I find lists of the year’s best and worst entertainment somewhat alienating. I didn’t see a great deal of new movies or watch many new shows, and I certainly didn’t read any new novels–I’m usually a few years behind on those at best. So for me, when I look back and what I’ve heard and read and seen in the past year, I don’t focus on what would be considered the best in an artistic sense. Remember the favorite vs. best distinction? Yeah, this is a favorites kind of list.
So, without further ado…
Here are the things that made my year just a little more enjoyable than it already was!
1. Batman: The Black Mirror. Have you guys heard of these things, comics? They’re pretty neat! I’ve read a Batman title or two in the past, and my fair share of graphic novels, but this was the year I listened to my comic loving friends and really sunk my teeth into a few series. My favorite standalone title was the trade paperback Batman: The Black Mirror. It takes place when Dick Grayson steps in for Bruce Wayne as Batman, and it’s an emotional, compelling story with gorgeous artwork and memorable characters. This isn’t just one of my favorite comics. It’s one of my favorite books. And that’s saying a lot.
2. Y: The Last Man. But then, I’m tempted to put Y on my list of favorite books, too, and that’s hardly even fair. It’s a lengthy series; there are ten volumes in all, and I’m through eight of them. They tell the story of Yorrick, the last living man on earth; his protector, government agent (or is she?) 355; biologist Allison, who may be able to unravel why Yorrick survived the plague that wiped out every living male aside from Yorrick and his pet monkey Ampersand; and Hero, Yorrick’s beautifully headstrong sister. Reading Y is like watching the best TV mini series you’ve ever seen and still wanting more whenever the credits roll at the end of a segment.
3. Sherlock. I don’t think I need to go over this again, do I? Just watch it. It’s worth your time.
4. War Horse. It’s like no other live performance I’ve seen, with grandly produced puppets sometimes operated by three people at once, immersive sound and screen displays, and a simple story that is somehow affecting enough that, as the cliche says, there’s not a dry eye in the house. And I don’t even like horses.
5. The Night Circus. I’ve been over this one before, too. It remains one of the most spellbinding books I’ve ever read.
6. Skyfall. I’m generally quite fond of the Bond series, and, like many people my age, Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond. He has an ego and a sense of humor and plenty of swagger, but he’s missing the malice and misogyny of Bonds before him. (Also, I’m not above saying he’s a terrifically handsome man.) Before Skyfall, Casino Royale was by far my favorite Bond movie. After Skyfall, though, Skyfall with its lush landscapes and character complexities and expert pacing, I’m not so sure. Sure, Casino Royale has the better Bond girl and a kickier opening song, but Skyfall has more emotional resonance, a smattering of delightful new characters (hello, new quartermaster!), and a villain with actual layers. It’s a terrifically satisfying movie, both action-wise and Bond-wise.
7. That time I got a book signed by Stephen Colbert and his writing staff. Self explanatory, I think.
8. Nachos at the Stag’s Head. One of my favorite places in Grand Rapids is Hopcat, a beer bar with approximately a bajillion taps, genuinely good food, and an atmosphere that’s much more relaxed than your typical bar. So when we decided to move, I knew a worthy replacement might be hard to find. Lo and behold, it turned out there was one about three minutes away from our place on foot: the Stag’s Head, another beer bar with a few less taps but a lot more deer-themed decorations. They have these nachos and this one beer that hardly ever leaves (Sawtooth from Left Hand Brewery in Colorado) and I could eat and drink them just about every day, probably.
9. The Improvised Shakespeare Company. It’s a simple and yet staggering concept: five trained actors take an audience suggestion for the title of a play, and then perform it on the fly without writing down a single word. And somehow, they come up with something absolutely brilliant, transient enough that I can’t explain why it was so good–it just was. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed harder. Well, wait.
10. Patton Oswalt. Maybe I have, because Scott gives great birthday gifts and we saw Oswalt when he was here for the New York Comedy Festival. All his new material was brilliant (it’s kind of par for the course with him), and he even took requests and ended up doing our respective favorite bits (Christmas Shoes and the Comedy Magician, if you’re keeping score at home). It’s the first non-improv comedy show I’ve been to, and I couldn’t have started with something better.
I’m guessing I’ve forgotten a thing or two, and that’s OK–this is just a smattering of what I’ve read and watched and loved this year. If you get a chance, check out one or all of these things. And if you already have, good for you! I’m glad we’re friends.