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The Newt Review: Best of 2012

December 31, 2012

This post could get really long, and let’s face it, you’ve got things to do and places to be. Only a few hours left in 2012 after all, got to make the most of them! Tell you what, you go ring in the New Year with a bang, I’ll just leave this list of my top three books, movies, and albums of 2012 over here in the corner for you to check out when you get back. Here’s hoping we get more great art like these in 2013!

MOVIES

This is going to be both the easiest category and the toughest for me since I’ve kept pretty well on top of the cinema scene this year. I’ve got lots of material to choose from, but it’s going to be next to impossible to narrow it down to just three! After much deliberation (read: arbitrarily selecting three movies from the bumper crop that I really, really liked), here are the movies that I recommend you don’t leave 2012 without watching:

1. Wreck-It Ralph. I reviewed it here on Singular Spectrum a few weeks back, so I’ll keep this blurb concise: beautiful animated film, nearly flawless. Watch. Enjoy. Repeat (many, many times).

2. Blue Like Jazz. This just may be my favorite movie of all time. A joint effort between my hero, Don Miller, Steve Taylor, and a legion of wonderful people who funded the movie on Kickstarter, Blue Like Jazz is a movie about Christianity and God that actually works as art and as a story, and it’s unspeakably refreshing. Watch this one with friends, because you’ll definitely want to talk about it afterward. Beautiful filmmaking and storytelling, with one of the finest finales in any film I’ve seen.

3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. This slot was almost painful to fill, since by doing so I had to actively dismiss some other great movies (Looper, Les Miserables, Skyfall, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Avengers, etc., etc.) but in the end it had to be The Hobbit. Ever since The Lord of the Rings ended, Tolkien fans have been waiting and hoping and praying for Peter Jackson to adapt Bilbo’s adventures to the big screen, and the result was well worth the wait. Watching it is like being reunited with old friends and hearing them tell of what fantastic adventures they’ve had since last you met. Pure magic, I can’t wait for the other two installments.

MUSIC

I have a hard time remembering what year albums came out in, but after consulting the back of a few CD cases and my iTunes library, I’ve found three marked 2012 that I can recommend most highly to you.

1. Give Us Rest (a requiem mass in the key of c [the happiest of all keys]) by David Crowder Band. It’s DCB’s final album as a band, and every moment of it simply shines. Crowder and his friends packed all the music they could possibly fit onto this two-disc masterpiece, and they perform it with contagious, irrepresible joy. Easily my favorite album of the year.

2. Night Visions by Imagine Dragons. These guys have a wonderfully unique sound, and they come out swinging with their debut album. On Top of the World is one of the happiest tunes in my collection, and It’s Time gets better every time I listen to it. Definitely looking forward to their next release.

3. The Lumineers by The Lumineers. There’s a soft spot in my heart for folk music, and The Lumineers burrowed deep down into it the first time I listened to their eponymous record. From the short and sweet Flowers In Your Hair and Ho Hey to the more expansive Big Parade and, my personal favorite, Stubborn Love, The Lumineers prove themselves as musicians and lyricists of the highest quality. Heart-warming, toe-tapping, good-time music.

BOOKS

Okay, this is the part where I must confess that I have read almost no books that came out this year. In my defense, I did plenty of reading, I just spent most of my time with classics like 1984 and Dracula and, um, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Even so, I did manage to squeeze in three fresh books amongst the old (and/or odd) tomes, and all three are certainly worth your time.

1. The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling. After sparking a global phenomenon with her Harry Potter series, Rowling decided to step back from writing for youth and aimed her next book at the adults of the world. The result is a much grittier, darker work than the Potter stories, but it’s every bit as masterful in its own way. A deeply literary tale about a small town shaken and stirred by the death of a Parish Councilman, The Casual Vacancy stares some important and difficult topics square in the face and dares us to look away unchanged. It’s not a book for the faint at heart, but if you’re up to the challenge then I guarantee that The Casual Vacancy will challenge you – and break your heart for the better. Fair warning, though: you’ll never be able to eat Rolos again without crying.

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Again, I reviewed it here way back at the beginning of the year with glowing accolades, but I don’t mind saying it again: this is one of the greatest novels I have ever read. Sweet and sharp, endearingly simple and unspeakably profound, gracefully treading the line between the heavy and the light and asking the big questions of existence with unflinching honesty. The story of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters will stick with you for the rest of your life, and that’s a good thing. It’s exactly the kind of story you want living in the back of your mind, and exactly the kind of book you could read a thousand times without getting tired of it.

3. Love Does by Bob Goff. Bob Goff is the kind of man that you almost can’t believe is real. And yet real is the perfect adjective to describe him, because you’d be hard-pressed to find a more genuine and honest man. He values openness and compassion so highly that he put his cell number in the back of the book with an invitation to call if you ever need to talk. In Love Does, Goff tells an assortment of stories from his life, using each to illustrate his eloquently simple perspective on how to treat love as an action, something that you are and something that you do. Easy to read, utterly challenging to apply, inexpressibly inspiring, Love Does is one of the best books I’ve ever read. If you don’t take any other recommendations from this list, take this one.

Oh, and have a happy New Year, friends. See you on the other side of December!

– Tim N.

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