10. True Blood, Season Five (HBO TV Series: Created by Alan Ball; Starring Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, and Ryan Kwanten)
The premier episode was terrific in what I believe to be the best phase of this bloody, sexy, funny drama series. I can't wait to see what lies ahead as Det. Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) joins the cast this season.
9. "Sands of Iwo Jima" (song) by Drive-By Truckers
Patterson Hood's opus to his great uncle and his childhood memories from the album The Dirty South (2004) is nothing more than song-writing 101. Tell me a story with a guitar, a voice, some light drums, and a harmonica. "I never saw John Wayne on the Sands of Iwo Jima."
8. Game of Thrones (HBO TV Series: Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss; Starring Peter Dinklage)
High-medieval fantasy is what this is called. And, man, does it have that and more. Brutal violence, sex and nudity galore, political intrigue, love, incest, "my lord," "your grace." I literally cannot wait for Season 3. Amanda and I rifled through the first two seasons (currently on HBO On Demand) in a week. It is brilliant, and you'll never get the theme music out of your head (a good thing!).
7. Winter's Bone (Directed by Debra Granik; Starring Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes)
Besides the young, beautiful Jennifer Lawrence's mind-blowing, Oscar-nominated performance, all I could think about was how close this movie hits to home. Here in East Tennessee, I teach poor young kids, who come from the life revealed in this terrific drama about a teen girl trying to keep her home and family together after her father goes missing in a meth deal gone way wrong.
6. Million Dollar Baby (Directed by Clint Eastwood; Starring Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Hillary Swank)
That such a simply made, simple story became such a huge success speaks to the brilliance of Clint Eastwood as a actor/director/icon. This movie transcends its subject of boxing by teaching us about life through boxing and pain and heartache and rising above.
5. Gran Torino (Directed by Clint Eastwood; Starring Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, and a 1972 Ford Gran Torino)
See first sentence from #6. I loved this movie and regret that I waited so long to finally see it. It is an incredibly touching story brought to life by great acting and directing. I will be discussing its themes in greater detail in a comparison with my next on the list soon.
4. No Country for Old Men (Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen; Starring Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, and Tommy Lee Jones)
Cormac McCarthy's ode to violence brought to life and given an extra zing with that always-brilliant Coen Brothers' dialogue.
3. Wanderlust (Directed by David Wain; Starring Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, and Justin Theroux)
I really love the humor of David Wain, Michael Showalter and company. Wet Hot American Summer is one of the best comedies ever made, and this one continues his streak after Role Models. Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston play a married couple who find themselves out of New York and into a North Georgia hippie commune. I almost peed my pants a couple times.
2. "Montezuma" (song) by Fleet Foxes
From their 2011 album, Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes continue to be incredible song-crafters with beautiful, simple melodies. This is the first track, I play it constantly on my iPod, can't get it out of my head, and it ties in nicely with #1 as the closing track on one of its episodes. "So, now, I am older than my mother and father when they had their daughter. Now, what does that say about me."
1. Girls (HBO TV Series: Created by Lena Dunham; Starring Dunham, Allison Williams, Adam Driver, Jemima Kirke, and Zosia Mamet)
Lena Dunham is the voice of this generation. Right here, right now, only on HBO. It is worth the subscription price for this show alone. I have never seen a TV show that is so raw and real and full of true emotion. And it's incredibly weird and quirky and funny. It's mastermind (Dunham) is like a female hipster Woody Allen crossed with Judd Apatow (the show's executive procucer), and her talent is unmatched in TV right now. See it!