Dilettante's Diary

Notables of 2007

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Highs 'N Lows of 2014
Dec 19/14
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Fall Reading 2014
Sept 17/14
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Aug 22/14
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March 21, 2014
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Sept 23/13
Favourite Works: 2004-2013
Two Novels by BARBARA PYM
Sabbath's Theater by PHILIP ROTH
July 18/13
Summer Reading 2013
June 19/13
May 30/13
Spring Reading 2013
May 10/13
Apr 18/13
Mar 29/13
March 14, 2013
The Artist Project 2013
Feb 25/13
Winter Reading 2013
Feb 7/13
Jan 22/13
Jan 12/13
A Toast to 2012
Dec 19/12
Dec 16/12
Dec 4/12
Fall Reading 2012
Nov 17/12
Nov 6/12
Art Toronto 2012
Oct 23/12
Oct 4/12
Sept 28/12
Summer Reading 2012
Aug 26/12
Aug 8/12
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2012
July 14/12
June 28/12
MIMC
May 27/12
May 20/12
May 4/12
La Traviata: Met's Live HD Version
Apr 21/12
Apr 6/12
Mar 22/12
Mar 9/12
The Artist Project 2012
Academy Awards Show 2012
Feb 26/12
Feb 11/12
Jan 23/12
Jan 15/12
Jan 7/12
Dec 20/11
Dec 12/11
Nov 27/11
Nov 18/11
Nov 7/11
Art Toronto 2011
Oct 22/11
Oct 17/11
Sept 30, 2011
Summer Reading 2011
Aug 11/11
July 28, 2011
July 19/11
TOAE 2011
June 25/11
June 20/11
June 2/11
May 14/11
Apr 29/11
Toronto Art Expo 2011
Apr 11/11
March 24/11
The Artist Project 2011
March 11/11
Feb 23/11
Feb 7/11
Jan 21/11
HIGHS 'N LOWS OF 2010
Jan 17/11
Dec 21/10
Dec 6/10
Nov 11/10
Fall Reading 2010
Oct 22/10
Summer Reading 2010
Aug 9/10
Aug 2/10
TOAE 2010
July 16/10
The Shack
June 27/10
June 3/10
May 5/10
April 17/10
Mar 28/10
Mar 17/10
The Artist Project 2010
Toronto Art Expo 2010
Feb 22/10
Feb 3/10
Notables of '09
Jan 11/10
Dec 31/09
Dec 17/09
How Fiction Works
Nov 24/09
Sex for Saints
Nov 11/09
Housekeeping
Oct 22/09
Oct 6/09
Sept 18/09
Aug 23/09
July 31/09
July 17/09
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2009
Toronto Fringe 2009
Zen Wrapped In Karma Dipped In Chocolate
June 28/09
June 6/09
Myriad Mysteries 2009
May 10/09
CBC Radio -- "The New Two"
April 14/09
March 24/09
Toronto Art Expo '09
March 1/09
The Jesus Sayings
Feb 8/09
Jan 26/09
Jan 10/09
Stand-outs of 2008
Dec 24/08
Dec 4/08
Nov 16/08
Oct 27/08
Oct 16/08
Sept 26/08
Sept 5/08
July 21/08
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 08
July 5/08
June 23/08
June 4/08
May 18/08
May 4/08
April 16/08
March 26/08
Head to Head
Feb 26/08
Feb 13/08
Jan 30/08
Jan 17/08
Notables of 2007
Dec 30/07
Dec 8/07
Nov 22/07
Oct 25/07
Oct 4/07
Sept 18/07
Aug 29/07
Aug 8/07
Summer Mysteries '07
July 20/07
June 28/07
June 8/07
May 21/07
May 2/07
April 14/07
March 23/07
Toronto Art Expo 2007
March 8/07
Feb 16/07
Feb 2/07
Jan 24/07
Notables of 2006
Dec 27/06
December 11/06
November 28/06
Nov 8/06
October 14/06
Sept 22/06
Ring Psycho (Wagner on CBC Radio)
Sept 6/06
August 12/06
July 18/06
June 27/06
June 9/06
May 23/06
Me In Manhattan
May 2/06
April 12/06
March 17/06
March 9/06
Feb 16/06
Feb 1/06
Jan 11/06
Dec 31/05
Dec 12/05
Nov 25/05
Nov 4/05
Oct 24/05
Sept 7/05
Sept 16/05
Sept 1/05
Aug 10/05
July 21/05
Me and the Jays
July 10/05
June 15/05
May 18/05
April 27/05
April 18/05
April 8/05
March 21/05
Feb 28/05
Feb 21/05
Feb 4/05
Jan 28/05
Jan 19/05
Jan 5/05
About Me
Dec 20/04
Dec 5/04
MOVIES
BOOKS
RE-READINGS
MYSTERIES/CRIME books
VIDEOS and DVDs
PLAYS
OTHER STUFF: Art Exhibitions, Concerts, etc.

