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2010: Exploiting The Year That Was

“History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised again.” 
– Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

It’s that time of year again.

With less than three days left, and without proper reflection, all of us will compile lists of our favorite things from the previous twelve months.

As time wears on our opinions will change. Films that went under the radar theatrically will find audiences on video and on cable television. Books that sat on shelves and bedside tables will be discounted, re-gifted and read. Discs that didn’t lead-off with hit singles will be rediscovered on shuffle mode, possibly making it into steady airplay rotation.

With that caveat, in full admission that my selections will likely change, I offer my favorite releases of 2010, and my reasons why.

BEST FILM(S): INCEPTION & TOY STORY 3

The smartest mind-fuck in recent memory was all one could expect of a summer spectacle and more. State of the art special effects, top-notch acting, and story structure that benefits from multiple viewings made Inception the best movie experience of 2010. But equally as enjoyable and just as intelligent was Pixar’s sequel to its first ever sequel. Most franchises run out of steam by the third film, but Toy Story 3 is possibly the best entry in the series, with as much poignancy as part 2 and even more innovation than part 1. The near holocaust in the day care incinerator is the single most traumatic thing I witnessed in a year that included the loss of a close friend to gun violence.

BEST TV SERIES: THE WALKING DEAD

AMC have quickly become the new HBO in their dedication to quality, cutting-edge programming. The Walking Dead is a great adaptation of an exceptional comic book. With the exception of pivotal support from Noah Emmerich, Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker the acting has not been the best on television, but the pacing and the story took the wheel and drove it all the way home. Oh, and it has zombies, too.

BEST COMIC BOOK: BATMAN and ROBIN

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely spin a good yarn. Following the highly publicized Death of Bruce Wayne story line, the need to build the back story for Wayne’s son, Damian was a perfect backdrop for Morrison’s signature weirdness. As a card-carrying fan of Dick Grayson, it was a pleasure to see the original Robin ascend to the mantle of the Dark Knight, if even temporarily.

BEST ALBUM: TEENAGE DREAM by KATY PERRY

My unapologetic love of pop music is well documented, and though there was nothing this year on par with such recent classics as Green Day’s American Idiot, or Brian Wilson’s Smile, Teenage Dream helped further propel former gospel-girl-gone-bad Katy Perry into mega stardom. While time may not be as kind to her as it has been to, say The Beach Boys or The Beatles, this was Katy’s year and this was the right record to mark that achievement. It doesn’t hurt that she married it-boy Russell Brand this year, either. I also applaud her fondness for latex clothing and her live action appearance on The Simpsons Thanksgiving Special, but it’s her music that got her on my list. The Title track and “California Gurls” were the official soundtrack to the summer, and it’s already clear that “Firework” will be most people’s New Year’s Eve jam. I’m sure this record will remain on the charts well into 2011, and I’m certainly not tired of it yet.

BEST GAME: DANCE CENTRAL for KINECT

Kinect for Xbox 360 has revolutionized gaming. Those of us who marveled (or scoffed) at the crazy technology of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report a mere eight years ago are now living the future we were promised. Control-free gaming is here. Dance Central is perhaps the best game to induct the masses to the wonders of this new technology. It’s fun, it’s aerobic, and it’s difficult to master, but not impossible to play at lower levels of proficiency. Next year, Guitar Hero and Rock Band will be adding a stringed instrument to their interface, but until then, I’ll be dancing.

BEST BOOK (NOVEL): BLACK CRACKER by JOSH ALAN FRIEDMAN

One of the greatest memoirs of growing up since Jim Carrol’s Basketball Diaries, but far less grim. Friedman is a great writer of the Faulkner tradition. Equal parts Mark Twain and Iceberg Slim, there is tenderness and truth on every page and an earnest optimism to the whole package. I don’t know that you’ll read a better novel next year.

BEST BOOK (NON-PROSE): 75 YEARS OF DC COMICS by PAUL LEVITZ

This $200, 700 page, Taschen book is practically the size of a coffee table and I had a lot of reservations about a mass-produced art book tackling one of my favorite subjects, comics. In the spirit of total honesty, I have to confess that this is fucking amazing. Paul Levitz is not just a scribe for hire; he was the publisher at DC comics for a good, long time, and he gives an insider’s view of the behind-the-scenes events that helped shape the art of modern mythmaking. He is generous with his praise of individuals and even competitors, which saves this project from becoming a one-sided story by bearing the name of a single publisher on its masthead. After the overwhelming success of this book, I can’t imagine that a Marvel book is far behind, and if it is even 10% as good as this book is, it’ll be worthwhile. Thanks, Paul, for sharing the greatest love letter ever written to my favorite hobby.

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