Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ann's Year in Review: 2014 (Super Superlatives!) [Contributor: Ann]

This year, I was pleased to be able to bring another writer onto my team and I am so glad that I did. I met Ann through Tumblr and she has consistently impressed me not just with her reviews of The Mindy Project but with her professionalism, thoughtfulness, and friendship. I love that we don't agree on everything and I love that she watches shows differently than I do, but still critically. She understands the importance of good storytelling and I could not be happier to be entering 2015 with her as a part of this website!

So I asked Ann to write a superlatives post this year, like I do every year, and here's some of her best (and worst) in television, movies, and music this year. :)


Favorite Single Episode of a Television Show (Comedy) - tie: "French Me, You Idiot," The Mindy Project

"French Me You Idiot" was the highly anticipated first episode back from The Mindy Project's winter hiatus, which I'm told (despite my memory) did not last forever and was in fact only two months. But this episode has absolutely everything you could ever want in it--it has tons (and tons) of kissing, the return of Mark Duplass's Brendan Deslaurier, punches being thrown, a mariachi band, love eyes, and the funniest eulogy you will ever hear in your entire life. It's hard for an episode that was guaranteed to bring you so much happiness to continue to bring you that same level of happiness every time you rewatch it, and yet "French Me, You Idiot" finds a way to be my favorite episode of The Mindy Project and my favorite episode of a comedy this year.

Favorite Single Episode of a Television Show (Comedy) - tie: "Episode Nine," Hello Ladies

Watch Hello Ladies. Just do it. This "episode" is the series finale, (also fair to put this under the "shows that left us to soon" category) and it is about an hour and twenty minutes long, so it may seem unfair. But Hello Ladies plays with romance just the way I love--it is full of cliches and tropes and conveniences and even a "pretend you're my girlfriend" scene, but it uses those things to enhance the down-to-earth performance of its two main leads rather than as a crutch for the narrative to depend upon. At the end of the day, this episode--this finale--is so recommendable because of the dynamic between Stephen Merchant's Stuart and Christine Woods's Jessica. It's a warm kind of companionship that you really believe in.

(I would like to point out that Selfie's "Imperfect Harmony" and You're the Worst's "Sunday Funday" are also so awesome and worth your while, but they get a fair share of love in this post so you will just have to trust my judgment on a title recommendation!)

Favorite Single Episode of a Television Show (Drama): "Mizumono," Hannibal

The last ten minutes are unprecedented in all of television, on a show that I find to be absolutely unprecedented in all of television. Wow. Hannibal more than any other show successfully oversaturates all of its elements past the point of realism. Often this is in the name of art; the murders on the show are artistic creations by a sick kind of artist, and almost always the murders are meant to parallel a theme resonant for the main cast. In this episode, the same is true, but in this one, more than any other, the quiet tension the show has built throughout the season finally hits. When it does, accompanied by Hannibal's traditional level of macabre and horror, it will have you gasping with your hands over your mouth. It's been months since I first saw it and when I think about it it is "Red Wedding" good. It is wow.

Best Television Show You’re Not Watching But Need To Be: Broad City

If romance in television shows is my bread and butter--that is, I could not live without it--friendships are my waffles and syrup: sweeter than you'd think, savory, and something I'll say yes to if someone offers even when I don't spend a lot of my time thinking about it. I've seen Abbi and Illana roaming around my Tumblr dash more than once, and while a lot of this year's popular shows that I've missed are like Broad City in that they feature other compelling elements besides romance, it's their central female friendship that intrigues me most. I mean, think about it. How many shows do you know have two women best friends at the front, each equally sharing the spotlight? (Don't say Rizzoli and Isles!) I hope I have a chance to watch this soon.

Best Male Character: Dan Egan, VEEP

Do you remember--or experience--the sorts of high school crushes where when the person walks by you become an incoherent, blubbering, red-faced mess? You literally are so unable to compose yourself around this person that you are unable to focus on anything else when they're around. Reid Scott as Dan Egan is a beautiful dime piece, for sure, but it is his absolute ruthlessness, his contempt for others' idiocy, his willingness to do whatever it takes to climb the latter--and his charisma and his smirk and, c'mon, let's face it, the way he looks at Amy--that makes him my absolute favorite male character this year.

Best Female Character: Jane Villanueva, Jane the Virgin

Jane is good. So many television shows are based off of these complicated, flawed characters who drink a lot and have a ton of casual sex and have a ton of skeletons in their closets and are brooding and mean and distant a la Don Draper or Meredith Grey. I love these characters, and there's a reason why they are so popular. But Jane is such a breath of fresh air to me because she is not this way. She is complex, and she is flawed, but it is her goodness that shines throughout her entire character that defines her. I love that Jane cares about the promise she made to her grandmother. I love that Jane cries when she's upset. I love Jane's honesty. I love that Jane's goodness works alongside her flaws, not as a shroud to all of them. Jane is a virgin, but she is not a saint, and she is good. And I love her so much for it.

