Oscar Week: Best Supporting Actresses

The Academy Awards are approaching at the end of this week, so I present to you Oscar Week! These are my own movie awards from 2014, celebrating my favorite performances and scenes of the year.

This was a weak year for Supporting Actresses and of the Academy’s picks I have not seen Laura Dern in Wild, Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game, or Meryl Streep in Into the Woods but I doubt any of these I would really think are top contenders. Because of this, I think I came up with a more creative (and perhaps ridiculous) list of my favorite performances of the year.

Here are my top 10 supporting actresses of 2014:

10. Lorelai Linklater, Boyhood

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The kid’s have gotten a lot of grief for their acting, but I found both to be charming over their 12 year performance. Linklater isn’t given a lot, but I always liked what she was adding on screen.

9. Marisa Tomei, Love is Strange

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Another small performance that stuck with me, Tomei plays the niece-in-law to John Lithgow and really serves to highlight both the attachment to the central characters and the growing frustrations that come with being surrounded by people you love.

8. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

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A bit overrated in my book, but still a performance worth talking about. Arquette does get the unemotional film’s most emotional scene and really does nail it.

7. Carrie Coon, Gone Girl

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Coon’s character brings a lot to Gone Girl, bringing in humor and emotion in a film that is cold and calculated both in production and in content.

6. Saoirse Ronan, Grand Budapest Hotel

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Grand Budapest Hotel is a film I was disappointed by, but I think the part that was the most moving to me was the relationship between lobby boy Zero and Ronan’s Agatha whose young love really did feel beautiful.

5. Mackenzie Foy, Interstellar

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Mackenzie Foy pretty much out-acts Jessica Chastain as the younger version of Murph, Matthew McConaughey’s daughter in the movie. There is so much emotion in those early scenes and Foy is a delight.

4. Emma Stone, Birdman

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Perhaps the toughest performance Emma Stone has had to give–one where she doesn’t have to rely on all that natural charm–Stone is aggressive here and really keeps up with Norton who is at his peak.

3. Katherine Waterson, Inherent Vice

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Waterson is excellent as the mysterious and somewhat-sultry “vice” of Phoenix’s Doc Sportello. She is presented as a near-apparition, being the core of the mystery that Doc attempts to uncover–Waterson is charming enough to make us believe that she really is worth chasing after, despite her lack of clear devotion.

2. Agata Kulesza, Ida

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I was expecting Ida to be a serious film, perhaps overly serious, it is in fact a black and white shot Polish film about religion and the holocaust, but instead it features jokes, charm, and fun jazz songs–most of which is thanks to Kulesza. Kulesza plays Wanda Cruz, the irreverent judge polar opposite to her niece, Agata Trzebuchowska’s righteous Ida. She is bitter and hedonistic, but, as we discover, has faced great pain, some of which is too great to bear.

1. Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

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Watching Snowpiercer I convinced and unconvinced myself four different times that Mason was and was not played by Tilda Swinton. Turns out she was in an absolute riot of a performance as Wilford’s assistant and the face of villainy to those living amongst the poor on the Snowpiercer train. She is an evil character, but also self-serving enough to connive her way through any scenario. Swinton really disappears here in a way that is absolutely magical.

Coming Tomorrow: Best Supporting Actors of 2014

Top 15 Podcasts of 2014

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This is the year that podcasts took off, well in their own corner of the internet sort of way. This is my fourth year ranking my favorites and I have listened to more than any other year of my life which is why it gets a top 15 instead of a 10.

Again I don’t necessarily recommend all of these for each person, so proceed with discretion.

15. The Grantland NFL Podcast

You will only like it if you are into football, but hey that’s most of this country right? Great show with really in-depth takes on the NFL season.

Check out the latest ep here

14. Filmspotting

I’ve been listening to this show for probably six years and even on its third different cohost it is a must listen for film fans. I usually listen after I’ve seen the movie they are reviewing, so I’m not always consistent, but every time I do it’s such an enjoyable experience.

