Dan O'Brien

Movie: 'The Avengers'

To understand why The Avengers is my pick for film of the year, you need to know just how impossible this movie would have seemed just a few years ago. Let's take a look and see which studios own which major franchises:

Click here to see that ridiculous thing full-size.

As you can see, just about every major studio owns the distribution rights to at least one superhero property currently in development. They don't just have the rights to these franchises; these movies are essential (assuming that the goal of the studios is to make money). You see this and you probably think "Uh, no DOY, of course everyone's developing a superhero movie; they're the only things that make money." It must seem so obvious to you.

"When did George Clooney make a Batman porn parody?"

That's probably because you, like a lot of our readers, are younger than me. You didn't have to live through a time when the idea of taking a superhero movie seriously was ridiculous. Sure, I had Burton's Batman growing up, but even that went to shit almost immediately, and not until 2000's X-Men would people even consider putting lots of money and competent directors behind a superhero flick again.

When I was a kid, I would have been foolish to hope for a decent Captain America movie, because we had one, and it was this piece of shit:

I grew up in a time when "superheroes = money" wasn't tattooed on the lower back of every producer in Hollywood. Nerds like me had to accept that we'd never get superheroes handled seriously. We gave up.

But now it's the future! The Avengers was an Avengers movie. Was it perfect? No. But I got to see Thor, Captain America and Iron Man all on the same screen fighting alongside each other, looking how they were supposed to look and saying what they were supposed to say. Joss Whedon didn't make a flawless movie, but he made an Avengers movie, and that is goddamned impossible.

"That building is blocking our view. Destroy it in the name of justice!"

Also? It was fun as hell. In a summer full of movies that were too caught up with being dark and saying something to be entertaining, it was really refreshing to see that at least Whedon knows that going to the movies is supposed to be fun. I don't care what anyone says: The Dark Knight Rises kind of blew. It was so preoccupied with arcs and symbolism and the real cost of being a Batman that it lost all sense of fun and ended up being an overly serious puckered asshole of a movie.

Whatever this is, it isn't taking itself too seriously.

Wanting an Avengers movie that incorporated a bunch of other big-budget superhero movies 10 years ago would have been a certifiably insane idea. Joss Whedon pulled it right the hell off.

Tweet: This One


I chose Joe Wengert's tweet not because it was impossible, but because, considering the amount of people who were given TV shows, book deals and feature films based on their fucking blogs and Twitter accounts in 2012, this sort of thing is actually disturbingly possible.

I also thought it was funny.

Person: Neil deGrasse Tyson

I didn't pick Tyson -- the smooth, eloquent scientist-pimp hero of the Internet -- because I love science; I picked him because he created a brand new breed of impossible person. I wouldn't say he made science cool, but he did make pretending to like science cool. He somehow created a breed of people who call themselves science fans just so people will think they are cool. Really let that sink in. Go ahead and check out Twitter or Facebook or anywhere else on the Internet; you'll find thousands and thousands of people going on and on about how many boners they have for science.

Most of those 2 million "likes" couldn't tell a quark from a quasar.

There are dozens of pseudo-pop-science tweets and statuses just like that. The weird thing? I don't think most of these people actually like or understand science (Maddox, Angriest Man on the Internet, brilliantly covered this idea not too long ago). They're just joining Facebook groups and Tumbling pictures of stars. Sharing a picture of Venus on a social networking site? That means you "fucking love science"? That's like kids in high school who bought Beatles or Zeppelin T-shirts without actually hearing any of the music. It's all style and no substance.

Still, Neil did the impossible. (Hi! Doing the impossible is the theme of my list this year!) Even if it's empty, he got people to feign groupie-like enthusiasm for science.

So their friends would think they were cool.

Song: 'We Are Young' by fun.

"We Are Young" was by far the most popular song of 2012. If you don't know it, shut up, yes you do, because for the last year, this song was inescapable. It was on every radio station, in commercials and department stores and a whole lot of my dreams. If I didn't pick it as song of the year, it would destroy me.

D. Dipasupil / Getty
That shirt and hairdo mean "mental illness" anywhere but on a stage.

And, like everything else on this list, its success is kind of impossible. In the way that I never would have thought that an Avengers movie would ever get made a few years ago, I never expected a fun. song to be a huge radio hit. I've always liked fun., because I was a fan of the Format (the lead singer's old band) and Steel Train (the guitarist's old band). I went to Format and Steel Train concerts in crummy bars in New Jersey like all of the other shitty-New-Jersey-indie-pop-music nerds. If you would have told me a few years ago that the guy from Steel Train was going to be in the most popular band in the world in 2012, I would have laughed in your face. That just wouldn't have made sense.

It still doesn't. Here are some of the words critics use to describe fun.'s music: "theatrical," "progressive," "original," "interesting" and "unusual." Do those sound like the words you'd use to describe any of the other famous pop acts of the last decade?

If only this were unusual.

"We Are Young" simply doesn't sound like the kind of song that gets popular on the radio. We expect our pop songs to be simple: 4/4 time with a verse and a chorus that are happy and upbeat and disposable. "We Are Young" changes time a few times, the lead singer's voice is kind of spazzy and the verses sound more like something out of a Broadway musical than a Top 40 hit. And yet they're the first multi-member band to have a No. 1 song on the Billboard 100 since 2001. The last band to do that?

Kevin Mazur / Getty

Pop music has come a long way. Or a strange way. Some kind of way. It's different now, is my point.

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