Hello. Sorry it's been a long time since I've had opportunity to visit with you. How was your year? Good, I hope. Mine was busier than expected, maybe the busiest and most stressful I've had professionally since I started the whole occupation-thing in 2002. So, plans I had about what I wanted to write here were delayed. So were my plans to impress Jodie Foster, though, so you know, maybe some things are for the best. You were never out of my thoughts completely though, and I'm referring here both to you and also, to Jodie Foster. And so if you'll indulge me, I did want to do another collection of year-end lists, as I have in previous years. I just like the doing of it, and I like having like a "personal tradition" to keep up, however silly. But this wasn't a year where I felt like as engaged as other years, with comics especially, but television and movies, as well. I watched more Youtube cooking videos this year than prestige television-- it sort of has been a "rebuilding year", in ways I won't bore you with here, so as a result, this is going to be a pretty uninformed series of lists, maybe embarrassingly so where comics especially are concerned. Plus, because of timing issues, I'm writing it all in one night, and am very sleepy during the part of the process where I usually fix errors or delete things I shouldn't say murder all the babies in their cribs. But maybe it'll go well. Or maybe it'll go as well as the rest of our lives have this year OH NOOOOOOOOOO...
You know, this is the one I don't really want on this list. There are movies I'd probably like more that I didn't see this year-- CREED or SPOTLIGHT. I'd probably like the END OF THE TOUR, but I'm too turned-off by the whole "biography against the wishes of the person's families or loved ones" trend this year, or just have my own relationship with the David Foster Wallace work that means something to me (moreso the non-fiction) that I don't think I'm generous enough to open up to a movie.
There were just certain things I didn't connect with for this one, most of all Tom Hardy's Max, the speed of some of the editing towards the end (especially as compared the more thoughtfully-paced earlier movies), particular images (the masses of people at the city for some reason-- huge turn-off).
That said, it'd be foolish not to say I didn't admire the obvious strengths of it-- that spectacular first action chase, the character work on Charlize Theron's character and her performance of it, the practical effects, the comparative emphasis on visual storytelling as compared to other summer blockbusters, the lack of bullshit. It was the only movie I felt like I needed to see twice in the theaters (though the second time through didn't persuade me any more, like I was hoping it might). I don't think I feel about it the way the rest of the internet feels, so it feels false and disingenuous to be on the list-- I respected it much more than I loved it. But anything else I'd put here would be more embarrassing, by comparison.
9. Clouds of Sils Maria
I'm not sure how to describe this one. This is an Olivier Assayas movie showcasing Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart, who are really kind of dynamite together. Binoche is an aging actress undergoing a sort of spiritual destruction during the course of agreeing to this play, and the movie does this thing where over the course of the movie, anything feminine about her just gets shredded away. I find that's the thing about the movie that's stuck with me more than anything, just seeing her at the end, transformed for this part, having lost herself in the process. Stewart plays her assistant, and has one of those roles that sort of comments on the rest of her career while at the same time... not just being some kind of stunt or shtick. Though there's a scene of the two reacting in different ways to an X-Men movie that's sort of a highlight of the movie...? It might not be a lot of people's kind of thing, being a character study and a movie about acting and all that, kind of up its own ass a little, but I was willing to go with it.
8. A Girl Walks Home at Night
Was this a 2014 movie? It was still in a theater when I saw it, but I don't remember when it first came out. I just loved it, though. Not for very subtle reasons-- it's about my very favorite thing for a movie to be about: a remarkably good looking actress, doing whatever the hell, who gives a shit. Nominally, it's some shit about vampires or something-- it's all in black-and-white and intimates that it's taking place somewhere in Iran (though it was actually shot somewhere in California). But the movie just has these moments of swooning -- swooning!-- over the couple in this movie and their romance, that I felt helpless not to agree with, got swept up in. I'd compare it to the Faye Wong stretch of Chungking Express, which just had that same infectious romance enough to power the entire movie.
