My Year In Pop Culture

Happy New Year, everyone!! My goal for 2015 is to blog more. Seven posts in 5 months is not too great, though I’d say it’s a decent start for someone somewhat lazy like me. So here’s to a year of at least  14-18 posts!!

Anyway, 2014 is over and I consumed a LOT of media throughout the year. Taking a page from Steven Soderbergh, I tried to keep track of everything new that I watched (and, as time went on and I found myself commuting to New York City two days a week, of all the books I read as well) in 2014.

My year in pop culture was as follows:

114. Rosemary's Baby

MOVIES

  1. American Hustle
  2. Hugo
  3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  4. Braveheart
  5. Don Jon
  6. Her
  7. Frances Ha
  8. Frozen
  9. Inside Llewyn Davis
  10. Saving Mr. Banks
  11. Dallas Buyers Club
  12. Blue Jasmine
  13. Pineapple Express
  14. Raising Arizona
  15. Leaving Las Vegas
  16. Mitt
  17. The People vs. George Lucas
  18. Best Worst Movie
  19. Fantastic Mr. Fox
  20. Lost in Translation
  21. Juno
  22. Oslo August 31
  23. Eyes Wide Shut
  24. Captain Phillips
  25. All Is Lost
  26. (500) Days of Summer
  27. Filth
  28. Friday the 13th Part 3
  29. The Cable Guy
  30. Punch-Drunk Love
  31. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
  32. Iron Man 3
  33. Thor: The Dark World
  34. Magnolia
  35. 42
  36. Great Expectations
  37. A Nightmare on Elm Street
  38. Philomena
  39. Nebraska
  40. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
  41. Moulin Rouge
  42. Hard Eight
  43. Lolita
  44. Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures
  45. Gods and Monsters
  46. Barry Lyndon
  47. The Master
  48. Bottle Rocket
  49. The Reader
  50. Prisoners
  51. Mud
  52. 300: Rise of an Empire
  53. Grand Budapest Hotel
  54. That Guy…Who Was In That Thing
  55. 8MM
  56. Snake Eyes
  57. Point Break
  58. The Kids Are All Right
  59. Serpico
  60. Dog Day Afternoon
  61. Noah
  62. The History of the World Part I
  63. Joe
  64. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  65. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  66. The Fault in Our Stars
  67. Sex Drive
  68. 22 Jump Street
  69. Jersey Boys
  70. Arthur Christmas
  71. Edge of Tomorrow
  72. America: Imagine the World Without Her
  73. Legend
  74. Saludos Amigos
  75. The Three Caballeros
  76. Make Mine Music
  77. Fun and Fancy Free
  78. Melody Time
  79. Battle Royale
  80. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mister Toad
  81. Boyhood
  82. Bernie
  83. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  84. The Family Man
  85. The Lego Movie
  86. The Ides of March
  87. Life Itself
  88. Snowpiercer
  89. Doubt
  90. Guardians of the Galaxy
  91. Good Will Hunting
  92. 12 Angry Men
  93. Jackass 3D
  94. Unbreakable
  95. The Serpent and the Rainbow
  96. The Skeleton Key
  97. The Sword in the Stone
  98. The Jungle Book
  99. Robin Hood
  100. Bonnie and Clyde
  101. The Princess Bride
  102. The Last Detail
  103. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  104. The Horror of Dracula
  105. Shadow of the Vampire
  106. Insidious
  107. M*A*S*H
  108. Exorcist II: The Heretic
  109. The Exorcist III
  110. Cool Runnings
  111. The Last Picture Show
  112. Annabelle
  113. Gone Girl
  114. Rosemary’s Baby
  115. Poltergeist
  116. Trick ‘r Treat
  117. Exorcist: The Beginning
  118. Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist
  119. John Carpenter’s The Thing
  120. All the President’s Men
  121. Nightcrawler
  122. Suspiria
  123.  [REC]
  124. Dracula Untold
  125. Interstellar
  126. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  127. Birdman
  128. Deliverance
  129. Antichrist
  130. The Help
  131. One Direction: Where We Are
  132. Ida
  133. The Theory of Everything
  134. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  135. Foxcatcher
  136. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  137. Home Alone

