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DIGITAL MEDIA FROM THE INSIDE OUT: My focus is digital content -- production, distribution, collaboration, innovation, creativity. Some posts have appeared across the web (HuffPo, Tribeca's Future of Film, The Wrap, MIPblog, etc.). To receive these posts regularly via email, sign up for my newsletter here.

Entries in best (4)

Monday
Jan022012

• 2011's "Best" - My Favorite Books, Movies, TV & Apps

 

Over the course of the last month I've given a lot of thought to the review of my favorite media of 2011 -- not necessarily "THE BEST". No, more like "MY BEST." 

Here is a handy set of links to the four posts in hopes that you might find some useful tips, insights, or recommendations that can enrich your life in 2012. 

 

Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

And Happy New Year, Happy 2012.

 

Friday
Dec302011

• Best Films of 2011 - My Year End Lists & Reviews

To try and see as many of the year-end releases as possible, I’ve saved my movie “best-of” list til last among the four 2011 posts (television, books, software & movies). 
Not only does the industry in all its wisdom release most worthy titles bunched up at year’s end, but the poorly released foreign and Indie titles begin appearing on DVD and Netflix too! Not enough time to see everything.
One tries to catch up with contenders before Oscar night, of course, but this nutty pattern creates a bit of a problem with year-end lists, doesn’t it? Do I offer you my favorites released in 2011 or viewed (by me) in 2011? 
Well, I’ll try to do both in this post with lists first, and then the reviews, which I have written throughout the year on Flixster here (if you follow me on Twitter or FB, you may have read a few, as well). 

The LISTS:

First Tier Favorites:

  • The Descendants
  • Hugo
  • Tree of Life
  • Melancholia
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • Pariah
  • A Separation
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • Weekend
  • Moneyball
  • Win Win
  • 50/50
  • The Help
  • Poetry
  • Incendies

Second Tier Favorites:

  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Young Adult
  • Another Earth
  • Drive
  • Shame
  • The Artist
  • The Lady
  • Coriolanus
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Margin Call
  • Bill Cunningham New York
  • Beginners
  • Jane Eyre
  • Source Code
  • Senna
  • The Skin I Live In
  • A Dangerous Mind

Also enjoyed in 2011, no matter when released:

  • In A Better World
  • Biutiful
  • Carlos
  • Catfish
  • Gasland
  • Mesrine
  • Mother
  • Red Road
  • Dogtooth
  • Inside Job

The REVIEWS

First Tier Faves:

  • The Descendants. Clooney's Matt King should have it more together than he does, what with substantial inherited wealth and a rich life filled with friends and family, but we learn, pretty much as he does, that his life is a mess. And we learn, pretty much as he does, that he has the character to pull the wandering strands of his life into a pattern that might help him build a future. The razor sharp script, filled with many knowing epiphanies, gives an ensemble led by Clooney scene after scene of power, tinged with bruised humor and a lovely historical Hawaii overlay. I'd vote for Clooney's performance as the year's best male.
  • Hugo. Gasp provoking and deeply satisfying, Scorcese's homage to the early magic of the movies was a blast, one of my favorites in a year when the movies themselves are front and center as subject matter (The Artist, My Week with Marilyn). Not to mention the astonishing use of 3D technology, the insanely inventive sets (like something out of Terry Gilliam), and a lovely feel for humor. It's a long way from Mean Streets to this enchanting train station, the shy boy, and the lost soul of cinema. The latter, embodied in Kingsley's charming performance, is the driver that makes the film more than just a visual thrill ride, because of course, the throwaway attitude towards culture is everywhere and mightily present today. 
  • Tree of Life. The carrier of Malick's deepest emotional sense-memory, Tree of Life uses various experimental film modalities to "tell" a story, sort of. I presume it's his story, his memories of childhood in central Texas. And I presumed that the resonance, the febrile vibrations which I felt erupted because I spent my 13th and 14th years in central Texas too -- but no, my movie companions responded to the delicate and harsh gestural and emotional content of this segment of the film as strongly as I. Much has been made of the layering of different modalities -- the formation of the earth, the cosmology of the planets, the birth of empathy via the raptors, alongside his somewhat murky family story. I liked a lot of that stuff, in part because of the sheer beauty. What I decidedly did NOT like was the ending, with the zombie-like wanderings on the beach, presumably a sort of heaven or purgatory. Indeed, the insertion of the adult Jack, e.g., Sean Penn, seemed out of sync with the rest. A minor whine, because overall, I was overwhelmed.

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Wednesday
Dec282011

• Apt Apps: My Favorite Software of 2011

The “Appification” of software is undeniable, not only on mobile platforms like iOS and Android, but within web browsers (themselves software), platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Amazon) on the desktop (Apple and others sell software directly to consumers), and for the cloud (the ultimate client-server arrangement, or so it would seem if you keep up with the tech blogs). As with many aspects of our digital lives, Apple has created an easy-to-understand moniker with the stupefying success of its App Store. 

