My favorite TV of 2014

I feel like every year I start this column by saying “This was an amazing year of television”. Maybe if every year is an amazing year of television, then actually no year is. Or maybe it’s something like what Peter tells his therapist in Office Space – “Each day is a little worse than the one before it, so every day you see me you’re seeing me on the worst day of my life.” The current situation with television is the opposite of that – every year that goes by is a little better than the one before it, so every year is the best ever year for television. There are just more quality shows in more places than ever before, more than any human has time to watch. I think several of my Honorable Mentions would have made Top 5 a few years ago.

Usual disclaimer: I make no pretense of being even an amateur critic; I just like TV/movies and I like making lists of things. If you think my choices are ridiculous, you are probably right. Also, I don’t consider non-fiction TV for my lists, even awesome shit like Something Something with John Oliver.

  1. The Leftovers. This show snuck up on me in a big way. I was skeptical of the premise (2% of the world’s population vanishes one day, and everyone else goes a little bit insane over it) and not anxious for another sci-fi mystery from Lost showrunner Damon Lindelof. After the first couple of episodes, I was still not that into it and almost bailed at one point. Thankfully I stuck with it, and it gradually became my favorite show of the year. Incredible performances from Justin Theroux and Carrie Coon (who was the center of my favorite TV episode of the year, “Guest”) anchored a tightly-crafted meditation on the ways in which people cope with loss. It was depressing as hell, in the best way possible, and it stayed with me for weeks, popping into my head while I drove to work or took a shower. The best shows haunt your thoughts long, after you’ve turned off the television.
  2. The Americans. This show about two Russian spies living in America in the 1980s was on my list last year but came up even better this in 2014. It’s very difficult to create a good family drama, and very difficult to create a great spy show. Doing both at the same time seems nearly impossible, but this show pulls it off. I especially enjoy how the show weaves current events from the era (Reagan getting shot, the Iran-Contra affair) into the story in a believable way.
  3. Happy Valley. This British crime drama (available on Netflix) deals with the fallout from a kidnapping in rural Yorkshire. The main character is a middle-aged police sergeant (played by Sarah Lancashire) who is beset by past tragedies, family problems, and the soul-deadening weight of doing her difficult job day in and day out. The show is tense and thrilling at times, but the reason it stuck with me was its exploration of how being a good person and doing right by ones family and community can be both the most difficult and the most important thing in the world.
  4. The Good Wife. This show has been a mainstay of my top 10 lists for years and I’ve run out of good things to say about it. You know what’s weird? This is the only show on my list that airs on the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CW). There’s one other in Honorable Mentions (Parks and Rec). That’s it – of my 25 favorite shows only two are network shows. Tough times for traditional broadcast.
  5. You’re the Worst. This acidic comedy, about two hateful people who sleep with each other and then grudgingly start a relationship, entertained me from start to finish. I don’t like comedies that don’t have some dramatic elements (pure joke delivery machines like Family Guy aren’t my thing). This show brought me in with the clever punchlines but kept me coming back by keeping me invested in the characters. I also like the idea that there’s somebody out there for everybody, even if you’re a complete jerk. Even assholes deserve soul mates! (see also: Bojack Horseman)
  6. Mad Men. One of my all-time favorite shows, Mad Men was hurt a bit by AMC’s dumb decision to split the final season up and only show seven episodes this year. Seven episodes isn’t inherently a problem (Happy Valley only had six) but these seven felt like half a season. I loved these episodes though, and can’t express how much I want to grab a bite at Burger Chef with Don, Peggy, and Pete. Also I want to know if Ginsberg was right about the computer talking to him.
  7. True Detective. It’s possible that the ranking I gave this show was hurt by the fact that it aired back in January and my memory of it is slightly fuzzy. I definitely raved about it at the time, thinking it had a strong chance at being #1 on my end-of-year list. The fact that I later saw six shows I liked even better says something about TV in 2014. Of special note is the amazing directing work of Cary Fukunaga, especially the astounding long-take scene in the fourth episode.
  8. Fargo. The world definitely didn’t need a TV version of the most overrated Coen Brothers film (don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan. It’s just not one of their best in my opinion). But creator Noah Hawley crafted an intricate tale that both paid homage and in some ways surpassed its film origin. Billy Bob Thornton plays one of the more memorable on-screen badasses of all time. You betcha!
  9. Orange is the New Black. I liked season one better, mainly because the season two “big bad” character played by Lorraine Toussaint didn’t really work for me. Still this remains one of the absolute best shows on television (or the internet, as the case may be). I love how the show manages to humanize and deepen even the most villainous people on the show (like the female warden) so that you really do feel compassion for people you never thought you could empathize with.
  10. I can’t decide! No that’s not the name of a show (not even a wacky game show). I really can’t decide. Seriously, any of the Honorable Mentions below could go into this spot, but none of them I liked unequivocally. I had Game of Thrones here, but then I thought about the things I don’t like about that show, so I replaced it with Bojack, then with Girls. Argh! Screw it, it’s a top 9 this year.

