My Top Stuff of 2014

HA, ha ha ha. 2014!! I’ve been working on this post since before the end of the year. Three months ago!! I was really trying to get this up by the time of the Oscars, since that broadcast seems like the definitive line of Last Chance To Care About Last Year, but with no real deadline actually threatening me I ended up just letting this go on…and on…forever. But hey! I finally finished this! Wanna talk about 2014 one more time?!

I’ve said this before, because I do always tend to do this much later than seems reasonable even if it’s not usually THIS late: I realize doing it this late means almost nobody could possibly care, but I do like to be able to fit in viewings of as many movies as possible before making my big judgments…and anyway I’m mostly just doing this for myself anyway, to make me feel like I’ve been doing something worthwhile and memorable with my time and sort it into a digestible time capsule, and to have something to show for myself around here. If I’m going to see every movie that ever comes out I might as well be able to prove it, right?

2014 was a pretty great year for me. I got myself situated into my new hometown of Seattle, and things just got progressively better and better. In March I traveled to Austin (and San Antonio) for my 8th SXSW in a row. May-June I worked in the box office for the Seattle International Film Festival, which was a super fun time in itself and opened up a few more doors for even more cool stuff to come. In July I started volunteering, and then in November got hired as a show manager, at an all-ages venue called the Vera Project, where I’m feeling super at home. I moved in November from my initial North Seattle neighborhood of Wallingford to an even better situation in my new South Seattle neighborhood of Columbia City. I also traveled back to NYC in October for CMJ, and Ohio in December for the holidays. I hosted or hung with friends visiting Seattle from all over the world, including NYC, LA, Philadelphia, Ohio, Australia and New Zealand. And through it all the Band Mom hummed along, doing better than ever before just like a six-year-old business should: the last couple weeks of the year even kicked off a CHARTING HOT STREAK that lasted into the new year where in all I went NINE STRAIGHT WEEKS where every single record I was working showed up on CMJ’s charts!!!

You’ll see my festival and venue work again reflected pretty heavily when we get down to my Top Shows lists, much as they were in my Top Stuff of 2013, 2012 and 2011 (I didn’t have such jobs in 2010 and 2009, but the venues I’d later work at were reflected pretty heavily in those lists as well). I’m maintaining the rule that Band Mom Bands are ineligible for the Top Albums list because I couldn’t possibly rank them against each other, but that I can’t rule out shows where I worked the door or box office or show managed or had a Band Mom Band play for my Top Shows lists, because then there would be almost no shows to consider.

As always, I never claim stuff on this list is the ‘best’ of the year. Art is impossible to grade on an objective scale, and it’s insulting and ugly to posture as though one could do so. These are just my favorites:

top 15 albums of 2014:

  1. angel olsen – burn your fire for no witness

  2. the casket girls – true love kills the fairy tale

  3. andrew jackson jihad – christmas island

  4. beck – morning phase
  5. sisyphus – sisyphus
  6. ryan adams – ryan adams
  7. stars – no one is lost
  8. mirah – changing light
  9. alvvays – alvvays
  10. tacocat – nvm
  11. divorcee – divorcee
  12. pattern is movement – pattern is movement
  13. kithkin – rituals, trances & ecstasies for humans in face of the collapse
  14. white sea – in cold blood
  15. yellow ostrich – cosmos

I kept my Top Albums list to a reasonable number this year because I listened to my 9 Band Mom albums (+2 singles) plus the ones that made the cut above a TON, then there were like 100 more that I listened to just a little bit, so the list was gonna be either 100 or 15 (although runner-up status to new pornographers – brill bruisers, Top 16 just felt like an awkwardly uneven number that would NOT BE OKAY). This time, like in 2013, I went with 15, but I can’t promise next year won’t be another 2010. As mentioned and as always, Band Mom artists are ineligible for this list because I wouldn’t even begin to know how to rank them: this means you, robby hecht, melaena cadiz, you me & apollo, scarves, static people, brenda xu, animal hours, tie these hands (plus their second single), sama dams, and tomo nakayama. That’s artists from Nashville, Brooklyn, Colorado, Seattle, San Francisco, Lincoln NE, and Portland OR. You all released FANTASTIC albums that are tied for number one in my heart, and I love you the most.

