Deep Blue

 

Let me go on record now by saying I am pretty much over the whole year-end top 10 list of movies, TV, music, et cetera. They’re cheap, easy things to write and pretty much required for any creative person. Websites are cluttered with them, comments sections are cluttered with disagreements over them, and every year they repeat.

I am so done with them.

So, in the spirit of the season here’s Brad’s Top 5 of 2014, plus runners up which I guess makes this Brad’s Top 10 List. Not necessarily The Best in movies, music, TV, comics, and books, but the ones that most left an impression on me, and will likely remain with me for years to come.

MOVIES

I start with movies because they’re technically my thing.  And I really had to make a Sophie’s Choice here because of the movies I did see in 2014 two stood out from the pack for very different reasons, and deciding between them was a monumental chore.  And while the year technically isn’t over yet I doubt anything I see in the next two weeks will equal, let alone surpass ..

boyhood-teaser-poster

If I was to make a movie version of Mixtape it would probably be like Boyhood. Not in the sense that we’d film it over a dozen years, but because Boyhood is such a great celebration of the moments you don’t think will amount to anything but in the end realize they’ve had enormous impact on you. For me no sequence captured the power of film than a brief one where young Mason dresses up in a Hogwarts costume to attend a midnight book launch of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  with some school friends. These friends only appear in that scene and then we’ve jumped forward another year. We never see these friends again. Their lives are just supporting roles in the life of Mason, just like so many of or friendships are just points on a map. When the book of the first decades of the 21st century are written, Boyhood will surely be a part of it, documenting average, ordinary people moving through life in search of those special moments, only to realize those moments were with them the entire time.

Runner up:

grand_budapest_hotel

Because I had a big goofy grin on my face throughout it. Beautifully shot, performed, scored, funny, touching and surprisingly sad all at once. It may even be my favorite Wes Anderson film. But what puts it atop my list is that I think The Grand Budapest Hotel, despite its 1930s setting, spoke most poignantly to life in the year 2014. That deep down we’re all decent people struggling to remain so in a world that seems increasingly spun out of control into chaos and darkness.

MUSIC

Lykke_Li_-_I_Never_Learn

My wife and I jetted across the Atlantic to Scandinavia back in October. We toured Stockholm, then Oslo, then Copenhagen, and back to Stockholm to make our return flight. On our last day we loaded up on souvenirs – clothes, shoes, and candy, and I grabbed I Never Learn the latest album by Sweden’s Lykke Li. Probably because I’d listened to it on the flight over on Air France’s entertainment service, probably more because I wanted some audio record of our adventures that I could listen to in years to come and remember things like Gamla Stan at night, the train to Oslo, Tivoli Gardens. It’s also a really great album too and I’m glad I discovered her.

Runner up:

jw

I’m a fan of Jack White. I’m a fan of his music, be it with the White Stripes or the raconteurs or the Dead Weather. I really like his solo work, and Lazaretto is as good if not better than his first solo album Blunderbuss. But what I most like about him is he’s been able to carve out his particular niche of music and business of it in an age where everyone and everything is competing for your dollar. That low-fi approach of third man records is a model I wish more creative types emulated. I certainly hope to do so with my work.

TV

2014 was the year I realized television was, for me anyway, the more exciting visual medium. Certainly more so than movies were. It was the year “event” television became the clock around which I organized my free time around. And while I could have gone with Vikings, The Americans, True Detective, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, or Masters of Sex, my favorite TV show kind of snuck up on me.

fargo-fx-tv-series-poster

Because on paper it shouldn’t have worked but it did. There wasn’t a false note in the ten episodes of this twisted, twisty story that more than captures the feel of the Coen brothers’ 1996 classic – it made that film feel like a smaller chapter in a much bigger story. Loaded with memorable performances, particularly Allison Tolman’s crusading cop and Billy Bob Thornton’s malevolent killer,  it was the one show that really snuck upon me. And with Season 2 taking place in a different time period with a brand new cast, expect to see more TV like Fargo in the near future.