24. The Leftovers S1

TV

  1. Doctor Who S4
  2. Sherlock S3
  3. Doctor Who S5
  4. Doctor Who S6
  5. House of Cards S2
  6. Hannibal S1
  7. Mad Men S2
  8. Mad Men S3
  9. Mad Men S4
  10. Mad Men S5
  11. Mad Men S6
  12. 30 Rock S5
  13. 30 Rock S6
  14. 30 Rock S7
  15. Mad Men S7P1
  16. Hannibal S2
  17. Game of Thrones S4
  18. Fargo S1
  19. True Detective S1
  20. Broadchurch S1
  21. The Legend of Korra S2
  22. 24 Live Another Day S9
  23. Doctor Who S7
  24. The Legend of Korra S3
  25. The Leftovers S1
  26. Twin Peaks S1
  27. Castle S1
  28. The Legend of Korra S4

12. Legion

BOOKS

  1. Preacher: Book One by Garth Ennis
  2. Difficult Men by Brett Marton
  3. The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
  4. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
  5. The Killing Joke by Alan Moore
  6. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  7. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  8. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  9. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
  10. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
  11. The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
  12. Legion by William Peter Blatty
  13. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  14. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

I will have another post breaking down the 30 or so films released in theaters in 2014 that I saw before the Oscar Nominations come out on January 15. Overall, 2014 was an okay year for new movies (at least, according to this film curmudgeon over here): I liked a few, and hated a few, but most movies fell into a big ol’ MEH category. But I digress. Some notes on the various forms of entertainment I absorbed this year:

