ANDREW OSBORNE’S BEST & THE REST OF 2014: AUDIO, BOOKS & THEATER

We’re more than a week into the New Year, so I’ll make it quick with the remainder of my 2014 highs and lows, starting with:

AUDIO

Best Podcast/Live Stream:  Double Toasted.com

I’ve been a fan of the riotous, whip-smart banter of movie critics Korey Coleman and Martin Thomas since the days of their old Austin, TX cable access TV show The Reel Deal.  After leaving the Lone Star State, I lost track of them for a while, during which time they stormed the internet with the website Spill.com — until corporate overlords Hollywood.com pulled the plug in 2013, after which I rediscovered Korey & Martin again at their new online home, the jaw-droppingly ambitious independent website, DoubleToasted.com, featuring a full line-up of live (and archived) video stream programming, an active fan community, and the most raucous, entertaining pop culture banter this side of Howard Stern (who, it should be noted, had an excellent year his own damn self, thanks to the Birthday Bash, an amazing line-up of guests, and, as always, fart jokes).

Runner-Up:  WTF with Marc Maron

Best Live Performance:  Patti Smith at Boston First Night, 2013/2014

As usual in recent years, I barely got to see any live music in 2014, but at least I kicked the year off right by catching Patti Smith in full rock goddess mode last New Year’s Eve, paying tribute to fallen comrade Lou Reed and her own amazing back catalog.

Runners-Up:  Michael McDonald’s Holiday Concert at the Wilbur Theater (Boston, MA), Yacht Rock Revue (The Sinclair, Boston, MA), Guilty Pleasures (with special guest star Fritz Robenalt at The Chuggin’ Monkey, Austin, TX), Animal Hospital & The Blind Boys of Alabama, Boston First Night 2013/2014), Pretty & Nice at TT the Bear’s, Boston, MA)

2014 Theme Song:  “Hungry Face” by Mogwai

Runners-Up:  The inescapable yet endlessly catchy “Happy” by Pharrell Williams (in honor of the late, great Wanda Howard), “The Motherfucking Pterodactyl” by The Oatmeal

Best Music Video:  “Don’t Look Down” by Razor Jane

I don’t watch too many videos these days (thanks a lot, MTV!), but I was more than psyched to see (and hear!) this great new song from Claire Harding (of Stranger Than Pretty and Apocalypse Bop fame)!

BOOKS

In addition to advanced copies of new books by Scott Von Doviak and Stephen Ramone Lewis and John & Jana Seven (plus John’s Time-Tripping Faradays series) and Season of the Witch by Peter Bebergal, I also enjoyed…

Best Book I Read In 2014:  Song of Spiderman by Glen Berger

Sure, the theme song to that 1960s Spider-Man cartoon series was catchy (“Listen, bud…he’s got radioactive blood!”), but who in their right mind thought America needed a multi-million dollar Broadway musical about Marvel’s friendly neighborhood web-slinger?  The answer turns out to be:  nobody — at least not according to Turn Off The Dark co-writer Glen Berger, who chronicles the real life, Birdman-esque insanity of working with an increasingly unhinged “collaborator” (auteur Julie Taymor) on a slow motion train wreck of a show that infamously sent several cast members to the emergency room.

Longest Book I Read in 2014:  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

For many reasons, The Secret History by Donna Tartt is my favorite novel of all time, but 2002’s The Little Friend was a bloated, meandering disappointment.  As for her 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning bestseller, The Goldfinch, there was probably a good 400 page novel about grief, art theft, and New York high society in there somewhere…but, unfortunately, Tartt’s latest doorstop was 784 pages long.

THEATER

Best Play I Saw In 2014:  Buyer & Cellar (Barrow Street Theater, New York, NY)

Jonathan Tolins’s modern, one-man update of Sunset Blvd. about a (fictional) employee working in the (actual) fake shopping mall where Barbra Streisand keeps her dolls and other tchotchkes is a funny, biting depiction of class distinctions and celebrity worship in America.

Best Musical I Saw in 2014:  The Book of Mormon (Opera House, Boston, MA)

After all the hype surrounding the big hit musical by “the South Park guys” (i.e., Trey Parker and Matt Stone, together with Robert Lopez), a small part of me wondered if I’d be disappointed when I finally caught this road show production in Boston.  But the edge, inventiveness, and big-hearted generosity of this Mormons-in-Africa blockbuster (plus the kick of hearing chorus members belting lyrics about maggoty scrotums in a big, classy theater) well worth the price of admission (and even better if, like me, your in-laws generously buy you the pricey tickets for Xmas)!

Runner-Up:  Next To Normal (Davis Square Theater, Somerville, MA)

Dead children and bipolar disorder may seem like even stranger topics for musical theater than superheroes or maggoty scrotums, but The Accessible Theater pulled off a staged reading of this family perennial by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey at the Davis Square Theater as gripping and well-executed as any full-scale production.

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