2009 Movies & Books

I know I saw a bunch of movies this year. I’d have a hard time naming more than a handful though. There were a few gems, but looking over my list I see that all of them came from overseas. I guess Hollywood left me a little flat in 2009.

Departures was probably my favorite film of the year. It is a Japanese film about a man fallen on hard times who takes a job as an undertaker. Apparently this is the sort of profession that earns scorn in Japan, which makes life even more difficult for the man. He learns to do the job well, regardless of how he’s viewed, and he turns into a shining example of dignity and honor along the way.

Let the Right One In is a vampire movie unlike any other vampire movie you’ve seen. It’s a Swedish film that is dark and thoughtful. Much better than any “vampire” film filled with sparkly fashion-plates who are immortal yet act as if they are thirteen.

Ponyo, well, there’s not a whole lot I can say about the films of Hayao Miyazaki. Go rent it, pop it into the DVD player, and the next hour and a half of your life will become pure magic.

I did manage to get a bit more reading done this year than last. There were some really good stories that I was turned on to, and more than once I found myself closing a book and saying “Wow!” Back in 1990 or so I picked up the book “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I loved the book, and while I went on to read a slew of Pratchett books over the years, Neil Gaiman fell off my radar. This was the year that I re-discovered his writing. I liked American Gods, and think that the protagonist is one of the fictional characters that most closely resembles me. The real jewel of the year was Gaiman’s Sandman series. Yes, my literary high-point this year was a comic book from the 90’s, but what a story. I’d put it up there with anything I’ve read.

Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro is a novel focused on a girl growing up in an English boarding school in what would seem to be a normal childhood, but the children at this school are anything but normal. It left an impression on me for the way the characters accept their circumstances and do what they have to.

The other notable mention of the year was Timothy Egan’sThe Worst Hard Time” which is an account of the dust bowl of the 1930’s. In a year when the outlook seemed bleak, nothing puts things into perspective more than reading a true story where people and animals die from lungs filled with dirt, people go days at a time hiding from the weather, and get by on a diet of salted tumbleweeds.

Here are my favorites from 2009.



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