Monday, December 29, 2014

Twenty Fourteen: The People

[Non-celebrity favorite person: this man dressed to the nines in Bavarian garb. Snapped while attempting to be sly in Leavenworth, Wash. December, 2014.]

Just like Santa Claus coming down the chimney, Top 10 (fill in the blank) lists come around annually and signal the end of the year.

Even though they are fun to read, ranking the "best" movies, music, ponytails, apps, or whatever people feel like comparing, it always feels disingenuous. Especially now, the end of the year is no longer sacred since BuzzFeed makes "Top 37" lists on a daily basis.

It's all just opinion anyway, so I'd much rather throw away the element of ranking and just say, "Hey! This is a whole bunch of great crap from the year!"

So, that's what unfolds below. First up: People - those folks who really killed it this year with the funny or drama or tunes.

I'll try to stay on topic, but boy, I just came back from Into The Woods and have all the music stuck in my head. So, instead of "Here we go!", I'll say,  "Into the wood!" (Cue the puff of magic smoke.)

Jenny Slate

She was robbed! The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (aka the people who run The Golden Globes) were no where close in selecting the best performances of the year if Jenny Slate was not listed.  

Obvious Child is the perfect movie to highlight Slate's varying talents. She is able to bring her wacky sensibility (as seen as Mona Lisa on Parks and Recreation) to an extremely endearing, honest, and very funny story. The film has gotten a lot of attention for abortion being a key plot point. It's handled very realistically and these are the emotional moments where Slate is also really able to shine. This girl can act!

Please seek out Obvious Child. Within the very first minute I was wiping tears out of my eyes from laughter. Out of all the movies I've seen throughout the year, this is the one I haven't been able to get out of my head. I just want to give it a big hug.

Billy Eichner

Glenn Close or Meryl Streep? Would you have sex with Paul Rudd? What's going to happen to Cobie Smulders!? Bill Eichner is asking all of the best questions and doing it funnier than anyone else. Not to mention he is sacrificing his health with all that yelling. He's doing that for you!

When it comes to the year of breakout stars, this one makes me the happiest. He is a comedy treasure that deserves accolades. It used to be my dream to go to NYC and find myself on Cash Cab. That's so 2008. Now what I wouldn't give for Mr. Eichner to run up to me on a random New York street and yell in my face. Preferably about Queen Meryl.

Amy Poehler

She wrote a brilliant book [Side Note: I may have already gushed about Yes Please last month], continued to star in one of the best shows on television, produced/directed/cameo-ed on a different hysterical show (Broad City), made commercials cool, and helped maintain her Smart Girls brand. Is there anything else that needs to be said about this lovely person?

I can't go on without noting that "Amy Poehler's Smart Girls" retweeted a pic of me as a kid a couple months ago. I'm not embarrassed to admit that I was stoked. It was probably just some intern clicking buttons, but either way, it was my claim to fame for about thirty minutes this year.

Lisa Kudrow

Lisa Kudrow resurfaced this year, reminding the world why she had been a television star in the first place.

Over the summer I finally watched the first season of The Comeback, which originally aired in 2005, and have thoroughly been enjoying the second season that is currently airing after a nine year hiatus. Recently, during the press tour for the release of the show, she even stopped by to record a delightful podcast at Nerdist central.

Hold on to this memory - we can't let Kudrow fall by the wayside this time! Valerie Cherish could be her role of a lifetime, but she is too talented to not be given the chance to star in more movies and television shows.

Smelly Mellie

Hands down there wasn't more fun to be had this year than watching Bellamy Young on Scandal rolling around the White House as if she was The Dude, donning many a robe, sweats, and uggs, with a tumbler of booze in her hand.

Everyone wants to be Olivia Pope, that's already been decided. Over the course of the current season though, the first lady became the most enjoyable character and the one worth cheering for. Ms. Pope can continue to dance to dance that launched a zillion gifs, but I'll be rooting for Melly to end up on top. 

Frances McDormand

Thanks to her work with the Coen Brothers, McDormand has been a "can't touch this" movie actress for exactly thirty years. Now she's showing the TV how it's done.

Anyone who loves fascinating stories that are about people living their lives, with all the comedy and drama that unfolds amongst families, seek out the miniseries Olive Kitteridge.  McDormand, plus the entire cast, direction, and cinematography, have produced a piece of entertainment so gorgeously observed, it will definitely be remembered far into the future.

Chris Pratt

After this year, Chris Pratt has come a long way from the adorable, goofy sidekick/sibling we have loved for many years. On Everwood he was the comedic relief and Parks and Recreation would be seriously lacking without Andy Dwyer/Burt Macklin.

With such winning performances as these, he didn't really need anything else. If you would have told me this time last year that Pratt would become a beefed up superhero in a hit movie, I would have been surprised, but not at all bewildered. It's all very exciting.

Guardian's Of The Galaxy was one of the best going out to the movie theater experiences of the year and that has a lot to do with Pratt's ability to bring his comedic sensibility to the lead role. It would have been a good movie without him, but he specifically made crowds go wild with cheering and laughter. Sitting in those seats in the theater was non-stop entertaining.

