I used to love doing top ten movie lists at the end of the year, but I would be lucky to cobble together a list of ten films I even tolerated over the past three years. So last year I decided just to call out my favorite things of the year, whether they were products of the year or not. That was fun so I’m doing it again. Just think of me like Oprah, except substantially less famous and influential.
Oh yeah, you knew this would be first up. This was a stellar ending to a stellar show. The sixth of the final eight episodes, entitled “Ozymandias” was the best hour of television, ever. SPOILER ALERT – This episode, which sees the murder of Hank by Neo-Nazis, is such an incredibly painful gut punch. We the audience know that even though Hank and Walt are on opposite sides of the law, Walt has been firm in his stance that Hank is family, and family is off-limits to baddies. However, by the beginning of this episode, everyone assumes he’s gonna die, because at the end of the last episode, he’s severely outgunned by the Neo-Nazis. But Walt pleads for his life, offers the thugs 80 million dollars to spare his brother-in-law. Hope! And then - gut punch. And the episode only gets better from there as Walt’s Empire, like that of Ozymandias, crumbles around him. Television doesn’t get any better than this. It can’t. It doesn’t have to. Oh how empty 2014 will be without you, Breaking Bad!
Mad Men is always good, always. From Peggy stabbing boyfriend Abe, to Grandma Ida’s late night robbery of Don’s apartment while his kids are there alone, to Sally catching Don in a compromising position, there was plenty of outstanding writing this year. There were, alas, a few frustrations when it seemed like Don’s story lines were being rehashed, but it turned out to be a slow-play setup for some major growth on our main character’s part. I for one am anticipating greatness out of the final season.
I started watching The Wire in October in an attempt to fill the void left by Breaking Bad. It’s an HBO show that began in 2003, and is often mentioned in the same breath as Breaking Bad as the best show ever. I have to say it’s good but it’s no Breaking Bad. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, they’re both fruit, or in this case shows about drugs, but the similarities end there. If I were still in school, I’d find a way to turn the similarities and differences between these two shows into a term paper. (And I’d get an A on it too.) I am currently two episodes in to season 4 (there are 6 seasons total) and I can already tell this is the best season (yet.) Season 4 seems to be a sweet spot in long-running series. You’re in deep enough to really care about what’s going on, and the writers haven’t run out of ideas yet.
The Public Library
This was the year I reconnected with my local library, taking Sonja to as many story times as I could swing. She absolutely loved dancing to the music and playing with – or at least in the vicinity of -the other children. I also utilized the e-book loans for the first time (awesomeness), and it is from said local library that I have been borrowing the aforementioned The Wire. Shaun and I gave up on the disc portion of Netflix a while back because any time I would receive a movie from my ever-dwindling list , I’d sit on it for weeks before finally “forcing” myself to watch. I could be using Netflix to watch The Wire, but then I’d have to wait three days between every stinkin’ disc. With the library, I get all episodes at once and three weeks to watch them, and that’s more than enough time to binge out and put the next season on hold. This wouldn’t work quite as well with a current, in-demand show, but my parents have watched all of “Homeland” this way. They just have to wait for months behind hundreds of others who have it on hold.
I am shocked I got less reading done this year than last year, but at least I made time for this gem from Seattle-based Maria Semple, a former Arrested Development writer. Like most fiction I wind up reading, this is supposedly being made into a movie. I hope they don’t screw it up. I certainly hope they don’t move the central location from Seattle. Semple’s description of the abundant and moronic five-way intersections alone had me tearing up with laughter.
The Great Gatsby has been my favorite book since I read it as a senior in high school, and I try to re-read it every few years. This year I reread it in preparation for the 2013 movie adaptation starring Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan. I liked the movie and I know I’m somewhat alone in this feeling, but I’m probably a bigger fan than those others so therefore I am right. Actually, I think like Gatsby himself, most people just wanted too much. If you want the book, read the book, but if you want to see a good film that can stand on its own merits, watch this.
I group these three songs together in the new music category. I don’t care much for new music, so this is a pretty good list for a single year for me.
Tea and the Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker
Tea wasn’t new to me in 2013 but it was definitely a year for perfecting the art of Iced Tea. The Mr. Tea maker, as I like to call it, helped a lot, by making it easier to make a whole pitcher (8 cups) of tea at once. Plus I blended jasmine green and oolong for my favorite combination yet, and found that Cost Plus World Market is an excellent place to buy tea.
Here’s to good tea, good entertainment and good stuff in 2014. Happy New Year!