As we settle into 2014, the Fizz staff shares our personal favorites from the world of entertainment last year – from movies to TV shows and albums to marketing.
Ben’s Pick: Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the
Ben Carlson, President & Co-Creator
“The third album. It’s where great bands with a specific sound make the leap to become a more dynamic, three-dimensional act. The White Stripes did it with White Blood Cells. The Clash did it with London Calling. And in 2013, Vampire Weekend did it with Modern Vampires of the City. With the great Ariel Rechtshaid behind the soundboard, VW evolved beyond their preppy afro-punk sound to create something much deeper. From the stuttery sound of ‘Diane Young’ to the melancholy ‘Step’ to the holy-crap-this-is-amazing third verse of ‘Hannah Hunt,’ Modern Vampires of the City is a classic – in 2013 or any year.”
Jen’s Pick: The Rise of Fast-Paced TV Scripting
Jen Handley, COO & Co-Creator
“My entertainment highlight of the year has to be not just binge-watching, but the fast-paced TV scripting trend that’s happened alongside it.
My life is busy. Not “poor me” busy, just plain busy. With two young kids and a lot of work (thankfully), my ‘TV’ time is iPad viewing via Netflix, Amazon Prime, ABC’s app or Xfinity’s app while on the treadmill or in a hotel room. I don’t know that before the ease of binge-viewing and DVR’ing I could have handled the extreme, every episode cliffhangers on Scandal, Revenge and House of Cards. I watched every episode of LOST week to week back in the day and it nearly killed me. And I’m too impatient to handle dialogue any slower than the Sorkin-esque conversations on The Newsroom.
Fast-paced scripting, extreme cliffhangers and quick dialogue are what keep me excited and engaged with TV viewing. Though I have to say that over the holidays, as I was forcing myself to relax, I really appreciated the slower dialogue and lack of a single ‘what’s going to happen next?!?’ moment of Downton Abbey. Because, you know, I watched 2 1/2 seasons in two weeks.”
Logan’s Pick: The Conjuring
Logan Dodd, Project Coordinator
“As I settled into my seat, I looked around at a not-surprisingly packed theater – a late night showing, filled with teens ready to get their scream on. It was your typical scary movie-viewing scenario, but within the first five minutes I knew that I was in for a real treat. The Conjuring provides a retro vibe (which was just as refreshing as when I first viewed Ti West’s The House of the Devil), a trustworthy cast (something reminiscent of 2011’s Insidious) and an awesome soundtrack (featuring ‘In The Room Where You Sleep’ by Dead Man’s Bones — also the moment when I shrieked like the Gosling fangirl that I am). Many associate the horror genre with cheap thrills and slasher porn, but The Conjuring brought real fear with a sense of style to the masses. This horror fan says well done and ‘clap, clap.’”
Vanessa’s Pick: James Blake – Overgrown
Vanessa Jennette, Audience Insights Specialist
“2013 featured a lot of sonically pleasing releases—from Beyonce’s surprise album drop to the industrial extravaganza that was Yeezus— but none quite compared to James Blake’s genre-bending Overgrown. His aching voice and moody beats provide spell-binding background noise during the work day or a yoga session, but most exciting are his collaborations with hip hop artists like RZA, Drake and Chance the Rapper (another artist to watch). And this Letterman performance of ‘Retrograde’ proves that Blake is a truly electric (pun intended) live performer as well.”
Patrick’s Pick: Performance of the Year – Barkhad Abdi, Captain
Patrick McMullen, Data Scientist
“2013 was a year of truly memorable performances: the line between protagonist and antagonist was blurred by Bryan Cranston in the final episodes of Breaking Bad, Miley Cyrus shocked the world as she gave us all a twerk and tongue-lashing, and the cinema was filled with brilliant acting from the likes of Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Sandra Bullock and dozens of others. But one performance truly stood out to me as captivating, complex and charismatic. Somalia-born and Minneapolis-raised, Barkhad Abdi beat out more than 800 others to claim his first-ever acting role as Muse (Moo-see) in Captain Phillips.
