Tristan's List of Movies and Books of 2013
The asterisk (*) by the author’s name indicates those were exceptionally good books.
This year I'm including some new twists: I'm going to list the best book I read in the fiction and non-fiction category, and I'm also going to include the movies I watched, all with the same self-imposed “rules” and “features” of the list.
As always, these are books I read this year, not only just books that came out this year. Most of them were written ages ago, some of them centuries ago.
None of the movies I watched were made centuries ago, however.
These are all my opinions, and these lists are mostly for my amusement, and for the occasional two or so requests for recommendations of books to read that I get during the year.
-Robert Heinlein had a brilliant imagination and was a great story teller. This is not, however, the same as saying he was a great writer. His characters and dialogue have aged horribly, and I wonder if they sounded hokey even at the time they were written.
-Seems I hit the spirituality books a little hard this year. Sweet.
Books I Read in 2013
1. Abyss, The by Orson Scott Card; based on screenplay by James Cameron*
a. Excellent – As much a novel as a supplement; fleshes out story perfectly
2. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan*
a. Sublime. From all of the elements in it, I should not have enjoyed this book. And yet it was perhaps the richest and most fascinating book I read this year. It’s the kind of book that makes me want to write. The second two books in its trilogy are very nearly equal to it.
3. American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, Jim DeFelice
a. Good, a little too homegrown for me, but haunting to read due to his untimely death.
4. Bankei Zen: Translations from The Record of Bankei by Peter Haskel (translator); Yoshito Hakeda (editor)*
a. Sublime – Clear, beautiful, to the point. From the East, but so clear it can be easily accessed in the West; old, but has lost none of its freshness.
5. [Title removed at publisher’s request]*
a. Small but powerful. If you read this book, it’s because it has found you, not the other way around.
6. Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan*
a. Sublime. Dense, though at times a bit confusing. The second book in the Takashi Kovacs trilogy.
7. Brother of Sleep by Robert Schneider*
a. Very good, magic, lyrical.
8. Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book, The by Bill Watterson*
9. Clear in Your Heart: The Radiant Mirror of Self-Shining Awareness by John Wheeler*
10. Dark Half, The by Stephen King
a. Good, kept the pace going, but ending between the Thad and Pangborn seemed abrupt.
11. Dirty Enlightenment: The Inherit Perfection of Imperfection by Peter Brown*
a. Very good though hardly a primer for his “field”.
12. Dismantling the Fantasy: An Invitation to the Fullness of Life by Darryl Bailey*
a. Sublime, Gentle, Poetic, Clear. This book breathes life.
13. Essence Revisited: slipping past the shadows of Illusion by Darryl Bailey*
a. Very similar to “Dismantling the Fantasy”. The clarity of Bailey’s words remains excellent
14. Hannibal by Thomas Harris
a. Good – Dark and sexual.
15. Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris
a. Ok – Felt unrelated to the Hannibal series, far-fetched and forced. Weakest of the saga.
16. In The Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build a Perfect Language by Akira Okrent*
a. Very Good, nice intro to the history of conlanging.
17. Inferno by Dan Brown
18. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton*
a. Very Good – Well-paced, exciting, dark. Second time reading it: First novel I had ever read; I originally read it in third grade.
19. Key to Rebecca, The by Ken Follet
a. OK, slow until the last 70 pages or so. Before then I had considered giving up on the book.
20. Life Above All Else by Gilbert Schultz*
21. Light Behind Consciousness, The: Radical Self-Knowledge and the End of Seeking by John Wheeler*
a. Very good, though not as good as “Awakening to the Natural State”
22. Longest Day, The: June 6th, 1944 by Cornelius Ryan
a. Good, well-written, interesting German points of view
23. Look for Yourself: The Science and Art of Self-Realization by Douglas E. Harding*
a. Sublime – Some of the clearest pointers in the West on so-called Eastern spirituality.
24. Lost World, The by Michael Crichton
a. Second time reading it. Originally read in grade school.
25. My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf*
a. Very good – cinematic and well-developed portray of Dahmer as told by someone who knew him when he was a teenager.
26. On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious by Douglas E. Harding*
a. Excellent, clear, friendly: An excellent book on spirituality.
