Pop-culture moments to remember in 2014
Shocking. Energizing. Hilarious.
Here are the pop-culture moments I couldn't stop talking and thinking about this year, presented randomly.
• The Hound battles Brienne -- A fourth season full of head-popping moments culminated in a "Game of Thrones" finale with the show's most exciting scene yet. Noble warrior Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) crosses swords with Kingsguard deserter Sandor "The Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann) as heroine Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) watches. Soon the swords give way to kicks, punches and even bites in a scene so harrowing it literally had me shaking.
• "Chandelier," Sia -- The most heartwrenchingly performed club anthem ever, and the subject of the year's best "Saturday Night Live" sketch: a leotard-clad dance-off between Jim Carrey and Kate McKinnon.
• The final scene of "Whiplash" -- I agree with our Dann Gire that Damien Chazelle's film about a college drummer (Miles Teller) and a domineering bandleader (J.K. Simmons) is 2014's best. You think you know how it will end, but the final sequence keeps surprising you. (And it may just make you sweat in your seat.)
• Jessica Lange sings David Bowie -- "American Horror Story" moves the action to a '50s freak show and finds inspiration from "Moulin Rouge!" The show's grand dame, Elsa Mars (Lange), takes the stage in Episode 1 to sing Bowie's "Life on Mars?" -- nevermind that it was written in 1971. Later episodes featured Sarah Paulson singing Fiona Apple's "Criminal" and Evan Peters singing Nirvana's "Come As You Are."
• "Subterranean," Foo Fighters -- An essential track from an essential American rock band, "Subterranean" was featured in the Seattle episode of the Foos' HBO documentary series, "Sonic Highways." Is it about Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain, or both?
• Dancing Groot -- The most entertaining movie of 2014, "Guardians of the Galaxy," ends with a galaxy-sized laugh.
• Times Square scene from "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" -- For eight glorious minutes, director Marc Webb gives us a glimpse of the Spidey movie I've always wanted. (Unfortunately, there are 134 more to watch.) Bad guy Electro (Jamie Foxx) clashes with Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) in a marvel of editing, visual effects and music, the last courtesy of Hans Zimmer and a pop dream-team that includes Pharrell Williams.
• "The Hanging Tree" -- Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) sings a song from her childhood in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1," and composer James Newton Howard turns it into a choral, orchestral beauty as a scene of civil unrest comes to a violent conclusion. A potent pop moment in a year of unrest in the real world.
• Follow Sean on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.