The 2014 Jeff Malone Academy Awards

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If I were in charge of unilaterally selecting the Oscars, here is who would be recognized.  Winners are at the top, and nominees are listed most deserving first.

Best Picture
1. Whiplash
2. The Lego Movie
3. Gone Girl
4. Nightcrawler
5. Snowpiercer

Lead Actress
1. Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
2. Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin
3. Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
4. Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
5. Emily Blunt, Into the Woods

Lead Actor
1. Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
2. Michael Keaton, Birdman
3. Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. David Oyelowo, Selma
5. Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Best Movie Scenes of 2014

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TOP FIVE

1. X-Men: Days of Future Past – “Time in a Bottle”: Mid-film applause was in order.

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Best Film Performances of 2014

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In a lot of my best-of lists in the past, I have made it a point to mention potential greats that I haven’t been able to see.  I have backed off from doing that recently, because it is just something that comes with the territory.  But having seen fewer movies in 2014 than I did in 2013, I feel compelled to mention some of the performances I kept hearing about, like Julianne Moore in Still Alice, Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night and The Immigrant, or Timothy Spall in Mr. Turner.  But I still managed to see an abundance of great acting.  Here is a rundown of the excellence, starting with the 2 best and then the rest in alphabetical order:

Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
Uma Thurman, Nymphomaniac

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Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler
Emily Blunt, Into the Woods
Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice
Bradley Cooper, Guardians of the Galaxy
Lilla Crawford, Into the Woods
Tom Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Jake Gyllenhaal, Enemy
Ed Harris, Snowpiercer
Scarlett Johansson, Lucy and Under the Skin
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
David Oyelowo, Selma
Randall Park, The Interview
Alison Pill, Snowpiercer
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Emma Stone, Birdman
Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

Best Films of 2014 (Re-dux)

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I made a top 10 films of 2014 list back in December, but since then, I have seen some more movies originally released last year. So here is an updated and expanded list:

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1. Whiplash
2. The Lego Movie
3. Gone Girl
4. Nightcrawler
5. Snowpiercer

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Best Music Videos of 2014

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Ham, HAIM, blood, and dancing…

1. Big Data ft. Joywave – “Dangerous” [Directors: Brandon LaGanke and John Carlucci] – A satire about the hyper-sexualization of the media needs to go full-bore in flipping the script. This clip from Big Data did just that, turning big-breasted women for athletic gear into full-on insatiable predators.

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The Best Albums of 2014 That I Listened To

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As my best albums list is the “Best Albums I Listened To” as opposed to just the “Best Albums,” it is more pointedly subjective than my other best of lists. I usually do not listen to enough albums each year to really be able to definitively say which are the absolute greatest. Thus, this year, instead of focusing on objective critical analysis, I have decided to write about my own personal experiences with each of these entries.

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Best Songs of 2014

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All songs on this list were released as singles in 2014, or late 2013.

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1. Sia – “Chandelier” – In crafting an absolutely legit party stomper, the winkingly camera-shy Australian chanteuse tweaked the standard party pop formula with a devastatingly effective post-chorus about when the party ends. This is self-examination writ large, grabbing listeners’ ears and demanding empathy.
2. DJ Snake & Lil’ Jon – “Turn Down for What” – The controlled chaos of trap music was all over the place in 2014, and this tribute to keeping up that loud was its orgasmic pinnacle.
3. Ariana Grande ft. The Weeknd – “Love Me Harder” – A swirl of conflicting or compatible romantic emotions made for the most passionate R&B duet in ages.
4. Katy Perry ft. Juicy J – “Dark Horse” – With clutch production from Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and Cirkut, Katy trapped her fans with an empowering edge.
5. Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX – “Fancy” – A pale white Australian may not be what most people think of when it comes to hip-hop, but Iggy brings a vitally unique voice to the game.
6. Lana Del Rey – “West Coast” – Ms. Del Rey escorted us through the ethereal experience of the year.
7. Hozier – “Take Me to Church” – A social consciousness in the face of religious strictures proved once again to be a recipe for great music.
8. Charli XCX – “Break the Rules” – A dance punk anthem for the ages.
9. Milky Chance – “Stolen Dance” – This quirky, folky curiosity stuck in the ears thanks to the unique vocalizations of Clemens Rehbein.
10. Charli XCX – “Boom Clap” – Charli XCX has quite a way with big dumb choruses.
11. Lorde – “Yellow Flicker Beat” – It’s not very often that a movie gets a theme song that matches it perfectly; cherish it, Mockingjay.
12. Royal Blood – “Figure It Out” – Royal Blood rode their absolutely bloody killer garage rock into the 2014 scene.
13. Big Data ft. Joywave – “Dangerous” – A pounding riff and crackling percussion convey the sense of overwhelming surveillance that Big Data is getting at.
14. St. Vincent – “Birth in Reverse” – Among many superlative qualities, the debut single from Annie Clark’s self-titled album featured the best opening lines of the year (“Oh what an ordinary day/Take out the garbage, masturbate”).
15. Banks – “Begging for Thread” – I think the slinky-voiced Banks really meant to say “I think you secretly knew” instead of “Secretly I think you knew,” but those syntactical tricks are what make us love song lyrics.
16. Taylor Swift – “Blank Space” – The same shit that Taylor’s always been singing about, but much more self-aware and much snappier.
17. Calvin Harris – “Summer” – This track may be repetitive, but that repetition so strongly captures a feeling of passion awakened but not quite fully realized.
18. Ariana Grande ft. Zedd – “Break Free” – The incomprehensibility of Ariana Grande is part of her appeal. Also, that spacey electronic Zedd beat looks good on her.
19. U2 – “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” – Crunchier and punchier than U2 have been in decades.
20. Cold War Kids – “All This Could Be Yours” – The Cold War Kids got their sound just right with a driving piano riff that led right into an oh-oh-oh chorus.
21. The Black Keys – “Fever” – The psychedelic turn that we surely all knew we needed from Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney.
22. Fitz and the Tantrums – “Fools Good” – Soul music is about baring the soul; Fitz and the Tantrums nailed it here with this ode to the absence of love.
23. Tove Lo – “Habits (Stay High)” – Music for recovering from or refueling for partying.
24. Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj – “Bang Bang” – The double entendres are barely hidden in this bouncy soul-pop throwback.
25. Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne – “Rather Be” – Every year deserves a paean to healthy romantic love; Clean Bandit delivered it in 2014.

