I love top lists, but I hate how people always call them “best of” lists. I don’t care how much critical expertise you got, you’re still just telling me your favorite things. Maybe we share taste, maybe we don’t, but don’t go around saying something’s the “best” just because you like it – and that goes double for “worst.”
In fact, you know what’s the worst? Opinions no one asked for.
So here’s my unwanted opinions about last year’s best stuff:
Album of My Year
FKA twigs – LP1
Let’s be real: we probably don’t share taste in music. I like a little bit of everything, the weirder the better, and this album definitely ain’t normal. It’s like inside-out pop, the lonely ghost of Tiger Beat. She sings about stuff you’d hear on the radio, but it’s ethereal and haunting. If the robot DJs of top 40 stations dreamed about vast desert ruins, this is the whistle of the wind through the stones. My favorite track’s probably Two Weeks.
I’m currently really into the very specific genre of beautiful voices hauntingly singing over trippy dubstep-ish synthesizers. Neither Purity Ring or Made In Heights released an album in 2014, but I listened to them a bunch too. I’m looking for more like it!
Book of My Year
Okay, this is cheating a little bit. I mentioned last year that I don’t often read books while they’re new, and I’m pretty sure this service wasn’t even new this year, but you know what? It’s what I read. Alexia got a subscription for me for my birthday and I’ve been reading a lot of comics and I love it so.
So what is it? Basically, in the words of every start-up pitch, it’s Netflix for comic books. Marvel books specifically. You read them on your computer or tablet or even phone if you like tiny comics, and there are thousands of them. It’s daunting, so I’ve been using Comic Book Herald‘s wonderful Complete Marvel Reading Order Guide. I’m telling you, I love that site. And this service. I still read a lot of prose (obviously, since I write prose), but this year was the year of Marvel.
Cartoon of My Year
Don’t remember this category from last year? TOO BAD. I like all sorts of stuff and you can’t stop me. Seriously, I’m already holding back with all the categories I’ve got here. Anyway, check this miniseries out. It’s magical and weird and hilarious and just so good. It makes me feel warm just thinking of it. It was incredible of Cartoon Network to take a bet on it, and I think it resulted in a really cool little modern fairy tale.
Television of My Year
This had no right to be so good. It just went ahead and did it anyway. I loved the original, but this still managed to be its own thing while maintaining the dark humor and tension. It’s brutal and brilliantly acted and just filled with people you love to hate and people you just plain love because they’re just trying to do their best in a bad world. Very good stuff.
Game of My Year
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
I love indie games, and play a ton of them, usually because that’s where the most interesting gameplay mechanics live. But not this year. As far as I know, any way – I haven’t played them all. I’m especially looking forward to Transistor, which has been on my to-do list for a while. ANY WAY, Shadow of Mordor is great. It borrows mechanics from the best – a little Zelda here, a little Assassin’s Creed there, a lot of Arkham – and makes it all work well enough it’d be a fine game even without the nemesis system.
But the nemesis system makes it all so much more. It moves from open world to open story. And we’re not talking choose your own adventure, where the writer has the endings figured out for you – here, you create your own adventure. You develop your own enemies, and have little stories and nemeses and incredible frustrations and impossible wins, and it all feels like you.
There’s a normal story in there too, but we all know we’re really there to brutally murder a bunch of orcs. And thanks to the improved story technology, they’re not just any vicious enemies – they’re our vicious enemies. I still hate and kinda miss Tugog the Butcher.
Film(s) of My Year
Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman
Movies are hard to pick. They’re all so different, and everyone works so hard on them, and I love most of them in different ways. It makes sense that people do top ten lists, and I will mention my top ten in order from least to most fave: Blue Ruin, Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Edge of Tomorrow, Snowpiercer, John Wick, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Selma, Nightcrawler, and The Lego Movie.
And Birdman takes the top prize. Most of the reason is the astounding and imaginative technical magic – the movie looks like one very long shot, which should be a gimmick but somehow is essential and beautiful. The story is good enough to (fingers crossed) be the literal ultimate story about sad artists. I’ve seen this kind of thing before, but the performances and meta story and magical realist strangeness make it all worth it.
There’s some other good stuff this year, like Guardians of the Galaxy and The Winter Soldier and Boxtrolls, and I actually feel like I did a good job of seeing most of the big ones this year. Yes, I saw Boyhood. No, it’s not on the list. Nor is Foxcatcher or The Imitation Game or Interstellar. Any one of them might be better than John Wick, for instance, but I just don’t love them the same. I didn’t catch Whiplash or A Most Violent Year, but they seem like my kinda thing.
Anyway, that’s the whole list! What did I miss? Which of my opinions makes you mad because it’s not the same as your opinion? Let me know in the comments!