Tuesday, January 03, 2006

My "tops" for 2005

Three days into the new year, and finally, here’s my Top 10 for 2005. Everybody else’s been doing it for the past week, so why not me? The only reason it’s taken me this long to post is, first, I’ve been suffering through a lingering, end-of-the-year cold, and second, repeated power outages here on the central California coast have kept me offline quite a bit. We had a literal gale yesterday. Eucalyptus trees fell around us like dominoes. Sheesh.

Anyway, about the list...

It’s not a movie list. Or a book list. These are ten things I thought were particularly cool this past year, and I offer them in no particular order.

Serenity (the movie and DVD). Isn’t this on just about every radical libertarian’s Top 10 list right now? I still think it’s a damn miracle the movie ever got a green light at all, based as it is on a failed TV series that barely lasted a half-season. But I’m delighted it did. I saw Serenity on the Big Screen four times in two weeks, and I took all my closest friends to see it. I even converted five of ’em to full-blown Browncoat status. The DVD release, by the way, contains a full-feature, one-man commentary by creator-writer-director Joss Whedon, and it ranks among the most interesting and entertaining I’ve ever heard.

The Black Arrow, by Vin Suprynowicz. Last summer, I said that 2005 was the Year of the Libertarian Novel. It was, and Suprynowicz led the pack. Take Atlas Shrugged, then substitute the 60-page John Galt speech with digestible “sound bites,” add a dash of rock ’n roll, plenty of sex, scores of commando raids, lots of resistance action, mix in Batman and Kill Bill, and you’ve got The Black Arrow. It’s the best libertarian novel since Victor Koman’s Kings of the High Frontier.

Les Klinger’s Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Novels. This slipcased third and final hardcover volume — containing the Conan Doyle novels A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear — completes Klinger’s scholarly masterwork and brings an end to the biggest Sherlockian event since William S. Baring-Gould issued his classic Annotated in 1967. The book’s annotations are thoughtful and valuable, and it features the most beautiful reproductions of the original magazine illustrations I’ve ever seen.

The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons. This DVD collection was a Christmas gift from my sister Nancy, something I didn’t know existed and probably wouldn’t have bought for myself if I had. I broke the shrink wrap one night last week at 10:30; at 2:00 a.m., I dragged myself into bed, with two full discs remaining to view. There are wonderful memories here. The set presents appearances on ABC’s old Dick Cavett Show by Jefferson Airplane, Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, and Stephen Stills (the day after Woodstock, in August 1969); Paul Simon (1974); David Bowie (1974); Sly & the Family Stone (1970); Stevie Wonder (1970); George Harrison and Ravi Shankar (soon after the Bangladesh concert in 1971); and three separate 1970 appearances by Janis Joplin. What’s best is that these are full shows, not just clips, so you get to watch Cavett interview people like Alain Delon, Gloria Swanson, Debbie Reynolds, Elsa Lanchester, and Anthony Burgess, as well. Cavett introduces each show with 2005 remarks. A real treat! Thanks, Nance!

Absolute Batman: Hush. This is the 12-issue, 2002-2003 Batman mini-series by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee, collected in an oversized, hardcover, slipcased edition. It includes issue-by-issue commentary by and an interview with Loeb and Lee, plus pages and pages of sketches, cover art, and other goodies. Frank Miller’s rendition of the Dark Knight remains my favorite, but Hush ranks right up there as a stunning and epic graphic novel. And nobody draws Catwoman sexier than Lee...nobody!

Batman Begins. As long as I’m already talking Batman, lemme just plug this item in. I loved the two Tim Burton films. I thought they couldn’t be beat. Then Batman Begins opened last summer. Christopher Nolan knocked this one outta the ballpark. For the time being, at least until a sequel arrives, this is the definitive celluloid Batman. It kicks ass.

Frank Miller’s Sin City (Recut, Extended, Unrated). Frank Miller was disillusioned by Hollywood when he produced the six Sin City graphic novels (and umpteen short stories). “Here’s something you can’t do in a movie,” he thought. Then Robert Rodriguez convinced him otherwise and roped Miller into a co-director’s chair. The movie adaptation of Sin City (incorporating three novels and one short story) opened in theaters last April. It was groundbreaking. It was like nothing ever before captured on film...the grittiest, ultimate film noir. A near-barebones DVD was released last August. I hope you skipped it, because this new two-disc package is awesome. It features the theatrical release (with feature-length commentaries from Rodriguez, Miller, and “special guest director” Quentin Tarantino) and then breaks the film into its parts — four separate mini-movies, complete with Milleresque title cards and extra footage. All that plus many, many interesting featurettes, interviews, bloopers, trailers, timelines, and even the complete Sin City graphic novel The Hard Goodbye. I’ve been playing with this set off-and-on for the past two weeks. I’m not done yet.

Life Expectancy, by Dean Koontz. Every year, Koontz bangs out a novel or two. This one was actually released in late 2004, but I didn’t get to it until last spring, and it blew me away (like most of his stuff does). It’s a suspense thriller about a pastry chef and his family and how they’re terrorized for more than three decades by homicidal circus clowns and aerialists. It’s also about God, faith, determination, love, and real Evil. Life Expectancy is very poignant. It’s full of wisdom. And it made me laugh my ass off. This novel doesn’t make one false step. Not one. I urge you to read it. And prepare to be enchanted.

Veronica Mars. It was the best thing on TV last year. It’s still the best thing on TV. Rent the first season on DVD. Extraordinary writing, and the cast is top-notch.

The Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left. If you visit this blog’s sidebar, you’ll find entrance to the “official” Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left, set up several months ago by Tom Knapp. But there are also plenty of unofficial blogs in the growing network of leftish and indispensable libertarians in This Movement of Ours. I’m thankful for every cotton-pickin’, subversive one of ’em.


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