Top 20 of 2016, Part Three

We’ve reached Top Ten territory, y’all. Read Part One here and Part Two here.

10. The depiction of magic in Doctor Strange
I would like to say that I loved Doctor Strange without diminishing all of its issues; the fact that I enjoyed Tilda Swinton in her role does not absolve the movie of its whitewashing, nor her of her behavior in this past week. The fact that this was the first role I sincerely enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch in does not forgive Marvel the lost opportunity to splash some color into its main lineup. But enjoy it I did, and thoroughly, and most especially the way they bring magic to the screen for the first time in the MCU.

Magic is its own thing, and it is treated as such – I don’t believe you’ll find the particular effect, almost a glowing band of fire drawn in specific shapes in the air, anywhere else onscreen in this world. It is distinctly different from Scarlet Witch’s manipulation, and distinctly different from what Vision and the Infinity stones project; it has a different source, different intentions, and it made me want to learn tai chi immediately. For Doctor Strange to be the foray into Marvel’s magical world, the effect had to make an impact; it succeeded, and then some.

9. The funeral and wedding sequences in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
My sister and I grew up on Gilmore Girls, so to say that we were a little bit emotional about the revival is a WEE BIT of an understatement. In regards to the revival of tv shows that have been laid to rest years ago, I feel very torn – on the one hand, it should be nice to get more of something that was enjoyable. On the other hand, I don’t think they ever truly live up to our expectations, and maybe we as a culture need to be able to say “This has reached its ending and it’s over now.”

Gilmore Girls has been tumultuous in this respect, egged on mainly by its creator and original showrunner, Amy Sherman-Palladino. Whatever the actual circumstances of the Palladinos departing the show after the sixth season, and however one feels about the quality of the seventh season (I myself didn’t actually notice a change when I watched it originally, and only as an adult, after being told, even knew the show had changed hands – I don’t feel there was a drastic dip in quality between seasons six and seven, and feel very strongly that the seeds of the things people dislike about seven were sown in six), ASP mythologized her “real ending” by waxing rhapsodic about what she would have done, given her druthers. Which she did for, like, twelve years.

ALL THAT IS TO SAY, could the revival ever have lived up to our myriad expectations? I don’t think so. Particularly the apocryphal “Final Four Words.” Better writers than me have discussed at length the strengths and weaknesses of the revival episodes, so I will leave you with only this: Richard’s funeral was stark, emotional, and raw in a way I had not expected, and Lorelai and Luke’s wedding was a lavish dream sequence that I adored. We can quibble over the stuff in between, but those two sequences were perfection.

8. Will Patton reading Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys books, specifically The Raven King, which is the one that was published this year
I am a new convert to the world of audiobooks. I’ve tried a handful in the past and mostly felt impatient that the narrators read slower than I would have if I’d been reading to myself (which: duh). Once I started commuting 2-2.5 hours every day, however, they became pretty integral to my sanity, and I’ve been devouring them along with a huge number of podcasts. The Raven Boys was one of the first series I sprinted through on audio, and they are everything I want in a YA fantasy series: lovely writing, the right amount of magical realism, characters that are weird and prickly and sassy and funny and emotionally broken. Will Patton’s sleepy, dreamy southern drawl is the perfect narrator for this story, and I cannot recommend these books highly enough.

7. Misty Knight and Claire Temple in Luke Cage
As a whole, I was not as unabashedly devoted to Luke Cage as I was to Daredevil; of the Netflix Marvel shows, I think it is technically the best and also the one I connected to the least. The visuals are wonderful and the music is unreal; the actors are great (Alfre Woodard in particular is a special kind of sublime) and the show does some really interesting things with place and tone. I don’t find Luke that compelling as a main character, even while I enjoyed watching him solve the conflicts of the show. (Slight spoilers, but I was also deeply disappointed that we lost Cottonmouth as the main villain about halfway through, as the revealed big bad was nowhere near as interesting.)

However. However. MISTY KNIGHT, Y’ALL. And CLAIRE TEMPLE, the best cross-element to the Netflix Marvel universe. These two women could take down the whole damn world if they wanted to, and I would have a VERY STRONG DESIRE to see a procedural starring Misty where she fights crime and gets stitched up by her smart-ass roommate, Claire. Simone Missick and Rosario Dawson consistently upstage the superheroes they share screen time with, and they do it without superhuman abilities. They’re simply the best.

6. Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of T’Challa
The Captain America films are consistently the best that Marvel makes and I will hear no disagreements – Winter Soldier continues to be the best and most relevant film of the entire MCU. Civil War was not as strong, perhaps because we’ve seen the fracturing of this team already so that doesn’t punch as hard as it might, but it’s still a feat of storytelling and character development, handling an expansive cast with aplomb while also ensuring that new players get just the right amount of attention and material. I was pleased to see a Peter Parker who, I feel, is bringing something new to the table, and impressed that one did not have to have seen Ant-Man to be instantly smitten by Paul Rudd (I mean, I did see it, but I don’t think you had to).

The brightest star of our expanding cast is without a doubt Chadwick Boseman, whose T’Challa gives you everything you need to know within three seconds of meeting him. The things he does with his face at the summit scene, and when **SPOILER** his father dies, are unreal: you can see him becoming the king of Wakanda in front of your very eyes. His arc in the film is complete, and satisfying. He’s magnetic and I cannot wait for his solo film, I think it will be spectacular.

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