[UPDATE: This post has been revised on March 8, 2015.]
I figured that since 2014 just ended, I should post about the stuff that I’ve really enjoyed this year. This list is limited to the stuff that I have personally seen / played / listened to, and does not include anything else. It’s also not a “best of” list, because what I personally like, and what I think is “good,” are different things. So let’s start.
2014 IN FILM
Interstellar. In 2013, I told everyone that Gravity was the best movie I had seen that year, and it was true. But Interstellar completely eviscerates Gravity, with a more engaging story, more interesting characters, and a sense of goddamn exploration of humanity’s future. This is the only film to elicit not one, but three bursts of tears from me. I know not everyone enjoyed the plot twist, but fuck them. Time is a flat circle, motherfuckers.
The Wind Rises. Not all anime has to be about kids with super powers fighting each other and blowing up cities. The Wind Rises is a charming, contemplative biopic about a guy who made a plane in WWII. It’s quiet, it’s pleasant, and like most Studio Ghibli movies, I teared up during it. Watch it.
Edge of Tomorrow. It’s a shame that this movie didn’t do well in theatres, because it’s awesome. The time travel mechanics are well though out, Emily Blunt is awesome, Tom Cruise is surprisingly effective as a coward turned hero, and if you’re a gamer, you’ll instantly empathize with the endless re-spawning.
Nightcrawler. If you like watching sociopaths doing sociopathic things, you’ll like Jake Gyllenhaal as this guy who films tragedies for money. I can’t tell if the movie is a scathing critique of the media, or of the film industry, or both. But it’s good, and I enjoyed it.
Need for Speed. Yes, it’s dumb. Yes, it’s the movie equivalent of a video game with no real protagonist. Yes, Aaron Paul is just Jesse Pinkman with cars instead of drugs. And yes, the poster goes full throttle with the orange / blue colour palette that movies are abusing nowadays. But I enjoyed this movie, clumsy as it is, if for no other reason than Michael Keaton’s fourth wall breaking absurdity.
2014 IN TELEVISION
True Detective. Do I really need to explain this? Matthew McConaughey plays the greatest philosopher in TV history and tracks a serial killer in Louisiana across seventeen years. It’s also a cosmic horror story, and a metaphysical examination of identity and time and basically everything else that’s interesting. An 8 hour engrossing story that should be required viewing if I was a dictator, or something.
Silicon Valley. I don’t know anything about app development, but I know that if you took Google and Apple and smashed them together, and then chronicled the events of their defeat to a small tech start up, it still wouldn’t be as funny as this show is.
Black Sails. If you like Game of Thrones, but wanted pirates instead of knights, well, this show is pretty much that, but with the added bonus of having a protagonist who cares even less about his shipmates than you do. The show is slow around the middle, probably because they blew the budget on the first and last episode, but it’s fun to have a character who kills his friends when they decide to abandon him to his insanity.
The Flash. It’s Arrow, but sillier, more lighthearted, with better special effects, and a more interesting bad guy. Is this a “good” show? That’s debatable. But it’s like watching a comic book come to life on live action TV, and it’s the best I’ve seen so far. And the wheelchair scientist guy is basically half the show for me.
Ascension. I’m not sure that this is even a SF show, but it’s only 5-ish hours of TV, it has some fairly interesting ideas, and some good music. And SF on TV, when done well, is always appreciated. But please, TV shows, stop trying to emulate Game of Thrones with all this political maneuvering bullshit, especially when it goes FUCKING NOWHERE.
2014 IN GAMING
[UPDATE: This section has been revised on March 8, 2015, removing “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” and adding “The Swapper.”]
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. So much of the press of this game is centered around the fact that it costs $30 (or $20 on last gen). Which is bullshit, because this is the best game I played all year, and has one of the most scathing critiques of Guantanamo Bay that I’ve ever witnessed. It takes everything great about the MGS series, rips out all the fluff, and replaces it with a streamlined experience that is gripping, dynamic, and utterly exhilarating. The day-time missions had me tense, the Deja Vu mission had me in laughter, and the game had me thinking about what I saw for days after. Even with 100% completion, I could play this endlessly. And it also makes the wait for The Phantom Pain even more arduous. This is my Game of The Year.
Watch_Dogs. Apparently people were upset by this game’s hype and delivery on that hype? I dunno, I didn’t even know about it until my friend recommended it to me on Twitter. It’s not revolutionary, it’s not dynamic, and it’s definitely a Ubisoft game. But I really enjoyed it, for whatever reason. The shooting felt good, the stealth was standard, and the blowing up cars with steam pipes while doing my best Batman impression was very fun. And Aiden Pearce is not a terrible protagonist, just one with a shit ton of cognitive dissonance.
Frozen Synapse Prime. I don’t normally like turn based strategy, but Frozen Synapse Prime won me over, somehow. It has an incomprehensible story, extremely bizarre characters, but a killer soundtrack, a huge amount of depth, and a great deal of challenge. And I can play it on my Vita, which is nice.
The Swapper. Technically, I played this game in
January of 2015, but as it came out in 2014 on Playstation, I had to put it here. The Swapper is a gorgeous puzzle platformer – a genre that I normally hate, given it’s ubiquity in the indie scene – that is differentiated by its extremely thought provoking mechanic, the cloning and swapping gun. The Swapper is one of the few games that I’ve played to make me tear up at the end, as it contains one of the most interesting and philosophical storylines in recent memory.
2014 IN MUSIC
I’m not going to do write ups here. Just click the links and enjoy.
…and also, a bonus:
The Stannis Inquisition. I kept this post to new things that came out in 2014, but goddamn, this was one of the best moments in TV this year. Bend the knee to the one true king, motherfuckers.