Hey there! It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these and since I’ve updated this blog, and so I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. Also, 2016 was a rough year for a lot of people (at times I will include myself in that group), and so I figure that it’s important we take a look at the best things that happened this year rather than dwelling on the worst. The future is uncertain, so let’s celebrate what we have!
Personally, I’m doing well. I kept a personal log of my successes all year long, and I’ve documented lots of little moments to dwell on — good dates, fun concerts, nights where I expected nothing good to happen and everything did. My favorite moment of this year was probably buying my motorcycle (a ‘97 Honda Magna VF750 with a salvage title). I didn’t expect to buy one at the beginning of the year, but I did expect to try new things and open up my world, and buying the bike has definitely done that. I wouldn’t say that I’m now a motorcycle guy, but I’m happy I opened that door.
Other great moments: I had a successful year career wise — EEDAR got acquired, which I didn’t directly see all the benefits of (unfortunately), but the transition has gone well and I feel good about what I’m working on every day. I founded and taught an improv class, which is something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. I hosted trivia every week this year (sometimes twice a week) for a company called Geeks who Drink. I traveled to Yuma, Chicago, San Francisco, Tecate (Mexico), New Orleans, Napa Valley, and a few other incident places. I started and ended relationships, for good and bad. I beat a ton of games, I hosted focus groups, I did improv shows, I had some amazing burritos. I wrote a lot of things you’ll never see, and I spent a lot of time figuring out who I am and what I want to do next. Still not figured, but I guess it never really is.
Short of sharing a lot of personal details, the best moments I had this year were moments when I stepped up and took action. My favorite moments were when, despite not having all of the information or not knowing the best thing to do, I made a move. I chose something. I acted. I have specific resolutions and goals for 2017, but the biggest one is this: I want to take action more. I want to do in 2017, rather than worry or wonder.
Noble goals, but then again they always are on January 1st. Here’s the movies, games, and music that I liked the best this year, in no particular order.
Suicide Squad – A lot of people did not like this movie, and sure, there are some issues with writing, and in all of the reshoots and rewrites, there’s a lot lost. But what I do like about this movie is that it faithfully recreates a lot of the comic book characters I knew, and it doesn’t really worry at all about the origins of those characters. People will disagree with me on this for a long time, I’m sure, but there’s a joy here, an over the top spectacle of insanity, and for whatever reason (I may have been a little under the influence when I first saw this in the theater), it vibed with me. I can’t say it’s a towering achievement of cinema, but like Deadpool (a movie that people liked a lot more than this one), it’s superheroes without the heroes. Also, I’m a sucker for fun soundtrack moments, and Suicide Squad, by executive design, had about 20 million of them.
10 Cloverfield Lane – Here’s another genre movie that doesn’t really care all that much about the genre that it’s in. The last reveal wasn’t the real fireworks for me on this one — the real reason to watch is John Goodman. He’s a master, of course, and in this movie he’s able to take what’s not really a question and add a ton of questions to it. He makes you second guess him at every turn, almost as if he’s daring you to keep up with what his character’s motivations really are. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is great as well (can’t wait to watch her in the new season of Fargo), but John Goodman was so enjoyable in this movie.
The Lobster – I have been thinking a lot this year about how much I want to be in a relationship versus how much society has asked me to be in a relationship. How much do I want to find true love? Is it really the most fun, or healthy, or productive thing I could do with my time? Is there really a magical connection between family and friends or are we just feeling that because we’re told that we need to? I have the Internet, which means I have access to all of the movies and games and music and media experiences that I’d ever want, in full 4K and surround sound with force feedback and in a VR headset, so what, really, does real life have to offer? That’s what I’ve thought about for most of the second half of this year… and then, on Christmas Eve, alone in my apartment on my new 4K tv, I watched The Lobster.
Weiner – I liked Making a Murderer and Amanda Knox a lot this year as well, and I include them in this crop of movies about people who aren’t necessarily evil, but have definitely put themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wouldn’t say that I’m into reality TV or reality documentary style necessarily, but Weiner specifically is such a product of our culture of 24 hour newscasting and camera in all of the phones (and other devices) in our lives. Anthony Weiner is not a hero — he’s a liar, basically. He would say he’s a liar who still cares about New York and its citizens, but is it ok to live with someone (or at least vote for someone) who’s ok with that? I’m amazed that this movie exists — I know that if these cameras were around me in this situation, I would have asked them to leave, and I have to imagine that nearly everyone else in the world would do the same. Weiner, however, let them stay for God knows what reason, and so we have this incredible look at a man as trapped in his tangled web as anyone can possibly be. This is a must-watch, for 2016 and for the future.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – I laughed a lot at this one. I especially enjoyed this TMZ bit. Pop stars and entertainment are a broad target for satire, but Lonely Island takes so much joy in going after the whole culture that I was happy to get on board.
Inside – If I was still working on a website and I had to choose the game of the year, Inside would be it. There’s no other game this year that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone with no reservations. It’s relatively short, it’s an extension of Limbo, it’s completely wordless, and it’s just wonderful (as in, will fill you with wonder) throughout. I read this year that the team created the final sequence first, which makes sense. If that doesn’t make sense to you, just go play this game. It’s well worth the $20 price (even better if it’s on sale), and it’ll be the weirdest, wildest, most inventive thing you’ve seen lately.
