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.
Honorable Mentions: The Fundamentals of Caring | Deadpool | Speechless
2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | LISTENING | READING
5. We saw Guardians of the Galaxy in the fanciest theater I have set foot in since moving to North Dakota — leather seats that slightly reclined, an actually huge screen, the whole deal — and it was packed with excited people, which is always the best way to see any movie. It was a super responsive crowd from the start, so I knew we were going to have a good time and we did! We laughed and we gasped and we cried. No, like, cried a lot because despite some issues, it was a really good, well-paced package with a lot of heart. I was crying into my popcorn because GROOT, of course, and heard heavy sniffing behind me and turned to find the three teenage boys behind us fully wet-faced. Such a joy. I loved everyone in this and I really appreciated its existence as more of a standalone from The Avengers. Well, I’m also excited to see all the connections play out, but I would have loved it even if it were a truly separate universe. So fun and so good-looking and exciting and fun and funny.
4. I’m, like, 99% certain that the only reason Dope is this far down the list is because I only watched it a couple of days ago. Dope was so, so good. Crystal and I both thought it was a 90s period piece (Can you say period piece when it’s not set in like, 1863 or whatever?) until we actually started watching it and at first I thought I wouldn’t like that as much, but I ended up loving that they were able to do things with nostalgia for things from my childhood (I’m a sucker!) while also integrating new technology and the complexities of high school life in 2015. All these youths were so good! And the story was engaging and hard without being miserable. The image of Malcolm holding a gun in his shaking hands is going to stay with me for a long, long time (Give Shameik Moore 1000000000 awards!!!) but so is “How am I supposed to eat my pound cake?” Also, the music is SO GOOD. The 90s hip hop is great, but the songs from the in-movie band Awreeoh are AMAZING. Like, have been on repeat since I watched amazing. Can’t decide between sharing “It’s My Turn Now” and “Don’t Get Deleted” because they’re TOO GOOD.
3. I also saw Spy in a nice, packed theater full of responsive, laughing people and it was so fun and so entertaining, but I also rewatched it just about a week ago and it was just as funny and I loved it just as much. I love Melissa McCarthy so, so much and she and Paul Feig have really found a good rhythm together and I think their comedies are a nice mix of smart and stupid comedy. I love her physical humor, especially because it exploits her weight rather than blames it, and her delivery of those long, expletive-filled diatribes is always so damn on point. I was so excited to see Miranda Hart in a big movie and I really liked Rose Byrne a lot too. No one in this was disappointing and I laughed a lot through the entire movie, even when I was frustrated for Susan, which can be suuuuuch a hard line to walk. And, not only was it funny, but it was a good-ass action movie too!
2. 20 Feet from Stardom was recommended in one of Kimmie’s documentary round-up posts and it’s the first documentary I’ve really enjoyed in years. Some of the stories were heartbreaking, some delightful, and all of them were actually interesting enough to merit their inclusion in a documentary. I’ve loved Darlene Love for a long time and it was nice to hear her tell her own story. I was also SO GLAD to hear so much of the music they were talking about, including some of the raw session recordings. Have you ever watched a music documentary that couldn’t get music clearances? I have and it’s hell. This is the documentary that convinced me that I could watch documentaries and enjoy them, which I didn’t really think was possible.
1. Grace & Frankie was pretty much the only new TV I watched this year and I am so, so glad that we made the time for it because it is funny and adorable and moving and I cannot wait for the next season. I love both Grace and Frankie and their husbands and kids. I like that the characters make mistakes and bad decisions. I like that the leads are Older! Women! And that they address age! I will admit to being bored of rich white people stories in general, but I still really like this one, partially because I love all of the actors involved (Sam Waterston! Lily Tomlin! Jane Fonda! Martin Sheen! Ethan Embry! June Diane Raphael! Ernie Hudson!) and partially because I feel like the people in the story care about each other and the life they share and that’s extremely important to me. And also it’s funny and makes me laugh a lot.