7. Mission Impossible: Motorcycle Protocol
This movie just hits so many of the big pleasure centers of my brain, where it comes to movies: SPIES! CHASE SCENES! HITCHCOCK! KNIFEFIGHTS!
Plus, the movie has a bonus value which I used to get out of Bond movies, before they ran those movies into the ground for the dour "let's make this fun superhero super-serious" crowd: that when I watch it, I want my own life to be a little better. Watching Tom Cruise reverse-leap off a pipe makes me want to do sit-ups more than anything else on this planet. I need to do sit-ups! I need the motivation! Or watching a whole gunfight at an opera-house where everyone with guns has a tuxedo on-- I haven't worn a tuxedo in, what, 15-25 years...? I haven't been to an opera house except one time, on a class field trip (it sucked, I was 13 and wanted to be reading New Mutants comics instead, but that's besides the point)(or is it? New Mutants: The Opera-- make it happen, Julie Taymor! Spraypaint some bird feathers onto a halloween mask and make us some money, Taymor!)
You'd probably be correct to sneer at Male Lifestyle Porn, but you know, ridiculous images of male hypercompetence just seems like an overall healthier fantasy subject than the sort of "look at this broken failure creep shithead" that Bond or Batman or these other action movies find so "adult." At least if your ultimate goal is cultivating a positive and productive outlook. Granted, I don't know if that's ever been my goal, ever. But... there's also a part where Tom Cruise is on a motorcycle and it goes really fast...? So. I liked that part, too. VROOM!
6. Cartel Land
Oh, I saw this the other day-- I don't know if it's one that's going to stick with me, but I thought this was a good one. It's a documentary about the violence of Mexican drug cartel, and vigilante groups that arise in the United States and Mexico with the stated goals of fighting the cartels. The movie digs into the vigilante groups, particularly the Mexican vigilantes, with such a penetrating gaze -- they go way deeper than I'd guessed they would, at the outset, at least. I think part of it is that I really enjoyed seeing a good movie about the cartels after seeing that movie Sicario just shit all over the bed, writingwise. The part I expect might stick with me with this movie is the end-- it just ends in such a way that's so ... It'd be wrong to call it cynical, but that seems to be the word people use whenever a thing ends with any kind of despair to it, however well earned. But god, what a mess. What a fucking mess.
5. The Hateful Eight
I'm in the tank for Tarantino at this point, just because he's been making movies, his movies, through my life and they've all been so much their own thing, so off on their own aesthetic universe. And now, standing as a bulwark for that tradition of movies, one that not a lot of people are out there even pretending to care about, not when there's blockbuster money to be made. Oh, there are directors working today that I like more-- I like the Coen Bros. more, I think, just in that they have a thematic consistency and work ethic I admire more, even if they've made inarguably worse movies over their careers; I really dug the Wolf of Wall Street so Scorcese out there, still able to pull of a Scorcese movie after all these years, that still feels like the argument-ender, even if he made boring-ass Hugo or whatever other piece of shit inbetween. But any Tarantino movie, by comparison to any of those other people feels the most like a fulfillment of that core idea of what's so appealing about movies to begin with, how they're the greatest trainset there is.
That's true even in this movie, one of his least "interesting" movies in a number of different respects (besides just being interesting for being entertaining). I just particularly enjoyed with this one how dedicated the movie was to fucking with the people watching in every possible capacity. Did you have the moment in the middle of the movie, counting on your fingers, going "wait, how many people are in this movie?" I really loved that moment, and that moment felt very emblematic of what was fun about the entire thing. A movie you can't trust about people you can't trust, where you root for people for reasons you maybe shouldn't entirely trust, either. Who else could get away with it?
4. It Follows
I'm not a huge horror fan, but I admired this movie. I admired that they didn't let having such a great idea for a monster push them off into doing a movie about the rules of that monster, the mythology of the monster, the shit about the monster no one really would care about besides the filmmakers and the geeks. I admired that they trusted more in the atmosphere and the metaphors of the thing. Plus, the best score, by a million miles.