Runner Up:

peaky

Set in post WW1 Birmingham as a gangster played by Cillian Murphy attempts to build a criminal empire while still remaining an honorable man in a world without it. Standing in his way; Sam Neil, Noah Taylor, and Tom Hardy. If those names don’t grab you then trust me when I say Peaky Blinders is not the show for you. But if they do chances are you already saw it.

COMICS

With the release of Mixtape #5 in June and the completion of Vol. 1, I actually had time to get back into comic book reading. Much of that was catch-up with some ongoing series – The Massive, Fables, Astro City – I’ve been reading for some time. And while my choices didn’t technically see their initial release in 2014 I picked them because they grabbed me.

trillium1

Printed in 2013 but collected in 2014, Jeff Lemire’s endlessly inventive dystopian time travel love story sci-fi epic surprised me with each turn of the page. I want to write volumes about how much I loved it but hate the thought of spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t. So let me just say if you did read Trillium you already know why it’s so special, and if you haven’t, here’s your chance (doubly so if you haven’t picked up a comic book in years).

Runner Up:

saga issue one

Because Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples’ sci-fi epic is as good as everyone says. Maybe better.

BOOKS

This is a tough one because I only read one book in 2014 that was actually published in 2014, and this is supposed to be a 2014 list. There are 2014 books on my “to read” list but with work reading and writing dominating much of my year I missed out on things like The Bone Clocks, Perfidia, Revival, etc. And if I’ve been a good boy maybe I’ll get some of those for Christmas. But in the meanwhile

FICTION:

Terror_simmons

technically fiction, even though the characters and situation are all-too real. but the great thing about unsolved mysteries is you’re free to imagine what could have happened, or just chuck it and tell your own white-knuckle story. Published in 2008, I got around to reading it this year, fueled in part by my travels through Scandinavia, and by my ever-present interest in the age of polar exploration. Plus, the fact a scientific team discovered the remains of Erebus at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean this year reignited that interest.  And while I have some quibbles about The Terror which I won’t get into because it ventures into spoiler territory, I admire its attention to detail and for putting a desperate bunch of characters into a terrible situation, then having that situation deteriorate even further until you think things can’t get any worse. Then they do. Again, and again. Best read at night while the wind howls outside the window.

NON-FICTION:

ME

It’s rough around the edges and could use a good copy editor, but Keith Sharp’s look back at the rise and fall of Canada’s Music Express Magazine pressed all sorts of nostalgia buttons, even though its heyday was well before I was a big music fan. Maybe because as a Canadian living in America for the last 6 years there’s that need to stay connected and reconnect with your homeland. But more because the book and the Music Express era were a unique time and place for Canada, and for the music industry that most certainly will never come around again.

So that ends my 2014. I hope anyone reading this finds time in the weeks remaining to read, watch, and relax with a good book, a movie, some television, and some music.

 

 

Shut Your Mouth

My wife was having dinner the other day with a friend, catching up after several months apart. The usual chit-chat developed into the familiar question; “what’s new?”

My wife answered; “Oh you know, this and that. Spent a week in Scandinavia …”

This was news to my wife’s friend, who wanted to know everything. She also expressed surprise that, despite them being Facebook friends, my wife hadn’t mentioned the trip at all. She hadn’t updated her FB page while we were trekking through Stockholm and Oslo and Copenhagen, and hadn’t posted any photos from our vacation, save for changing her profile picture to her in a Copenhagen bar that bore her name.

Scandinavia October 2014 159

Pictured: not my wife and not that bar. But Copenhagen was really nice.

Oh yeah, we took a lot of photos – well over 200. But on getting back home we decided pretty quickly that we weren’t going to upload them anywhere public. At most we were going to create an album of them here, to sit on our shelves, as memory of what was a fantastic trip. Naturally you’re asking what this has to do with, well, anything.

Then you maybe notice it’s been a while since I updated this website.

Yeah.

***

I’ve always been what you would call taciturn. I’m not one to offer up information out of the blue. Ask me a question I’ll give you an answer. But in any social situation you’ll find me gravitating to the nearest wall. Some interpret this as me being snobbish or unfriendly. Others figure I’m just an introvert, when the truth is I really just don’t like people or being around people that much.

