Chris Stachiw's Top 5 of 2014
2014 was an exciting year with good movies, television finally coming into its own, podcasts becoming "cool", and great books. With all of the great things that came out this year, it could be hard to narrow a list down to just five items. However, this is my list of the best of 2014; the best things that the year had to offer.
Kevin Smith's Tusk is my favorite movie of 2014 for good reason: it takes chances that 99% of Hollywood is too afraid to take. As I said on the Kulturecast, I can guarantee that there will never be another film about a man being turned into a walrus, it just won't happen. In a era where every film is either a sequel, prequel, or soft reboot, a film that takes the chances that Tusk does is a breath of much needed fresh air. The real standouts of the film are Michael Parks' performance as Howard Howe which is as terrifying as it is sad. He brings a sympathetic depth to the character that is characteristic of Parks as an actor. It seems that Kevin Smith has found his muse in Parks casting him in his last two films and his performance is the standout of both films. Along with Parks, Justin Long's ability to emote through a full walrus suit is impressive and worthy of praise. He doesn't have any true dialogue through the last half of the film but is still able to deliver a stunning, heartbreaking performance. Smith's writing talent is evident throughout the film as he is a master wordsmith with a talent for crafting believable, weighty dialogue. Tusk might not seem like a film that would appeal to the masses, and it isn't, but it is the most important film of 2014.
Serial has become the most talked about thing in the United States due in part to the mystery of it all. The mystery behind Serial is whether or not Adnan Syed killed Hae Min Lee 15 years ago, or if someone else did it. It seems like a premise straight out of an episode of Law and Order but the delivery of the content, and how it is presented is so well done, transcends a typical podcast. This can be attributed mainly to Sarah Koenig and her team that had previously worked on This American Life, another podcast from NPR. Koenig is the perfect narrator for the show and she does a great job of playing the (mostly) unbiased narrator/detective. The story draws you in from the first episode and doesn't let up until the final minute. It's well done and I honestly don't want to give too much away because it would be doing a disservice to the podcast. Check it out, trust me, you'll be glad you did.
Kumail Nanjiani's The X-Files Files
The X-Files Files is leading the charge in getting The X-Files back into the cultural mainstream, and that's a great thing. As a huge fan of the series, especially the new comic book, its nice to see a retrospective type show that can introduce new people to the show and give current fans a way to enjoy the show in a new way. Kumail's ability to land guests that were associated with the original show as well as celebrity fans of the show is one of the real highlights. The fact that he got Dean Haglund, Kevin Smith, and Glenn Morgan to be on his show is pretty epic and shows that even 13 years after it went off the air, The X-Files is still culturally relevant. It may be more culturally now more than ever in this post-Wikileaks and NSA society where the suspicions of the original show have seemingly rung true. If you're a fan of the show or are looking to watch it for the first time, The X-Files Files is a great companion piece that deserves a listen.
True Detective is not only one of my top five from 2014 but the one of the top tv show seasons that I have ever seen; it ranks a close second to the fourth season of Dexter as a near perfect season of a TV show. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are two detectives who are haunted by a case that they seemingly closed twenty years ago but it comes back to haunt them again. The show mixes gothic, noir, and pulp themes seamlessly all the while staying firmly rooted in reality. McConaughey and Harrelson absolutely own their roles as Cohle and Hart, yet it's McConaughey who is the real surprise. Primarily known for his roles in romantic comedies, McConaughey plays Cohle very stoically and distant but the dialogue is what really allows his character to shine. True Detective is the best thing that HBO has done in years, at least since The Sopranos, and yes, you should believe the hype, it is that good.
Console Wars chronicles the battle between Sega and Nintendo during the 80s and 90s for console supremacy. Primarily following the then-CEO of Sega Tom Kalinske on his quest to beat Nintendo at their own game, the book is fast-paced and hilarious. It reads more like fiction than non-fiction, with interesting characters and some deep insight into the early days of modern gaming. If you're a gamer or just love pop culture history, Console Wars is one you shouldn't miss this year, unless you want to wait until next year when the movie comes out.