Best of the Year 2014

miloHey Pal:

I experienced many great things in 2014. It just so happens that some of them were not actually from 2014.

Should that stop me from putting them on my best of 2014 list? I hope not because I’m doing it. Here then is the stuff that blew my mind the most this year.

BEST IN FILM – Stanley Kubrick exhibit at TIFF Bell Lighthouse

TIFF kubrick exhibit

I may be the only person on Earth who thinks Full Metal Jacket is better than Platoon.

I was definitely the only freak in my high school with a Clockwork Orange jean jacket.

I even defended Eyes Wide Shut when it came out in 1999 to wide-spread disappointment and befuddlement.

So when the Stanley Kubrick exhibition rolled into Toronto this year there was no way I was going to miss that. Pal, you were kind enough to accompany me and we saw things I never dreamed I would see with my own eyes. To be in the same room as the creepy twin dresses from The Shining? Are you kidding me?

Rather than talk about the exhibit’s awesomeness (ho hum tour guides aside), how about I just show some pics. Fellow Kubrick fans, prepare to drool. All others, go ahead and skip to Best in TV.

The Shining typewriter

All work and no play makes Jack overact


IMG_20141106_182645 2001: A Space Odyssey -- HAL IMG_20141106_181855

A Clockwork Orange

I should mention I actually do have a favourite movie of 2014 – Boyhood (totally with you on Under the Skin, Pal – it may be my second). But I’ve already paid tribute the Boyhood – Boyhood post – and there are too many other movies I have yet to see, so I’ll reserve my true best of the year in movies for the Pal-Ademy Awards in a couple of months.

BEST IN TV – American Horror Story

I am an irresponsible father.

How else to explain that not only did I allow my 13-year-old daughter to watch this sadistic nightmare, but I also sat there happily binge watching the first three seasons – “Murder House”, “Asylum” and “Coven” – right alongside her.

murder house  asylum  coven

Has there ever been a sicker show than this one? Murder, rape, torture, incest – name an atrocity, it’s in there. Characters include school shooters, Nazi doctors, tortuous slave owners and demon nuns who rape (and some of those were good guys).

Our favourite season is “Coven”, though it may be the ickiest of the lot. You don’t know the meaning of awkward until you sit beside your daughter watching what happens to Emma Roberts, star of Hotel for Dogs, at a frat party. (It’s OK, though, because she and friend Taissa Farmiga are witches so justice is served and it is swift and thorough and nasty – call it feminism, American Horror Story style.)

three witches

Do these hats make us look witchy?


After every episode I told the kid we really shouldn’t be watching this. Then she’d go make popcorn and I’d cue up the next episode. What a pair of sickos. Next thing you know I’ll be lending her my Clockwork Orange jacket.

TV Runner Up – House of Cards and West Wing

west wing  imagesQKMYFCBZ

Mrs. Pal and I began the year binge watching David Fincher’s House of Cards and finished the year binge watching Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing, two depictions of Washington politics that could not be more different.

Technically, I suppose they’re both dramas. But House of Cards really plays out like horror as you watch Kevin Spacey do anything – anything – to satisfy his lust for power (it reached a point Mrs. Pal threw in the towel and I had to carry on solo – it was too cold and cynical for her taste, with no characters to cheer for).

And West Wing is really a fantasy – a depiction of the White House as it ought to be, populated with brilliant, principled people for whom power is a means to an end – improving the world. In my mind, Martin Sheen will always be America’s Greatest President. It’s been a joy revisiting this idealistic world.

Which of these shows is less far from the truth, I have no idea. But, for me, they’re equally fun to watch, and watching one after the other makes for a fascinating contrast. I recommend it.


This one’s a tie, with nothing in common except they happen to both be women:

  • Comedian Tig Notaro at Just for Laughs: It’s an interesting approach – tell a funny story, add some new context, then tell the same story again and somehow it’s even funnier. It’s brilliant, as is her use of audience participation (she made us complicit in her mockery of the Beatles’ treatment of Ringo). It may have been the best live comedy I have ever seen.


  • Sinead O’Connor at Massey Hall: At long last, and for the first time, I saw my number one musical girlfriend (My Musical Girlfriends post) in concert. Long overdue. From dedicating opener “I am Stretched on your Grave” to the recently fallen Canadian soldier Cpl. Nathan Cirillo to the greatest closer she could have possibly chosen, “Last Day of Our Acquaintance”, she did not disappoint.

sinead o'connor

BEST IN MUSIC – Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City


There are three problems with this album.

The first problem is that I am not a first year university student undergoing a spiritual crisis and seeing the world through open eyes for the first time. If I were, this album would define me. As it turns out, it came along about 20 years too late, so all I can do is admire the hell out of it.

Modern Vampires of the City is the third album from the brainy pop rockers from New York, and it went deeper, darker and slower than what came before. This is not to say the thing is heavy or sluggish. On the contrary, it crackles with energy. Pitchfork said it well: “There’s more air in these songs, more spontaneity, more dynamics.”

The second problem is that it puts my Pal to sleep. I’m not sure why this is, Pal, but I think it might have something to do with the “air in these songs”.

Regardless of the reason, it is troubling because I fear you may not be making it to the sixth track – “Hannah Hunt” – which means you’re missing the best part. It’s a love story and a road story, a story about busting out of the mold that made you to wander cross country in search of meaning. It’s a delicate, cerebral “Born to Run” for a social media generation. I can’t get enough of it.


The third problem is that Ezra Koenig’s lyrics fill me with jealousy and despair. If I wrote for a thousand hours straight, I still couldn’t craft lines so lovely:

A gardener told me some plants move
But I could not believe it
Till me and Hannah Hunt
Saw crawling vines and weeping willows
As we made our way from Providence to Phoenix

A man of faith said
Hidden eyes could see what I was thinking
I just smiled and told him
That was only true of Hannah
And we glided on through Waverley and Lincoln

That’s it for me, Pal. Here’s to a great 2014 and even better 2015.

Happy New Year.


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