Check out episode 500: Top 5 Films of the Filmspotting Era

13. Improv4Humans

It’s better when Matt Besser isn’t ranting about his opinions, but in between when Besser and other improvisers come together to create scenarios they are able to make some of the funniest and creative material on the spot.

Check out Funky Kong

12. Hollywood Prospectus

Andy and Chris probably have my favorite podcast relationship out there, having known each other for years and years. Their pop culture show for Grantland continues to be at a high level every week.

Check out the end of the year episode

11. This American Life

This year they continued to make some of the best and most interesting stories out there. If you’ve never checked out this show it’s about time to do so.

Check out Is This Working?

10. Rob Has a Podcast

Rob Cesternino continues to get bigger and bigger every year in his coverage of teleivsion, especially reality TV. He has now turned it into a well oiled machine bringing in great guests, many of which he has a repertoire with, having now past 1,000 episodes of RHAP.

Check out Rob with Tyson Apostal

9. Hang Up and Listen

The best sports podcast out there featuring talk that goes beyond the your typical sports journalism, focusing on social issues and advanced statistics. This year they stepped up their game further featuring mini episodes about the NCAA Basketball tournament andthe World Cup.

Check out the latest episode

8. Who Charted?

Howard and Kulap countdown the top of the charts each week, but really this show has little to do with pop culture. It’s all about engaging the guest and using Kremer’s personality to its greatest potential. This deserves to be on here merely for the game “Jaws is Better” in which Howard asks a guest what their favorite movie is and then argues with them as to why Jaws is better–the only way to win, say the name of the game.

Check out the Matt Gourley episode

7. The Gist with Mike Pesca

The new daily podcast from Mike Pesca, a former NPR reporter and member of Slate’s Hang Up and Listen (see above), is great for its coverage of today’s topics, but also because Pesca is a master podcast personality. Taking a fairly central perspective on a lot of today’s issues he also is very funny and open to ideas from all his guests. Pesca is a breath of fresh air in podcast journalism.

Check out the latest episode

6. The Cracked Podcast

The surprisingly eye-opening podcast from the people of Cracked.com is focused on scientific, social, and pop cultural matters all from the perspective of funny dudes who read a lot on the internet. I would take some of what they say with a grain of salt (they had an episode about obesity some of which I looked up to confirm what they said and couldn’t find anything) but they would probably to tell you to do the same thing.

Check out Decisions Your Brain Makes Behind Your Back

5. Start Up

A new show that is only 10 episodes in hosted by former This American Life and Planet Money producer Alex Blumberg who created the show in order to chronicle him trying to start up his own podcast company. Not only is it a unique look at the inner world of business, but it is a strikingly transparent view of Blumberg’s mind as he deals with various pressures and his own neuroses.

Check out How to Name Your Company

4. Radiolab

Radiolab is a storytelling show that focuses on science-based subjects, not only making fascinating stories, but some of the most thought provoking material out there. Their editing techniques are always incredible and this year they continued their brilliance.

Check out Outside Westgate

3. Comedy Bang Bang

Scott Aukerman’s sort-of parody of an interview show reached its 300th episode this year. For those who don’t know it guests come on (some real, some characters played by comedians) and Scott does his best straight man asking ridiculous questions in order to get the most out of his guests. What results is probably the most consistently funny thing out there.

Check out 2014 Holiday Spectacular

2. U Talkin’ U2 to Me?

Was my favorite for a majority of the year, until the number one came around. U Talkin’ U2 to Me? is the Scott Aukerman (Comedy Bang Bang) and Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) hosted podcast in which they are supposed to talk about everything U2. While they do get around to a lot of U2 discussion the podcast is an exercise in the most laid back silly form of improv, with both hosts riffing on just about everything and teasing one another in this semi-hostile manner. Let’s not forget all the shows within shows, because these too are a highlight of the show.

