2016: The Year in Review

Last December I decided for reasons that still aren’t entirely clear to me to document every movie, tv show, and documentary I watched, along with every book I read. Now, a year later, it’s kind of strange to look back.

Scrolling through the site archives, there are already so many pieces of entertainment that I either forgot I’d experienced, or already don’t remember much about. In that regard, this whole thing has been kind of cool. It makes me wonder what else I’d forgotten about over the years. Reading my short reviews brought me back and let me experience a little snippet of the excitement, joy, or disappointment I felt when I first wrote them. It brings me back to the high and low points of my year- watching movies with now-departed significant others, seeing new releases with good friends, teaching my favorite novels chapters to eager (or uneager) students. As the year dies, I’m seeing its life flash before my eyes. Now, in the waning days of 2016, I’d like to look back and reflect on some trends, thoughts, and musings about the year past and the year ahead.


Statistics

Movies Watched: 72
That I’d Seen Before: 48
Seen for the First Time: 24

TV Seasons Watched: 37
That I’d Seen Before: 9
Seen for the First Time: 28

Documentaries Watched: 11
That I’d Seen Before: 1
Seen for the First Time: 10

Books Read: 9
That I’d Read Before: 3
Read for the First Time: 6

Graphic Novels Read: 3
That I’d Read Before: 0
Read for the First Time: 3


Surprises and Disappointments:


One movie that I went into with rock-bottom expectations was the fantastic Cloverfield Lane. A quasi-sequel to a cult hit, eight years after it’s predecessor was released? A script that was written as a stand-alone movie, only to be tied into the Cloverfield universe late in production? The studio being coy and unclear with if, or how much it would tie into Cloverfield? All of this seemed to reek of cash grab and disappointment, and I’m glad I was wrong. What it ended up being my favorite suspense thriller of the year, propped up with sharp writing and knock-out performances. I’m not completely bought into the idea of loosely related Cloverfield anthology movies.

Moana is another movie that ended up being much, much better than I expected it to be. It’s fair to assume that any big animated Disney release is going to be at least alright, but Moana is the best animated movie I’ve seen in quite some time. Looking back at their last few movies, I’d be hard pressed to argue with the idea that Disney Animation is in another golden age. Kubo and the Two Strings also deserves mention on the topic of animated features. While it had some issues with it’s pacing and story, it’s a testament to the incredible sense of presence and detail that stop motion pictures can still bring to the table.

I know it’s not from this year, but I just finally got around to seeing Whiplash. I’d heard its focus on perfection and competition described as “the best sports movie to not feature sports,” and I think that’s apt. The movie has an amazing ability to seem busy and tense without any fast movies scenes, building its incredible sense of foreboding stress through sharp dialogue and oscar-worthy performances. I know a movie about a collegiate drummer doesn’t seem that exciting, but I’d urge everyone to see it.

Of course, not every movie I watched this year was good. As much as 10 Cloverfield Lane surpassed my expectations, The Witch fell beneath them. The movie seemed like a sure-fire home run. Well regarded by most fans and critics? Yup. Slow burn horror without jump scares? My favorite. Focused on the puritan age and fears of witchcraft? An underappreciated era. Yet, when it was done, I couldn’t do anything but pause and wonder what the heck went wrong. I’m all for exposition and character/world building, but the movie rambled on without point or purpose for a good three-fourths of the runtime. The audio was poorly mixed and, combined with the lead having a heavy accent, was near impossible to grasp. All of the characters were unlikable. The sense of evil and dread was uneven and lacked much real cause-and-effect. It felt like an empty shell.

For as successful and consistent as the Marvel superhero extravaganza has been, it blew my mind how “ok” DC managed to make some of their most exciting characters this year. While I didn’t hate Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, both still felt like severely missed opportunities- and I’m speaking as someone who reads and loves a number of DC comic books. The hardest part to swallow is that both were so close to being really good. A few line changes here, a villain swap there, and I do believe that these movies would have been exponentially more engaging and entertaining. Here’s to hoping that things shape up soon, lest the entire cinematic universe crumble.

On the television front, Netflix was definitely the prized horse. Between new seasons of Daredevil, Black Mirror, Orange is the New Black, and Kimmy Schmidt, and new series like Bojack Horseman (which was new to me), Chef’s Table, Jessica Jones, Love, and Stranger Things, the average level of quality is unprecedented. Cable television is dying


“Best” and “Worst” Awards

The one or two best and worst this year in each category, only counting saw/read this year for the first time.

Movies
Best
10 Cloverfield Lane
Star Wars: Rogue One

Worst
The Witch
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Television

Best
Black Mirror: Season 3
Game of Thrones: Season 6

Worst
Bojack Horseman: Season 1

Documentaries

Best
Samsara
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Worst
Hungry for Change

Books
Best
Meditations on Violence
Star Wars: Lost Stars


Looking to 2017

So, what am I most looking forward to over the next 12 months? What am I hoping to do differently? Perhaps the biggest surprise of the last year, when looking back, was how few books I read over the past 12 months. As an English teacher, and a general lover of books, it was incredibly surprising to me that I only ended up reading nine books (well, 13 if you count graphic novels). Of those nine, four were nonfiction, and two were in the Star Wars canon. I suppose it is worth noting that there were a handful of books I started, but either quit or just haven’t finished yet. Over the next year, I’ll definitely be making a concerted effort to bring that number up by quite a bit. I’ve already got a handful of books I’m looking forward to digging into.

This might sound weird, but the movie I’m perhaps the most hyped for right now is Fate of the Furious. I don’t know if there’s ever been a franchise that has undergone such a dramatic shift in tone throughout its movies, but the Fast and Furious series is all the better for it. With a surprisingly developed cast of likable characters and some of the best action around, this is my go-to series for mindless action. I’m actually quite surprised I didn’t watch any of the movies this year.

I’m curious to keep track of not only what media I consume in the next year, but what gets watched or read for a repeated time. This year I watched five movies and five TV seasons a second time and didn’t repeat any documentaries, books, or graphic novels. I did watch Rogue One three times in theaters, which ties my lifetime high for theater viewings and was the only movie, book, TV show, or documentary to break two this year. I expect that number to go up by few next year as I repeat my go-tos and re-read the books I teach in class.

I don’t know why I didn’t do this for 2016, but moving forward I’m going to be adding a category for video games. I play a lot of games, and already do reviews for HookedGamers.com, so it seems like a natural addition.


Random Musings

Looking through the data, here are some scattered thoughts.

  • Though the year isn’t documented, I read far more than four graphic novels in 2015. I attribute this to starting, for the first time, to read individual comics as they released (something I haven’t figured out how to include in my logs yet).
  • Though I did watch ten (and three of those got two viewings), I watched far few superhero movies than I thought I would. I’m not sure why. Perhaps with so many new ones coming out I got my fill without revisiting older titles.
  • I’d like to give a shout out to some of the smaller movies that I really, really enjoyed this year, including Mr. Holmes, The Fundamentals of Caring, and Frank. Each one is sure to have limited appeal based on your tastes, but each are worth looking into.
  • Horror movies were almost non-existent with only two (well, two and a half if you count Crimson Peak). This might be because I didn’t have a roommate or significant other this year around Halloween, and I prefer to watch horror movies with a second person.
  • My wanderlust must have been in overdrive this year, with many of my favorite documentaries and TV seasons focusing on travel and other cultures.
  • Gods of Egypt wins the award for “Worst Movie I Loved.” It was awful in almost every single way, but damnit, I had a ton of fun watching it.
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