My 2017 in books and movies

Before I start with the rest, the most important thing happened in 2017 is arrival of little Ema who is a daughter of dear friends, so it feels like new face in family. Even the parents are very young (they could be my kids) so I am turning into eccentric uncle and cherish the role. There are more babies to come next year and its all very exciting, it makes me very happy.

I started with Diana Gabaldon's sequel to "Outlander" ("Dragonfly in Amber") which was fine and at later point I even finished third part ("Voyager") but somehow I got slightly tired of Jamie and Claire, perhaps I should re-visit them again coming January. I read several books during my winter vacations, best of them being biography of Lena Horne (by James Gavin) and I liked quirky, feel-good novel about hundred year old man by Jonas Jonasson. The initial discovery of the year was Alice Hoffman whose "The Museum of Extraordinary Things" impressed me so much that I immediately continued with four more novels of her, I don't remember when this happened last time. Someone suggested old historical best seller set in medieval Japan by James Clavell so I felt intrigued to re-visit "Shōgun" which was so brilliant that I dived into serious research about history of Japan. (I didn't want to continue with Clavell immediately, because I wanted to savour my impression). Of all the classics on my list, I read exactly one and it was relatively harmless "Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift so I am not completely convinced into logic of forcing myself into reading classics - I also started "Gil Blas" and had to postpone it, because it just bothered me too much. I enjoyed reading about history much more - Alison Weir and two books by Peter Ackroyd gave me invaluable glance at history of England, while The Flight of the Romanovs" was refreshing look at the destiny of other Romanovs besides crowned heads, during WW1. However, the crown of 2017 goes to Shirley Jackson whose novels "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" and "The Haunting of Hill House" were such masterpieces of psychological horror that my head was buzzing from excitement - I read five more horror novels and none of them came close to Jackson, however H.P.Lovecraft was another discovery so I could easily say this was the year when I discovered there is more to horror than Stephen King and Anne Rice. Knowing my weakness for show biz biographies, I kept it all carefully under control and besides Lena Horne, I read only another autobiography by Judy Collins and interesting Tammy Wynette bio by Jimmy McDonough but towards the end of the year couldn't resist delicious novel written by Joan Collins. (I could actually tell that I crave for a little celebrity biographies right now) Besides Graham Hancock, another writer whom I re-visited was Pearl Buck whom I enjoyed very much.

Conclusion: I did fairly well with reading - rediscovered some old favourites and found several new ones - but generally speaking this was year of Shirley Jackson and I was the most immersed in horror genre, once I gulped her novels. It seems like I will finish the year with H.P.Lovecraft so this will be my year of horror. Not completely sure is it worth to torture myself with self-imposed task of reading the classics, because frankly I am not enjoying them as much as I expected, finished only one in the whole year, perhaps I have to be in the different frame of mind.

As I have already confessed, nothing thrills me as much as old black & white movies, although from time to time I share movie evening with friends and for the sake of them watch occasional current movie. So in 2017 I saw "Eye in the Sky", "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", "Allied", "Alone in Berlin", "Jane Eyre", "Atomic Blonde", "It", "Crooked House", "What Happened to Monday", "Lights Out", "Green Room" and "The Limehouse Golem" (amongst others, most of the current titles I don't remember later) but what I really, really enjoyed and where my heart is would be black & white classics: this is what I watch when I'm alone with myself and what inspires my dreams. I started the year with finale of Mr.Wong movies ("Doomed to Die") and immediately continued with another fictional Asian detective Charlie Chan but for some reason this didn't thrill me as much so I focused on classic B horror movies instead: "House on Haunted Hill", "The Bat" and "The Last Man on Earth" acquainted me with Vincent Price and I will see him several more times in various movies towards the end of the year. "The Day of the Triffids" and "The Ωmega Man" were watched in this same period. When after a long period of non-watching I finally returned to movies, the first one I checked was old black & white 1939 classic "The Women" which was so delightful that I even endured 2008. remake and found another Joan Crawford extravaganza titled "Autumn leaves" which would be perfectly fine if not, paradoxically, for its main female star. The second vacation of the year gave me the most enjoyable period of watching black & white classics, so this is when I saw "A Royal Scandal", "All This, and Heaven Too", "Behind Green Lights", "Dick Tracy", "Great Expectations" and "His Girl Friday"  but I have also enjoyed comical genius of Mel Brooks in "Young Frankenstein" and horror classic "The Pit and the Pendulum". The best of all were two silent masterpieces by F.W.Murnau - his "Faust"  and "Sunrise" might easily be two best movies I have seen in the whole year. Towards the end of 2017 I indulged myself in some more black & white dreams: I have seen 1943. version of "Jane Eyre", "Bluebeard", "Brief Encounter", "Dragonwyck", "Ladies in Retirement", "Leave Her to Heaven" and "The Song of Bernadette", even switched on TV just for "The Boys from Brazil" and ended the year with "Blanche Fury", "Letter from an Unknown Woman", "The Man in Grey" and two Basil Rathbone 1940s masterpieces "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"

Conclusion: As I have stopped visiting the cinema, my enjoyment of the movies is now focused on either what I watch with friends & neighbours (current titles, often forgotten soon afterwards) or old classics that I lovingly collect and than watch when the right time arrives. Because of my work, where during sailings I usually prefer to read before falling asleep (instead of trying to stay awake long into night with a movie), it seems I am watching movies in bursts during my vacations, this is usually the time when my blog is at its busiest as well. I have truly enjoyed black & white classics this year but the best of all were two 1920s silent masterpieces by Murnau, whom I knew and loved from before, its just strange that it took me so long to explore more of his work. Obviously there have to be the right moment for everything.

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