27. One Good Thing by Preston M. Heller*
a. Very Good; occasionally a bit heavy-handed and in need of an editor, but overall well-told.
28. Op-Center by Tom Clancy, Steve Pieczenik
a. OK, slow-paced yet felt rushed.
29. Open to the Source: Selected Teachings of Douglas E. Harding by Douglas E. Harding, Richard Lang (Editor)*
30. Orders from Berlin by Simon Tolkien
a. OK, interesting premise but a bit dull and predictable.
31. Reason for God, The: Belief in the Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller
a. Good and Challenging; Good book to have in one’s arsenal to discuss conservative Christianity
32. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
a. Good – Good story, okay writing.
33. Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein
a. OK – Quite aged and characters act corny.
34. Ruins, The by Scott Smith
a. Good, dark, hooks you in.
35. SEAL Warrior: Death in the Dark: Vietnam 1968-1972 by Thomas H. Keith and J. Terry Riebling
a. OK; fascinating but author’s voice was a little too macho for my taste.
36. Secret Window, Secret Garden by Stephen King
a. Good, Surprisingly suspenseful and satisfying.
37. Silence of the Lambs, The by Robert Harris
a. Good – Interesting story, good characters, okay writing.
38. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
a. OK – Dry and Plodding.
39. Suffer in Silence by David Reid*
a. Very good, almost documentary-like. Plot is fairly thin, but fascinating and very well-written.
40. Walking Dead, The: Vol. 17: Something to Fear by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn and Tony Moore*
41. Walking Dead, The: Vol. 18: What Comes After by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn and Tony Moore*
42. Weirdos from Another Planet by Bill Watterson*
a. Very good – imaginative and touching, as always
43. Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan*
a. Very Good – The slowest paced but the most complex of the Takashi Kovacs novels so far.
Best book of the year:
Fiction: Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
Nonfiction: Dismantling the Fantasy: An Invitation to the Fullness of Life by Darryl Bailey
Runner up: All of the books I read by Douglas Harding.
Movies I watched in 2013
Along with the reviews, I'm going to include what I thought were the best features of the film, and what it might get nominated for if the Academy Awards were run by me.
The ones with this goofy looking thing (§) mean that I saw it prior to 2013, but watched it again in 2013, which is the first year I started making a movie list.
On some of the movies I did not include the years they were made. My list has evolved over time in terms of detail, but I don't always go back and fix the past shortcomings.
1. 13th Warrior, The (May 2013) (Okay)
a. Good visuals, bad character development. Nice depiction of language learning
2. 42 (April 2013) (Very Good)*
a. A bit clichéd, but some good photography and an excellent performance by (and make-up job on) Harrison Ford.
3. Act of Valor – 2012 (October 2013) (Very good)* §
a. Macho and propagandistic, but exciting, interesting and full of excellent cinematography.
4. Babakiueria (March 2013) (Very Good)*
a. Surprisingly funny, effective, and cutting satire on aboriginal/European POVs. Very recommended.
5. Battleground (Jan 2013) (Good)
a. A slow but well-told story about a group of American soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge, focusing on their psychology rather than on the fighting, similar to A Thin Red Line.
6. Beyond Thought (Awareness Itself) (Jan 2013) (OK)
a. A ho-hum documentary about the state of Awareness that is aware of all things.
7. Captain America (June 2013) (OK)
a. Good, but flawed and a little shallow.
8. Captain Phillips – 2013 (October 2013) (Excellent)*
a. Suspenseful and well paced. The last 5 minutes are some of the most moving ever filmed. My nomination predictions: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Hanks), Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Editing.
9. Conjuring, The – 2013 (October 2013) (OK)
a. Had some creepy and suspenseful moments but was too formulaic.
10. Contagion – 2011 (October 2013) (Very good)*
a. Suspenseful, cold, stark. Focus more on the situation instead of connecting with any characters. Some good cinematography.
11. Croods, The (April 2013) (OK)
a. Boring and clichéd. Some funny moments but very very few.
12. Cropsey (December 2013) (OK)
a. Interesting documentary but somehow unfulfilling.
13. Debt, The (May 2013) (Very Good)
a. Good plot twists, good acting.
14. Devil’s Double, The – 2011 (October 2013) (Very good)*
a. Disturbing and dark. Dominic Cooper’s performance is unbelievably excellent.
