favorite films of 2014


1. The Tale of Princess Kaguya
2. Godzilla
3. The LEGO Movie
4. Ida
5. Calvary
6. Whiplash
7. Interstellar
8. Guardians of the Galaxy
9. Snowpiercer
10. Selma

Kaguya speaks for itself, so I have nothing to say. Except that I'm going to miss Studio Ghibli.

As for Godzilla...I consider the original 1954 Gojira to be the greatest motion picture of all time, so Gareth Edwards' remake certainly had a lot to live up to. Not that Gojira was the benchmark - I was only hoping that this new Godzilla would stand among the more decent entries of the series. What I did not expect was that it would be such an unusual modern blockbuster, and in doing so deliver what I always wanted to see from a Godzilla film: ground-level perspective. With only eight minutes of screen time for the title character, the focus instead is on the helpless humans who have to navigate the rubble while unfathomable monsters fight it out in the background. And those eight minutes are spent wisely, as Godzilla has not been presented with this level of terror and awe since the original.

I am also quite fond of the other selections, for various reasons.

Akira at the Uptown Theatre

Birdman teaser trailer

True Detective, Community's "Basic Intergluteal Numismatics," Craig Ferguson's farewell song, and the Lego Research Institute set


favorite music videos of 2014

 Chet Faker - "Gold"

Childish Gambino - "Telegraph Ave."

Duke Dumont - "Won't Look Back"

DUM - "On and On"

Pharrell Williams - "Happy" (Without Music)

Psy - "Hangover"

Sia - "Chandelier"

Small Black - "Real People"

Tomas Barfod - "Happy"

World Order - "Have a Nice Day"

Some of these are quite silly this year.

I'm also not sure any of the videos top FKA Twig's un-embeddable live performance of "Two Weeks" on The Tonight Show over HERE.


A Personal History of Literature

So many things from my childhood, I have forgotten. I was a big reader, I remember that - loving Pizza Hut's Book It! program and Scholastic book fairs at school in particular. Beloved titles had since faded from memory through the subsequent years, but it was in Portland a few years ago at the famous Powell's Books whereupon I reunited with The Glove of Darth Vader (my favorite book at one point, long ago). Ever since, I have desired to trace back my personal literary timeline. And so, finally, to the best of my ability, here it is.

I can't trace a number of books by year, since they were published before by birth. Like many kids, I grew up with the Berenstain Bears, Little Critter, and Poky Little Puppy series'. The Berenstain Bears & the Spooky Old Tree, in particular, still stands the test of time with its spooky atmosphere and tremendous art. The other early treasures were It's Halloween, Happy Birthday Moon, The Snowy Day, and Corduroy, though I know Georgie, Caps For Sale, Mr. Men & Little Miss, and Three Hat Day were in there too.

As I grew older, I had an affinity to the Bunnicula series, of which Howliday Inn was my favorite of the bunch. I also loved the incredibly witty Sideway Stories From Wayside School and Where the Red Fern Grows, my mother's favorite book. I recall only the cover for Indiana Jones & the Cup of the Vampire, though I think now that I was a much bigger Indiana Jones fan than I remember. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing fits in here somewhere too along with The Phantom Tollbooth, a book I never quite understood. I always thought I'd read through the Chronicles of Narnia, but as it happens, I think I was just into the BBC miniseries' that aired on PBS.

I was only five years old in 1987, so my most memorable Choose Your Own Adventure book, Space Vampire, must have belonged to my brother. I do vividly recall the awesome sticker book Dinosaurs & Other Monsters From the Past which probably jumpstarted a love of dinosaurs long before my Jurassic Park obsession. And then there was The Haunting of Grade Three, the first of a series of three that marked the start of my childhood love affair with spooky stories (having a character named Joey certainly helped).

My favorite books at this time were How to Eat Fried Worms and The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks. My mom was an avid reader-out-loud which I can't thank her enough for, and I really made her mad when I tried to silly putty-copy a page of the latter book and ended up tearing a whole page.  Spooky stories continued with The Ghost in the Picture, which weirdly focused a lot on ice skating, and There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom and How I Survived My Summer Vacation were there somewhere too.

This was the year that the infamous Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was released. Of course, I was enamored by the vivid freaky drawings like every other kid, but I was more into the continued Haunting of Grade Three saga, The Return of the Third Grade Ghosthunters.  A love of mythology might also have blossomed around this time with help from Monster Mazes.