3. The Big Short
It's such a funny movie, ping-ponging around with such erratic, willfully-imperfect filmmaking, jittery, constantly changing thoughts mid-sentence. But now, weeks later, I don't think about any of that and instead, I just keep thinking about Steve Carrell at the end of this movie, talking about who would get blamed. If that's what I'm thinking about weeks later, I have to figure other people are too, and I have to figure that means they nailed it.
2. Mistress America
I walked out of the theater the happiest from this movie than any other movie this year, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's exuberant screwball comedy about characters who are so frantic and desparate and achingly sad. I don't know how many other people are working the funny-sad vein besides Baumbach, but he's been working it a long time now and I've been a sucker for it more often than I would have ever guessed-- I'm always caught by surprise, liking one of his movies-- they all sound so horrible on paper! Oh, but this movie-- it's just a movie where you'd have to be a schmuck to feel any one thing about the characters, other than to just feel happy about how much the movie fucking loves them, you know? Without being saccharine, sentimental, pointless. I don't know any movie liked its characters nearly as much, or where I felt as much the same way-- just such a warm hug of a movie. Plus, my favorite soundtrack of the year.
1. Wild Tales
This wasn't the "best" movie I saw this year, by any number of criteria, but at some point, I realized this Argentinian anthology movie was the movie I kept judging everything against, anyways.
Just because nothing was ever as just high on movies as this movie. The obvious comparison point is to Pulp Fiction, but that comparison would miss the anger of the movie, how angry it felt, how it didn't feel like it was about nothing even as it went from black-comedy gag to black-comedy gag. Maybe sometimes angry about things that as a non-Argentinian I never really fully understood or appreciated, but it felt so immediate. An often imperfect movie-- not every story is as good as the next one, in this collection of shorts. But just the collective effect of it all-- it's just like watching a rampage! This had my favorite shot of the year in it -- you'll know it right away-- but I wouldn't reduce it down to just that. I can't say I felt uplifted by it or hugged by it or any kind of nonsense talk like that-- it's a long snickering-at-people kind of thing.
If I had to guess, here's what I would guess: It just felt like a movie that came to the party awake, ready to dance and have some fun. I compared everything to that spirit, and I just don't know I can say it ever got beaten in that sole respect.
- American Harmony -- not a 2015 movie, but this documentary about barbershop quartet would be at, oh, #3 or #4 if it was. Presented by Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster. I don't think anything made me laugh anywhere near as hard. Constantly jaw-dropping.
- Paul Walker lying on the ground staring up at the sky after escaping death in Fast 8 -- the rest of the movie was the rest of the movie, but this was one of my top 3 favorite moments in any movie this year.
- Bing Bong.
- Colin Firth touching God for a few minutes, in the otherwise so-so Kingsmen movie.
- The 2-3 minutes of atompunk in the otherwise execrable Tommorowland, which should be avoided except for those 2-3 almost-perfect minutes, at least if that imagery is your bag.
- Goodnight Mommy had the best audience reactions. Goddamn, people were losing their shit watching this movie.
- Malin Akerman's little dance at the end of The Final Girls.
The new James Bond was fucking terrible, but I just have to figure I'm not a huge Sam Mendes fan or a fan of the over-serious direction they've headed in overall. I hated Avengers 2 and disliked Jurassic World, but I didn't expect anything from either, so I can't pretend to be let down.
But the one I kept going "uggghhh" in my head to the most was Sicario, even though it was so beautifully shot by Roger Deakins. It was just such bullshit! So phony! Such bad plotting -- what was the plot of that movie? What did anyone want? Why did that movie hate Emily Blunt so much-- I think she's super and has pretty arms??? Just unbearably-stupid macho nonsense-- who was mentally engaged by this movie, and what was their favorite Frank Miller comic? WHAT WAS THEIR FAVORITE FRANK MILLER COMIC YOU KNOW THEY HAD ONE??? At least Frank Miller can ink a page! An extremely Islamophobic page!
I enjoyed watching it immensely while I was watching it, thanks to Deakins, but just a movie that sours every day in my memory of it.
