It’s the end of December and another year is winding down. Everywhere you turn someone is talking about the Best of 2012, so here we offer our take, resulting from absorbing more content this year than ever before, from books to movies to TV to comics, we reviewed and previewed entertainment from most of the big comic book publishers, and received screeners of shows and books from different publishing houses. And we watched a lot of TV and went to a number of movies. So what was the best of the best this year? No one will ever have the same list but here’s where we ended up:
Best Genre Movie: The Hobbit. We had to wait all year for the release but once we saw it–it was well worth the wait and we want to go back and see it again and again. How could you possibly follow one of the only fantasy films ever to win a Best Picture Academy Award and expect to come close in quality and entertainment? Peter Jackson figured it out. Not even The Avengers came close to touching this epic film with giant sets, special effects, elaborate costumes, a perfect story adaptation, and the best CGI creature to date: a Gollum even better than in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Best Dramatic Film: Argo. It was an international event more recent in the public psyche than even Watergate, yet it had never been addressed on the silver screen before–the kidnapping of American nationals in Iran. Ben Affleck served as both director and star of the film and performed both roles brilliantly. Both exciting and funny–with the incredibly bizarre hook of using Hollywood to create a sci-fi B movie as CIA cover to sneak in to Iran and remove a small group of hostages–it was a story worthy of adapting to screen. Brilliant!
Best Animated Movie: Brave. Kelly McDonald’s wonderful Scottish voice, an all-star Brit voice cast including Emma Thompson, Bill Connolly, Julie Walters and Robbie Coltrane, coupled with Brenda Chapman’s story and the best of Walt Disney and Pixar’s animation so far, make Brave the slam dunk animated film winner of 2012. A gorgeous film about a tough and feisty red-headed girl skilled with a bow and arrow who wants to make her own destiny provided a great story for young and old alike.
Best Animated TV Series: Tron: Uprising. Disney Television Animation finally figured out a way to bring its Tron franchise forward with Tron: Legacy, and this prequel series gives us what the movie lacked–more Bruce Boxleitner as Tron. We hardly noticed this wasn’t a live action series, and with voice actors like Frodo’s Elijah Wood, Alien’s Lance Henriksen, Paul Reubens and Tricia Helfer, you could hardly go wrong. The brilliant choice of lighting, futuristic yet retro light cycles and funky soundtrack made this one worth coming back for each week.
Best Actor: Silas Weir Mitchell, Grimm. With the updates for the second season of Grimm, Mitchell’s reformed Blutbad Monroe was hard to beat as the sometimes hilarious sometimes dramatic glue that held the series together, setting up new conflicts, like the strange discovery of Renard and Juliette’s relationship, sure to drive the story next year.
Best Actress: Ksenia Solo, Lost Girl. As succubus and series star Bo’s tagalong human friend and roommate Kenzi, Solo held half of the dramatic workload for the Canadian series first released to U.S. audiences this year on the Syfy Channel. The Latvian born actress plays it funny and smart–she makes for the ideal kickass girl from the best genre fiction stories.
Best Breakout Role–Female: Cobie Smulders as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill in The Avengers. We knew her already from How I Met Your Mother, but Smulders took what could have been a throwaway background role in the biggest movie of the year and instead put her character’s footing almost on par with the Avengers themselves, heading up an early chase scene and appearing with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury throughout the film. Now she’s set to come back for the next Avengers films, she’s a character that we never knew about but are glad she’s on the team going forward.
Best Breakout Role–Male: Max Greenfield as Schmidt in New Girl. Greenfield is one among a handful of great young actors in New Girl, now in its second season, but this season his character Schmidt stepped out to create the craziest, most hysterical moment of nearly every episode. Whether he is ranting that there is no black Santa Claus, or trying to show a stripper how to lap dance the right way, whether he is wearing his high-cut male kimono, ranting about germs, or his stupid actions result in him putting the most money in the coffee table jar, Greenfield took a funny part and stretched it to insanely funny. This from the same guy who performed dramatic roles in Veronica Mars, Life and Castle? Awesome.
Best Guest Appearance: Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s appearance in Action Comics. It was a bit of a marketing gimmick, but what could tie the education of real science, a popular TV non-fiction series host and comic book readers together better? The real star-vested Tyson found a possible location for Superman’s home planet of Krypton, revealing it to the Man of Steel in the pages of the ongoing series.
