2014 was a trash fire year, the kind the Queen would call an annus horribilis, except for her it actually wasn’t that bad. She got a grandkid out of it.
For the rest of us, well, you know. The usual cocktail of war and injustice and leering mobs of sociopaths cheering on one or both. Thankfully, we can rely on art and culture and the like to both distract us and help us make sense of the worst of it.
Except, of course, for the following.
Someone’s derriere was apparently broke the internet. If it happened, we missed it. Honestly, we’re unclear on the details.
– Stu Horvath
The Simpsons vs. Family Guy
I checked out on The Simpsons and Family Guy a long time ago. Every time I attempt to revisit either of these series is a reminder of why TV shows need to end after a certain period of time, even if the show in question is still profitable. At this point there’s enough Simpsons for there to be a channel dedicated to just airing 20 years of reruns, even though only 10 of those are worth watching. During this “special,” I thought to myself how great it would be if this was a secret finale to both of these shows.
While Family Guy is a show that cared more about the jokes than the characters, The Simpsons once cared about its characters and used to be able to weave sharp, surreal humor and parody into clever, and sometimes touching, stories. Not only was this the case with the core family, but also with the many other residents of the town of Springfield. Now the show has lost sight of that and this special is an example of that. In some ways The Simpsons has tried to be more of a gag show like Family Guy, and segments in this like Stewie tying up and torturing Bart’s enemies in the Simpsons garage felt like the equivalent of an extended animated segment of those bootleg decals of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes pissing on things. It’s something I love being appropriated by people who are just interested in making money and have no idea why people love the characters that they’re using anymore. At least I still have my Season 1-10 box sets of The Simpsons to continue to make me laugh, and even briefly succeed in erasing the last 10 years of hollow profiteering. Boo-urns guys, boo-urns.
– Mike Edwards
Did you know that a new Assassin’s Creed game came out this year? Of course you did – a new Assassin’s Creed comes out every year. As an unabashed fan of the series, I am OK with that, but the yearly development cycle has finally taken an irrevocable toll. I don’t want to play Assassin’s Creed Unity. I will, if only because of the hundreds of hours I’ve sunk into the franchise so far, but I promise you, I won’t enjoy it.
I sank ten hours into the game already, falling through the geometry into polygon limbo and witnessing countless nightmare-inducing glitches that stripped the skin off characters. By all accounts, what I’ve seen is only the tip of the iceberg. The game was broken at release (a massive update apparently fixed most of the issues, but too little too late?) and, god’s below, I can’t even finish this train of thought.
The bottom line is that Unity‘s story sucks. It is criminally underwritten, with no sense of place or time period. At one point I was collecting guillotined heads, even though the guillotine hadn’t been invented yet. For a game that depends on a certain amount of historical tourism, this is a damnable offense. Whatever the technical problems the game has, those can be fixed. You can’t patch a story. Shame on you, Ubisoft.
– Stu Horvath
Disney Closes the Maelstrom
Love it or hate it, Frozen is taking over at the Disney Theme Parks. They have special in-park events, sing alongs and there are inexplicably long lines to meet the film’s characters. Following the franchise’s undeniable success as part of Disney’s “New Renaissance,” the powers at be decided that a permanent attraction would be necessary. What better place to install this future fixture than at Epcot’s Norway Pavilion, right? The problem? One of the most beloved attractions, (and Epcot opening day original) Maelstrom stood in the way.
Loved for its bizarre story telling tactics and nonsensical transition from vikings and trolls to off shore oil refineries, Maelstrom was a cult hit and a big part of guests’ Epcot traditions. People petitioned, the attraction began boasting longer than usual wait times and though the outpouring of love for the classic ride was uproarious, it ultimately fell on deaf ears. This past October, after 25 years of dutiful service, Maelstrom’s ride vehicles went “back, back, over the falls!” for the last time. The large turquoise doors closed for good, the signage was draped in black, and theme park enthusiasts the world over wept and bowed their heads out of respect for the fallen icon.
– Erik Weinbrecht
And the Beat Goes On and On and On and On and…
That metallic sound during Transformers: Age of Extinction wasn’t the sound of robots in disguise turning into trucks and dinosaurs; it was the sound of childhoods imploding. Likewise, what audience member didn’t feel their spider-sense tingling once the first lame action scene started to unfold at the very beginning of The Amazing Spider-Man 2? Then there was Sin City 2, arriving a decade after the pioneering adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novels only to feel like stale fruitcake that’s ten years past it’s expiration date. As for Miller’s other major graphic novel adapted for the big screen, 300: Rise of an Empire, all the CGI blood in the ancient Greece wasn’t enough to cover over the massive holes in the script.