By necessity, this review of my year in software is quirkier and more customized than any other of the other year-end lists of favorites (books, television, movies). Some of the products I’m mentioning are, indeed, not even new this year! I make no claims of omniscience: I have not researched every category extensively and test-driven the competition. In other words, I’m no Walter Mossberg or David Pogue.

And yet, I have found in conversations with even my geekiest friends that my software preferences seem to be useful. It’s no wonder, given the sheer tonnage of choice confronting the user – more than half a million in Apple’s App Store alone. We all need a little help from our friends.

I myself have accumulated more than 250 apps for my Apple devices, split between iPhone, iPad and Macintosh, and that doesn’t count miscellaneous widgets and hidden apps that I probably don’t even think of as software. 
So, in no particular order, and with no great sense of “BEST”, I offer you this year-end excursion through my software life. Please comment. I mean it.

Productivity

  • SCRIVENER. Whether it’s reports for clients, articles and blog posts, or episodic fits of fiction-writing, the cornerstone of my productive life remains writing. A couple of years back, fed up with the inscrutably horrible performance of the inexplicably ubiquitous Word from Microsoft (how CAN it be so bad after all these years, I ask you? – cut and paste function doesn’t work half the time) I went on a crusade to find a better writing solution.
  • The result of my search was Scrivener from a small UK developer called Literature and Latte (love that!). This year saw the release of Scrivener 2,2, which is even better, and at $45, a bargain.
  • Among the many lovely features in the app is the ability to “gray out” everything but the document you are working on; the tools that group multiple documents within a project and allow easy reorganization, structuring, outlining, and prep for production. There’s lots more: try it, you’ll like it.
  • TEXT EDIT. When I write quick documents, I avoid Word by using Apple’s TextEdit, which comes bundled with the Mac and is a legacy from the Apple acquisition of NeXT Computer, which also brought Steve Jobs back to Apple (Sorry, couldn’t resist). 
  • EVERNOTE. I discovered Evernote a couple of years back from a tweet by Ann Kirschner, who I worked with when she ran Fathom.com, something to the effect of “how did I manage to function before I discovered Evernote.” She’s right. This darling of the future of cloud-based software makes a LOT of things simpler, simply because it syncs content between my iPhone, iPad and desktop. This is where I keep my running lists (for shopping, books, movies, etc), so they’re always in my pocket. This is where I back up all of my blog posts. This is where I often send (via email) interesting stuff to read later (a small miracle of interoperability, actually). I love Evernote (though, I’m not QUITE so slavish in my devotion to Evernote as Paul Boag, whose post called it “My single most useful application”.)  
  • KEYNOTE. I was in the MacWorld audience in 2006 when Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s Power Point-killer, the elegant Keynote presentation package. But I didn’t start using it until this year, largely because of all the wrong reasons (laziness, for sure, but also the comfort level of knowing how to use PPT, horrible as it is, and the network effect of having so many slides available over time to refashion into this week’s deadline-driven presentation). Why did I wait? Keynote is beautiful, easy to use, and creates much more elegant slides. So long as I’m not wedded to various effects (which are fairly cool), I can also easily share PDF versions with clients who may not use Keynote). I also use the iPad version of Keynote, which is a terrific thing to access on trips, at trade shows, and for one-on-one presentations (not so good with groups). 
  • iTALK. When I started blogging this year I found myself interviewing, both in person and by phone. I no longer own a voice recording device – and I don’t need one with iTalk, a great iPhone/iPad app from Griffin Technology. With an idiot-proof interface and the ability to port audio files to the desktop, the app is everything I need to capture interviews. I also recorded my physical therapy regimen with the device, which I hook up to speakers in my home gym so that I can keep my back in shape. 

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Saturday
Dec252010

• 2010 Movies - top picks

I rate the movies I have seen on the traditional scale of 1 - 5, an imperfect system in an imperfect world. Then at the end of the year, I put them all in a spreadsheet and revise my numbers relative to the others that fall into the same numerical grouping, just to make sure I like the list. My list won't be as comprehensive as those compiled by critics and awards groups, because I haven't seen every movie that will eventually make it on my list, principally foreign films and documentaries. But I watched about 200 movies this year, including most of the front runners. So: here's my take on 2010 -- the films rated "5" are my undeniable favorites, but had I done this on a different day, some of those in the "4.5" category might have migrated up that last half-point; and so, I present them all with love.

A Prophet 5

Black Swan 5

Carlos 5

I Am Love 5

Inception 5

The King's Speech 5

The Social Network 5

The Fighter 5

Animal Kingdom 4.5

Blue Valentine 4.5

Marwencol 4.5

Red Riding Trilogy 4.5

The Cove 4.5

The Ghost Writer 4.5

Toy Story Three 4.5

Exit Through the Gift Shop 4.5

True Grit 4.5

Restrepo 4.5