As the year comes to an end, we have a tendency to look back and reflect. We look back on what was good, what we hope never happens again and what we were lucky to get away with. With any luck, the good outweighs the bad.
In the world of entertainment, it’s all good, even when it’s bad. In recent days, the news has been full of horrible accounts of tragedy and destruction, making much of what we cover in entertainment meaningless. And while it may be trivial and unimportant in the day-to-day lives of us all, it does provide a respite. A place to point and laugh and shake our heads and forget about the troubles the world throws at us.
So as we say goodbye to 2004, it’s time to voice a little gratitude for some shining lights in entertainment this year.
- “Lost” gave me a reason to use the timer on my VCR again. Finally, finally a network show that doesn’t involve cops, eating bugs or seeing real people fighting it out in “real” situations. Finally, a show with a deeply compelling storyline and mature, well-developed characters that forces you to tune in each week. Thank you!
- HBO continues to provide the best entertainment on television. We said goodbye this season to “Sex and the City” but welcomed “Deadwood” and “Entourage.” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is the best comedy on TV, and “The Wire” is the best drama. And the cable channel never fails to deliver in original movies as well, as was evident in the extraordinary “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” and “Angels in America.” As the adage goes, you get what you pay for.
- “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” got a lot of ink this year, and rightfully so. Its biting commentary on the news, and those who deliver it, never failed to hit the mark and had me laughing and fuming at the same time. I’ve been watching the show since the Craig Kilborn days and it just continues to get better and better.
- Okay, folks — get over it. “American Idol” is here to stay and that is a good thing. Yes, some of these kids are not particularly good singers, but it is one of the few programs on network television that the entire family can watch without being preached to or assaulted by. At its core, it’s a show that is cheering for these kids, not trying to tear them down. What’s so horrible about that?
In music, there were few treasures in the endless sea of releases.
- “The last of the rock stars, when hip-hop drove the big cars,” U2 delivered again with “How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.” Is it “Joshua Tree” great? No. But how many “Joshua Trees” can one band produce? It’s full of soul and meaning — in short, classic U2.
- Big & Rich’s “Horse of a Different Color” shows that there is more to country music than Toby Keith. This album offers country twang with a funky hip-hop sensibility. Word, y’all.
- Expatriate k.d. lang creates a stunning homage to her home country, Canada, with “Hymns of the 49th Parallel”. The torch singer brings her unique and exquisite voice to this collection of songs by Canadian songwriters, among them Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. Beautiful.
- It’s all been said, but Kanye West’s “College Dropout” is a must-have CD. It’s rap with lots and lots of soul. Hip-hop for grown-ups.
In movies, smaller continued to be better.
- “Sideways” is the critics’ darling for a reason. The characters are highly flawed adults living very believable lives in a gorgeous setting. How much better does it get?
- “Super Size Me” was an informative, entertaining indictment of not just the fast-food industry but of most of the food we eat. Watch this movie before you go to dinner.
- “Garden State” was sweet, small and completely enjoyable. Zach Braff shows you that you really can go home again — dysfunctional family and all. Natalie Portman shines as the hometown girl, the yin to Braff’s yang.
- “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” cements Charlie Kaufman as perhaps the brightest screenwriter in Hollywood with this tale of a man who tries to erase the memory of love lost. Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey are spectacular in this film about love, regret and making the same mistakes over and over again.
Like every year in entertainment, there are highlights and lowlights. But one man’s highlight is another woman’s “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me.” There’s something for everyone and hopefully we’ve all found something that brought a smile to our lips and put a skip in our step.
As we’ve learned in the past few days, life can be cruelly short. So enjoy your family, drink in your friends. Take the time to say hello to your barista. Break out the MP3 player and walk the dog. Thank your co-workers for their hard work and collaboration. Get your bucket of popcorn and settle in to watch that movie or TV show. What pleasure life can bring us is worth enjoying.
Thank you for your readership in 2004. We appreciate it. Enjoy your lives and enjoy 2005.
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