Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Listmania 2012: Best Discoveries of the Year

As pop culture aficionados, your friends at Culture Blues are not immune to the end-of-year lists currently overwhelming the internet. Welcome to Listmania, where Culture Blues ranks their favorite shit in a handful categories. Today, we honor the things we were happiest to discover in 2011.

(10) Fake Criterions Tumblr

The Criterion Collection’s eye-catching covers have long been a trademark of the prestige DVD/Blu-Ray line. They’re designed as much to make established fans cheer as to sell the movies to the uninitiated. It’s an approach that makes a lot of sense for special edition packages, and the tribute/homage/parody covers at Fake Criterions are no different. Covering new releases, movies that already have Criterion editions, movies that should have Criterion editions, movies that most definitely should not have Criterion editions and straight-up jokes, contributors nail many of Criterion’s design motifs, from simple and elegant to crowded, from representative stills to more interpretive, from whimsical to badass. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay to this amazing, time-wasting treasure trove is that I desperately want to add some of these to my shelf. (Jeremiah White)

(9) Bret Easton Ellis on Twitter

I guess I ran out of room on our hate list? I don’t follow Bret Easton Ellis on Twitter because that would seem like an endorsement, but I make sure to stop by his page a couple times every week. It’s like a car crash that just never ends, where you can rubberneck the carnage at your leisure. Easton Ellis tweets mostly about movies and the books he isn’t writing, pretty standard stuff, and yet he consistently manages to come off as a complete asshole, firing up his 350K+ followers like few of the verified set can manage. It’s heinous, and yet I love it and can’t stop reading.  (Jeff Hart)

(8) New Orleans

Here are is a brief list of reasons why New Orleans is a better destination than Las Vegas: 1) Amazing local food, particularly seafood. 2) Exquisite architecture and ambiance. While Vegas is gaudy, New Orleans has endless character, and feels European.  3) You can drink anywhere, at anytime. 4) Riverboat gambling. 5) The Mississippi River (Vegas is in a fucking desert). 6) Bourbon Street. It’s shorter than the Vegas strip, but livelier - oh, and you can drink on it. So the next time you and your friends are planning a debaucherous trip, abandon the tired cliche and head to New Orleans. (Giovanny Caquias)

(7) Blackacre

I don’t read nearly as many comics as I’d like to, and hardly any in single issues. I picked up Image’s Blackacre by newcomer Duffy Boudreau on a whim; it has a cool cover, I like dystopian stuff, and I’m easily intrigued by #1s (although I rarely stick around for #2). What I stumbled upon is the most intriguing debut issue since all the men started puking blood in Y: The Last Man. Beginning with a dissertation on how pirates vs. zombies epitomizes crumbling American culture (it’s way smarter than it sounds!), Blackacre quickly sweeps readers into a post-apocalyptic future filled with politics, gruesome violence, and shady characters. I can’t wait for more. (Jeff Hart)

(6) Ecstasy of Gold Breaking Bad tribute video

Watching this YouTube tribute to Breaking Bad is like smoking a sweet blue rock of 99.1% pure awesomeness. It’s a largely chronological compilation of basically all of the action from the series, as well as many memorable bits of dialogue and character interaction set to a driving beat sampling Ennio Morricone’s The Ecstasy of Gold from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It’s the perfect way for fans to get amped up for new Breaking Bad episodes, but it’s not simply a patchwork of cool stuff from the series; it’s a unique work of tribute art complete with its own rhythm, climaxes and visual hooks - like continued or repeated movements across edits (Hank and then Skyler leaning in at 1:28, Jesse pushing Walt at 1:51). After creator “narvinek” mixes in events from Breaking Bad’s final episodes in 2013, it will surely stand as the most concise, badass way to relive the rise (and fall?) of Walter White. (Jeremiah White)

(5) Summer Olympics

2012’s Summer Olympics came upon me like a perfect storm. After all, I love sports almost as much as I love music, and I love England almost as much as I love sports. Everything was in its right place for the games of the XXX Olympiad. I was enthralled by the competition, while being captivated by the stately charms of Britannia. I can’t say I truly remember another Olympics, other than maybe the Dream Team, and flashes of Phelps. I will remember all of the London Olympics though, because they made me rediscover (that counts) my love of the summer games. (Giovanny Caquias)

(4) Ego Trip Land

As a reader of the seminal 90s alt-hip hop magazine Ego Trip, I have no idea why it took me so long to discover the magazine's online resurrection, but my life has been immeasurably better since. A rap nerd's paradise, Ego Trip specializes in long lost video clips, obsessive lists written by people with intimate knowledge of the obscure entrants (what up, J-Zone) and educational interviews (like having producers list their favorite sample flips of all time), all delivered with irreverence and wit. And while Ego Trip doesn't ignore the most popular artists and songs, they don't act as an unofficial PR department for labels or feel compelled to post every bit of insignificant “news” going around the blogs. If they're posting it, it's probably worth your time. (Jeremiah White)

(3) NBA.com game recaps

Trying to keep up with the NBA season, especially if you don’t have cable TV, seems to verge on impossible. There are only so many pop-up ads I can close before accidentally clicking one and being forced to sign up for a Target gift card that just never comes. When streaming fails or schedules get busy, I turn to NBA.com’s wonderfully edited and narrated game recaps. They go great with morning coffee, office drones! The clips run about three minutes per game and provide not just highlights, but also context, bringing to mind the detailed highlights I soaked up as a kid on ESPN, before the Worldwide Leader descended into shouty irrelevancy. (Jeff Hart)

(2) Takeshi Kovacs

Richard Morgan’s cosmos-spanning human empire of the 26th Century is one of the most fully realized science fiction creations I’ve ever encountered. Every detail is accounted for and expanded upon, from state-of-the-art weaponry to body-switching technology to interstellar revolutionary icons complete with their own iconoclastic philosophies. Takeshi Kovacs, a former elite soldier/intelligence operative with neurological enhancements is the protagonist of Morgan’s three novels set in this world (Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, Woken Furies), but the real star is the world. These exciting, hardboiled reads function fine as standalone adventures, but each tackles a different aspect of Morgan’s universe that builds upon the reader’s understanding of the character and his environment. I devoured the three books this year and while the door is certainly open for further episodes, as it stands it’s one of the most satisfying fiction trilogies I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. (Jeremiah White)

(1) Grimes

Claire Boucher is in many cases the avatar of 2012. Though she has been an active musician since 2009, she didn’t truly arrive on the scene till this year, and now she practically embodies it. Everywhere you turned in 2012 people were either blasting Grimes, talking about Grimes, or dreaming of the Vancouver-born artist (maybe that last one was just me).

There is so much about Grimes which is fascinating: her truly unique music, her one-of-a-kind aesthetics, her adventurous artistic perspective, and the fact that she has become a major cultural force on her own. She writes and produces her music, crafts her looks, and promotes herself unendingly, all while not wearing out her welcome (to some), and staying on the minds of all she reaches. Meanwhile the detractors line up with their pitchforks (though she has no detractors at Pitchfork) and torches, with the hope of poking holes in her credibility, and destroying the efforts of a 24 year old woman with definite gifts, and an extremely promising career ahead of her.

I hope Grimes will be making art for years to come... just as long as she doesn’t turn into Madonna. (Giovanny Caquias)

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1 Responses »

  1. for pointing me towards that breaking bad video, i am forever in your debt.