top 15 shows (concerts):

  1. neutral milk hotel w/elf power @ the neptune (april)

  2. the pizza underground w/toby goodshank, dj derek erdman @ chop suey (april)
  3. the hot ‘n’ readies three times: @ still liquor (feb and october) and @ bainbridge island grange hall (october)
  4. rose windows @ mcmenamins hotel in centralia (february)
  5. sxsw ’15 highlights: jason anderson, good field, tereu tereu, casket girls, courtesy tier (march)
  6. sean nelson 25th anniversary show w/anthonie tonnon @ columbia city theater (may)
  7. advance base, headphones, gordon ashworth (concern), scarves @ rendezvous (august)
  8. “margaret” show feat. eliza rickman, shenandoah davis, mts & tunnels, led to sea, lonesome leash, jherek bischoff, zac pennington, jason webley, chicken john @ historic everett theatre (april)
  9. la luz, craft spells, unknown mortal orchestra @ hilliard’s brewery (june)
  10. oh! pears, secretary, eidelons, sama dams @ heartland (january)
  11. “loves me not” show curated by marco collins feat. mike herrera (mxpx), matt batey (ruler), jenn ghetto (s), naomi wachira, jason dodson (the maldives) @ volterra drawing room (february)
  12. pattern is movement w/ yellow ostrich @ barboza (march) TIED WITH pattern is movement w/wye oak @ neumos (july)
  13. mountain goats @ showbox (june)
  14. tennis pro, aqueduct, the catch @ the crocodile (june)
  15. angel olsen @ capitol hill block party (july)

These were almost entirely in WA, except for the one obvious exception, and I know I cheated by tying a few together. Didn’t want to make the list any longer but couldn’t decide either! Also cut some really great ones out though, including great shows I worked. Don’t be offended if your show that I was at didn’t make this list, it was still great!

top 50 movies:

  1. i origins

  2. boyhood

  3. grand budapest hotel

  4. the skeleton twins

  5. the guest

  6. interstellar
  7. birdman
  8. dear white people
  9. nightcrawler
  10. veronica mars
  11. only lovers left alive
  12. obvious child
  13. inherent vice
  14. rosewater
  15. happy christmas
  16. the sacrament
  17. they came together
  18. calvary
  19. life partners
  20. amira & sam (previously titled sam & amira)
  21. whiplash
  22. the babadook
  23. particle fever
  24. under the skin
  25. guardians of the galaxy
  26. lucky them
  27. jodorowsky’s dune
  28. creep
  29. harmontown
  30. force majeure
  31. the lunchbox (dabba)
  32. locke
  33. laggies
  34. big in japan
  35. like father, like son
  36. the one I love
  37. citizenfour
  38. foxcatcher
  39. attila marcel
  40. unbroken
  41. snowpiercer
  42. the double
  43. blue ruin
  44. night moves
  45. fish & cat
  46. willow creek
  47. le week-end
  48. maleficent
  49. alan partridge
  50. the disappearance of eleanor rigby

honorable mentions (roughly in order; this whole list was initially a numbered top 150+ until I considered how completely insane that would be. but FYI I feel EXTRA strongly this time about the top 20 of the above list, and any of the top 5 really could have been interchangeable, but strongly enough about all of these to mention ’em. I did see 62 other 2014 movies that didn’t make any list at all!):