Honorable Mentions: Mad Max: Fury Road | My Big Fat Greek Wedding | Whiplash
Totally Top Five 2K15: Listening | Reading | Stuff & Things
JAMZ: Okay, so I spent most of February playing “Uptown Funk” and Azealia Banks’ “212” on repeat, but I also got super into SBTRKT’s “Wildfire” which is best played at near ear-splitting volume while doing a kind of flailing, loose-limbed dance that involves far too much ribcage. March was spent listening to my extensive love song playlist while we ready wedding stuff, but it also brought me “Fade into You” from Nashville which I found in the comments of a wedding playlist post. It’s like… goth country, romantic and lingering. So pretty.
ALBUM: Working full-time has totally destroyed my music finding and album listening. I’ve turned into a single-loving repeater and a safe-for-work Pandora station listener. But! I have revisited Natalia Kills’ Trouble quite a bit since it’s on my phone and it’s just a great listen, especially in the car with the windows down now that the temperature is often above 40! “Rabbit Hole” is my jam. I’ve been hitting this best of Miles Davis because I frequently turn to jazz when I’m feeling stressed, since lyrics can make me feel overwhelmed while I’m working. “Blue in Green” is a forever fave.
MOVIE: Crys and I both really loved Gone Girl and I was so grateful to see that they fixed some of the things I’d found so lackluster/frustrating about the book. I thought Rosamund Pike was fantastic and can’t wait to see Carrie Coon in more stuff. Gone Girl was great, but Whiplash I really loved. In the first few minutes I thought this was going to be one of those media experiences I hate, where I am frustrated utterly for the main character and end up furious, but the payoff in this is so intensely, weirdly satisfying. I want to watch Miles Teller mouth “Fuck you” while drumming angrily until I’m dead. And then it should be the holographic projection that runs over my grave 24/7.
BOOK: When You Reach Me is the best and most moving book I’ve read thus far this year. It’s got a great narrating lead and excellent secondary characters and a rich plot and wonderful details and, like I said on Goodreads, I wish so badly that I had written it. What an awesome, perfectly, gently devastating book. I did not love The Paper Magician, but I did enjoy reading it more than, I think, every other book I read in March. I thought the magic was interesting, but found the characters lacking. There was some great anticipatory romance stuff — I even got kicky-feet! — but it played out too easily and too quickly. I prefer some torture with my romance, thank you, but still a fun read.
TV: The Parks and Recreation finale was so, so good and was so sweet and so positive which is what the show always was when it was at its best. I’ve talked about how much I love P&R plenty before, but that finale was a really wonderful way to end a really wonderful show.
We’ve also been watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix, slowly, and I really love it. I think relentless positivity in the face of adversity is just something I’m really attracted to generally and I love how well Ellie Kemper’s face carries it off. Kimmy wears everything on her sleeve and I love watching her react to the world around her. I also love Jane Krakowski — generally of course, but particularly in this — because even she isn’t immune to Kimmy’s positivity. The speech she gives her stepdaughter about leaving Kimmy alone was like, genuinely moving. So good.
BATH & BEAUTY: I grabbed a couple of the Kate Moss by Rimmel matte lipsticks while we were in Billings in mid-February and I have been obsessed ever since. But, like, I can’t find them anywhere on the entire internet, which is genuinely terrible. I bought a deep red, a Ruby Woo-esque red, and an amaaaaaazing nude (#104, if you happen to see these somewhere!) that has pretty much replaced my usual Revlon ColorBurst Balm Stain in Honey as my MLBB because it’s matte. They have a weird-ish perfume smell, but I love them so much I don’t really care and will definitely grab some back-ups if I see them in stores again.
I recently received an Influenster VoxBox* with some of the Dessange line from Target and after three weeks with the shampoo and conditioner I’m actually really happy. I like the way they smell (in the bottle, it’s not super great on my hair, but it also doesn’t last long) and my hair did actually seem a little glossier and brighter. My hair is really fine and really flat, so best of all, they don’t weigh my hair down, but still manage to make it soft and detangled. I’ve also now tried the Color Correcting Cream two Sundays in a row and I’ll definitely be buying it again. It not only keeps the gold tones in the dyed ends of my hair at bay, but it also seems to brighten the darker, natural dishwatery blonde at my roots. Awesome.