Yup, not even Decepticons would be so callous as to churn out these flawed sequels, but Hollywood execs have licensed projects to sell, foreign markets to reach and release dates (whether the scripts are ready or not) to hit. Those cold calculations have always been a part of the movie industry, but it seems worse than ever in this era of super hero cold wars between studios. Who will save us? I hope to God it’s not fucking Spider-Man!
– Ethan Sacks
U2 and Apple have had a long, fruitful relationship. The Complete U2 digital boxed set, the U2 (RED) iPod Classic, “Vertigo” being used in commercials…no one would bat an eye if we were to find out that Bono and the late Steve Jobs were BFFs. It should’ve come as no surprise that with the iPhone 6 release dovetailing with U2 finishing their new album Songs of Innocence that there’d be some sort of tie-in. U2 gets to brag that 26 million people downloaded the album without having to go through the trouble of making an album worth being downloaded that many times. Not that Songs of Innocence is a particularly bad album; it’s just not particularly good. And yet anyone with an iTunes account had to jump through hoops to remove it from their library. It was mandatory fun, and not the good kind like Weird Al Yankovic released this year.
P.S.: the iPhone 6 Plus sucks, too
– Don Becker
It’s been an exceedingly grim year and one need look no further than the celebrity obituaries that piled up this year for confirmation. Honestly, it would be quicker to name all the entertainers and performers who didn’t die in 2014: There were many, all tragic in their own ways. Granted words like “tragic” are thrown around without much thought in this context often – and it’s not that celebrities’ lives are worth more than ours, but the distractions their work offers us from our own day-to-day dreariness and existential sighs are, indeed, valuable. This year was marred by the loss of many funny people: Robin Williams, Harold Ramis, Joan Rivers and Jan Hooks were but a mere handful. In some respects, Hooks’ death at 57 in October hits hardest. A bright spark in Saturday Night Live‘s cast in the late ’80s, Hooks landed some choice roles in the decades that followed (3rd Rock from the Sun, The Simpsons) but unfortunately never quite clicked with something that would catapult her further away from what she’s relegated to: Having to be Googled to be placed and remembered. But that’s the thing about death – it comes of its own accord, and is always cruel.
– David Wolinsky
Return of the Same Old Shit
Let’s see. In 2014, we got trailers for a new Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Mad Max (OK, Fury Road looks amazing, but pipe down sonny). We also had a new Ghostbusters and Twin Peaks announced. Great. Worse: I am probably forgetting a ton of stuff, not to mention the recycled crap (Star Trek, Transformers, G.I. Joe) that we’ve been choking down for years.
You know what was awesome about growing up when I did? Having fresh and exciting movies like Star Wars, Mad Max, Ghostbusters and Jurassic Park coming out. I don’t care if that gum I like is going to come back in style. I want new gum. New flavors. New textures. Instead of building a monolithic billion dollar franchise, surprise me. But then, I don’t think you have it in you anymore, Hollywood.
– Stu Horvath
North Korea vs. Hollywood
It’s tough to pin down what exactly was the most disgusting part of the whole The Interview imbroglio, a weeks-long debacle where Sony canceled that film’s theatrical release following hacker threats ostensibly coming from North Korea. We can expect Kim Jong-un’s peeps not to have a sense of humor about a movie centering on his assassination, but what was truly despicable was America bowing to another land’s whims and censorship. Worse still, Sony was publicly shamed into doing the right thing with an about-face digital distribution on Christmas Day. The result? A news-cycle woven to equate consumerism with patriotism – something that hasn’t been so stomach-turningly “American” since post 9/11, when store shelves were flooded with tiny American flags that were made in China. (Okay, the worst part was that it actually gave play to something Seth Rogen did.)
– David Wolinsky
2014 was a real shitstain for domestic police issues, international idiocy and rampaging climate change, but the assholes who dribbled the most diarrhea over the year for a videogame and geek culture website decided to go by the name “GamerGate” – a totally nonsensical and idiotic name dreamed up by a washed-up actor that somehow managed to be the least vomit-worthy thing they did.
This pulsing boil of old-fashioned and new-fangled misogyny managed to attack us, our friends, co-workers, Unwinnable contributors, role models and even people that we weren’t huge fans of, but Jesus Fucking Christ, nobody deserved this shit. And for what? The only accomplishments of this months-long temper tantrum have been as best exhaustingly ridiculous and, more commonly, direct assaults on the well-being of women and people who care about women – categories that should include literally every fucking human being in society but apparently doesn’t.
And worst of all, this hashtag of festering stench refuses to take any responsibility for itself. Like a 10-year-old boy who thinks muttering “SJW says what” actually wins them a fucking argument, they trot out series of baby’s-first-argument buzzwords as though we won’t notice that a movement dedicated to harassing specific people might be responsible for harassing those same fucking people. GamerGate is a blight on everything we care about it in this culture. If 2015 sees it nuked from orbit, the world will be a better place.
– Rowan Kaiser