Okay, that was a joke, but I don’t consider myself an introvert. I like to watch, and listen, not to talk. The world is full of talkers, and some truly have the gift of gab. But the majority of it is a white noise of lip-flap, and eventually it’s just static in search of a signal.

Look, I know how it’s supposed to work. In our hyper-connected world we’re supposed to share our vacations, our family moments, our personal moments with people we barely know. Heck, I even considered doing a post vacation update to this website with some observations on Scandinavia, its people and culture. I even drafted one and was deciding on which pictures to upload when I realized I didn’t want to share those photos, those moments, or those memories with anyone. It was a wonderful vacation – a genuine adventure – but by feeling obligated to share the details of it, I felt I’d only diminish the experience.

I get it. We’re supposed to be linked in, we’re supposed to cultivate our little patch of cyberspace so people know to stop by. What we’re not supposed to do – especially if you’re a creative type – is let that patch of landscape grow neglected and fallow. If you’re a writer you’re supposed to blog constantly, optimise your SEO, contribute guets blogs, direct people to your author page on FB and Goodreads, and constantly pimp out work – available on Kindle for only .99 cents – while you amass tens of thousands of twitter followers (i.e. “buy followers”) and generally puff yourself up to be someone more popular and more important than you really are. because it’s important people know who you are and what you do at all times.

Ahem

Ahem

Thing is; all that is, to my mind at least, total bullshit. You don’t need to do any of it – you want to, but you don’t need to. What you need to do is spend less time talking about your work and more time doing that actual work. So that’s where I’ve been the last number of months; I’ve been doing. Hard at work on several projects that I feel no string compulsion to talk about just yet. First off, they’re not anywhere ready to be talked about, and even then, to what end does telling you what I’m working on make any difference whatsoever? They have yet to be produced or broadcast or published; maybe when we get closer to those dates I’ll start promoting them, but for now I’m content for these projects of mine to remaine mine and nobody else’s.

But in this age of connectivity I would like to submit the somewhat radical notion that maybe not constantly talking about or promoting yourself and your work is the new black. Despite your personal feelings on the recent U2 album that magically appeared in your iTunes, you have to admit that it just appearing out of the blue was a bold move. Contrast that with the usual process – announce the project-to-be, drop a trailer or a song and video, get some (hopefully) glowing advance reviews, blitz your media and then hopefully people are lining up for the resulting work. And that approach definitely works.

Until it doesn’t work.

Because sometimes you just get so burned out hearing about something before it’s released, by the time it does appear you’re already well and sick of it. And if the end result underwhelms you’re going to be over it in about a week. Books get read and shelved. Albums uploaded, listened to, and forgotten. Movies watched once, and never more than once. Sometimes talking about a thing can rob it of its power, and its wonder. Sometimes too many samples of it, too many sips or nibbles, and eventually you lose the taste for it. It’s a variation of the advice Charles Beaumont gave to Harlan Ellison on the latter’s arrival in Hollywood. And I paraphrase:

“Achieving success [in Hollywood] is like climbing a mountain of cow shit to pluck the single, solitary rose at its summit. By the time you reach it, you’ve lost the sense of smell.”

So as we close up shop on 2014, I look forward to cocooning a little as I sit out the eye of the storm circling me at present. Catch up on some reading, some movies and TV, and brace myself for 2015. Because I want to keep my sense of smell. Because if I don’t how am I going to appreciate the fragrance of that single solitary rose?

Because 2015? That is going to be quite the year.

And I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

UPDATED:

Irony of ironies that this blog entry has become one of the most popular I’ve ever done. I should blog about not blogging more often. Or is that less often?

But on a serious note I’m setting the alarm and turning off the lights on 2014. It was a great, albeit frequently exhausting year full of travel and work and adventure and more than its share of surprises, many of which won’t fully raise their heads until 2015. So I’ve earned a break. Catch up on reading. Do family stuff. Oh, and maybe squeeze in some revisions to a TV project I’m planning to send out in the new year.

Later, gators.