  • I really like Gillian Flynn’s writing style. Gone Girl and Dark Places were both fantastic, and I can only hope her first novel, Sharp Objects, is just as deranged. Did I say that? I meant good.
  • My last spring break as an undergrad consisted of me binging the HELL out of Mad Men and 30 Rock, and both shows quickly shot up my list of favorite shows ever. Don Draper and Jack Donaghy, you make me regret going into a profession where I can’t wear tuxedos after 6 PM or drink whiskey midday while doing business in my midtown Manhattan skyscraper…
  • After previously seeing Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood, I rounded out the Paul Thomas Anderson oeuvre with Punch-Drunk LoveMagnoliaHard Eight, and The Master. So, for a short while until Inherent Vice came out, I had a perfect PTA score.
  • I watched 7 documentaries in 2014, and I can say great things about all of them. Life Itself and Mitt were both extremely charming, and Best Worst Movie made me appreciate the horror that is Troll 2 so much more than I ever did before. The People vs. George Lucas got me angry at George Lucas for messing up Star Wars and then made me feel sad for judging the man who created Star Wars in the first place, which is quite the feat. But Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures takes the cake for my favorite doc and one of my favorite films that I saw all year. I have so much respect for that man, and really wish he made a few more movies before he died.
  • And speaking of Kubrick, Barry Lyndon may’ve been 3 hours long, but I enjoyed all 3 picturesque hours of it. The same goes for Eyes Wide Shut, about which I can’t help but agree with critic Jeremiah Kipp: “Misunderstood as a psychosexual thriller, Stanley Kubrick’s final film is actually more of an acidic comedy about how Tom Cruise fails to get laid.”
  • Apart from a two-minute window at the end that involved skeletons in a pool, Poltergeist was a huge, huge letdown. How it makes any “Best Horror Movie” list is totally beyond me. However, the same cannot be said for that other horror film to come out in 1982, John Carpenter’s The Thing. Those special effects, my God… I’ll take that over computer effects ANY day.
  • The 6 Disney films made during World War II, Saludos AmigosThe Three CaballerosMake Mine MusicFun and Fancy FreeMelody Time, and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mister Toad, are all one big blur to me. That’s, what…? about 7 1/2 hours of my life I will never, ever get back. Thank the good Lord for Cinderella, a film that brought Disney back to life.
  • Carrie Coon wins for my favorite female performer of 2014, as she was great in two of my favorites of the year, as scene-stealing Nora Durst in The Leftovers and as Ben Affleck’s grounded sister in Gone Girl. A close second is Cate Blanchett, winning her Oscar for Blue Jasmine and playing Galadriel in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. I will forever watch whatever they next appear in.
  • Tom Hanks’ last five minutes in Captain Phillips should’ve won an Oscar in 2013, and he wasn’t even nominated. By far my favorite male performance of the year. In TV, I’d say Peter Dinklage for his rousing speech while on trial in Game of Thrones. Oh, and speaking of Game of Thrones
  • …poor, poor Oberyn Martell. Seven months later, and I’m still cringing. (His final words though are quite quotable. “YOU RAPED HER! YOU MURDERED HER! YOU KILLED HER CHILDREN!” served as a good intro for when I FINALLY saw The Princess Bride for the first time later in the year.)
  • Exorcist II: The Heretic was abysmal, but The Exorcist III was a scarily-good successor to The Exorcist, though it was much more of a religious-themed procedural than an outright horror movie. (Its book version, Legion, was my favorite book of the year, but more on that in a bit…) The two prequels, Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist, were actually not that bad. The former was much more of a modern horror movie with a sillier plot, whereas the latter was much better acted but was much slower and had an awful exorcism as its climax; altogether, they were marred by terrible special effects and felt like two vastly-different, inferior halves of a whole, superior movie.
  • WHAT happened to The Legend of Korra? After a wonderful first season, seasons 2 through 4 were uneven, silly, and offensive to my senses as someone who enjoyed Avatar: The Last Airbender. That is not to say that the last three didn’t have any great moments (they had plenty, and, overall, 3 was very good), but still. Giant anthropomorphic kites? Jinora, the Deus Air Machina? Meelo in general?? And then the ending of the finale that everyone is praising, but was almost certainly just tacked on for the “Children’s Show Political Statement of the Year” award? And to top that all off, an Avatar in Korra (who had potential, mind you) who couldn’t even Avatar correctly after 4 friggin’ years!!! Ugh. Bad tastes all around.
  • And while it may not have been the BEST SHOW EVER like previous seasons, it was absolutely wonderful to see Jack Bauer once again grace my television screen in 24: Live Another Day after a 4 year absence. Oh, how I missed him!! Hopefully, it won’t be the last we ever see of him, but if it is, it was a much better send-off than the original finale from 2010, and the image of Jack throwing Evil Catelyn Stark out of a window in cold blood rivals any of the Jack Bauer Moments from 24‘s original run.
  • Thank God for Good Reads. After having it recommended to me over the summer, I increased my reading output from 2 books through July to 14(!!) by the end of the year. My commute to New York helped, but still. It gave me a purpose to sit down and start reading again. After all, I do love keeping track of movies and books with lists…
