The 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards


IT GOES ON ON AND ON AND ON ON AND ON. IT DON’T STOP. Anyway. There’s another awards show, right around the corner from the last one! Try not to get the two confused, or you’ll wind up giving Julia Louis-Dreyfus an award for her choreography and Iggy Azalea an award for dramatic acting.


And nobody wants any of that.

The Emmys! They added a “reality” category, even, to reward the preponderance of reality shows in which no one wins anything. That’s cool. I mean, I’m not watching any of them, but it’s cool that they can win an award.

Everyone should be eligible for an award, after all.

Onward to the judgments!

Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special
This category has almost entirely been taken over by regular tv shows that are, for whatever reason, classified by the Emmy people as repeating miniseries. Sherlock and Luther are both British, but still actual regular tv shows. Treme is even more baffling, as premium cable offerings are all over the other categories, but for some reason this one counts differently. American Horror Story has always been sucked into this category, and presumably Fargo is in the same boat, given that it’s on the same network and airs in the same kind of season. In any event, The Normal Heart is, regardless of quality, the only thing that actually qualifies as a “miniseries, movie or dramatic special,” at least by any sensible rules.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Normal Heart. Sorry, Luther.

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series
Four of the six shows are on Comedy Central, which is neat. Portlandia is the only IFC show nominated, which I guess is fine, except Comedy Bang! Bang! is totally better. And it would be a “swoop-in-and-win” style judgment, of the variety that I use to write wrongs, if it weren’t for the fact that Key and Peele is legitimately the best.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Key and Peele

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Breaking Bad is nominated twice in this category, which but for three nominations is a snooze (Game of Thrones is at it’s wheel-spinniest and House of Cards spent more time ratcheting than storytelling), so let’s talk about Breaking Bad. “Felina” is the finale (wordplay!), and, as such, has an important place in the canon. As an end to a story, it’s great. Really, just great. But as a stand-alone piece of writing it’s too reliant on the episodes that come before it to be anything but the finale of a series1.“Oxymandias” was unreservedly great, and has no such standing-alone problems, so there’s no problem, right? One of the best episodes of all time. Surely it should win the emmy? Well, no. See, although True Detective is not the equal of Breaking Bad2, as television writing goes, “The Secret Fate of All Life” is basically a masterclass in writing an episode that is narratively satisfying as well as furthering the over-arching plot of the series itself.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: True Detective, “The Secret Fate of All Life”

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
Episodes and Oranges: the New Black are outclassed here, I’m sad to say. Veep’s episode is a little puzzling, it wasn’t as good as “Clovis” or “The Choice”3, even though it was plenty funny. Silicon Valley was a fantastic show that had some amazing comedic performances, but the writing was a little uneven. “So Did the Fat Lady” was praised to the heavens upon its release, and for very good reason, which is down to the writing.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Louie, “So Did the Fat Lady”

Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special
Well, this has the same problem as the writing award for the same category, except this time it includes Muhammed Ali’s Greatest Fight. So why not spread the awards around?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Muhammed Ali’s Greatest Fight

Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series
This category is also very similar to its corresponding writing category, with one very important omission: Key and Peele was not nominated for the directing award, which is a shame, because Peter Atencio is part of why they can do such inventive things, and he’s basically a third member of the group. So it should go to him, even if the Emmy people are too dumb to see it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Peter Atencio, Key and Peele

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
See, here’s the crux of the problem: Sherlock is nominated in all of the miniseries categories, and Downton Abbey, which has the same airing schema, is a regular series. This seems really arbitrary. Especially since I don’t know what the director of Downton Abbey4 does anyway. Game of Thrones is impressive-looking, but not terribly interesting in terms of direction5. House of Cards and True Detective might have earned it for different episodes that were nominated, but really.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Breaking Bad, “Felina”. It really is a very, very good finale.

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
Of all the shows I don’t understand the nomination of here, I understand the nomination of Glee the least, but this is probably just to annoy me, personally. Episodes has never struck me with its directing, and whoever is directing Modern Family really only has to do the same thing every week. Silicon Valley’s “Minimum Viable Product” is a really, really well-directed piece of television.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Louie, “Elevator, Part 6”. There are a lot of things to say about the way that the “Elevator” series played out, and about making a six-part continuous6 arc for basic cable, and about the ugly place it started from, but “Elevator, Part 6” is, in addition to immensely satisfying as an ending, also extraordinary as a piece of directing.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
Ellen Burstyn is, as far as I’m aware, a talented actress. She was very good in The Exorcist and in Requiem for a Dream. She probably deserves (and maybe has even been nominated for) lots of acting awards. The remake of Flowers in the Attic is not one of those. Fargo was much better than it had any right to be, but, oh who am I kidding. American Horror Story: Coven was a scenery-chewing masterpiece, with some grandmaster-level scenery-chewers. Frances Conroy, Angela Basset and Kathy Bates really should each be awarded for their fantastic work, and normally I’d have them share the Emmy, but really, we don’t need to go that far.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Angela Bassett. Because holy shit.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
The Normal Heart is not American Horror Story: Coven, quite frankly. On the one hand, Martin Freeman gave an incredible supporting performance in Fargo. On the other hand, he’s nominated for Sherlock. The fuck?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Martin Freeman for Fargo, and most definitely not Sherlock, in which he basically plays a cross between Arthur Dent (having to deal with an unearthly weirdo) and Tim from The Office (trying to find some satisfaction in his job despite his boss being a sociopath).

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
OK, so, this may not surprise anyone, but you can add to the list of shows I don’t get (growing more and more lengthy by the entry): Downton Abbey. I mean, period drama is never really my thing, but I certainly see why it is some people’s. I’m not saying no one should like it. I’m saying I find all of the awards-nominations and generally overwhelming attention to be pretty inexplicable. There, that’ll save me saying it again. Beyond that it’s a pretty good field. Christina Hendricks did the best job she’s done so far on Mad Men, Christine Baranski turned out to be a pretty credible dramatic actor, and Lena Headey…existed. Honestly, though, there’s a reason that Breaking Bad has become something of the new The Wire.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
You know, as much as I’d like to give it to Peter Dinklage or to Mandy Patinkin, there’s a thing that I get frustrated with every year at Emmy time, which is the arbitrariness that goes into, say, this year being the year for people who do the same thing all the time. It’s not that I don’t think they should be recognized, it’s just that an annually-given awards show is sort of the wrong place for it7. Anyway, Jon Voight is generally pretty good, and Aaron Paul was also pretty great, but this was Josh Charles’ big, actor-y year on The Good Wife, and he hit it out of the park.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Josh Charles, The Good Wife

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Several of the people nominated in this category have been the wrong person from their show (Kate McKinnon did fine work, Cecily Strong was better, Taryn Manning is better than Kate Mulgrew, Melissa Rauch is funnier than Mayim Bialik8), and Allison Janney is, while certainly deserving of awards and stuff, still on Moms, which is decidedly less deserving of awards. Anna Chlumsky is fine.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mrs. Coach’s Hair

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Man, only two people from Modern Family. I suppose in the annals of emmy-nominations, this counts as something as a coup. But they’re not really in a position to win. See FN7 and also every other time I’ve written about television awards w/r/t “doing the same thing every single year”. Adam Driver is, quite possibly, the only thing about Girls that I like consistently, but he’s not really in “winning awards” territory. Tony Hale is great. Tony Hale is great in everything, and it’s always a joy to see Tony Hale be Tony Hale. But Andre Braugher is not great in everything. Or, at least, I’ve never paid any attention to him until he decided to be funny. And he’s very, very funny.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine Nine

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
This is the category where I break from my orthodoxy! Isn’t that exciting? Anyway. American Horror Story: Coven was pretty good, but it’s still just a regular series and also Sarah Paulson was no more a lead than Frances Conroy or Kathy Bates. Minnie Driver and Helenea Bonham Carter did variations on the only thing they ever do, only this time on television. The Trip to Bountiful was well-received, and I like Cecily Tyson, but I’m afraid that, since I’m the one making the rules, I get to decide that the winner is Kristen Wiig. The Spoils of Babylon is such a weird, specific thing9 that I was, at first, baffled that Kristen Wiig was nominated as the lead (which, I guess, she is?), before remembering that actually, I’m baffled that the Emmy people were able to critically evaluate it as a piece of television (and not a thing that, when you watch it, makes you feel like you’re high even if you are, in fact, not hight).

