The Siskoid Awards 2014

Do not try to collect your prize, they don't exist except virtually, but some of you have definitely won Golden Typewriter Monkeys this year. These mark excellence in what I've read, seen or heard in 2014, regardless of when it was originally released. As usual, only newly experienced material will be up for consideration. For television episodes, no more than one per show can be put up for nomination. Other limits may apply. Write-in votes/dissent in the comments section.

Best Book of 2014 - The runners up are...
5. Worst. Person. Ever. (Douglas Coupland)
4. Behind the Sofa: Celebrity Memories of Doctor Who (edited by Steven Berry)
3. The Book of Negroes (Lawrence Hill)
2. The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (José Saramago)
...and the Siskoid goes to: Cain (José Saramago) - This is the year I discovered this Nobel-winning Portuguese author, thanks to the film Enemy which was based on one of his works. No surprise that two of his books are on this list, and a film adaptation of another on a list below. Saramago's last novel before his death, Cain, is like a prequel to his Gospel, which I put in second place. Though 18 years separate them, we find here the same skepticism and humanity. I loved the Gospel, but I think I love Cain more. Taking a similar tack, it starts with Adam and Even and their fall from Grace, but soon gets us to Cain and the first murder. From there, Cain is condemned to wander for eternity and the book that's a strange turn, becoming a kind of time travel adventure through the books of Genesis and Exodus. Cain goes back and forth through time, interacting with Abraham, Job, Noah, Moses, Lot and so on. Every incident makes him wonder why he was punished for a single murder, while the Old Testament God commits or encourages genocide. Skeptical Saramago attacks the Old Testament's hypocritical double standards, again asking literalists to question their beliefs, while Saramago the humanist paints the portrait of Cain as a psychologically believable character so he can act as reader identification figure. And no spoilers, but the twist ending is remarkable. Especially considering it was the writer's last book. I won't say any more. It's just 159 pages, you should check it out for yourselves.

Best Comic of 2014 - The runners up are...
5. Flash Gordon (Parker, Shaner and Bellaire)
4. Stray Bullets: Killers (Lapham)
3. Ms. Marvel (Wilson and Wyatt)
2. Magnus Robot Fighter (Van Lente and Smith)
...and the Siskoid goes to: Alex + Ada (Luna and Vaughn) - There's only been one comic series this year I've never let sit in the reading pile for months on end, and that's this book from Image, a sweet and slowly unfolding romance between a boy and an android. Such relationships are permitted, but an android's self-awareness is not. The series explores Alex's dilemma - does he let Ada become aware, and is it right for him to have feelings for her? - Ada's discovery of her own "humanity", and the political struggle of what is essentially a subjugated slave race. The latter gives the series scope, but it still never feels other than intimate. Yes, it has a relaxed narrative, but I've never minded it. It suits the story.

Best Film of 2014 - The runners up are...
5. Blindness (Fernando Meirelles)
4. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmush)
3. The Lego Movie (Lord and Miller)
2. Inside Llewyn Davis (Cohen Bros.)
...and the Siskoid goes to: Her (Spike Jonze) - From my original review: "Her was a film about many things, but its main theme, to me, was loneliness. A very modern kind of loneliness. Everyone connected through social media, and yet alone in front of screens both large and small. On the surface of it, the main character falling in love with an artificial intelligence is science fiction, but how much does their relationship differ to those of people who meet and fall in love on the Internet? People who used to be text and possibly voices, and who relatively recently might have a moving image on screen. Spike Jonze's new film uses this sweet and complex relationship to explore emotional surrogacy. How are feelings impacted by medium they're transmitted through? Are they still real if an intermediate is required? At its core, this is a relationship story, regardless of its sci-fi tropes. Only towards the end do the ramifications of the technology take center stage, without however taking the focus away from the two lovers. A wonderfully touching film, incredibly contemporary, beautifully shot and sensitively acted." Much wringing of hands here and difficulty getting the list down to these 5. I just saw too many good films last year. I think this one resonated strongest with me, but ask me tomorrow and I might give a different answer.