STUFF: Despite the oil slow-down, Williston is still expanding and last week we got a Culver’s, which rules and their Chocolate Covered Strawberry Concrete Mixer is pretty much the most best thing I’ve eaten in forever. Their custard is rich, but not overly sweet, and the combination of strawberry and chocolate is perfect. The beeeeeeeeeeeeest.
Also, most of the restaurant openings here have gone less than smoothly, but Culver’s seems to be the exception. The service is really friendly and seems organized and efficient, which is pretty much unheard of here, even for places that have been open forever. It’s kind of insane how much you learn to live with terrible service and how stark the contrast is when you have good service again.
LINKS: This photo series, this comic, this post from an eternal fave – Epiphora, “The Babies in the Freezer which I read right after Ghost Child, This Is My Baby Right Now by Mia Mercado who is on the verge of blowing up and being too awesome to respond to me on Twitter anymore, this A Softer World, #thedress and the Rise of Attention Policing, My Eating Disorder Had Nothing to Do with Barbie or the Media, How Flawless Became a Feminist Declaration, Remembering John Jerde — I am obsessed with the architecture of public spaces and I want to learn everything about this dude, In Defense of Literal Ass-Kicking Heroines, this A Softer World, On Confidence and the Kimye Effect, and 5 Irrefutable Reasons Why “Tank Girl” Is Absolutely Not A Terrible Movie.
*: I got these products for free from Influenster for testing purposes.
This here is the first post in a new series for 2015 where I talk about things I loved this month! Because I don’t spend enough time doing it at the end of the year. Obviously.
JAM: Because I have functioning ears and have also been alive for the last two months, my favorite jam is currently “Uptown Funk”. Bruno Mars is everything and it’s just SO GOOD. I love late 70s/early 80s era funk and “Uptown Funk” hits all the right notes of nostalgia and homage while still feeling really fresh and new and alive. Even with as much airplay as it’s been getting and as much as I’ve been listening to it on my own, I am still not sick of it. Also, the performance from Ellen was too much and Crystal won’t stop watching it at work and getting overly amped. AMAZON | ITUNES
ALBUM: This may seem seasonally inappropriate, but I think if you listen you’ll find that Low’s Christmas is actually wildly appropriate for January when it’s dreary and cold and Christmas is over and winter seems as though it will never end and you are going to be trapped in the cold and snow for so long that you transform wholly into some kind of frost creature. “Taking Down the Tree” is definitely my favorite here, but “Long Way Around the Sea” is also excellent. ITUNES
MOVIE: I only watched two movies in January — We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Maze Runner — and though Kevin was great, The Maze Runner wins for being more fun (Obbbbviously!) and also improving upon the weak-ass book that spawned it. I like Dylan O’Brien enough, but I thought the secondary characters were a lot more compelling and drove my interest more than I would’ve bet. I didn’t love it, but I was just amazed how much better it was than the book. That’s rare, so it’s worth noting. AMAZON | ITUNES
BOOK: I finally got the sequel to The Raven Boys on to my reading schedule last month and it was so, so gooooood. I would say The Dream Thieves is maybe even better than the first book? I continue to not like Adam as much as Maggie Stiefvater wants me to, but everyone else is genuinely awesome and complicated and interesting and Stiefvater continues to effectively and EROTICALLY exploit the female gaze in ways I love. I genuinely cannot wait until the third one comes up in my schedule. AMAZON
BATH & BEAUTY: I am allergic to traditional deodorants and since I quit wearing them in 2011, I have been on a quest to find a good “natural” deodorant that is 1. not a pain in the ass, 2. effective, 3. cheap, and as most of those efforts have failed, I have mostly accepted that I will usually just be a little smelly. I’m okay with it, Crystal is okay with it, and it’s better than getting huge growths in my pit follicles. Then I found Arm & Hammer’s Essentials and I don’t really smell bad anymore! It doesn’t have aluminum, it lasts all day and through even my long workouts, and it’s magical. The fresh scent is a little toilet cleaner-y, but that doesn’t really bother me and the unscented isn’t really — it’s sort of a light citrus-y smell. I’m in love. AMAZON
STUFF: Goodreads is my favorite uncategorizable thing I loved this month. I finally signed up at the start of the year so I could join the Reading Challenge in hopes that it’d help me hit my 50 book goal for the year and then I decided I’d write reviews of what I read all year too and it’s been really fun! I like seeing what everyone is reading — and how fast y’all read! — and it really has helped me keep up on my challenge. And I’m constantly adding things to my Amazon wishlist because I see other people reading stuff I haven’t heard of. It’s awesome, let’s be friends!