Show That Had So Much Potential This Year, But Lost It All: How I Met Your Mother

On the day of the How I Met Your Mother finale, I had a project for school that I had to present literally as the episode was live-airing. So I did my project, turned my phone on airplane mode, walked all the way back to my dorm room, and slept with an alarm at 4am, traditionally about the time that new episodes of television shows appear on iTunes. And I woke up at 4am and I watched the entirety of this abysmal, disappointing finale. Hear me out--kill the mother if you must; I always knew that it wasn't her story, that her role in the entire workings of things was not so she could go off with Ted in a horse-drawn carriage. But I did not foresee the deaths of all of my other favorite characters, too: Ted waiting literally decades for another blue-French-horned chance to be with Robin, Robin avoiding her friends entirety until Ted will have her back, Lily having the purpose and necessity of a beached whale, Barney annihilating seasons of character work so he can have a baby with a nameless woman, and Marshall having so lame of a role I can't even tell you what he did for the finale. There are times when you should wake up at an ungodly hour to watch your favorite TV show. Other times you should just stay in bed so you can avoid the nightmare.

Most Annoying Character on Television (Female): Annie, Marry Me

I watched Marry Me for the pilot recap I did for Just About Write, and it was honestly one of the funnier shows that I had watched out of all of them. I mean, I have a huge crush on Ken Marino and trust his judgement (having watched Burning Love in full and Party Down in bits and pieces). But Casey Wilson's Annie? God. I have never been more annoyed with a character immediately after meeting them than I was at Annie, who was ungrateful, grating, and all around impossible to root for or watch. I wish the show the best for Ken Marino's sake, but I will never tune in again in fear that the character who shares my namesake will find something else to be a petulant brat over.

Most Annoying Character on Television (Male): Kurt Hummel, Glee

Diversity is great. Diversity on television is great too. Every person has a story to tell, and for so long television has been telling stories about the same kind of people, who look the same and (give or take) feel the same about the same type of issues. So diversity is important, and it is refreshing, because the right kind of diversity will give its audience a new story, something that allows people to point at the TV and identify themselves and see, in some small way, their story being told and represented. Kurt Hummel, I'm sure, has paved the way for a lot of more recent contemporaries, and I'm sure a lot of people are grateful for his story being told. But the kicker with diversity is this: you should not should not should not put any character on a pedestal. 

What I mean is that when characters mess up, they should be held accountable for their mistakes, both in the way the narrative frames their flaws and how the other characters react to them. When you don't, you undermine their ability to tell a story that resonates--they are wish fulfillment characters, not characters who are worth any real exploration. Kurt Hummel is on the highest pedestal that has ever existed, especially in that he is based on his creator, Ryan Murphy. In Kurt Hummel's world, he is either the victim or the superstar. In my world, Kurt Hummel is a stuck-up snob who is never called out for his awful personality. And while Kurt Hummel--and Glee--had some relevance once upon the time, as other shows come on the scene that treat homosexual characters as characters instead of agendas and knock it out of the park while doing so (Jane the Virgin's Luisa/Rose and How to Get Away with Murder's Connor/Oliver are so much more interesting!), there increasingly is no reason he should be staying around. I won't miss Kurt when Glee goes off the air in 2015 (and based on the ratings I don't think many people will either!)

Television Show(s) That Left Us Too Soon: Selfie

I don't even want to talk about Selfie. I will be a huge mess when its final episode airs on December 30. (I need to GIF my way through this.) On one hand, there is a part of me that is gloriously happy that Selfie will only live for thirteen episodes, because when its run is over it will be a perfect show--it will not show any signs of age, its characters will remain rich and nuanced (unable to reach a point of caricature), and its episodes will be endlessly rewatched without any bitterness or 'its prime was X' because it's fair to say that this show never will reach the potential of what it was able to accomplish, given that its only been going up and up and up since it first aired. 