10. Private Eye
I was hoping to read more online comics this year-- I kept hearing people I trust talk up Jason Shiga's Demon, especially, or Charles Forsman's Revenger. Time wasn't really on my side. I did make it through this Brian Vaughan - Marcos Martin detective comic, though. It was okay, kind of a generic mystery story enlivened by its future LA setting and Vaughan's world-building...? For Vaughan, better than what I've seen of Paper Girls; less interesting than Saga. The best part with this was seeing Martin getting his head around reorienting his art for computer screens, trying out different things.
I'm just behind on COPRA. It's one of my favorite things going, and I should probably rank it higher for that reason, but I've just been saving up issues for a rainy day. Of what I saw, I can say that I continue to very much enjoy Copra. I keep telling myself I'm going to write about it properly someday, but until then, I don't want to half-ass it, so...
This entry could easily also be Stray Bullets too-- I'm behind on that series, but I thought that last run, Killers, was very strong work, and the issues I saw of it this year were also very likable. I'm just too behind on both of these comics because I'm waiting until my focus is really back where it needs to be to sit with them. I don't want to be looking at these things when I'm not ready to appreciate them, you know? I don't want to treat them like potato chips...
8. Kevin Czap's Futchi Perf
Sure, this comic had room for improvement, on the writing side just in telling clearer, cleaner A-to-B stories, at least if you believe in the virtue of that kind of thing. But that having been said, it really caught me in a good place when I cracked it open. It was one I got through the mail, and I remember that day, I was just having one of those moments of, you know, gratitude or whatever, just in a good mood, feeling pretty groovy. Getting this comic dropped into my life unexpectedly really fit that overall vibe that day. Because it's very handcrafted-- it's got a texure to it that's just pleasant to hold in your hands, that comic-- I forget what Brian calls it, "good hold"...? The way the colors work, the way they look on the paper, and just the generous spirit especially that it starts with of setting its stories in this ultra-optimistic culturally harmonious version of Cleveland... You know, if your buzz from comics is that they're the most personal and one-on-one of all the visual storytelling media, and if you're having a good day, this comic can be pretty good times. This is a fond comics memory for this year for me.
It seems like not a lot of comics "went viral" this year besides this one, or if they did, I don't remember them much-- but this one definitely did and it was a pretty good one. Obviously, there's the politics of the thing -- but I'm tired tonight and don't feel like belaboring any of that here. But even setting all that aside, I thought it was just an effective comic in how it's laid out, how gracefully he made his point. It's just an engaging comic to look at, the choices he makes for what to draw, how he mixes showing him reacting to things in the more narrative panels with panels more graphically laying out his internal thought processes. Or I like the different approaches to lettering-- white letters on black backgrounds, black letters on all white panels, white letters on flat colors, etc.-- the way those different choices kind of effected the "tone" of his voice. You know, probably still room for improvement-- the panel of the pin going towards the donkey's ass-- that whole panel, I wasn't so into, a little too cutesy on that one, not my favorite one. But after that, the last two panels are killers. Stone-cold killers. The reaction it got was well deserved because he was saying interesting things-- but he also saying those things in interesting ways, and it just feels... I don't know, it feels dumb in a way that's hard to articulate not to mention that, too.
I'm behind on this Vertigo series, but I thought the first two were pretty funny. Jokes that are funny? In a DC comic? That is a rare skill. Plus, it's sort of in that genre of wacky satirical-future comics that ... I feel like that used to be more of a thing in comics, and just went away...? Is that just in my head? It feels like not a lot of people have worked that vein in the last little while...
Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod teaming up for a He-Man/Krull-Universe nervous breakdown. The first issue of this-- not so great, but past that, I thought it was a fun adventure-comedy. There's a balancing act to the book that I find likable, steering between loving childish shit while at the same time being horrified at the idea of grown-ups loving childish shit, adults tainting childish shit by sticking around it too long-- I'm not sure how much of that's intentional or in my head, though. Mostly, I'd really dug Prison Funnies and Infinite Kung Fu back in the long time ago, and it was always kinda crazy-making that people weren't really paying more attention to those guys back then. So it's just kind of nice seeing those two having a big hit Image series. It proves that X number of years ago, I was right, and that's all I really care about, ever, ever, just being right, just want to be right. I hope people rediscover the Judgment Night soundtrack next because that soundtrack had some strong ideas about how we could combine rap music and rock music that are worth revisiting.
