I’ve always been a movie guy, but as I was saying in my Books of 2016 list, this was the year I turned into a TV person. Here’s the majority of everything I watched and loved, outside of all the YouTube videos I consumed and vomited on my social feeds somewhere. This is what stuck:
The Jungle Book
Sometimes I’ll be watching a movie at home, and it’s not until halfway through that I vaguely recall watching it before (like a Westworld flashback, except I’m Evan Rachel Wood with better hair). This typically happens with movies I’ve zombied out on over international flights – stacking 6 videos between sleeping pills and finger sandwiches. But, I watched this newly-adapted Jungle Book on a 1970s United flight back from Hawaii – on a screen that was lower-res than an iPhone 3 – and it’s stuck with me all year. This isn’t just a family Disney flick – the CGI is convincing, the kid actor is fantastic, and they still manage to stay true to the animated original. The swollen, irritating guy from Swingers directed this live-action remake – Yeah, I dunno about that part.
Batman v Superman
I broke your trust, huh? Sorry, not sorry, but I love DC movies (maybe even more than Marvel, outside of X-Men (outside of the most recent X-Men (outside of Olivia (but, I digress)))), and I enjoyed BVS. I’m not expecting Moonlight with capes here. The title of the movie is Batman v effing Superman and that’s all I care to see. For giggles, they throw in Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman against some loud tribal house music. Skyscrapers explode. Everyone’s throwing tantrums and being selfish. I love it!
Making a Murderer
To be fair, MAM (I’m gonna start acronymizing everything) dropped on Netflix around this time last year. But, it wasn’t until early 2016 that the ruckus bubbled. “It’s the new Serial!,” bored, smart people exclaimed. Okay, it kinda was. This is a documentary series about a not-a-smart-man (Gump voice) named Steven Avery who is wrongfully convicted of a murder, serves 18 years, gets out and maybe (maybe??) brutally murders a woman. Ends up back in jail, but wait, was his nephew – the village idiot (if you can imagine that) – Brendan Dassey involved as well?
The whole thing is a clusterfuck of police corruption, white trash politics, courtroom drama, animalistic murders where no blood spills, and poor Brendan who just wants to go home and watch Wrestlemania. The indie filmmakers have a strong agenda here to liberate the Dasseys, but the most interesting part of the show is all the Reddit material – like, unabridged phone calls with Brendan which make him look like a wrestling-loving homicidal maniac. BTW, Brendan’s back in the news, as he may get out of jail. He’s gained a lot of weight and is gonna savagely murder me for this review (or suplex me).
The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
So, by this point – for the first time in my life – I started becoming a TV person. Up until 2016, I’d only watched about 10 TV shows for more than a season. I’m talking Family Ties to Curb Your Enthusiasm. Never seen an episode of Friends, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones.. I tried watching The Wire and only got 4 episodes in. Just not my thing (I think it’s a fear-of-commitment issue).
I blame Serial, The Jinx, and The Staircase. Now, I’m obsessed with these real-life murder mysteries that intertwine with realtime news. I didn’t even know there was a channel called FX (I always thought it was Fox?) and had never heard of American Crime Story’s predecessor, American Horror Story. But, I know OJ. I was 14 when he killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman – and yes, I said it. He killed them, duh! This spectacle carried me through my high school years and there were so many unanswered questions that kept the case at the forefront of our collective culture’s minds. This dramatized saga of all that ensued does a good job of covering all sides. But, halfway through, you realize it’s less to do with the facts and merits of the case, and really about the powerful acting performances. Every single actor deserves an Emmy for their convincing work on this show. And send the casting director some Sprinkles cupcakes. Compelling television 101.
O.J.: Made in America (30 for 30)
I thought it couldn’t get any better than FX’s American Crime Story interpretation of the O.J. trial. Then, ESPN slapped us across the face with Made in America, under their 30 for 30 series. Again, I didn’t even know ESPN made content like this. I thought it was all Charles Barkley in big suits and Kobe being a dick. This is a docu-series on everything leading up to the murder (O.J.’s childhood), the murder itself, the mechanics of the trial, and all the conjecture and secrets that are now revealing themselves decades later (like, the arthritis medication?). As with American Crime Story, the meat of this show has less to do with the O.J. murders, and more to do with race relations in L.A. and greater America. You can see how the circumstances around the verdict are still very real and relevant to what the black community endures in our country today. 2016 was just not O.J.’s year, but that narcissistic sociopath made for some great television.
Kyle Walker’s VANS video part
This is why Kyle Walker just earned Thrasher’s Skater of the Year. It’s too big to describe, so just watch.
When I was a kid, I watched so many Jerry Lewis and Jim Carrey movies, that I started to speak and behave like those physical comedians (you can imagine how annoying this got). This Netflix Japanese reality show, Terrace House, is the reason why I’m grunting out Japanese slang and carrying myself like an exchange student these past few weeks. Back around Thanksgiving, I’d overheard our Digital Marketing savant, Ceilidh, talking about Terrace House with Alina. The premise sounds boring, because it totally is. I kept explaining it to people as MTV’s Real World, but set in Japan – and then realized that no one under the age of 25 has ever watched that Godforsaken show. So, let’s just say they move 6 young adults into a house as roommates. Most are single, so they’re looking for a partner. Others are just soul-searching and not ready to start their lives. This is the antithesis of the American reality genre. Indoor voices, considering what’s best for everyone instead of the individual self. The cast is so eager to jump on each other’s bones, but they’ll wait 14 episodes to hold hands. No triple-kisses or New York v Pumpkin spitting fights here.