Honorable Mentions:  Game of Thrones, Hannibal, Girls, Louie, Bojack Horseman

More Honorable Mentions: Justified,  Olive Kitteridge, Review, Transparent, Silicon Valley

Seriously, Have a Few More Honorable Mentions: Masters of Sex, Chozen, Parks and Recreation, The Honourable Woman, Outlander

Too Many Cooks Honorable Mentions: Veep,  Orphan Black, Boardwalk Empire, Broad City

Stretching a Bit Here: Archer, Arrow, Homeland (pending next week’s season finale), Downton Abbey

Why Did I Watch the Full Season of This: House of Cards, The Newsroom

Super Bowl bets I have made

Go Hawks!
Go Hawks!

My favorite NFL team, the Seattle Seahawks, are playing in the Super Bowl this Sunday. They are playing against the Denver Broncos, a team with many fans in my social circles. I hail from eastern Idaho which is farther from Denver than you’d think but still a hotbed of pro-Bronco sentiment since the local TV stations always show the Denver game if they have a choice. I know many, many Denver fans. As a “gambling man” (some might say a “degenerate”), I recognized this as a perfect storm of betting opportunity. Below I have enumerated the various Super Bowl bets I have placed with friends and family.

  • Bet with my friend Marcus: $50
  • Bet with my cousin Dave: $100 and a bottle of the winner’s favorite libation (In Dave’s case, Glenlivet 18 Year Scotch. In my case, Diet Pepsi)
  • Bet with my coworker Pradeep: $87.36 and the loser must wear the winning team’s jersey to work the next day.
  • Bet with Steve, manager of my local 7-11: If Steve wins, he gets free business consulting including process optimization, technology enablement, and IT services. If I win, I get free Big Gulps.
  • Bet with my friend Manuel: Loser must loudly tell all their friends and family members that they “just watch the Super Bowl for the commercials” and act as if they genuinely believe that they are the first person to ever say this.
  • Bet with my neighbor Angie: Loser must post an unpopular political opinion on Facebook (example – “The only way to solve our obesity epidemic is to mandate liposuction for chubby babies”) and fully defend that position in the ensuing comment discussion, including answering every single comment, no matter how long the thread gets.
  • Bet with my cousin’s husband’s brother Brad: Loser must go see the film “I, Frankenstein” and write a six page essay (double space, normal sized font) reviewing the film and discussing it from the standpoint of postmodern deconstructionist theory.
  • Bet with my ex-girlfriend Rachel: Loser must lavishly praise the winner’s lovemaking abilities, to everyone, all the time, forever.
  • Bet with my pharmacist Gary: Winner gets naming rights to loser’s firstborn child.
  • Bet with my friend Aaron: Loser must film a sex tape and post it online. Both participants in said sex tape must be wearing uniform of winning team including helmet and pads. At the climax of said sex tape, loser must scream out either “BEAST MODE” (if I win) or “OMAHA” (if he wins).
  • Bet with my coworker Ted: Loser is required to give up on all his hopes and goals in life. Loser must accept that his best days are behind him, and it’s time to face the long, slow decline into old age and obscurity, never having accomplished all the things he dreamed of doing in his younger days. Loser must confront head-on the fact that the current daily grind is actually as good as it’s going to get. Winner gets to persist in the delusion that a better life is around the corner.

My favorite films of 2013

Bye bye Sandra
Bye bye Sandra

Every year I post this list and someone asks me how I have time to see so many movies. I’m something of a data nerd and I like to record data about my activities, which comes in handy for answering questions like this. In 2013, I watched 107 movies, of which 57 were 2013 releases and therefore eligible for the end of the year list. That’s basically one trip to the theater and one home rental a week. I’m sure that’s more than most people, but it doesn’t seem that crazy to me (especially because the theater is two blocks away). I may not have much of a social life, but it’s not because I watch too many movies (it’s actually because most people are intimidated by my good looks).