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kristen Wiig, The Spoils of Babylon

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Eventually, 1 in every 3 prestige dramas on television will be about either a fictional jazz musician or a dying homosexual. WE’RE ALMOST THERE. Sorry to Chiwetel Elijofor and Mark Ruffalo, but it’s tough to award the overplayed and obvious10. Anyway. I can’t choose between the Fargo people, so I guess we have a winner by default.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Did you know that Michelle Dockery was totally Susan in the BBC Hogfather miniseries? She totally was! And Claire Danes and Julianna Marguiles and Kerry Washington are all great! And Robin Wright sure is nominated! But you know,after roughly a decade of being pretty insistent about a certain lady’s acting abilities11 SHE IS EMMY-NOMINATED. Which means, basically, that she is in the same category as, oh, half of the rest of the Party Down cast. Which is fine, and means that we need more Party Down.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lizzy Caplan, Damn Fine Actress12, Masters of Sex. Paid for by The Council to Bring Back Party Down.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
This category isn’t nearly as difficult as the last one. Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey are fine on True Detective, but neither is giving a complete performance without the other. Jon Hamm is doing fine work as Don Draper, and would win in most other years. Jeff Daniels is….uh. Jeff Daniels sure is on The Newsroom. Which totally got way better at the end of its last season! Mostly by not focusing so much on Jeff Daniels! Kevin Spacey is always great in everything, but really.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
God, Taylor Schilling is a boring ol’ snooze, isn’t she? Lena Dunham doesn’t get credit for writing a good character for herself, based on herself, and then only kind of acting it well13. Edie Falco and Melissa McCarthy are doing good work on shows I don’t ever find particularly compelling. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and Amy Poehler are machines.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I think Amy Poehler this year, but I allow myself the right to waffle.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Louis CK doesn’t get credit for writing a good character for himself, based on himself, and then only kind of acting it well14 Shameless and Episodes are both shows that I have liked all of the minutes of them I’ve seen, and then routinely forget they exist. Given that they’re both pretty character-driven, shouldn’t that disqualify William H. Macy and Matt LeBlanc from winning? The answer is yes. Yes it should. Ricky Gervais is still, somehow, on our televisions, because there is that much residual goodwill for The Office. Jim Parsons continues to do what Jim Parsons does.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Don Cheadle, House of Lies

Outstanding Reality Competition Program
Three shows have ever won this category15, and all three of them are nominated this year. That’s kind of a neat thing. Anyway, I’d like to say “Why not change it up?” but honestly?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Probably The Amazing Race again?

Outstanding Television Movie
This year’s Emmy nominations have been pretty well-behaved. I haven’t had a lot of reasons to shout about much. So it’s with a clean conscience that I say: all of these things are stupid.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Amazing Race seems like it has a bunch of producers and stuff, maybe they can take some more time to celebrate and we pretend this category just never happened.

Outstanding Miniseries
Man, it seems like The White Queen came out forever ago, but that’s only because it came out long enough ago that I’ve already covered my feelings about it back at the Golden Globes in February. They haven’t changed. Since then, also, Bonnie & Clyde happened. How exciting is that? Moving on. Treme and American Horror Story are delivering on their initial promises (one jazz and food porn, the other a bloody soap opera about craziness), but not really any more than that. That leaves us with Fargo or Luther.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Luther, obviously

Outstanding Variety Series
On the one hand, I think The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are funny. On the other hand, this is yet another case of nominees just doing what they’ve been doing for years and years, with no variation, and new awards for that seem kind of like awarding exactly the wrong thing. Similarly, I like Jimmys of both the Fallon and Kimmel flavors, but they both also seem to be using their shows as more of a launching-point for YouTube videos than as an actual talk show. I’ve not watched much of Real Time with Bill Maher. Saturday Night Live had a hell of a seriously-problematic rebuilding year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The dear, departed Pete Holmes Show, perhaps? @Midnight, maybe? Not any of these, that’s for sure.

Outstanding Drama Series
I am out of things to say about these nominees.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Breaking Bad

Outstanding Comedy Series
Samesies, with the added caveat that I remain baffled by juggernaut-sitcoms pretty much unilaterally, but they make me feel good about the world that so many people have those jokes in common. Now please stop shouting Bazinga at me.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Louie
1 I would imagine that there are people who would disagree with this reason for disqualification, to whom I say: you may be right, and I might even disagree with it at a future time. But for now, I’m always right and this is my judgment.
2 I don’t even like it that much, really.
3 which, I guess, lose out for being next to each other, and therefore harder to separate out. The nominated episode, “Special Relationship”, was surrounded by less-good episodes, so easier to notice.
4 often David Evans, the director of Anything to Add Monty? subject Fever Pitch
5 or plot. or acting.
6 that is: designed to play together like a feature, instead of like a six-episode continuity.
7 the counter-argument to this is, taken their performance as a steady given, it could be the case that that performance, even if it’s the same as it was last year, might be better because the performances it’s comapred to have gotten worse. Even starting from the position that that is not always precisely correct – in a moment I’m going to talk about Modern Family, in which none of the performances are what you’d call “steady” – which is only part of why the argument doesn’t really hold up. The other part is that the idea is that the performance isn’t this year’s performance. It’s last year’s performance again. This is why Mandy Patinkin and Peter Dinklage are out, and other perennial nominees are not, in this particular category.
8 this is an opinion that is informed almost entirely by Comedy Bang Bang
9 a pitch-perfect parody of “television miniseries events” like The Thornbirds, a genre that hasn’t been commercially viable in decades, that no one in the target audience for the program has much firsthand experience with unless it’s by chance that also doubles as a weird gag reel for a bunch of out-of-place actors. It’s really something to behold.
10 bonus points lost from The Normal Heart for Ryan Murphy apparently still not being aware that people find it really hard to take his crazy, histrionic, operatic tone for every single thing seriously.
11 people would probably have been more inclined to believe me if I hadn’t tried to make the argument for her acting abilities after making a case for her “being a total babe” abilities
12 and total babe
13 see also: Louis CK
14 see also: Lena Dunham
15 The Amazing Race nine times (not a typo), and Top Chef and The Voice once each.


the 2014 Video Music Awards

Every summer, various and sundry awards happen1, and every summer I consider writing about them. But the months of June and July are the months where it’s hardest to write about awards because by this point, I’m simply out of things to say about the people and objects that are nominated in this particular cycle2. But the Video Music Awards (along with the Emmys, the MTV Movie Awards and then the BET Hip-Hop Awards) are the beginning of the new cycle, and so are much, much easier to write about.

You folks know the drill. Let’s get to it.

Best Video With a Social Message
You know what? We’re just going to start with this shitlump of a category. Look, I get it. Everybody wants to feel good about stuff. That Colbie Callait video and that John Legend video and “Word Crimes” all came out too late for inclusion this year. It’s fine. We’ve got this hilariously nonspecific Avicii song, which doesn’t have a “message” so much as a “vibe.” So that’s right out. Angel Haze’s worst song (and Sia’s second-worst song) is still better than anything by Avicii, but rewarding “Battle Cry” specifically seems like it’s only going to encourage more songs like “Battle Cry”. “Dirty Laundry” seems to be less about anything “social” (ugh) and more about, like, Kelly Rowland specifically being unhappy. The less said about David Guetta, the better. Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts” does have a “message,” and a pretty good video to boot, and is a pretty good song, so I have to assume that its nomination is a trick, and that it can’t be the actual winner.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: J. Cole and TLC3, who made a song together to save me the time and effort of being really annoyed by two different songs.

Best Cinematography
Y’know, in a movie, where the whole thing is more stretched out, the work is more on the shoulders (pun intended I guess?) of the cinemtographer. And while it’s true that “movies come alive in the editing room,” music videos are even moreso. All of which is to say: I’ve watched all of these videos, and have no idea with what to credit the cinematographers4.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Well, Evan Prosofsky is nominated twice, so I guess it’s him, although neither than Lana Del Rey video nor that Arcade Fire is exactly a thrill ride.

Best Editing
The job of the editor is basically to not be noticed. That’s less true in the case of a music video, where it’s basically impossible not to notice the number and amount of cuts involved in the production, but it’s still true that you don’t want to notice it too much. As such I can say: all of these videos are edited by capable professionals, and at a level beyond which I can identify differences in skill level.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Davd “Cloud” Campos, Zedd (f Haley Williams) – “Stay the Night”. I said I couldn’t recognize it, not that I don’t know who won. The dude answers to “Cloud.” Clearly he knows some shit.

Best Art Direction
As much as I want to award every single aspect of the “Turn Down for What”, it doesn’t really have much going on the art direction department. Although, to be fair, I still don’t really know what counts as “art direction.” Anyway, this one has to go to “Fancy,” right? For making that video look just like Clueless?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Iggy Azalea (f Charli XCX) – “Fancy”

Best Visual Effects
The 2014 VMAs have a problem, and that problem is “Rap God.” If you are able to explain to me, at all, what it is about “Rap God” that’s gotten it nominated for all these awards, please write the reasons down on a postcard. I will hold a raffle with all of the most lucid responses. Anyway. Does anyone else find it hilarious that for all Jack White’s old-timey fetishism, his videos are still slick, digital products5? Probably not. Disclosure is still terrible. While “Turn Down For What” would be a welcome part of the show, that OK Go video really is truly impressive.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: OK Go, “The Writing’s On the Wall”

Best Choreography
True story: I have tried, many times, for many years, to figure out how to tell “good” dancing from “adequate” dancing. I cannot do it. I’ve had it explained to me, I’ve watched videos, I’ve read articles, I just can’t do it. My ability to identify skilled choreography stops essentially at the point that I can tell if the dancer did or did not complete all of the moves in order. I am, then, unqualified to judge this category.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mrs. Coach’s Hair

Best Direction
“The Monster” is a better video than “Rap God,” really. I just don’t get it. The appeals of the “Pretty Hurts” video are not lost on me, certainly, and it’s a good enough song, but it’s not as good as some of the other nominees. That OK Go video is really technically impressive, and even a video I find myself watching from time to time. But really.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: DJ Snake & Lil Jon “Turn Down for What”. Because that is the director’s own crotch doing all that exploding. That’s some fine direction.

