2016 is almost over! Much to the relief of many of us. We Moose are rather exhausted with 2016, to be perfectly honest. But! We wanted to share with you some of the high points of our media consuming experience for the year.
And so, we give you The Moosies! Part One is film and television — stay tuned for the print and random categories later this week.
If we had done the Moosies last year The Force Awakens would have been been my film pick for 2015 without even having to think. I hoped Rogue One would rise to the occasion but…alas…it was not meant to be.
I’m going to give a runner-up shout out to Ghostbusters. At best, it is a mediocre film with more than a few problems. However, despite that, it is a film that I still enjoyed, especially upon rewatch, and it’s a film the absolutely needs to exist, and it’s the type of film, populated by wonderful, badass women, that was absolutely a necessity in 2016. Kate McKinnon, out and proud herself, getting an epic sequence of ghostbusting action as the wonderful and queer Jillian Holtzmann is indescribable perfection.
But my top film of the year? That I’m going to have to hand to Zootopia. Nothing quite made me smile, squeal and think quite like it. It’s a kids movie that adults can watch with full enjoyment and engagement and it opens up so many ways to discuss topics such as race, stereotype and politics with children, while also being an effective commentary on all of those things. It’s an impressive achievement all around.
So I still haven’t gotten around to most of my Oscar Derby stuff. That means there a number of “Year’s Best” I haven’t actually seen yet. Overall, it’s strange — I definitely watched a lot of movies this year, but very few have stuck with me in any real way. They’ve all been passing entertainment — sufficient for ephemeral amusement, but nothing more beyond that.
With that being said… I can’t believe I’m actually about to say this, but I’m giving a runner-up Moosie shout-out to the surreal, aggressively metaphorical High Rise. I didn’t particularly like it (you can read mine and Cole’s Impolite Conversation for it as proof), but for better or worse I have to admit it’s one of the only films I can think of that has stayed in my mind (in some way) this year.
The two films that end up sticking out the most for me are, oddly, two of the Disney animated features that came out this year: Zootopia and Moana. I am so not the person who gets highly invested in the Disney animated stuff (the ones I truly love I could probably count on one hand) but I was pleased and charmed by Zootopia’s characters and central moral. It was legitimately delightful.
And then Moana. Ya’ll? Moana has stolen my heart a little. It’s the rare girl protagonist who doesn’t feel patronizing, and feels like everything I never got to see when I was younger. Shows you what you can do when you, gasp, treat women just like any traditional male character. It’s funny; its sweet and emotional without ever feeling saccharine; it brims with catchy songs (with lyrics by Lin Manuel Miranda); and it has an antagonistic glam crab. On top of all that, it’s a movie that disarmed every one of my cynical anticipations about what trope trap it would inevitably fall into. Every time I braced for the impending problem cliche, the movie dodged it. It’s surprisingly smart about numerous little details (in regards to both character and plot) — and that absence of laziness makes all the difference in the world.
I have to give my movie Moosie to Arrival.
The opening montage for Arrival shows the brief life of Hannah Banks — the protagonist’s daughter. She dies as an adolescent of cancer. It’s a cliche that I’m particularly tired of. Establishing character through the death of a child is utterly tragic, and it’s so rarely more than a sidenote. So when I say that, watching this intro, I took a deep breath and said to myself: I trust you Ted Chiang (the author of the short story the movie is based on), if this is part of your story then it will have more meaning than the usual throw away character establishment.
And it did. This isn’t a groundbreaking or extravagant film. It’s smart, solid, thought-provoking. It’s got a point or two and makes them without a whole lot of fanfare. The scientists are the main characters instead of bungling sidekicks to the military. The heart of the problem is how to talk to each other. This is good science fiction. I don’t know what it would be like to rewatch, knowing where it goes, but it was well worth the time I spent with it.
Runner-up is Queen of Katwe, which I would like to watch again before I talk about it too much. It tackled some things I would have thought Disney might eschew. It’s got the classical beats of a heartwarming sports story. But I thought it had a respectful, nuanced approach to the setting which we don’t tend to see when the setting is primarily a slum in Kampala. Great performances all around — especially Madina Nalwanga who plays the protagonist Phiona Mutesi. It’s no small thing to have your first major performance stand up next to Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo.
If I’m being honest, there was only one film this year that both kept me riveted to the screen while I watched, and kept me thinking about it for months afterward. That was Laika’s animated entry for this year: Kubo and the Two Strings. Not only has the studio’s animation never been more beautiful, they have wonderful performances by Charlize Theron and whoever it is that takes over Matthew McConaughey’s body and makes him do great things. The writing is the real standout performance however, as they manage to create a tender, touching story in the middle of a fairytale adventure. This is something that animation certainly always tries to do, but rarely do you see it with this kind of care. So for telling a Peter S. Beagle style hauntingly beautiful story, I’m awarding my Moosie to Kubo.
