It’s the time of year when every newspaper, blog, journal and notes page fills with the joys of the year gone by, and this will be no exception. It does make one realise however, just how long a year actually is: I can’t actually remember most of the films, books or music I have consumed this year. Thankfully, most of these arrived via that wonderful porthole of goods Amazon.co.uk, so at least I can use my “previous orders” list as an aide memoir.

Best Film: Watchmen
It’s been a good year for films and thus choosing the winner of the coveted “Dave thinks your the best” award proved tricky. “In The Loop”, while being “The Thick of it” movie in all but name, was immensely funny, and like the winner aged well upon a second viewing. The Twilight antidote vampire film “Let the right one in” was a superb thoughtful piece, as was “Moon”, and District 9 demonstrated (hope your listening Mr’s Lucas and Cameron) that you don’t need a massive budget to create believable and empathetic CGI characters. Star Trek was also good but suffered greatly on a second watch. The winner is however Watchmen. It was just so damn entertaining. Hats off to Zack for filming the unfilmable story, and for improving the ending while showing a hallowed fan-boy respect for the material. I enjoyed the film even more on a second viewing that revealed much more depth in character than I initially thought and hence it’s victory. Perhaps it was the IMAX giant naked blue man that distracted me in the cinema.

Honourable mentions
– Let The Right One In
– Moon
– In the Loop
– District 9

Best Book: After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000
It was quite a lean year for me fiction wise; my two favourite sci-fi authors, Peter Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds, produced lackluster efforts and my genre of choice was only salvaged by a late entry entitled “The Romulan War” that proved for entertainment to be had, if a book can’t be well written it can at least be short. So the prize (and the honourable mentions) go to the non-fiction titles. I went very Historical this year with 4 book on China and the far east, as well as two on European history and an assortment of discipline related tomes. The winner is After Tamerlane. It wins not just because it is a great book, but also as it’s an important one. If you want a basic understanding of why the world is as it is, this is the book: By comparing Europe, the Middle East and Far East it explains just why Europe ended up dominating the world so completely when in 1400 it was little more than a scientific and cultural backwater. Fascinating stuff. Don’t worry, there is no jingoistic “master race” posturing to be had, just detailed accounts of how geography, climate, social factors and occasionally blind luck can change the course of history.

Honourable mentions
– China: A History
– The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815
– The Maladapted Mind: Classic Readings in Evolutionary Psychopathology
– The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin’s Puzzle

Best TV show: Stargate Universe
It has also been a pretty good year for all things cult TV. We finally buried the much beloved Battlestar and saw the birth (and burial) of Dollhouse, which just missed out on the title spot by being both hit-and-miss episode wise and by being lumbered with Eliza Dushku as the main (and sadly often the only) character: Perks of associate production one must assume. The rest on the honourable list have provided fantastic returns, especially SWTCW, which demonstrated that flogging a dead horse does occasionally provide results. There is also another entry for Team Iannucci with the consistently hilarious The Thick of It. Oh, and I forgot, there was also the excellent horror-comedy “Being Human” Nevertheless, the years best NEW series was Stargate Universe. As the bastard child of Battlestar and SG:1 it has “gritty” tattooed throughout it’s DNA; add to this a rather different episode structure than the usual sci-fi fare and some great acting (lead by the superb Robert Carlyle), it clearly was the best show to be created this year.

Honourable mentions
– Dollhouse
– The Thick of it
– Being Human
– Fringe: Season 2
– Legend of the Seeker: Season 2
– Star Wars The Clone Wars: Season 2

Best Album: Muse – The Resistance
New music and me have not gotten on for a while now. It’s not that I eschew all that is modern, I simply can’t be arsed doing the metaphorical legwork it takes to find new acts. I prefer to just pick up the occasional suggestion from friends – I say this as I’m sure I’ve missed some ‘epic’ titles this year. Still, the Mars Volta released another fantastic record as they continue to trundle down the road to prog-wankery. Steve Earles “Townes” tribute to, well, guess, was a great country & western find courtesy of Mark Kermode’s radio show. As was Seth Lakemen (fiddle player) who suffers from the same affliction as Lene Marlin; A great and melancholic live sound that is consistently spoiled on-record by an over zealous producer who insists every recording should resemble the shriveled repertoire of an X-Factor finalist. So, to the winner.

The Resistance is a fantastic album and (depending on my mood) Muse’s best. Production wise it strikes a wonderful balance between the raw sound of earlier albums and the overproduction that undermined so much of “Blackholes and Revelations”. Its a beautifully crafted, over-the-top, slightly progressive, alternative rock album that everyone should own. It has a real sense of narrative and a great sense of pace and for what my opinion’s worth only has one truly bad track: Sadly, given said track is the next single, Muse don’t seem to agree. There are some great rock anthems in the form of Resistance, Unnatural Selection and MK Ultra (which as grown on me since my initial opinion of it) as well as the more pompous and Queen “influenced” United States… and it finishes of the haunting Exogenesis parts 1 – 3. Yes. I liked it rather a lot.

Honourable mentions
– The Mars Volta: Octahedron.
– Steve Earle: Townes
– Seth Lakmen (Live)

Finally…

WORST Game: Empire – Total War
While I clean Matt Bellamy’s semen from between my teeth I will also wipe away the tear shed as I typed the title to this award. I wanted so dearly to love Empire, it seemed to promise everything we Total Warriors have wanted for so long, but like the dreams of a battered wife, hope and longing was met with repeated blows to the head. I have tried to enjoy this game, really really tried, but how can you be anything other than scornful of a game it took 6 months of patching to make playable and a further 3 months to make it worth playing. On top of that the DLC were lackluster efforts akin to the petrol-station flowers bought once the alcohol has gone and the bruises have faded; yes we were grateful, but only because it was but one moment without fear, where we allowed ourselves to dream again. Only to find our hands being placed between desk draws. What is worse, Napoleon: TW seems includes everything empire promised to have so long ago; to torture the metaphor further, our lover has found a better job, abandoned the family to a hovel for our sister, and at the same time bought her a far bigger house. Curse you Creative Assembly and your SEGA puppet masters. Curse you

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas 🙂