A huge year for magazine reading, as I started collecting both Nintendo Power (video games were my first true love) and Disney Adventures. The Ghost on the Hill concluded the Haunting of Grade Three saga and my favorite series then became My Teacher is an Alien. My forgotten Indiana Jones fascination continued with the Young Indiana Jones series, particularly The Circle of Death (I also loved the TV series, which unfortunately doesn't stand the test of time). This was also the year of the bold, incredible Maniac Magee (which I couldn't have understood at my age), plus The Mouse & the Motorcycle and the Great Ghosts collection with its great illustrations.

The year that I was obsessed with the pretty terrible Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves movie, so much so that I owned the novel adaptation. Intellectual puzzle books like Two Minute Mysteries and For Eagle Eyes Only entered my life, and my Indiana Jones collection continued with Indiana Jones & the Seven Veils (among others, I'm sure). The My Teacher is an Alien series continued (my favorite was My Teacher Glows in the Dark) and there's also the cover for R.L. Stine's The Snowman, which is memorable and awesome, though I don't remember the actual story.

The year of my first comic book, Spectacular Spider-Man 189, though the bigger news at the time was my blossoming love of Star Wars with The Glove of Darth Vader and Timothy Zahn's classic Heir to the Empire (perhaps my first 'real' novel). Goosebumps also started out with Welcome to Dead House (I collected through #27) along with the School Daze series with Who Ran My Underwear Up the Flagpole? The latter is the type of 'everyday school kid' book that is tough to remain timeless, but at the time, I couldn't get enough. Christopher Pike's Monster and its fantastic cover is in there somewhere too.
My big transition to 'real' novels begins! This year saw the release of Jurassic Park, and I'm not sure I've ever been more obsessed with anything in my life. So of course, I loved Michael Crichton's original novel. I also read through my dad's copy of Stephen King's Nightmares & Dreamscapes after listening to an excellent audiobook of The Mist, evolving my love of spooky tales. Garfield was in there too with his 25th book, Garfield Hits the Big Time, though I never enjoyed the comic as much as his cartoons.

Comic book collecting continues with a Shopko collection of Batman: Knightfall, a Sam's Club collection of DC: Zero Hour issues, and the awesomely-covered Wolverine 82. I also clamored over the Jumanji-ish Forbidden Game series, which was written by The Vampire Diaries' L. J. Smith. I think I also started reading the film magazine Cinescape thanks to its first issue being included in Electronic Gaming Monthly and talking about a proposed Alien vs. Predator film (the arcade game was the best).

My veer into comic book collecting takes center stage, thanks partly to my collection of comic book magazines starting with Wizard #49 and Combo Magazine. I was also heavily into the rather unique RPG series Lone Wolf, starting with Flight From the Dark. I never figured out how to play it right, but it was still a nice epic fantasy story. I also recall getting Dean Koontz's Strange Highways, so I must have been reading him by then (Phantoms and Watchers were my favorites). Koontz and Stephen King made up a lot of my reading around this era.

Dean Koontz collecting continued with Tick Tock and I became briefly obsessed with the book series based on Clue (probably because I loved the movie so much). I was also really into maze books for some reason, particularly Amazing Mazes.

The Fifth Element hit movie theaters, and thus my favorite pop culture medium switched gears. I was now a full-fledged movie guy, collecting Cinescape magazine like crazy. This is not to say I put reading behind me though - my adoration of Ray Bradbury began with his Quicker Than the Eye collection along with a thrift store copy of The Toynbee Convector. My favorite book of his was/is Death is a Lonely Business, but I might not have gotten my hands on that until a few years afterward.

My love of spooky stories continued to evolve with Neil Gaiman's tremendous Neverwhere. It must have been either through him or Stephen King's informative Danse Macabe that I was pointed to the works of H.P. Lovecraft, which made up my favorite reading material for the remainder of my high school days. C.S. Lewis' Perelandra is the only other book I remember around here, because a deep analyzation of it in school made me despise it, though now I carry a weird sort of nostalgia for it.

And that was that. There was more, to be sure, but I believe these titles were the anchors. Once out of high school, I ended up with a third shift gas station job and began checking out books at the library like crazy. Onwards and upwards, from there.

I miss Scholastic book fairs.