4. Casanova: Something or Another #1
I loved the first two volumes of Casanova, give or take an issue here or there, but the last series had been really hard to connect with, at least for me-- and I think purposefully on the book's end of things. I haven't really heard other people express that frustration so maybe it was just me, but that third volume was a comic very much about dismantling all the things that I liked about Casanova to begin with, and had reacted so favorably to Casanova to begin with... I had a rough time with that. I think it had to go to that place-- the pop culture armors around Casanova had to be ripped away and destroyed. But it made for a hard book to feel any great affection for. That having been said, the first issue of this fourth volume really hit me hard because it felt like what all that other stuff had been cleared away to make room for...? Especially there's a moment in this comic of a girl at a party by a pool that's just so ... present-tense, and just ... Casanova at its best just feels drunk on comics, and for me, that pool scene had that quality as much as any of the peak moments in that book's run. And the rest-- LA apocalyptic cult shit? I mentioned in talking about that Mission Impossible movie how some genre things are just pleasure centers for me, and ... yeah... LA apocalyptic cults? That shit landed like bombs for me. The rest of the series? You know, highs and lows. I didn't have much use for that latest issue, but the one before it, I thought that one had some groovy stuff in it. Strikes and gutters. But what a start...
This had gotten by me until this year. You've probably heard about this one before -- I don't really have much interesting to add about it. It lived up to the hype.
2. Exquisite Corpse
This is an extremely light and frothy romantic comedy by Penelope Bagieu, who is more famous in France for being a blogger-cartoonist. I'd heard of her work for years so it was nice to finally see some of it in action. This isn't a very deep or sophisticated comic-- it's a very lightweight piece of work; I wouldn't expect it to be on too many Top 10 lists probably let alone this high. But just a book whose merits I particularly appreciated when I read it, I guess-- the character acting, especially. And you know... look at this list! Holy crap I did not care about comics this year! Not enough to have a really cool list! This is a terrible list! Oh man...
1. Sacred Heart
Liz Suburbia's unsupervised-teens epic. I'd seen some of it online before, though it was all redrawn for this Fantagraphics re-release. Sacred Heart's very much a big sprawling ensemble piece -- when those are done well, that's just something to see for a comic, I think. The underlying mystery of what's going on in that comic is a little on the fuzzy side, but I enjoyed watching this graphic novel prowl through this small town, seeing Suburbia draw out the characters' lives...
If you're interested in interviews about manga, what a year. The translated discussion between Naoki Urasawa & Hisashi Eguchi would ordinarily be the highpoint, especially their talking about pre-Akira Katsuhiro Otomo. I know that section lead me to track down Family, from 1979's Highway Star (which was actually the best comic I read this year, though it felt awkward to mention on a top 10 list, being (a) from 1979 and (b) a fan scanlation-- it felt like you're not supposed to put a comic like that on a top 10 list).
But that was just the warm-up to the Naoki Urasawa television show, where he follows different manga artists and talks with them as a camera-rig he specially designed for his show films them drawing their comic pages. I don't know if you're a process junkie, but if you are, this is the motherload, Shangri-La, the philosopher's stone, the end of the rainbow. It's a multi-episode show about drawing comics, starring one of my favorite comic creators in the world talking with a cast of killers, absolute killers (there's an episode untranslated online of Golgo 13 artist Takao Saito but I haven't seen a translated copy of that episode around yet). There has never been anything equivalent to this.