Usual disclaimer – I’m not much of a film critic and my opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. A grain of salt which, when viewed under a microscope, contains the inscription: “THIS ASSHOLE WOULDN’T KNOW A GOOD MOVIE IF IT HIT HIM IN THE FACE.”

  1. Gravity. This movie is amazing. A supreme technical achievement, a sphincter-clenching thriller, a first-rate acting showcase, and possibly the first movie since Avatar that I thought was worth wearing those dipshit 3D glasses for. I’ll admit the story and script are a bit weak, but no film this year rivaled it for sheer spectacle. This movie went up and did not come down.
  2. Her. When I heard the premise of this movie (“Joaquin Phoenix plays a sensitive man who falls in love with his computer’s operating system”) I had to suppress a gag reflex. This film is about a thousand times better than you would think based on the ridiculous-sounding plot. It was a really tough choice to pick between this and Gravity for the #1 spot.
  3. Upstream Color. This is a small, independent film that few people saw (from the director of Primer, another fantastic, little-watched film). Like Her, it’s nominally science fiction but really at its core about relationships and their aftermath. It’s also incredibly weird (the main characters may or may not be psychically linked to two pigs), and you will definitely spend time on the internet afterward trying to figure out exactly what you just saw. Well worth your time!
  4. Inside Llewyn Davis. I’m a nut for the Coen brothers and even though I consider this probably one of their lesser works, I’m unable to place it any lower than #4. There’s not much plot here, it’s a film focused on character and music and setting (Greenwich Village folk music scene in the 1960s). I’m not a fan of folk music but I enjoyed spending some time hanging out with a classic Coen character. Also a great movie for cat lovers.
  5. Before Midnight. The third of Richard Linklater’s “Before” movies, this continues the story of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s decades long romance. I still think Before Sunset is the best of the three, but I love all three. Here’s hoping they make another one in nine years.
  6. No. As a former political worker, I thoroughly enjoyed this Chilean film which explored the intersection of advertising and politics in the last days of the Pinochet regime. The movie is shot using the VHS cameras of the time, so it really has the feeling of watching history.
  7. The World’s End. Edgar Wright’s conclusion to his “Cornetto Trilogy” (begun with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) is hilarious, but also the most poignant and sad of his films. Completely relatable for any of us who feel like we maybe haven’t grown up enough since leaving high school.
  8. American Hustle. This movie was very well done, very funny, very sly. I can’t escape the feeling, though, that it’s just a bit slight. There’s not as much going on under the surface as there are in the other films on this list. I think it made it on the list just because of Louis CK as the FBI middle manager.
  9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. I’m a little embarrassed to have this on the list but I honestly love this movie. I thought it was far better than the first Hunger Games movie and had a lot going for it. It’s a fun adventure but also a trenchant political film. Jennifer Lawrence glaring at the camera in the final scene may by my favorite scene of the year.
  10. Oblivion. This is my “most underrated” film. I love science fiction, especially ORIGINAL science fiction, based on a new idea and not just pumping some moribund franchise for more money (*cough* Star Trek *cough*). Critics didn’t love it but I found this to be surprisingly well made. Great action setpieces, thought provoking ideas, and gorgeous cinematography. Don’t worry, I still hate Tom Cruise.

Honorable Mentions: Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Drug War, Frances Ha, Frozen, Stories We Tell, The East, Computer Chess, Side Effects, Iron Man 3, Stoker, and, oh fuck it, Pacific Rim

Most Essential Film of the Year: 12 Years a Slave. I struggled with where to put this one on the list, as I have very mixed emotions about it. This is a great film, perhaps the best of the year. I hated watching it. Every American should see this movie (especially politicians who compare our national debt problem to slavery). I never want to watch it again. This movie is rich and complex and important and really really brutal and horrifying. I’m glad I saw it, but at the end of the day, I’m not a fan of horror films. This movie teeters on the edge between historical document and torture porn. Ultimately I couldn’t call it one of my “favorite” films so I had to make up a category for it.

Disqualified for Moral Reasons: The Wolf of Wall Street. There was so much to love here. It was funny as hell, the dialogue and acting were fantastic, the cinematography daring and who couldn’t love the Quaalude scene. But I can’t condone a movie that’s just going to help create another generation of Wall Street assholes. Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio insist that this movie is a critique of the lifestyle depicted in the film, but when you watch the movie it feels more like a celebration. The character DiCaprio plays is a real life guy, Jordan Belfort, who was inspired by Gordon Gekko from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. Wall Street is far more critical of Wall Street than The Wolf of Wall Street, yet dickwads like Belfort still revere Gordon Gekko as a hero. Imagine how many finance douches will be quoting from Wolf for the next thirty years. I can’t be a part of it.