15. Die Brücke – 1959 (July 2013) (Very Good)*
a. Well-told; brave enough to show some realistic violence.
16. Django Unchained (Jan 2013) (Excellent)*
a. Excellent action/comedy/drama. Arguably Tarentino’s greatest film, second only to The Inglourious Basterds. Christoph Schultz gives an excellent performance.
17. Ender’s Game – 2013 (November 2013) (Good)
a. Fairly faithful, but felt rushed and lacked the depth and heart of the book. Predictions: visual effects.
18. Event Horizon (April 2013) (Good) §
a. Clichéd but spooky and intriguing haunted house story in space.
19. Everest: IMAX – 1998 (October 2012) (Good) §
a. Good photography, as always with IMAX.
20. Fire in the Sky (May 2013) (Okay)
a. Interesting story, but a bit boring.
21. Flight (2012) – December 2013 (Very Good)*
a. Well acted, well directed, excellent crash scene.
22. Frighteners, The – 1996 (September 2013) (Very good)
a. Surprisingly good dark comedy.
23. From the Earth to the Moon (June 2013) (Good)
a. Good but not as interesting as I’d hoped.
24. Good Day to Die Hard (Feb 2013) (Poor)
a. Disappointing, hollow, half-baked, terrible character development. The weakest entry in the series. The car chase was the very entertaining, though.
25. Gravity – 2013 (October 2013) (Very good)
a. Very suspenseful and very straight-forward story telling. Very interesting that finally space is portrayed as completely silent. My predictions: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Bullock), Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Best Editing
26. Great Gatsby, The [2013 version] (June 2013) (Good)
a. Energetic: Possible Oscars: Art Direction/Set Direction, Costume Design, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Direction, Editing
27. Hobbit, The: The Desolation of Smaug – 2013 (January 2014) (Very good)*
a. Bleak but superior to first film. Less campy. Nominations: Visual Effects, Sound Effects, Sound Effects Editing, Art-Set Direction, Costume Design
28. H. H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer – 2003 (November 2013) (OK)
a. Interesting tale, but rather blandly told. A bit cheap-looking.
29. Hangover, The: Part III (June 2013) (Good)
a. Funny, but the weakest. Nevertheless, nice to see the formula changed a little bit.
30. Hellbound: Hellraiser II (March 2013) (Okay)
a. Good make-up effects and set pieces, but felt more like a couple of chapters rather than a stand-alone story.
31. Iron Man 3 (May 2013) (Very Good)
a. Slightly darker, good, but not the best in the series.
32. Jurassic Park* (April 2013) (Excellent) *§
a. Classic film, and 3D looks surprisingly good.
33. La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful) – 1997 (November 2013) (Good)
a. Good and touching. Slap-sticky, but still magical.
34. Lawless (Feb 2013) (Good)
a. Good, but didn’t live up to expectations. Tom Hardy did very good voice work.
35. Life of Pi, The (Jan 2013) (Good)
a. Very good adaption…My predictions: Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Editing, Visual Effects, Adapted Screenplay
36. Lone Ranger, The – 2013 (July 2013) (OK)
a. Entertaining but long and a bit drawn out. Good use of scenery. Possible nominations: Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, Art Direction/Set Direction
37. Man of Steel – 2013 (June 2013) (Good)
a. Nice back story, fun to watch, and moments of brilliant cinematography, but a bit disappointing. Predictions: Visual Effects
38. Master, The – 2012 (July 2013) (OK)
a. Interesting look at Scientology, but very slow moving. Excellent performances, however.
39. NeverEnding Story, The – 1984 (Good)
a. Famous movie, but acting and effects, and probably overall feel, are best left for children. Still entertaining though.
40. Now You See Me (June 2013) (Very Good)
a. Fascinating and smart. Good twists. Possible nominations: Director, Cinematography, Visual Effects, Supporting Actor (Woody Harrelson).
41. Oblivion (April 2013) (Very Good)*
a. Surprisingly good and moving. Haunting; great special effects, cinematography, sound and acting.
42. Others, The – 2001 (October 2013) (Very Good)*§
a. Brilliant ghost story, excellent acting, especially from the children. Great cinematography.
43. Perfect Vagina, The (Jan 2013) (Good)
a. Interesting reporting on how some women are opting for plastic surgery on their vulvae to make them more “idealized”.
