Happy New Year, suburbanites and enviable non-suburbanites! As is the custom, I’m kicking this year off by listing out some of last year’s best (I avoided the temptation to list worsts, because positivity!) You can find these lists anywhere, but this one is mine. So:
Best Using Your Brain TV: BBC America’s Orphan Black
One actress plays, at last count, ten unique and utterly distinct clones. Feats of special effects go unnoticed due to the caliber of acting and writing on display. There are nefarious organizations on the religious, political, and scientific fronts, all with their own agendas about the clones. Action and suspense couple with rich issues of identity and self-determination. Don’t blink or you’ll miss something. Oh, and there is a guy with a tail.
Best Using Your Tear Ducts TV: Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black
A popular choice, but for good reason. It’s so much more than a fish out of water story. Lost’s character flashback structure gets put to fantastic use here, and you’ll laugh just as much as you cry.
Best Ridiculous TV: Fox’s Sleepy Hollow
I know, this show seems so dumb. Ichabod Crane in the modern day, and it’s a cop show to boot?! If you only knew that Ichabod and his cop partner are also battling the Biblical Apocalypse! (I’m guessing there’s a reason they keep that part out of the commercials.) This is partially a so-gonzo-it’s-good case, but mostly the whole enterprise is saved by the superb chemistry between the main characters. They totally get each other, and are hilarious, and even if they never get together are still one of TV’s best duos. Come for the monster of the week, stay for Ichabod’s spiritual journey.
Best Millennials TV: Fox’s The Mindy Project
Some people hate this show, fair enough, just like some people hate Girls and Happy Endings and any show about our own generation. Is there something about self-loathing there? Let’s not delve too deep. For my money, though, Mindy Project is another show with great chemistry; Mindy and her coworkers’ friendships ring true and specific and damn funny. The fact that Mindy is an accomplished, intelligent doctor who also likes girly things like “cupcakes and pillows” is also a refreshing mixture of archetypes.
Best Bandwagon TV: AMC’s Breaking Bad
Have you guys heard of this show?!?! It’s great!
Best Reinvigorated TV: CBS’s Survivor – Season 26
Survivor has been on for over TEN years! It’s hard to keep that fresh. But the show has hit a new stride lately with producers realizing the value of returning players. Knowing the backstories and history – and for Chrissakes, simply the names! – makes viewing easier and more interesting; there’s a reason people still watch MTV’s The Challenge (which, omg, underrated)! Season 26 pitted easily distinguishable fans against a spectacular batch of returning “favorites”, and things only got better and better. The LOW point was when one contestant went on a rampage and dumped the tribe’s food in the sand. The high was when the dominant alliance came to Tribal comfortable in their plan to oust one of the three remaining outsiders… only to be met with THREE immunity idols and have to turn on each other THEN AND THERE. Best season ever.
Best Geek TV: Doctor Who 50th Anniversary and Christmas specials
The Anniversary Special was all about winks and nods, tied up some loose ends (The “Virgin” Queen) and basically made everyone geek out enormously. We got to see Ten and Eleven together, plus the War Doctor and Rose! While the premise of eradicating the Doctor’s actions in the Time War seemed like a massive error, the kind that undoes 7 seasons’ worth of emotional journey, it worked out well in the end to maintain the integrity of what went before while charting a new and exciting path for the future. For its part, the Christmas Special hearkened back to a trove of Eleven/Moffat lore, tying things together you felt resigned never to fully understand. And, inevitably, there were tears. A lesson in how high expectations can be met.
Capital “B” Best TV/Books: Game of Thrones
Simply the best. The Red Wedding was the apotheosis of season 3, but it was all a whirlwind. Every aspect of this show remains top shelf, and it’s not even close to over. 2014 public service announcement: Read the books!
Best Movie Of the Maybe 3 I Saw: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
I don’t always see movies in the theater, but when I do, I see them twice. Catching Fire is even better than the solid first installment. Moody, emotional, and dark, it gets to the heart of this very grotesque YA series while providing all the clock arena grandeur you’d hoped for. Points for hewing quite close to the books; everything a devoted fan went in wishing to see was there, and done better. How often do you get to say that? (I’m lookin’ at you, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.)
Best (But Most Maligned) Single: “22” by Taylor Swift
DON’T EVEN PRETEND YOU HATE IT. For extra credit: “32”
Best Downbeat Album: Bad Blood by Bastille
The Bastille album is everything I want my music to be. The lyrics are narrative and weirdly specific. There’s one song about the doomed city of Pompeii, and I swear “Daniel in the Den” is about the Lannisters sung from the point of view of one of the Stark kids. It’s also moody and brooding; what could be better?!