Best Collaboration
I will say: while they don’t deserve an award for their terrible song or its terrible video, if this were the “collaboration you’d most want to go get drunk with” award, the absolute, hands-down winning collaboration would be Pittbull and Kesha. Mainly because Jay-Z seems like one of those people that spends a lot of time looking cool and not, like, having fun. I know I said “The Monster” was better than “Rap God” up there, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually any good. “Dark Horse” isn’t a terrible song, but it’s an atrocity of a video, and these are the video music awards. I’ve already talked about my issues with Ariana Grande’s voice. Surfbort.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Beyonce, “Drunk in Love (f Jay Z)”. Surfbort.

MTV Clubland Award
If it wasn’t for “Turn Down for What,” this category would make me reach for my revolver.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: DJ Snake & Lil Jon, “Turn Down for What”

Best Hip-Hop Video
There are a lot of Eminem videos this year. Holy smokes. Anyway, the good part of the “Berzerk” video is the part where Rick Rubin bobs his head. That’s not much of a good part. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” wins the award for “most heavily plotted video that has nothing to do with the song,” but it would be folly to call that a good thing. Wiz Khalifa went to a neighborhood somewhere with a Go Pro, I’m not sure what that video is doing in any category. Childish Gambino’s “3005” is a pretty cool video, but a terrible song. We know where this is going.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kanye West, “Black Skinhead”

Best Rock Video
So I went back and checked, and it is the “rock” category of music awards shows that I am by far the most likely to just type the word “sigh” and then move on6. I very nearly did that here. But then I decided to write some more words, because that’s a cop out and doesn’t make it clear what the problem here is. Namely: whatever the state of commercial rock music may be, this is two dance songs, two songs by outfits that haven’t been going concerns in a very long time and are currently being propped up by the remains of the commercial-rock-record industry, and a Black Keys video. I guess that gives me my answer. For those of you expecting another outpouring of love for “Royals,” remember that it’s neither a rock video nor a particularly interesting video.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Black Keys, “Fever”. Although I feel a little bit bad about dismissing Linkin Park because they’re not precisely relevant, culturally speaking. But only a little. Maybe they can touch it?

Best Pop Video
The Ariana Grande and Jason DeRulo videos here are pretty standard-issue “pretty girls dancing” videos. The Iggy Azalea video has a prettier girl (Charli XCX) and a higher concept (Clueless), but still isn’t doing much with the concept. I watched the “Wake Me Up” video a couple of times and couldn’t tell you what it was of. But I’m a human being, with a fully-functioning heart, so this was an easy category.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Pharrell Williams, “Happy”

Artist to Watch
Nobody is watching prefab pop-punk bands like 5 Seconds to Summer, I’m sure that people have reasons to watch Fifth Harmony, but they’re unlikely to be musical. Come to think of it, they’re probably the same as the reasons to watch Charli XCX, which is a more noble pasttime anyway. Sam Smith will continue to be Boy Adele for as long as we’ll have him, so there’s probably not a lot of reason to watch him do it. That leaves us with an artist I’ve been telling you to watch the whole time I’ve had this blog. Obviously, I can get behind that.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Schoolboy Q, “Man of the Year”

Best Female Video
Beyonce is up for a lot of videos here, and I don’t want to continue thinking about the sociopolitics of putting her songs about female agency and positive sexuality in the other categories, and putting the video that is literally about her ass in this one, but, well, there you have it. I’ve only said twenty or so words about “Problem” and “Fancy,” but I feel like that’s enough. The problem is that I also don’t think “Dark Horse” or “Royals” are good videos, either.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: You know what? It really should be “Pretty Hurts.” So Beyonce, “Pretty Hurts.” And not the one about her ass. Or that Colbie Callait video with the makeup, which has the same basic message and is more visually interesting.

Best Male Video
“All of Me” isn’t John Legend’s best video of the year, you morons. It’s better than the “Sing” video, I suppose, and really, “Stay With Me” also doesn’t have a very good video. It and “Royals” have basically the same artistic palette. It’s not an interesting one. “The Monster” is still just ok, and while “Happy” is a pretty good video, there’s also actually a very, very good John Legend video right out there in the world.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: John Legend, “You & I (Nobody in the World)”. Which, admittedly, came out, like, a week before their nominations were published. So I get it, but it’s good enough that if it also wins next year, I won’t cry. I mean, except for when the little girl with Down Syndrome puts on her backpack. Then I’ll cry. Again. Like a little girl. Again.

Video of the Year
I AM OUT OF THINGS TO SAY ABOUT THESE VIDEOS, except to say: they forgot to nominated the actual video of the year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: DJ Snake & Lil Jon, “Turn Down for What”. Duh.

1 the AP Music awards even happened in Cleveland, but I didn’t write about them because, well, they were ultimately pretty tedious, and “taking place nearish where I live” doesn’t actually make them any more interesting to write about.
2 this is especially wearing for the music awards, since I write about so many of those that I literally exhaust all of my opinions on most of the major players, and wind up repeating myself a bunch.
3 also, like, I don’t mean to be insensitive, but, like. TC? TC.
4 this is why last year I skipped the category altogether.
5 and also that he makes videos?*
* and also remember when he made really good videos?
6 especially since when I realize that’s what I’ve done again, I go back and actually write an entry. It happens a lot.


The 200 Best Songs of the Decade So Far

Pitchfork had a team of writers come up with the 200 best songs of the half-decade. I am one person. I cut the list in half and didn’t write any commentary. Still and all, it’s an interesting thing to try to consider, so here goes. Unlike the half-year lists, these are in a very specific order, which is the order of how good they are.

