A couple of weeks ago, I gave you my top 5 games for 2014 but every once in a while I like to take step away from the constant barrage of video game related stuff that I do and engage in other types of entertainment. Whether it’s a book, movie, TV show, or album, I enjoy all sorts of things, so here are my top 5 non-gaming entertainment experiences from 2014.
I know that Outliers is not a new book, and I know that the Malcolm Gladwell pop-sociology style of non-fiction isn’t one that is typically thought of terribly highly. Outliers fits perfectly into that TED style of thinking that encourages big ideas with little action. I get all of that, and yet, I dare you to pick up Outliers and not be engaged by it’s content. I don’t read as much as I should, and I certainly don’t read much non-fiction, but this book truly hooked me from start to finish. Part self-help, part sociology text book, it’s a fascinating glimpse into some of the underlying reasons why the world is how it is.
Interstellar is not a perfect film. It might even be said that Christopher Nolan has been taking steps back in both this film and The Dark Knight Rises in terms of character development. Still, Interstellar is the most stunning portrayal of space travel I’ve seen since 2001: A Space Odyssey (a film I personally have an odd, love / hate relationship with). Thirty or forty years from now, when the next Carl Sagan or Neil Degrasse Tyson is hosting another remake of Cosmos, they’ll tell you that it was Interstellar that made them want to be an astronomer. The flat characters cannot take away from the spectacle of the film, it’s stunning soundtrack, and it’s amazing portrayal of the theory of relativity. While Nolan’s films aren’t perfect they are so ambitious and so smart that it’s impossible not have immense respect for what they accomplish.
- Gone Girl
For a very long time I considered Fight Club to by my favorite movie of all time, so I make a point to try and see every new David Fincher Film. The story of Gone Girl, while mundane on the surface, seemed filled with all kinds of nooks and crannies of mystery. In addition, David Fincher almost exclusively works dark so I figured I wasn’t getting film that played out like a rom-com.
It’s hard to say much about Gone Girl without giving away the part where they reveal that Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are actually the same person and that Gwyneth Paltrow’s head is in a box somewhere. Suffice it to say, a lot happens in this movie and it’s all very, very icky. Watch this movie and then go take a shower to wash off the yuck.
Simply put, Whiplash is the best film I’ve seen this year, it might be the best film I’ve seen in a lot longer than that. If you’re not aware of Whiplash, it’s a film about a young jazz drummer, his mentor, and their abusive relationship. Not exactly a riveting premise to most, I’m sure, but the cinematography, the music, and the lights out performances make it an unexpectedly intense rollercoaster. The film’s final scene is the perfect crescendo to it’s build up, and one of the most satisfying endings I’ve seen in quite some time.
- True Detective
I’ve extolled the virtues of True Detective before, and this will most likely be the final time I’ll do that (at least with season 1). Where films like Whiplash and Gone Girl had emotional intensity and a dark, mysterious plot, True Detective has both. It also has the best performance I’ve seen on a TV show since Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White. Matthew McConaughey is so good on True Detective that I could watch the show on repeat for the rest of my life just to hear his diatribes.
It’s really hard for me to find a single bad thing to say about True Detective. The acting is superb, the story is intricately woven together in a way that feels far more authentic than any of the traditional case-of-the-week type of fare that you typically get on network television. The cinematography is fantastic, especially this 6 minute tracking shot. If you haven’t watched True Detective you’re missing something really special. I can only hope that season two is able to meet the incredibly high standards of the first.
Some Runner’s Up.
In a year when games felt lackluster, it was an embarrassment of riches in other ways, which made it very difficult to come up with a list of just five things that I truly loved this year. That said, here are some others that didn’t quite make the cut but I felt were worth a mention.
Hannibal, Season 2: If you like drama, violence, and mystery then Hannibal needs to be on your watch list. Mads Mikkelson’s portrayal of Hannibal Lecter is almost better than Anthony Hopkins’.
Coherence: A hard sci-fi film that does so much with very little. If you can get over seeing Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer all grown up and graying then check this movie out.
The Leftovers: Dark, brooding, and really melancholy, some find The Leftovers tough to watch. I sympathize with that perspective, and the show definitely drags for the first couple of episodes. If you can stick with it though, The Leftovers goes in some really interesting directions.