Best Upbeat Album: More Than Just a Dream by Fitz and the Tantrums
For those times that depressing music just won’t do (i.e., driving a car in summer with windows down and possibly other people present), there is the bouncy, lively Fitz and the Tantrums collection. Not every song is pure gold, but “Fools Gold” is.
Best Pump-Up Jam: “Come and Get It” by Selena Gomez
If you are going out to da club, play this song while you pregame/on the way. YOU’RE WELCOME.
Best Trailer, Genuine: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Sometimes the trailers are even better than the movies, aren’t they? I haven’t seen Walter Mitty yet, though the most recent TV spots have made me nervous it’s a goofy Ben Stiller comedic vehicle. The original theatrical trailer, though, with Of Mountains and Men blasting over the sweeping and fantastical scenes, just soared. It was big and dreamy and full of wonder.
Best Trailer, Ironic: Vampire Academy
I’m not even sorry, this is my new favorite horrible movie EVER. The trailer is ridiculously awful to the point that I can’t even tell if they were serious about it when they were making it. Standout line: “You do NOT wanna have to get a nose-job in Montana.” ????!?!?! 2014 will be the year of seeing this movie in the theater. Drunk.
Best YouTube Channel: CinemaSins
I hate YouTube, mainly because I watch TV while I’m on my computer, so muting a program for a pithy 3-minute video is a lot of commitment for some half-baked joke played out two minutes too long. HOWEVER, CinemaSins counts the “sins” (errors, WTFs) of movies both great and terrible, and the results are snort-laughing good. If you’re just starting out, watch “Everything Wrong with Twilight in 6 Minutes or Less.”
Best Fashion Trend on the Rise: Hair Necklaces
Fancy chains that clip into your hair. Literally exactly what they sound like. You heard it here first.
Best Fashion Trend, Honorable Mention: Collar Clips
Also exactly what they sound like. The past few years for me have been big for wearing collared shirts buttoned all the way up, and a great way to accessorize such things is with kitschy collar clips – mine are shaped like pizza.
Best Fashion Find: Old Navy opaque tights
They were big in the winter, so inventory’s tough to find now, but these were hands-down the best tights I’ve found. If you’re on the tall-ish side, you know the eternal dismay of droopy tights crotch. The Old Navy solid styles stretch like crazy, are totally opaque, and stay where you put them. They are a miracle.
Best Fashion Idea in Recent Memory: Bedazzled sweatshirts
GENIUS. Who thought of this, why aren’t we celebrating them more, and why didn’t they think of it sooner? I, my friends, and even legitimately fashionable people have gotten away with murder in 2013 walking around in literally sweatshirts – at work, at semi-fancy occasions, on holidays – for the simple reason that some prodigy thought to bedazzle the damn things. You have never been so simultaneously sparkly and comfy in your life. Unfortunately, I have a scary feeling this one won’t have a very long shelf-life, so take advantage while you can!
Best Celebrity Shenanigans: Miley Cyrus
Be real, Miley reminded us what celebrities are for this year. She’s shrewd as a fox, because whether you loved or hated or were disgusted by her VMAs performance, we’ve been talking about it for 6 months. Mission accomplished. Her album is, shockingly, actually good. “We Can’t Stop” is brill. I also give the girl points for cultivating her own out-there style and basically “just being Miley” (that’s a lyrical reference to one of her PRE-Bangerz hits, n00bs!) From my POV, she’s not really doing anything harmful or terribly subversive, yet she’s continuously surprising, outrageous, and fun. THAT is what I want out of my celebs.
Best Celebrity, Obvious: Jennifer Lawrence
I mean, duh. I want to be her best friend just like everyone else.
Best Celebrities, British: Tom Hiddleston/Benedict Cumberbatch
The year of the hunky/geeky British heartthrobs has come to a sad close. If you’re on Pinterest or Tumblr, you know allllllll too well how ubiquitous, comical, and adorable these two are.
Best Blog: My Friends Are Married
Exactly what it sounds like. Funny now that we’re at an age where this is actually becoming a creeping phenomenon amongst people we know.
Best Booze, Summer: Leinenkugel Summer Shandy
Don’t order summer beers on tap; more often than not they taste like a foot. In a can or proper housing device, though, Summer Shandy is the perfect summer treat.
Best Booze, Winter: Angry Orchard and Fireball
I sound like the weakest drinker in the world with these beer-alternatives, but hard cider is delicious and quenches my thirst for autumnal flavors. Add in Fireball Whiskey and you’ve got a heavenly (and more potent) cinnamon concoction.
Best Eats: Wawa mac and cheese
Eat all the mac and cheese always.
Best Time-Suck: Sporcle
Trivia quizzes. Infinite trivia quizzes. Devote entire weeks of your life to memorizing all the world’s capitals, like I did in 2013, or keep it a bit lighter. They have a quiz for everything, and you can feel a little better about a whole night wasted here than on Candy Crush.