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What We're Loving Year-End Spectacular (Part One)

We've loved many things this year - books, movies, tv shows, websites, people - but these things we loved  the A-Number One Best.   

fe66b2db92fc4b458530464df6bbf9fbWomen on TV fall mostly into three categories:

- terrible stereotypes of dumb girls and bad jokes (every show on CBS) - super-hot girls getting murdered (every show on the CW or ABC Family) - better-but-still-somehow-a-stereotype smart women doing intense things who have no time for love (every show on NBC).

This is a huge bummer for the majority of women who are sometimes cool, sometimes self-conscious, sometimes funny, sometimes angry, sometimes hot, sometimes gross, but always women.

Thank you, Broad City.

Ilana Glazer and Abby Jacobsen have nailed stories about being a woman, and more specifically, being a millennial woman. They’re just trying to get their lives together—bad jobs, weird love, gate-crashed parties, god-awful roommates, and sweet sweet Bed Bath & Beyond discounts.

It’s so refreshing to see a true-to-life friendship on TV where two women go through some serious weirdness together, but always have each other’s backs. They’re gonna get into the weeds with buying drugs for the first time, ending up with two guys who desperately want a four-way, or getting way too drunk at your birthday dinner. They’re gonna be ugly sometimes, be mean, and do gross things to and for one another. They’re gonna fight. They’re gonna yell. It’s not always pretty, it is always funny.

Even as ugly as it can get sometimes (because that’s real life), for the love of Carol Burnett, they’re real women telling real stories. We need that. - Noa Gavin

8 Out Of 10 Cats Does CountdownI love word games. I love game shows. Wheel of Fortune is one of my favorite shows of all time. If there's game in the title, I probably like it. I like trivia. I also like comedy. Along this theme, what I loved in 2014 is 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. It's a mash-up of two things I love: word games, and British accents.

Let me explain. Countdown is a British game show that is a combination of word games, and math games.  It's a panel show where comedians make jokes about current events. kind of like Best Week Ever, but it also shows these same comedians doing poorly at math! What more could you ask for? Plus, tt's been around since 1982! That's a long time!

8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown is hosted by comedian Jimmy Carr, with a rotating cast of comedians including Jon Richardson, Sean Lock, Joe Wilkinson, Rhod Gilbert, and David O'Doherty, all vying for the prize of a countdown teapot.

If you're like me and like to jumble letters in your head to think of other words, and also like to laugh, then give 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown a try, and tell 'em Jua sent ya. – Jua Holt

Interstellar1-210x300Sometimes when you admit to something you love, you have to be willing to look stupid. I feel foolish admitting this, but my favorite thing from 2014 is one line out of a movie, Interstellar. You know, the one where it’s the future, Earth is dying, and Matthew McConaghey has to find humanity a new home.

John Lithgow is his father in law. He remembers life before Earth was a dried up dust bowl, and in one moment he pretty much blew my mind. He is talking about the way things use to be: how there was a new invention just about every day, how every day was like Christmas, and how there were 7 billion people on the planet, every one of them trying to have it all.

His wistful look at the past (our present) made me think. Why are we all trying to have it all? We can’t possibly, but at least in our minds (or maybe just my mind) we want to. We think we can. And we get upset when we can’t. And we (I) throw fits when things do not go our way. But hey, there are 7 BILLION OTHER PEOPLE also trying to get their own way, and we just aren’t all gonna get it. And in the movie, there is a stark contrast- humans go from trying to have it all to struggling to survive.

I have thought about this a lot. More than the black holes, relativity, or other sciencey stuff. Don’t get me wrong, the special effects in Interstellar were cool, but Mr. Lithgow’s delivery in this scene made an impact on me. It sure beats hearing Michael Caine recite "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night" ONE MORE TIME. - Molly Jakkamsetti

Jack-Links-Sriracha-Beef-JerkyWell, they did it. Show’s over, go home. Competition quelled. In 2014, Jack Links, purveyor of fine, dried beef snacks, offering classic variations of their “jerky” such as: cracked black pepper flavor and (my old favorite) carne asada with real jalapeno, ventured out onto the proverbial limb and landed on what will be remembered as their ultimate jerky incarnation: Sriracha Beef Jerky. Let’s get one thing straight - I’m not one of those jerk-off, try-hards that loves to tout their love of Sriracha sauce as some kind of hipster/foodie virtue. I just have an unnatural affinity for beef jerky, and I love spicy stuff.

