Just like any pretentious blogger is apt to do (and, believe me, I've fallen into several of the traps that bloggers fall into), I feel the need to list my favorites for the year 2011. If something magically changes in the next several days, I will make a revision, but let's assume that the best I've read/seen/heard has already made its mark.
The Tree of Life
Midnight in Paris
If anyone knows me, the first two are quite obvious. Terrence Malick and Woody Allen are up there with the Coen Brothers on my short list. That being said, this would be the first Woody movie in years that I would consider to be great, and I'm as shocked as anyone that a movie starring Owen Wilson (not directed by Wes Anderson) would be near the top. For Tree of Life, there are just so many spellbinding visuals (not even bringing up the dinosaur sequence), and such powerfully-restrained performances, it brought me back to my childhood in small-town Pennsylvania. I didn't think Drive would make my top five, but the movie stuck with me. Bridesmaids was the funniest movie I saw this year, and, Moneyball - well, I'm a fantasy baseball nerd and it held up to my hopes (one exception - Philip Seymour Hoffman turning 6'3" Texan Art Howe into a bit of a schlemiel). The one movie I wanted to see that would probably be on my list is The Interrupters, but it had a very limited release in Los Angeles and I missed it. Just from the trailer, I know I'd eat that documentary up.
Friday Night Lights
Parks and Recreation
The series finale of FNL brought the show to a perfect ending, although I'd be happy if they do follow through with a movie. Don't see it really happening, though. If not, I'll just settle with the fact that Eric and Tami Taylor might just be the best married couple in modern dramatic television.
Three scenes can make it all clear regarding the next three: the "Apple Pie" scene with Margo Martindale and Timothy Olyphant that ended season two of Justified; the drunken reactions of the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department after drinking Snake Juice; when Louie opens up and tells Pamela how much he loves her, yet understands that it will never be.
The Whole Love - Wilco
w h o k i l l - tUnE-YarDs
David Comes to Life - Fucked Up
The Wilco one was a no-brainer for me and an incredibly biased choice, but it is their most fully-realized album they've done since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, so it has that going for it, which is nice. tUnE-YarDs became my treadmill album, which sounds like a back-handed compliment, but it's meant in the best way possible. In short, it grooved. The Fucked Up album is a little more difficult. Yes, the lead singer sounds like he gargles Hydrochloric Acid. Yes, it's loud as hell. But it's as ambitious and, in many ways, compelling as anything out there. It's more of a vote for being memorable than enjoyable, if that makes any sense.
Just Kids, Patti Smith
Popular Crime, Bill James
The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach
The Patti Smith book put me in its time and place more than any other book I read this year. Bill James' book was a strange, curmudgeonly experience, but altogether fascinating. Harbach had fully-realized characters mixed with a John Irving eloquence.