frank, joe, filth, mood indigo, finding vivian maier, the signal, virunga, selma, still alice, boys, the tale of the princess kaguya, if i stay, b.f.e., life after beth, big hero 6, the rover, ida, about alex, starred up, the imitation game, pride, the judge, a long way down, the normal heart, the zero theorem, wild, coherence, the foxy merkins, point b, the congress, the boxtrolls, hateship loveship, gone girl, cesar chavez, the missing picture, to be takei, dinosaur 13, x-men: days of future past, the homesman, housebound, the liberator, we are the best!, the theory of everything, edge of tomorrow, nymphomaniac (pt 1 & 2), tim’s vermeer, borgman, 20,000 days on earth, love is strange, young ones, a birder’s guide to everything, words and pictures, land ho!, the grand seduction, cake, the gambler, abuse of weakness, fight church, neighbors, the interview, razing the bar, two raging grannies, knights of badassdom, this is where i leave you, 22 jump street, kill the messenger, belle, a fantastic fear of everything, divergent, half of a yellow sun, how to train your dragon 2, venus in fur, regarding susan sontag, enemy, rob the mob, the fault in our stars, top five, breathe in, decoding annie parker, palo alto, cuban fury, alex of venice, american sniper, patema inverted, for no good reason, the hobbit: battle of the five armies, the drop, the hundred foot journey, the dance of reality, horrible bosses 2, big eyes, you must be joking, st vincent, hunger games: mockingjay pt 1, captain america: the winter soldier, transcendence, that awkward moment, lucy, tammy, begin again, dom hemingway, gloria, awful nice, lego movie, stranger by the lake, the heart machine, burt’s buzz, hellion, a walk among the tombstones, the book of life, ride along, a letter to momo, 13 sins, no good deed, sin city: a dame to kill for, proxy, muppets most wanted, the face of love, the monuments men, kelly & cal, listen up philip, into the woods, a most violent year, magic in the moonlight, healing, white bird in a blizzard, hector and the search for happiness, night at the museum: secret of the tomb, catch hell, sex tape, intramural, wetlands.

top NEW actors of the year (as in i’d never heard their names before/hadn’t noticed them in anything and now they seem like a big deal to me, were each in several things i loved): david oyelowo (selma, interstellar, a most violent year), dan stevens (the guest, a walk among the tombstones, high maintenance, night at the museum: secret of the tomb)

standout actors of the year (who were not new to me, but were in a bunch of stuff i loved and seemed to have a really big year): gaby hoffman (obvious child, veronica mars, wild, transparent, girls), randall park (the interview, neighbors, sex tape, they came together, the mindy project), jake lacy (obvious child, intramural), tessa thompson (dear white people, selma although she was sadly absent from the veronica mars movie), and scarlett johansson (under the skin, lucy, captain america: the winter soldier, chef, plus she was still riding that buzz from Her with its super-late 2013 release)

also as an aside, a few years ago I made up a ‘best sound design‘ category because I felt so strongly about black swan’s and then we need to talk about kevin’s and then upstream color’s, and was mad that they were slighted in oscar nominations, and this year I feel the same way about the sound in THE BABADOOK.

oh and I created a bunch more superlatives this year, like: best unexpected rocker cameo in a movie. j. mascis (dinosaur jr) in the double wins it, although art alexakis (eve 6) in wild is a close runner up.

also: most overused clips. baraka and samsara are all over the place!! noticed them specifically in both lucy and the giver this year, and I bet there were more. they’ve become the go-to library of “world images”. oook.

on a similar note, song most covered in films: radiohead’s “creep” (I noticed it in book of life, the gambler, and the zero theorem. give it a rest, guys)

how about, best score: absolutely goes to antonio sanchez for birdman, although james newton howard is a not-so-distant runner up for nightcrawler, that one was really remarkable and nobody’s talking about it. son lux takes bronze for the disappearance of eleanor rigby, that was a lovely and affecting piece of work as well.