I made it until December before a comic actually angered me. I kept hearing about this guy Tom King...? He's the Latest Guy, by the sound of it. And hey, congratulations to him on being the Latest Guy. That's a swell thing to be, I hope, for however long that lasts. But anyways, I heard about this guy, so while I was at a shop for the first time in, oh, 3-4 months (?)(More?), I picked up one of his comics. There's a new Vision comic from Marvel, #1 issue, him and Gabriel Hernandez Walta-- I think I'd even heard people specifically talking up these Vision comics as being, like, a big deal, the latest "hey even though it's a Marvel comic it's actually blah blah blah" buzz comic.
Seventeen pages before I'm looking at a full-page splash of a woman getting a sword shoved through her torso.
I know there's a tradition to it. I'm not saying that Tom King hasn't joined a long and proud lineage before him...
But do you think after the aliens murder us all, when they're picking through the rubble, they'll pick up a comic and be like "why did the nerdy male humans fantasize so much about the torsos of the female humans being stabbed so much?" I don't think that'll happen because I don't believe the aliens will speak English-- also, I think the aliens will use high-powered laser weapons which will incinerate all of the comic books, good and bad alike.
And I get that other people don't share my aversion to seeing women getting constantly skewered in comic books. Other people are, like, whatever about that. Heck, maybe I'm the weird one. Sure. I kind of will admit that I have issues about-- about all sorts of stuff, where I react extra-negatively to this kind of imagery. I just ... I don't get why no one even notices, why it's not even mentioned, "oh by the way Tom King shares comic's bizarre insistence that women's torsos be constantly stabbed." Why don't people warn each other? Would the butchering of women be a spoiler to you people?
At this point if a fucking superhero comic didn't have a woman's torso being decimated, I would be more surprised. I'd want a spoiler warning. "Spoiler warning-- no violence against women."
Is it... is it like some kind of Satanic or Freemason rite that all comics writers have to go through if they want to be Famous at comics? Do they have to destroy a woman's torso before they'll be accepted as a "Real comics writer" at one of those fucking Marvel retreats, when they're all licking goat-blood from off a pentagram? Is it all Lovecraftian?
... When did I ever sign up for this, is what I keep asking myself? I remember being a little kid -- I just wanted to read about Captain America throwing a metal disc at people's heads, resulting in their permanent brain damage -- you know, like a normal person! I never signed up for hating women's torsos! (I kinda think women's torsos are fun to look at and/or touch-- GASP! Does that make me unclean???). When did that become part of the whole nerd-thing? Why is this a thing with you people?
So you know, I'm sure Tom King's great and all, when it comes to entertaining you people, with your weird anti-torso issues, and your generally-speaking being fucked in the head. Congratulations to the guy-- if I know comics, he really picked a surefire route to success -- no one in comics ever went broke making comics where women get butchered like cattle. Congratulations to him. But uhhhh, just... you know... After a year kind of not being all that invested mentally in comics, this ... This just didn't fucking help.
10-- Rick & Morty -- Total Rickall
The one with Mr. Poopybuthole. I don't really know what else I can say about that. Seems self-explanatory.
9-- Doctor Who -- Heaven Sent
I'd counted this show out, I suppose, but this episode of Peter Capaldi trapped in a prison is just a hall-of-fame episode. I just really like that the core of it is so strong, they could have done this episode any year they've been making Doctor Who. JJ Abrams has talked a lot about mystery boxes over the years, but this puzzle of an episode just seemed to deliver on that idea more than he's ever managed to. Hell, it just seemed to deliver on the entire idea of Doctor Who more than so many episodes manage, especially in the last few years. I know they can't all be like this one. But goddamn, why can't they all be like this one??
8-- Inside No. 9 -- Cold Comfort
The "villain" of this piece-- politically, very uncool and offensive. That having been said, this was a pretty memorable half-hour of TV. Inside No. 9 is a Twilight Zone / Tales from the Darkside anthology show over in the UK, usually a show with dark gag-endings, but no other episode has been as unsettling or effective as this one, about volunteers at a suicide hotline crisis-center. Because even if it had a thriller plot on the surace, scrape all that away and what do you have? A suicide crisis hotline-center. That's a lot to think about, even before you start talking story or characters.
