By James Hancock February 22nd, 2015
As I get ready to record our best of 2014 episode for Wrong Reel tomorrow night, I’ve been thinking long and hard about the last year. Maybe I’m simply in the throes of the initial rush of a caffeine high but on my death bed I think I’ll look back on 2014 as one of the best years of my life. On a professional level, this year has been a blast. Several years ago I came onboard Bill Plympton’s new animated feature film “Cheatin'” (Cheatin’ home page) as an executive producer and in 2014 we finally shared the film with the outside world at a variety of international film festivals where we were lucky enough to win some awards including the Jury Award at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. We’ve also been nominated in 3 categories at the 2015 Annie Awards, an event I eagerly look forward to attending at the end of the month. Outside of the world of animation I also got together with two friends, Parker Dixon and Mikhail Karadimov, to create the podcast Wrong Reel (subscribe on iTunes), a show for hardcore movie freaks, and at the time of this post we’ve already got 21 episodes under our belt. I didn’t think it was possible at age 38, but I’ve doubled down on my movie obsession and I now spend endless hours each week preparing for each new episode. But all that aside, 2014 has been an outstanding year when it comes to the myriad forms of media that I saturate my mind with on a daily basis. As anyone who knows me can tell you, my idea of a perfect day is one where I do nothing other than watch movies, read comics, engage in some hardcore gaming and get my freak on watching mixed martial arts. On all of these fronts 2014 has been an outstanding year and I want to share a few highlights.
2014 has been an outstanding year for movies but for me there is no question about which one was the strongest, Frank Pavich’s brilliant documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune”. The film chronicles director Alejandro Jodorwosky’s attempt to adapt Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic “Dune”. He assembles arguably the best cast and crew in human history including comic artist Moebius, madman designer H.R. Giger, screenwriter/special effects guru Dan O’Bannon, the band Pink Floyd for music, not to mention the likes of Orson Welles, David Carradine and Salvador Dalí for his cast. The film is the purest love song to the creative process of making a movie I have ever seen.
With the explosive popularity of Serial, this year was a game changer for podcasts where people who previously didn’t even know what the hell a podcast is now find themselves eagerly looking forward to the latest episode of whatever podcast has its hooks into them. I’m huge fan of the Nerdist, WTF with Marc Maron, Fatman on Batman, & Wrong Reel (plug time bitches). But the Heavyweight Champion, black best badass podcast of the year is without question the Joe Rogan Experience. As a standup comedian and fight commentator I was already a big fan of Joe Rogan, but his show is the most consistently entertaining podcast around with the best fighters and comedians on the planet routinely making appearances to discuss the craziest topics imaginable.
Retired from World of Warcraft
Ever since I first saw the classic South Park episode “Make Love, Not Warcraft” I’ve been enamored with Blizzard Entertainment’s legendary MMORPG “World of Warcraft”. From February 2007 through April 2014, I had a presence in that world (with a few lengthy hiatuses from complete burnout) and I will never divulge publicly just how many hours I spent exploring that open world environment. It took me years just to figure out how to play properly but starting in the Summer of 2009 I began raiding with the guild Pandemic Legion and started to learn what level of customization and preparation is required to play networked games on a competitive level. Throughout the various expansion packs, I tanked for several guilds the last of which was Paranoid on the server Illidan, and befriended many gamers that I am in contact with to this day. My gaming friends know me best by my gaming avatar, a Tauren Warrior named Colebrax, a name that I will forever identify myself with when engaged in online activity. Some of the most satisfying experiences of my life have been hearing the roar of my fellow gamers after downing a raid boss after dozens, sometimes hundreds of unsuccessful attempts at implementing our strategy. The drama, the rage quitting, the unforgivable insults, all of these experiences are what make my time in WoW so memorable and part of me will always belong to Azeroth. For the Horde!
Best New Fighter
My favorite fighter remains the devastatingly beautiful but absolutely savage Ronda Rousey (Read my rant on Ronda Rousey here) but the UFC’s breakout star of 2014 was without a doubt Dublin’s own Conor McGregor. This is a man who literally attracts thousands of fans from his home country when he fights in Vegas and back in Ireland the noise level at his fights exceeds most heavy metal concerts. Some find him cocky, some think he hasn’t been tested yet by a genuine grappler, but for me he is the most entertaining trash talker in the history of MMA with a wicked striking style to back it up. Whether you find him charming or offensive, want to see him fail or succeed, no fan of the sport is going to miss a Conor McGregor fight.
The Return to Tabletop RPGs
I grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons (read my rant about 20 years playing AD&D here) and I believe to this day that the collaborative storytelling of tabletop RPGs is one of the best ways to work on one’s writing, improv acting, ability to work in groups, and mental math. I hung up my spurs back in my early 20s but recently was seduced back into the world of RPGs playing a half-elf rogue named Aliana in a new Pathfinder campaign run by Wrong Reel co-host Parker Dixon. The technology for playing with people in different locations has been a real eye-opener and for the first time in years I am writing original stories again as I prepare to launch my own Pathfinder campaign, Lords of Chaos. I feel like I am easing myself into a very warm bathtub and I look forward to all the insanity to come.
Best Comic Writer
For anyone reading comics over the last few years, you don’t need me to tell you about how Jonathan Hickman has gone from total obscurity to one of the best writers in the history of the medium. I absolutely love his creator owned work for Image comics as well as his groundbreaking work at Marvel Comics. He has taken control over his corner of the Marvel Universe (“Avengers” and “New Avengers”) to such an extent that I have difficulty reading any other Marvel comics, at least until Hickman finally wraps up his years-long arc that will culminate in a new “Secret Wars” later this year. For anyone curious about his mainstream work, start with his work on “Secret Warriors” and then rip through his arcs on “Fantastic Four”, “FF”, “Avengers”, “New Avengers” and “Infinity”. You won’t be disappointed. If your taste in reading material does not include men in tights, be sure to take a look at “East of West” and “Manhattan Projects” by Image Comics.
Most Erotic Moments
So it is time to cover your eyes if you are of a more conservative nature but I have to give a shout to my favorite erotic scenes of 2014 from film and television. The images speak for themselves. I couldn’t pick a favorite so I settled on a three-way tie.
I am a hardcore fan of George R R Martin’s books and like most of his fans I spend every spare moment updating my browser to see if there is any new news on when we might see Book 6 in A Song of Ice and Fire, “The Winds of Winter”. 2014 came and went without the book making it now 3 1/2 years since the publication of the last entry in the series. Waiting for this book is a new form of torture but I refuse to read his series for a 3rd time until I have a tangible release date for the next in the series. If George R R Martin keels over and dies before finishing his masterpiece I will light myself on fire and die screaming.