Now that the pundits have pronounced their conflicting opinions, it’s time to clear up all the confusion and to settle, for once and for all, what were the best and worst on offer in 2007. (Actually, we’re talking here about items that we reviewed in Dilettante’s Diary in 2007; some of them may have been unleashed on the world in previous years.)

MOVIES

We reviewed 60 movies (including DVDs) this past year but none of them received the coveted "A" rating (i.e. "Absolutely fabulous"). However, 36 movies (i.e. more than 50 percent) received a rating of C minus or higher (where C = "Certainly worth seeing"). That seems to indicate two things: a) going to the movies these days isn’t a complete waste of time;  b) your reviewer isn’t the total curmudgeon that some readers accuse him of being.

The following seven movies, all of which received a rating of B minus or better (where B = "Better than most"), are in the running for my Best of the Year:

Avenue Montaigne (reviewed on May 2)

A Mighty Heart (June 28)

The Darjeeling Limited (Oct 4)

Into the Wild (Oct 25)

This Is England (Nov 22)

No Country for Old Men (Dec 8)

Reign Over Me (Dec 30)

The best? Well, some of them are big, wonderful, impressive Hollywood products but, given that we are biased in favour of the small, unusual and off-beat on this website, the award has to go to This Is England.

However, Avenue Montaigne gets a special hug as the movie that carried me on a wave of pleasure from start to end.

A couple of movies need to be singled out for Special Interest:

Le Grand Silence (July 20) – a masterpiece documenting the lives of Carthusian monks in the Alps. At three hours long, it’s infinitely slow, painstaking and contemplative. Either you get it or you don’t.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (June 8) – A gritty, realistic study of a lonely old man nearing the end of the road.

And this movie is singled out as providing the Trashiest Fun:

Blades of Glory (March 23) – supremely silly but it works

Somewhat Dissatisfying movie:

The Lives of Others (Feb 16) – not that it isn’t a good movie, just that it didn’t thrill me as much as it was supposed to; that deadly-serious European approach to high art can be just a trifle stifling.

Most Disappointing Movies:

Little Children (Feb 16) – soap opera without a believable moment

Two Days in Paris (Sept 18) – people who are supposed to be charming and amusing but are extremely annoying

You Me and Dupree (April 14) – actors unable to raise any spark of humanity in totally plastic characters

 

BOOKS

Of the 38 books we reviewed this year, the stand-out for best fiction is, hands-down, On Chesil Beach by Ian MacEwan (reviewed June 8) – a short, perfect gem that holds your attention in every line.

For best biography, it’s impossible to choose between Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser (Jan 24) and Confessions, the autobiography of Kang Zhengguo (Oct 4). They're both fascinating character studies packed with insight into harrowing periods in history, the one a couple of centuries ago, the other in our own times.

The best non-fiction book other than biography would have to be The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman (Mar 8) – in which the authors attempt to see what archaeological evidence, if any, can be found for the stories in the bible.

The funniest read of the past year was definitely Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (Feb 16). Hardly a recent book but one that still offers lots of good laughs and very skilfull writing.

