Here’s a brief list of some of my favorite, um, stuff, from the year 2006. I know that critics like to make Ten Best lists, especially of movies. But I’m not sure there were ten really good movies this year, In any case, my favorite movies were not made as movies, and some were made quite a few years ago. Anyway, here goes.
My Favorite TV Show of: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006.
My Favorite TV Channel:
Turner Classic Movies. What an education I’m getting on this station. Where else can you see silent films by Carl Dreyer? They’re in the middle of a Gary Cooper film festival and a Stanley Donen retrospective. Ask Karen, I live on this station.
My Favorite Movies of 2006:
The best movie of 2006 was Firefly, a series made by Joss Whedon that was cancelled after a short run. Think John Ford in outer space. Brilliant, original, exciting, witty and utterly unforgettable.
Whedon went on to make Serenity, a sequel to Firefly, this feature film fills in a great deal from the series and is a great piece of movie magic. Think John Ford cross-pollinated with Akira Kurosawa.
Okay, these were made in 2005 not in 2006, but I’m afraid no one saw them. They are available on disc now, and look, they’re great, go out, and kick back and enjoy some old fashioned movie magic. G-d knows there’s not a lot of that anymore.
Samurai Rebellion, directed by the great Masaki Kobayashi. I’m shaking in my boots here. Finally, finally got a chance to see this classic 1967 samurai film. Actually, this is, as one astute Amazon viewer dubbed it “an anti-Samurai film.” The classic dramatic conflict plays out in stunning and savage geometric swordplay: where do your loyalties lie, to your master, or to your family? By the last frame, I was reduced to a puddle.
The Sword of Doom is described as “the thrilling tale of a man who chooses to devote his life to evil.” This is another film from the sixties that I’ve been waiting and waiting to see. It was worth the wait. This movie might have the most amazing swordplay I have ever seen in a samurai film — and I’ve seen a lot of Japanese films.
Seven Men Fron Now Screenwriter Burt Kennedy wrote seven “B” westerns for director Budd Boetticher that are now recognized as classics. They all star Randolph Scott and they all pit a lone cowboy against a brutal landscape and a rather likable antagonist. This 1956 movie is a classic story of revenge, but like all the best westerns the emotions are complex and deeply compelling. This is the most satisfying of the Boetticher/Kennedy cycle.
My Favorite Books of 2006:
Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malay and Vietnam by John Nagl. This invaluable volume compares the British doctrine and practise in the Malayan Emergency from 1948-1960 to the American experience in Vietnam. That’s right. The Brits fought and defeated the Malayan Communists for 12 long years. They were patient, they adjusted, they won. The Americans in Vietnam, well, we were not patient, we did not adjust, we did not learn — we lost.
There are lessons on ever single page of this book on how we should conduct the war in Iraq, in fact in every counterinsurgency campaign. Every U.S. and Israeli officer I know is reading this book, learning it by heart. You should too.
Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea by Jasper Becker. Over three million people have been starved to death by the North Korean regime. They have a gulag as large as Texas. President Clinton and Madelaine Albright’s policies of appeasement only encouraged and emboldened this most murderous of evil regimes. Now that Kim Jong Il has the bomb, well, there is little that can be done. This should be a lesson for those who are so sanguine about the Iranian nuclear threat, but I fear that appeasement is a default position for a large portion of our elite. Make no mistake about it, North Korea is the most murderous regime on the face of the earth. Horrifying reading, backed up by meticulous footnotes.
The Looming Tower: Al Queda and the Road to 9-11 by Lawrence Wright. See the CIA fight with the FBI. See beauracrats in vicious turf wars instead of battling Al Queda. See jihadists proclaim war on America — and America has not a clue. Every American must read this book if he/she cares about the survival of western civilization.
Would you like to know how New York City works? Curious about the history of every manhole cover in every borough? Well, this is the book for you. The Works: Anatomy of a City by Kate Asher.
I read two novels that just knocked me out this year, both by young women.
Oh boy, can she spin a sentence, I told myself, as I dug into Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. I figured she’d have problems resolving her ending, I can sense when a story teller is losing control of the material, but this is a wonderful novel and though the ending and resolution doesn’t quite work, well, that’s why we in Hollywood reshoot 99% of the endings of our movies. Endings are hard. Resolutions are even more difficult.
Brookland. This is a very different novel than “Calamity Physics.” Slow, stately, a period piece. Emily Barton is not writing her first novel. It makes a difference. She’s got some experience under her belt. I savored every detail of life in Brookland, Brooklyn, before there was bridge to Manhattan. Lovely and touching. Highly recommended.
Best Semiautomatic Pistol of 2006:
It’s light, never jams, shoots consistently tight groups at fifteen yards. Great gun.
for the Best Book Cover of 2006.
Best Graphic Novels:
Karen and I wish all our Seraphic Friends a lovely and meaningful Shabbos.