I kind of went nuts with my end-of-year lists last year, giving over a half dozen of them on standard topics (best movies, best music, best comics) and less standard (best horror comics, best woman-centered comics), so it’s hard to imagine I actually missed anything worth talking about….
But I did. Especially after reading everyone else’s various top 10 lists (a favorite January activity for me). Here’s the top 20 things I didn’t include on a “best of” list for 2014. Note a few TV shows here, because I didn’t list my favorite TV shows of 2014 yet (and don’t plan to). If you want to know what I thought was the best stuff to watch (other than the hidden gems below), I’d rattle off the top of my head: Family Guy, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert (RIP), Rectify (truly amazing acting and character work there), The Leftovers, and South Park (amazingly, it’s even better with age).
THE TOP 20 THINGS YOU PROBABLY MISSED IN 2014 BUT SHOULDN’T HAVE
THE TOP 20 THINGS I FAILED TO INCLUDE ON ANY OF MY BEST OF 2014 LISTS
20 Fatima: The Blood Spinners (Dark Horse Comic Book). I don’t like Love and Rockets. I know everyone else likes it, but I find it very difficult to get into. But I do love Gilbert Hernandez’ art. So I was happy when he came out with a comic about zombies, because, hey, zombies.
19. Fargo (FX TV Drama). I was very pessimistic about the idea of adapting what in my view is an absolutely perfect movie, and even more skeptical about casting Billy Bob Thorton, but from the first five minutes this show proved its worth.
18. Valiant Comics (Comic Book Publisher). I have to confess, I just don’t have the bandwidth to take on the Valiant universe of comics, but what I have read from them (mostly Rai and whatever Fred Van Lente is writing for them) is surprisingly good. It’s like having an alternative to Marvel and DC that isn’t so enmeshed in corporate culture that it can still be surprising and take risks.
17. The Highlighter & Sharpie Party (www.notalkingplz.tumblr.com). Drawing on notecards, post-its, or whatever’s available. Demented, cool, and fun.
16. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO News Program). When John Stewart went off to direct a movie, regular (and British) cast member John Oliver filled in for him—and really didn’t miss a beat. I was almost sad to see Stewart return. And then HBO signed Oliver for a weekly show, Last Week Tonight. And rather than just do his own version of The Daily Show, Oliver went deeper. Much deeper. His stories are thoroughly researched—they’re not just “here’s the stuff that happened today” (which is not to say that those aren’t good, important stories), it’s “here’s the stuff that’s been happening for years, and you really need to know about it.” Profound, profane, and powerful.
15. Taylor Swift, 1989 (Pop Album). Yeah, I like it. You got a problem with that?
14. Pop (Dark Horse Comic Book). When I was compiling my “Best of 2014,” this 4-issue miniseries by Curt Pires and Jason Copland was definitely on my radar, and it pained me not to include it. It’s a wild, weird ride through popular culture with writing that is crisp and very different from what you’d expect from most comic books on the market—even those from a “small” publisher like Dark Horse. As for the art, it’s even more offbeat. I mean, it’s not “out there bizarro” like some of Bill Sienkiewicz’s stuff, but it’s very different from most other books on the market. An ambitious story that never seemed to find an audience.
13. Russell Brand: Messiah Complex (AXIS TV Comedy Special). Brand’s humor isn’t for everyone. It’s extremely provocative, pseudo-intellectual, elitist, left-of-left-wing, politically polarizing, often sexist, sometimes racist, and never, ever safe. So, it isn’t for everyone. But it’s definitely for me. In fact, after I saw it, some of the ideas stayed with me for weeks.
12. Life Itself (Documentary Film). An absolutely fearless look at the life of the only film critic to win the Pulizer Prize, Roger Ebert. In these days of blogs (like mine), where anyone can opine about anything (and I usually do), this film may remind you why intelligent film criticism actually matters.
11. HBO’s Comedies. Remember when Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and The Wire were the best things on TV and the only thing worth watching was HBO? Well, I can’t say that the Network has been restored to greatness, but they’re doing pretty well on the comedy front. Stephen Merchant’s Hello Ladies and Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley were both fantastic, and Getting On—about life in a nursing home—was uncomfortably, darkly hilarious.
10. Nightcrawler (Film). Jake Gyllenhaal plays a really, really evil creep. I mean, if you want to see a movie about a guy with no morality whatsoever, this is the film. An intense, disturbing crime drama.
9. Too Many Cooks (Comedy Central Short available on Youtube). This thing is…Indiscribable.
8. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast (Bloomsbury USA Original Graphic Novel). This appeared on so many end of the year lists that I had to buy it. It’s amazing. You may recognize Chast’s work from The New Yorker, but this is a collection of short stories and single panels about dealing with her parents’ dying and ultimate deaths.
7. Patton Oswald-Tragedy + Comedy = Time (Comedy Album). Patton is nerdbrilliant.
6. Trees (Image Comic). A buddy of mine said I was crazy not to include it in my best of the year lists, so I went and re-read it. I came to two conclusions: (1) It’s a much better read when you binge it. (2) He was right.
5. Homeland (Showtime TV Drama). When Brody swung from the noose at the end of last season, I thought that was it—I’m done. And frankly, I couldn’t imagine there was anything left to say here. But, wow. This is a TV series that not only got better with age, but actually had its best season yet.
4. The Internet’s Own Boy (Film Documentary). A tragic account of the life (and politically motivated death) of the creator of Reddit, who also played major roles in the development of RSS, the use of voice over internet protocols as a tool for political activism, and the creation of Creative Commons.
3. How to Be Happy (Fantagraphics Graphic Novel). A collection of very different (and yet very similar) short pieces, all by Eleanor Davis. Some are pure fantasy, some are just two people talking. Most are people talking, actually, but in a variety of circumstances (including naked and in a giant sack). As the forward of the book says, it is not about how to be happy, but every story speaks to the soul of depression and the urgent, palpable need for joy. It’s at once beautiful and sad, celebratory and dark. Masterful work.
2. St. Vincent (Film Drama/Comedy). I didn’t see this movie until the very last day of December 2014. It came and went with barely a whimper, but it’s easily Bill Murray’s best performance in years—and that’s saying something. And who knew Melissa McCarthy could play the “straight man” role? I literally laughed until I cried and then cried until I laughed again.
1. Louie (FX TV Comedy). The last five minutes of “So Did the Fat Lady” may be the best five minutes of disturbing comedy ever aired on television. Kudos to FX for giving Louie enough money, and enough space, to do his thing. Of everything I had to read, watch, or do, this show always came first.