And while that's all true, that part of me is about as big as a slipper candy (watch the show, you'll understand then). The other part of me is oceans large and deep, this deep grieving for being unable to see Karen GIllan and John Cho in these roles for longer, not to mention the rest of a workplace/apartment cast that was so well utilized all of the time. This show is fearless, colorful, hilarious, and thoughtful. This show features characters that are more than they seem, just as the title for this show--often cited as the reason for this show's low ratings--advertises a comedy that is far, far more than it seems. I will miss riding the crap out of horses, that sarcasm as a self defense tho, the Eddie Murphy noise, the bookcase grab, and Saperstein, oh my GOD. In the words of Cat Stevens, karaoked by Henry Higgins, "Oh, baby, baby, it's a wild world. It's hard to get by just upon a smile. Oh, baby, baby, it's a wild world. And I'll always remember you like a child..."

Show That Should Be Put Out of Its Misery (And Is): Manhattan Love Story

When people talk about this show, they normally look to the first scene as a perfect reason why this show sucked so instantly. A lot of these people will point out how offensive it is that the woman is thinking about purses and the man is thinking about boobs--that it's such a stereotype. And this is so true. But the thing is, Manhattan Love Story could have been more than that first scene. It could have transcended its garbage pilot. But this show should be remembered not for its failure of a first scene but its entire failure as a concept. "Two people falling in love while their thoughts act as voiceovers" is a high-concept show, but for how high-concept it is both of the characters, Mary Sue and Gary Stu (those are the names, right?) come across as so lazily constructed. This show sucks because of its first scene, but let's not be generous: it sucks because of all of its scenes, which perpetuate not just stereotypical characters but characters that do nothing to suggest there's anything beneath the stereotype. 

Best Performance in a Television Series (Male): Jaime Camil, Jane the Virgin

I am #TeamRogelio #GoRo. If I've made anything clear about my preferences for TV, it's that I love to see diversity--not manifested as a checklist of different races or sexual orientations but as the understanding that I'm watching so many different people and being entertained by so many different perspectives. I don't want to see stock characters; I don't want to see Manhattan Love Story! I want to see characters so real that they are people to me, because when characters are more than a list of traits they become worth caring about. I mentioned Jane Villanueva as the best female character for this reason; she's so real to me and so different from what is often on TV. 

Rogelio is also a great character for the same reason, but I point out Jaime Camil more than I point out Rogelio de la Vega because it is Jaime Camil's transcendent performance that makes this character capable of being so great. Unlike Jane, Rogelio is not the main character of this story. The odds are not necessarily stacked in his favor in the same way they are Jane's, as he is more likely to be comic relief than the source of sympathy. Rogelio's checklist of traits shares far less in common with stock "good guy" characters than Jane's. And without Jaime Camil, Rogelio's well-intentioned vainness could have been annoying. It could have rubbed up uncomfortably with the humbleness of Jane and her family, or even seemed ill-fitting to the action within the hotel. Instead, Jaime Camil has constructed one of the most interesting characters on TV to me right now. His Rogelio is childish, dramatic, vain, and has such a low level of social awareness, but his Rogelio is also honest, loving, and good. So easily it couldn't be that way. Thank you, Jaime Camil.  


Best Performance in a Television Series (Female): Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black/Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project

Um, obviously on both of these, right?

I'll admit it; I did not love the second season of Orphan Black and I think that sometimes some of the stuff that happens is silly or implausible (the guy with the tail? C'mon). But you can't not appreciate Tatiana Maslany for the powerhouse that she is. She is able to so perfectly portray about eight different characters at once, including when said different characters are interacting with each other (which must be so hard to do and so exhausting). She is the cast of her show, and she has done so well with every character she's had to play (even the dude!). I don't know what it is about her, but she is captivating to watch in every role, and the way she assigns tics to each one of her characters shows the meticulousness of an actress worth recognizing. It's true that I didn't love the second season of Orphan Black, but my favorite scene is in this season--the dance scene from "By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried." And it's that way because it is the perfect representation of all Tatiana is able to accomplish, in so many different ways and through so many different prisms. Thank you, Tatiana Maslany!

And I would be absolutely remiss if I didn't mention Mindy Kaling's hot as fire third season performance. She's never been bad, not at all, but as I've been watching this season I've noticed increasingly in both humorous and dramatic scenes how much of a punch Mindy packs. I think it must be so hard to pull off true acting prowess in a comedy, because so often it's hard to convey depth at the same time as you're delivering the punchline--but Mindy has been so great and so fun to watch, selling fatigue, indignation, hope, heartbreak, and being roofied by a drug concoction of your own invention. This show has always had its star, but this season Mindy has never, ever shone brighter, and with Chris Messina--known and accepted powerhouse--she is doing the best work of her career.

