My Favorite Things of 2014: Film, Theater, Books, Restaurants and Music

Every year, I take the opportunity to look back on the year just past, to say thanks for the gifts of culture and people that led to my growth. I wish to recognize those cultural artifacts that are most memorable to me, and some that just made me smile, or led me to sing and dance. My favorite things are not the “best” things of 2014, nor do I even agree with the ideas and values represented by all of them, but they are simply those things that will endure in memory and life as the year passes.

FILM boyhood 1. Selma, this stirring film about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement as it took place in the Alabama town of Selma is my favorite film of the year and my vote for Best Picture because it is the only film of the year of such lasting significance.

2. Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s film about a family (not just a boy) growing up over a literal 12 years of filming, and a tribute to his native Texas that may be about the growing up of the Lone Star State too.

3. Birdman, certainly the most unusual film of the year, but its creativity and the performances of Edward Norton and Emma Stone make this film one that can’t be overlooked in any list of the year’s best.

4. CitizenFour, a documentary that takes us into the Hong Kong hotel room of Edward Snowden as he explains why he is releasing U.S intelligence and NSA classified information to The Guardian, and leaves us asking whether he is an hero or a criminal, or both.

5. Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch delivers one of the best male performances of the year in a film about Alan Turing, the British inventor of the modern computer.

6. Foxcatcher, the only film with Steve Carrell that I have admired, and his eerie portrayal of the Dupont son with an obsession with wrestlers and wrestling is one that still leaves me with an uneasy creepy feeling.

7. American Sniper, Clint Eastwood directs this film about an Iraq war hero Chris Kyle, and it leaves us asking important questions about the war, military heroism, and the lasting effects of war on those who fight them.

8. Immigrant, a relevant story about a woman who immigrates to America and her redemption, filled with theological symbolism and terrific performances.

9. Whiplash, the images in this film about the drive for perfection and those who demand it won’t leave my mind because of the stunning performances of J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller.

10. Nightcrawler, a surprising and stunning suspense film from a first time director featuring perhaps Jake Gyllenhaal’s finest film performance in which Los Angeles serves as backdrop and character.

What Most Likely Will Be on the List, but I Haven’t Seen Yet: Timbuktu, A Most Violent Year, Gone Girl, Mr. Turner, National Gallery.

Runners-up: Into the Woods, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, 20,000 Days on Earth, Finding Vivian Maier, Ida, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Life Itself, Pride, Captain America, Chef, Muscle Shoals, Life Itself, Big Eyes, Snowpiercer, Magic in the Moonlight, Guardians of the Galaxy. 

Surprisingly Not my Favorites: Wild (not a lot of “there” there when she reached there), Interstellar, The Theory of Everything

THEATER [youtube]

1. Side Show (revival), an incredible production and some of my favorite songs of the Broadway season including “Who Will Love Me?”

2. On the Town, an old fashioned Leonard Bernstein musical with mesmerizing dancing and rousing melodies

3. Here Lies Love, an Off-Broadway play about Imelda Marcos (yes, the shoe lady) that continues to sell out because it is the most unique audience experience of any show around

4. You Can’t Take It With You, the funniest play I saw on Broadway this year, with James Earl Jones in the lead

5. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, it was a bit raunchy, but one had to admire the passionate and considerable performance of Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig

6. Outside Mullingar, John Patrick Shanley’s beautiful play about a son who finds love late in life

7. All the Way, featuring an unforgettable performance by Brian Cranston in a play about LBJ and the Civli Rights Act

8. The Glass Menagerie, the Tennessee Williams classic with memorable performances by Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto

9. The Bridges of Madison County, not a fan of the adulterous subject matter, but the music was perhaps the best on Broadway this year

10. Cabaret, a lot of fun to watch Alan Cumming perform his famous role, Emma Stone blows the roof off

What Will Be on This List But I’ve Yet to See: AladdinThe Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time, Sleep No More


WeAreNotOurselves Fiction: We Are Not Ourselves, Gilead, Lila, The Opposite of Loneliness, Where’d You Go Bernadette

Non-Fiction Historical and Biographical: Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder and the Battle for Modern New OrleansRedeemer: The Life and Faith of Jimmy Carter; Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography; Hard Choices (Hillary Clinton)

