Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in review

2010, wow, what a year. I can't help thinking that now we not only missed the first Jupiter mission, but the second Jupiter mission as well, and those alien monoliths must be getting awful lonely out there in the blackness of space. Anyway, things to cover...

Personal life:
- Starting on a sad note, by beloved great-aunt Klara Boguslavskaia passed away this summer. I miss you and love you and will never stop thinking about you.
- Got another diploma to put on the wall with the others. This time it's a teaching certification and a B.Ed. diploma. Let's home it'll turn out more useful than the others.
- Speaking of teaching, I started volunteering at a school in the hopes of getting a job there eventually. I love it, I hope it'll work out.
- I got paid for writing something! WOW! THAT IS JUST SO AWESOME! No, really, regardless of what the amount was, just the rush of actually getting paid to do something I love... Better than sex. :)
- Went to Russia this year with my sister. It was a terrific trip despite the awfulness we ran into with our flights there and back. It was great to meet up with so many old friends and see familiar faces. I wish all of them happy New Year's and to prosper in 2011 despite all the troubles my motherland is having right now.
- Finally quit BestBuy - that felt great. Unfortunately I then went and got my other old job back (of the data entry variety) out of desperation. Depressing, but there it is.

Games of 2010
- Civilization V came out this year. I had some big expectations, unfortunately they were not entirely met. It's a fun game, but definitely dumbed down.
- Assassin's Creed 2 was a fantastic game and an improvement on the original in every way. I already picked up Assassin's Creed 2 Brotherhood and can't wait to try it out.
- Starcraft 2 finally came out after like 15 years! Single player is fantastic, multiplayer is just as chaotic and full of rush as always.
- Fallout: New Vegas came out and blew me away despite somewhat low expectations. Even though it was buggy as hell at launch, the gameplay changes, the less-linear storyline, and the Nevada setting are all much more reminiscent of the classic Fallout 1 and 2. Highly enjoyable.
- Red Dead Redemption is an amazing game, and one of the few games which I would put forth as transcending video games and approaching art. The story, the characters, the dialogue, the scenery, the mood... Just simply amazing.
- Recettear is a tiny little game, easily missed, and for me it was a sleeper hit of 2010. Running a store in a fantasy RPG universe has never been more fun.

Books
I bought/borrowed a lot of books this year, too many to cover all of them, but these were the more memorable ones:
- Fuller's Memorandum by Charles Stross continues the excellent Laundry series. It's definitely moving away from dark comedy and moving towards full-blown horror, and it's one hell of a ride.
- Naomi Klein's "No Logo" and "Shock Doctrine" blew me away. Even though I disagree with the author on many points, they are nonetheless angry, poignant, and thought-provoking books.
- Same as Klein, Gwynn Dyer's new book "Climate Wars" is very thought-provoking as well and a fun non-fiction read.
- Ray Kurzweil's "Singularity is near" was a heavy, but interesting read. Again, I disagree with the author on many points, but he does paint an interesting view of the future different from the predominantly distopian view we've been getting from both fiction and media (is there a difference nowadays?) in the last few years.
- Freakonomics was a very fun non-fiction read as well.
- China Mieville had two books out this year (ok, one, but the other one came out very late last year, so I'm counting it): "The City and the City" and "Kraken". Not sure if I like the former all that much, but it was a very dense text and he does some wonderfully interesting stuff with language. The latter on the other hand is a very zany occult romp that in my opinion surpasses most of Neil Gaiman's stuff, even if superficially it shares many elements with a typical Gaiman novel.
- I also finally started reading Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" books. They're fun little diversions, and definitely written for my geekdom demographic.

Movies of 2010:
Just as with books, I've seen way too many movies this year. These are the best (or the most fun, or both) movies of this year in my not-so-humble opinion:
- Inception in my opinion is the movie of the year. It's not a fucking remake movie for once (getting sick of those), and I'm pretty sure everyone's already aware of how awesome it is.
- The Town was a sleeper hit, I didn't expect much of Ben Affleck and yet he totally pulled through as a director and actor and crafted a very thoughtful, tense, and well-directed crime noir movie. Definitely worth a watch.
- Leaves of Grass is possible the best non-foreign movie of 2010 that no one has seen. It stars Edward Norton as two twin brothers. It's a lovely, thoughtful, almost tender movie (even if a few people get shot... with a crossbow), and I've already watched it several times.
- Robin Hood. Y'know what? It's the same story with this movie as with Kingdom of Heaven. The director's cut really transforms it far above and beyond a summer blockbuster it was billed as. I highly recommend watching the director's version.
- Terribly Happy is my second favourite foreign movie of 2010. It's a darkly funny crime noir tale set in a small isolated town in Denmark. Very good movie.
- Wolfman is a remake of a remake, but for all that it succeeds at what's important - preserving the atmosphere and the feeling of dread. Yes we know the main hero will turn into a werewolf, but that's really beside the point. Fine acting by Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro both.
- Shutter Island is a screen version of a graphic novel (a first for Scorcese) and the plot is rather obvious, but along with Inception it really shows how almost frighteningly good of an actor Leonardo di Caprio really is.
- Secret of Kells is a fairly short movie (less than 90 minutes), it is animated, it's Irish, and... you know what? It's spellbinding! I am willing to sit and watch it purely for the visuals and the music, and yet it is so much more.
- This movie has such intense acting and atmosphere I don't think I relaxed once watching it. The second time through I still couldn't relax. It's just that good at what it does. Just as good as the book.
- The A-Team. OK. I know. But I had to put at least one mindless summer flick on this list and this is the best of the lot. It's a good remake, a good tribute, and despite an overall crappy plot and some crappy special effects, it's very very fun. With surprisingly good actors (not just Liam Neeson), well-written dialogue that's genuinely funny, it delivered (unlike the Expendables, which I saw back to back with this movie).
- Wall Street 2 was a tad too long and ends on a feel-good note, but as far as long-delayed sequels go, it's very good and gives Michael Douglas another shot to show to use how fine of an actor he's always been.
- R.E.D. is - like A-Team - another mindless action movie. Like the A-Team, however, its lovable characters, tight and funny dialogue, and non-stop action carry it beyond a boring action movie it could have been. Doesn't hurt that the great actors starring in it have real chemistry.
- A Small Act is a documentary about a man trying to find an identity of a woman he's never met, but one that has given him the gift of a fulfilling life. It is an amazing and moving story.
- Centurion was another sleeper hit for me. Billed as mindless historical action flick (like Robin Hood above), it is actually much more. Yes, the violence is savage, but it is not needlessly drawn out or overwrought (300 I'm looking at you), and it provides a social commentary on Iraq as well.
- Machete might just be the most politically charged and no-holds-barred movie of 2010, and the most honest look at the immigration issue in the United States. Oh, and it's a grindhouse flick directed by Robert Rodriguez starring barely anyone the mass public would recognize, with gratuitous violence and pornography. Go figure. So so so good.
- Buried was a movie that initially made me go "huh?!" It stars Ryan Reynolds, alone on the screen, buried in a box with a cellphone. It is such a terrific political thriller, I cannot help recommending it. I'm not sure I'd watch it again knowing the twist and the resolution already, but it's definitely worth a watch.

Well, that's all for now, and happy 2011 folks!