The Best Commercials of 2014

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1. AXE – “Make Love, Not War” – With this Super Bowl spot, the deodorant brand made a simple, but brilliant, pacifist statement, with a tribute to passion that avoided schmaltz by having an edge.

2. Totino’s – “Pizza Freaks Unite” – Ever since directing a series of spots for Old Spice, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have had a significant effect on the commercial landscape. So whenever they are involved in a new ad, it is an event, as in this punk rock song featuring pizza freaks, pizza sax, vocal distortion, and a total lack of corporate b.s.

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The Best TV Episodes of 2014

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TooManyCooks

Yesterday, I posted my choices for the 30 best television series of 2014. Now, here are my selections for the 30 best episodes of the year. Seeing as 30 spots was not nearly enough to mention every great show of the year, obviously it is even more insufficient for covering all the great individual episodes. But if you binge through this list, you will get a good sense of the televisual excellence of 2014.

1. “Too Many Cooks”
2. Review – “Pancakes; Divorce; Pancakes”
3. Rick and Morty – “Rixty Minutes”
4. Rick and Morty – “Meeseeks and Destroy”
5. Nathan for You – “Souvenir Shop/E.L.A.I.F.F.”
6. Nathan for You – “Dumb Starbucks”
7. Hannibal – “Mizumono”
8. The Chris Gethard Show – “I’m Nervous All the Time”
9. South Park – “The Cissy”
10. Nathan for You – “Daddy’s Watching/Party Planner”
11. You’re the Worst – “Drink Your Milk”
12. Comedy Bang! Bang! – “Josh Groban Wears a Suit & Striped Socks”
13. Jeopardy! – 2014 Tournament of Champions Final, Day 1
14. Comedy Bang! Bang! – “Wayne Coyne Wears a Halloween Costume”
15. New Girl – “Background Check”
16. Community – “Basic Sandwich”
17. Fargo – “A Fox, a Rabbit, and a Cabbage”
18. True Detective – “The Secret Fate of All Life”
19. Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories – “Baby”
20. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – Episode 20 (2022 Winter Olympics, civil forfeiture)
21. American Dad! – “Dreaming of a White Porsche Christmas”
22. Silicon Valley – “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency”
23. Mad Men – “Waterloo”
24. Bojack Horseman – “Downer Ending”
25. Louie – “In the Woods”
26. The Good Wife – “The Trial”
27. Community – “Geothermal Escapism”
28. Hannibal – “Takiawase”
29. Girls – “Beach House”
30. Fargo – “Buridan’s Ass”

The Best Television Series of 2014

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It feels like I have been declaring all of the past few years the best year of television ever. Well, here I am saying it again, more convinced than ever that it is the truth. I could make a legitimate case for almost every selection in this top 30 as the best show of the year. Several shows fell down from where I had them ranked last year, but not, for the most part, because of any dip in quality on their part, but instead because of so many great new shows and improved performances by some returning shows. This was such a notable year for rookie shows that I thought about doing a Best New Shows of the year feature, but it seemed redundant, considering that all the shows that would have formed that feature made it onto this list. On to the excellence:

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