I also really want to talk about this year’s best comedy special, because nick offerman’s american ham is the best comedy special I have seen in YEARS. I haven’t traditionally included rankings of those on these lists but I do watch a lot of comedy specials.

some stats notes on movies: in 2014 i saw 380 different movies (whoa, that’s over 140 more than last year, and the lateness of this post has nothing to do with that, those were movies i watched within that year!). 104 of them were in theaters, and to date i’ve seen 244 movies that came out in 2014 (that’s 50 more than last year! although I’m also publishing this like 2 weeks later than last year. this includes several that i watched after the year ended, so they’ll be among the total i report having watched in 2015, but they’re also part of the group of 2014 movies i’m counting as eligible for this best-of list).

as for movies with questionable release dates, the rule i made up is basically that if i saw it in like a festival or limited-engagement special event in 2014, even if it didn’t get even limited national release otherwise, it counts for my list, but if i did not see it in a festival before 2014 and its first limited release (a usa release that’s not a specific festival, even if it showed in fests pre-2014) was this year, then it counts. in other words it’s pretty subjective to my perspective, but it had to have its (limited or wide) release begin in 2014 OR be seen by me in a festival or special event (i saw movies at SXSW, SIFF and a few assorted micro fests and special screenings, and in theaters and homes in New York, Seattle, Ohio, and Austin) in 2014.

also of note, i saw 7 2014 movies in 3d (and only one in IMAX: interstellar, which was very worth it; i saw the hobbit in the HFR 3d at the cinerama, seattle’s best [and recently renovated to be even better] screen, and i’m still not sure that was worth it). i continue to think 3d is a stupid cash grab that almost never adds to the film, but I suffer from pretty severe fear of missing out so i keep getting suckered in. all the 3d movies i saw this year were either animated or action/adventure, which all did an ok job at throwing in fun moments (falls down cliffs, flying) to make use of the 3d, but i wouldn’t exactly go out of my way to recommend splurging on 3d for any of them. IMAX for interstellar though. yes.

I saw two movies more than once in theaters: big in japan got me 3x, and the guest got me 2x. not a coincidence that those were the two movies I caught during this year’s sxsw.

this is my longest movie list ever…there are just so many that I truly feel strongly about! also I keep seeing more and more movies every year in theaters, because of this service called Moviepass where I pay a monthly fee for nearly-unlimited movies so that it actually made financial sense to see MORE movies than less, and I was happy to oblige. I also continued to get paid for writing about movies last year for this obscure VOD website called cinecliq, but that gig’s finished now, because cinecliq has since “rethought their editorial strategy” and dismantled their critical portion of their blog, so I’m hoping to pick up a new film criticism gig in its wake this year.

here’s what an average of exactly 2 trips to the movie theater a week (plus a few extraneous otherwise tix) looks like, btw:

although i obviously saw a ton of movies this year, you’ll always miss a few; there are a few that i still intend to see. i do feel pretty good about the above list, but a few potentially serious contenders just didn’t have a wide enough seattle release for me to get to them (yet?), so, these might have had a chance at making the above lists had i been able to catch them: two days, one night; leviathan; tangerines; timbuktu; wild tales; last days in vietnam; the salt of the earth; song of the sea; beyond the lights; glen campbell…i’ll be me; mr turner; annie; goodbye to language; a girl walks home alone at night; hide your smiling faces; the dog; comet; rocks in my pockets; rudderless; v/h/s: viral; tracks; let’s be cops; god help the girl; mistaken for strangers; annabelle; two night stand; one chance; je t’aime, je t’aime; burkholder; jellyfish eyes; coming home; ardor; chinese puzzle; before i go to sleep; and life itself. pretty much everything else, if it had a theatrical release in 2014 and it’s not listed here, it’s on purpose. SO THERE.

saw filmmakers/actors in person promoting:

-big in japan (cast, crew, everyone ever associated with the film, all over the place throughout the year, but once particularly memorably at SXSW, march 14)

-obvious child (jenny slate & director gillian robespierre, SIFF fest @ the egyptian, may 20)

-the foxy merkins (director madeleine olnek, SIFF fest @ the harvard exit, may 25)

-amira & sam (then titled sam & amira – martin starr, dina shihabi, director sean mullin, other cast and crew, SIFF fest @ the harvard exit, may 28)

-bfe (director shawn telford and most of the cast, SIFF fest @ the harvard exit, june 2)