- Daily Show -- Finale of the Jon Stewart Era
- Mad Men -- The Second-to-Last Episode
- Justified -- The Last Episode
- Late Night with David Letterman -- the Last Episode
- Parks & Recreation -- Final Episode
It seems silly to even put these in any order. I don't know there's any TV show I'm nearly as invested in as any one of these left standing. (Maybe SNL...?) (There was also the final episode of Community in 2015, though that show had ended so many times previously, it was hard to get as broken up over it.) Whereas: Jon Stewart's someone I've been following since Talk Show Jon, Parks & Recreation had a particularly excellent final season, Justified had always been an underrated show and stuck its landing just perfectly -- and landed it with an ending that felt like an Elmore Leonard ending, Mad Men was the best drama on TV while it was on (including Breaking Bad -- suck it), and David Letterman had been there and represented something in my head, my entire life, since early memories.
I don't know-- I kind of want to get off the "Golden Age of Television" train and all of these shows ending this year felt like ... I want to take it as a sign. We'll see, I guess.
Mad Men, I'd just put the second-to-last over the final, final episode, in that the second-to-last episode had the best moment of the final season and maybe the best single moment of the year in television-- Peggy Olsen carrying Japanese pornography down a hallway, wearing sunglasses. Sometimes people attack that show and sometimes they pull it off, but usually I don't even know what the hell they were watching...
2-- Three Days in Hell
Andy Samberg's tennis comedy. There has needed to be a great tennis comedy for a very, very long time, and this one had about a million things in it that made me laugh. There was some good comedy in the "incredibly stupid" school of comedy this year-- the Wet Hot American Summer show had plenty. But this felt pretty obviously like the winner of that particular competition, for David Copperfield alone.
1-- Master of None -- Mornings
Oh man, I'm getting pretty tired and bored of my own voice. This show just meant the most to me, and this was the best episode of the show, the one where they put away jokes or making sociopolitical statements or sucking up to Indian parents, and just went all-in on the relationship story. I've been playing that Arthur Russell song on my commute lately since watching this episode. I've been rolling out my own pasta lately, too-- some of that's this episode, probably.
The Golden Age of TV used to be shows that were really struggling with Right Now, whats going on Right Now. And then the geeks swarmed in, and now it's shows about dragons and zombies and the Rapture and Marvel superheros-- who gives a fuck? This show felt like it was about things I actually care about right now, every which way, from the relationship talk, to the show's constant emphasis on empathy, to over-reading Yelp, to the pasta (the tough part's getting the flour-to-egg ratio right-- I still haven't gotten that part down).
And just the filmmaking, the location shooting, the soundtrack (the Pete Rock & CL Smooth drop is one of the best music drops like that I've ever seen in a TV show)-- it all just felt like people who were very present in what they were doing, with so much of the bullshit that's usually inbetween stripped away.
I just loved it very much.
At some point this year, I realized that I was going to be working on a very exhausting schedule, and I came up with this idea-- my idea was that I would eliminate choice in what TV show I would watch so that when I came home from a long day of work, I could put on a show, and not have to spend time thinking about what I'd want to watch. That would mean I'd need a show with a lot of episodes, and some reason to want to watch more than one-- you know, some kind of soap opera element.
I chose a show called Pretty Little Liars.
Pretty Little Liars is one of the most popular shows in the country. Provided, that is, that you're a 15-25 year old woman. Outside of that demographic, not quite as wildly popular. And so I found that very intriguing because I'm sick of being in someone's target demographic. I'm sick of being marketed to, sick of things built for me by people who think I'm a moron, that I'm someone they can put in some well-defined box of market research. And I think in choosing this show, I wanted to break away from this programming that has all of us staying in our lanes. Why should we stay in our lanes? The whole point of art is to get out of our lanes. So why not watch a show meant for teenage girls? Right? Pretty good theory, I thought.