Best TV series: Arrow, CW Network. We got our first look at the pilot for this series at Comic-Con this year and loved it, but wasn’t sure how it would appeal to a mass audience. Pretty much everyone we know watches this series, including those who would never otherwise think to look at a series about a masked superhero. We have a critical eye out for all things Green Arrow, but Arrow, led by a well-cast Stephen Amell, surpassed our expectations.
Best Comedy Series: New Girl, Fox Network. New Girl wins this category from one simple thing: This series made this writer laugh so hard his gut hurt and corresponding tears shot out of his eyes from the quick humor in so many scenes this year he lost count. And when the series dipped into dramatic elements it never veered far from the core of what makes the show work–it’s a comedy first. Tuesday night this year was New Girl night. Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Winston and Cece could be the next Friends (but funnier) if the series can get a wider audience.
Best Single TV Episode: Sherlock, “A Scandal in Belgravia,” BBC America. You just have to watch this episode of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s brilliant series over and over. The entry of the beautiful and unpredictable Irene Adler, played by Lara Pulver, was perfection, and Cumberbatch and Martin’s scene with Sherlock’s brother Mycroft in Buckingham Palace can’t be beat. Sure to be a classic episode for years to come.
Best Cliffhanger: Shawn’s dad gets shot, Psych, USA Network. It seems like it has been forever since Shawn’s dad Henry, played by Corbin Bernsen was shot at the end of this season’s last episode of the hit USA Network comedy/drama series. At its core, Psych is a light-hearted pleasure, so they just CAN’T kill off Henry. We’re really looking forward to finding out.
Best Series Ender: In Plain Sight, USA Network.* In a year where several mega-hits wrapped for good, including House, M.D., The Closer, Awake, and Chuck, one series finale tied up all the necessary loose ends the best, and that was the aptly titled “All’s Well that Ends” from In Plain Sight, which ended after five solid seasons. The writers skipped the gimmicks, with no gut wrenching death scenes for major cast players, but instead honored the characters as they’d been for the entire series, rewarding viewers with an end where everyone wins. *Update: Leverage‘s surprise December 25, 2012 series finale came in with a powerhouse finale, slightly trumping In Plain Sight at the last minute after we posted this piece. See our review here.
Best Series that Cancelled Too Early: Awake, NBC Network. We only got to see 12 episodes of Awake, but in those episodes we saw a great paranormal drama develop. Jason Isaacs, like Paul Blackthorne, is one of those actors you want to helm a series every week. His dual role of father who lost his kid and husband that lost his wife, both in the same auto accident, showed this actor could do anything with a role. Although they were able to nicely wrap-up Awake in its last episode, we’d prefer to have seen a lot more of it.
Best Surprise in Entertainment: Dallas, TNT Network. How was this even possible? Who would think to take THE 1980s primetime soap and bring it forward to 2012, AND think it could work? TNT mixed a CW Network-inspired young cast with a plot continuing the struggles in the classic series and melded it into something for anyone willing to give it a try. Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing never missed a beat as the ultimate TV villain, even in his 80s. The writers took bits from the tangents of the original to concoct the main storyline of two young heirs fighting for family and social dominance. The result was addictive TV.
Best Comeback: The ensemble cast of Major Crimes. The great thing about a great ensemble cast is that you like every player equally. When this is successful, you can stand to lose a character or two and still keep going, or as was the case with the wind-up of The Closer, lose three main characters: Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson, Chief Pope, and Sgt. Gabriel. Major Crimes added three new replacement characters and never missed a beat, pleasing fans who knew it was too soon for the stories from the L.A. Major Crimes unit to end.
Best Second Wind: Haven, Syfy Channel. Some cable TV series limp along and just end after a year or two. Haven’s single theme of solving the riddle of “the troubles” seemed a candidate for this, but something switched on with the 2012 season allowing the rich stories and great cast chemistry to give us the series’ best episodes in its three-year run so far.