Abdi more than carried his weight opposite (the much heavier) Hanks on the silver screen. His physicality was staggering. Adbi became Muse, and despite his diminutive frame, he was the superior presence. He was more frightening – and commanded more respect – then any villain I’ve ever seen in film, theater or television. The common archetype of a large, strong and powerful villain motivated by greed and lust has become trite. Much more terrifying is a small, determined man with literally nothing to lose. Muse is not motivated by self-interest, but rather is the product of a village and country ravished by globalization and American capitalism. Abdi wonderfully played his opposites: simultaneously conveying his domination and hopelessness. General Zod, Smaug, Kahn and Loki all proved to be extremely powerful villains in 2013, but I was genuinely afraid of Abdi and Muse – a character whose evil and actions were but a byproduct of oppression and America’s avarice.”
Kait’s Pick: “The Rains of Castamere” (Game of
Thrones Season 3, Episode 9)
Kait Buck, Project Manager
“Great television keeps you guessing, draws you in with dynamic characters and – occasionally – makes you lose your faith in humanity. “The Rains of Castamere” was some epic television. Even with the Ned Stark Complex firmly in place, this episode of Game of Thrones managed to shock its way into a pop culture legend and put the term ‘Red Wedding’ in society’s vocabulary. With the eerie Lannister song followed by Michelle Fairley’s heart-wrenching cries and the brilliant symbolism of the dire wolf, this was the entertainment world’s 2013 moment that left me huddled in a corner of my apartment in the fetal position and emotionally traumatized for days. And apparently I wasn’t alone. The North Remembers.”
Jenny’s Pick: Fast & Furious 6 Super Bowl Commercial
Jenny Pyle, Project Manager
“All the way back in February of 2013, on the biggest night of the year for people who care about sports, advertising and tight pants, 108 million people watched Vin Diesel drive a car through the nose of an exploding plane. The Super Bowl was never the same. America was never the same. I was never the same. I appreciate watching the antagonizing yet beautiful struggle of an almost-talented-enough folk musician and Leo DiCaprio pawing at naked women while screaming at a pile of money. But there’s one thing we have to remember. The big screen was made for vehicular warfare.”
Rich’s Pick: The Intersection of Film and History
Rich Calabrese, General Manager
“I can’t see every film that hits theaters, but when I do have a chance to see one, I gravitate toward watching (and learning) about famous and not-so-famous events in American history. 2013 brought terrific biographical films such as 42, The Butler, Saving Mr. Banks and Captain Phillips. Historical action/dramas always stick out to me because, as I was aware of these stories prior to viewing, it’s fascinating to see how a director can take a series of historical events (and the details that moment in time needs) and display his or her vision of those events on the screen. Up next for me? The Monuments Men. Here’s hoping this post helps push me to finish the book before the film’s release!”
Joe’s Pick: Orange is the New Black
Joe Matas, Project Manager
“My favorite entertainment aspect of 2013 involved fat pants (the ones with the elastic waistline), my couch and zero productivity (besides the glorious sense of accomplishment that comes after finishing a show). That’s right, I’m talking about binge-watching TV shows (or ‘me time’ as I call it), and Orange is the New Black was by far the best ‘me time’ of the year. Netflix truly hit it out of the park with this one. Created by my girl Jenji Kohan of Weeds fame, the show follows yuppie, middle-class Piper (Taylor Schilling) as she navigates her way through her first year in prison. It has everything: an intriguing story, compelling characters and realistic glimpses into an unfamiliar world. It’s also led by an almost entirely female cast and has served as a groundbreaking piece of pop culture for the LGBTQ community. Plus, the show offers top-notch acting, especially from Schilling. Don’t walk – run to your couch. Grab the nearest bottle of wine, your fat pants and Cheetos, and enjoy countless hours of Orange is the New Black. Trust me, it’ll provide endless water cooler conversations with your friend Pam from work.”