(It’s been a fruitful fucking year for us here at OL. There’s been ups and downs, but one of the most fistfully-forceful awesome happenings was a swelling of the contributors. We decided what a better way to celebrate this than to get all of us to spout off our favorite things of the year.)
Movie: Tree of Life.
Picking one piece of art to signal the culmination of the year is always a difficult and, more than likely, fruitless prospect for me (especially since I tend to feel that I haven’t experienced enough art to truly gauge the field), but in this case, I feel confident in my pick because it is so appropriate to the task at hand. Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, like any favorite or epitomizing work in a span of time, be it a year or a lifetime, is all about just that: scanning through a vast history and examining the formative experiences that add up to a cohesive and meaningful timeline. The film chronicles the inner-workings of a troubled man’s consciousness who is determined to find a through-line through existence itself, starting from the Big Bang, working through each evolutionary and seemingly random development in our universe, to the creation of his family in Waco, Texas in the 1950s when the human drama unfolds–all in an attempt to glean some unifying significance. Both microcosmic and macrocosmic, intimate and universal, Tree of Life is very much a movie for all times, especially 2011.
TV Show: Boardwalk Empire
I have to say, I am awful at keeping up with new TV shows (See section Wildcard for a little information about my sad state of existence). So, I have not seen many of the big shows that are always mentioned in these types of yearly retrospectives. There have been other worthy shows that I do watch, one being Game of Thrones, but I have to give Boardwalk Empire some love because, since its first solid season, it has blossomed into must-see TV that continually fascinates me. The sets and effects are stunning; the acting is universally great; the directing is ultra-assured. But it’s the writing that really shines through. There are stretches in the show (prime example: Chalky in jail) that are just wonderfully done, when historical contexts, clever dialogue, and labyrinthine character motivations converge into flat-out terrific entertainment. And the fact that the show is always building towards something–even when it goes through some modulated patches, which is a characteristic that has drawn criticism from viewers whom I would say don’t have enough patience–is endlessly rewarding when it finally makes it to the terminus (as it did to great effect in the final episode of the season). I may have missed a lot of great television this year, but I am willing to bet that Boardwalk Empire brings the goods with the best of them. Bring on Season 3.
Album: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, M83
Since their inception at the beginning of the millennium, M83 has been moving, slowly but surely, closer and closer to rock stardom, without missing a beat or selling out. And each successive album has worked towards this seventy-three-minute-long explosion; with Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, M83 has creating an epic album that combines all of its best qualities–most notably, an uncanny ability to mesh shoe-gazing, ambient, and electronic elements into what amounts to atmospheric and towering rock that just won’t be denied. Ambitious, sprawling, and just bursting with confidence, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is the work of musicians who know what they want, and know how to get it.
Warning: From here on out, as you will easily see, my picks are pretty useless (as is anything that has come before this, but I digress…).
Sadly, I have not read any comics this year, but fret not! for I am using this depressing experience to engage the medium more than I have in the past. Perhaps it will be a New Year’s resolution to read more of them. Any must-read suggestions?
Game: Zelda: Wind Waker
I saw the commercials for Skyward Sword and it looked awesome. Unfortunately, I don’t have a Wii, nor do I have much motivation to get one very soon because I don’t game much these days, but what the commercials did do (as any successful commercial does, since I am such a goddamn sheep) is it rekindled my love for Zelda. Just seeing Link sword-slashing his way to a heroic status is what I love. And then it hit me: I still hadn’t played Wind Waker yet. I had let the negative summations of several of my sailing-hating friends deter me from playing it. (Like I said: I am a goddamn sheep.) Thus began my foray into Wind Waker, and let me just say this: Not only do I not listen to what my friends say anymore, but they aren’t even my friends anymore. I have disowned them because Wind Waker is a pretty fantastic game. The sailing, though tedious at times, makes the world wonderfully large. One thing that I think is missing today in non-MMORPGs (or, in this case, console action-RPGs or whatever you want to call it) is expansiveness. (A good example of this deficiency is the lack of world maps and globetrotting in every Final Fantasy game from 10 onward, which, oddly enough, I believe also correlations with the series’ fall from grace, as well). The expansiveness of the world made it that much more interesting to explore. Plus, it’s not like pre-Epona Ocarina of Time was an overwhelmingly enjoyable experience when you had to travel about; everything took a long time. After all, the games should be epic adventures. Anyway, though it’s not my favorite Zelda game (I go back and forth between Ocarina and Link to the Past on that one), it is a thoroughly enjoyable game and a worthy addition to the series. I grooved to the Wind Waker and I am not ashamed to admit it.
From Alpha to Omega, from the beginning to the end, it will always be pizza. Even though I make a lot of it myself (do yourself a favor and buy a pizza stone; you won’t regret it), I cannot help to think that it has a hand in making me. It makes me happy, full, fat–all the things that make me who I am. Simply put, it is my Creator and I bow down to it.
Does water still count these days? I drink it a lot. I love it. It keeps me going.
Wildcard: The Birds
One thing you should know about me is that I am always digging deeper into the past, probably to my own detriment. I get a kick out of works of art that have passed the “test of time” if such a thing is possible. (Side note: This topic is something that Caffeine Powered and I, since we are/were English majors, are always debating, as he is a lot more contemporary than I am in this regard, so it’s a fun back and forth that oftentimes turns violent). So, in essence, I end up reading a lot of old books, watching a lot of old movies, etc., and thus keeping up with new stuff becomes difficult for me. Because of this, my wildcard is not from 2011, nor is it from the last two thousand years: It’s Aristophanes’ The Birds, a killer play written in 414 BCE about two dudes (well, mainly one) who become fed up with life in ancient Athens and come up with a plan to take control of the world that belonged to the gods, with the help of some indomitable birds who reign between the heavens and the earth. Scathing, hilarious, absurdly insightful, it’s a must-read for anyone who likes top-notch satire (and it translates really well to modern-day living as well, so screw you, Caffeine).
Eagerly awaitin’: Django Unchained.
As pumped I am about The Dark Knight Rises (and, after seeing its prologue in the IMAX a few days ago, I am very, very pumped) and The Hobbit, or a myriad of other movies that appear to be bordering on awesomeness, I have to give the nod in the upcoming movie department to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. The subject matter, the cast, the western genre, the zone Tarantino is evidently in after writing/directing the hell out of Inglourious Basterds–I cannot help but be extremely excited for it. It looks like it could be a great year for movies, and I hope its greatness has a lot to do with Django Unchained.
Desperately hopin’ for: Additional Motivation to Write
I enjoy writing. It rocks my socks. The problem is, for various reasons, I don’t write enough or as much as I think I should. So, I am hoping to write more this year than I did last year. This means I hope to write more for Omega-Level (that is, if the Brothers Omega will put up with me), as well as write more for myself. I just have to stay positive. I think I can. I think I can. I think…