This is the best gas station snack available. It’s spicy without being too spicy. It’s chewy and beefy. It’s a primal, visceral, delicious experience. You finish a bag knowing you’d give your next breath for there to be another spicy, meaty shard lingering at the bottom of the pouch. You think about your life. You think about the news. You realize you forgot about the crushing weight of existence for a few minutes as you inhaled this fantastic foodstuff.

I scoff at doofuses who walk right by this ridiculously delicious snack option in favor of literally anything else. Just last summer, I witnessed a young man pilfer a pack of Cigarillos with Jack Link’s Sriracha Beef Jerky plainly in sight, risking incarceration for a cheap, Georgia O'Keefe vagina desert flower reprint when an original Frida Kahlo is within view. Who can say what became of that young man? Hopefully he went on to make better choices. I guess I just don’t get it. I don’t get why other people don’t eat this at every chance possible, because I do. I love it. The end. Of this article. – Tim Brewer

811This year, I loved something that you can’t really measure in critical acclaim. I guess if there was something for it, “feels” would be a just description. 2014 was 12 months of real relationships with real people: new and old friends, a continued spark of love for my wife and learning to take more time for myself and the things that interest me. So as I look back at the things I loved the most, each is surrounded by these little pockets of happiness that involved the people in my life. Inside jokes, learning people’s pasts, their futures, and ultimately giving up a piece of myself in return along the way.

What I’m trying to get at is this: among the quiet hum of the things we ingest on a daily, yearly, life-long basis, take a second to push aside the veil of pride that accompanies your likes and dislikes, and think about the people who shaped, affected or made your 2014 an all around better experience. I know I will.

Oh, and Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) was probably the greatest cinematic experience of the past decade from writing, acting, directing, score, execution -- everything. Man, those drums accompanying the movement of that film just had this kinetic burst, didn't it? High praise for that film.

But also, people. People are what matter. – Andrew Plock

anna-kendrick-pitch-perfect-650-430I’m crazy. I don’t just love things. I obsessively love things. And the person I love the most that isn’t a family member or friend is Anna Kendrick. If you’ve had a conversation with me, seen my iPhone case, or follow me on Instagram, more than likely you picked up on my love. Why do I love her so much? She’s funny, beautiful, intelligent, talented, driven, humble - I could go on. She’s basically everything I want to be. And I truly feel that if we were ever to meet, we would become best friends. Her tweets make me laugh. Her face makes me smile. Hearing her talk brings pure joy to my heart.

Anna’s birthday is August 9th. My birthday is July 9th. I KNOW. Our birthdays are a month apart. How destined to be best friends are we?! My birthday this year was very special. I had a show a few days after my birthday. After the show, I was talking to Sean, my best friend. Sean steered me towards the lobby of DCH and waiting for me was a cardboard cutout of Anna Kendrick. I was surprised, happy, and touched. I couldn’t believe that Anna (I know it’s not the real Anna) was in front of me. She was all mine. Sean orchestrated the surprise with our friends. So thanks Sean, Amanda, Ashley, Britney, Carolyn, Clarence, Clifton, Dana, Jonda, Jua, Mike, Milo, Nick, Rob, Sarah, and Weikei for giving me the thing I love most this year – Anna. I don’t deserve to have such sweet, caring, understanding, wonderful friends.