Check out Staind Glass

1. Serial

The podcast that escalated podcasts and made a few more people realize that podcasts are wonderful (but ultimately ask any non-NPR type person if they have heard of Serial and the answer will be no). Aside from this, Serial was a great piece of true crime storytelling with host Sarah Koenig obsessing over a 15 year old case and allowing us to obsess alongside here for 12 weeks. Her way of investigating draws you in as a listener, the story and interviews were fascinating, and the theme music may have been the best part. Was the end satisfying? Well being that it is a non-fictional story I don’t think it ever could have been–at least the way that would have felt the most satisfying–but it didn’t feel out of touch with the rest of the show and really the story isn’t over.

Check out The Alibi

Honorable Mentions: The Sylvester Stallone Podcast, 99% Invisible, The Dissolve Podcast, The Liturgists, Pop Culture Happy Hour, The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show, Criminal, How Did This Get Made?, The Andy Daly Pilot Project, Planet Money

Three started late in the year that may have had a chance if they had been released earlier: Rembert Explains, OMFG!, With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus

Top 5 TV Shows of 2014

Alright people only three best of lists left to make before the best of the year 2014 coverage is wrapped up.

In years past I’ve never done a best of TV, because I figured I always watched the same shows and so it would be just the same shows over and over. This year however, there was enough new great television (that I saw) to spark a list out of me. This is filled with great seasons of old shows as well as brand new ones.

5. Parks and Recreation

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This show is in the running for my favorite of all time and season six–the penultimate–was filled with great moments, probably its best since the start of season four. It ended with one of the most unique twists in sitcom history making the wait until the finale even more unbearable.

4. True Detective

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The internet’s favorite show this year certainly lived up to the hype with its spectacular performances by McConaughey and Harrelson, its pessimistic philosophy, intriguing mysteries, and amazing camera work by director Fukunaga. I didn’t watch it live which probably made certain moments less epic than if they were experienced with commentary from the Twittershpere, but I do think it made me like the end more than general consensus–which I really liked.

3. Survivor: Cagayan

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Certainly a personal bias (I’m a superfan of the show), but anytime a franchise can put up perhaps its best season 28 seasons into the show you have to give credit where credit is due. Featuring some of the most memorable characters and moments from episode to episode, Cagayan was some of the best TV all year.

2. The Americans

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This is the show that I desperately beg each person to watch (though I think I have failed in every effort), The Americans improved from an excellent first season, raising the suspense, stakes, and character dynamics in this show that simultaneously deals in international spy affairs and personal familial dynamics with equal tension. The sheer fact that a central tension of this season was the daughter rebelling against the parents by going to church is a brilliant move by the shows creators and excites for what’s to come.

1. Fargo

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I checked out this show after it had received all of its hype, but figured it may have been everyone overreacting to the fact that it didn’t totally do injustice to the original. What Fargo ended up being was a companion to the film that actually competes with it. This show has great characters, explores themes like justice and evil, and makes some of the best editing choices out of anything I saw all year.

Honorable Mentions: Veep, Review, Sherlock, Community, Silicon Valley

Top 75 Songs of 2014 Part II (50-21)

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Part II of the top 75 songs of 2014 countdown. Apologies that there are no links to listen to each song or descriptions of certain ones, I had finished making the whole thing and then WordPress crashed without saving any of my work.

Check out Part I

(Note: Not every song is for every person, there may be some songs that you consider innapropriate; I do not recommend everything that I like for everyone. Proceed with your own discretion.)