1. Doomtree – Little Mercy
2. Fucked Up – Queen of Hearts
3. The Weeknd – Wicked Game
4. Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built
5. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
6. Jason Isbell – Elephant
7. Swans – The Seer
8. Kanye West – Monster (f Rick Ross, Jay-Z & Nicki Minaj)
9. Bill Callahan – America
10. Frank Ocean – Thinking About You
11. Sam Quinn & Japan Ten – Gun
12. Tim Hecker – Stab Variation
13. Cloud Nothings – Wasted Days
14. Russian Circles – Mladek
15. Pharmakon – Crawling on Bruised Knees
16. Run the Jewels – Banana Clipper (f Big Boi)
17. Underachievers – N.A.S.A.
18. Willis Earl Beal – Everything Unwinds
19. Naturally Born Strangers – A Gun & A Pack of Sandwiches
20. Aloonaluna – Stutter-Sleep Dance
21. Thee Silver Mt. Zion – Austerity Blues
22. Danny Brown – 30
23. Death Grips – Hacker
24. All Dogs – Say
25. Pusha T – Numbers on the Boards
26. Jasper, TX – Rivers Flow
27. Kendrick Lamar – Swimming Pools (Drank)
28. Xiu Xiu – Falklands Rd
29. Mogwai – Rano Pano
30. Rihanna – Diamonds
31. Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal
32. El-P – Oh Hail No
33. The Julie Ruin – Run Fast
34. Nicki Minaj – Beez in the Trap (f 2 Chainz)
35. clipping. – Killer
36. Parts & Labor – No Nostalgia
37. Boris – Angel
38. Kanye West – New Slaves
39. Franz Nicolay – Frankie Stubbs Tears
40. Grouper – The Man Who Died in His Boat
41. My Bloody Valentine – Wonder 2
42. Schoolboy Q – There He Go
43. Bottomless Pit – Fleece
44. Psychic Paramount – N5
45. Tyler, The Creator – Sandwitches (f Hodgy Beats)
46. The Punch Brothers – Movement and Location
47. Shearwater – Dread Sovereign
48. Das Racist – Michael Jackson
49. Raum – Blood Moon
50. Two Cow Garage – Jackson Don’t Worry
51. Danny Brown – Grown Up
52. Frank Ocean – Novacane
53. The Weeknd – The Birds Part 1
54. Ab Soul – Christopher DRONEr (f Schoolboy Q)
55. Death Grips – Come Up and Get Me
56. Kacey Musgraves – Merry-go-round
57. Xiu Xiu – Hi
58. Godspeed! You Black Emperor – We Drift Like Worried Fire
59. Miguel – Simplethings
60. Pinback – True North
61. Rick Ross – So Sophisticated (f Meek Mill)
62. Kanye West – Mercy (f Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz)
63. Grouper – Alien Observer
64. Justin Timberlake – Mirrors
65. The Sadies – Leave This World Behind
66. Earl Sweatshirt – Hive (f Vince Staples & Casey Veggies)
67. Nothing – Endlessly
68. Rick Ross – Sanctified (f Big Sean & Kanye West)
69. Bettie Serveert – Pharmacy of Love
70. Das Racist – hahahaha jk?
71. Chief Keef – I Don’t Like (f Lil Reese)
72. Merzbow, Mats Gustaffson & Balazs Pandi – Like Razor Blades in the Dark
73. First Aid Kit – Emmylou
74. Harvey Milk – I Know This is All My Fault
75. Explosions in the Sky – Trembling Hands
76. Tim Hecker – Studio Suicide, 1980
77. Low – Especially me
78. Oneohtrix Point Never – Americans
79. Cloud Nothings – I’m Not a Part of Me
80. Future – Same Damn Time
81. Death Grips – Black Quarterback
82. Neneh Cherry and the Thing – Dream Baby Dream
83. Fennesz – The Liar
84. Hecker & Lopatin – Scene for a French Zoo
85. Mono – Dream Odyssey
86. Swans – Oxygen
87. Daft Punk – Georgio by Moroder
88. Savages – Husbands
89. Deathfix – Dali’s House
90. A$AP Ferg – Shabba
91. Lorde – Royals
92. Bob Mould – Star Machine
93. Signor Benedick the Moor – Nihilistic Neoclassical Narcissist: American Beauty Part One
94. Watter – Seawater
95. Cadence Weapon – Jukebox
96. Cut Hands – Damballah
97. Motion Sickness of Time Travel – It’s Unfortunate But It’s True
98. Neko Case – Nearly Midnight, Honolulu
99. TAPE – Mirrors
100. True Neutral Crew – Monsanto
101. Tim Hecker – Amps, Drugs Harmonium
102. THEESatisfaction – Existinct
103. Oneohtrix Point Never – Child Soldier
104. Brightside – Jetpacks
105. Future of the Left – Beneath the Waves an Ocean
106. Swans – You Fucking People Make Me Sick
107. Kitty – Okay, Cupid
108. Xiu Xiu – Sashay Away
109. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid
110. The Weeknd – Initiation
111. Jesu – Every Day I Get Closer to the Light From Which I Came
112. Grouper – Soul Eraser
113. Schoolboy Q – Man of the Year
114. Bill Callahan – Summer Painter
115. Earl Sweatshirt – Couch (f Tyler, The Creator)
116. Saintseneca – Uppercutter
117. Kanye West – Black Skinhead
118. Best Coast – Boyfriend
119. Das Racist – Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell
120. EMA – California
121. Jay Z & Kanye West – Otis
122. Wild Flag – Romance
123. Liturgy – Generation
124. Doomtree – Bolt Cutter
125. El-P – The Full Retard
126. Frank Ocean – Pyramids
127. Cloud Nothings – Stay Useless
128. Dr. Dog – That Old Black Hole
129. Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
130. Neptune – Negative Reversal
131. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Codeine
132. Cody ChesnuTT – That’s Still Mama
133. Emeralds – Search for Me in the Wasteland
134. Miguel – Do You?
135. Swans – The Apostate
136. 2 Chainz – Birthday (f Kanye West)
137. Boris – Elegy
138. Run the Jewels – 36” Chain
139. Beyonce – XO
140. Tara Jane O’Neil – Wordless in Woods
141. Carla Bozulich – Deeper Than the Well
142. Patterson Hood – Come Back Little Star
143. Isaiah Rashad – Brad Jordan
144. Titus Andronicus – No Future Part III
145. LCD Soundsystem – Drunk Girls
146. Spoon – New York Kiss
147. Angel Haze – Upper Echelon
148. Pharrell Williams – Happy
149. Deafheaven – Dream House
150. Prurient – Palm Tree Corpse
151. Kontakte – The Ocean Between You and Me
152. Tune-Yards – Gangsta
153. Ab-Soul – Illuminate (f Kendrick Lamar)
154. Death Grips – Takyon
155. Japandroids – Younger Us
156. The Pack A.D. – Body Parts
157. The Punch Brothers – Patchwork Girlfriend
158. Fennesz – Aware (f Sakamoto)
159. P.O.S. – All of It
160. Future of the Left – The Male Gaze
161. Kanye West – Runaway (f Pusha T)
162. The Men – Bird Song
163. My Bloody Valentine – Only Tomorrow
164. Underachievers – Philanthropist
165. Bottomless Pit – Summerwind
166. Ex Hex – Hot and Cold
167. Drive-By Truckers – Grand Canyon
168. Bob Mould – The War
169. Taylor Swift – Trouble
170. Two Cow Garage – Hey, Cinderella
171. Blood Orange – You’re Not Good Enough
172. Drake – Take Care (f Rihanna)
173. The Feelies – Later On
174. Tom Waits – Bad As Me
175. Noveller – Manahatta
176. Danny Brown – Handstand
177. Low – Clarence White
178. The Weeknd – Live For (f Drake)
179. Future – Birds Take a Bath
180. Killer Mike – Ready Set Go (f TI)
181. Lambchop – 2B2
182. Spiritualized – So Long You Pretty Thing
183. Xiu Xiu – Black Dick
184. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
185. Dessa – Icing Burns
186. A$AP Rocky – Fucking Problems (f Drake, Kendrick Lamar & 2 Chainz)
187. Chance the Rapper – Good-Ass Intro
188. The Thermals – Born to Kill
189. Crystal Antlers – Rattlesnake
190. clipping. – Body and Blood
191. The Internet – Lincoln (f Mike G & Left Brain)
192. Girls Against Boys – Let’s Get Killed
193. Signor Benedick the Moor – Belladonna
194. Skrillex – Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
195. M83 – Midnight City
196. Merzbow – Grand Owl Habitat
197. Anais Mitchell – How Long (f Greg Brown)
198. Adele – Rolling in the deep
199. The Books – The Story of Hip-Hop
200. Azealia Banks – 212

The 2014 teen choice awards part 2

Part 2 of the endless Teen Choice awards is below, but first, a question: I have never watched the Teen Choice Awards, so I have no idea how long the actual telecast is. Only there’s fifty thousand categories, so how many of these awards are actually given out during the television ceremony, and how long is the “post-show surfboard-passing-out line” at the end of the ceremony?

Just curious.

Breakout Group
The internet is a vasty expanse with basically infinite options, and television is a vasty expanse with fewer, albeit functionally still more than any person could consider, options. So it comes as some comfort that the second half of this write-up is music, a vasty expanse in which I spend most of my free time, and movies, a cozy expanse where the number of things to keep track of is downright small. That said, I still don’t like any of these groups. So there’s still problems.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Man, Rixton are from Manchester. Can you even imagine something like this happening out of Manchester 25 years ago? Oh wait, yes you can. It was EMF. That’s unbelievable.

Breakout Artist
Again with the “breakout!” Is this a real breakout, or is this some kind of metaphor? I mean, Rita Ora has been around forever and ever, if what she’s doing is breaking out, it’s the slowest, most gradual breakout in history.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Why not take this opportunity to say Saintseneca? They’re great.

Summer Tour
How are teenagers expected to come up with the money for these things? Yikes.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Well, the best act I’ve seen this summer was probably Fucked Up. Or maybe Nothing. But I’m not a teenager. So Jay-Z & Beyonce, then.

Summer Music Star: Group
What the actual fuck is this category supposed to be? Seriously. The music star that’s music starriest in the summer? The group that’s most like summer stars in the field of music? I understand, sort of, what they’re going for, but I have no idea how they’d establish criteria for it. Is it maybe something we should ask Howard Kremer about?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I think Florida-Georgia Line is the Howard-Kremer-approved one of these folks.

Summer Music Star: Male
I mean, if we’re going to imagine what his opinions are on the other categories, we should probably give a nod to the man himself in the one he’s eligible to win.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Howard Kremer

Summer Music Star: Female
A week ago, I may have had a hard time with this one, but now it’s a post-Anaconda world, so it’s Nicki Nicki Nicki.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Nicki Minaj

Summer Song
I have recently deduced that Ariana Grande’s singing voice gives me panic attacks. I mean, it’s clearly a finely-trained instrument. There’s just a quality about it that makes me really nervous. I will die before I award anything to Iggy Azalea. Or Demi Lovato. Or especially Calvin Harris.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jason Derulo f Snoop Dogg, “Wiggle”. Which is ok, because I like “Wiggle”.

Break-Up Song
Well, full marks for creativity here. And at least it’s an unambiguous category, where I don’t have to guess what the words mean in context or whatever. Too bad the songs are all pretty forgettable. Besides, isn’t “Problem,” the song that was just nominated for summer song also a breakup song? Did we need two Ariana Grande songs on this program?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Can’t we just give another award to “Wiggle”? That song is kind of like a breakup song, in the “butt” sense, right?

Love Song
You know, it’s a weird world when 60% of the songs in this category are actually from the point of view of someone trying to convince someone else to love them, rather than declaring pre-existing love. But then, each of those songs is still better than “All of Me”

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Charli XCX, “Boom Clap”

EDM Song
It’s a shame I already used my big John Peel speech, because this is, hands-down, the hardest category I’ve ever had to try to decide I liked something in. Let’s just all rejoice in moving on.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: All of us, for moving on.

Rock Song
I suppose it really says something about how deeply entrenched the thinking of “rock” as a commercial musical force is that this category still exists, despite the fact that none of these songs are, in any meaningful sense, rock songs1. It really should just be “more different dance music,” really.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bastille, “Pompeii”

R&B/Hip Hop Song
Sometimes, in the void of consideration that represents the awarding of entertainments aimed at young people, one feels lost. Alone. Completely unmoored to the usual notions of “quality” and “admirability,” one is thrust into a whole new world, where new faculties are engaged, where new criteria must be established to determine the proper course of action. Even for one such as myself, rock solid in my judgments and pronouncements, the world of the teenage-oriented all-media awards show is a baffling and upside-down space. It helps, periodically, to find traction in the familiar embrace of a comforting choice that I know, regardless of generation, target demographic, or context. Thank you, DJ Snake and Lil Jon. Thank you for your liferope in this time of need.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: DJ Snake and Lil Jon, “Turn Down For What”

Song: Group
It’s actually not in any way unique to the Teen Choice Awards to separate songs based on the number of people that perform them, but the fact that there are so many subdivisions really draws attention to how weird that is. Oh, and I can’t think of anything to say about, say, Rixton.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: One Direction, “Story of My Life”

Song: Male Artist
Oh, golly. Well, Austin Mahone sucks. That Sam Smith song is ok, but I don’t know how hard we need to work to reward somebody for being the male Adele. Ed Sheeran seems like a nice enough guy, but his music is dreadful. So that leaves us with “Happy” and “Talk Dirty”.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jason Derulo and 2 Chainz, “Talk Dirty.” There’s only one klezmer break on the charts in 2014, and I feel like it deserves all the accolades it can amass.

