Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Best of 2012 (in only my opinion)

2012. What a year. Do you ever read those "Top 10" lists people publish right about this time? Like, Top 10 Movies, TV shows, Albums, Songs, Books. Well, I read a lot of those. And if I'm lucky I'll have seen/heard/read like maybe three out of ten. Let's be real. None of us are paid to watch TV/listen to music/read books all day and then write about it. (And if you are, let's talk, because I want your job.) In fact, I spent the entirety of 2012, with the exception of about three or so weeks, taking classes. So you'll excuse my delirium at now having nothing to do for the next three weeks. Except to make this list.

Instead of picking a sole subject and picking out my ten favorite things in that category, I thought I'd just pick my favorite things from this year, period. So basically this is just a self-indulgent list of ten rotating obsessions I've had over the last twelve months. You've been sufficiently warned.

Favorite place:
It's hard to believe I visited more than a dozen European cities just this summer. It seems like a lifetime ago for how far removed from that experience I sometimes feel. It's like I'm Rory Gilmore in that scene when she's on a date and someone asks her if she's ever been to Europe. She says "Oh, no" and then immediately corrects herself because, yes, she has been all over Europe but was just so used to having not been. So that's basically me.
Florence at sunset

But visiting Europe, seeing all the incredible things it has to offer, and also being able to relive the experience through the photographs I took, has been wonderful. To this day, it's the single most incredible experience I've ever had, and I'm so grateful I had the privilege to do it. Also, marzipan.

Favorite book(s):
This was the year that I became a Kindle convert. I used to be one of those people who didn't want a reader because "I like to actually hold the book in my hands, and flip the pages." FORGET THAT. IT IS GARBAGE. The Kindle/Nook is God's gift to mankind, and holding one makes me feel really sophisticated and classy. Enough said.

I didn't read as much as I wanted to this year, for a multitude of reasons I won't bore you with, but I did read (among others) The Hunger Games series and Gone Girl, to see what the hype was all about. The former just blew me away in how easily I was able to really delve into the world the author had created. I'm not that big on dystopian novels, having read my fair share in high school (and enjoying very, very few. Name the dystopia, and I've probably read about it). But these books were so good, so engrossing. I had to restrain myself from devouring them because I knew that once I started, I wouldn't be able to stop, and at the time I was deep into spring semester. And the ending! Obviously I won't spoil it, but it was so satisfying I had to squee (and also exhale a sigh of relief and then do my trademark tearless sob). I hopped on the caboose of the Hunger Games train but I'm so happy I did. Read these books. (Also, the second movie comes out next Thanksgiving, so you've got some time. Oh, and see the first one once you've read the first book, too. Jennifer Lawrence is a badass.)
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen: resident badass.

In great contrast to the Hunger Games trilogy was Gone Girl, which I read during the first week of this past semester. I unabashedly gobbled that one up, too. It's not for everyone, and it's certainly a divisive work, but I found it fascinating, engrossing, impeccably plotted and realized, and disturbing and ugly in the most awesome, ridiculous ways.

Favorite human:
God, I know it's weird for your favorite human to be someone you've never met, but Lena Dunham is the most perfect person. And I feel like I know her. She's a one-woman powerhouse, directing, writing, and starring in her own TV series Girls, all at the age of 26. She's funny, heartbreaking, unflinchingly honest, humble, thoughtful, and extremely talented. Bascially I love her. She also has a "quirky web presence," has met Chelsea Handler, and is friends with Claire Danes, so you wouldn't be wrong to claim that I want her life.
Too much awesome for only one photo.

Favorite person to follow on Twitter:
Although 2012 was not the year I learned to use Twitter, it was the year I learned to love it. Talk about our society's increasing dependence on technology all you want, but the fact is that mediums like Twitter are incredibly meaningful and important today. It's our news platform now, and every major news story this year I first saw on Twitter.

But who's my favorite person to follow on Twitter? Steve Martin is searingly funny. So is Shit Girls Say, and Your Away Message is like a time machine from 2002, back when the first thing I wanted to do when I got home from school was log on to AIM. My screen name was roswellgirl2010. Oof, that's really embarrassing. (Also: remember Xanga? And MySpace?)
I wish I had overheard the conversation that preceded the taking of Steve Martin's Twitter profile picture. "Hey, I'm just gonna lie year and look strangely at you while holding an empty wine glass in my hand. Don't forget to get the dog, too. No one will know what this means, but it's absurd, so that's all that matters."

Favorite blog:
I badly neglect my Google Reader. Or, I should say that I badly neglected my Google Reader. But I made a late 2012 resolution to unchain myself from its grips. I ruthlessly unsubscribed to any blog that I got nothing substantial from. Blogs that I hadn't read an entire post from in months, or that I didn't look forward to reading, or that I felt embarrassed to follow in the first place. I was left with a much shorter list and a much smaller unread post count.

