2011 was another exciting year, and we want to thank you all again for reading and, if applicable, posting comments on our blog.  Here are our annual summary remarks about good and bad stuff related to film, music, books, politics, and family.

Best Film Experiences:

  • Jim:  Tree of Life was easily my pick for the year’s best film.  Emotionally gripping and theologically profound, with brilliant directing by Terrence Malick and superb acting all around—even by the child actors.  See my October 3 post for a full review.  But I also loved Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  Riveting action and great intellectual stimulation.  Can’t say that about too many films.
  • Amy: Not my favorite year for movies but Winter’s Bone was definitely a bright spot or albeit a rather dark, bright spot. It has haunted me. I wanted to choose the latest version of Jane Eyre but couldn’t forgive the poor handling of the last 30 seconds.

Worst Film Experiences:

  • Jim:  Batman: The Dark Knight.  Yep, I’m a few years late on this one.  I planned to avoid it altogether, but finally gave in at the request of a friend.  It was just as bad as I feared.  Yes, Heath Ledger’s performance was excellent.  But the screenplay is dull, and the overarching theme of the basic goodness of human beings is, well, just false.  Am I taking it too seriously?  Not as seriously as many hardcore Batman fans, I’m afraid.
  • Amy: I have to agree with Jim on this one. It was dull, so very dull. But at least it was super, super long. I would also throw in Thor and Black Swan, both featuring Natalie Portman. Still trying to figure out if she can really act or not.

Best and Worst Musical Experiences of the Year:

  • Jim:  The Black Keys’ El Camino is an instant classic.  Just when you thought these guys couldn’t get any better (after last year’s album, Brothers), they blow us away with this effort, produced by Danger Mouse.  It’s still soul-tinged blues rock, but bit more polished and radio ready.  Can’t wait to see these guys live in Cincy on March 2.  As for the worst, it’s easily Rebecca Black’s Friday.  Or does she win for “Most Nasal Vocal Performance of the Year”?  Gotta love the lyrics.  “We so excited!”
  • Amy: My musical experiences are much more low brow than Jim’s, though I wholeheartedly agree regarding The Black Keys. Mostly I listen to the stuff the kids are into (Party Rock Anthem and Uprising) and whatever will keep me moving on the treadmill. I have been rolling in the deep with Adele and no one can accuse her of being low brow. My worst experience involved creating the perfect Christmas playlist for the “Jingle Bell Jog” (a 5k held to benefit lighthouse trips) only to be stuck in front of the Taylor Women’s Cross Country singing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” I don’t know which was worse: not being able to hear Sufjan Stevens’ amazing version of “I Saw Three Ships” or the obvious fact that they were not winded at all.

Jim’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year:  The Detroit Tigers winning the American League Central Division was definitely a thrill.  But, even as a non-Denver sports fan, following the Tim Tebow-led Broncos’ comebacks for much of the NFL season was pretty exciting, too.  Watching him scramble while trying to find an open receiver has been fun, but its been just as fun watching football pundits scramble to find ways to justify their hatred of the guy.

Jim’s Most Disappointing Sports Moments of the Year:  It was hard to watch the Texas Rangers dispatch the Tigers in the ALCS two months ago.  (After their World Series heartbreak, I bet they wished they’d been bounced earlier.)   Watching the Saints lose to the lowly Seahawks in the NFL playoffs last January was tough too.

Amy’s Best Eating Experience of the Year:  Oven-roasted tomato soup topped with a slice of French bread and cheddar cheese. It’s just a bubbling pot of love!

Amy’s Worst Eating Experience of the Year:  This would be a tie between two experiences, one which involved not eating. On the way to Jim’s mom’s house, we stopped at Subway for lunch. Faced with a long line and with Cracker Barrel gift cards burning a hole in our collective wallet, we hustled the kids back into the van. Faced with an even longer line, we hustled the now really hungry and annoyed kids back into the car. Lots of whining and a 45 minute car ride later, we met with an even longer line and gave up on the Barrel altogether. Ten minutes down the road, Chick-fil-A came to the rescue. The other experience was least dramatic and involved my forcing the fam to eat whole wheat oatmeal pancakes only to discover they weren’t exaggerating when they said they were “awful.” Sorry guys.

Satisfying Reads of the Year:

  • Jim:  In the scholarly category, I loved Roger Scruton’s Beauty, an insightful and elegant little book, aesthetically satisfying in a way the subject matter deserves.  Also, I enjoyed Craig Evans’ Fabricating Jesus.  It works as an introduction to Jesus studies and New Testament scholarship, as well as a powerful critique of many of the popular biblical skeptics (e.g., Bart Ehrman).  And as for general audience stuff, I appreciated Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting, a deeply personal reflection on living as a celibate homosexual.  I highly recommend this for anyone who struggles in this area.
  • Amy:  One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp has deeply inspired me as a believer and a writer. On the non-fiction front, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand was amazing, especially given the author’s back story. I enjoyed Killing Lincoln and 1776 and for pure pleasure reading The Hunger Games was a great story if not perfectly executed.

Political High Point of the Year:  Jim: Were there any high points?  Amy: Yes, any time Chris Christie opened his mouth.

Political Low Points of the Year:  Anything having to do with the “Occupy” movement.  As if all the rapes, deaths, theft, and property destruction, weren’t enough, we still haven’t heard a coherent position statement from OWS folks, particularly regarding why they take their protests to “Wall Street” rather than Capitol Hill.  Come on, ya’ll.  And what’s the deal with those creepy masks?

Best 2011 Memories of Our Kids:

  • Our summer trip to the Indiana Dunes and then, via train, to Chicago (notwithstanding Andrew’s nausea at one point—happily we got him to a trash can before he “tossed his groceries”).
  • Going to the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 with Bailey.
  • Watching all our kids ride the “big” roller coasters at Dollywood.
  • Seeing Sam give his first public performance as a percussionist (on bongos).  He has so much rhythm, we’re wondering if he might have been accidentally switched with a Brazilian baby at the hospital nine years ago.

Most Satisfying Shared Experiences of the Year:

  • Jim:  Helping to edit Amy’s fantastic first book.  Can’t wait till May, honey-bunny!  (BTW, will you share some of the royalty money with me?)
  • Amy:  Redoing our upstairs bathroom. (BTW, yes but only if you promise not to spend it on anything practical.)

New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Jim:  To take my wife out on more dates and read more John Updike essays.
  • Amy: To have more in-house dates with my husband that don’t require a babysitter or me folding laundry.  And to read the entire New Testament, even the really convicting parts.

Happy 2012 everyone!

2 Responses to “The Best and Worst of 2011”

  1. Ed_Cyzewski


    I’m glad Ann’s book made your list Amy. I have a tough time navigating her writing personally, but I heard her speak at a conference and I haven’t been the same since. God really uses her! I have since become a tad more… adventurous with her writing and it always delivers.

    And hey Jim, we moved to Columbus so my wife can attend OSU. Maybe we’ll cross paths sometime soon!


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