I decided to do one of those things where I list a bunch of things that I liked about 2014. Now, I didn’t really like much about 2014 in my personal life, but making a superficial list of things that I liked is oddly cathartic. This will be a best of list, mostly because, I don’t really like making worst of lists. The closest I’ll come to that is by telling you that I was disappointed that the ending of the otherwise very enjoyable film, Maleficent was too similar to the ending of Frozen.
Since we’re on the subject of movies, let’s start there:
- (tie) Captain America: The Winter Soldier/X-Men: Days of Future Past/Guardians of the Galaxy/Big Hero 6.
This was the year of all the good Marvel films, and I can’t really pick which one was my favorite, because really they were all worthwhile.
- Cap – The unexpected spy film, directed with brilliance by the brothers who helped make Community awesome. Bonus points for making Falcon amazing.
- X-Men – Bryan Singer returned to the world he created and aside from managing to fix all of the mistakes of the two X-Men films he didn’t work on, he turned in the best film of his career.
- Guardians – the true gem of the bunch, and the only thing keeping me from just naming this the best most entertaining film of the year, or the past few years is.. well, the opening five minutes was almost unwatchable. And this isn’t to say the opening five minutes was bad or anything, just not the type of sequence I expected to see in any film this year.
- Six – Disney Animation Studio’s adaptation of D-List team of heroes created by the geniuses at Man of Action for an issue of Alpha Flight is absolutely beautiful and proves just how much John Lasseter and his crew have changed things at the magic hat building.
- Community – this should come as no surprise, but it actually comes as a huge surprise to me, Dan Harmon managed two unthinkable things, one was returning as showrunner to the show he was unceremoniously outed from the year before, the second was somehow making his return season, the fifth season, into one of the best of the series.
- The Newsroom – Aaron Sorkin heightened his show to almost ridiculous levels of melodrama while simultaneously turning in one of some of his best writing ever, and my favorite episode of anything he’s written since the ‘Noel’ episode from the second season of West Wing.
- Bob’s Burgers – somehow Bob’s Burgers found a way to not be Simpsons or Family Guy and still be relevant, funny and biting.
- Gilmore Girls – the entire six season run (and that mysterious extra dream season, or whatever that was) is on Netflix and holds up just as much as it ever did.
- Portlandia – worth it just to see Jeff Goldblum’s local commercial proclaiming him ‘the pull-out king’.
- 1989 – Taylor Swift – again, this is no surprise, but again, it kind of is. Taylor turned completely away from her acoustic and country roots and turned in the best pop album since Lady Gaga’s The Fame/Monster (I consider them one album). Best songs: Style, How You Get the Girl.
- The Veronicas – The Veronicas – after taking a few years off and shuttling their Life On Mars album, the Australian twin sister duo (and Twitter followers of one Kevin Peterson) turned in their best album. Best songs: Line of Fire, If You Love Someone.
- Everything Will Be Alright in the End – Weezer – since I’m someone who has loved every Weezer album made after 1996 just as much as the two before, I don’t see this as their so-called return to form. I do see this as another example of the bizarrely perfect way Rivers Cuomo manages to blend oddball lyrics with perfectly timed melodies. Best songs: I’ve Had it up to Here, Da Vinci.
- Little Machines – Lights – the tiny Canadian keytarist traded her tiny dresses for marriage and motherhood and turned in her most balanced and least Canadian sounding album. Best song: Don’t Go Home Without Me.
- Cheek to Cheek – Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga – the fact that this album exists is more than enough of a reason why you need to listen to it. The fact that it’s absolutely beautiful is another. Best song: Anything Goes.
- (tie) Big Hero Six/Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Henry Jackman – best superhero scores. Best pieces: Reboot for Six and Captain America for obvious.
I haven’t been able to read as many comics as I would’ve liked (like Sex Criminals, Miles Morales, All New X-Men), but I did manage to read a few.
- Amazing Spider-Man – (Written by Dan Slott, Art by Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Olivier Coipel) After spending 2 years writing the adventures of Doctor Octopus, Dan Slott returned Peter Parker to the land of the living (naked) and launched him into a story featuring EVERY SPIDER-MAN EVER.
- Daredevil by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee.
- Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja. Sign language issue.
- Silver Surfer by Dan Slott and Mike Allard.
Podcasts play (get it?) an integral part in mylfe this year, and i’m not talking about the woman who was pitching me on her website idea of ‘The AV CLUB for Podcasts”
- Harmontown – Dan Harmon’s way too personal introspection was responsible for two of the most important moments of the year, one, listening to the podcast itself, all of the episodes, gave me something to do during the point in my life I needed something to do the most. And, attending the live episode in March introduced me to a series of events leading up to my volunteering with the Denver Writes program, and for that, I’m forever grateful.
- Smodcast Network – I took a break from Kevin Smith and his unending series of podcasts a couple years ago because I got behind and thought I’d never catch up, until i discovered he had started doing a podcast about Batman, and then I was back. Smodcast, is the crown jewel, but the episodes without buddy Scott Mosier, while often interesting (especially when Smith’s mom, who reminds me so much of mom, sits in) lack the insane brilliance that created Tusk. Mosier’s other podcast, with Matt Mira FEAB, while just as infrequent, makes up for his absences. Smith’s newest podcast, Edumacation with former Tonight Show writer Andy McElfresh, is an absurdly brilliant breath of fresh air. But it’s Fatman on Batman, where Smith really shines, and it’s more than just Batman, like the episodes with Marvel CCO Joe Quesada pitching why Guardians of the Galaxy and Big Hero Six were going to rock months in advance. And it’s more than just comics, like Neal Adams discussing his youth or Grant Morrison discussing, well, life the universe and everything, is absolutely awesome.
- Word Balloon – the first podcast I’d ever heard of (along with The Animation Podcast and the much missed Tiki Bar), and nine years later the former Chicago sports radio host (and former employee of my favorite Chicago station WXRT) John Siuntres, still holds the most enjoyable serious discussion of comics and the like. Listening to writers and artists talk craft helps ease the sting of not being able to afford comics for real.
Well, that was fun. (Maybe) Congratulations if you actually read through all of this. I don’t think I will.