The Best Things of 2012

As it is end of the year list time, I struggled with how to make my contribution to the internet. I’m of the thought that a “Top Ten” list is only as valuable as the reader’s opinion of the publication or writer. This puts me at the bottom of the barrel. On the final 2012 episode of the podcast, “The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show,” Rubin spent a couple of minutes asking former guests, “What was the best thing of 2012?” I’ve taken that approach and come up with a handful of my favorite pieces of pop culture from the past year. These aren’t in any order, they stick out to me as being a big part of my 2012

Halo 4 – I lost my job about a month before Halo 4 came out and it’s given me an outlet for competition that I’m average to good at. It also brought me and one of my roommates closer together. We play almost every night during the week. Also, Halo Reach came out back when I got out of college and it’s nice to see that Halo has always been there for me when I’ve been without work.

“Parenthood”– I love this show. Everything on the surface about it says I shouldn’t and that makes me like it even more. The core reason why TV nerds love shows like “Mad Men,” “Game of Thrones,” and “Breaking Bad,” is because the creators love the show and the characters as much as we do and they want to make shows they’d enjoy. That’s why Parenthood works. Producer Jason Katims brings his dedication to consistent charters from “Friday Night Lights,” to a traditional network melodrama with great actors.

Season one of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead: The Game – The near opposite of Halo 4 or Black Ops 2. Telltale’s episodic adventure isn’t about the action or even the plot as the game’s choices would initially have you believe. The game is about how your choices affect the relationships with the other characters in your group of survivors. This is easily one of the most moving pieces or art this year.

The climactic battle of The Avengers – It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of the Marvel movies. I’ve always been more of a DC fan – read: Batman, like most who share this sentiment. The majority parts of the movie are pretty standard superhero fare but I couldn’t deny the joy in seeing The Avengers fight aliens together in downtown Manhattan.

The Japandroids’ Celebration RockCelebration Rock circles the top of many end of year lists and with good reason. It hasn’t been a great year for rock music so it’s no surprise that the best rock music captures the best of the genre. The best of The Gaslight Anthem’s Handwritten also capitalizes on this as well but there are a couple of duds among that album’s 14 tracks. Celebration Rock’s eight track entry bats 1.000.

The hype around The Master – Typically, hype is the symbol of failure, nothing ever lives up to it. Whether or not P.T. Anderson’s latest lived up to expectations is up for debate however the excitement around its release is one of the best things to happen to film all year. People were excited about art. The line for the 70 mm presentation in Chicago (above) and others around the country shows that. I still regret missing out on that screening. I’m hoping for an awards re-release later in the year so I can be surrounded by others who are excited to find something new in my current favorite film of the year.

Spotify – I’m terrible at keeping up with new music. I don’t listen to the radio and I don’t go to many concerts. Spotify has allowed me to catch up with new music and discover artists like the aforementioned Japandroids, Walk the Moon and come to the conclusion that “New God Flow” might be the best hip-hop song of the past few years. Rumor has it that Spotify doesn’t pull as much money as a Facebook feed might lead us to believe but I hope it sticks around for a long time.

What were your favorite things of 2012? Leave your thoughts in the comments down below and have a happy holiday.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter by clicking the follow button on the right. You’ll get updates when new posts are live, storys I like and my own thoughts and musings. Share this post with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, Email, Pony Express or just by telling them about it.

Three Seasons on the Boardwalk, Active and Passive

Hey! This post contains multiple spoilers for multiple seasons of “Boardwalk Empire.”  I only mention them when necessary but if that’s a problem for you then don’t read this  post. Don’t worry, I won’t blame you.

A while back I posted my impressions of the first season of Boardwalk Empire in which I came to the conclusion that the show was very different from what myself, others and HBO advertising wanted it to be. The last couple of  episodes that season also revealed that the show’s first outing was a lengthy character introduction and for the second season. It was different rather than a disappointment. The second season, succeeded in almost every way.

The second season worked because Jimmy Darmody, among others, became active characters in their quest to overthrow the Nucky Thompson’s claim on Atlantic City. He was also a complete work of fiction and therefore his character arc had limitless possibilities, along with being some of the most compelling. Everything about the build-up to the clash between Jimmy and Nucky worked on every level and the clash itself lived up to the hype. It was the decision to remove Jimmy from the show, while satisfying for that season, made for an underwhelming third season.

I should probably explain what I mean by “underwhelming,” because the last couple episodes of this season definitely brought everything together. I just didn’t enjoy the journey . Along with “Boardwalk Empire,” I only watch “The Walking Dead” during the fall cable season. Last year, “Boardwalk,” was appointment viewing while “Dead,” was relegated to the second run or on time delay later in the week. This was in part due to the poor the quality of The Walking Dead’s “Farm Season,” as it does my enjoyment of “Boardwalk Empire” second season. A year later, those shows switched modes and “Boardwalk” became passive through the majority of its season.

