This is the time of year when all manner of people and media post their best/worst selections of the year. The main purpose is to elicit outrage or agreement or bewilderment regarding the selections. Anyone can play. So I guess I will with these caveats. I’m not saying that what follows is the best of any the categories. It’s simply what I most enjoyed. Some books, TV shows, music, movies I simply didn’t experience (e.g. Argo and The Hobbit) or didn’t enjoy as much as those listed (i.e. the latest Dresden book, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man). I’m only touching on what was new in 2012 – not those things I’ve enjoyed from other years and enjoyed again in 2012.
Caveats away. Let’s get down to it.
Doctor Who: The mid-season finale didn’t please me as much as I hoped. The departure of long time companions Amy and Rory had me scratching my head. However, the Christmas Special – The Snowmen – made up for it, introducing an intriguing new companion for the time and space faring Doctor and a tantalizing mystery. Steven Moffat – show runner and head writer – remains in fine form.
Justified: Big tough ass series based on an Elmore Leonard character. This season was even better than the one last season, which is saying a lot. Star performances made the season starting with Timothy Olyphant as Marshall Raylan Givens, along with Walter Goggins, Nick Searcy, Neal McDonough as a truly scary bad guy from Detroit, and Mykelti Williamson as an equally scary local bad guy. It’s violent, sexual, badass, and Raylan Givens is so damn cool he should be illegal.
Fringe: It’s now on its final episodes and taking a whole different tack from the previous seasons. I’m hoping it all ties up and makes sense by the end but this was created by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci who also did Lost and the ending of that got a little bit away from them. Still, John Noble’s Walter Bishop is a delight to watch and is reason enough to tune in.
The Daily Show/The Colbert Report: This got me through the freakin’ election. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are both geniuses. Stewart does the faux news show and Colbert does a faux conservative commentator ala Bill O’Reilly. Colbert’s may be the more brilliant show but I have to admit that Jon Stewart makes me laugh more. However, Colbert did perhaps the last interview that famed children’s book writer Maurice Sendak ever gave and its hysterical and touching. Both shows are must-see TV for me.
Suits: I would not have bet you that a series set in a high powered law firm with people I don’t especially like would keep me riveted, but this one sure does. Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams and Rick Hoffman are superb but for me the best characters are two women – Gina Torres (who you might recognize from Firefly) as the really tough head of the firm and especially Sarah Rafferty as Macht’s tart tongued, all knowing secretary who steals the show. Morally complex, suspenseful, and witty.
Kate Bush: 50 Words For Snow: I’ve been a big Kate Bush fan for a long time and it becomes an event when she brings out a new CD. Kate Bush is one of the most influential female singer/songwriters in the music business. This is one of her best CDs in recent years and the duet she sings with Elton John, Snowed In At Wheeler Street, is haunting. I play it over and over again. It’s influencing a concept that I’m working on. I love this CD.
The Avengers: The most perfect cinema realization of the Marvel comics ethos. Joss Whedon (director and writer) rules. This made umpty gazillion dollars and you’ve probably seen it. One of the best moments: Hulk vs. Loki. ‘Nuff said.
Lincoln: I’ve talked about this in one of my other columns. Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of the great movie performances of all time but he’s not the only one. Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones. Hal Holbrick, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who has had a very good year), James Spader and so many others make the film an acting delight.
Skyfall: James Bond’s 50th Anniversary in films and this one is a knockout. Bond is not simply an icon in this film; he’s a character with a deeper story. We see a seedy Bond, we see a Bond off his game, we see an aging Bond who may be outdated in the modern espionage world and knows it. This is right up there with my other two all-time favorite Bond movies, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger and it may be my favorite of the three. A key to the film’s success was hiring noted director Sam Mendes who delivered not only the action set pieces we expect from a Bond film but visual style, pacing, and performances. Daniel Craig gives his best outing yet as Bond, Javier Bardem’s Silva is one of the scariest all time Bond villains and Judy Dench – ah, Judy Dench. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about and, if you haven’t, I won’t ruin it for you. It’s not just a good Bond film; Skyfall is a really good film – period.
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection: One of the pleasures of series books is coming back and seeing characters that you’ve come to regard as friends in a setting, a world, that has become real to you. Alexander McCall Smith has done that for me with his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, a detective series set in Botswana, Africa, and starring his woman detective, Precious Ramotswe. This series is a long ways from a hardboiled noir detective. The stories are gentle and filled with characters I love. The challenge with series books is to give the reader everything they remember and want in the series while also covering new ground. It’s a tough trick to pull off; the books could become stale. This series progresses slightly with each book and stays fresh. I look forward to my next trip back to Botswana.
Favorite Person In the Whole Wide World: My Mary. Who else? Love you, cutie pie.
I’ll be back next year. Happy New Year to you all.
NEW YEAR’S EVE: Mindy Newell