2012 – These Are a Few of My Favourite Things

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Bravo, Pal. Bravo. That post was a tour de force. Stephen Colbert said: “Every man has a hole in him the size of the truth and I’m going to ram it in there.” Well, you rammed it, Pal. You rammed it good.

I think it’s safe to say you’re the first person to find the narrative link connecting the age of the universe, Bright Eyes’ “At the Bottom of Everything” and the futility of playing the lottery. Thanks for showing us how it all fits together.

There’s nothing left to do but move on. And by move on I mean think back. Because as one year fades into the next it behooves us to ponder the year that was: our accomplishments and lessons learned, where we are in life and what lies ahead…

Bah! Screw that. Let’s talk about what really matters – pop culture.  I have enjoyed reading the many best-of-the-year lists that the Christmas season has to offer. Here’s mine:

MOVIE OF THE YEAR

You know those movies that absolutely knock you on your ass? Blow your mind? Leave you reeling, or perhaps weeping? Give you a whole new perspective on things?

Well, I haven’t seen that movie yet for 2012.

Granted, I haven’t seen everything. I haven’t seen The Master, Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln or Life of Pi – a few films for which I have high hopes. But I have seen a few others that have everyone raving – like Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Beasts of the Southern Wild – and while they’re pretty solid (Beasts, especially), none of them quite delivered that “holy shit” moment I crave.

You know what came closest? This:

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Yes, funny enough, a horror movie. The Cabin in the Woods. It starts off like a slasher flick with a bit of a funky twist, then turns into something a whole lot funkier and whole lot twistier. And that’s all I’m going to say. The less you know going in the better. Which is why the trailer for this movie is possibly the worst trailer I have ever seen. Talk about Spoiler City. Avoid the trailer like the plague, but check out the movie which, for now, remains my pick for coolest flick, bearing in mind that things such as The Master and Life of Pi are waiting in the wings.

BOOK OF THE YEAR

Believe it or not, it looks like this:

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It’s called Building Stories and it’s like nothing I have ever read. I guess you’d call it a graphic novel, but it comes in a box and contains 14 distinct pieces, including booklets, pamphlets, a broadsheet and a cardboard fold-out. Every piece is strange and beautiful and, together, they tell the stories of the lonely inhabitants of a Chicago apartment building. You can read the 14 pieces in any order you wish, so everyone who dives in will have their own experience.

In an increasingly digital world, comic artist Chris Ware has found a way to invigorate the old-fashioned idea of telling stories on paper. There is simply no way I could have had this compelling and immersive reading experience on my Kobo. You should check it out.

TV SHOW OF THE YEAR

Never has a choice been easier:

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Breaking Bad – a show about a mild-mannered chemistry teacher (played to perfection by Bryan Cranston) who, upon learning he has cancer, starts cooking crystal meth so that he can leave money for his wife and kids. He takes a shine to the criminal life and it quickly becomes clear his ambition far exceeds his morals. How long you are willing to cheer for him is the question.

For my birthday in August, my lovely wife gave me the first season. We burned through that, then gobbled up seasons two through four, plus the first half of season five, which brings us up to date. We were obsessed. It was all we watched. It was all that mattered. Spare time is precious, but there was no discussion about how to spend it. If we had 47 minutes to spare, it was understood – we would sneak in an episode.

Breaking Bad is awesome. Every character is complex and intensely real. Moral dilemmas abound – right and wrong is rarely obvious. There are shockers in every episode. And the story is always racing forward. As a work colleague pointed out, it’s really not even a show, it’s a perfect 50-hour movie.

The show is currently on hiatus – in 2012, eight episodes of the fifth and final season aired, and the remaining eight will air in the summer of 2013. I am counting the minutes. And unless they do something really stupid for a finale (like a certain show that shall remain nameless about plane crash survivors on an island), Breaking Bad will probably go down as my favourite show of all time. Without doubt, my favourite of 2012. It has no competitors.

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ALBUM OF THE YEAR

OK, so I must confess my album of 2012 is actually a 2011 release. I’m a year behind, so sue me. The fact remains this is the album that consumed me more than any other during the past 12 months, and I do mean consumed:

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Josh T. Pearson’s Last of the Country Gentlemen.

Here’s the thing – I don’t recommend it. Really. Stay away. It’s the saddest goddamn thing you will ever hear in your life. This guy is unpleasant and seriously BUMMED OUT. Eight tracks, some of them more than ten minutes long, about loneliness, rage, regret and misery. Just a messed-up dude finger-picking his guitar, occasionally accompanied by a haunted string section, and sighing and moaning lyrics like this:

“I come from a long line in history of dreamers/each on more tired than the one before…We are not what you call over-comers/We are failures, each and every one/ We’re the kind who will always need a Saviour/The kind who play country dumb.”

Best song title goes to “Honeymoon’s Great! Wish You Were Her”, in which he pines for another woman while the wedding dress is still hanging over the chair. The album is painfully intimate and quiet, like he’s playing alone in a dark room, trying in vain to excise his demons. At times, the music just stops, as though he is mustering the strength to continue.

Last of the Country Gentlemen is polarizing, to say the least. You hate it or you love it. I love it, but I have no idea why. It got its hooks into me and keeps dragging me back. I go for a month without listening to it, and then some internal force commands me to return to its bleak and gorgeous vortex of despair. It’s my heroin. It’s too late for me. If I were you, I wouldn’t touch it.

But take a moment to dig this picture of Josh chillaxing in his favourite chair. It tells you all you need to know:

josh in chair

OK, that’s it. Over and out. My peculiar “year in review”. (Or my peculiar year, in review.) Can’t wait to see what hooks me in 2013. Happy New Year, Pal!!

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