Biggest Disappointments: A Good Day to Die Hard, Elysium.

Least Favorite of 2013: Man of Steel

My favorite TV of 2013

Walt and Hank up to wacky hijinks
Walt and Hank up to some wacky hijinks

I thought this was an incredible year for television – a lot of my favorite shows came back strong and some great new series popped up in some unexpected places (e.g. Netflix, the Sundance Channel). This year I had to install a workout bike in front of my TV so I could have time to watch all the shows I wanted and also exercise have something to hang clothes on.

Usual disclaimer: I make no pretense of being even an amateur critic, I just like TV/movies and I like making lists of things. If you think my choices are ridiculous, you are probably right. Also, I didn’t rate non-scripted TV (it’s apples and oranges to compare these shows to something like The Daily Show).

  1. Top of the Lake. As much as it pains me to move the final season of Breaking Bad to number two, no show in 2013 stuck with me like this Sundance Channel miniseries created by director Jane Campion. Mad Men‘s Elizabeth Moss plays a detective who returns to her New Zealand hometown and becomes involved in the case of a missing girl. The show is an absolutely gut-wrenching look at the long-term effects of sexual violence. I also commend this show for being what so few shows dare to be these days – a one-shot miniseries with no plans to go additional seasons. At six hours, it’s the perfect length for the story it wants to tell.
  2. Breaking Bad. It was amazing how popular this show got in its final season – it seemed like everyone I know either watched it this season or was rushing to catch up. While the snobby hipster part of my brain may be disappointed (“I liked this show before it was cool!”), I’m very glad that this show finally got the cultural attention it has always deserved. This was an incredible season of television and the perfect capstone to one of the greatest series of all time. In the same way that people remember where they were during major world events, I’ll always remember where I was when I watched “Ozymandias” (my parents’ weekend condo in Driggs, Idaho). That episode was like getting punched repeatedly in the stomach, but in a good way.
  3. Orange is the New Black. I almost didn’t watch this women’s prison show because of the stupid title and because it was a Netflix Original (House of Cards was decent but disappointing – it felt like the show Netflix’s computers wanted to make rather than an actual person’s artistic vision). Anyway – OITNB. It’s both moving and hilarious, and justifies a one-month Netflix subscription  by itself. If you’re on the fence about whether to watch this show, consider these actual episode titles from this season: “Tit Punch”, “Lesbian Request Denied”,  “Fucksgiving”.
  4. Mad Men. Sometimes I feel like Mad Men is getting too repetitive – the Don Draper arc this season felt very much like a retread of Don Draper storylines we’ve seen before. That said, this is still a terrific show and created some interesting new situations for some of my favorite characters. Lots of good stuff this season for Peggy, Sally, and Pete (not enough Joan or Roger though in my humble opinion). Plus the episode where everyone was running around high on amphetamines.
  5. The Good Wife. I’ve always enjoyed this show but 2012 was a down year and as of this time last year I considered this an above-average show that had maybe been on the air too long. Then The Good Wife ripped off a string of great episodes to end season four, and season five so far has been even better, as the law firm at the center of the show has erupted in civil war. At this point I’m ready to declare this the greatest lawyer show ever (sorry, L.A. Law). This show has a particular genius with guest casting – they have a way of finding great actors to play clients, judges, or opposing lawyers and investing them with more character than you usually see in people who show up for one or two episodes.
  6. The Americans. This Cold War spy drama was one of the best new shows of the year. I loved that even in the midst of the complicated spy games, the show took time to show the complications of the main characters’ marriage and by the end of the season, I was as invested as to whether or not they would stay together as I was to whether they would get caught by the FBI.
  7. Orphan Black. This little Canadian sci-fi cloning caper quickly became one of my favorite shows of the year on the strength of Tatiana Maslany’s amazing performance (playing several different characters), a terrific sense of humor, and approximately 35 thunderous plot twists per episodes. This show burned through more plot in a season than some shows do in six, and yet the writers were able to maintain the breakneck pace without falling on their face.
  8. Game of Thrones. Worth watching this season just to enjoy the internet have a collective panic attack in the wake of the Red Wedding. I thought this was the strongest season of GoT yet and featured the best fight of the year between a one-armed man and a bear.
  9. Girls. Not sure I liked this season as much as I liked the first one, but still a very original show with vivid characters and a true-to-life vibe. I especially enjoyed the Patrick Wilson episode that a lot of other people seemed to dislike.
  10. Bunheads. RIP Bunheads, one of two shows in 2013 that I would put in the “Cancelled Too Soon” category (the other being the similarly delightful Family Tree). I tried to evangelize this one but it’s tough to convince my friends (most of whom are, like me, straight men) to watch a ballerina show.

