A year ago I wrote up my very first Best of 2013 post, because I felt like my opinion mattered when judging other people's work. So, let's jump straight into my judgmental mind, as I take you on a journey of my favourite elements of 2014 with as much grace and style as I can muster...which isn't much.
Best movie I have seen in 2014:
This was tough. I don't quite know why, but nothing I saw this year really stood out in my mind. Overall, I think watched fewer movies this year than I have in previous years, but still, I didn't feel quite as excited exiting cinemas as I did on the way in. Edge of Tomorrow was, in my books, one of the best movies of the year. Different, new, unique, exciting, complex sci-fi that was explained very simply, funny, worth repeat watches...it had everything but for some reason I seem to be in the minority on this one.
But then, very recently, I got around to watching a movie I had heard much about. I had very high expectations, the last time I saw this actor and director together, I was pleasantly surprised. On top of this, there was already a lot of buzz surrounding this movie, it being the third Shakespearean adaptation of this particular director. And people who's taste I respected told me to watch this movie.
Arguably, I watched this movie with the highest expectations I could have.
Unbelievably, it surpassed all such expectations for me.
The movie in question, is of course, Haider.
I've never quite understood the reason why Shakespeare is so revered in the English speaking world. But Haider helped me understand that a little better. Hamlet set in the 1995 Kashmiri separatist movement. It seems like such a far-fetched, idiotically ambitious idea. And yet, this movie delivered. Every scene, every line, every single character. I have rarely seen movies where people who would be (at best) mediocre actors just uplift their craft to such an extent it elevates the whole movie from good to great. Of course, the most difficult role of the film (Hamlet's mother) went to arguably India's best, but it was really great to see everybody else doing their best to keep her on her toes.
The movie was doubly interesting for me as you rarely get to see movies coming out of Bollywood (and this was Bollywood, not low-budget independent movie making) that deal with so many Muslim characters with a focus on an inherently Muslim driven story. Add to that the setting of Kashmir, that has for years been limited to songs or terrorism driven stories in commercial cinema, and this just blew everything away.
Hamlet in Kashmir. In the hands of less capable people, it would have been a total mess. Luckily for us, they knew exactly what they were doing.
Best book I read in 2014:
I managed to best myself from last year. Six (and a half) new books this year. My attempts at finishing a seventh book fell agonisingly short (my Kindle informs me that I am 42% through my current read), but still, I have something new to aim for next year. More unread authors and unread books to explore in 2015.
For me, I finally got around to reading Susan Cain's Quiet, which was long overdue. But I'm glad I read it now than earlier, because it helped me understand a lot more about myself that I wouldn't have had a chance to had I read it in 2012. In fact, in many ways, it reaffirmed my decision to explore the Asian side of the world for the foreseeable future. The book was a great insight into my own head, which is weird since I've never met this lady. But it answered several questions of culture, both internal and external, and if anything, prepared me to better deal with myself and with others in situations where I'm usually uncomfortable and don't really know what to do with myself.
Best comic book I read in 2014:
Very few comics were read this year, and the whole year was very front loaded. I read pretty much all I could in the first three months of the year and have since not read anything in the remaining nine months. However, Criminal by dream team Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips ranks highest on my list. By no means new, but still, something I finally got around to, I realised that if there is a comic book team that I would blindly read anything they produced, it would be these two.
Best album I heard in 2014:
Once again, nothing stands out for me. While last year was all about randomly accessing memories, this year...not so much. In fact, the only actual album I thoroughly enjoyed was the Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1. A movie soundtrack yes, but made up of songs from long ago. Enjoyable, but not particularly 2014 original. But that's the kind of year it's been.
Best song I heard in 2014:
This was also quite difficult, because nothing really stood out the way songs did last year. In fact, only one song did for me. Rather Be by Clean Bandit. From it's string beginnings to it's piano driven chorus, and it's exceptionally sweet lyrics, this was an electronic track that didn't quite sound electronic, yet somehow was. Their follow ups have been a bit disappointing, but they did give us arguably the most memorable song of 2014.
Best live show I saw in 2014:
I am a big Bill Bailey fan. This year, by sheer chance, I found myself in the same city as him, at the same time, and got to see him live. Finally. Bill Bailey LIMBOLAND was a great show, but any measure. Bitingly funny (even at Singapore's expense), musically obtuse yet somehow always relevant. I want to see this man perform again.
Best TV show I started watching in 2014:
It was on a nine hour flight to Shanghai over the summer, having given up on Game of Thrones and waiting patiently for the next season of House of Cards, that I, by complete chance, started watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine. And while I freely admit I'm crushing pretty hard on Detective Amy Santiago, the show boils down to a single word: funny. It's just that. Funny and consistently funny and always funny. I really hope it doesn't get cancelled any time soon.
Best pop cultural indulgence of 2014
This is a slightly strange one because saying 'best podcast' would be lying. I don't really listen to podcasts. The other stuff mentioned above, I do all the time. But this show quite possibly trumped every other piece of pop culture I consumed this year. By far.
"This is a Global Tel-Link prepaid call from...
...an inmate at a Maryland correctional facility."
These 17 words opened one of the most talked about stories of 2014. A story, set 15 years ago, regarding a couple of kids and the awful circumstances that life threw at them. You felt pity. Sadness. Anger. Frustration. But overriding all these emotions, one emotion stood above all those: curiosity.
Serial has been an unexpected, but deserving, success. Up till three months ago I never listened to podcasts. I didn't even know anybody who did. Now, I have a bunch of friends who have all heard Serial, and are still discussing the story. The fact that it's all true adds that little bit of gravity to what would have been a very interesting concept and story. But Serial made me devote entire hours to my little headphones. Or turn on my speakers and shut off my phone. Or park my car and wait for an extra 15 minutes before I disembarked.
How will this end? The story, not Serial. That've already finished. Now they're busy preparing for season 2. But in essence, that is a testament to the quality of the show. People are still trying to figure out what happened and are making an effort to make real things happen. Very few shows can say that about themselves. Also, let's not forget their single-handed attempt at reigniting interest in podcasts.
So that's my list for 2014. I wonder how many of you agree with me. Maybe none of you do. That's fine. On a blog called The Daily Khan you should expect to hear only once voice.