This all doesn't even include that Pratt is a serious Seahawks fan - endless points get added to his already illustrious year.

Lee Pace

In an interesting coincidence it turned out that two of my favorite actors rocketed to the big league while being part of the same movie.

From the Pie Maker, to Marmaduke, to a scary ass villain in the biggest movie of the year - Lee Pace has rather quickly made the jump to very different roles. I'd never thought I'd be happy to see him cover up that mug of his with a bunch of blue/tar like makeup, but if it means that he is getting more attention, than I'm all for it.

He honestly scared the crap out of moviegoers over the summer in Guardian's Of The Galaxy. I heard he's also in those Hobbit movies - I guess I need to actually watch those sometime.

His year didn't only unfold on the big screen, Pace also lead the cast of the under appreciated AMC show, Halt and Catch Fire. Thankfully it got picked up for season two, because even though the series started off slow, half way through it was producing some really great stories. With the way the first season ended, it's definitely set up to go even more interesting places.

Kacey Musgraves

With her pop/country take on things, even including a slight twang to boot, Kacey Musgraves perfectly won over the hearts of many people who consider themselves to be "on the brink" country fans. Her album came out in 2013, but I didn't take notice until she took home a couple Grammy's in January of this year.

She was writing songs with lots of banjo and guitar, fitting the bill for that country/blue grass sound, but what made her refreshing was the focus of her lyrics are more progressive than some of her other CMA winners. Fans quickly cheered her on and made the clever "Follow Your Arrow" an anthem of our modern age.

It's a great song and her entire album is truly enjoyable from beginning to end. It's lighter tone was a great palette cleanser in between all the other lovely depressing music I was playing. I also just really like her voice. Anyone who thinks that they can't like country-ish music, take it from this convert, sometimes it only take one person to change your mind.

Mark Duplass

After watching many movies starring a certain actor this year and for a couple years before this one, I had an epiphany about a week ago - I have a crush on Mark Duplass.

I feel like people have probably already been talking about this for ages and I'm just catching up. I mean this guy has been an indie darling, cranking out movies (writing, directing, starring in) for nearly 10 years, but this attraction was only cemented last weekend when I rented the semi-train wreck/enjoyable enough Melissa McCarthy vehicle, Tammy.

Duplass shows up about an hour in as McCarthy's love interest. The scenes they share together are very endearing, and to me, reveal that somewhere in that mess of a movie was something worthwhile. Me thinks the producers wanted more wacky McCarthy instead. That's unfortunate since more of the Duplass storyline could have turned that movie around.

In an entirely different kind of movie this year, Duplass showed off what he can do in a starring role. He paired up with Elisabeth Moss in the fascinating Twilight Zone feeling romantic drama, The One I Love. Check it out now - that one is streaming on Netflix.

He's got a nice smile, plus makes some bold movie choices. I look forward to seeing where Duplass ends up in 2015.

Jenny Lewis

This year, no other CD of mine was played more on repeat than The Voyager.

There's a consistent sense of beachy fun somewhere in Jenny Lewis' music, she knows how to write a catchy melody better than most huge pop stars, and through the years she is always doing whatever she wants.  Plus, she really wins points is her songwriting.

A lot of the time lyrics can be breezed over in order to just dance to the beat or hum along to the melody. Even so, I always know that extra attention must be given to Lewis' words. She will say something, and it is going to be something I want to hear.

Allison Tolman

I knew I was going to like Fargo, but I didn't guess how well done it was going to be.

The writing was dark and lead to crafty plot-lines, plus all the cast, from Billy Bob Thornton to Martin Freeman and Colin Hanks, were very fun to watch. However, Allison Tolman was the one that made this show awesome. Her character was stuck in a sea of destructive, conniving men who didn't respect her, and she pushed it all aside with such ease.

Out of all the characters on TV this year, Tolman played the one most worthy of cheering for and stressing over. More than anything, we wanted her to solve the mysteries and prove her worth as the best cop in all of small town Minnesota.

Lykke Li

Reviewing my most listened to records/songs of the year made me realize that there were some definite patterns. First of all, it was a very girl centric year music wise and secondly, I didn't listen to as many different albums as usual. Because of this, I don't even have a clue about most of the album listed on all those "Top Albums of 2014" lists.

My year was all about chicks singing their heart out and I clung to their albums, listening to them on repeat for months. As if that wasn't already obvious with talking about Lewis and Musgraves above, but I also couldn't get enough of Patsy Cline, Sia, Agnes Obel, First Aid Kit, Patty Griffin, Taylor Swift, Ellie Goulding, Robyn, Tennis, Lana Del Ray, Daughter and another gal with one of the best records of 2014  - Lykke Li.   

I Never Learn continued to creep its way back into my life's musical rotation for most of the late summer, fall and winter. Lykke Li's gorgeous song arrangements and general musicality makes this one hard to beat on the terms of the most beautiful and haunting albums of the year. There is sadness and hope in her songs and boy, I can't stop listening.

Well that's the specific entertainers that made 2014 what is was in my eyes. What people stood out in your life?

I'll be back in a few with some fun milestone moments of the past year. 

Until next time.

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