Best Genre-Related Advertisement: Star Wars Super Bowl ad, Volkswagen. The best Super Bowl ad last January with a dog, a James Brown tune, and a pristine recreation of the Mos Eisley Cantina from the original Star Wars was an instant classic that will be hard to beat in 2013. Complete with its own recreated hive of scum and villainy, Tom Spina Designs’ creatures gave us something we want to see more of–maybe a new Disney-produced TV series based in Mos Eisley using all these obscure characters fanboys know by name? Missed it? See the full ad here.
Best Press Marketing: Coma mini-series press kit, A&E Network. We at borg.com received tons of content this year, from books to comics to advance screeners, but one marketing gag was so awesome in its own right it surpassed what it was advertising. The advance marketing for the Coma TV series marked a possible return by A&E to the classic TV shows we used to get in the days of shows like Price and Prejudice or Nero Wolfe. Sporting an underground conspiracy plotline, print and online ads created a cool concept that the mini-series itself did not quite match. When we received a human organ carrier in a “thawed” labeled box that we cautiously unzipped to find the screener, well that was just too awesome not to mention again.
Best Costumes: The Hobbit. The Hobbit already made our Best Genre Movie of 2012, but it’s worth a second nod for having the most incredibly crafted costumes of possibly any film made so far in any year. Building on the costumes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the slow panning of the camera in The Hobbit allowed us to see every seam on Bilbo’s patch-work coat, and every new emblem on each dwarf’s tunic. How can a production make so many unique costumes for one film? The result sets the standard for all major films to come.
Best Borg Appearance: The Cyborg Gunslinger, Doctor Who episode, “A Town Called Mercy”. Andrew Brooke’s gunslinger was a slick-looking borg addition, a throwback to Westworld that gave us equal parts of good sci-fi and classic Western movies. Doctor Who has created the best costumes and make-up of any sci-fi franchise in the past few years and this guy just looked great.
Best Web Series: TableTop bi-weekly Internet series, Geek and Sundry. Wil Wheaton, known for Star Trek: The Next Generation and more recently his appearances on Big Bang Theory and Leverage, as host of his own online series, brought us all back from the video game world to the boardgame format that allows friends to really interact and have fun for their own game nights. He chatted over great games like Tsuro, Munchkin and Zombie Dice with friends and celebrities alike, and showed us what could easily translate to its own Game Show Network series.
Best Villain: The Harp Seal, Battlepug, Mike Norton. Easy choice. This year’s Eisner Award winner for best digital comic revealed this unexpected villain, a funny surprise for readers. Imagine a world where the harp seal gets its due–a role reversal where warriors fear him over all other creatures. A great idea.
Best Ongoing Comic Book Series (tie): All-Star Western, DC Comics. Artist Moritat and writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti took a long-dead comic book title and bridged 1800s Gotham City and Jonah Hex to make a gritty and fun book that rose to the top of DC Comics’ New 52 titles first released in September 2011. Who knew a Western comic could be this good? Bionic Man, Dynamite Comics. Phil Hester took a Kevin Smith script and expanded on it, taking the most nostalgic bits of the classic Six Million Dollar Man TV series and updating it for 2012. The highlight of the fun was an appearance by the classic TV series guest star, Bigfoot.
Best Single Comic Book Issue: Thor, God of Thunder #1, Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic. How do you reintroduce a classic character like Thor in a new way? Exactly like Aaron does in this first issue of his new series, breaking up his story into three time periods, and highlighting the changing face of Thor over time. Ribic’s lush images of Thor and a certain strange new world escalated this book to the top of my year’s reads.
Best Comic Book Art: JK Woodward, Star Trek The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation². J.K. Woodward’s painted artwork throughout this limited series was stunning. Probably the best depiction to-date of Star Trek characters in a comic book, Woodward took a fanboy’s dream job of merging two of the biggest sci-fi franchises together for the first story ever attempted and delivered a great looking story, now available in a trade edition. We just want to see more.
Best Comic Book Cover Art: Mystery in Space, Ryan Sook, Vertigo Comics. Ryan Sook had a big year, providing sensational covers for everything from The Shadow to the new Sword of Sorcery to one of our favorite titles, Justice League Dark. But his cover for Vertigo Comics’ Mystery in Space #1 blended sci-fi and fantasy in the best way, with a steampunk angel painting the universe inside a spaceship with the help of flitting fairies, or is she creating our actual universe? A great idea and perfect execution made this a standout on the store shelf this year.