And don't you know, I feel so much freer now? It's certainly a commentary on our generation that the very mediums we use to expand our independence can also feel overwhelming and restricting (Facebook, I wish I could quit you).

But my favorite new blog (it's by no means "new," just "new to me") to read is Thought Catalog, a Generation Z anthology of posts on subjects as wide-ranging as love, sex, growing up, growing old, music, TV, and even politics. And it's all honest and real and very approachable. I spent a few weeks this past fall mining through the archives and it's now one of the first blogs I check every day.

Honorable mention goes to Go Fug Yourself, a blog I first started reading many, many years ago (back when there was no Google Reader--imagine that!), and then fell back in love with a few months ago. It is absolutely, positively hilarious. "Uproarious" is a word critics use to describe movies that are laugh-out-loud, can't-breathe funny, and that is an apt description of this blog. I can't wait for awards season (and Fug Madness)!

Favorite TV show:
I watched a lot of new-to-me TV shows this year. Mad Men (in its entirety). Girls. Shameless. Homeland. (Duh, have you read any of my tweets over these past few months). I think this tweet sums it up perfectly:

And they were all really great. But none captured my brain as powerfully as Homeland. I'm writing this on December 16, about six hours before the season finale of Homeland (i.e., about seven hours before my head explodes), so we'll see how that affects my year-end judgment of the show. Some of the plot points this season have been a little silly (none were in season one, which was as flawless of a television season as I've ever seen; riveting in every sense of the word), but I'm so overwhelmed by the quality of the directing, producing, and most importantly the acting that I don't care all that much. This show is asking some really important questions about this post-post-9/11 era we live in, and the answers are sometimes uncomfortable, but always provoking and powerful and profound (that's a little Carrie Mathison manic alliteration there for all you noobs).
Adorable factor is off the charts right here. 

Plus: Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin and Damian Lewis are turning in career-defining performances week in and week out and anytime they're on my eyes are just glued to the screen.

Update: Writing this on December 18, head still mercifully intact. My judgment of the finale, in a word: enthralling. It was beautiful. And depressing. And sad in the most profound ways. Basically it drained me completely. I cried for real. I mean there were several tearless sobs, but I cried actual tears in one particular scene. It sharpened my appreciation for this season, which is a tough job for a season finale to do. It was deeply satisfying. But also heartbreaking. And heartwarming. Basically it was everything at once, which is to say, wonderful.

Favorite word:
You know how some people have least favorite words? Like "moist"? I don't understand the problem with "moist." Is it the actual phonetics of the word or the connotations of it? Do people have similar qualms with "hoist" or "moisture"? Someone please enlighten me. 

But my favorite word has nothing to do with how it sounds but all to do with its incredible versatility.


While it does sound like some foreign garment you'd buy on a whim in Milan ("Look at this incredible lilac also I got!"), I just like using it all the time. Also, this. Also, that. (It's much more effective if you just have a single word after "Also," instead of an entire phrase. Example: "Also, bells." Very effective and very economical.)

For the longest time I was told you NEVER begin a sentence with "also." Also, you never begin a sentence with "so." So, eventually I was just like "whatevs" and began to start lots of my sentences with "also." It's a rebellious thing, I guess. Also, the fact that I know the differences between "their," "there," and "they're"; and "effect" and "affect"; and "lay" and "lie" means that I don't really care if you think I'm a grammar-ignorant 12-year-old.

Honorable mention goes to "doomy," which is apparently not a word but means to have the qualities of doom. You saw it here first.

Favorite movie:

I think I saw like two movies in the theater this year. And that says less about the state of cinema (although it does say something about the state of cinema) and more about the fact that you can literally watch any movie you'd ever want (not in theatres, of course) on your computer. This is revolutionary stuff, people.

(Side note: Did you know you can also order single discs of TV seasons that you are missing? I discovered this when I realized I had misplaced the final and, in my opinion, best and most important disc of The OC's second season in my rewatch of the series this fall. You can follow my Twitter feed for live-ish updates and pithy comments.)

Anyway, this allowed me to watch movies that I hadn't seen in the longest time. Like Now and Then (still good, althought not the masterpiece of film my 12-year-old self believed it to be, but the jokes took on new meaning now that I actually understood them--weird how that happens). Or Thirteen (dear God, help us from middle schoolers; but that movie is still incredibly heartbreaking and disturbing and sad and ugly).

