For those of you who dismiss this verbose post with a “tl;dr” (and it is “L”), I essentially speak the better part of it on my show, which you can catch here: The CON ARTIST PODCAST’s 2012 Year in Review.
My year, my favorite stuff of the year, and more
So, yeah… 2012. A year people have dreaded for ages, mostly because some APOCALYPTO extras ran out of space on a rock or something. Well, good news, everyone! I published this blog post on December 31st, so all those doomsday theory-believing dopes, including the ones who cleaned out the bottled water aisle at my local supermarket last week, forcing me to drink from the tap for a few days like the rest of the peasants, were wrong! We will live to see another Madea movie!
2012 was a year that got its own shitty disaster movie. It was a leap year (leap days being another thing prophecizers didn’t take into account). It was an election year, one in which Willard Mittens Romney got trounced in the electoral vote, but the real referendum came with several states passing social legislation that legalized gay marriage and recreational marijuana use. It was also an Olympic year, which meant a lot of swimming on tape delay from London, and
new spank bank material hot athlete chicks. Most importantly, though, it was the year that Kim Jong Un finally stepped out of his father’s shadow, and became an internet sensation with his Gangnam Style horse-riding dance.
It’s been a busy year for me as well, both professionally and personally. I launched a company called Con Artist Entertainment with a group of guys, and several books we’ve been working on are slated for early 2013 releases. I also started doing a podcast with my C.A.E. cohort, Martin Dunn. We’re only a couple months into this venture, and we’ve already expanded the operation into a whole network of shows, which you can hear via BlogTalkRadio, Stitcher, iTunes, and more outlets coming soon.
On the non-business side of things, I proposed to my lady of 9 years on Christmas of last year. From that day forward, it was a whirlwind of planning a cross-country wedding, flying out west to check out venues, locking one down, etc. On October 20th in Pasadena, California, we made it official, and in the words of Doug Stanhope, “got the government in on this shit!” I won’t wax about the rehearsal dinner, the ceremony, or the wild after party, all of which were pretty perfect, but I will share our unconventional, geeky invitations [pictured right], a wedding gift from my uber-talented friend, Cleopatra in Spaaace! creator Mike Maihack, and a Spotify wedding playlist of a lot of our lead-up and cocktail hour music. The reception was heavy on the standards and 80s tunes, but we wedged in the hipster stuff where we could.
Enough about my life. Let’s get to some of my favorite stuff from the past 52 weeks, starting with the boob tube—
MY FAVORITE TV SHOW OF THE YEAR
Television is really a medium of extremes. With the hundreds upon hundreds of reality programs that dramatize mundane professions, and glorify the deplorable behavior of D-list celebs, bored housewives, and white trash, it’s easy to say that TV is the worst it’s ever been. At the same time, it’s hard to argue that it’s not the best it’s ever been. There are more high-quality shows with high production value airing right now than ever — Homeland, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire, Sherlock, American Horror Story, Fringe, The Newsroom, Dexter, Game of Thrones, Treme, Sons of Anarchy, Downton Abbey, Mad Men, and that’s just the dramas.* I think it’s a golden age for the small screen, honestly. That being said, my favorite of an incredibly strong bunch this year, despite only airing six new episodes in 2012, was the first half of BBC’s Doctor Who, series 7.
I wouldn’t call it the best thing on the telly, but Doctor Who wins for being the quickest thing my wife and I would scratch from the DVR every week. Two and a half seasons into showrunner Steven Moffat’s reign, he, young Matt Smith, and my favoritest companions to date continued to bring a great energy and dynamic to the show, which I think is as good and fun as it’s ever been. And like all good things, they must end. The mid-season finale gave us a bittersweet exit for the Ponds. We got some great light moments out of the good Doctor this year, too, including dinosaurs on a spaceship, Arthur Weasley as Rory’s dad, and a Weeping Angel Statue of Liberty! I can’t wait for the second half of series 7 (it was delayed until 2013 to coincide with the show’s 50th anniversary celebration). I’m already in love with this new companion, and like all nerds, am holding out hope for a “Three Doctors”-style crossover with David Tennant next Christmas.
[ * - I noticed while proofing this that only one show I listed is on network TV. ]
Speaking of spacemen—
To Infinity… and Bed, Bath, and Beyond!
