2014 in Review: The Best Stuff of 2014

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Personally, 2014 has been a crazy year. The quick version of the story is that I graduated college, moved and started my first real world job. 2014 has also been a crazy year for pop culture. 2014 produced a lot of good things, and below you’ll find a list of my favorite of those good things.

Anthology Series

Fargo and True Detective were hands down the two best TV shows of 2014, and what did they both have in common? Single seasons that told one self-contained story. So, instead of having to wait 5 seasons and hoping that your favorite show doesn’t get cancelled before finding out how the story ends, an anthology series wraps things up in a matter of just a few episodes (10 for Fargo and 8 for True Detective). This year introduced us to two strong examples of how this format can work, and I’m excited to see how it’s utilized in 2015.

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Ballsy Movies

2014 was an amazing year for movies, and one of the best in recent memory. There was a large quantity of great movies, but on top of that long list are films that did something really ballsy. For example, Boyhood took 12 years to film. Birdman is presented as one long take. Interstellar takes you through a worm-hole. Snowpiercer takes you on a journey through a post-apocalyptic Earth, all while never leaving the confines of a train. 2014 is a year where filmmakers “went there,” and it’s nice to see that they pulled it off in most cases.

U2’s Album Release

Disclaimer: I’m a U2 fan.

But who cares. What they did was ballsy and generated the exact results they wanted. U2 has complained for years that they were worried about being forgotten and not relevant in today’s world. So what do they do? They force themselves back into the conversation by giving everyone with an iTunes account a copy of Songs of Innocence. Sure, there was that thing where it automatically downloaded into peoples’ libraries that had “purchases” automatically set to do so, and I would have been peeved if that happened to me with a band that I didn’t like (say Nickelback, for example). Minus that small discrepancy, I think the move was brilliant. U2 is back in the conversation, even if they are a punchline to some. I tried 3 times to buy U2 tour tickets this year, and the traffic was so high on Ticketmaster when they were released that I failed on all 3 attempts. If that doesn’t prove your popularity, I don’t know what does. U2 is still one of the biggest bands in the world, and their massive album drop proved that.

Also, I really like the album. If you haven’t given it a listen yet, I suggest you do so. U2’s still got it.

Serial

If podcasting is the future of radio, then Serial will be remembered one day as a pioneering show that lead the way. I can’t even imagine how many people are being inspired to create their own podcasts just because of Serial‘s impact. It’s not that podcasting wasn’t already an established medium, it’s that Serial really solidified podcasting as a serious form of media. By getting the NPR fans on board first, the popularity of Serial grew exponentially each week, and inspired a number of parodies (SNL nailed the one they day) and podcasts about the podcast (how meta). Personally, what I liked best about Serial is that I got the same kick I got out of watching an exciting TV show episode by just sitting/laying down/running on the treadmill and just…listening.

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Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

What a funny guy. What a smart guy. While the idea of a “foreigner” pointing out what is wrong with our country may seem like a turn off, I find that outside eyes sometimes are what are most effective when pointing out flaws. This is a prime example. I look forward to see where this show goes. HBO has mentioned on multiple occasions that they’ll let Oliver do whatever he wants with the show. If he wants an hour, he gets an hour. If he wants more than one night a week, he gets it. Last Week Tonight can only grow from here.

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Actors/Actresses Who Gave the Incredibly Effective and Memorable Performances

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash. Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. Jenny Slate in Obvious Child. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything. Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl. Michael Keaton and Edward Norton in Birdman. Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer. Many more. It’s been a good year for acting.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer

The geekiest minute of the year. And I loved every damn second.

Twitter

Twitter become the grounds for a number of social movements (#YesAllWomen, #BlackLivesMatter) to grow, and allowed open conversation about controversial topics, such as the massive celebrity nude photo leak that happened over the summer. Being neither a woman nor a minority, I found Twitter to be an educational tool by giving me insight into the thoughts and feelings of those being directly affected by world events, such as what happened in Ferguson. Twitter allowed real-time reactions to real-life problems. I learned a lot, I learned things I wish weren’t true, and I learned that society has a long way to go.

Ice Bucket Challenge

“Why are you wasting water when people in third world countries can’t ever get clean water?” asked the hypocrites on Facebook who have probably wasted time in the shower before, let the water run when they brushed their teeth before, or threw a water balloon at someone else before. Whatever. It was better than seeing Facebook crowded with fake news articles that people think are real (no, Obama isn’t stepping down and no, The Walking Dead isn’t bringing Beth back) or click-bait like “You won’t believe what he said to her that made her do something you wouldn’t believe! Click to see something unbelievable!” And millions upon millions of dollars were raised. This was a good thing. Don’t knock it just for the sake of liking to knock things.

Nightcrawler

The Taxi Driver of 2014.

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The Final Scene of Whiplash

You’ll know it when you see it.

Kiernan Shipka (a.k.a. Sally Draper) in Mad Men

With Mad Men in its final stretch, the award for Most Impressive Growth in Acting over Multiple Seasons Award goes to 15 year-old Shipka, who continues to impress as Jon Hamm’s character’s daughter. While Hamm and the other older actors get all the attention for Mad Men, Shipka is proving year after year that she can’t be ignored. In fact, I’d argue that the show is just as much about her as it is Don Draper and Peggy Olsen. 2015 brings the 7 final episodes of what will soon be considered one the of the best shows of all time (deservedly so), and I can honestly say that Sally’s story line is the one I’m most excited for to see closure with.

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2014 was a great year, as I hope this list proves. What were some of your favorite things from this year?

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