Since I’ve started watching Star Trek recently, my wife and I have come to realize that I am Spock. It is a logical conclusion. With that in mind, I’m happy to announce that I am emerging from under my stacks and stacks of spreadsheets to present to you my mathematically precise, Unquestionably Objective Best of 2014 Awards (sponsored by the abacus).
Best Song That Reminded Us That Nickel Creek Had Never Truly Left And That They Also Might Be Aliens Sent Here To Destroy All Notions Of Terrible Music — “Destination,” by Nickel Creek
If there was a way to liquify the voices of Chris Thile, Sara Watkins, and Sean Watkins, mix them together, distill it, and hand it out in flasks to the world’s population, it would end all conflict and bring about a new egalitarianism world order. After seven years shivering in a cold world void of Nickel Creek, with only the dim flicker of their previous albums to buffer us from frozen death, hearing “Destination” for the first time this spring was like having a pint of said distilled vocal essence ignited and sprayed out in a burning blast of energetic, harmonious, musical joy.
Best This-Must-Be-What-Odysseus-Felt-Like Performance — The Secret Sisters
Three thoughts typically go through my head during an opening music act: 1) This is interesting, who are these people? 2) Oh, this is who these people are. 3) How much longer until the headliner comes out?
Here’s a peek into my head when I saw The Secret Sisters open: 1) This is interesting, who are these people? 2) … 3) Wait, wait, there’s more, isn’t there? Where are they going!
Beware the sirens and their siren songs:
Best Moment Laughing At Anything Happening On My TV — the popcorn scene in Troll 2
I did not literally roll on the floor laughing. But I did go from a sitting position on the couch to all fours on the floor struggling to breathe for several minutes, and I think that’s as close as a sincere human being can get to, as the kids say, ROFL IRL. 2014 marked the year when I saw Troll 2 for the first time. Of all its horrible movie glory, nothing will ever top the popcorn scene for me. That’s as far as I’d like to describe the scene, by the way. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about; if you haven’t, the hilarity will be more satisfying if you don’t know it’s coming (I am assuming you will eventually see the movie, because you are a person). This was the funniest thing I saw all year, and the fact that it was unintentional comedy chisels it onto the Mount Rushmore of Funny.
Best Game That I Already Played Through Half a Dozen Times But Was Remastered and Re-released This Year So Play It Again Jack — The Last Of Us
You know that movie that you watch several times a year and you always choke up at the same moments, even though you know they’re coming, and you know the exact lines the characters are going to say and how they’re going to say them, but you just can’t help but have your heart wrenched every time, and somehow you seem to actually enjoy going through that emotional experience over and over? The video game The Last Of Us is one of those movies for me. Beautiful and brutal. Yes, challenging, strategic, and fun gameplay, too. But those moments. Here, watch me get a lump in my throat just WRITING this Ellie line from memory: “Everyone I have cared for has either died or left me. Everyone – fucking except for you!” *shove to Joel’s chest* “So don’t tell me I would be safer with somebody else, because the truth is I would just be more scared.”
Next category! Something’s in my eye, dammit, next category!
Best Genre of Documentary to Watch on Netflix — entertainers you don’t usually think about but when you do you go whoa that’s interesting
This was the year in which I first watched 20 Feet from Stardom (2013) and Her Master’s Voice (2012). I learned much more about backup singers and ventriloquists than I ever thought would be interesting, and holy smokes was it interesting. For example, I was jolted to realize how little I had thought about the second singer on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter (the super talented Merry Clayton); and I was fascinated to learn how much ventriloquism shares with sleight-of-hand magic in working off audience perceptions.
Best Genre of Movies, Subcategory: Movies That I Hadn’t Seen In At Least 15 Years — crime thriller
This year, through the magic time portal power of Netflix, I rewatched The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en, two crime thrillers that I last watched over a decade and a half ago. I remembered flashes from each movie — Jodie Foster talking to Anthony Hopkins in his cell, Brad Pitt struggling trying to fight off the final sin — but not much else.