2012 saw NASA land the Curiosity Rover on Mars (an event Disney would later shorten to “Rover”*), the city of Los Angeles spend way too much time and effort removing trees, power lines, and lamp posts to trot the space shuttle Endeavour down their horrible streets, and Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner break some records (and the sound barrier) when he leaped from his helium balloon capsule 24 miles above the earth. The latter was a pretty cool thing to watch, and it hooked me big time when the dude was in a super-dangerous uncontrolled spin for a moment, only to right himself to the roar of his mission control. It was definitely a highlight of 2012, and Google agrees. The stratosphere jump bookends their Zeitgeist: Year in Review video this year:
[ * - That’s a bad JOHN CARTER joke… cause they shortened the title… removing Mars. ]
Speaking of sky falling—
(Yep. I am killing it with these segues)
MOVIE SPOTLIGHT #1
I don’t exactly have a top ten-twenty-whatever list of films yet. That usually comes in spring when I get around to seeing everything from the previous year. I thought I’d just give some attention to a handful throughout this post that I think are worth seeing, and why. We’ll start with this one, which you should read to the tune of its Adele-belted theme song—
I really dug this film, the 23rd of the venerable James Bond saga. SKYFALL plays with the notion of 007 in a modern world, embracing the series’ past (introducing 2 franchise standbys), while, quite literally, leaving “the old” in its wake (the car). With the introductions and nods to some previous films, it actually feels as much like a relaunch as 2006’s CASINO ROYALE. Daniel Craig’s portrayal of the agent provocateur doesn’t work for everyone, but he is my personal favorite incarnation of the character. Joining him here are Javier Bardem, who shines as “Silva” (more on him later), and series reboot survivor Dame Judi Dench, who gets more to play with than ever, and delivers. I’ve read a few different critiques of the film’s personal, almost too-intimate last stand-type finale, but despite it feeling a bit reminiscent of a few recent action films, found it a refreshing change-up from the all-too-common “007 stopping a WMD from blowing up half the world at the madman’s secret lair” final act. Overall, I think SKYFALL succeeds as an action film and a Bond film. I’m not ready to say it’s the best of the series, but would put it in the top 3. One thing’s for sure, director Sam Mendes and Academy Award-less cinematography god Roger Deakins have definitely crafted the best looking James Bond film ever.
As much as the Bourne movies are credited with Craig’s first two Bond outings, you can thank this character’s current big screen franchise for a lot of the themes and tone of SKYFALL—
MY FAVORITE COMIC/CHARACTER OF THE YEAR
I would separate these if they weren’t one in the same. This has been another banner year for the the Dark Knight. Before you cry foul, and claim that I’m being biased (Because I am a fan, a big fan*), let me make the case.
Yes, Batman comics sell, no matter what. They sell so well, and so consistently, that Diamond Distribution, the largest comic distributor in North America, uses DC’s monthly primary Bat book as the control title for their sales index [Example: Comic X sells 0.8 Batmans]. True story. Because of his popularity, the Caped Crusader also has the benefit of attracting top talent to his books. Having said all that, there’s no denying the storylines and characters writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo have brought to life this year have added amazing new layers to an already rich character and universe. If I could recommend a good starting point for new fans or returning ones, it would be the first collection of the Bat in DC’s NEW 52, Batman, Volume 1: The Court of Owls. The story manages to seamlessly incorporate the titular secret order into the history of Gotham City, and the DC Universe. ‘The Court of Owls,’ its followup, ‘Night of the Owls,’ and the current ‘Death of the Family’ run, featuring the return of comics’ biggest villain, the Joker, have greatly enriched the mythos of both Batman, and Bruce Wayne, who’s gotten equal attention in them.