Non-Fiction Self-Help, Business: Being Mortal, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and Amazon, Customer Centricity, The Art of Asking, The Work of Leaders, Managing Up (Harvard Business Review), Service Fanatics

Non-Fiction Spiritual: Vanishing Grace, When the Heart Waits, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

MUSIC taylor-swift-letter-earrings-fashion-ftr Serious music lovers will laugh at my favorites, but no apologies here. Film is the art form I follow and access most, and I simply don’t have time to find lots of independent bands that I know I would love. Here are the songs that were on “repeat” on my iTunes this year:

1. Sky Full of Stars by Coldplay. Definitely my most played song of the year

2. Chandelier (Sia)

3. Blank Space (Taylor Swift)

4. Pompeii (Bastille)

5. Greater (Chris Tomlin)

6. Stay With Me (Sam Smith)

7. Let It Go (“Frozen”)

8. Dark Horse (Katy Perry)

9. Timber (Pitbull and Ke$ha)

10. Your Grace Finds Me (Matthew Redman)

Runners-Up: This I Believe (Hillsong), Black Widow (Iggy Azalea), Drunk In Love (Beyonce and Jay-Z), Happy (Pharrell), Shake It Off  (Taylor Swift)

TV The_Americans 1. Morning Joe, the best news show on television with multiple perspectives represented, and the only show I watch every day (by Podcast)

2. Homeland, this show about intelligence in post-9/11 America just keeps getting better

3. House of Cards, a story of politics, sex and even murder in the Nation’s Capitol that is great TV but sometimes not too far from the truth

4. The Americans, I can’t get enough of this Reagan-era drama about two KGB officers living in suburban DC This is all the TV that I watched this year, so that’s all I can rate.


1. Snapchat — random videos and pics to and from family and friends was just a lot of fun and brought smiles to my day.

2. Umano – the best in journals and magazines read in audio, and it’s free.

3. NYT Now  / Time / NY Post /Yahoo News Digest– For news lovers, It’s hard to beat these apps which deliver some of the best news in multiple formats including articles, videos and audio. The Post should improve its app, but its stories bring a laugh to my day.

4. Venmo – Send and receive money from friends and family with a push of a button.

5. Google Maps — Directions including traffic, time and the quickest way. I use it even when I know where I’m going for alternative routes around construction, accidents or slow traffic. (I also use Waze on longer road trips for notices of construction, cops, etc.).

RESTAURANTS IMG_3278 These are not the “best” restaurants where I ate this year, but simply the ones I’m still thinking about, or still craving a dish there:

1. La Fontaine De Mars — a friendly and beautiful bistro in Paris near the Eiffel Tower with unforgettable steak and frites, and a Meringue “floating” dessert that earns my dessert award of the year (and best Instagram food porn photo)

2. The Marshal — Local New York farm to table food in a charming hipster style space in NYC’s Hells Kitchen, and my most visited restaurant of 2014.

3.  Root & Bone– my favorite fried chicken of 2014 is on the Lower East Side of Manhattan

4. Cafe Gratitude — I can’t think of a restaurant in LA that is more “LA” than this cute cafe with vegetarian goodness

5. Khe-Yo — Laotian food in Tribeca where every bite was delicious

6. Domilise Sandwich Shop and Bar — This dive in New Orleans is the favorite Po Boy restaurant of Peyton Manning, Anthony Bourdain and me

7. Gallo Blanco – wonderful contemporary Mexican food in Phoenix and such tasty elote corn that I had to go back twice

8. New World Cafe — I had to be in Albany three times this year, and I came back every time for one of the best menus I discovered this year.

9. Dinosaur BarBQ – This classic restaurant in Syracuse, NY may not be in the South, but it serves up some fine barbq on a platter that is hard to forget.

10. Marta – Danny Meyer’s latest NYC restaurant offers a beautiful space and delicious pizza for a reasonable price.

Runners Up: Cafe Urbana (San Diego), Eischen’s (Oklahoma City), Drago’s (New Orleans), Le Diplomate (Washington, DC), Taco Guild (Phoenix), and a seaside Greek seafood taverna in Santorini which has no name and the best grilled jumbo prawns known to humankind.

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