Who says nothing good happened in 2006? Yes, we had Mel's anti-semitic rant and Britney's underpants (or lack thereof). Sex scandals galore and Richard's racism at the comedy store. Trashy celebs partying all night long and the feuding celebs (Donald & Rosie, Rosie & Kelly Ripa) that couldn't get along. And it seems a record number of celebs (including Mel & Richards above) who wanted to humiliate themselves. Danny Devito, still drunk from partying the night before, on The View was like watching a train wreck. However, there were many good things (the Dems won the houses, Bush is a lame duck) and herewith I'll name (in my humble opinion) a few of the best in books, music, and movies, and tv and some of the worst. Everyone's a critic and everyone's got an opinion; here's mine. These are all based on media I listened to or watched during the year (if it's not on the list, it's possible I didn't hear it or see it).
Jay-Z returned, more American Idol artists, and, once again, Beyonce was everywhere.
Mary J. Blige and "The Breakthrough"; Jars Of Clay and their album "Good Monsters" and "Welcome To The Black Parade" by My Chemical Romance were three of the best albums this year.
A few of the worst were Paris Hilton and her album "Paris" (I heard this online); Fergie's "The Dutchess" (also heard this online) and Beyonce with her album "B'day" were all unimaginative, uninspiring and unpleasant.
I read a lot of new books this year and had many that I really enjoyed. Three of the best were (fiction and non-fiction) John Grisham's "The Innocent Man: Murder And Injustice In A Small Town" (a non-fiction book that proves sometimes the justice system does get it wrong); "Faith & Politics" by John Danforth (a non-fiction book written by Danforth who is an Episcopal minister and former Senator from Missouri. He offers his unflinching opinions on such topics as gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research and other hot button topics); and another best is Philip Roth's "Everyman" (a fiction book that tells the story of an ordinary man dealing with divorce, grown children, and the perils of living in California and then becomes a modern day hero).
A few of the worst are Mary Cheney's "Now It's My Turn" (she's not an exciting writer and she is also self-absorbed); "The Ruins" by Scott Smith (a fiction book with some good suspense and an okay story but a truly terrible ending); and "The Catastrophist" by Lawrence Douglas (a fiction book that is boring and trite).
Some good shows debuted this year: Ugly Betty, Heroes, and Brothers & Sisters. All three are compelling, well acted and just different enough to set them apart from the rest of the pack. The worst are 30 Rock (not funny), The Nine (too convoluted and too many characters; also cancelled), and Six Degrees (not exciting). It's too bad the show Kidnapped was cancelled because that show had promise and an interesting storyline; also it featured a good cast.
There were a number of good films (some of them I've yet to see but I just KNOW they will be good) and, of course, a lot of bad films. RV, The Black Dahlia, Scoop, Phat Girlz, and I could go on and on and on.
Some of the best were: End Of The Spear (and Chad Allen, a gay male, gave a good and believable performance), The Real Dirt On Farmer John (a documentary about a farmer in Illinois and his struggles to maintain a century old farm); and the best film (again, in my humble opinion) of the year is a film that was provocative, shocking, and controversial. Last year, the best movie was Munich (and should have won the Academy award; at least the Academy nominated it) and this year the best film was United 93. Director Paul Greengrass (Sunday, Bloody, Sunday) obtained the permission of each family and crafted a suspenseful, harrowing, and shocking movie. We know the ending but it's the disbelieving scenes and clenching of the fists that carry us to the final, sad frame. No one can ever know exactly what happened (Greengrass took transcripts, phone calls, and testimony to create his film) but this film paints the most positive portrait of a national tragedy.
On the other side of that is the worst movie of the year. Originally slated to be released in 2005 with a big Academy Awards push behind it, All The King's Men was not a hit; it was a dead in the water dud. A remake of the 1949 hit (itself a remake of the Pulitzer Prize winning Robert Penn Warren book), the 2006 ATKM is proof positive that a big budget, a big director (Steven Zaillian) and an all star cast (Jude Law, James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Kathy Baker, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, and Patricia Clarkson) does not automatically mean a movie will be great or even good or even okay. This movie was devoid of any life or excitement. It was like watching a train wreck in slo mo over and over and over for over two hours. By the way, the original movie won 3 Academy Awards and deservedly so. Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Picture.
My friend Eric and I used to go looking for singles every Tuesday. And while I don't buy singles very often anymore, I can still appreciate that one cut off of an album that gets my toe tapping or makes me want to turn up the volume.
Some of the best: Panic! At The Disco and their single "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" (for the culture that wants to air their dirty laundry and let all their secrets out, this is the perfect song); "Move Along" by The All-American Rejects (a foot stomping, uplifting and infectious song about getting up and dusting yourself off even when it's hard); and "Go Your Own Way" by the SouthSide Crew. I don't believe this song is available as a single but I heard it this year on satellite radio and it's the best remake I've heard in a long time. A modern and terrific take on a classic Fleetwood Mac hit. Another really good single of the past year is Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars". A moving and infectious ballad that has a story to tell and chooses just the right words.
I hope whatever you read or heard or saw in 2006 was either memorable or noteworthy and here's to more of the same in 2007. Merry Media!