But none were as good as Shopgirl, the film based on Steve Martin's novella. Have you ever seen this movie? It was released in 2005, so I'm about as far behind the mark as possible. It stars Claire Danes (told ya I had a girl crush on her), Steve Martin (he is the world's best annunciator as far as I'm concerned), and Jason Schwartzman (adorable in many, many ways, the least of which that he is involved in the coolest family tree in the entertainment world). Claire Danes plays Mirabelle Buttersfield, a 20-something struggling artist living in Los Angeles who works at the Saks counter selling fancy evening gloves. Jason Schwartzman plays Jeremy, a shlubby guy who does "stencils" and vies for Mirabelle's affections. And Steve Martin is Ray Porter, the wealthy, much older gentleman who engages in a type of May-December romance with Mirabelle.
Y'all, there is some intense cry-face work going on in this movie, and a panic attack to boot! Feelings!!

It's a very affecting movie. At once funny (or awkward, it's hard to tell sometimes), uplifting, charming, hopeful, and depressing. It makes you feel lonely, but it also makes you feel closer--to what I'm not exactly sure (humanity? yourself? your loved ones?). And it's filled with subtle little nuanced shots and touches that are satisfying to pick up on. If you can get past the inherent ickiness of Claire Danes (about 25 at the time) and Steve Martin (60) having sex, then you'll probably like it. Even still, all the actors turn in fine performances. I forgot that movies could be this fun and rewarding to watch when everything just "clicks."

Favorite music to listen to:
I will forever enshrine 2012 as the year I got into Bon Iver. They are golden, and Justin Vernon is so dreamy, the most obvious reason because he has a kickass falsetto to rival the likes of Justin Timberlake. Plus, whenever I listen to this music I'm transported back to rainy Oxford, where it was my soundtrack to that leg of study abroad.
It's just so perfect. And gloomy. On the Gilmore Girls, Rory (or was it Lane?) talks about feeling a "Lou Reed kind of gloomy." Do you have different states of gloomy based on types of music?

Bon Iver Gloomy is like a gentle subtlety. It's like sighing in contentment, contentment that in and of itself lends itself to a kind of gloom. It's rainy day gloom. Motionless gloom.

Damien Rice Gloomy is a hopeless gloom. It's like walking alone in silence despite a circus of noise around you. It's a longing for something unattainable, something out of reach that is also right in your hands. It is the paradoxical gloom.

Alexi Murdoch Gloomy is like a hopeful gloom. It's the good cry gloom that we all need and love to hate and hate to love. It is the "It was a beautiful smile" gloom. (Period, the end.)

Gotye Gloomy is emo, hipster, eff you gloom. It is gloom so powerful you feel the need to sing-scream at your ex-lover while naked and painted in murals. So basically it's a very specific and very annoying and very contagious (holy 350 million views!) gloom.

Rachael Yamagata Gloomy is girl power gloom. It's strong, and forceful, and empowering. It's accepting. It's rational. It's real. It's spectacular and devastating, all at once.

Patrick Park Gloomy is happy gloom. Does that make it the anti-gloom? The moolg, if you will? It is pensive, casually smoking a cigarette gloom. (I know smoking is, like, the worst commonplace habit ever, but my God if he doesn't make it look awesome.)  Rebel without a cause gloom. Tortured soul gloom. Stand on a coffee cart and declare my undying love for you gloom.  
Smoldering smoker, #amirite?

Favorite Newly Discovered Form of Entertainment:
"What's a Tumblr?" I used to ask myself. Well in 2012 I finally kind of, sort of, figured it outish. Basiscally Tumblr is just an Internet hub where a bunch of fangirls gather to post funny GIFs about their struggles in college, or to reminisce about the good times (i.e., the 90's and Disney movies), or to assemble emotive collages of screencaps from your favorite TV shows (cue tearless sobs). Which is to say, my true Internet home. Tumblr is my guilty Internet pleasure, because the blogs I follow on that platform are like the ever elusive brain and heart candy we're all searching for. It's fun to binge on and you're not left feeling sick afterward.

 This is exactly the reason why I love Tumblr.

So why can't Tumblr be cool? Because it's still infested with Twilight fans and therefore vampire grossness and you just can't admit to being legitimately comfortable with that. And that's the ugly truth.

Peace, 2012. It's been real. And sometimes unreal. And if the world ends tomorrow (in which case: Peace, world. Peace, life), at least 1) we got to see the season finale of Homeland and 2) you got to read this. I know, this is groundbreaking, riveting content.


  1. oh my-that's quite a list! still looking for time to watch homeland. i will do it- some day-

  2. also, I hope 2013 rocks your world in new and awesome* ways...and that you'll share a bit of that here, too!

    (*sorry, probably MY favorite word!)