Best Series – Comedy: You're the Worst

I watched You're the Worst in about three hours one night when I was bored. I don't remember why, I just remember loving it. Jimmy Shive-Overly and Gretchen Cutler are two of my favorite characters on TV because they are funny, crude, and frankly diabolical, but they are, like the rest of us, emotional and imperfect and not universally loved. Even their sidekicks make this clear, because one thing that You're the Worst does that not a lot of shows have the ability to do is to make clear that while this is a story featuring two people, the stories of the rest of the characters are as equally important to them. Rather than being instruments to the needs of the two main characters, the rest of the characters have their own agency, their own independent nuances. Not everyone always gives a shit about what Gretchen and Jimmy are doing, and that is so freeing to me, especially in a tight season that could have been (but thankfully is not) a self-contained, ten-episode series. 

You're the Worst is so great and is so much better than the majority of its rom-com friends because love just happens to be something these two stumbled into through rather than being played as a grand, self-aware crescendo. It is real, and its characters' emotions are real--this a story you'd hear from your buddies at a bar, not the story that is adapted into a movie featuring Kathy Heigl and Channing Tatum, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Not to mention this show is so funny. Where else would I get the phrase "eat a dick, yogurt"? 

Best Series – Drama: Hannibal

I mentioned that I love You're the Worst because it is real. I love Hannibal because it is so set in being unreal that it is able to use the lack of reality to deliver to its audience real messages--about fear, about suspicion, about death, life, and the utility of all of those things, about relationships, friendships, and how one perceives themselves. Think of it this way if that statement seems to make no sense--Salvador Dali is a weirdo, but his art is so relevant today because it means something to people. Hannibal means something to me. It tells its story through amazing imagery, brooding music, and a situation that hints at heightened reality--Hannibal is a cannibal, after all, and to be honest, you need a heightened reality to accept that nobody suspects him first based on his name alone. (That was a joke.) Hannibal is one of those shows that is just so beautiful to watch, so dense and heavy and remarkable and well thought out. As I mentioned in my discussion of its second season finale, this show is unprecedented, and I have never been more excited to see where a show picks up than I am at this show's third season. OH--and this show is straight-up gasp-worthy, horrifying in all the worst (and therefore all of the best) ways.

Actor I’ve Grown to Love A Lot More in 2014: Chris Pratt, Parks and Recreation

I don't watch Parks and Rec anymore, but I gotta say, every time I see old Parks stuff on my Tumblr dash and Chris Pratt is there, or there's some blooper or some interview with him, man, my love for him blossoms and grows. 

Actress I’ve Grown to Love a Lot More in 2014: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, VEEP

Dear Julia: not that I didn't love you before, but before getting really into VEEP I kind of thought you were just an Emmys pony that was just so naturally functional it didn't take a lot of grooming for it to win an award. But your three-time success (Seinfeld, New Adventures of Old Christine, and now this) tells the story far more than I had given you credit for. You're great. Don't ever change. (Also, keep making fun of Lena Dunham, please).

Television Show Everyone Really Hopes Get Can-Can-Cancelled: The Mysteries of Laura and State of Affairs

How much I hate both of these shows. They are tired. They are based on tired concepts and their main characters are tired retreads of characters that served a far more intriguing purpose. "Can she really have it all?" these shows ask. "These characters suck, so who the hell cares?" I respond.

Television Show I Keep Meaning to Catch Up On: Bad Judge

Bad Judge didn't deserve its sentence. (Whoa, horrible pun, I'm so sorry). I don't know when or why I started watching it, but Kate Walsh is so funny, and her character is so interesting to me, that it is a shame that this show is the little engine that didn't. It never hooked me in the same way Selfie did, but it was ultimately comfortable, with a cast I really enjoyed and a perspective I think was really cool. I will miss it when it is gone.

Television Show I Wanted to Like, But Didn’t Get There: How to Get Away With Murder

I tried with this show, but man, these characters pretty much totally suck (my favorite is Asher. Connor and Oliver are also very hot). All of them are confusing, jumbled messes--which is weird because they barely ever transcend their stereotypes. In the name of "you can't understand anyone, really," I truly do not understand any of these characters, and after so much bait and switch I decided not to care about them anymore. I'm sorry, Alfred Enoch. Your beautiful neck and puppy dog face just wasn't enough to get me to watch this show. P.S. - Rebecca is an absolute awful character, right? And there's hardly any purpose to Paris Gellar and the bearded guy besides causing some sexy drama for the students? And Viola Davis could afford to call on another student every once in a while? Yeah, thought so.

Television Show That Was Sacrificed Thanks to Television Scheduling: Shark Tank

This is my "watch at home" show, anyway.

Television Show I’m Most Anxious to Marathon in 2015: FRIENDS 

Man, you guys, Gilmore Girls kind of let me down (Rory is the worst). So this better go well...


