- Boyhood, dir. Richard Linklater – Filming over 12 years could have turned out gimmicky, but Boyhood was a moving and beautiful story of family and growing up. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so emotional while watching a film.
- Calvary, dir. John Michael McDonagh – The preview for this Irish film made it out to be a dark comedy, but despite actors such as Dylan Moran, Chris O’Dowd, and even star Brendan Gleeson (in maybe his best ever work), it’s a heartwrenchingly dark film with moments of humour.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel, dir. Wes Anderson – I’ve loved every film I’ve seen of Anderson’s, but for some reason hadn’t watched one since The Life Aquatic. This was a good place to start back, with his typical aesthetic and great performances.
- Gone Girl, dir. David Fincher – I read the book in one frantic weekend before seeing the film, and the twists and turns and madness of it all still shocked me. Though not as much as it shocked the person sitting behind us who couldn’t stop saying “What the fuck” at the end.
- Obvious Child, dir. Gillian Robespierre – A sweet, funny little film about a stand-up comedian who gets pregnant and has an abortion. The characters feel like your friends.
- The Antlers, Familiars – This album is one of those where the sound just fills the room when you listen to it. There are so many layers combining beautifully with strange, sad lyrics.
- Alt-J, This is All Yours – Speaking of strange, among other oddities Alt-J’s second album samples Miley Cyrus, and somehow it really works. They also put on one of the top 3 live shows I saw this year (and in fairness, the top 2 are my favourite bands, The National and Arctic Monkeys).
- St. Vincent, St. Vincent – I’m declaring this the year of the excellent self-titled album. And St. Vincent’s is the best of them, with an album that is both strange and wonderful.
- Hozier, Hozier – You’ve probably been hearing “Take Me to Church” all the time for the past 6 months, unless you’re in Ireland in which case you’ve been hearing it all year. And it hasn’t gotten old yet.
- Taylor Swift, 1989 – Part of me can’t believe that Taylor Swift of all people is bumping my forever girl Shakira off my Best Of list, but most of me thinks that “Blank Space” is such a jam I don’t even care.
Books (note: I only read a few books actually published in 2014, so these are just my favourite books I read this year)
- Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann – My friend Shauna recommended this to me and it is by far the best book I’ve read in 2014. The language is beautiful, the multiple POVs are compelling, and the the setting of New York City is as much a character as its inhabitants.
- The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach – I was slow to read this book because I thought it was a “sports book” about baseball, a sport I don’t care for, but it’s much more than that. Harbach’s writing reminds me of Michael Chabon, one of my favourite writers.
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – So many people I know have read, are reading, or are planning to read Americanah, but if you haven’t or aren’t, I encourage you to put it on your list for 2015. It’s thoughtful and observant on class, race, and other aspects of American culture.
- Play it As It Lays by Joan Didion – Speaking of thoughtful and observant, Joan Didion is the pretty much the pinnacle. The 1970 novel is about the era, but there’s a reason it still resonates today.
- All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy – To continue the bleakly romantic theme, I read all of McCarthy’s Border Trilogy this year, and while I enjoyed the second and third instalments, this was the one that stood out to me the most.
Misc. (in chronological order)
- ROPES literary journal – We of the NUIG MALP put it together over the academic year and launched it in April, and we were thrilled to raise 2566 euro for COPE Galway. I loved being on the editorial team.
- World Cup 2014 – The best, wildest month of watching a ridiculous number of football matches every week and watching the pub turn into a Portuguese-language dance party (until the Germany match). PEW PEW PEW PEW, BRA-ZIL.
- Body & Soul festival – I’d never been to a music festival before, and the next one I go to will have to do a lot to top Body & Soul with its woodsy location, light sculptures, eclectic acts, and the best group of people I could share tents and peeing in ditches with.
- Finished my thesis – And everything that went into my MA in Literature & Publishing. I wrote about Franco’s oppression of the Basque region and language and its effect on the publishing industry, and I’m very proud of it.
- Went to Spain – Speaking of Spain, I’ve been lucky enough to visit my favourite country several times in the past few years, and I’ve always loved it. This trip was no exception, and since I’m unlikely to go back for a while, a good way to remember it.