Best TV Series of 2014
- The runners up are...
5. Doctor Who Series 8
4. Breaking Bad Seasons 1-4
3. The Thick of It Series 1-4
2. Leverage Seasons 1-5
...and the Siskoid goes to: The Decalogue - From my original review: "I'm a huge fan of Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski (The Double Life of Veronique, Three Colors trilogy) and the Decalogue is his reaction to someone saying there ought to be a film about the Ten Commandments to counterpoint the sex and violence in late 80s cinema. He made ten. These one-hour dramas aired on Polish television, and if you were to fit them into the color scheme of his later films (Veronique as gold/yellow, and the Three Colors' Blue, White and Red), it would be Gray. Though each film has its own characters, they are set in and around the same gray concrete apartment building in Warsaw. Only one film could actually be called "colorful". But it's the content that truly merits the "gray" label. The films' themes aren't really one-for-one with each of the Commandments, but rather explorations of how several of them could contradict one another. Morality isn't a black and white thing that can be codified the way religion sometimes tries to, and Kieslowski's characters are trapped in ethical puzzles that surprise and confound by their anti-formulaic presentation. The stories character-based, the endings poignant by their ambiguity. None of them left me cold, and I wish I'd watched them with other people, because each deserved a good discussion afterwards. A great achievement." I was tempted to put Leverage in the first position, because I did later go out and get the novels, the RPG, and a bunch of t-shirts, but if I'm true to my aesthetic compass, it has to be The Decalogue. It's too important a work.

Best TV Episode of 2014 - The runners up are...
5. Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Community Season 5)
4. The Rashomon Job (Leverage Series 3)
3. Flatline (Doctor Who Series 8)
2. Sleeping in Light (Babylon 5 Season 5)
...and the Siskoid goes to: China Beach Pilot - Not exactly current, I know - it was made in 1988 - but it blew me away. It's like an intensely lyrical movie, touching and thoughtful, and forever relevant. Dana Delaney is amazing. I immediately wanted to share it with people, especially if they weren't around to see it at the time. I remembered it was  good, but I don't think my teenage self could appreciate its existentialism. So glad they finally put the whole series out on DVD.

Best CD of 2014 - The runners up are...
5. The Fourth Wall (Big Finish's John Dorney)
4. The Demons of Red Lodge and Other Stories (Big Finish, various)
3. Peri and the Piscon Paradox (Big Finish's Nev Fountain)
2. Jago and Litefoot: The Theatre of Dreams (Big Finish's Jonathan Morris)
...and the Siskoid goes to: Electra Heart (Marina and the Diamonds) - This category is, as it's been for a number of years, dominated by Big Finish audio plays. It's become rather rare for me to consume entire music albums. A tune here, another there, sure, but I'll rarely listen to a new album as a whole, and then multiple times. Quirky Welsh diva Marina Diamandis is perhaps an odd choice given my musical background, but I like her "comic book" aesthetic and her subversive attitude towards pop music. Case in point 2012's Electra Heart, a concept album sung by her "evil" alter ego, a diva who represents all that's bad about pop music and the lifestyles it promotes. It's a fantastic idea and songs like "Bubblegum Bitch", "Primadonna", "How to Be a Heartbreaker" and "Teen Idle" carry all the irony they should, and the album has a flow that takes Electra Heart from dark ambition to bitter regret.

Stupidest Move in the Geekaverse 2014 - The runners up are...
5. Ryan Murphy: Inventing horror-comedy (Scream Queens goes where no horror story has before! Honest!)
4. David and Meredith Finch's Wonder Woman (a study in wrong-headedness)
3. Micheal Bay's meltdown at the Samsung conference
2. Unavoidably, DC Comics: Take your pick, whether that's suing a soccer team for their very different bat logo, sexist t-shirts, DC-movie-writer David Goyer talking smack about Martian Manhunter fans and She-Hulk, slapping Joe Keatinge down for pointing out they changed one of his stories drastically, or a host of other mismanaged abuses.
...but the Siskoid goes to: #GamerGate. There's no way around it. Arguments so laughable, they became overnight memes, but based on some disturbing attacks on women involved on the gaming industry, both on the design and criticism ends, GamerGate cannot be about "ethics in gaming journalism" and about making rape threats. I don't care if your concerns about journalistic bias are valid (but if so, why not address the much more important conflict of interest created by corporations generating ad revenue for gaming criticism sites), you simply can't harass people with death/rape/bomb threats. That's... wait for it... unethical. But from getting its name from wingnut Adam Baldwin, to using the absurd "oppressed majority" label, to the whole Intel kerfuffle, to the rampant misogyny, circular arguments and blowing everything out of proportion, this thing has been going on too long already and is STILL going on. And here I thought Doctor Who fans were needlessly divisive and extremist. Here's to GamerGate being relegated to the status of "oh yeah, forgot that happened" in 2015.

