Not to be a HUGE DOWNER, but 2016 was kind of a shitshow, yeah? Everything is kind of terrible! If you had told me in January that my neighbors would successfully elect Donald Trump to the United States Presidency, I would have laughed. A lot.
Anyway, in the spirit of my Twitter declaration to try to share good things in the face of the dumpster fire burning eternally around us, it’s time for TOTALLY TOP FIVE 2K16! Because the year didn’t really fall totally apart until the end and I managed to like a lot of stuff before I got too depressed and hopeless to function like a normal person!
5. 4th Man Out – This movie was so much more charming than I expected it to be. And it did such a good job of dealing with straight-guy-gay-panic in a way that felt more true to 2016 than a lot of contemporary stories have. It had a realistic level of angst without ever veering near tragedy porn — something that a LOT of LGBT stories still do — and most of all, it was funny and kind and about FRIENDSHIP. Really good friendship! It was super duuuuuper white, but I did appreciate that they were regular working class people in ordinary jobs and lives. Lots of good parental stuff too. It’s nice to see a coming out story where no one is irreversibly miserable and everything just sort of goes okay-enough. That’s what I think (and hope) it’s like for most people and it’s nice to see that translated on screen.
4. Ghostbusters – The original Ghostbusters is one of my favorite childhood movies and I was amped to see it with women and I just got more and more amped with each announcement. I really loved it. I thought it was funny and good-looking and charming and had really, really great action scenes. I LOVED that women were smart, complex, and ATE FOOD WITHOUT BEING WEIRD ABOUT IT! I love that Holtzman was coded so clearly as queer and that she was so incredibly hot and that it wasn’t intended for men! It subverted so much of what people have come to expect from action-comedy and media in general and it did it while making a really fun, watchable movie. My only disappointment is that I know there is another version of this movie that is funnier and sharper and a little bit darker that was supposed to exist and I know that it was strangled by studio dudes who wanted to make something really marketable and family-friendly. That sucks for everyone who made the movie and it sucks so so much for everyone who didn’t get to watch the movie they really wanted to make.
3. Captain America: Civil War – Crystal and I saw Captain America: Civil War twice in two days, one of which was in these goofy things and both times I mostly just quietly cried to myself while murmuring, “Bucky… Buckyyyyy…” over and over again. Good action, good story, good pacing for the most part, super funny, and extremely re-watchable. I was surprised to really L-O-V-E every new character and how well they folded into the existing universe. I am disappointed that the comic didn’t get translated as directly as I’d hoped (SAD TROMBONE, WHAT A UNIQUE COMPLAINT) and I am STILL frustrated about the lack of development/transparency about the content and political impact of the Sokovia Accords because I’m a nerd and the details of that document are VERY IMPORTANT. Without them, choosing Team Cap or Team Iron Man is MEANINGLESS given the limited information given. Sorry I’m going to be an angry nerd forever.
2. Crashing – Crystal picked this on Netflix on a whim one night while I was working in the other room and watched the first episode and then came in yelling at me, “YOU HAVE TO COME WATCH THIS SHOW.” And so I did and then we watched it all in a night because it was so charming. It’s not groundbreaking comedy, but it is a really unusual living situation populated with interesting people, funny, awkward conversations, and super weird stuff. Not all of the characters are likable which was VERY HARD for me, but I still wished there were way more than six episodes to watch. I mean, I often argue that TV shows need to know when to end and that we should move toward the British model of short, unpredictably aired seasons, but there’s something to be said for having 22 episodes to watch each season.
1. Stranger Things – Maaaaaaaaan was this an easy #1 to choose this year. Stranger Things is a giant, fun, moving, awesome homage to everything I grew up loving. I didn’t really expect to love it that much because I’m not really a scifi or fantasy person — I’m a horror movie nerd! — but MAN did I love it. Winona Ryder is so, so good and every teen, tween, and child actor in this is UNBELIEVABLY good. It’s beautifully shot and set-designed, the creature design and world-building are amazing, and it’s fantastic that it manages to tell a complete and satisfying story in just eight episodes. I was really hoping that it would end up being an anthology series, whether that was with the same actors in a new situation/era or with new actors in an expansion of the existing universe, so I am a little bummed that it’s coming back as a regular second season, but also pretty excited about it because it was great, obviously. VERY EXCITED.