) the bums out of Congress in November. We’ll see how many of these newly elected folks turn out to be bums as well.
Political Low Points of the Year: Amy’s low point was the day after the November elections when she had the sinking feeling that all the newly elected Senators and Representatives would prove to be just as disappointing as the bums that we threw out. Jim’s low point was the passing of Obamacare in March. Already two U.S. District Court judges have struck down part of the health care law as unconstitutional (portending much bigger legal wrangling to come). What a mess.
Good 2010 Memories of Our Kids:
- Bailey learning to play guitar and his ability to imitate us with frightening accuracy.
- Watching Sam finish first in the Fairmount James Dean race for his age group
- Maggie having her first spend-the-night at a friend’s house. Coincidentally, this was also the quietest night of the year at the Spiegels.
- Andrew declaring himself the “King of Potato Wedges,” among other things. He also is now fully potty trained—a major family milestone, to be sure.
Favorite Backyard Adventures of the Year:
- Jim: Installing a zip-line and watching the kids’ creative uses of it (not including Sam’s inadvertent back flip and landing on his shoulders)
- Amy: The raised bed in which we planted cucumbers, carrots, and onions. The cucumbers dominated impressively.
Most Satisfying Shared Experiences of the Year:
- Jim: Eating at the 1280 Restaurant in Atlanta—the $18 scallops were worth every bite (which is saying a lot, as they averaged out to over $3.00 per bite).
- Amy: Any of our several family bike rides—the back of my bike is finally toddler free! A close second was the camping trip the kids and I took to Indiana Dunes State Park. I was so proud of myself for going, proud of the kids for being such troupers and amazed at the beauty of Lake Michigan.
New Year’s Resolutions:
- Jim: To read ten books in New Testament and historical Jesus studies; also to stop biting my nails (without having to forego following sports).
- Amy: To run a 10K race and read at least six books by C.S. Lewis (and not just his fiction).
Happy 2011 everyone!