Writers’ top three favorite pop culture events of summer 2012

Jonathan Hielkema

“Kids on the Slope”: Animation producer Shinichiro Watanabe has become known for creating shows saturated in music and music culture (see “Cowboy Bebop” and “Samurai Champloo”). Kids on the Slope is a romantic drama set in 1960s Japan where, for the characters, jazz is life and vice versa. The series probes human relationships and the struggles of outsiders in a shifting society with acuity and realistic emotion.

“Christian aTunde Adjuah”: Trumpets are not known as the subtlest instruments. Christian Scott, however, is not a typical trumpeter. With his own trademarked whispery playing style, boundless formal ambition, and an adept band to fill out his arrangements, Scott has issued a clarion call to the jazz world. “Christian aTunde Adjuah” is long, political, and surges with vitality.

“Redline”: Painstakingly hand-animated over seven years and relentless in its pursuit of speed, thrill, and handcrafted visual splendor, “Redline,” a racing film set in the far future, hardly needs a plot to be enjoyable. Indeed, it hardly has one, and I applaud its creators for not corrupting the purity of this, the most entertaining film I saw over the summer, with something as unnecessary as a complicated plot arc.

Nick Keeley

“Breaking Bad”:  Just like last year, the best A&E release of the summer was AMC’s masterfully-crafted drama series “Breaking Bad.”  After reaching unbearable tension at the end of season four, AMC’s thriller about Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) descent into becoming a meth kingpin continued its staggering run into TV glory with eight consistent and pitch-perfect episodes.  Lead actors Cranston and Aaron Paul embody their characters with remarkable conviction and chilling intensity, while Jonathan Banks and Anna Gunn, as the enigmatic Mike and Walt’s increasingly complicit wife Skyler, reached stunning new heights.  With the show’s final season set to bow next summer, the countdown to the end has begun.

“Moonrise Kingdom”:  A witty, heartfelt, poignant, and beautiful look at young love and the flawed group of people trying to stop it, Wes Anderson’s follow-up to 2009’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” was the best film of the summer.  Vibrantly brought to life through magnificent production design and Anderson’s wonderful direction, “Moonrise Kingdom” boasts the year’s most original script and best ensemble cast, including great work from newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward and Bruce Willis and Bill Murray at their most sympathetic.  A sure-fire contender for several Oscar nominations, “Moonrise Kingdom” is a film to behold.

“Louie”:  Essentially television’s boldest show, FX’s dark comedy continues to showcase the most inventive and brilliant writing on TV today.  Functioning as a collection of vignettes, “Louie” tackles wide-ranging topics such as dating, race, and family in a remarkably honest and often hilarious manner.  A major critical hit, the show is even more impressive considering its shoe-string budget and creator Louis C.K.’s do-it-all roles as actor, writer, editor and director.