A Few of My Favorite Things: A Look Back At 2014

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Well, look at that. The year of 2014 has come to a close. Was it a good one for you? Looking back, some really cool stuff came out this year. Here are a few of my favorites.

Favorite Movie: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

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This is, by far, one of the coolest movie experiences I’ve had in a while. The story of a washed-out actor struggling to find relevancy is intriguing enough, but every part of this movie helps to make this an extremely enjoyable couple of hours.

The visual style alone will leave you mesmerized. The whole movie is filmed to look like one continuous take and the camera is almost constantly kept at a close-up shot, providing a sense of profound confusion and delirium. Those visuals, combined with a soundtrack made up of the hypnotizing drums provided by jazz artist Antonio Sánchez, created an environment I never wanted to leave. Throw in stand-out performances from the entire ensemble (which includes the likes of Michael Keaton, Edward Norton and Emma Stone,) and you’ve got one engaging ride.

Favorite Book: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley 

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The Scott Pilgrim series was a godsend for me back when I was in High School, and I found Lost at Sea to be a very enjoyable character study. So I didn’t need any convincing when Bryan Lee O’Malley’s latest graphic novel, Seconds, was published last summer. The concept is a perfectly ordinary one: A young chef’s life starts to fall apart, so she uses magical mushrooms that she receives from a mystical spirit to rewrite history and fix her mistakes. Simple, right?

Well, get past the quirkiness of it all and you find a cast of charming and relatable characters, gorgeous art and a wonderful story. A story that manages to be funny, poignant and enlightening simultaneously. I loved my time reading this one and I recommend you give it a read.

Favorite Album: You’re Dead! by Flying Lotus

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Man, am I glad to have listened to this one. You’re Dead! is the latest studio album from experimental producer Flying Lotus. An album that tackles dark themes such as insanity, addiction and, above all else, death itself.

It’s also one of those albums that you’d probably enjoy much better by not paying attention to the track list and listening to the whole thing in one go. Each track flows in and out of one another in such a way that it all becomes one mesmerizing ride, mixing in large amounts of jazz, hip-hop and electronic music to create FlyLo’s signature sound. For my own tastes, this album did a lot to push me outside of my love of electronic music and start taking a look at the jazz scene, so it’s certainly had an impact on me.

Favorite Indie Game: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

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Yeah, I had my problems with this one. I didn’t get to spend much time with the game, due to it’s short length, and I haven’t gotten to see the ending yet because I’m too much of a wimp to tackle the game’s only jump-scare section. But there’s still so much about this game that there is to love.

Ethan Carter is an atmospheric first-person exploration game where you play a supernatural detective, who can communicate with the dead in his search to find out what happened to a missing child. As you solve puzzles and murder mysteries, more and more of this wonderfully creepy story comes to light. All while exploring one of the most gorgeous game worlds I’ve ever seen.

Seriously, if nothing else, pick this one up for it’s atmosphere. Throw on a good pair of headphones and turn out the lights. You’ll be in for a treat.

As we wrap up 2014 tonight, I’d like to thank each and every one of you who have taken an interest in my ramblings. I certainly don’t have plans to stop yet. There’s more to discover out there, so I’d better get to it!

Something to Read: “Seconds” Review

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I’m a major fan of Bryan Lee O’Maley’s Scott Pilgrim series. Have been since High School. And my interest in the rest of his work O’ Malley’s work led me to the recently released Seconds.

The story in Seconds focus a 29 year old chef named Katie. She’s the former head chef of a restaurant called “seconds” (see what they did there?), and has a restaurant of her very own under construction downtown. She goes through a bad day, and then comes into contact with a mysterious magical girl and a batch of magic mushrooms. Bear with me.

Katie finds out that the mushrooms allow her to rewrite history by fixing her mistakes, and then sets out to not only fix her problems, but perfect her life. Admittedly, the basics of this time-traveling story have been done many times before. But here, it’s a story told really well.

The cast of characters are lovable, the jokes hit more often than they miss, and the message at the end still proved powerful to me. On top of that, the artwork is beautiful. O’Malley’s design and style, combined with the colors of Nathan Fairbarn, create a world worth spending time in for the duration of the book.

Scott Pilgrim fans will feel right at home in Seconds, with a familiar art style and sense of humor. The difference here is that the art, humor and story feel just a little more refined, a little more matured. In several ways, I felt like I was witnessing the next evolution of O’Malley’s artistic expression, and that’s a cool thing to see.

All in all, whether you’re a fan of the author’s previous work, or if you’re just looking for a funny, stylized and emotional graphic novel, I would fully recommend this book.