Song: Female Artist
BUT “DARK HORSE” HAS A MAN RIGHT ON IT. JUICY J. ACADEMY-AWARD WINNING RAPPER WHO HAS, EVER SINCE HE CAN REMEMBER, BEEN POPPING HIS COLLAR2. Anyway. “Problem” is terrible. “Fancy” is even worse. “Let it Go” basically exists to serve its chorus, which is admirable enough, but also wears out its welcome after, say, the hundredth time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lorde, “Team”

Country Song
There’s nothing particularly “teen”-ish about this category, which is nice. “This is How We Roll” and “Beachin” are both dreadful, though. Luke Bryan’s “Play it Again” and Miranda Lambert’s “Somethin Bad” are not actually terrible, but nothing makes one appreciate Lady Antebellum quite like this particular awards show.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lady Antebellum, “Bartender”

Country Group
In the interest of moving this along, and not having to repeat myself yet again, it’s Lady Antebellum again.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lady Antebellum again.

Female Country Artist
Leaving aside Jana Kramer3, this category is also pretty tolerable. Obviously it’s never going to be Miranda Lambert or Carrie Underwood. And, much like with the rock category, seeing Taylor Swift here is mostly just a marker of how little genre distinctions seem to actually mean, even though there’s nothing in particular wrong with her music.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kacey Musgraves

Male Country Artist
This category, on the other hand, has problems. Plural. Chief among them Hunter Hayes. Or possibly Jake Owen. But why quibble about the biggest problem when we can just move on.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Blake Shelton

Rock Group
Ugh.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Coldplay. SEE WHAT YOU MADE ME DO?

R&B/Hip-Hop Artist
I’ll give the nominating body of the Teen Choice Awards one thing: they have earnestly and unblinkingly nominated Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea for the exact same award. That’s…certainly some kind of daring. Or something.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Teen Choice Awards

EDM Artist
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues talk of court news.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Man, how much better would The Teen Choice Awards be if it was replaced by a production of King Lear?

Music Group
“Music group” is one of those phrases that makes me think that the people using it have no idea what, precisely, it describes. I get what it’s doing contextually, I just think it sounds super-brainded. As such, it must go to the most braindead nominee.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rixton

Female Artist
Alright. It’s only fair that, when presented with a bunch of fairly good nominees, I reason this out. So. It’s clearly not Ariana Grande. It’s not really Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus either, but that’s a better effort than, say, anything in the EDM categories. So. Beyonce or Lorde, then. When you boil it down to the two most deserving candidates, you end up right back in a situation where it’s impossible to choose between them on the criteria.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lordonce. Beyorde. Whichever.

Male Artist
Austin Mahone and Ed Sheeran are still right out. Pitbull and Jason Derulo are, likewise, not in the same class. And from there things just get easier.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Pharrell Williams

Summer Movie Star
And finally we arrive at the movies. And, as though to reward perseverance, a category full of movie stars under the heading “movie star.” It’s like all of the wisdom and sensible nomination that has been denied lo these first three categories has come back. But really, 22 Jump Street is a fine film, but only one of these gentlemen is mythological.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Dwayne Johnson

Summer Movie
The problem with putting out the list of your nominations halfway through the summer is that you run the risk of actually missing the summer movie. That’s what you see here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Guardians of the Galaxy

Hissy Fit
Ah, lifted up only to be dashed back against the rocks of weird-ass categories. I understand that it’s meant to be funny, I just don’t agree that it’s funny.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kevin Hart probably. But that’s conjecture.

Liplock
Where are the spoiler-avoiders during all of this nominating Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts and Jason Sudeikis for We’re the Millers? Also, isn’t that movie, like, four thousand years old? Anyway, if there’s one thing to like about Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield, it’s the celluloid representation of their actual adorable relationship.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield, Amazing Spider-Man 2

Chemistry
I suppose there’s something shrewd about making an awards show that, in part, appeals to the prurient nature of teenagers. Unfortunately, this is comedic chemistry, so you just get the kissing bit above. That seems like a real missed opportunity.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, 22 Jump Street

Breakout Star
AGAIN WITH THE BREAKOUT. Alright. Elizabeth Olsen has been in a ton of shit. She didn’t break out any time recently. Other than that, I’m sort of at a loss for how to figure out how to decide who’s the breakoutedest.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ansel Elgort. But for Divergent, not for The Fault in Our Stars.

Scene Stealer
Another A+ for acknowledging character work. I suppose these probably even make sense if you’ve got precisely the right kind of brain damage. Or are, presumably, the kind of teenager the Fox marketing department was imagining existed when they made these nominations.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sam Clafin, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Villain
I can’t recycle my YOU’RE THE REAL VILLAIN joke, can I? That’s a shame. It’s still true.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: And we’ll talk with them too. Who loses and who wins. Who’s in and who’s out.

Actress: Comedy
I know that I’ve already asked this, but at this point, with fatigue and exhaustion setting in, I have to ask: how many of these categories are going to appear in the telecast? This one seems especially unlikely to be aired, as how many of these particular people are actually going to show up to a weird, out-of-the-way awards show? Anyway. Televised or not, there’s still going to be a winner.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Christina Applegate, Anchorman 2

Actor: Comedy
Do they think that teenagers don’t like things that are funny? Do they not, themselves, know what is funny? Did they not see any film comedies? Did they only see film comedies that didn’t have actors in them4? Why is this category, after a bunch of more sensible categories, so fucking terrible?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Will Ferrell, Anchorman 2

Comedy
Were the nominating body of the Fox Teen Choice Awards kept in a soundproof room? Were they sequestered like jurors and only shown these five comedies? Does the period of nomination somehow include no funny movies? Seriously, I should not come across as being this enthusiastic about Anchorman 2.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anchorman 2

Actress: Sci Fi/Fantasy
The people of Fox have spoken, and they have said: dead-eyed and confused, that’s how we like our sci fi/fantasy actresses. Ugh.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jennifer Lawrence, who at least gave two very different performances in the two films she’s nominated for

Actor: Sci Fi/Fantasy
Of course, all of this obviates that, once again, Guardians of the Galaxy actually came out too late to be nominated. But still and all – there’s a couple of Hemsworths here, and that’s not half bad.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Hemsworth. I’m not picky.

Sci Fi/Fantasy
You can not tell me that Amazing Spider-Man 2 is nominated for an award for anything other than the adorability of its leads with a straight face. Anway, I’m pretty charitable to the rest of these, but the Captain America actually have the steepest hill to climb: I don’t really care much of the character unless he’s written extremely well. I do love Chris Evans, though.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Actress: Drama
There are better comedic performances in this category than there were back in the comedy categories. I feel like this is finally the hard evidence I need that this isn’t just “not for me,” it’s actively nonsensical. Anyway, I can’t figure this out.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Emma Watson. Or Kristen Bell. Or, hell, Janice from The Muppets. What’s the difference, really?

Actor: Drama
You know what? I like Jon Hamm. I like, theoretically, the existence of a movie about cricket. Why waste everyone’s time pretending to beat around that particular bush?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jon Hamm, Million-Dollar Arm

Drama
So, obviously it’s not Heaven is for Real or The Fault in Our Stars. It probably isn’t really The Million-Dollar Arm. That leaves American Hustle or Veronica Mars.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I’m much more a marshmallow than a, uh, whatever fans of American Hustle call themselves, so Veronica Mars.

Actress: Action
Well, again, full marks for including “Action” as its own distinct cateogry. I suppose in the case of the women in action films, you go with the one that does the most stuff before being rendered irrelevant by the male in the movie, because, really.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Shailene Woodley, Divergent

Actor: Action
Holy shit! I had totally forgotten about The Mortal Instruments movie! This is a real blast from the past. I feel like I should buy it a drink. Catch up about old times. Jeez. This has really thrown me off my game.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kellan Lutz?

Action
And take upon us the mystery of things, as if we were God’s spies, and we’ll wear out, in walled prison, packs and sects of great ones, that ebb and flow by the moon5

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: All of us, because oh my god this was exhausting.

1 that is: rock as a genre marker – small band, guitar-focused music. Rock as a marketing signifier (which appears, in the commercial environment of 2014, to mean “holding guitars while industry-standard EDM plays through the speakers”) is still going pretty strong. Can you believe I made it this far into this piece without a footnote?
2 actually, he doesn’t anymore, and probably stopped shortly before recording that song, but really, it’s not like there are good reasons to remember Juicy J.
3 who is the same Jana Kramer from One Tree Hill. I don’t know why this seems super unlikely, but sometimes the world moves in mysterious ways.
4 nb: I have no idea which ones those would be
5 King Lear, Act V, Scene III

The 2014 Teen Choice Awards

Well, the time has come, at long last, for your intrepid hero to insult the tastes of children.

