Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Things I Liked - Things I Didn't Like

Some things I liked this year, and some things that I didn't:


I liked The Tree of Life. In fact I liked it so much that I bought it as a present for someone else, partly so that I could watch it again. I've written about it here already, so all I will say is that it is a beautiful film that captures childhood memories in a way that I thought they could never be captured outside of our internal imaginations. It is two hours of imagination-on-screen, which is what the art of film is all about.

I didn't like The Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Granted I'm not well versed in the mythology of the series, but I thought this film was flat, contrived, and rather pointless. To call the human characters one dimensional would be generous, therefore it didn't matter how good the ape story was. For the story to work, it required caring about what the humans were doing, and the film failed to evoke such care.


[Since I can't think of any new television shows I watched] I liked The Wire. I watched the first season again for about the fourth time, and it never fails to leave a new impression. Its deconstruction of institutions is remarkable, as is its narrative about who the real targets are: The mid-level drug dealers, the drug kingpins, the suppliers, the politicians who are knee deep in drug money, the international terrorists. If The Wire is ambiguous about who the bad guys are, it's not because all of the bad guys have some good in them. It's because in the present arrangement of things we're given little choice but to be bad, and what is badness when there is no choice involved?

I didn't like Rev. The second season has made me question the first season in the same way that the second Matrix film made me wonder if I was blinded to the flaws of the first.


I liked Hannah's Child. How could you not?

I liked Gilead. If Gilead was a film, it would look something like The Tree of Life. It's full of beautiful snapshots and thoughtful reflections that are soaked in grace. That I enjoyed this novel even more than One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Road is a testament to its quality.

I liked What Uncle Sam Really Wants. A short book that left me open-mouthed on several occasions. I couldn't believe what I was reading, which makes me believe that what I read might just be true.

I didn't like Love Wins. Al Mohler -- who would cause me to change my mind for the sole purpose of disagreeing with him -- called this book a "theological striptease". I couldn't agree more. Sex sells, and this book did precisely that and little else.


  1. I always enjoy reading other people's end of year lists. I share your love of Hannah's Child and Gilead, I'm really looking forward to seeing Tree of Life, and I'm still trying to persuade my wife to embark on The Wire with me.

    My movie choices are up on my blog ( with my music and books to follow.

    By the way, I've really been enjoying your blog and find lots of food for thought here. I gather we have a few friends in common, so maybe we'll cross paths before too long.

  2. Thanks, jayber crow. I'm a big fan of most of those films on your own list that I've seen (though I must admit that True Grit left me with little to remember), so I'm excited to see your remaining lists. I only saw Of God's and Men this year as well and it would be just behind Tree of Life in terms of quality and impact. I watched it again on Christmas Eve, and a part of me wants to continue doing that every year. It could only be good for my soul.

    Anyway, I hope this year you give us something in between the end-of-year lists, and I'm sure our paths will cross sooner or later.