One small twist: it turns out this show is a little on the fucking insane side, and less a window into what life's like for modern teenagers, and more a window into ... ludicrousness...? Supposedly, it's a show about 4-to-5 girls who have to confront a villain who is blackmailing them with their teen secrets. So that sounds like a pretty straightforward teen thriller, right? But in practice... I really honestly don't even know where to start. There's the part where they're on a Halloween train, and Draculas start singing. The part where there's a fight in a sawmill against identical girls wearing red Don't Look Now jackets. There's a part where they leave town and go to another town where a lady has Dune eyes and then they meet ghosts. The teen blackmailer has an underground bunker and access to Star Trek equipment. At one point, there was a part involving human teeth that ... I don't know what I could type here to describe this moment that would actually sound like Human English. Or- or- oh god there was a part with a horseshoe that... The Horseshoe! (Begins wildly gesticulating having lost all ability to type words)
I did not expect what I got when I chose this show. They solved the multi-season long caper of "Who is the Blackmailer" over the summer (and their solution was incomprehensible and deeply offensive, like unquestionably sociopolitically offensive, indefensible in multiple ways). But for me, the journey to get to that was so often... just inexplicable and unique and wonderful that I am ... filled with a gratitude, but also a genuine and very unshakable befuddlement as to ... like... why? Why did they make any of the choices that they made when they made this show? Why?
And now, basically, the long and short of it is regular television shows are no longer interesting to me, in so far as they are merely sane, and all the food I eat tastes like ashes. Basically.
Daredevil-- Episode 8 -- Shadows in the Glass
I tried watching that Daredevil show, but quit after watching this episode. I hadn't realized I had made it that far-- I think I fast-forwarded a lot. But then I hit this moment in this episode that was so fucking infuriating...
Cast your memory back-- this is a show that when it came out, people online started to pretend it was a "Crime epic", or a "Real crime show", or "not fucking bullshit." So that was the context I was watching it, assuming I was watching something that was trying to be a real television crime show instead of just junky dweeby nonsense. And the show kinda pretends along for a little while, especially with the Kingpin parts, where they build up this mystery-- who is the Kingpin? Who is this mysterious figure that no one in the city knows, no one in the city has met, but runs all of the crime in the city from the shadows?
This episode answers that question by having KINGPIN HOLD A PRESS CONFERENCE! Which Daredevil "sees" when it is broadcast live.
But why would TV news stations broadcast a man's press conference if they don't know who he is??? The whole rest of the show is that no one in the city knows who the Kingpin of crime is, that a Kingpin of crime even exists! So, to the people in the world of this show-- some random man is like "I'm throwing a press conference" and rather than, you know, videotape it, review the footage, edit it, and then report on it if it's actually newsworthy, TV news stations on this show instead just put whatever-the-fuck on live TV...? "People need to see this! We don't know who this is or what he's going to say or whether he might take out his penis, but let's roll the dice and put him out on live Television."
And then what does he say in this press conference that is inexplicably getting broadcast throughout the city's airwaves?
He tells people his name. Because they don't know who the fuck the strange man inexplicably spouting inane gibberish at them is! They're watching a press conference from a person whose name they don't know! And that's the best written part of that entire scene-- every other bit of dialogue in that scene is just the rankest shit. He's just someone TV stations have randomly put on TV to introduce himself to people, like some kind of weird dating video...
What the fuck was this bullshit and why were people pretending they were watching an epic crime show when one of the most pivotal scenes in the show is that fucking terribly written??? When the Pretty Litle Liars flush human teeth down a toilet, I at least don't have to hear nitwits pretend they're watching some Golden Age of TV when the toilet flushes! I stopped watching all these Marvel shows after that-- the internet's just not to be trusted -- too many people are too desperate to fool themselves into thinking they're watching an Achievement in Television Sciences while they jerk off to dimestore junk-- only teenage girls understand what I want to watch on television anymore!
SHORT VIDEOS, COMEDY SKETCHES, ETC.
5. Inside Amy Schumer- "Last Fuckable Day"
4. Saturday Night Live-- "Meet Your Second Wife"
3. Hell's Club
1. Key & Peele- "Negrotown"