Fox’s Teen Choice Awards are the designated competitor of the similarly-named Kids’ Choice Awards1. Granted, they are mostly self-designated, but, nevertheless, a designating body has declared that the two are enemies. They are apparently attempting to skew older, clearly, and what they actually resemble is a youth-focused People’s Choice Awards, both in the sense that they are voted on by members of the great unwashed, and also that there are, like, six thousand categories.

Seriously. There are so many categories.

So why spend another minute on it! Let’s dig in!

Fanatic Fans
OK, so, the first place we have to start is on the internet itself, because there’s a whole category of awards called “web.” Now, this isn’t going to be a month-long extravaganza, so these will have to be dispensed with quickly. Fortunately, voting online is basically a pure and direct measurement of the activity level of someone’s fanbase online, so at least this is the category where the method is the most accurate. I suppose that counts for something. Also they are all called by their collective noun.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: #Swifties, both because of all these people, I like Taylor Swift the most, and because I hope to help take their hashtag over with actual swifties2

Viner
My god, how do you people find time in the day for celebrity vines? I guess this is one of those things you do when you’re young. Ah, youth.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jason Nash, actually. So there.

Instagrammer
This at least makes sense. Plus the rightful winner doubles as a protest answer. And the answer with the most monkeys.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rihanna

Twitter
None of the people in this category have good twitter feeds.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Seinfeld2000, which is actually a parody of a gimmick account, because that’s where we are in 2014. Yep.

Social Media King
Presumably this category, populated largely by people who aren’t in the other social media categories, means “facebook.” In which case it should go to the oldest person.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ashton Kutcher

Social Media Queen
See the joke I made above, only this time it’s a lady, because if we can’t segregate our awards shows by sex, how on Earth can we make it clear that, when it comes to social media, men and women just can’t do the same things? It’s almost like a Victorian attitude toward gender roles persists even in the days where people can make six-second videos of them high-fiving robots! What a future!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Britney Spears

Web Star: Gaming
……

I’m not even going to pretend that I have any idea what’s going on here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Toby Turner. Because I said so, that’s why.

Web Collaboration
See, normal awards shows would call this a comedy category. Not the Teen Choice Awardfs. That’s stupid. These are all terrible comedy videos.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Actually, that “Twin Teleport Prank” one was a little bit funny.

Web Star: Fashion/Beauty
You know, I’m the sort of person who can generally get his bearings with whatever. I’m not interested in becoming an expert, I just don’t like to have an opinion that isn’t at least somewhat informed. That’s why sometimes I get vague in these writeups: I generally only know enough to know what I like the most, and it doesn’t go any further than that. But the idea of watching YouTube personalities, many of them young-ish girls, talk about clothes and stuff, and then passing some sort of judgment upon them, seems like exactly the opposite of anything I feel I should be doing. If Steve Agee or David Wain or, like, Lance Bangs had a fashion channel, I feel like I’d have something to say, and I’m sure whoever wins will be happy to win, but I don’t feel like that needs to be me.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Maybe this gets awarded like The Great Pumpkin does it? The most earnest fashion YouTuber gets the surfboard3.

Web Star: Music
Social media and whatnot have opened up a world where it’s possible to be famous and have fans and stuff. What’s disappointing here, then, is that these people are all boring, straightforward musicians with overbaked ProTools production who make up for that by being attractive or having interesting and/or funny videos. Say no to this sort of thing, kids.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: also, they’re a Seacrest Protoge and two reality show also-rans in addition to the actually internet-borne stuff. So Megan and Liz can split it with Cimorelli, since they’re the only ones that should actually qualify.

Web Star: Comedy
I’m sure the idea here is some sort of corporate connection to the people at Fox, but seriously? This is the group of people, here?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Literally anyone, anywhere, who laughed at something that wasn’t one of these people.

Web Star: Male
Having divided them up by skill, now we must smash them into each other like an eight year old with Hot Wheels cars, until the one true winner stands before you. Oh, except boys and girls are still separate, because obviously boys and girls can’t be funny or sing songs the same way. Duh.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Shawn Mendes. Why fight it?

Web Star: Female
I guess I should just be happy there isn’t, like, a ladies’ surfboard or something.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Michelle Phan

Candie’s Style Icon
I’ve been zipping through these, but I’d like to actually take a moment to mention who the nominees for this category are, because I’m not sure why Candie’s agreed to have their names on it under these circumstances. They are: Iggy Azalea, Ashley Benson, Kendall Jenner, Emma Roberts and Zendaya. Seriously. How do you choose?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Well, Emma Roberts sure dressed fancy on American Horror Story, so I guess it goes to her.

Smile
Aw. I can’t hate this category. This seems like a nice category. I mean, I can try, but ultimately, is the mountain upon which I’m willing to die actually ”smile”? Probably not.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Harry Styles. Weird though he may be at all times, he’s got some charismatic pearly whites.

Comedian
Well. Huh. Presuming this is of the year and not, like, overall, Kenan Thompson is out because Saturday Night Live had a rough year. Mindy Kaling’s show fell off pretty precipitously in its second season, and I feel weird having Jimmy Fallon nominated in this category, since he’s done stuff that was funny on his show, but it’s largely been by enabling other funny people, rather than being outright funny himself. So Kevin Hart or Andy Samberg?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I guess I laughed at more things that Andy Samberg did this year than Kevin Hart, but come see me again when it’s lifetime achievement time.

Female Athlete
It seems weird to call athletes up to the stage to be recognized for their athletic performance, given that it’s the nature of athletic performance to, you know, be recognized for being good at it. So either we’re supposed to talk about the person who’s the best at being an athlete, or the person that we like the most outside of their athletic performance. In the case of the former, that seems like piling on, in the case of the latter it’s hindered by professional athletes being a group made up almost entirely of competition-oriented psychopaths.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stephanie Allynne, who I hear is in an amateur basketball league, in addition to seeming like just a swell lady. And

Male Athlete
I’m from Cleveland.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: LeBron James

Male Hottie
You know, just for the experiment, I tried to type other names after THE RIGHTFUL WINNER down there, and as punishment for my insolence, my brain made me incapable of typing any proper name in this box but Ryan Gosling’s. Because we all know that’s the answer.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ryan Gosling. He’s so dreamy.

Female Hottie
Man oh man. Nothing makes me feel more like an ookie old weirdo quite like looking at the people in this category and trying to figure out a way that I can even attempt to evaluate their effectiveness as a “hottie.” Aren’t all of these women twelve? Jesus. Oh, except Beyonce.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Of these people it’s Beyonce. In ten years, of these people, it will probably still be Beyonce.

Summer TV Star: Female
That’s right, guys. They divide the TV stars up by season. Are you starting to understand why these are so perfunctory? THERE ARE SO MANY CATEGORIES. Anyway. I don’t watch these shows, so I’m unsure if this means “last summer” or “the summer currently ongoing”.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Emily Osment

Summer TV Star: Male
Hey it’s Mike Vogel! I had no idea he was still working. I haven’t read the book Under the Dome4, but I know that the tv series is really frustrating people. Anyway, there are some other people nominated here, and I don’t even like Mike Vogel, but I still don’t know who they are.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mike Vogel, but he has to let TJ Miller (or, I suppose, Lizzy Caplan5) accept his award on his behalf.

Summer Show
I can’t do this.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The firm that gets hired to clean my brains off the wall after I blow them out for thinking about this category too much.

Breakout Show
OK, OK. That was hyperbolic. But seriously. This is some terrible, terrible stuff. That said, I kind of liked Sleepy Hollow.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sleepy Hollow

Breakout Star: Female
John Peel once said (and I’m paraphrasing, here) that when he’s given a record that he doesn’t like, he assumes that the problem is on his end, because it took several people to believe in the record enough to make it, so he’s starting out outnumbered. Similarly, I try to approach each awards show that I write about from a place of positivity, because clearly there are enough people into this stuff to keep it on the air every week, and saying “fans of _____ are all stupid” is the worst kind of cop-out. It’s unfair to your other opinions to have one be “I don’t like this thing because nobody smart could possibly like this thing” when you’re confronted with the fact that that can’t possibly be true every time you look at it. Nevertheless, I’ll cite my own limits when I say: I have no idea who the rightful winner in this category is, because this is all pretty terrible.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Emily Bett Rickards, because I like her name.

Breakout Star: Male
I suppose part of the problem is how “breakout” is determined. Like. Did they have to suddenly and explosively become famous? Because that basically doesn’t happen to anyone. If they have to have been on a “breakout” show, well, that eliminates half of the people in this category. I know that I make a plea with nearly every awards show for intercategorical consistency, and that with this goofy mess of a show it seems especially hopeless to wish for, but I still must ask: what on Earth does this category mean?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Uh…That dude from Agents of SHIELD, I guess.

Scene Stealer: Female
Well, at least we’re back in tv shows that don’t seem like the producers of this awards show made them up. Also, if you take away the stupid category name, this is pretty clearly just an award for a character actor. Anyway. I think Eden Sher is funny.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Eden Sher, The Middle

Scene Stealer: Male
So, here’s an interesting fact about Darren Criss. The thing that made him famous was playing the lead in the gently-parodic A Very Potter Musical. He was, several years later, on Broadway, playing the lead in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, where he was, at the end of the run, replaced (and, by all accounts, upstaged) by Daniel Radcliffe. Isn’t that interesting? Anyway, Adam Devine was very funny on Modern Family.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Adam Devine, Modern Family

Reality Personality: Female
Can we just acknowledge that this category has nominated “the Kardashians and Jenner sisters” in one slot, and that seems, as far as I can tell, entirely to set up the “because if you put them all together you have one personality between them” joke that everyone who isn’t actually funny just thought of? Great. Now let’s move on with our day.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: It’s not like any of these people even have the same job. What the hell is with this?