Are you interested in joining the Anna Kendrick fan club? I suggest you watch Pitch Perfect, 50/50, and Up in the Air. After you watch those, you can join me in watching her upcoming films, Pitch Perfect 2, The Last Five Years, Cake, and Into the Woods (out December 25th)! – Monica Pantharath

ArianaGrandeLast week I cried to Ariana Grande. It was very unexpected and a little scary because it was such a visceral reaction that I wasn’t ready for. See, I spend most of my time thinking about pop music and recently I’ve been wondering about the difference between a pop song and a POP SONG. A pop song is usually boring and released in May, just in time to capitalize on the breezy summer months. Its cultural importance is fleeting and the song is uncomplicated. There are many of these. A POP SONG changes lives. A POP SONG is important. This song serves all of your feelings on a neatly decorated dessert platter and leaves you to clean up the mess. It’s the difference between Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Britney’s “Toxic.” There are always tears during this song.

This year all of my emotions were served to me by Ariana Grande. Before I heard “Love Me Harder,” I had no real opinion on her. She was a singer who existed; a ponytail with vocals. Ariana caught me off guard. I was sitting in my car eating when Ariana’s now trademark vocals flowed through my speakers over a synth pop beat. She was pleading for the love of her life to “love her harder” if he wanted to keep her. Listening to that, coupled with the fact that I was eating an ugly sandwich alone, had me tearing up by the 45 second mark. By the end of the song, I bought her album. What surprised me was how much of a personal connection I made with the song. She, like all of us, deserve the best kind of love. With “Love Me Harder,” Ariana put me completely into my feelings and solidified herself as a pop star. I just hope the next time she does this to me I’m more prepared. – Jerrell Curry

What We're Loving: Factoid Scavenging, Angels With Dirty Mouths, Vague Wedding Memories, Old Books Made New

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison learns, Jonda Robinson professes, Amanda Hahn sways, and Ryan Callahan loves.  imgresThis week, I'm loving another Podcast.  I know that I probably recommend more of these than anyone, but that's because I really feel like the medium has grown so much over the last few years and is genuinely a legitimate source of entertainment now.  No longer are Podcasts just something that your friend does and no one listens to (Though that still happens sometimes).  Today,there are many examples of smaller podcasts that are really creating some amazing things.

My favorite of the week is called No Such Thing as a Fish and it's created by the QI Elves.  I've long been a fan of the BBC program QI (Which stands for Quite Interesting), a hilarious show that has been providing fascinating factoids for eleven seasons now.  And while No Such Thing as a Fish isn't hosted by the incomparable Stephen Fry, it's still a great listen.  Each episode tackles a different genre of knowledge and you learn a ton of random things, like Ghanaian coffins or how the Battle of Hastings was in Battle, not Hastings.  If you enjoy the tv program QI or you just enjoy broadening your horizons, I'd definitely give the Podcast a shot.  Bonus!  They just completed a run of episodes centered around the World Cup.  Each installment would pit two countries against each other, the hosts would scavenge for the most fascinating tidbits they could find, and at the end, a winning country was chosen. Double bonus, none of the facts were about soccer.  Or futbol.  - David Allison

imagesThis week, I’m professing my love for Amy Schumer. My mom refers to her as “that girl with the angelic face who says really dirty things,” and if you’re familiar with her stand-up or Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, then you know that description is pretty accurate. I first stumbled upon her in 2007 when she was a contestant on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and I felt a connection with her girl-next-door looks. While on the surface her humor can sometimes appear to be crass, at its core it’s always smart, and it demonstrates that Schumer has a good grasp on the big picture of what it’s like to navigate the world, especially as a woman.

From the beginning, I was in “like” with Amy. I appreciated her wit, admired her boldness, and wanted to be friends with her (I imagined us getting pedicures while sipping champagne and discussing the complexities of dating, with her saying something like “It’s 2014, you know! You’d think we’d have come up with a better system by now!”). Falling in love with her was something that happened for me during the second season of Inside Amy Schumer, as she, along with her brilliant writers, avoided the sophomore slump by taking things up a notch and leaving viewers asking “Whoa--did she really just go there?” One of my favorite examples of this is her sketch “A Very Realistic Military Game,” which does an excellent job of presenting a hot button issue in a lighthearted way, forcing you to think about the bigger idea.