Best Comic Book Cover Art Runner-up: Hawkeye mini-series, David Aja. Aja’s six unique Hawkeye series covers served not only to entice us to read this mini-series with great use of simple colors, but his own artwork between the covers made us feel like we were rewarded with what was advertised–a very cool and unusually stylish series.
Best Comics Collected Edition: Flash Gordon, Volumes 1 and 2, Titan Books. These were the best presented books we reviewed this year. Reprinted Sunday comics from the 1930s and 1940s in a giant-sized edition that allowed readers to appreciate the story and art of creator Alex Raymond was a feast for the eyes. The content allowed readers to see just how relevant and interesting the original mash-up of sci-fi and fantasy could be.
Best Retro Reviewed Book: Moonraker, Ian Fleming. Casino Royale was a great read, Live and Let Die was a bit of a letdown, but Moonraker was as exciting as any book I’ve read in years. Far different from the film of the same name, this thriller was packed with spy world intrigue. Compared to all the other retro reviews this year, including Philip K. Dick classics, this one really stood out.
Best Reviewed Book: Dracula Cha Cha Cha, Kim Newman. Although it was initially released in 1998, a new edition was re-released this year. The best “post-modern steampunk” mash-up and incredibly detailed world building made this novel a great read, full of artful prose and creative crossovers. Newman also added another level of storytelling, mixing the real world with the world of fiction, and the result is a densely packed, enjoyable volume.
Best Mash-Up of Fiction and Non-Fiction Worlds: James Bond accompanies the Queen to the Olympics. 2012 was the Year of Bond with his 50th year in film. How better to highlight the best of Jolly Old England at this year’s Summer Olympics than to begin with a meeting of the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, and the actual Queen Elizabeth II in her 60th year in Buckingham Palace, followed by a faked aerial dive by the Queen over the stadium in London. The Queen was a real sport, adding herself to the long list of Bond girls. And don’t forget the real-world borg Oscar Pistorius’s impressive showings at the Olympics this year.
Best Genre Event: The Firefly 10th Anniversary Panel at Comic-Con. More than 7,000 fans stood in line for only about 5,000 seats but the all-night wait was worth seeing most of the cast of Firefly reunite with creators Joss Whedon and Tom Minnear to talk about the short-lived series. Firefly fans are a passionate bunch, and were able to get Whedon to make the big-budget movie Serenity a few years after cancellation. But get most of the stars to come back ten years later? Pretty cool feat. With Whedon and series co-star Adam Baldwin (Jayne) dropping by to greet the people sleeping and standing in line overnight it was an event that attendees will never forget.
Best News Story: George Lucas sells Star Wars rights to Disney. Some liked it and some hated it, but as months go by we’ll see what it all means. As entertainment goes, this multi-billion dollar exchange was the talk everywhere this year.
Best Science Story: Curiosity lands on Mars. NASA’s description of dropping a rover on the surface of the planet Mars sounded like threading a needle blind-folded wearing gloves. Its early morning coverage of the successful landing was something like the moon landing, and made everyone want to see what more we can do in the space program now that the last Space Shuttle has been mothballed. What will the future hold for NASA and humans in outer space?
Best Nationwide Genre Participation Event: The Avengers Marathon, AMC Theaters. We only wished for something like this when we were kids–the ability to watch something like all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies in one screening. The lead-up to the midnight premiere of The Avengers allowed fans to watch all the lead-in Avengers films so far: Iron Man I and II, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. A great idea that will hopefully continue with other franchise films.
Best Single Thing for Genre Works: The Avengers movie. Genre, and specifically superhero, films needed a good kickstart. The dark and dreary Dark Knight trilogy from Christopher Nolan was monopolizing superhero films, and we needed a giant, vibrant superhero film to usher in a new age of comic book films and Joss Whedon delivered the goods. It’s not a perfect film (and what is?) but was completely fun and entertaining, delivering something every fan could enjoy. Challenging the top two positions for all-time box office draw also showed everyone that fans want to see more of this kind of movie.
What were your favorites? We hope a few of these are on your own list. We at borg.com will be back with more coverage and reviews in 2013.