Shane Hegarty’s cultural highs and lows of 2014
'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' was great comedy - and journalism
What were your cultural highlights of 2014?
In print, Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North was a beautiful, deeply affecting novel. Claire North’s resurrection/time-travel tale The Fifteen Lives of Harry August kept me gripped. And Marcus Sedgwick’s ambitious, millennia-spanning The Ghosts of Heaven was young-adult fiction at its best, and deserves a wider readership.
On TV, True Detective’s yin-yang detective act of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey also included a gobsmacking tracking shot. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver was great comedy and journalism, and raised the bar for both. In film, I’ve watched Grand Budapest Hotel a few times, and it reveals something new on every viewing. But I must also mention Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. How they trained those apes to talk I’ll never know.
And the year’s biggest disappointments?
The Martian, by Andy Weir, was a novel about an astronaut stuck alone on Mars with time running out. It’s going to be a big film. It should have been right up my street. Instead it had the excitement of reading an instruction manual.
What caught you by surprise?
Tony Zhou’s illuminating and brilliantly executed Every Frame a Painting essays on Youtube and Vimeo. His brilliant dissection of the director Edgar Wright’s visual style doubled as a takedown of modern cinema’s bland, safe comedies.
Who or what was 2014’s unsung hero?
Snowpiercer. Available on the US version of Netflix, this film about a train carrying humanity’s last survivors – poor at the back, rich at the front – wasn’t perfect, but its design and intelligence made it a rare sci-fi gem. Tilda Swinton as a mix of Maggie Thatcher and Janet Street-Porter just topped it off.
What’s your top tip for 2015?
Lower any expectations for the second season of True Detective.
2014 in three words?
Teaser trailer tedium.