Not to mention, transcendent of print media, the Batman took center stage in two animated features this year: JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM, based on Mark Waid’s ‘JLA: Tower of Babel’ story arc, and part 1 of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, the long-awaited adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel. Oh, and he also starred in the second biggest film of 2012. So I have no problem saying that the character and his main title are my favorites of the year. One could certainly make an argument for Marvel’s Cyclops, though…
[ * - A few friends would, if given five words to describe me, say “Batman” as one of them. ]
That aforementioned “second biggest film of the year” is one I’ve defended a great deal recently, but I do love it, shortcomings and all—
Movie Spotlight #2
This one sparked as much conversation as any film this side of PROMETHEUS in 2012. The trilogy closer, based loosely on major story arcs ‘Knightfall’ and ‘No Man’s Land,’ is far from perfect—I honestly think it’s director Christopher Nolan’s worst film—but it’s worth the journey. Nerds/the internet regard THE DARK KNIGHT as the best of the Nolan Bat films, and it may prove to be, but RISES contains some of the best moments and scenes of the series, for sure. It felt like the most epic of the franchise. All the actors brought their ‘A’ game, with BAMF Tom Hardy (more on him later, too) completing the impossible mission of making a villain as memorable as Heath Ledger’s iconic Joker. I’ve done my best not to be a fanboy about a few things, like the series’ timeline (He was Batman for about one year, disappeared for eight, then returned for only a few months. So he was Batman for a total of two years?). I have to remind myself 1) that this is a cinematic adaptation of Batman, not necessarily the Dark Knight Detective I want, and 2) to remember the neon-nippled state of things before BATMAN BEGINS. Upon a second watch this week I can say that I do love this film, even if it didn’t exactly stick the landing.
Hans Zimmer’s score for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES also left a little to be desired; it kind of showcased the best and worst of the prolific composer. While I don’t keep up with film music as much as in years past, I heard enough in 2012 to include a favorites section in this post—
MY FAVORITE FILM SCORES OF THE YEAR
THE AVENGERS — Alan Silvestri
A score I didn’t like too much at first, but one that did grow on me after a few listens. Silvestri (BACK TO THE FUTURE, THE ABYSS) balances several themes while slowly building toward the big theme as the film and soundtrack progress. My only real complaint about it is that it’s not as iconic, epic, and memorable as it should have been.
ANNA KARENINA — Dario Marianelli
This was available online a couple weeks back, and gave it a once-over on good faith from Marianelli’s previous Oscar-nominated works he did with director Joe Wright, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and ATONEMENT. It’s quite good, and may make you pop up and waltz across your living room floor if you’re not careful.
THE MASTER — Jonny Greenwood
Coming off of WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, the Radiohead guitarist reteams with P.T. Anderson (THERE WILL BE BLOOD) for this haunting composition that bounces around from sublime to agitated, much like Joaquin Phoenix’s Quell. It’s a beautiful, layered score that’s as memorable as the film’s astonishing performances.
THE HOBBIT — Howard Shore
After a rousing score to THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, you’d think Howard Shore wouldn’t have much left left to discover in Middle-Earth, but with THE HOBBIT, he got to explore and tinker it a bit more. Sure, it’s a rehash of several themes, but I love the existing soundtracks so much, that any addition to, and variation on them is welcome.
JOHN CARTER — Michael Giacchino
With JOHN CARTER, my favorite score of 2012, Michael Giacchino continues to secure his spot as the best composer working in Hollywood today. In the last few years, he’s killed it with great soundtracks for STAR TREK, UP, and SUPER 8, and this one’s no different, composing a sweeping, adventurous score that’s equal parts LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and STAR WARS.
“Get your ass to Mars!”
I actually enjoyed the hell out of the flawed but fun JOHN CARTER. It’s unfortunate that its box office failure completely overshadows the movie. There are a few factors to blame for the film’s dismal returns, one of which was the piss-poor marketing. It was less than impressive, and McKayla Maroney agrees. While we’re talking about films that no one saw—
Movie Spotlight #3
This little movie—available now On Demand, a month before its limited theatrical run—was not seen by many in 2012, but I’m certain it will find its audience in the years to come. Instead of truncating it for a blurb here, let me direct you to the full review I did on JOHN DIES AT THE END for my buddy Ryan over at Rhino’s Horror.
Before I wrap up this first half, I gotta share a little song mash-up that came into my life a couple months ago, and hasn’t left my brain since. Had I done a Top Viral list like last year, this would definitely be on it. No, I will not apologize for getting this stuck in your head:
Whew! Alright, I’m halfway there. Stay tuned next week for more stuff I liked in 2012, including my favorite performances and favorite film of the year. I’ma be honest – Part 2 should just be called “Part Whedon.”
As always, thank you for taking the time.