-alex of venice (director/star chris messina and other cast and crew, SIFF fest @ the harvard exit, june 6)

-creep (mark duplass & director/co-star patrick brice, SIFF fest @ the egyptian, june 6)

-lucky them (director megan griffiths & producer lacey leavitt hosted by lynn shelton, northwest film forum june 15)

-snowpiercer (director bong joon-ho with an interpreter, SIFF uptown, june 16)

-willow creek (stars bryce johnson and alexie gilmore, director bobcat goldthwait, a few others associated, SIFF uptown, june 26)

my 10 favorite comedy shows I saw (in chronological order):

-sxsw: the creek & the cave showcase hosted by james adomian ft andy haynes, kate berlant, jerrod carmichael (and big jay oakerson) @ esther’s follies 3/10

-hari kondabolu album release show ft. kimya dawson, elicia sanchez, ahamefule oluo @ the neptune 3/10

-greg barris, harry moroz, alex hooper, dan st germain @ the comedy underground 4/18

-josh gondelman, brian moote, derek sheen @ the comedy underground 8/20

-bumbershoot: paul f tompkins’ dead authors podcast 8/31

-wyatt cenac w elicia sanchez @ barboza 9/24

-mike birbiglia w kevin barnett and josh rabinowitz @ union hall (brooklyn ny) 10/20

-whiplash: hosted by aparna nancherla ft nick thune, josie long, jermaine fowler, julian mccullough and a weird walkout by chris rock @ ucb chelsea (manhattan ny) 10/20

-cmj: heart of darkness hosted by greg barris ft larry murphy, corn mo, jason saenz, shonali bhowmik and the i love you chair @ union hall (brooklyn ny) 10/24

-RISK! hosted by kevin allison, ft dan savage (and others) @ the vera project 12/12

2013’s comedy list was a top 25, but I feel pretty good about moving away from nyc and still having a top 10 that wasn’t just a list of EVERY single comedy show I saw. miss u tho, ny comedy.

favorite new tv shows:


broad city

bojack horseman


short poppies

the birthday boys

silicon valley

last week tonight with john oliver

a to z


jane the virgin

cosmos with neil degrasse tyson

mozart in the jungle

an honourable woman

peaky blinders

marry me

favorite non-new tv shows:


house of cards

adventure time

bob’s burgers

brooklyn nine-nine

high maintenance




new girl

parks and recreation

marvel’s agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

an idiot abroad

drunk history


the mindy project

(fell behind on current seasons of american horror story, downtown abbey, and louie that might’ve otherwise made the list, also planning on checking out halt and catch fire, garfunkel and oates, true detective, the knick, justified, parenthood, boardwalk empire, house of lies, veep, shameless, comedy bang bang, enlightened, episodes, masters of sex, the comeback, kroll show, key & peele, inside amy schumer, nathan for you…need more hours in the day)

and lastly, some stray cool stuff i did in 2014 that didn’t fit into any of the above categories:

-jerry springer: the opera featuring sean nelson as the devil @ the moore theater in january

-watched the hometown team win the superbowl with friends on vashon island in february (also spent a truly fantastic 4th of july on vashon)

-attended a minor league hockey game in san antonio (with my brother’s dog) in march, and two mariners baseball games in seattle in may and july

-ate dinner in the space needle with my parents in july

-saw john darnielle do a reading from his excellent new book wolf in white van @ barboza in september

-watched a panel of friends (including kelly mcclure, rachel brodsky, caroline shadood and others) speak about feminism in the music industry at cmj in october

-worked as a production assistant on a web series in july

-worked for gamer convention PAX at an event where we gave away free pancakes among people dressed up as SIMS characters

-saw my wonderful friend kayla get married in fort townsend state park; drank mead

I’ve capped off these posts the last few years with “celebrity encounters”, where I humblebrag (RIP harris) about meeting famous people then post my favorite photo, but all my “celebrity encounters” are really already detailed above…oh wait! I did go to Aberdeen to meet Kurt Cobain.

THE END! I love you.


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