44. Psycho – 1998 (October 2013) (OK)
a. A remake of the original 1968 version. Some chills and suspense but felt hollow. Excellent cinematography, however.
45. Red Corner – 1997 (November 2013) (OK)
a. Interesting; listening to the interpreters was the most interesting part.
46. Red State (May 2013) (Very Good) *
a. A bit confused and heavy handed, but mostly well-done and surprisingly dark.
47. Rescue (September 2013) (Good)
a. Well-shot, but slow IMAX documentary.
48. Rescuers, The (March 2013) (Very Good)* §
a. An old, dark Disney classic. Brought back nostalgic memories of music and art work from the children’s book and tape that were adapted from the movie. With gunshots, kidnapping, skulls with diamonds in them and scenes of children putting on pajamas, its interesting to wonder how the MPAA would rate it now.
49. Ring of Fire – 1991 (November 2013) (OK
a. Good, but expected more of a geological documentary rather than a presentation of life in that area.
50. Rosemary’s Baby – 1968 (October 2013) (Very good)
a. Good acting and a disturbing ending.
51. Ruins, The (May 2013) (OK)
a. Good adaption: decent B-suspense/horror.
52. Se, Jie (Lust, Caution) – 2007 (November 2013) (OK)
a. Well acted, but dragged.
53. Serenity (March 2013) (Very Good)
a. Very good, not quite perfect, moving finale to the series “Firefly”.
54. Session 9 – 2001 (November 2013) (Good)
a. Beautiful use of locations. Not terribly original.
55. Silver Linings Playbook (March 2013) (Very good)
a. Touching comedy/drama. Sensitively portrays a family’s frustration about mental illness. Jennifer Lawerence’s character is very fascinating.
56. Sinister (March 2013) (OK)
a. Interesting horror film. A little too clichéd but still created an atmosphere of suspense; had some jumps; gore was mostly suggestive.
57. Species – 1995 (October 2013) (Boring)
a. Dull and fairly unoriginal. Considering the list of some good actors, everyone gives a flat performance. Best features were some of the designs by H.R. Giger and the actresses’ attractive body. Made me really wonder if it was made to cater to some kind of fetish.
58. Spectacular Now, The – 2013 (September 2013) (Very Good)
a. Very well done and un-clichéd. Possible Oscars: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay
59. Star Trek: Into Darkness (May 2013) (Very Good)*
a. Happy to hear Klingon used and see Kronos, even if it was just a brief scene.
60. Sum of All Fears – 2002 (September 2013) (Good)§
a. Entertaining and suspenseful.
61. Talvisota (January 2013) (Good)
a. A long, but good tale of a group of soldiers during the war between Finland and the Soviet Union. Often slow, but well-acted. Directed at a Finnish audience, so some background on the war itself is useful before watching the film.
62. Ted (March 2013) (Good)
a. Great one-liners; not as funny as I’d hoped, but some hilarious moments.
63. Three Kings – 1999 (June 2013) (Good)
a. Good example dark humor and war.
64. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – 2011 (July 2013) (Good)
a. Layered, dense, worth re-watching
65. Valhalla Rising – 201? (November 2013) (Boring)
a. Beautiful cinematography, and artistic but mostly meanders about and drags.
66. Wolverine, The – 2013 (July 2013) (Good)
a. Interesting, fascinating introduction, but mostly action and light on story.
67. World War Z – 2013 (July 2013) (Good)
a. Nothing terribly original, but interesting look at a crisis on a global scale.
68. Zero Dark Thirty – 2012 (Feb 2013) (Excellent)*
a. Great film in docu-drama style. One forgets they are watching a movie and feel as if they are watching the real thing. Climax is genuinely suspenseful. One of the best-directed films of 2012.
69. Zwartboek – 2006 (August 2013) (Very good) *
a. A bit contrived, but an interesting WWII drama from a presumably little-discussed resistance group.
Before publishing this, the Academy Awards published their list of nominees from 2013.
You can see it here.
I stand by my personal nominees though. Over the years, I've become more and more skeptical of the Oscars. I still think they are fun, but I don't take them nearly as seriously as I used to.
My next blog entries will be back to meandering and other nonsense, as usual.