Honorable Mentions: Justified, Hannibal, Broadchurch, Rectify, Masters of Sex, Boardwalk Empire, Family Tree, Parks and Recreation, Venture Bros., Archer, Veep, the last few episodes of Homeland.


My favorite films of 2012

moonrise kingdom
Lots of good films to be spied this year.

The most irritating thing about making a year-end list of favorite movies is that so many of the top-releases (especially those considered “Oscar Bait”) are jammed out in the last month of the year, and if you miss them in theaters there’s no way to see them until spring. Zero Dark Thirty is the film critics’ consensus film of the year, but it’s only open in NY/LA right now and won’t even come out here until Jan. 11th. It’s irritating to read a bunch of critics’ top ten lists and see several movies that I couldn’t even see now if I wanted to.

Anyway, it was a good year for movies! Here is my list. Usual disclaimer – I’m not much of a film critic (not even much of an amateur film critic) so don’t take my opinions too seriously or anything. These are just the movies that tickled my fancy.

  1. Moonrise Kingdom. I run hot and cold on Wes Anderson so when I heard that this was his “most Wes Anderson-y” film I prepared to dislike it. Instead it was both the funniest comedy and the most heartfelt romance on screen this year. I love Anderson’s visual sense of humor – his ability to tell jokes just by juxtaposing things in the frame. Key Ingredient: Bill Murray.
  2. Life of Pi.  Another one I thought I wouldn’t like. Perhaps low expectations are the key to maximum enjoyment? This film was incredibly lush and beautiful, especially in 3D. I’m not ashamed to say I cried a little at the end. Key Ingredient: tigers.
  3. The Master. Don’t ask me to explain the themes or symbolism of this movie. I found it beautiful but frustratingly opaque and I still don’t think I understand it very well. But I saw it twice in the theater and couldn’t get it out of my head for several weeks – a mark of a great film, no? Key Ingredient: moonshine liquor made out of boat fuel.
  4. Haywire. Those first three are at the top of a lot of peoples’ lists, but I feel like I may be alone with this one. But I love a well-made action movie and Steven Soderbergh made a great one with MMA star Gina Carano. The AV Club review of this movie called it a “delivery system for ass-kickings” but I think it was more than that. Great camera work, well-told story, and a few hilarious surprises. Key Ingredient: watch out for that moose!
  5. The Avengers. Another one that’s not exactly Citizen Kane, but I try to grade movies according to what they are trying to accomplish. Joss Whedon set out to make a smart, funny, tremendously entertaining superhero movie and he nailed it. It’s amazing how characters that annoyed me in previous films (Thor, Captain America) took on new life with better writing. Key Ingredient: HULK SMASH.
  6. Sound of Noise. I watched a fair number of foreign films but this was the only one to crack my top 10. It’s a Swedish film about a tone-deaf cop trying to catch a group of anarchist musicians. A must-see for drum players or fans of “Stomp”. Key Ingredient: metronomes.
  7. Lincoln. Spielberg, Day-Day Lewis, it was exactly what we thought it would be. I found it a little drab but it was too well-constructed not to make the list. Who knew parliamentary procedure could be so thrilling? Key Ingredient: “harrumph”s from the gallery.
  8. The Cabin in the Woods. Clever premise, unpredictable plot twists, and a veritable plethora of great monster effects. If you change the ending, it would make a great pilot for a TV show. Horror films have been deconstructed before but never as cleverly as this. Key Ingredient: hot girl making out with taxidermied wolf head.
  9. Looper. One of my favorite movies of all time is 2005’s Brick, which was also directed by Rian Johnson and also starred Joseph Gordon Levitt. So I was pumped for this movie. While not as good as Brick, this twisty time travel tale was both thought-provoking and a lot of fun. It reminded me a lot of another favorite of mine, 12 Monkeys. Key Ingredient: Evil Jeff Daniels.
  10. Premium Rush. Third movie featuring JGL in my list (with one more in the Honorables). What a year for the little kid from Third Rock from the Sun. This is another movie that scores high marks for being terrific genre entertainment. It’s a fast-paced chase movie about bike messengers featuring great bike stunts and a deranged villain performance from Michael Shannon worthy of Nicolas Cage. I was on the edge of my seat. Key Ingredient: fixed gears.