Best Movie Adaptation of a Book: Gone Girl

Gone Girl is, to my contrarian chagrin, as good as everyone says it is. Damn it. Exciting, spooky, and with one of the coolest relationships ever, I have to give both this book and this movie the credit it deserves.

Best Movie I Saw in 2014: The Lego Movie

Obviously, I'm a child. EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! EVERYTHING IS COOL WHEN YOU'RE PART OF A TEAM! This movie could have sucked and it really didn't. I wrote an entire article about why it was so good.

Actor I Wasn't Surprised to Find Myself Loving: Zac Efron, Neighbors

So cute. I love Zac Efron because he is so willing to make fun of himself, whether he's making fun of his High School Musical past or how crazy bangable his body is. 

Actress I Wasn’t Surprised to Find Myself Loving: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

I love Pride and Prejudice and while I wasn't expecting Rosamund Pike--who previously played Jane--to be the one to get the role of Amy, I was so happy for her success and so unsurprised by how well she pulled it off.

Best Movie of 2014 That I Won’t See Until 2015: The Skeleton Twins, Guardians of the Galaxy

Sorry, y'all.  I'm pretty behind on this pop culture funtivity. I'll get around to it, I guess.

Most Talked-About Movie of 2014 That I Have Not and Will Likely Not See: Maleficient

I bet you there are more movies that are more popular that are just worth a yawn, but Maleficient just sounds especially boring to me. What's next, Benevolient? Sheesh. 

Movie I Really Did Mean to See in 2014: 22 Jump Street

Yeah, I really did mean to see this one, like I went to the theater and everything, but then my former manager wouldn't let me in because I didn't have my license, despite having my college one and despite having worked there when I was 18. 

Movie I Will Get Yelled At For Not Wanting to See: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson sucks, you know he does. Sorry, Christoph Waltz. You're still BAE to me.


Singer I Just Wish Would Go Away (Male): Sam Smith

You wanna do a Sam Smith impression? Just sob loudly in your closet. The acoustics will get you your own "Stay With Me" in moments.

Singer I Just Wish Would Go Away (Female): Meghan Trainor, Iggy Azalea, Nicki Minaj

Meghan Trainor, I hope skinny bitches and ... fat bitches (?) alike can get together in agreement that your song sucks. Iggy Azalea can't sing, as evidenced by her performance in the Who Cares Awards. As for Nicki Minaj, I have to say "Anaconda" is "Song Most Likely to be Used in POW Situations," but Jenn didn't provide a category for that so this will have to do.

Artist/Band I Was Surprised to Find Myself Enjoying As Much as I Did: Nick Jonas, Panic! At the Disco, Fall Out Boy, Ariana Grande

Surprised to enjoy Nick Jonas because I didn't know he was still doing stuff, or that he was super hot. Surprised to enjoy Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy because I associate them with teenage angst. Surprised to enjoy Ariana Grande because, geeze, "Problem" is one of the best songs ever (NOT BECAUSE OF YOU, IGGY, HOP OFF).

Best Album: "1989," Taylor Swift

Obviously. Were any other albums released this year? Who really cares? "1989" dominated my first semester in the most beautiful way.

That One Song That You Belted To Everyone and Didn’t Know Why: "Bailando," Enrique Iglesias

English version, Spanish version, I don't really care. This was my song of the summer and probably the song of the year.

That One Song That Was Annoyingly Catchy: "Am I Wrong," Nico & Vinz

WERE you wrong? I don't even know.

The Song That Was Good… Until It Was Overplayed: "Timber," Ke$ha, Pitbull 

This song defines the word "overplayed," and I'm probably Pitbull's biggest advocate.

That Song That Was Good… Even When It’s Overplayed: "Problem," Ariana Grande


That Emotionally-Charged Song You Can’t Help But Sing in Your Car: "Take Me To Church," Hozier

Honestly, this should probably be "Problem" by Ariana Grande, but Hozier is so good--all of Hozier's songs are so good--that he needs a shoutout in a category. Also, his hair is remarkable and stellar.

The Song You’ll Never Admit to Liking (But Secretly Know All The Words To): "Classic," MKTO

This song feels like it should be played in a Hollister. I'm guilty for liking it, and for knowing the DOPE AS HELL rap in the middle. What's a gal to do?

That One Song You Couldn’t Get Out of Your Head All Year: "Shake it Off," Taylor Swift

This should be everyone's song, quite frankly. This song reminds me of my first semester whether it has to deal with boys (icky!) or my GPA (even ICKIER!). Bless you, Taylor, for dancing so bad that people made fun of it and then making a song that they all ended up singing. You still suck at dancing, but you've already won at life, so I don't know how much it matters.

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