These Are a Few of My Favourite Things (of 2014)

I am perpetually behind the curve when it comes to pop culture.

Late to the partyI enjoy books, movies and music as much as the next person, but somewhere along the way, I got out of the habit of taking part in pop culture trends as they happen.

(Case in point, I’m only just now watching the 2004 remake of Battlestar Galactica).

I suspect my un-timeliness began during the two years I virtually lived in the wilderness while working for Canada’s national park service.

It’s hard to follow trends when you’re busy following wildlife (especially tiny wildlife, like skinks and ticks).

And seeing that birds didn’t start falling from the sky from me not watching the latest blockbuster movie or show for months or even years after its release, as an example, I’ve continued to take my time at taking in all media until the time is right for me.

There are, of course, downsides to this practice:

One, I often draw a blank when asked to contribute more than a cursory, social media-inspired commentary on the Next Big Thing.

And two, it makes it difficult for me to write “best of the year” blog posts in the true spirit that they’re meant to be written, i.e. pertaining to media that was actually released during the year in question.  But I’m going to try.

I love a good challenge.

Recently on his blog, sci-fi/fantasy winter Chuck Wendig asked his readers to indicate their favourites for the year in 10 different categories.  It is these 10 categories I will now attempt to answer solely with media from 2014.

1) Favorite novel of the year?

Books are where I’m the guiltiest in falling behind the curve, for my T(o) B(e) R(ead) shelf – both tangible and virtual – are overflowing.

The Silkworm coverOf the books I have read this year (which, for some reason, wasn’t nearly as many as in previous years), only two were published in 2014.  Which, by near-process of elimination, makes The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling, my favourite.

Which I guess I’m okay with.  Even though this particular mystery – the crime, the culprit, and the motive – didn’t totally resonate with me compared to the first Robert Galbraith book, I think J.K. Rowling is an excellent writer with strong prose and great attention to detail, which she expresses in clever and nuanced ways (you’ll never read about a character’s stomach climbing into their throat in a J.K. Rowling novel).

She also creates memorable characters – not only main characters, like The Silkworm’s ex-military, amputee, son-of-a-rock star detective, Cormoran Strike, but also secondary characters – like Strike’s assistant, the clever, resourceful Robin – and even minor characters as well.

2) Favorite non-fiction book of the year?

I didn’t read any non-fiction published in 2014 (not surprising given much of my NF reading is in the name of historical research for my writing).

3) Favorite short story of the year?

Is it wrong to say my own for this question?  Other than that, I don’t read short stories save those that others likewise post on their blogs.

4) Favorite movie of the year?

Movies are another category where I’m often late to the party.  A general dislike for movie theatres keeps me from seeing most films on their first run, and the fact that I only watch movies/TV on weekends (largely devoting my free time during the week to writing) means I’ve yet to see many of the top movies released this year.

As well, as a media form, movies are my least favourite because,

  1. The book is always better
  2. I find the length and pace of movies insufficient to reveal the extent of character development I prefer and can more easily experience in books and TV series.

Belle movie posterThis is perhaps a symptom of the fact that most modern movies do derive from books, which is an entirely different storytelling method.

That said, I’ll throw my support behind the movie Belle, which I recently watched on the plane ride home from Australia.

Based on a true story, it depicts the life of Dido Belle Lindsay – the bi-racial daughter of a white, 18th century British Navy officer – as she navigates the aristocratic marriage market, set against the backdrop of a historically significant court case regarding the murder of an entire shipload of African slaves.

5) Favorite TV show of the year?

This is an easy one.  So much so, I have two answers that span the divide between the dubious and the salubrious:

  • The 100, a YA sci-fi set in a future where earth has been ravaged by nuclear war and all the known survivors live in an orbiting space station that is slowly breaking down.  In order to lessen the burden on the station’s resources, and also to determine if Earth is yet habitable again, 100 juvenile delinquents are sent down to the surface. It’s a preposterous premise, I know, and yet the show is all kinds of awesome.
  • Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. This documentary series, hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, is a remake of the original done by Carl Sagan in the 80s.  The series discusses the composition of the universe, the origins of life and evolution, and the contributions of various historical scientists to our modern understanding of the cosmos, all with breathtaking imagery and special effects showing what it’s like in outer space.

Cosmos poster

6) Favorite album?