Let us know what YOUR picks would have been. Tomorrow: The Technical Awards as given in a ceremony prior to this one, just like with the Oscars!

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I will give David Goyer one tiny bit of credit: if he started reading "She-Hulk" in John Byrne's run, then he's justified in walking away with the impression that she's all about power/sex fantasies.

That said, She-Hulk didn't start or end with Byrne, and it wouldn't take much research at all for Goyer to become acquainted with non-Byrne takes on the She-Hulk.

I suppose I'm pleased when a comic book creator gets exposed as a creep, so maybe he'll be recognized as such and have less opportunity to wreck characters. But even so, it's disheartening.

As the Welsh say, "mntrlycl cmCntru".

Siskoid said...

There's a big difference between thinking She-Hulk is about sex/power fantasies, and saying she was conceived so the Hulk would have someone to screw.

That boggles the mind.

Martin Léger said...

And for anyone who isn't familiar with the character they could just google She-Hulk and quickly find out she's Bruce Banners cousin and not a potential sex mate! Although that didn't stop Mark Miller from doing it...

Martin Gray said...

Brilliant post, it's sad how few of your TV entries I've seen. Still, at least you didn't follow the rest of the world and crown True Detective. I managed 20 minuteszzzzz.

Siskoid said...

I did like it. It was #6, probably.

Joelle Martin said...

I enjoyed reading this post Mike, it made me think of what I read & was reading in 2014 and realised that I read ALOT of new comic book portraying women as hero in 2014.

So here's my top 5 Feminist Comic of 2014 :

5. Princess Ugg
4. Wonder Woman (before this new arc)
3. Lumberjanes
2. Rat Queen
1. Miss Marvel

I read this review somewhere about Miss Marvel and I couldn't agree more. "This comic book just might be the most important comic of 2014." I think it can be true. It's true for women, regardless of color, religon or origin. I can't wait to see what 2015 has in store for Kamala Khan.

Also I started reading this series right after reading Malala Yousafzai "I am Malala", so I now have HUGE respect for these two strong Pakistani women, wich I knew nothing about before 2014.

Special mention : I'm really really looking foward the new Bitch planet series in 2015 !

Siskoid said...

Great to hear you've expanded your reading even more, Jo! Ms. Marvel is awesome. I like Lumberjanes too!

I quite liked the first issue of Bitch Planet, you'll find my review on this blog (one of the December Number Ones articles) and on the Comic Hunter site.

Back from China?

Toby'c said...

I'm pretty behind on most TV aside from Doctor Who. Highlight for me was Neighbours episode #6943.

Martin Léger said...

Few of the things I discovered this year that I loved, books, movies, comics, ect...

Movies;

Only Lovers Left Alive
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Last Will and Testament of Rosaline Leigh
Grand Budapest Hotel
Noah
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

TV series;

True Detective
Silicon Valley
Rick and Morty
The Knick
Black Mirror

Comics and Video Games

Moon Knight
Sex Criminals
Ms. Marvel
Shovel Knight
Call of Juarez Gunslinger

And lastly short story writer Peter Watts.

Siskoid said...

Toby: Considering I gave top prize to two TV series from the 80s, I'm in no position to judge you on how "behind" you are. Doctor Who is pretty much the only series I keep up with - for obvious reasons - and everything else I get eventually on DVD.

Marty: Grand Budapest and Moon Knight were also on my short lists. Shovel Knight sounds like something I'd be into (Battle Shovels?)

Toby'c said...

I'm no different, especially since I watched a lot of 80s stuff as well this year - Cheers, Moonlighting, Golden Girls, Neighbours (the era of Guy Pearce and Kylie and Jason).

I should mention I do keep track of a few current shows online, namely Sailor Moon Crystal and My Little Pony, and I do follow plenty of local comedy shows.

But if I was going to pick a favourite TV-on-DVD moment from past years, it was the entirety of Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Moving on, my favourite movies of the year were How to Train Your Dragon 2, Boyhood and Interstellar, favourite comic was Kingdom Come (again, years behind), favourite CD was Doctor Who: Flip Flop and not sure on books, probably something from A Song of Ice and Fire.

Siskoid said...

I can't wait to see Boyhood. I missed it in theaters, but the DVD has long been ordered.

Flip-Flop is quite cool, I agree. I love it when Big Finish gets meta like that.

Michael May said...

Gonna have to check out Alex + Ada. I'm with you on the wonderfulness of Her and am very much up for continuing to explore those ideas in a comic.

 

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