Reality Personality: Male
There. Are. So. Many. Categories.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Come! Let’s away to prison! We two alone will sing like birds in a cage!

Villain
OH HOW META, TEEN CHOICE AWARDS. WHO AMONG THESE PEOPLE YOU HAVE PLACED BEFORE ME TO WIELD MY IRE TOWARD SHALL I CHOOSE AS MOST DESERVING? BUT YOU FOOL ME NOT, FOUL NETWORK. I SEE BEHIND THE CURTAIN!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Fox. The producers of the Teen Choice Awards.

Reality Competition Show
You know, ten years ago this was probably the most interesting category. We’re sort of between trends at the moment, and you can see the scraps of the singing-competition genre sort of rub up against the more moribund cooking-competition genre. It’s a strange time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: MasterChef Junior

Reality Show
Man, if you wanted to become one of those people who was really, really upset about the existence and state of reality television, this would sure be the awards show for you to watch.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cosmos

Animated Show
If I could give this category a hug, I would. I’m so happy to see a category that requires that I unambiguously name the best of things that I’m actually capable of enjoying! Anyway, Family Guy is still crap, so that’s right out. Gravity Falls has generally failed to garner my attention, although I see why people like it. The Simpsons is probably making a fine showing, but I haven’t watched it in a decade or so (possibly even more than that), and, really, I’m sort of on team “don’t keep making more of it6.” But The Regular Show and Adventure Time are (along with Bob’s Burgers, which is curiously un-nominated, given the provenance of the awards show itself) the best animated shows on television.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Adventure Time

Actress: Comedy
These people are all very short. This is a category full of very short people.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: My favorite actress in a tv comedy in 2013 was Chelsea Peretti in Brooklyn Nine Nine, and I see no reason for her not to be nominated here, so she’s the rightful winner.

Actor: Comedy
True story: the original idea for this was to write this piece from the perspective of teenage me. That wouldn’t work, because teenage me was even less patient with this stuff than I was. What I’m saying here is: this is basically the category that made me swear off even trying the idea. Except Andy Samberg, who I’d probably have good things to say about at any age.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine Nine

Comedy Show
I will say, it’s admirable (if baffling) that Fox isn’t really big-upping themselves as much as other networks do. I’m not going to pretend, however, that sneaking the New Girl on this list isn’t somehow an appeal to the vanity of people watching Fox. Should’ve gone with Bob’s Burgers. Or Brooklyn Nine Nine.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bob’s Burgers. Or Brooklyn Nine Nine. Or, failing that, the dearly departed Trophy Wife, which not enough people watched and was very, very funny.

Actress: Fantasy/Sci Fi
In keeping with the disclosure above, I will say it was this set of categories that made me want to consider how I would’ve felt about the nominees as a teenager. But then, most television science fiction annoys me, so it would’ve just been more complaining. Which is totally different from now. As a further note, any awards-granting body that feels that Kristin Kreuk should be nominated for an acting award is an awards-granting body that has some ground to make up in the “credibility” department.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Anyone who doesn’t have to watch Kristin Kreuk act.

Actor: Fantasy/Sci Fi
But I will channel him for long enough to say: why even put “sci fi”7 in the award category if you’re just going to nominate fantasy programs all the way down?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Josh Dallas was nominated for Once Upon a Time, but didn’t win one for being in Doctor Who’s “The Silence in the Library”, so he can have this one retroactively for that.

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Series
Where is Agents of SHIELD? What is with all the Fox modesty? I understand that, as an awards show aimed at teenagers, things like True Detective or Penny Dreadful, or possibly even American Horror Story are right out, but this is still pretty slim pickings, given the selections that are out there.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Once Upon a Time, I guess

Actress: Drama
Well, you knew it was coming eventually, and I hope I don’t regret burning it off this early. Not that I would ever actually burn it off. That would be a crime punishable by death.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mrs. Coach’s Hair

Actor: Drama
There are a lot of cast members of Pretty Little Liars nominated for awards at this show. Like, a lot of them.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll knee down and ask of thee forgiveness. We’ll live.

Drama Show
You know, all of that said, I do actually kind of like Hart of Dixie.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hart of Dixie

Can you believe there’s going to be even more of this tomorrow?! Guys! It’s going to happen!
1 an awards show that I have not been able to bring myself to write up here, mainly because it exists primarily as a vessel to see famous people get covered in slime. While there are many varied and deserving targets, they clearly are doing the best them they can do.
2 What do you mean you don’t know that’s what they call adverbial puns like “‘I need a pencil sharpener,’ said Tom, bluntly” and “‘My wrists are bleeding stumps!’ said Tom, offhandedly”?
3 the actual award at the Teen Choice Awards is a surfboard.
4 It currently holds the record – nearly five years – for book that “I’ll read right after I finish this one”.
5 or, failing that, at least the Cloverfield monster
6 albeit not for the same reasons as some other members of that team – I don’t actually think the continued existence of new episodes is doing anything to the quality of the existing work, I just think that these people could be doing work with their not-inconsiderable talents in fields that don’t have twenty-odd years of history and weight with them, and that would be more exciting than another season of The Simpsons.
7 those of you who have noticed my Harlan-Ellison-derived spelling of “tv” may be able to successfully deduce that I also share his feelings about the use of the belittling, hepcat “sci-fi” as a term for a genre. He approved of its use for things he doesn’t care about, but I’ll go one step further and say that it’s a dumb thing to call anything, and that science fiction is a fine name for a genre.


The 2014 Trainie Awards, Part 2

Last week, we went through part I of the esteemed and admirable Trainie awards, this week we’re back for part 2! We’re like the People’s Choice Awards up in this piece!

The Cuckoo Crazytime Award for Proclaiming Down to Be Up, Water to Be Dry and The Moon to be the Far Side of the Sun
As you readers know, I spent some time earlier this year decrying people that take photographs at shows to the exclusion of all else. While I am certainly aware that there are people, generally standing in front of me at shows, who disagree with my position, I don’t think, on paper, that it’s a position that it’s hard to get behind. Grayson Currin1 has written a piece (linked here) about how unfair it is that Jeff Mangum has, unilaterally at Neutral Milk Hotel shows, barred photography. This extends to professional photographers. Leaving aside the extremely-discomforting position that Curran takes vis-a-vis Jeff Mangum’s public and obvious struggles with the light of the public, especially in a performance context, this is absolute bananapants. Curran’s argument boils down to this: not being able to take pictures to plaster all over everything means that you can’t relive the memories of being there, which means you have to keep buying tickets. It is, Curran insists, a sales ploy to actually expect that people at a show are going to be there to enjoy the show. That only cruel marketers would ever have the idea of asking the audience to be present as an audience and remember the performance by, you know, remembering it. He bolsters this by pointing out that Jeff Mangum isn’t playing new material, and that photographs (?) would somehow rob people of seeing that he either wasn’t very good or didn’t aspire to anything but a revue2. Never mind how absurd this seems on the face of things, let’s also be aware that this marks the point at which “the purpose of shows is to be seen at shows” was argued for as an ideological position.

Best Beer from a Brewery That, Just a Year Ago, Seemed to Be Falling Into a Stultifying Sameness Trap
The Great Lakes Brewing Company is a reliable workhorse of a brewery: they make the beers that they make particularly well, and they generally have seasonal varieties that taste more-or-less like variations on the themes of the five or six beers that are in their constant lineup. Earlier this summer, they released their raptorously-received Spacewalker, which is, finally, pretty awesome. They’re calling it an American Belgo, as it’s made with Belgian yeast and American hops. It’s not a perfect beer – it’s not really even better than Lake Erie Monster, which is in turn not better than Christmas Ale, which is in turn not better than Edmund Fitzgerald. It would probably even be better if it were an Amero-Belgian (i.e. American yeast and Belgian hops), which would probably flatten out a bit and make it so that you could switch to another style after one high-gravity pint of it. Nevertheless, it points to two things: 1) a newly-freshened creative process at the largest brewery close to my house and 2) even GLBC is getting away from giant, hop-forward beers, albeit only by a single step, which means that maybe even more places will start experimenting with yeasts and malts instead of trying to beat everyone over the head all the time.

The Most Surprising Prestigious, Thinky-Brain Award Given Every Year
The literary world is full of self-importance, full of people whose critical acumen is largely limited to their ability to see how well something fits the template for what “matters” in any given year. It’s the thing that drags down the National Book Award, the Booker Prize, and the PEN Foundation award. So it’s something of a surprise to look upon the list of Pulitzer prizes for fiction. Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch caused something of a kerfuffle, with critics at The New York Times, The Paris Review, and The New York Review of Books using her selection as proof that literature itself was in some kind of crisis3. Of course, when one delves a little further into the Pulitzer’s history, one finds that the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is, quietly, one of the most radical places to find fiction4, mainly because the Pulitzer Committee seems to weight funny as heavily as anything else – even in just the last ten years, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, A Visit From the Goon Squad, and The Adventures of Kavalier & Klay all place a premium on being a form of entertainment over being Serious, Chin-Scratching Literature. Barring 2012, where they rejected the excellent Swamplandia and The Pale King in favor of not giving out an award at all, The Pulitzer Committee seems to be pretty dedicated to decorating books that are meant, first and foremost, to be read, rather than worried through and then preened over.