50. U2 “Iris (Hold Me Close)”

49. Rustie w/ Danny Brown “Attack” (explicit)

48. Run the Jewels w/ Gangsta Boo “Love Again” (explicit)

47. Jenny Lewis “Head Underwater”

46. FKA Twigs “Two Weeks” (explicit)

45. YG w/Kendrick Lamar “Really Be (Smokin’ N Drinkin’)” (explicit)

44. The Hotelier “Your Deep Rest”

43. Sun Kil Moon “Carissa”

42. Run the Jewels “Lie Cheat Steal” (explicit)

41. Jenny Lewis “She’s Not Me”

40. Parquet Courts “Black and White”

39. Young Thug and Bloody Jay “4 Eva Bloody” (explicit)

38. Ariana Grande w/Iggy Azaela “Problem”

37. U2 “Every Breaking Wave”

36. Hundred Waters “Murmurs”

35. The War on Drugs “Lost in the Dream”

34. Makthaverskan “No Mercy”

33. Nico & Vinz “Am I Wrong?”

32. The Hotelier “Dendron”

31. Twin Shadow “To the Top”

30. Parquet Courts “Instant Disassembly”

29. Banks “Brain”

28. Run the Jewels “Jeopardy” (explicit)

27. Jessie Ware “Say You Love Me”

26. clipping. “Work Work” (explicit)

25. Vince Staples “Hands Up” (explicit)

24. Jenny Lewis “The Voyager”

23. YG w/Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock “I Just Wanna Party” (explicit)

22. White Lung “Snake Jaw”

21. Speedy Ortiz “American Horror”

Top 75 Songs of 2014 (75-51)

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This is the first of a three part countdown of the best songs of the year.

(Note: Not every song is for every person, there may be some songs that you consider innapropriate; I do not recommend everything that I like for everyone. Proceed with your own discretion.)

75. Lupe Fiasco “Deliver”

Lupe’s track about the pizza man not being willing to deliver to the ghetto is a great track for our current climate, it does lose points for all the mentioning it does of various pizza places.

74. Lost in the Trees “Rites”

73. Sohn “Artifice”

72. Norma Jean Martine “No Gold”

https://soundcloud.com/norma-jean-martine/no-gold

A great indie pop song, a singer that likely deserves more attention.

71. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days”

70. Jenny Lewis “Slippery Slopes”

69. Schoolboy Q “Collard Greens”

The best track from Q’s album, which I liked not loved, it’s got Kendrick who elevates just about anything he is on.

68. The Notwist “Kong”

67. Cloud Nothings “Psychic Trauma”

66. Sharon Van Etten “Taking Chances”

65. A Sunny Day in Glasgow “In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing”

Heard this band described as a bunch of school band nerds coming together to make music with a punk-tinge. That fits this sorta catchy sort of chaotic orchestral track.

64. Howler “Don’t Wanna”

Howler makes great beach rock/punk for slackers everywhere. This song assures the listener that they have the autonomy to do whatever they want, the greatest line being a battle between “you don’t have to listen to The Smith’s if you don’t want to” and “you don’t even have to date girls if you don’t want to”.

63. Sia “Chandelier”

62. Manchester Orchestra “The Ocean” (from “Hope”)

From the acoustic version of their album “Cope” which was released a few months later, the song is changed completely into a piano led ballad relying on Hull’s voice entirely–which is really the best part of the band.

61. The War on Drugs “Burning”

60. White Lung “Drown With the Monster”

59. Cymbals Eat Guitars “Child Bride”

58. Sharon Van Etten “I Love You But I’m Lost”

Van Etten’s album is filled with love long lost songs and this one expresses her feelings completely as she mourns her own failures in love.

57. Lykke Li “Sleeping Alone”

56. The War on Drugs “Eyes to the Wind”

55. Iceage “Forever”

54. Manchester Orchestra “Girl Harbor”

53. Cloud Nothings “Now Hear In”

52. Joyce Manor “Christmas Card”

51. Parkay Quartz “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth”

The side project of Parquet Courts (who you will see on plenty of upcoming lists) that features most of the original band. This song could actually fit perfectly on a Courts record, as a slow stripped down song that slowly builds.

Top 10 Pop Hits of 2014

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Tis the season people! No, not Christmas, for end of the year lists! Yes, the most wonderful time of the year has finally arrived and I am kicking it off as I always do, with the top 10 best pop hits of the year! This year I am planning on releasing 13 best of type lists for you, so you can look forward to that.

A quick note about eligibility, in order to qualify on this list a song had to make it into the top 10 of the Billboard charts at any point during the year. This means that a song could have been released the year prior, but as long as it was in the top 10 this year, it counts. One other note: if a song meets all of the qualifications above, but was on one of my best of lists from last year, it will not make the list.