I’m super excited that Amy is bringing her comedic stylings to Dallas this November, just in time for my birthday. Fingers crossed I can come up with a plan to make my champagne-and-pedicure dreams come true while she’s in town. - Jonda Robinson

Last weekend, I went to the Dominican Republic for my cousin’s wedding. Dominican weddings aren’t very different from Catholic, American ones. The wedding occurs in a church, then there’s a mass, followed by a reception. Typical. But receptions at Latin American weddings are not like the typical Catholic, American ones. Dancing starts immediately and continues all night. The bride and groom stick around for the whole reception. Colored lights are everywhere. Sometimes rappers show up. Sometimes the DJ hops onto the dance floor. Sometimes there’s a giant cake surrounded by spotlights. Sometimes Go Pros on helicopters fly past your head. And every single time, it’s a blast. The most energy filled part of the night is La Hora Loca, or The Crazy Hour. Music picks up, and people pass out hats, masks, glasses, disco ball necklaces, and shots. Lots of shots. I wish I could say more about La Hora Loca, but I can’t. Because I don’t remember much of that or the rest of the night. Because I made great use of the Brugal rum at the open bar and excellent use of the shots being passed out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n-O6qtt9c0&feature=youtu.be

I have a vague memory of dancing while someone rapped and suddenly realizing that I had never seen a live rapper at a wedding, and this was a something new I should be paying attention to. I found out later that the Dominican rapper, Mozart La Para was the performer. Just right there. Rapping away. I also found out later that we left the reception at around 4:30 or 5 am, and my 80-something year old grandma with a recently broken knee had partied all night along with everyone else. I’m so proud of her. I’m so proud to be Dominican. I’m not proud of this video of the wedding/me doing whatever the heck I’m doing, but feel free to watch and enter the wedding along with me. Bienvenidos a la Republica Dominicana. And farewell to my sound state of mind. - Amanda Hahn

NYRB CLASSICSBy now it should be no secret that I love books. Old books, new books, used books, fresh books - I love them all. I love the way they feel in my hands. I love the way they look on my shelves. I love they way they rest on my chest when I take a nap. But my favorite books of all come from the New York Review Books Classic series. NYRB Classics offers an eclectic selection of books from around the world, most of which have been long out of print. The books are re-released with new art, and some kind of cover stock  that seems to have been lowered from Asgard. I cannot describe the way the books feel in my hands other than to say perfectly.

I was first made aware of NYRB Classics in an essay by Roger Ebert. In praise of the works of Georges Simenon, the French master of the roman dur, Ebert mentioned reading a recent NYRB Classics reissue. Now that I was aware of Simenon's existence, I had to go out and buy his books. That is how my brain works. After reading Red Lights, a nasty little tale of a road trip gone wrong, I discovered, in the back of the book, a list of all the available NYRB Classics. Now I had to get all of them. At the time I lived in New York. My local used book store, Mast Books on Avenue A, carried an impressive selection of NYRB Classics. I picked up everyone I could.

This wonderful series has introduced me to so many new books that I never would have discovered ob my own: Max Beerbohm's Seven Men, a wistful and witty series of fictional biographies, Kingsley Amis' bitter and funny Lucky Jim, which became one of my favorites novels the moment I finished, Felix Feneon's Novels in Three Lines, true stories of crime and corruption told in three lines with prose carved out of stone, Dwight Macdonald's Masscult and Midcult, a collection of essays from the 50's and 60's so prescient and incisive they could have been written last week, Robert Sheckley's Store of the Worlds, sharp little science fiction tales so smart and weird and human.

These days, I have my NYRB Classics delivered. Each Christmas my aunt enrolls me in the NYRB Classics book club. Each month, a new book arrives in the mail. This week's selection is The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette, another master of French crime. Last week it was a collection of Montaigne's essays. Next month the selection is a World War I memoir. If you are a book lover, or you know a book lover, I cannot recommend NYRB Classics enough. Your favorite book is out there waiting for you, and you don't even know it yet. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Life Experience, Cooked Hamm Sandwich, Illiterate Hollywood

photo (1)Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison finds a new favorite tv show, Ashley Bright might be the real Don Draper, and Ryan Callahan pays a visit to 1980's Hollywood.

imgresLook, I am well aware that Andy Daly has been talked about before on this website, specifically here and here. With that said, his new show Review is my favorite thing on television right now and you need to know to check it out.  The program is a stateside interpretation of an Australian show where a host, Forrest MacNeil (Daly), reviews and rates life experiences like doing cocaine, going to prom, and being Batman.  Each episode opens with the quote “Life, it’s literally all we have, but is it any good?” which is a perfect summation of what to expect.

