December always marks the on-slaughter of "end of the year" lists, which I both love and hate. They are fun yet frustrating and always subjective. It's truly impossible to make a list that everyone would agree upon, so I'm not doing that. I'm not naming my top ten books or films or TV shows.
Instead I've created a list of ten pieces of entertainment/art that I will remember from 2014 (or at least I think I will). This list is a combination of books, plays, TV shows, etc. that stood out to me. This is not to say there weren't other great things, but these are what I'm thinking about on this day in December sitting in my apartment with the hum of the Christmas tree nearby and my two dogs on each side of me.
Here's my list (in no particular order):
1. The Leftovers: HBO's new series blew me away. I read the novel a few years ago, but this adaption was perfection and took the novel to a whole new level. It was hands down my favorite new show of the year. I also loved True Detective, Fargo, The Affair, and The Knick, but The Leftovers struck a cord with me in a different way. It's a show that hasn't left me, and one I'll continue to think about in the years to come.
2. Hedwig and the Angry Inch: I've been a huge Hedwig fan since I first saw the film back in college. When I heard it was coming to Broadway, I was thrilled. I actually saw it twice: once with Neil Patrick Harris and once with Michael C. Hall. I'll be back in January when John Cameron Mitchell takes over the role. It's such an amazing show to see live, and I'm thankful I've been able to do so.
3. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine: As a white liberal poet, it's pretty popular to say you like this book, but, in this case, the book is worth all the praise. It also seems like a fitting book for a year full of racial tensions in our country. But I liked the book mostly for its form and style. It shows you what can happen when you allow yourself freedom to explore. I've spent most of 2014 working on my third book, which is also about race, so it was also useful to read Rankine's in relationship to my own project.
4. The Comeback: The return of the amazing and under-appreciated HBO show didn't disappoint. I've been a fan of The Comeback from the very beginning. I watched it when it first aired and fell in love with Valerie Cherish immediately. I even wrote a paper on the show in grad school. The second season (nine years later) is just as thought-provoking and sharp. It's truly the best commentary about women in Hollywood that's out there.
5. Serial: I was late to the game on this one. Really late. I actually just started listening this past week, so this one just made the list. Serial is a podcast that examined a murder case and possible wrong conviction from 1999 over twelve episodes. I listened to all twelve in the last four days. It was engaging and thought-provoking. It raised great questions about truth, memory, and our justice system.
6. Snowpiercer: To be honest, I've really lost interest in films over the last decade. I used to be a huge film buff, but in recent years the film industry just seems so boring and lacking creativity. TV just keeps getting better and better and that's where I've devoted most of my watching time. But I did catch this fascinating sci-fi film and was pleasantly surprised. It all takes place in the future when the world is frozen and the last remaining humans must stay aboard a train (like the ark), which has a set class system that mirrors our society. If nothing else, everyone should watch it for Tilda Swinton's performance.
7. This Is Our Youth: One of my goals this year was to see more theater and I did. A few months ago I saw this play by Kenneth Lonergan starring Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin. The writing was sharp, funny, but underneath rather sad, and the acting was excellent. While the play is set in the early 1990s, it still felt very relevant to contemporary times, and I connected with many of the feelings and ideas presented.
8. Orange is the New Black: Netflix's huge hit got even better in its second season. The show went a little darker, but still provided great comedic moments. Overall, the second season proved this is not a one hit wonder. Can't wait for season three in 2015.
9. Mad Men: It's hard to make a list like this one and not include one of my all time favorite shows (and a huge influence on my second book). Mad Men began its final season in 2014 (the second half will air in early 2015). While it was only seven episodes long, it proved the show is still one of the best things on TV. The writing is hard to beat and the acting is top-notch. While I can't wait for the final episodes, I'm also dreading a TV landscape that doesn't include Don Draper.
10. Sweeney Todd: Towards the beginning of the year, I got the chance to see Emma Thompson in Sweeney Todd with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center. It was only a five-night run, but thankfully I found out that they sell all seats for $75 on the day of (if they aren't sold). My partner and I got box seats that would have cost about $300 a piece and it was opening night. Not only was the performance amazing (truly one of my favorites of the year), but the room was full of celebrities from Meryl Streep to Neil Patrick Harris to Sondheim himself. It was one of my favorite New York nights I've had.