2012: Some Stuff Happened… In And Out Of Pop Culture

Time keeps moving. It just keeps going–like a freight train headed for a deadly, explosive collision. 2012 was not my best year–most of it sucked actually–but that’s alright, most years aren’t my best years. In fact, out of all the years that ever were, most haven’t been favorable to me. At any rate, I have the time to delve into some shit to distract me from the ever approaching, crippling onset of severe depression that is real life. Let me not be the cynical asshole of the party for once, let’s delve into something much less gloomy.

I think the most revelatory moments for me this year involved realizing how much I miss my family and also how much I no longer feel too strongly about hip-hop music. It was a pretty seamless shift to be honest, listening to so much of any kind of music over and over would make anyone go crazy. Yeah, there’s a lot of variety and all types of unique artists out there but after awhile it all becomes of blur of noise over the same exact 808. So while I’m quick to state that Kendrick Lamar’s chilling portrait of Compton life Good Kid, m.A.A.d City is one of the best records made this year and one of the best rap records I’ve head in a long time, that’s not really saying much. I’ve listened to lots of rap records in the past few years and I don’t remember much about most of them–even the ones I liked. It’s not their fault, it’s the generation we live in. Music has become disposable… in all genres yes, but rap has been affected the most. So while Big Boi, Killer Mike, Joey Bada$$ and Action Bronson had solid releases, it’s hard to fathom me remembering much about them a year-plus from now (Joey maybe).

On the whole, some of the best music I heard this year wasn’t from this year… and the stuff that was from this year are too sparse or obscure. As far as full albums go, it was a pretty average year. Jessie Ware, Fiona Apple, Kendrick Lamar (as mentioned above) and How To Dress Well made highly enjoyable music this year. On the R&B front, only 4 acts stick out in my mind as worth discussing–Frank Ocean, Miguel, Solange and D’angelo. Miguel had a strong return with his second album Kaleidoscope Dream; an album that continues to grow on me with each passing day. D’angelo gets a shout-out for the simple fact that his return to performing for fans and audiences was perfect–because it was on his own terms. He didn’t have to parade himself half-naked to a gaggle of people who only give a shit about one song of his; he went out there, brought the funk and catered to his own style. I’ll be forever jealous for never getting the chance to see it this year. Then we get to Frank Ocean and Solange, a pair I lump together because they both made two of the most buzzworthy releases in R&B. Truth be told, I will give Frankie his credit. Channel Orange was one of the best albums of the year. That being said, personally, it didn’t do much for me. I recognize it’s good, soulful, passionate and experimental enough to separate it from anything else released this year–it just didn’t affect me like it probably should’ve. Now if I were to pick my favorite R&B record this year, it would have to be the baby Knowles True EP. Before you start, I’m not trying to be a contrarian. I genuinely like Solange a lot and to compare her to her sister musically would be silly–inevitable–but silly. Beyonce’ will always be the Cheerleader Summa Cum Laude Prom Queen of music but Solange is like the black sheep sister who goes to that art school across the street, the one who got you into all your favorite obscure bands and movies that you’ll never convince to marry you because “that’s just not her style”. This just so happens to be my type of girl.

Movies were better this year than last, even the most mundane-seeming had its enjoyable moments (s/o to Premium Rush). Movies like The Avengers proved you can still have a fun, light-hearted superhero movie and it will be just as great as the super-serious new dark tone everyone wants to turn their comic book movies into. Speaking of which, despite the fact Christopher Nolan seemed to be exhausted after Inception and just went into auto-pilot and completely phoned it in with The Dark Knight Rises, once you chose to ignore its plot holes and decided against taking it as seriously as it begs you too, you find that it still makes for a grandiose yet fun movie. Tom Hardy as Bane will forever be the second best idea followed closely after Bane having that voice of his. Despite not getting to see The Masterduring its theatrical run, its divisiveness doesn’t surprise me. Paul Thomas Anderson has slowly but surely found himself turning into a new sort-of Stanley Kubrick, in the sense that they both made films in order to derive some sort of specific reaction–be it positive or negative. To me, I always figured The Master would be the Synecdoche, New York of this year. A movie too chaotic to just be discarded. It had to be dissected and deciphered by anyone who watched it, whether they hated it or not. Speaking of divisiveness, the two biggest harborer of critical commentary came at the end of the year. Zero Dark Thirty, while being a critic favorite, incited controversy about its subject matter (the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden) from both the conservative and liberal sides of the aisle–much the same way the director, Kathryn Bigelow, received the same type of controversy for The Hurt Locker. Then there’s Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti western set during slavery. As you can imagine, the film has garnered its own share of animosity for its historical inaccuracy and it’s overall depiction of slavery. Basically, Quentin Tarantino is facing controversy for being Quentin Tarantino… you know, the same guy who did the exact same thing with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in Inglorious Basterds. This then leaves me thinking, since not much was really said about that movie but a lot is being said about this one, I can only assume one of three things is happening: 1) nobody’s ever heard of Quentin Tarantino 2) a bunch of people are too in their feelings about the idea of using slavery as a backdrop for a story about a black bounty hunter killing slave masters rather than it being some overblown history lesson or 3) the subject hits a little too close to home here in America. At any rate, the movie I enjoyed the most this year had to be Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s finest movie since The Royal Tenenbaums. From the intense attention to detail to the color scheme and the character studies of young love and adult insecurities, it was classic Anderson. Anderson’s schtick may have lost some of its luster, but he still knows how to put together a wonderfully ecstatic indie faux-fairy tale.

Television continue to ride its golden-era out, with some of the best seasons of some of the most unique shows. 30 rock, after having slump season after slump season, went all out for the first half of its shortened final season; proving to be just as irreverent, tightly constructed and hilarious as it’s always been. Community experienced controversy after controversy, with the departure of showrunner Dan Harmon and the eventual departure of Chevy Chase, but still managed to have another wonderful and imaginative season–a season that served as a fitting end to Harmon’s tenure. Meanwhile, Parks & Recreation continued to be the best show on NBC’s (mostly) stellar Thursday night block.  Louie C.K.’s boundary-pushing character expose continues to be art disguised as comedy. Louie has almost perfected the act of making its audience just as unsure about things as Louis C.K. himself seems in each episode, while also challenging the notion of success and, as always, the bitter fight between happiness and depression. Speaking of which, Mad Men produced one of its most divisive seasons after being gone for 2 years. I fell on the camp that loved this season, a season which took the characters to dark places–in both reality and within themselves. If one word could be applied to this season, it would be worth. The worth of your soul, the worth of a spouse and the worth of self were all regular questions implied in episode after episode. Maybe that’s why I like it so much, the question of worth makes a regular appearance in my life as well. Speaking of the worth of souls, Breaking Bad continued to be the best thing on television. With an 8 episode half-season, Breaking Bad packed in as much as it could before its eventual finale in 2013; at times it proved hit or miss but when it hit it hit hard, providing some of the best television seen this year–including the gut-wrenching end to “Dead Freight”. The resolution to Breaking Bad in 2013 already makes that year awesome in my book, but the prospect of no more new episodes is a bad omen for 2014.

2012, much like real life, was uneven and maybe in the long run won’t be much to remember. Eventually nostalgia will be kind to it–like it is to every year, no matter how shitty. For me, it will be the year I got pushed to my absolute limit and came out stronger… but still not strong enough. It was the year I needed the best in entertainment to take me away from the life I was living and make me happy to be alive. It didn’t always succeed but it had a pretty good batting average. Here’s to 2013, let’s hope it’s a good one.

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