The show is four episodes in and, unlike most shows of this type, each episode builds on the previous  Thus far, the peak has come in week three. The episode begins with his review of eating fifteen pancakes, a task he previously found unimaginable as he’s “never eaten more than two pancakes in a month.”  The way the episode heightens his pain in the next two reviews is beautiful and I refuse to spoil any of it.  Review can be seen on Thursdays at 9 pm cst on Comedy Central or you can just come over and we’ll watch it together. Either way works for me, I just want to make sure you check out this show. - David Allison

mad-men-season-6-jon-hamm-2I'll admit it: I'm partial to Jon Hamm. His appearances during the live 30 Rock episodes were some of my favorite moments of the show. And if I can personally relate to any fictional character, it's Don Draper. You may be thinking to yourself, "Geez Ashley, you must think you're quite the cool customer." I do, but I also relate to his less cool (i.e. slightly crazy) emotional complexities. Also, we learned in the "Zu Bi Zu Bi Zu" episode that Don's birthday is June 1 - so is mine! I've gotten off topic trying to convince you that I'm as cool as Don Draper. This week I watched A Young Doctor's Notebook starring Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe. I've only watched the four episodes available on Netflix, but it was such an intriguing 80 minute nugget that I can't wait to watch the rest. So far, two seasons of four episodes each have aired on BBC. The show is cringingly amusing. I literally cringed and covered my eyes while watching it. But I also laughed. It's dark and different and recommend giving it a watch. And not just because I'm partial to Jon Hamm. - Ashley Bright

jon-peters-book-0905-03Stories of behind-the-scenes drama and the clash of creative egos have always appealed to me. Over the past few years, books like Difficult Men, Pictures at a Revolution, and Marvel: The Untold Story earned a spot on my nightstand with their gossipy takes on artists and wannabe-artists behaving badly, boldly, and blindly. Hit and Run by Nancy Griffin and Kim Masters, which I read this week, tells the story of Sony's disastrous foray into the movie business. But that's not why I'm writing about it. I'm writing about it because it contains a treasure trove of the best kind of Hollywood stories: Jon Peters stories. Jon Peters stories are the best. For those who don't know, Peters, pictured at left carrying his business partner Peter Guber, is a famous Hollywood rags to riches story. A high school drop-out turned hairdresser, Peters became, thanks to then girlfriend Barbra Streisand, a producer on the remake of A Star is Born. Peters used Streisand's clout and his own brand of personal intensity to make the movie about his love affair with Streisand. It was a six million dollar home movie. And it was a hit. From there, Peters was off and running, using his relationships, his force of will, and his fearsome temper, to become one of the richest and most powerful producers in Hollywood, despite being largely illiterate.

Today, Peters is remembered, if he's remembered at all, as the man who wanted to make a Superman movie where Superman didn't fly, didn't wear his costume, and fought a giant mechanical spider. But in his day, Jon Peters was the 800 pound gorilla. Nobody did it bigger, costlier, or crazier. Hit and Run is full of Jon Peters stories: Jon Peters wooing Swedish supermodel Vendela by sending her a private jet full of flowers. Jon Peters visiting the set of Rain Main and asking Dustin Hoffman whether he played, "the retard or the other guy." Jon Peters breaking the jaw of a marketing executive and then hiding under a desk when the cops came. They don't make them like Jon Peters anymore, nor should they. Hollywood is, was, and will always be, the real Land of Misfit Toys. For a while, Jon Peters was the greatest misfit of all. I'm thankful that a man like him exists, and that I never have to meet him. - Ryan Callahan