'Gattaca' (1997): Now part of the premium cable background as cheap filler between prestige documentaries and high-concept series, this patiently drawn film starring Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke holds up despite its age. Elegantly imagining a future of electric vintage automobiles and genetic modification taken to an icy extreme, this is thoughtfully noirish sci-fi reliant on nuance and real social issues to tell a story, no murderous robots or showy effects required.
Bill Hader: After some time getting accustomed to this rubber-faced impression machine on "Saturday Night Live," this feels like the year where Hader came into his own as a comedy powerhouse. In a season that's been short on bright spots, Hader has shined as smarmy game show hosts straight out of Phil Hartman's wheelhouse, a maniacal Julian Assange and, especially, the drug-fried club casualty Stefon, who has blossomed into the show's first breakout character in years.
Deluxe reissues of recent albums: Times are tough for the music industry, so the longtime practice of persuading fans to buy an album more than once seems almost sensible now (how many editions are we up to with Elvis Costello's catalog, anyway?). But re-releasing expanded takes on relatively new records such as the National's "High Violet" and Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" shortly after they come out punishes those fans who bought the album right away.
'Treme': After a season and a half, it's time to be painfully honest: As well-intended and stocked with talent as David Simon's view of post-Katrina New Orleans may be, it's a crushing bore to watch. Every storyline seems predictable, every character whisper-thin, and even with all those dazzling musical cameos, the show can't get out of its own way long enough to draw any real emotion out of an already tragic story. This show may sound great, but that just isn't enough.
— Chris Barton