(Note: Not every song is for every person, there may be some songs that you consider innapropriate; I do not recommend everything that I like for everyone. Proceed with your own discretion.)

Here it is, enjoy!

10. Charli XCX “Boom Clap”

I think Charli XCX will always be someone who is fun to listen to, but I’m not sure she will ever transcend pop or turn into a pop star. She seems to be stuck in between and this songs paints that picture perfectly.

9. Clean Bandit “Rather Be”

Well this group seemed to come out of nowhere and sometimes nowhere can come up with a pretty good song. It’s pleasant, it’s not filled with too much star power or personality which can be a breath of fresh air on the radio.

8. Taylor Swift “Shake it Off”

I’ve been up and down on it all year. At first I wasn’t sure about it, then I got pretty into it, but after the release of another single my head wonders why I ever though this song was good at all? It’s still pretty good though, which is why it lands here.

7. Jessie J w/Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj “Bang Bang”

This is a great song that somehow manages to pull off this sort of 90s female power vibe while fitting in Nicki Minaj and showcasing the young talent of pop today. Jessie J and Grande are both great singers and when given a good song they can really make a gem of it. Same goes with Minaj who is also extremely talented in the right context.

6. SIA “Chandelier”

What starts off as a track that was clearly meant for Rihanna quickly turns into one of the year’s best choruses and perhaps makes SIA a viable threat in the female pop star category. SIA has all the talent and this song proved that she could make a hit on her own merit.

5. Problem – Ariana Grande

Oh Ariana you could have had the number one spot. You were so close! Your voice kills it. This song is an upbeat anthem that doesn’t rely on Calvin Harris to make it something. But you made two mistakes. One, Iggy Azalea. I realize that at first this might seem silly–she was probably THE pop star for most of the year (until Taylor showed up) and I actually liked the verse the first 15 times I heard it, but it already feels outdated. The second is that chorus, how much more anticlimactic can you be? A whispering Big Sean is not the direction you should have taken this song. I’m sure the kids at high school dances will find clever ways to incorporate your miscue into having a good time, but this was even worse than the end to the Lego Movie.

4. Nico and Vinz “Am I Wrong?”

I have the feeling that these types of one-hit wonder indie pop groups will continue to pop up with random singles that become huge only to rarely be heard from again (“Somebody I Used to Know”, “Pumped Up Kicks”). Their songs range from being just good enough you don’t change the radio when it comes on to being good enough that you seek it out and listen to it despite its constant presence on the radio. This one leans toward the latter.

3. Lorde “Team”

A song I actually liked before it became a hit and one that was released last year, but did not peak until this year. Lorde is probably the most independent minded of all the big pop stars today and I might like “Team” better than her biggest hit, “Royals”. How could you not with a line like “I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air”. She has the star power of a cynic, a dirge that graced the tops of the charts despite its glorious apathy and it certainly touched my emotionless heart.

2. Taylor Swift “Blank Space”

The latest song to reach number one solidified itself the moment I watched the music video–a fun and self aware bit with Taylor torturing a lover and later welcoming a new one. Not sure if it has reached the heights of the best Taylor has ever done, but it is close.

1. Beyonce “Drunk In Love”

This song edges the line of being a cheat but does technically qualify under the (strict) guidelines I have set for myself. Released late last year in the middle of all the best of lists, “Drunk In Love” never had a chance to actually make any of these lists. While the song did eventually rise into the top 10, it wasn’t a mainstay and never reached the top spot. Regardless of how many times I actually heard the song on the radio, it was by far my favorite single to reach the top 10 this year. It’s a sort of sequel to Jay and Bey’s “Crazy in Love”, but one that takes on a far more sexual bent, featuring a far more aggressive and modern Beyonce. It’s like a 2014 rendition of Song of Songs, a perhaps too revealing look into the intimacy that a married couple can have. It’s so good.