Music is the one media format where I make a conscious effort to stay current, for I’m always eager to support the latest efforts of my favourite musicians.  As well, because most musicians don’t put out new album every year, it’s much easier to keep up to date.

Without question or hesitation, my favourite album of 2014 is Unrepentant Geraldines, by my own personal goddess, Tori Amos.  This album was released in time for both the 20th anniversary of her career as a professional musician and the 50th anniversary of her birth, the latter of which hasn’t seen a decline in her edge or relevancy as an artist in the least.

7) Favorite song of the year?

Obviously, my favourite song of 2014 comes from my favourite album of the year: Oysters, by Tori Amos, for its melody, imagery, and message are pure Tori and pure truth.

Honourable mention goes to the song Tessa from the Transformers: Age of Extinction EP by composer Steve Jablonsky.  I love epic movie scores and this song in particular for its eastern influences and the presence of an ethereal male singing voice, which you don’t often encounter in movie music.

8) Favorite video game?

I haven’t played a video game since Tekken 3 in 1999, which just inspired me quit gaming and go learn some martial arts in real life.

9) Favorite app?

Okay, I’m going to cheat in this category.  Evernote has been around a lot longer than 2014 but I only just downloaded it this year (October of this year no less).

I should have done so ages ago, for Evernote has really helped me boost my writing, productivity while on the go.  As well, it possesses all the key features I was looking for in a word processing app, i.e. text formatting options, undo and redo functions, a recycle bin for deleted files, and of course, the ability to sync across multiple devices.

I’m also pretty fond of the recently upgraded Gmail app for Android, which is so much more colourful and user-friendly than the previous.  I hope a Gmail upgrade for iPad is in the works next.

10) Favorite [something else] of the year?

Melbourne Folk Club 2

One Up, Two Down at the Melbourne Folk Club

My favourite concert, which was just a small one that I saw in Australia at the Melbourne Folk Club: an up-and-coming bluegrass trio called One Up, Two Down.  Comprising an Aussie, a Kiwi, and a guy from North Carolina, USA, these dudes had the audience tapping and clapping along to their rousing melodies and tight harmonies.  I bought their EP (which you can sample here), and eagerly await the release of a full-length album.

What were your favourite books, movies, albums, etc of 2014?  Tell me about it in the comments.

(Image source #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 – M. Kirkey)

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8 thoughts on “These Are a Few of My Favourite Things (of 2014)

  1. OMG Janna – I haven’t got anything to vote for in at least four of those categories 😦 What a sad life I lead. As to books it’s toss up between Britt Skrabanek’s ‘Nola Fran Evie’ and Martina Devlin’s ‘The House Where it Happened’. In the interests of reviewing indie authors I’ve endured a lot of mediocrity I’m afraid.
    My favourite single is even from 2013 – Black Sabbath’s ‘God Is Dead?’
    I’ll watch my one movie of the year over the holidays – some old b/w classic that’s available via the BBC.
    Have a great Christmas Janna!

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    • You have a great Christmas too, Roy! Don’t feel that your life is sad; they’re is so much media of various formats out there, it’s impossible to take in it all, even the most popular offerings of a given year. Although, “one movie of the year”? Really? You just might be missing out, no matter the movie’s year of creation.

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  2. My favourite movie this year was The Life of Pi (it was a surprise because I thought it was going to be boring). I haven’t read any 2014 books this year, or listened to any new music (now I’m sounding boring). I’m so glad you mentioned Melbourne – what a great place it is!

    Have a lovely holiday and a happy new year, Janna xxxxx

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    • I still have to watch that one. I have it in my Netflix queue. I hear the music in it is amazing (I love movie scores!) That’s funny that you didn’t listen to any new music in 2014; I’ve already pre-ordered albums that are set for release in 2015. But, as I mentioned in my post, I make a point to keep up with my favourite artists.

      Yes, Melbourne is great; I would definitely visit it – and all Australia – again.

      I hope you have a great holiday to, Dianne! ⭐ 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I read your whole post because I enjoyed the opening statement. Following pop trends is a normal thing when you are between ages 13-30, or work in that industry. As you get older you gradually become less interested in following any crowd, and you like what you choose to like, whether anyone else is doing it or not.