As I said before, the last few episodes really helped the season come together, both thematically and in terms of plot, especially since Nucky was finally working to change his situation. It makes for a boring show when you’re new lead is solely responsive after the more active counterpart was removed.

In reconciling the difference between this season and the similarly complex first season of “Game of Thrones,” another show with  a large cast in a season that moves inches until the last bunch of episodes. The two major differences I’ve come to is that “Thrones” is purely fiction and the only reliable way to explore Westeros is through either the show or the source material, whereas information about Atlantic City in the 1920’s is readily available from multiple historians.

This is the other reason. “Thrones,” has the feeling of sole author behind it, despite being David Beinoff and D.B. Weiss’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s book series. While Terrence Winter may be the sole mind behind “Boardwalk,” his resources are nearly infinite in terms of information on characters plot and setting. This is one of the major reason’s why, at its worst, episodes are less than focused.

Active shows are much easier to enjoy. The acclaim for the first half of the current “The Walking Dead” season is proof of that. This isn’t to say the passive shows are bad. The second season of “The Wire,” and the first “Game of Thrones” season are proof that great seasons can  be a slow burn and are only recognized after the fact.

“Boardwalk Empire,” is one of the better shows on right now. There’s no denying the production value and the writers brought this season together so well that I’m contemplating a re-watch – something I’ve only done for the likes of  “Friday Night Lights” and “Arrested Development.” I feel safer heading into the next season than I ever have with this show. I was more excited to see where the show was going after the season two but now I know even when there might be a disappointing couple of episodes, I’m in sure hands.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter by clicking the follow button on the right. You’ll get updates when new posts are live, storys I like and my own thoughts and musings. Share this post with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, Email, Pony Express or just by telling them about it.

Reboots and the Unnecessary Need to Start at the Beginning

Reboot Posters

During a commercial for The Walking Dead over the holiday, my parents brought up that they have no interest in the big blockbuster movies and TV shows due to the prominence of science fiction and fantasy. Aside from bringing up the fear that one day I won’t find popular movies and  TV shows appealing, I also realized that Science Fiction and Fantasy – one of the most alienating genres – has fully merged with the most prominent forms of  entertainment. TV drama’s have had trouble bringing in new audiences after the first season and with the rise of the two aforementioned genre’s, considered by many to be modern American myth, the forces behind many blockbuster film franchises feel a need to retell origin stories, even if they are common knowledge.

It’s no coincidence that the most popular of these are based in comic books, one of the more alienating mediums. Only with movements like digital distribution and more, importantly, DC Comics own reboot with  ” The New 52″ have these become more accessible. One modern myth that is no stranger to new beginnings are the James Bond films which saw the successful  last third of its latest reboot in Skyfall.

While those involved with the films will likely deny it, Skyfall is the third part of a trilogy which created the modern James Bond. Casino Royale created James Bond, the man. Solace created James Bond, the agent and the latest combined the modern Bond with elements from the past franchise, creating the myth. This problematic form of myth building – it took seven and a half hours to build a slightly varied character and his relationships when it shouldn’t have taken more than three. However it’s admirable that a blockbuster franchise took as much time to build its universe especially since the last 50 years, audiences are as well versed, if not more so, in 007 lore as they are King Arthur.

While I haven’t seen every Bond film, the fact that there isn’t a canonical origin story in the mainstream circulation is unfounded by today’s standards and the reason we got one in these last three films, but also why the franchise has survive . 007 is a super hero for all intents and purposes, and there is a belief that audiences their origin stories constantly retold. Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider for the second time in eight years. Similarly inclusion of the origin story in Batman Begins – albeit varied from past incarnations – is an example of  why the second film in a trilogy is often the better portion. It focuses on expanding the universe rather than introducing or closing the overarching narrative.

All of  these examples, with the exception of Bond and Batman, show an unnecessary need to reinforce origin stories into modern American myth.  There’s a reason why the middle parts of the franchise, save Quantum of Solace, is the best regarded of their series. They expand the myth rather than begin or close their worlds. The Marvel-Avengers series is successful up to this point because they are constantly building to their universe with their commitment to future films and no end in sight.

This commitment to mythology building will eventually ruin a franchise. Now that Marvel is releasing  Ant-Man and The Guardians of the Galaxy films, the odds the universe becomes a convoluted mess are significantly increased. They only need to look to the upcoming Prometheus sequel to see the dangers ahead. The Bond origin trilogy succeeds because we have returned to the familiar until it begins again after two more films, though we won’t need it.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter by clicking the follow button on the right. You’ll get updates when new posts are live, storys I like and my own thoughts and musings. Share this post with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, Email, Pony Express or just by telling them about it.