|Posted by thethousandmarch on July 23, 2014 at 12:35 AM|
My perennial, and as usual extremely late, review of the best stuff I saw, heard, and read last year (not all actually released last year). I’ve also included the stuff I really want to see, and have high expectations of, but haven’t had a chance to get around to.
Best Movies I Saw This Year
Inside Llewyn Davis – it doesn’t have a lot of the style, or humorous dialogue of a typical Coen brothers movie, which I think is why it didn’t get nominated for many awards, but it’s very good. The most interesting stylistic aspect of the movie is that it is a cyclical story – it ends where it begins. It seems to me that the Coen’s are not only alluding to The Odyssey, by naming the cat Ulysses and dropping in a reference to Disney’s The Incredible Journey, but they are also referencing James Joyce’s Ulysses. I’m sure this movie is full of allusions to both of these works, but I do not know them well enough to spot them.
Pain and Gain – an unexpectedly great movie
A Hijacking – a Danish movie about the hijacking of a cargo ship by Somali pirates; I didn’t see Captain Phillips, but it would take a lot for it to be better than this movie.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa – Steve Coogan created one of the best characters ever, and this is another great addition to the Partridge canon.
Saving Mr. Banks - sure it's sappy, but I love it.
Gravity – good, but fell short of my expectations; in the end I didn’t think it was nearly as good as many critics did
Cloud Atlas - this movie didn't get much love, and even though it's far from perfect, it had some very amazing parts to it and is well worth watching.
The World’s End – good, but not nearly as good as Sean of the Dead, or Hot Fuzz
This is the End
Upstream Color – I loved the writer/director/lead actor’s previous movie Primer (it’s one of my all-time favorite movies) and had high hopes for this movie. Yet I found this movie just too unintelligible, which I could in some ways forgive if it wasn’t so boring.
Some Movies I Really Want to See, but still haven’t gotten the chance – I can’t believe I have yet to see some of these. Yet I’m sure once I do at least a few of these will make it to the best of list and that’s part of the reason I was so late posting this review; I’ve been trying to catch up.
The Great Beauty
Philomena – Steve Coogan making a run at trying to take over Michael Sheen’s career (as he stated he could in The Trip)
The Act of Killing
12 Years a Slave
The Spectacular Now
Beyond the Hills
The Wind Rises
Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
Much Ado About Nothing
Best New (at least new to me) T.V. Shows. For the most part I’m not listing long running shows I’ve already listed in past years.
Derek (Hulu) – an absolutely incredible show, which manages to be hilarious while demonstrating the value of many people our society tends to want to forget (people we often consider a burden to society and who we think would usually be better off dead). The second season just came out and it’s great, but the absence of Karl Pilkington in most of the episodes takes it down a notch.
Hello Ladies – I love Stephen Merchant (co-creator of the Office); this show manages to be funny and poignant, just like the best of his stuff with creative partner Ricky Gervais
House of Cards (NetFlix) – a good demonstration of why the power of those in government should be limited, and it’s very entertaining
Undeclared – Finally caught up with this Judd Apatow creation, almost as good as Freaks and Geeks
The Wrong Mans (Hulu) – a very funny and suspenseful British comedy
The Goldbergs – The Wonder Years for the ‘80’s
Moone Boy (Hulu) – Very funny Irish comedy – the Irish ’90’s Wonder Years, but with an imaginary friend instead of a narrator
Orange is the New Black (NetFlix) – you have to be willing to put up with a little more nudity and sex than narratively necessary, but a very funny and creative show
The Awesomes (Hulu) – a cartoon about an alternative super hero team
British Game Shows – there are so many episodes of good game shows on YouTube it’s ridiculous. The best I’ve found are: Never Mind the Buzzcocks, QI, and Big Fat Quiz
David Mitchell’s Soapbox – Also on YouTube, these are short little videos by Mitchell (of The Mitchell and Webb Look, and The Peep Show) humorously complaining about a wide variety of topics. The Downton Abbey one is one of my favorites.
The Thick of It – The show that inspired Veep.
Top of the Lake
Some I’ve Mentioned in the Past, but they are so good I’ve got to mention them again.
An Idiot Abroad
Armstrong and Miller
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
Breaking Bad – I’ve hated the character Walter White for many seasons, but I was amazed how they managed to turn this show and make me feel sympathy for him. It was a very satisfying ending all around, even for Jesse.
Most Disappointing T.V. Show
Agents of Shield – how could this show be so bad; it seems like it was made in 1992
The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, by David Epstein
The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, by Michael R. Licona – a remarkably accessible historical study.
Little People, by Tom Holt – based upon the two books I’ve read by Holt I must conclude he is one of the best living fiction authors and I want to read more
Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think, by Bryan Caplan
The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, by Natan Sharansky and Ron Dermer – Sharansky is a Russian Jew who spent nine years in a Russian prison; he eventually was released and immigrated to Israel. There he played a significant, but often outspoken role in the Israeli government.
Best Songs of the Year
Get Lucky, by Daft Punk
Happy, by Pharrelll Williams
Malandrino, by Gogol Bordello
Mahindra Death Ride, by Bombay Royale – a cool song that becomes perfect at the 2 minute 14 second mark
Madrona, by Hey Marseilles
Breakin’ The Chains of Love, by Fitz and The Tantrums
LoveBlood, by King Charles
Pura Vida Conspiracy, by Gogol Bordello
Nice, Nice, Very Nice, by Dan Mangan (This came out in 2010, but I just discovered this artist and this album this year).
Some other good artists I discovered this year
Dawn of Midi
Tallest Man on Earth
My Favorite Podcasts (a new addition to my review, oh boy!)
White Horse Inn
TED Radio Hour
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History