    I only read a dozen or so books (in the form of books) this year. I’ll be 61 in a couple months, my visual acuity is decreased, and it’s become difficult to read normal-sized print. So mostly I read eBooks now. E-readers and the laptop make it easier than it was for my parents, who had to check out the limited selection of large print editions at the Public Library. But it still takes conscious effort, since I can no longer just casually pick up a book and read it.

    My two favorites were re-reads. The Plague (Albert Camus), I had read in school about 40 years ago. It was so satisfying to revisit a great story illustrating all the fears and behaviors surrounding a community’s reaction to an epidemic, and discover that every aspect of what people just went through over Ebola had been memorably illustrated in a 67 year-old novel. What’s most relevant remains relevant.

    The other example was a kind of “best worst”. I have tried over the years to force myself to finish Atlas Shrugged, because I have a smart friend who’s into Ayn Rand and wants to convert me. I finished it, I don’t agree with the philosophy (objectivism), and I can finally defend my position that Rand is neither a novelist nor an intellectual. It’s more of an “idea fad”, like the current notion that submission is the source of all sexiness (50 Shades of you name it).
    I’m going to miss that friendship.

    For the reason explained above, I watch more movies and TV than I used to. My wife’s WGA, so we get screeners and rarely go out to theaters. The food and the seats are better at home, and you can pause the program to pee. Also, we can start talking back to the screen if so moved. That’s frowned on in the theatah…

    I did also enjoy Belle very much, though it is decidedly NOT “based on a true story”. That’s a very old and effective Hollywood marketing strategy. It’s complete historical fiction, inspired by a famous painting and events that went on at the time of the portrait, like the movie “Girl With a Pearl Earring”. I like reading these kinds of de-bunks after watching, not before:
    http://www.historyextra.com/feature/international-history/historian-movies-belle-reviewed

    My favorite literary adaptations were Wild and Into the Woods. The film of Wild isn’t as explicit as the book, and I think that’s an unfortunate reality of American movies. You can’t put all the sex and drugs on screen or you get an NC-17 rating, and then no one goes. But having to infer more than describe increases the pacing of the movie as compared to the novel. Reese Witherspoon gives a brave performance, authentic and emotionally raw.

    I think the cutting and alterations performed on Into the Woods improves the movie adaptation over what was a good but bloated three hour+ stage musical. Disney worked with Lapine and Sondheim, the original authors, to make the changes. They hired actors who can sing at a professional level, unlike Les Miserables. The complexity of the songs deserves to be heard clearly, so no gimmicks like singing “live”. All the production aspects are top quality and charming as well. A good cast with superior material.

    Of those films written directly for the screen my favorite was The LEGO Movie. I didn’t expect in a million years a movie based on a toy brand would be a thoroughly clever, biting satire of consumerism, culture, even pop music. Certainly the most original script of any film I saw this year. I hope it wins some awards for that, but the film’s already a big hit either way.

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    • Hi Mikey, thanks for the great comment!

      A lot of people over the age of 30 get too busy with jobs, families, and finances to continue chasing trends. At the same time, many folk of all ages suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) syndrome, something that is exacerbated in our modern age of social media. Personally, I’m more fearful of burning out than missing out, but many of peers are tireless in their efforts to keep current. Good for them, I say, so long as it doesn’t negatively impact their lives. I’ve never been particularly hip, even in my youth, so I see no reason to start making pretensions of coolness now.

      I am interested in seeing Into the Woods. I’m not at all familiar with the musical, but the trailers look good, and who doesn’t love a good fairy tale. The show One Upon a Time is filmed a short 20km away from where I live (not that I’ve watched OUaT yet; it is queued on my Netflix, though).

      And yes, I totally agree about the LEGO Movie: so surprisingly good; satire at its best.

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  4. Battlestar – or yeah! I was late as well. watched it this spring. But then you can watch ALL OF IT! ALL UF IIIIID! XD
    Evernote? For whenever my iphone decides to come back from smart-gravyard I’ll keep that in mind. And that’s a new musician to me – never heard of her/them. Going to check it out 😀 And the movie, Belle.
    Nice with some new culture!

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    • Glad to provide you with some new media recommendations. 🙂 I hope you like more of Tori Amos’s music; I’ve been a fan of hers for nearly 20 years now.

      I’ve made it through the first season of BSG so far, and totally plan to crack out on more of it during my days off between Christmas and New Years.

      Have a wonderful holiday season!

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