Much like with my best of comics list, “things” is vague, but it’s a good way to look at everything at once. Plus this is a comics blog!! You don’t need my Top 10 of everything in the universe. So we’ll stick with the vague listing.
I liked a lot of things this year, but this list is the things I absolutely loved. Let’s get to it!!
10. J.K. Rowling
I read ALL of Harry Potter for the first time ever this year, in about three weeks, and it was absolutely spectacular. Reading Harry Potter for the first time was my favourite thing of 2012 that didn’t come out in 2012. But then, J.K. Rowling had a new book, The Casual Vacancy, written for adults and without a single wizard. It was really quite good, as well as impressively dark and depressing, and was the complete opposite of Harry Potter in almost every way. It takes guts to do something so different from the bestselling book franchise in the world, and skill to make small town politics as engrossing as the Tri-Wizard Tournament.
9. Elf on an Elk
The best of The Hobbit happened about five minutes in after Smaug took over the Lonely Mountain and the dwarves looked to the elf king, Thranduil, for assistance. Thranduil stared them down and then dismissively looked away, all while riding an elk with HUGE antlers. It was amazing, and lasted all of six seconds. It was so brief and majestic, I can’t even find a good picture of it online. It was the best, most random thing I saw all year.
8. Nate Silver
Obama winning the presidential election was great and all, but the best part of election night was watching the results come in and seeing that Nate Silver had called EVERY single state. Pundits on both sides had predicted 12 billion different outcomes, and the absolutely asinine media coverage of the campaign tried to make the race look like it was too close to call, but Nate Silver got it ALL right. With math. It was awesome. I sincerely hope that in four years, when the media tries to create ratings-boosting narratives instead of reporting facts, everyone ignores them and listens to the guy who’s actually using his brain.
Louis CK’s been killing it for the past few years now, and Louie remains one of the most enjoyable and fascinating TV shows on the air. It was weird to begin with, but each year he takes it further from traditional comedy and story structures and makes it more and more bizarre. It’s hilarious and surprisingly touching, and just amazingly cast. The young actresses that play his daughters are particularly excellent. You never know what’s going to happen when you tune in to Louie, and that’s what makes it great.
6. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
I’ve enjoyed G. Willow Wilson’s for years. Cairo was fantastic, and her recent Mystic mini-series at Marvel was super enjoyable. Her first novel, Alif the Unseen, combines Islamic mythology with modern technology, and the result is a fascinating and great read. I don’t know a lot about Islamic mythology, like djinns and such, so it was really interesting to be immersed in this world. And also useful to enter it through the modern computer hacking world, which I’ve got a better grasp on. Alif the Unseen is a unique and exciting novel, and I highly recommend it.
It’s a testament to how great Sherlock is that the two leads are so busy with other projects that the next season keeps getting delayed. Martin Freeman was busy with The Hobbit, while Benedict Cumberbatch is just in everything now. Cumberbatch gets most of the Sherlock love, but it’s the duo that makes the show so enjoyable. They just ARE Holmes and Watson, and their chemistry is perfect. That their cases are exciting is a bonus; I’d watch just to see the two of them sit around and chat.
4. Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live
As always, Saturday Night Live was hit and miss this year. There was also a lot of cast turnover, with some big names leaving the show. By far, my favourite new cast member is Kate McKinnon, who does great impressions (her Ann Romney was spectacular) and who starred in my absolute favourite sketch of the year. As the Spanish woman who infamously repainted Ecce Homo, McKinnon KILLED me with lines about Jesus’ “enormous round monkey face.” I could watch that bit on a loop forever.
3. Marvel’s The Avengers
I can’t recall ever having a better time at the movies than when I saw The Avengers. The action was crazy, the new cast members were great, and it perfectly brought together all of the existing Marvel movies while FINALLY making the Hulk work on the big screen. I’ve never heard a theatre of people erupt in laughter like they did when the Hulk picked up Loki and swung him around like a ragdoll. It was a fun, crazy movie that perfectly captured everything that’s great about superheroes.
2. HHhH by Laurent Binet
HHhH is a novel about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, a top Nazi leader, during World War Two. Sort of. It’s half a novel, and half Laurent Binet’s ruminations on how you turn history into fiction and the various pitfalls that entails. Binet critiques other books and movies that tell the same story while saving the harshest critiques for himself, and wonders about how much we can actually know about historical events and how much is just speculation. It’s completely fascinating and engrossing, and serves as a brilliant lesson for how to approach history.
1. Happy Endings
There are a lot of great comedies on TV right now like Parks and Recreation, Archer, and Community, but I think the funniest show this year, and my favourite non-comic book thing of the year, is the criminally unwatched Happy Endings. This show is just wall to wall jokes, and you’ve got to watch it a few times to catch everything. It’s weirdly wonderful, and includes bits like Jane staging an elaborate Gallagher-esque watermelon smashing to amuse her dad, and Brad rediscovering his early 1990s love of ventriloquism with his stand-up comedian dummy, Sinbrad. It’s all SO ridiculously funny, and I laugh like crazy through every episode. It’s pure hilarity.
So there was some decent stuff in 2012, particularly of the funny and/or weird and/or fascinating variety. Hopefully we’ll get even more in 2013!!
Tags: Alif the Unseen, Benedict Cumberbatch, G. Willow Wilson, Happy Endings, HHhH, J.K. Rowling, Kate McKinnon, Laurent Binet, Louie, Louis CK, Martin Freeman, Nate Silver, Saturday Night Live, Sherlock, The Avengers, The Casual Vacancy, The Hobbit, Thranduil