I won’t call it a runner up but I’m going to give an honorable mention to Deadpool. I certainly don’t fall in with the fanatics who believe it to be the greatest superhero movie ever made, 1 but I believe that Deadpool made an X-Men universe movie fun, and that’s something that hasn’t happened in a long time. Not to mention I love their giant Russian kind of doofy Colossus, which is the most accurate X-Men adaptation ever in and of itself.
So I haven’t gotten to all the TV I would like to this year, and some of my favorite things I’ve watched are coming from last year (Fargo). So… here’s a list of honorable mentions. Season Two of Daredevil gave us the Punisher and more Wilson Fisk. I enjoyed The Crown. And so far the addition of Ghost Rider to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Four is surprisingly entertaining.
I am, however, going to go with Game of Thrones Season 6 for my Moosie. After how much I disliked Season Five, their recovery is resounding. I’ve still got my share of doubts and complaints — but I’m not nearly as rageful as I was. We had characters actually reuniting and accomplishing goals, and a few meaningful deaths (sprinkled in amongst the many meaningless ones). There be dragons. But they get my Moosie because they finally killed Ramsay Bolton! Drinks all around!
Everyone knows that I think we need more Stranger Things, and I am thrilled that we’re getting some next year. So since you can read a much longer analysis of why I think Stranger Things is my favorite TV show of the year, I’ll spend this time to talk about the things that stick in my head because of it. Millie Bobby Brown’s wonderful performance as 11, and her willingness to shave her head only after seeing how badass Charlize Theron looked with the same. Chief Hopper, the surprisingly competent cop who doesn’t give a shit about anything anymore, exactly the chief you want in a tv show and not in real life. Every time I walk into work early I now grumble, “Mornings are for coffee and contemplation.” Not to mention my Pandora that has been continually tuned to The Upside Down radio, featuring its wonderful synth soundtrack.
I’m not going to lie (and it will come as not big surprise because it’s the case for so many people) but 2016 has been a rough year. I actually did not watch a great deal of new TV. Again and again I found myself defaulting to old and comforting favorites like Archer, Absolutely Fabulous or Will & Grace. I also watched A LOT of Star Trek.
One of the few new things I did watch was the second season of Agent Carter. Personally, I found it to be a weaker season than the first but it still tops so many other television shows for me this year and remains one of my alltime favorites. Peggy Carter is another character 2016 needed with her determination, refusal to submit to an unfair and rigged system, the patriarchy or any other bullshit. She’s the type of character the TV landscape needs in abundance and I truly wish we still had her as played by the talented Hayley Atwell going into 2017.
I’m also going to do a quick shout out to The Get Down, which spoke to me and moved me in ways I never would have expected.
I had a similar issue with TV this year that I did with film. I know I watched a significant number of shows (especially amongst all the Netflix binge drops), but very few of these did I latch onto. Even many of the new, popular heavy hitters (i.e. Westworld, Stranger Things) left me cold. (Why oh why did Fargo season 2 have to technically be last year???)
I can say that both Brooklyn 99 (in season 4) and black-ish (in season 3) continued to be reliable, enjoyable weekly comedies; and Hulu’s Difficult People hit a phenomenal, consistent stride in its second season this year (following what I feel was an uneven first season).
I also very much enjoyed the first season of Issa Rae’s HBO half-hour Insecure. If I were selecting a single runner-up that debuted this year, that would definitely be it. It’s charming, funny, bittersweet, and grounded. It has flawed characters written with understanding/empathy, and it puts a black female friendship at its core.
But if I had to pick one show, I am easily going to pick the Netflix show that got so very little critical or popular attention: Baz Luhrmann’s 70s-set hip-hop gem The Get Down. Yes, I did just type “Baz Luhrmann” and “hip hop” in the same sentence. It oddly works! It bubbles with diverse energies, and unapologetically splashes so much style and feeling in your face. It does not so much chase the exact technical history of DJs (and disco too) in the 1977 Bronx as it does capture the spirit of it. The struggles and joys. The life of it. It boasts a vibrant cast of characters I genuinely fell head over heels for (DIZZEE!!!). It’s a show that portrays a trio of young women friends who talk hopes/dreams/ambitions (i.e. things beyond just boys), and who sing/dance together and exhibit actual joy in things. It’s a show that is highly entertaining — there are songs! and half the stuff Jimmy Smits’ Francisco Cruz says is fantastic! — but can turn around and be quite emotional and poignant (Zeke’s poem gets me every damn time!) It’s a show that is imperfect, maybe even chaotic — but there is, undeniably, something beautiful in its chaos.