Honorable Mentions: Cloud Atlas, Silver Linings Playbook, Damsels in Distress, Goon, The Dark Knight Rises

I Also Enjoyed: The Loneliest Planet, Ted, Django Unchained, Lockout, Casa de Mi Padre, Bernie, Dark Shadows, Seven Psychopaths, Argo, Safety Not Guaranteed, Seven Psychopaths, Wanderlust, Flight, Magic Mike, Skyfall, Oslo August 31st, Sound of My Voice, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Sleepwalk With Me, Chronicle, John Carter, 21 Jump Street, The Hunger Games, Beasts of the Southern Wild, parts of Prometheus

Meh: The Hobbit: Something Something Something, Men in Black 3, Brave, Savages, The Deep Blue Sea, The Bourne Legacy, Miss Bala, The Campaign, other parts of Prometheus

Bleh: Safe House, One for the Money, Amazing Spider-Man, Total Recall

Worst Movie I Saw This Year: Snow White and the Huntsman

That’s literally every 2012 release that I watched this year. There’s a lot more films that I liked than ones I didn’t like. I think this is because I read reviews and try to avoid most movies that I won’t like. For instance I did not go see Twilight: Moons Over My Hammy: Part 4 or Tyler Perry’s Madea Said What Now?. Then again I did go see Total Recall so obviously I’m not perfect.

Still to be seen: Zero Dark Thirty, Elena, Ruby Sparks, Killer Joe, Cosmopolis, Compliance, For a Good Time Call, Arbitrage, Smashed, Berberian Sound Studio, Holy Motors, Wreck-it-Ralph, The Man with the Iron Fists, Anna Karenina, Killing Them Softly, Deadfall, Les Miserables, Save the Date, Amour, This is 40, Barbara

Morocco trip

I just got back from two weeks in Morocco (plus a few extra days in southern Spain) with my friends Chris Cook and Chris Bradbury. I’m not sure I’m going to write anything up about it like the South America trip, but if you want to see the pictures they are on Picasa.

Better late than never? Top TV and Movie lists

Gus Fring
Gus Fring!

I recently realized that I completely forgot to post my top 10 movie and TV lists back in January. Well I doubt anyone is reading this anyway, but just for posterity here they are, devoid of the usual commentary because hey, it’s almost April.

Best TV of 2011

1. Breaking Bad
2. Justified
3. Community
4. Archer
5. Fringe
6. Game of Thrones
7. Parks and Recreation
8. The Good Wife
9. Louie
10. Boardwalk Empire

Honorable Mentions – Daily Show, Jeopardy!, Revenge, Lights Out, Portlandia, Happy Endings, Childrens Hospital, NTSF:SD:SUV, Sons of Anarchy

Best Films of 2011

  1. The Descendants
  2. Drive
  3. Young Adult
  4. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  5. Fast Five
  6. Attack the Block
  7. Midnight in Paris
  8. Martha Marcy May Marlene
  9. Tree of Life
  10. Hanna

Honorables: X-Men First Class, Bridesmaids, The Artist, The Debt, Moneyball, Harry Potter and the whatever whatever, Bad Teacher, Hugo, Mission Impossible: Ghost Hunters, Tabloid, Dragon with the Girl Tattoo, Source Code, Rango

Best Documentaries: Tabloid, Beats Rhymes and Life

My favorite albums of 2011

Just use capital letters like a normal person, Merrill.

Here’s my totally unqualified, completely arbitrary top 10 lists of my favorite albums of the year. Enjoy!


  1. Tune-Yards, Whokill (I know it’s supposed to be “tUnE-yArDs” but I feel stupid typing it that way.)
  2. Wye Oak, Civilian
  3. TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light
  4. Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes
  5. P.J. Harvey, Let England Shake
  6. Bon Iver, Bon Iver
  7. Steve Earle, I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive
  8. The Black Lips, Arabia Mountain
  9. The Decemberists, The King is Dead
  10. Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues


Honorables: The Weeknd, Jay-Z and Kanye, Wilco, the Roots, M83, Foster the People, Iron and Wine


Best Comedy Albums:

  • Amy Schumer, Cutting
  • Patton Oswalt, Finest Hour
  • Sklar Brothers, Hendersons and Daughters
  • Natasha Leggero, Coke Money
  • Tig Notaro, Good One