Top 20 of 2016, Part One

Hello, everyone. It’s been a while and I’ve been quite busy! As per usual, I don’t feel like I saw enough movies, read enough books, or engaged with enough media that was specifically released this year to do a Top Ten List of any one thing – so instead, I’ve put together a list of my Top 20 Things of 2016, which range from my favorite new tv shows, things that happened on my twitter feed, concepts that I feel gained particular strength this year (even though they are definitively not NEW this year), and other odds and ends that I think were particular highlights of 2016.

One of the reasons I wanted to make this list was because, in general, 2016 was a pretty terrible year for a lot of people, especially the last few months. But there were also some exceptionally great things that happened, and I think it’s important to remember that, and not be ashamed to be able to think back and say “You know, maybe bits weren’t all that bad.” I’ll be releasing this list in four parts of five, so I don’t feel guilty about how much I’m about to say about the stuff I loved.

So, to steal phrasing from the inimitable Guy Branum of Pop Rocket (a pop culture podcast I have been devouring and cannot recommend highly enough, find it here), here’s what I was all about in 2016:

20. High concept folktale retellings in comics
Specifically, I’m talking about Klaus by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora, and Toil & Trouble by Mairghread Scott, Kelly Matthews, and Nichole Matthews; this also includes the lovely Snow White: The Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan, the newest Hildafolk addition Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson, and to a lesser degree Panther by Brecht Evens and Michele Hutchison, and The Wicked + the Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. The folk and fairy tale genres really lend themselves to rich, luxe art and writing, and all of these are simply gorgeous books. I particularly appreciate the way that Morrison on Klaus and Scott on Toil & Trouble use the elements of the story we’re already familiar with (the Santa Claus myth and Macbeth, respectively) as a skeleton to hang new embellishments on – I can enjoy to comfort of a story I already know, while still being surprised by what I’m reading.

19. “Sorry” from Beyonce’s Lemonade
I was tempted to put the whole album on here, but honestly that felt kind of predictable – so I’m listing my favorite track as a stand-in for the album that came out of nowhere and changed the conversation around pop music. As a whole, I find the album breathtaking. The musical experimentation and sheer variety of things that Beyonce plays with is just wonderful to listen to, even when I didn’t particularly care for a specific track. “Sorry,” however, is just…it’s the best, you guys. I love the juxtaposition of the gentle vocals telling a guy to fuck off, I love the sneaky power anthem nature of it.

18. The way The Jungle Book re-imagines the music from the original animated version
I haven’t been crazy about the live action versions of classic Disney movies that have been rolling out (I watched the trailer for Beauty and the Beast recently, and was remarkably underwhelmed), mostly because I don’t understand the need for a shot-for-shot remake of something that already exists in a beautiful state. So I was pretty surprised by how much I loved The Jungle Book – both because of that, and because I have always been underwhelmed by the original. But the new live action version is vibrant and dark and kind of scary, and different enough that I get why someone would want to reinterpret it. And the best part, in my opinion, is how the music from the original (particularly “Bare Necessities” and “I Wan’na Be Like You”) was incorporated into this new version. It’s very organic, and says something very definitive about the characters doing the singing: Bill Murray is very laconic and daydream-like in the opening strains of “Bare Necessities,” while Christopher Walken turns King Louie’s “I Wan’na Be Like You” into a psychological nightmare. It’s wonderful.

17. How hard the cast is trying in Suicide Squad
Listen, Suicide Squad was a bad movie, and there’s really no way around that fact. It’s poorly constructed, makes less than no sense, and no one remembered to cut Jared Leto out of the final version. But the one thing you can say about it is that the main cast is trying so hard to make lemons out of lemonade – Margot Robbie and Will Smith in particular are wringing their terrible material for all its worth, which in the end did make for an enjoyable viewing experience. It makes me sad for the version of the movie that could have existed, with writers less concerned about giving Leto any attention or trying to cram 10 pounds of ludicrous story into a 3 pound bag, but I have to appreciate the enthusiasm and effort the main cast put forward and I truly look forward to watching the music video recuts that YouTubers will undoubtedly give us.

16. Pitch
I don’t remember when I saw the first article about Pitch, the new Fox drama about major league baseball’s first woman pitcher, but I’m not ashamed to tell you that I was super punk’d: for about three heart-stopping moments, I thought Ginny Baker was real and I thought a major league sport had actually decided to let a lady play in the big leagues. Alas, this was not the case, but the fledgling drama is so delightful that I’m willing to backburner that for a few more years. I love absolutely everything about Pitch: Kylie Bunbury as the unsure firecracker new pitcher of the San Diego Padres, Ali Larter as her acidic agent, Mark-Paul Gosselaar as the jaded, burned out mentor figure; the unabashed feminism of the show (the pilot is riddled with little girls holding up signs saying “I’m Next!” and I cried so much); the earnestness of the storytelling; the way the producers have gone out of their way to make all the game sequences look like actual sports tv. It wobbles in some places the way a new show will, but I am desperately hoping it finds the audience it needs to keep it on the air. I’m a sucker for inspirational sports movies, and this is the long form version – I cannot get enough.

Part Two of my list will go up in a few days!