  • My least favorite movie of the year was probably M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable. How anyone can still let this man get behind a word processor, let alone a camera, is totally beyond me. Noah and Her also drove me a little insane inside as well. And let’s not even talk about Jackass 3D (which I was forced to watch at a friend’s house. Pleeease don’t judge me.) 
  • My least favorite TV show had to be the second season of Korra (see three bullets above for reasons why) followed immediately by the second season of House of Cards – how do you squander so much promise, especially after that first episode?? My least favorite book was Tom Perrotta’s day-in-the-life of those dealing with the Rapture novel, The Leftovers, which unfortunately was because I read it shortly after watching and loving its vastly different, superior HBO adaptation…
  • …which brings me to my final note, my three favorites in their respective mediums: Rosemary’s Baby for movies, The Leftovers for TV, and Legion for books. All three had religious themes (albeit dark, disturbing religious themes) and I guess having that description alone already piques my interest beyond most other premises. It just so happens that their execution and delivery exceeded my expectations in all three cases.
    • Rosemary’s Baby has quickly become one of the more disturbing movies that I have ever seen, and some of its images and dialogue are seared into my brain. I watched it in a college class and there were snickers during the finale when the film’s antagonists proclaimed their love for a certain devil figure, but I was anything but laughing. I was immensely impressed by the acting and Polanski’s direction, and am still surprised by the amount of violence, sex, and nudity in it. Compared to, say, Bonnie and Clyde, another film from the late 60s that was super controversial when it came out, it actually lived up to its reputation for being risqué and ground-breaking. It is certainly a movie I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
    • I mentioned above that I enjoyed The Exorcist III, which was William Peter Blatty’s own adaptation of his Exorcist sequel, Legion. As I did with most of the books I read this year, I picked Legion up AFTER having already watched its film adaptation. And while I know the studio insisted Blatty call his film The Exorcist III and even tacked on a somewhat pointless exorcism scene to the end of the movie (that still wasn’t that bad to derail quite a scary little flick), Legion was vastly different from its movie version, even though Blatty wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. While the film was a procedural with horror elements and that added exorcism scene, the novel was a procedural with horror elements…and a LOT of philosophical and religious discourse. For a Jewish detective, Lt. Kinderman, certainly did a lot of hanging around with Catholic priests and discussing of the Catholic faith, and spent a lot of time chasing religious murderers and ruminating on the nature of good and evil and man’s purpose in it all… Oh, I loved it. And the actual conflict of the book had a much more low-key, emotional resolution than its bloody, excessive film counterpart. Kinderman is now one of my favorite literary characters. Mr. Blatty, any chance you can add a third Kinderman novel to your works?
    • And that brings me to The Leftovers… I still honestly can’t put my feelings about the show into words. I’ve wanted to blog about 15 different things regarding the show and the book (more on that in just a second) frequently since July when it premiered, but I couldn’t put any of my thoughts down on paper. I’ve just never been as emotionally affected by a show as I was with The Leftovers. The show’s ability to get into the heads of the characters and to play with structure certainly helped make its depressing and bleak themes and setting radiate beyond what we saw on screen. I loved the pilot, but it was the third episode that followed Christopher Eccleston’s Reverend Matt Jamison around as he fought to save his church from foreclosure that made me realize I was watching something I’d never seen before. And then Carrie Coon, playing Matt’s sister Nora, had her own, solo episode and stole the show out from under what was already an amazing cast. No, not all the questions raised were answered, and a vast conspiracy seemed to be hinted at towards the end of the show, but that’s what Season 2 is for. The main arc featuring Justin Theroux’s family reached an apt conclusion by season’s end and that was fine with me. Its book counterpart never reached the scope of the show and answered even far less questions, which actually begged me to ask, “What was the point of this book?” And apart from the initial premise, a few character names and one or two scenes here and there – including the final scene of both the show and the book, the two forms of The Leftovers were entirely different entities. And the book didn’t have Max Richter’s hypnotizing score or Coon or Eccleston or Amy Brenneman (who is also superb in an almost entirely-silent role) or the sheer violence that opened up episode 5 or the stolen Baby Jesus, or the packs of killer dogs and their mysterious hunter, or Garvey’s crazy father, and so on and so forth… Therefore, I was severely disappointed by Perrotta’s novel and came to love the show even more while reading it. I can’t wait for Season 2 and I hope it’s just as thought-provoking and mysterious as the first.

Oh, and the sleeper hit of the year that probably had a major impact on my subconscious and might have actually changed my life? A crappy little comedy I saw at 3 am one summer night on Spike or FX or something called Sex Drive.

-Flipp

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