The David Lowery Award for Thinking The Future is Dependent on Your Entitlement Issues
There could, potentially, be a lot to unpack about Taylor Swift’s Wall Street Journal piece about the future of music, but much of it boils down to a difference of opinion5. The part that seems, to me, to be the most cynical, hollow part of it, however, is the appeal to the self-esteem of her fellow musicians. Arguing that people buy fewer records because they only buy the records that are meaningful to them, she makes the argument early on that artists should know and charge “what they’re worth.” Presumably this means $14.99 at Target (see: Red) and, as it doesn’t make any allowance for literally any other approach or model, also manages, neatly, to incorporate the otherwise-heartening optimism about the future of the music industry, and an extremely shrewdly-placed self-worth message, into one of the most ridiculous, retrograde philosophies about an industry whose problem is teaching young people who sing to chase an economic transaction rather than a fan. It seems like that shouldn’t be possible.

The Thing That Disqualifies Me From Expressing An Opinion About How Other People Spend Their Time Award for Most Distracting Thing in the World
A year ago, Cookie Clicker started happening, and guys. It’s a full year later, and I can’t stop. Oh, I took some time off around the end of the year, but I come back every time, like a moth to flame. So how it works is: you click a cookie, and then the numbers get bigger, and then you buy stuff that clicks cookies for you, and the numbers still get bigger and….I don’t understand it, I couldn’t begin to tell you why it’s so maddeningly effective, and I realize that I should be ashamed of my 40 sextillion lifetime cookies. I can only take solace in the fact that, as far as the internet goes, I count as a casual. Yeesh.

The Paul Pope Award for Superhero Comics Writer Who I Can’t Believe People Don’t Lose Their Mind Over
Greg Pak has quietly become one of the most solidly, consistently entertaining writers in mainstream superhero comics. He’s something like the Bruno Mars of Marvel – he could’ve done a whole bunch of stuff, clearly, but he chose to do something at this level of mainstream attention. His run on Warlock ten or so years ago was fine enough, and taking over Marvel: 1602 from Neil Gaiman was a risky move that ended pretty well for him, but what got my full-time attention was his run on The Hulk, generally the mainstream superhero I’m the least interested in6. By taking him into space (Planet Hulk) and then bringing him back down (World War Hulk), Pak actually wrote a couple of story lines that are as superhero-y as they come, while still holding up as tight, solid comics storytelling even to people that have no particular history with the characters. He gets a lot of love in the superhero-comics crowd7, but that crowd is unheard by the people who don’t already know, and scorned by the rest of the “serious” comics people. That’s to their detriment. Anyway, this all happens because this year he’s finally giving Storm her own book, which is a very long time coming, and about which I am pretty goldurned excited.  

Fandom Who Does the Most Admirable Job of Putting Up With the Dumbest Shit of Anyone
I am not a regular reader of superhero comics. I’m mostly a wait-for-the-trades-er8, and even then, I’ll skip something if it isn’t something I’d like. I am, really, not someone who can call himself a superhero comics fan anymore. Superhero comics are generally the dessert to my comics-reading, which tends toward the highfalutin’. The “mainstreamification” of “nerd culture”9 That said, watching, year in and year out, every single person develop a sudden-onset instafandom for whatever superhero property is being filmed (curiously, this sort of thing didn’t really happen until the individual-movie Phase 2 of the MCU’s current strategy. I first saw it in earnest somewhere around the second Iron Man movie, or maybe Thor). I’m no real supporter of the “true fan” idea, nor of the idea that you have to put in a certain amount of time or a certain number of hours to be able to say that you enjoy something, I just feel a little awkward for the people who, having actively becoming involved in the fan community around a thing, are constantly being confronted with people claiming the same relationship, in a completely different form. It’s got to be like finding someone who says they speak English, and having it turn out that they speak Chaucerian English. It’s the same language, after a fashion, but jeez. Nevertheless, that brings us to….

Basically the Best Thing That’s Happened in the Last 12 Months, and in the Running for the Best Thing For the Next 12 Months
This is not a film review site, nor do I plan on starting now. Nevertheless, the astute among you will notice that even in this space I’ve got some problems with some things: the conflation of space opera with science fiction, the overtaking of action movies with adventure movies10. What I haven’t written about here is my Comic Book Movie Curse, that goes something like this: the better I think a comic book is going to be, the worse it ends up being11. So as the drop date for Guardians of the Galaxy approached, I allowed myself to get excited by the test footage, even knowing that The Spirit also had a cool trailer, and so did Constantine. Much hay has been made of the success of GotG meaning a success for Marvel as a cinematic brand, since whatever money it would be making would be off its existence a a Marvel movie, rather than out of love for the property. Which is generally fair, except: I love the Marvel Cosmic Universe. I love the Kree/Skrull war, I love the High Evolutionary, I love Star Lord, I love Gamora, I love Thanos, I love Knowhere and, most of all, I love the Infinity Gems. This was stuff that was making its first major resurgence (after sort of plodding to its end in the late seventies/early eighties) in the early nineties, when I was a wee lad. This was the height of the grim ‘n’ gritty Dark Age of super hero comics, and while that certainly had its high points, it wasn’t really where I was at as a ten year old12, so Adam Warlock and the Infinity Crusade, and Dr. Strange, and Nova (the books in which these things played out – the Guardians didn’t have their own book at the time) were a balm on the grimdark nonsense playing out elsewhere. So, while usually I’d be all about how interesting it would be to see something that marked only Marvel’s market presentation as a cinematic force, I was too close to this one. The Guardians of the Galaxy movie was personal. And I, in case you forgot the beginning of this paragraph, am cursed. And so I stand before you, happy to say: this movie is the finest of optimistic, golly-gee-gosh adventure space opera. It is the best space opera created within my lifetime. It’s a movie that delivers on the promise of silver-age pre-singularity science fiction, green-skinned human aliens and people surviving deep space unprotected to boot. It is, like the best adventure stories, a big ol’ mess that errs on the side of “THAT WAS AWESOME” than “that was something I can take seriously,” and generally follows each moment up with a great, big laugh. At this time last week, I was stuck wondering what I was going to make the big capper, and it turns out that I worried in vain: Guardians of the Galaxy – it’s basically the best thing that’s happened in a very long time.

1 generally affiliated with NME, rarely affiliated with goings-on on planet Earth.
2 it may also be meant to imply both, but it’s pretty weaselly as a piece of writing, which inclines me to see the worst parts of it, because that’s just how I be like.
3 of course, that seems, in most contexts, to be nearly 100% of the point of literary criticism – since the dawn of literature, the crtiics have existed to say that it wasn’t any good anymore. This is more true of book people than any other group of people.
4 Well. To find traditional fiction. Experimental fiction awards are all more radical, but that goes more-or-less without saying.
5 to wit: she thinks that the best way to do things is focused predominantly on revenue streams and visibility, I don’t.
6 Well, the Marvel superhero I’m least interested in. There are probably a dozen DC superheroes who I think are even more boring, but I tend not to count them, as they’re pretty off my radar.
7 the real one, not the one that exists around the movies. See below.
8 in my defense, this comes from a childhood spent trying to follow comics by lax, deadline-skipping creators, and learning as soon as I could that it was easier to wait until they got collected. You ended up a year behind, but at least you didn’t have to spend every week wondering when the next issue of, say, Bone was coming out.
9 i.e. the codification of the signifiers into a new kind of jock. You can’t tell me for a minute that this is replacing the idea of adolescent outcastdom, no matter how many sitcom characters regularly wear Green Lantern t-shirts.
10 real quick like: an action movie is a movie in which the point of the actions undertaken by the hero is specifically to confront another person – Die Hard, Predator, The Dark Knight – an adventure movie is a movie in which the point is a quest of some sort, which often does end in a conflict, but which is not, specifically, built around doing so. This distinction is, admittedly, pretty fine, and is generally why the “adventure movies need to make a comeback” crowd is drowned out by the deafening silence of people blinking in confusion when you try to explain to them why, say, Batman Begins (an adventure movie about a man’s quest to become a hero ends in him taking on his evil ex-mentor) or Star Wars (an adventure movie about a kid discovering that there’s a huge conflict out there and using the force to do his part to stop it) are actually different flavors than The Dark Knight Rises (an action movie in which the previously-quested hero comes specifically out of retirement to play John McClane to the city of Gotham by confronting the terrorist holding it hostage) or The Return of the Jedi (in which the principals gather together specifically with the purpose of blowing the Emperor on the second Death Star)
11 rarely (Spider Man 2, Iron Man, Ang Lee’s Hulk, Superman II) a property I think is generally not very good makes a good movie.
12 it’s still pretty much not where I’m at, but at 10 I was much more susceptible to believing that things could be objectively good or bad, and that if I didn’t like, say,  Youngblood or Spawn or whatever*, that it was a reflection on me, rather than on the work. That is, obviously, not the case anymore.
* for real, though: Savage Dragon 4 LYFE. And The Maxx. Always, always The Maxx.