I also really liked this New York Times article about product naming, this A Softer World, this A Softer World, this post at thefrenemy.com, Dear Teen Me, this comic, and retroj.am.
LMAO months later, I realize I forgot one of my most favorite categories: television. Thankfully, I only really watched a couple episodes of Brooklyn 99 and New Girl, so nothing all that new to talk about. Oops.
Resolution culture is garbage. It is a New Year, but you do not have to be a New You. You are wonderful and you don’t have to change jack shit if you don’t want to.
But if you want to make a change, the New Year isn’t a bad time to, right? New Year, fresh start, all that stuff. You’re the same person you were last year, but with maybe a little extra motivation.
I spent 2014 making some very big and serious changes to my life partially because I got The Cancer, but also because I was well enough to have a full-time job and sort of behave like an actual Adult Human for the first time in my life, which is kind of cool.1
So, since 2015 is upon us and I did pretty damn good making changes last year, I’m taking my New Year’s Motivation and making some resolutions and sharing them with you. Fun, yeah?
1. Write More
I’m a writer! But I basically forget to write. I cram blogs in at the last second and I forget how much I actually enjoy writing them. When I write one blog, I feel urged and excited to write more of them. I should, you know, follow that instinct. I also write fiction! And, to be fair, I verbally and text-message-ually write almost every single day because I tell my girlfriend stories of all shapes and kinds, but I don’t write enough of those stories down. I have a finished novel I should edit and try to, like, sell and another that’s got a solid shape and tons of ideas scribbled down in a million places. I want to do something with them. I love words. I need to write more of them down.
Concrete Goal: Write 100 words a day! Edit/re-write my MFA book.
2. Consume More
I read and watch a pretty fair amount but I want to consume more and I want to consume things more intentionally. I like liking things and I want to find more things to like. Simple.
Concrete Goal: One new movie every two weeks, three new episodes of TV a week, 50 books this year, and more comics! Update listography and goodreads regularly, including a small review for each book I finish this year. Try to hit at least some of these diversity challenges.
3. Keep Moving and Feeding This Body
I work out frequently — sometimes six times a week! — and I have gotten much better at feeding myself in a way that satisfies my body and doesn’t make me miserable. I want to eat burgers and fries for every meal, but it turns out that my gastrointestinal system doesn’t exactly feel great when I do that? Crazy. Also, I kind of like how I feel after I work out. Gross, right?
Concrete Goal: Keep food journaling, meal planning, and going to the gym. Keep on keeping on.
I also want to be less envious and subtweet-y. I hate how often being cranky makes me think everything is dumb, but it’s kind of hard to resolve to like, be an entirely different human being than you are? And to come up with goals more concrete than “Be less of a dick.”
I am going to try to ask myself “Do you really want to say that?” before letting things loose on the world via social media. And also try to think, “That’s nice” when someone is enjoying something, even if I’m not into it. I love enthusiastic and joyful people! I don’t need to be a passive-aggressive bummer. I want to lift people up whenever possible or at the very least try harder not to drag them down, indirectly or otherwise. I am not a beacon of sunshine and I will never be, but I can strive to, you know, shut up a little more frequently when I’m in a mood.
Are you making resolutions? Are they as boring as mine? Did you resolve to become a superhero? That’d be pretty cool, to be honest.
1: I would way, way rather be sitting on my couch marathoning TV shows, but we can’t have everything.