There are a lot of reasons why I have become infatuated with this show. For starters, it’s like scoring in a soccer game vs. (what you’d expect from a reality show) basketball. Instead of drama rearing its head every 5 minutes, sometimes you have to wait half a season before a fight erupts. And, because everything has been so swept-under-the-rug and repressed, the roommates will eviscerate each other over something as simple as a slab of meat (yes, this happened – the “Case of the Meat” episode).
WIRED also (accurately) predicted Terrace House as the future of Netflix programming, because of this intercrossing of content with global viewers. With half of Netflix subscribers being outside of the States, the content will continue to grow outside of American TV. I mean, my favorite show this year is all-Japanese (and probably 2017 as well – the new season starts in January). But, how many more of these are out there? From Pakistan, Argentina, Siberia? The world is feeling a whole lot smaller.
(There’s also a ton of streetwear (Supreme, CE, Fitted Hawaii, Patta) in it, for all you fuccbois)
Black Mirror’s “San Junipero”
Black Mirror has been around for a minute – I believe we wrapped the third season this year – but, I feel like there was a resurgence with this one. Maybe because these episodes were easier to slip into (Bryce Dallas Howard’s Instagram/validation addiction) or perhaps just ‘cuz Black Mirror’s Twilight Zoney tech predictions are colliding with real life (extreme online shaming). The best chapter – which, truthfully, could be a standalone 90-minute film – is “San Junipero.” Two young women fall in love in a virtual ’80s-era reality, and… I won’t spoil the rest. Contrary to most of Black Mirror’s haunting undertones, San Junipero reveals a potentially glorious future for us all. Plus, set against the warm 1980s backdrop and a killer soundtrack, the nostalgia is on Stranger Things levels.
This is one of my favorite Disney animated movies of all time (Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast, Fantasia, Oliver & Company, Rescuers Down Under, The Duck Tales Movie), and it’s because it opposes everything you’d expect from a princess film (Moana even goes so far as to declare, “I’m not a princess!”). There’s no love story, just a couple sing-along songs. Overall, it felt like The Neverending Story – reminding me of classic fantasy adventures through mystic lands and monsters like Clash of the Titans. I also appreciate that Disney cast authentic Polynesian-blooded actors for the roles (finally). I’m down to watch this again, if anyone wants to roll.
Don’t Think Twice
When I went to the premiere screening of Don’t Think Twice at the Landmark (to support Kate Micucci!), I wrote on my personal IG: “This is my favorite movie of 2016.” I think I might still stand by that sentiment. Look, I don’t think everyone will get this story – it’s a very L.A./N.Y. tale of an improv group who struggles with their individual failures when one of their own gets cast on an SNL type show. But, I think most of us can relate to the universal theme of watching your friends succeed and leaving you behind. It’s the right amount of funny, poignancy, and an honest look at relationships. If you like this movie, we can be friends.
The Night Of
This HBO murder drama explodes out the gate. A Muslim-American kid (Riz Ahmed) hooks up with a white girl and wakes up to find her slaughtered in her bedroom. It takes 8 episodes to suss this out (sorta), and it gets a little wonky in between there, but the show ends up being an overarching commentary on the jail system peppered with John Turturro’s awesomeness (as the kid’s hapless lawyer) and Alexander Spit’s wild-haired theory that the mom did it. That’s not even a spoiler of any kind – but, it’s fun to watch The Night of from that point of view. I wish the show ended better, but I get why it went how it did. I look forward to watching Riz Ahmed in more stuff – like the new Star Wars next week!
NBA Finals, Game 7 and World Series, Game 7
This was the year of upsets, and therefore a pretty upsetting year if you were on the losing end. Regardless of loyalties, history was made in both American basketball and baseball in 2016, as teams came back from 3-1 handicaps to take home the trophy. You didn’t even need to be much of a sports buff (two thumbs: this guy) to be entertained by the high-stakes emotion in these ultra-competitive games, and the long-fought victories for blue-collar cities Cleveland and Chicago. Pros: lots of Jordan crying faces and other fun memes. Cons: the Cubs are a pro-Trump organization (!?).
Manchester by the Sea
If you’re like our Creative Director Patrick and not looking to movies to feel feelings, turn back now. Manchester by the Sea is like a 7-layer-dip of sadness. Like, a Kid Cudi soundtrack anthology. Casey Affleck plays a guy who’s basically forced to adopt his nephew after his brother dies (this is all in the trailer, relax). This results in some comedic, generational-rift, moments. But, once Affleck’s own demons start to emerge, you realize that this is an Inception of emo. Manchester by the Sea is supposed to rack up all these Oscars – including one for Casey, whose got some of his own real-life skeletons coming out the closet – so, I highly suggest you watch this now so you can sound cool at your holiday parties while everyone’s raving about Sully (Zzzz).
Welcome to LEITH
Leith, North Dakota has a population of 16 people. In May 2012, a white supremacist leader moves into the town with intentions of setting up a white nationalist community. This documentary was powerful long before we got President-Elect Trump, but it means even more now – a microcosm metaphor for what the rest of our country is now enduring. Rotten Tomatoes states, “As disturbing as it is thought-provoking, Welcome to Leith offers an uncomfortable — and essential — glimpse into a part of society many Americans would much rather ignore.” Maybe if more Americans had watched this movie before the election, they wouldn’t have been so surprised with the results. Or, maybe we would’ve gotten some different ones.
Honorable Mentions: Fuller House (Seriously. Did you know this might be one the biggest shows of the year?), the Beauty and the Beast trailer (I contributed 58 of the 30M views), 13TH (some of us already know this. The rest need to see this), and The Shallows (Blake Lively, surfing, and a shark. Like Cast Away, if Wilson tried to bite Tom Hanks’ leg off). And sorry, no Stranger Things for me (once you get past the hipster nostalgia, it’s whatevs).
Worst Things I Watched: The Presidential Debates, The Presidential Election, our country go down in flames.