Special Mention to Yellowknife by Steve Zipp (Oct 4) – nobody could claim the book succeeds as a whole but the author deserves credit for his zany creativity and for his guts in pushing the book to the point of getting it published.

Four mysteries stand out as better than most: The Water’s Lovely by Ruth Rendell (May 21); One Shot by Lee Child, Bangkok 8 by John Burdett and School Days by Robert B. Parker (the last three all on the page Summer Mysteries 07).

A few disappointments might be noted. Granted it would be more diplomatic simply to let them fade away without further comment, but the hype surrounding them warrants a reiteration of my puzzlement.

An American Childhood by Annie Dillard (Sept 18) – Ms. Dillard’s adoring fans are legion but I don’t seem to get her – too much rhetorical/poetical expatiating for me.

Sweetness In the Belly by Camilla Gibb (April 14) – a setting with the potential for an intriguing novel results in not much more than a Harlequin.

Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay (Dec 30) – woolly writing with no engaging plot or theme

Exit Ghost by Philip Roth (Oct 25) – In spite of my tremendous enjoyment of some of Mr. Roth’s works, this one struck me as self-indulgent and diffuse. After reading the book, I checked out some other reviews of it. It seems to me that some of the critics who raved about it were reading a lot between the lines, digging up metaphysical interpretations by way of an academic overview of Mr. Roth’s work. Me, I prefer to take a book just as it is without all the background prompting about what the author is trying to do.

 

THEATRE

Given that we only saw eight plays this past year, there’s hardly any point in picking out a best and worst. In any case, our experience of Canadian theatre turns out to be mostly disappointing these days. The one play that stands out as a truly memorable experience was Sur Le Fil (Jan 24), seen in a tiny, upstairs theatre in Paris. On one level, the play was a contrived, commercial comedy but the two actors put it over with such verve and polish that it made for dynamite theatre. Not least of the thrill was the palpable sense of commitment and enthusiasm of the audience: all ages and all walks of life packed into that small space for a rollicking good time. What was most exhilarating about it was the unmistakable message that Parisians don’t stay home and watch tv. They go out – and that makes for a vibrant theatre culture.

 

MUSIC

We reviewed 14 musical events this year, just four of them live – and among those four we’re including two HD live broadcasts from the Met opera to movie theatres. Even in a more crowded field, chances are good that the live musical event of the year would have been Les Grands Voix with Joseph Calleja and Patrizia Ciofi (Jan 24). As for the HD broadcasts from the Met, I’m going to cheat a little and dip back into the final days of 2006 to cite the Magic Flute (Dec 27/06). Being present for the first ever live HD broadcast was such a high that it needs to be mentioned.

 

ART EXHIBITIONS

From the 10 shows that we reviewed (including the work of innumerable artists), just a few works and individuals that made a strong impression on me this year:

Some of the most exciting new work I encountered was by Thrush Holmes (reviewed in "Queen Street Stroll" Nov 22). I especially love the aggressive way he attacks bland, insipid paintings from the past.

Philip Craig’s painting of an approach to the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto (reviewed Oct 4) struck me for its design and execution, as well as its haunting evocation of some overlooked urban beauty.

At the Toronto Art Expo (on a page by itself, just above the March 8 page in the navigation bar), I enjoyed Julia Gilmore’s loud, large still lives, the smeary, messy works by David Brown that vaguely suggest landscapes and cityscapes, and the miminalist but evocative semi-abstract landscapes of R. Hryhorczuk. I still fondly remember Kelly Grace’s unusual painting of weary people dancing at a wedding.

"Open Water", the show of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, is always the highlight of the watercolour year for me. From this year’s show (reviewed Nov 22), I remember with special fondness Alan Wylie’s market scene – a brooding, amazing composition on what is usually a hackneyed subject; Henry Vyfvinkel’s very simple but startling fall of shadows across the paper; and, of course, the first-prize-winner by Joanne Lucas Warren, her marvellous "Thιβtre en Plein Air.

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