In the years since first watching these films, I’ve watched a lot of TV crime shows such Law & Order and Criminal Minds, as well as true crime shows like Cold Blood and Forensic Files. I’m sure I’ve watched other crime thriller movies since then as well, but none so memorable that they’re coming to mind now. So my expectations for the genre have been muted by what can be done in a 44-minute TV show with broadcast decency standards. It was startling, then, to be reminded how fantastic the storytelling is in both The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. The pacing, the imagery, the character development, the acting, the twists and turns. I’m not trying to put down the TV shows I mentioned — binge-watching easier-to-digest content is pleasurable in its own right — but there’s a different satisfaction to settling into a well-spun yarn.
Best New Album That Could Play on a Continuous Loop Everywhere I Go And I’d Enjoy It Right Up Until the Moment I Died of Exhaustion From Air-Drumming — Mended With Gold, Rural Alberta Advantage
I wrote recently that I thought this could be the RAA’s best album, and I am now prepared to render final judgement: It is.
Best New Band Who Actually Released Their First Album Last Year But I Just Discovered Them This Year So Deal With It — Lucius
I have a soft spot in my musical tastes for genre-busters. Specifically, the kind of genre-busters who sound not like a conscious attempt to combine different genres, but a fully-realized alchemy of different genres resulting from artists playing through their passions. The kind that, when you listen to them, you hear a sound that is theirs alone, but also sounds like one that has always existed. Rage Against the Machine didn’t play “rap-metal” — they played Rage Against the Machine music. The Avett Brothers don’t play “bluegrass-folk/country/rock/indie” — they play Avett Brothers music. Wildewoman is only the first album for Lucius, but it sure feels as though in half a dozen years we’ll be saying that Lucius doesn’t play “indie-folk-pop” — they play Lucius music.
Best “Give It To Jeremy — He’ll Watch Anything” Experience — Roy Colt and Winchester Jack
What, you’ve never awarded yourself an award? I’d like to thank my wife, for your support and your suggestions, and for creating this wonderful website; my readers, for reading and saying nice things; my country, for believing in me; Netflix, for making movies like this instantly available; Mario Bava, for having the guts the break down the walls of human sanity and create this masterpiece; and most of all, thank you to the Reverend, forever and ever.
Best Video Game Spun Off From a Series of Beloved Movies Based on a Series of Even More Beloved Books — Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Taking place between The Hobbit and The Lord of Rings, Shadow of Mordor plants seeds throughout the game’s story that make you question the morality and true intentions of the main character (Talion) until the very end, when those seeds suddenly have you lost in an ominously dark forest, wondering what exactly you’ve been doing for the last 30 hours, but having too much fun hacking apart Uruks to care too much. For LOTR fans, think of Boromir left unchecked by the balance of the fellowship and give him wraith-like powers, and you have an idea of what it’s like to play as Talion. Troubling. (But, yes… also fun.)
Best Sequel To Dumb and Dumber — Ass Backwards
Ass Backwards was actually released in late 2013, but it didn’t show up on Netflix until 2014 (if a movie studio releases a movie, but it isn’t on Netflix for people to see it, was it ever released?). It’s my understanding that another movie was released in 2014 called Dumb and Dumber To, starring the original stars of Dumb and Dumber. Having never seen it, I can neither confirm nor deny. But I did see Ass Backwards, and it is clearly the greatest sequel, spiritual or otherwise, to Dumb and Dumber that will ever be. Writing a comically stupid character well is very difficult — the character has to be believably dumb, but the jokes need to be clever enough to be genuinely funny beyond “hey look, a stupid person.” It’s a weird, awkward tight-rope, and that’s probably why the list of great two-stupid-characters-on-a-quest movies is so short. Ass Backwards belongs near the top of that list.
Best Danceable Earworm — “Blue Ridge Mountain,” by Hurray for the Riff Raff