If Internet clicks are any measure, and we all know they clearly are, lists are basically the only thing anyone wants to read. I could get into how lazy this is, and how stupid and arbitrary it is, and talk about how lists are pointless. Or I could give you what you want.
Without further ado, here are the “Five Best Movies and New TV Shows of 2014.” This list is not subjective. These are facts.
Movies 5. Land Ho!
This slick, under-the-radar charmer about two American senior citizens who jet off to Iceland for an adventure after the death of one of their wives is the most life-affirming film I’ve seen in years. I straight up dare you not to feel things. At times funny and unusually profound, this was the most pleasant treat of the year.
4. Cold in July
Go ahead and read the synopsis, or watch a trailer. Whatever you do, you have no idea what you’re in for. This was the most exciting and action-packed ride of the year, and it’s no less than four different films packed into one brilliant package. Don Johnson and Sam Shepard are nothing short of revelatory. Cold will have you lusting for a sequel.
3. What We Do in the Shadows
This brilliant New Zealand mockumentary about a house of vampire roommates was one of the biggest surprises of the year. Even though Jemaine Clement had already proven his comedy skills on HBO’s Flight of the Conchords, I was completely unprepared for the high level of improvisation and writing that made this film work so well. Taika Waititi, who also co-wrote and directed this gem, is a superstar in the making. This was the best mockumentary I’ve seen since 1994’s Fear of a Black Hat.
Brendan Gleeson is one of those actors who everyone recognizes, and who has played major roles in major American films, and yet he still resides on the outskirts of mainstream stardom. This film should change all that, but probably won’t. There are not enough words in a short paragraph to describe the brilliant writing and performances that went into this darkly comic tale of a priest grappling with mortality and the forces of good and evil.
1. Inherent Vice
The easy way to describe this criminally underappreciated sure-to-be cult classic is Chinatown meets The Big Lebowski. But that would be to sell it short. It’s so much more than that, but if you’re honest, wouldn’t you go see a cross between those two movies, no questions asked? Do yourself a favor and see visionary director P.T. Anderson’s gorgeous and greasy period mystery masterwork, and learn to love Joaquin Phoenix again. He shines in the starring role.
TV 5. Broad City (Comedy Central)
I’ve written about this show too many times, so let this be the last for a while. Abbi and Ilana are everything that’s right about millennials and entertainment. The adventures of these two 20-something ladies in NYC manages to walk the tightrope of being an old soul in a young language, and it speaks to everyone. If you don’t recognize their callbacks, you’ve been watching the wrong channel. #vapelife
4. True Detective (HBO)
This show said things that nobody has ever had the balls to say on TV before. For that, if nothing else, this atmospheric and brilliantly conceived mystery deserves accolades. But on top of that are the gripping story, the unforgettable performances, and climax that will stay with you. The second season will feature new characters in a new story, which is almost a shame.
3. Silicon Valley (HBO)
Mike Judge is a genius, and his ability to see “how the other half lives” is his most honed skill. With this show about a house of young programmers trying to make their mark, he has built what is probably the only traversable bridge between old people who use “the email” and the younger generation to whom Judge’s classic cartoon Beavis & Butthead must seem downright cobwebbed. The key is knowing how to play the stereotypes.
2. Fargo (FX)
It took a Herculean effort of writing to fold one of the most beloved American films of the last 25 years into a fresh new package on TV. This sometimes hilarious, sometimes disturbing mystery story unfolded at a flawless pace, and managed to out-Coen the Coens themselves. I can’t even fathom what they have planned for Season 2, and that’s probably the best thing you can say about any show.
1. Rick and Morty (Cartoon Network)
There’s something about the insane mind-warping quests undertaken by a drunken super genius and his grandson that manages to be crude without swearing, funny without punchlines, and wise without platitudes. It’s really an amazing thing, and turned out to be not only the best animation on TV, but the best sitcom and family drama as well. Season 2 is the thing I’m most excited for in 2015.