2014 in Review: The Year in Episodes

True Detective

This list is exactly what it looks like: a list of one great episode in each of twenty shows that I watched this year. I could have filled the entire list with episodes of The Americans and Hannibal, but I decided to impose a limit of one episode per show. This list is different from a list of my favorite TV shows of the year, though there’s plenty of overlap between the two. And if it’s not on this list, I either didn’t like it, liked it but preferred other things, or didn’t watch it.

And now, in chronological order, twenty of my favorite TV episodes of 2014.

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Of Monsters and Men: “Birdman,” “Whiplash,” “Nightcrawler”

Birdman

Movies don’t come out in a vacuum. Three of this fall’s most talked-about movies follow men as they struggle to balance professional success and occupational fulfillment with personal relationships and emotional connections. In all three stories, the main characters fall victim to the grim realities of the businesses in which they embed themselves. Nightcrawler, Birdman and Whiplash will likely be among this year’s crop of Oscar nominees. Below, my thoughts on these movies and the effect of thinking about them in tandem.

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“Chef”: Well Seasoned

Chef

Jon Favreau’s Chef is bloated at times and bites off more than it can chew, but it’s a frequently sumptuous and fully fleshed-out meal with side dishes as potent and satisfying as the main entree. The seasoning is exquisite, the presentation is dazzling and you’ll leave the theater full and content.

Now that’s enough food metaphors for one review, right?

After a lengthy foray into blockbuster filmmaking with the Iron Man franchise and the regrettable Cowboys and Aliens, multi-hyphenate filmmaker Favreau returns to his roots with this low-budget, star-studded, light-fare dramedy that indulges some of the director’s passions and incorporates many of his favorite famous actors. The movie doesn’t always make the best use of these supporting players, but Favreau’s finely tuned performance and the affecting relationship between his character, Chef Carl Casper, and his adolescent son Percy (EmJay Anthony) keep the film afloat.

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The M&M Report, Episode 20: #Sports

Super Bowl

Listen to Episode 20 here.

Welcome to the M&M Report! This week, Devin Mitchell and I welcomed special guest Eric Saltzman to talk about the Super Bowl and the Olympics. We assessed the legacy of Peyton Manning, picked our favorite commercials, criticized NBC’s coverage of the games and previewed the most interesting Sochi events.

Next week, we’ll be back with a discussion of the year’s best TV so far. Thanks for listening!

Click through for the time breakdown.

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The Oscar Nominations: Outside “Llewyn Davis,” Little to Complain About

Hemsworth

First, some obligatory awards season perspective: the Oscars don’t matter to you. You’re allowed to like a movie whether it was nominated for Best Picture or not. You are your own Oscars.

If that’s the case, why do we get so worked up about snubs and surprises and predictions and hopes and dreams? We want to see quality work recognized. The Academy Awards are one of the most common starting points for someone looking at the films of a particular year. If the awards don’t reflect the best movies, they’ll provide an inaccurate reflection of what we thought about film in 2013.

Nonetheless, complaining about the Oscar nominations is futile. It’s better to look at them as a starting point for discussions about the merits of movies. In that spirit, I’ve chosen four nominated-related things that made me happy this morning, and four that made me less than happy. Let’s use this list as a way of talking about movies, not awards.

(For more of my thoughts on the subject, stay tuned for this week’s episode of The M&M Report, in which Devin Mitchell and I will talk in depth about the year in movies.)

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