Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
This is Doug Johnson. On our show today, we tell about some of the best books, movies and songs of the past year.
Notable Books of 2006
Literary critics list the best books at the end of every year. Steve Ember tells us about three critically praised books published in two thousand six.
"The Emperor's Children" by Claire Messud is about three thirty-year-old people who live in New York City. They have been friends since college. They are well educated and intelligent but are not successful.
Julian Clarke and Danielle Minkoff have jobs that are not satisfying. Marina Thwaite has been writing a book she cannot seem to finish.
The young people respect Marina's father who is a famous intellectual, journalist and social activist. He gives advice about life and work but privately violates these ideas. At the end of the book, all of the characters are affected by the terrorist attack on New York City on September eleventh, two thousand one.
Another widely praised book from last year is "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. It describes the end of the world as we know it. A father and his young son try to survive in a land destroyed by a nuclear disaster. They are two of the last survivors on Earth. They must continue walking along the road so they do not become victims of attacks by other survivors. They must also search for food and safe places to rest.
One critic said this frightening book takes readers to places they do not want to go. It forces them to ask questions they do not want to ask. Others praise the descriptions of the relationship between the boy and the father, and the sights and sounds of their horrible world.
A third best book from two thousand six is "What Is The What" by Dave Eggers. It is a fictional story about a real person, Valentino Achak Deng. He was a refugee from the Sudanese civil war. The book tells his story from the age of seven when soldiers destroy his village and he is separated from his family. He joins the other "Lost Boys" who walk through refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya on their way to what they hope will be new lives. Valentino finally reaches the United States as a young man. But he finds life there in some ways more difficult than it was in Africa.
Best Movies of 2006
At the end of each year, critics list what they consider to be the best movies released that year.
Many critics praised two historical films directed by Clint Eastwood. Both were released near the end of the year. They tell about the World War Two battle between American and Japanese forces for the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. The movies describe both sides of the battle that killed almost seven thousand American troops and more than twenty thousand Japanese.
Critics especially praised the movie that tells the Japanese story. It is called "Letters From Iwo Jima." The Japanese soldiers sent to Iwo Jima to defend the island against the American attack did not expect to survive. The movie tells about those who took part in the battle and their commander. Critics say the movie paints a detailed picture of the island, the lives of the Japanese defending it and the horrors of war.
The other movie is "Flags of Our Fathers." It is about three American servicemen who helped raise the American flag on Iwo Jima. They were sent back to the United States to help the government gain money for the war effort. The movie explores the American public's reaction to them and their own feelings about leaving others to fight the war.
"As far as being the heroes of Iwo Jima, that's just not the case. We really didn't do much at all. We put up the flag. The pole we attached it to was heavy so it took a number of us. We had our picture taken doing it. The real heroes are dead on that island and we appreciate it if you bought bonds in honor of them. Thank you."
Another critically praised movie last year told the story of an important event in recent American history. "United 93" is about the terrorist attacks on September eleventh, two thousand one. It shows the events that might have happened on the hijacked airplane that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. The passengers tried to gain control of the plane from the terrorists.
"We have to do something."
"They're not gonna land this plane. They are not gonna take us back to the airport."
"Is there any other option we have?"
"If we're gonna die, we're gonna die."
Critics called the movie a real memorial to the forty passengers and crew-members who refused to let terrorists reach their intended target in Washington, D.C.
Many critics also praised a movie called "Little Miss Sunshine." It is about what Americans call a dysfunctional family. That is, a family with problems. The movie follows six members of the Hoover family on a road trip together from New Mexico to California. They make the trip so that the daughter, seven-year-old Olive, can compete in a beauty contest. The movie is very funny, sad and truthful at the same time.
"I don't want to be a loser."
"You're not a loser. Where'd you get the idea you're a loser?"
"Cuz. Daddy hates losers."
"Whoa, whoa whoa. Back up a minute. You know what a loser is? A real loser is somebody that's so afraid of not winning they don't even try. Now, you're tryin', right?"
"So, you're not a loser."
During their trip, the Hoover family learns to trust and support each other.
Best Music of 2006
Music critics also make lists of what they consider the best recordings of the year. Katherine Cole plays some of the best songs of two thousand six.
Many critics agreed that one of the best albums of last year was by the Dixie Chicks. "Taking the Long Way" is the group's answer to those who criticized them after lead singer Natalie Maines made a negative public statement about President Bush. She did so in two thousand three, right before the invasion of Iraq.
The group said the comment and the reaction to it changed their lives and their music. One of the songs on their album expresses the importance of standing up for what you believe. It is "Not Ready To Make Nice."
Another critics' choice for best album of two thousand six was "Stadium Arcadium" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In fact, Billboard Magazine reports that one of the songs on the album was the number one modern rock song of the year. Here it is -- "Dani California."
"Modern Times" by Bob Dylan was also chosen as one of the best albums of two thousand six. Critics at Billboard Magazine voted this album the best of the year. We leave you now with Bob Dylan singing "Thunder on the Mountain."
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. It was written by Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
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