Pokemon Sun – Because I’m not working on a website and I don’t have to worry about anyone judging my taste, this is my real Game of the Year. I was not a Pokemon fan as a kid — I could barely afford a Game Boy, and for some reason I never played the original games. The first Pokemon I played was Diamond, and then I only played it for a few hours — I was overwhelmed by choice and didn’t understand when you were supposed to level or evolve the creatures. Last year, I picked up Pokemon X, and I loved that one — it was clearly a formula, but it was so well refined. The secret ingredient was fun — the answer to whether or not you had to evolve the Pokemon was if you wanted to or not. Did I want to nickname them? Sure, why not! After I finished X, I started getting involved in online battling, and it’s about that time that the culture caught up to me, and Pokemon Go was a megahit. I was sold — Bulbasaur was now my son, and I caught the first part of the ‘dex in X, and wandered around for miles picking up the creatures in Go. Into this world Pokemon Sun arrived, and it was everything I wanted it to be: Some great quality of life improvements, an excellent island paradise theme, and a whole new crew of Pokemon to find and online features to explore. I have a feeling this is not over — I beat Sun’s campaign but I’m still catching, and I think we’ll see some big improvements and additions to the game next year, if not a whole new title on the way.
Titanfall 2 – This is the most underrated title of 2016, if you ask me, and that’s in a year that included Battleborn. The campaign is excellent (though its most original moves are actually borrowed from other titles) and on my 4K TV, it’s hard to believe how great this game looks with everything that’s going on in it. Part of my 2017 plan is to do something one hour a day every day each month, and in January, I’ve decided to play a multiplayer game every day for the whole month. It’s going to be Titanfall 2.
Far Cry Primal – I’ve been spacing out my Ubisoft games — I still haven’t played Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, or Watch Dogs 2, and I do plan to play all of those through at some point. Far Cry Primal happened to pop up in a sale, I grabbed it, and I was more impressed with it than I expected it to be. The marquee feature here is that it’s a first-person shooter without guns, and the game is worth playing for that fact alone. The team has created a first-person experience where you never fire a single shot, and they’ve used those mechanics in new ways to create a surprisingly balanced and interesting title. The other big achievement here, however, can probably be found in Watch Dogs 2 as well: Ubisoft has open world games down. They’ve called their titles “anecdote engines” and they’ve been that for me. They do a terrific job of making sure you have short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals all clearly laid out, so that at any given moment you know you need to go grab a crafting node, or maybe also go for that procedural mission near you, or maybe take out that nearby outpost, or go for the story missions to move the campaign forward. Rockstar innovated this type of game with Red Dead Redemption (and you bet I can’t wait for that sequel) and of course GTA, but Ubisoft has polished it to the point that open world is almost their biggest franchise in and of itself.
World of Warcraft: Legion – I started the year not subscribed to WoW. I ended the year subscribed to WoW. Legion is the reason for that. The best thing about the expansion isn’t the content: It’s the way the classes move and feel in combat. WoW’s abilities have always felt kind of removed from the characters, but with the update, each button press feels more immediate, more powerful. My favorite thing they’ve done is use the character’s own voices in combat — now, when my gnome warrior rushes in and releases a battle shout, you actually hear his little voice yelling it out. The artifact weapons are a great move as well, and the choice to make the zone leveling dynamic is a technical feat that’s extremely impressive. But I loved Legion for making my characters feel new again, with each slash, shield bash, or spoken spell.
As usual, music is a pretty rough category for me. I don’t vibe with a lot of what the critics like (Kanye’s album did very little for me, and Chance the Rapper’s album is good but I wasn’t too into it). Still, here’s a few albums I liked this year.
The Hamilton Mixtape – Well duh. Hamilton came out last year, I think, but this was definitely the year I got into it. I had heard great things about it for a while, and one day at the gym I put it on while running on the treadmill… and didn’t get off until it was over. Such a great work of art, and the mixtape isn’t bad as well. It’s probably a cliche that I, a mid-30s white male tech hipster who listens to comedy podcasts and voted for Hillary, can’t get enough of Hamilton, but it’s so good!
Saint Motel, saintmotelevision – When I think back off the top of my head to albums I enjoyed this year, this one comes up first. I love the first song, LA2NY, and the last song so much. The whole album has a bit of a dark edge, I think, but the music sounds so fun anyway. I like the idea of enjoying yourself while the world falls apart. 2016.
Meg Myers, Sorry – This came out in 2015, but I discovered it in 2016. Speaking of depressing music that’s still fun, Meg Myers (and her producer Doctor Rosen Rosen, who I once appeared on a podcast with) seems to be having such a good time creating this album all about pain, loneliness, and our darker sides. The first song on this album is one that got me through some of the darker times in 2016, I’ll admit. “Desire” is a great and terrible song, like NIN’s “Closer” as seen from the other perspective.
Jon Bellion, The Human Condition – I don’t really know anything about Jon Bellion — I’ve never been fascinated enough with the guy to ever even read his Wikipedia page. Spotify played something from his first album for me once, though, and I liked it enough that Spotify now tells me it had my highest listens in 2016. Bellion’s latest album is great, too. I know nothing about the music, and there aren’t a lot of larger meanings behind it as far as I can tell, but it sure sounds good to me.
Borns, Dopamine – This also came out in 2015 but I listened to it a whole lot in 2016. I listened to the “Electric Love” single first (probably overplayed a bit by now), and honestly, I thought Borns was a lady — sorry about that, Garrett. His website says he’s a sea creature. He’s definitely a dude, though, and he knows how to layer down keyboards, drums, and vocals in a really enjoyable way.
That’s it! I didn’t read a ton of books, but I enjoyed The Fireman, The Girl with All the Gifts, and Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series. In television, 2016 was the year I finally got into Game of Thrones — I read the books years ago but have held off on the TV series until now. It’s great, of course. I also liked Westworld, Stranger Things, Bajillion Dollar Properties, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and The Night Manager. Still have to finish Atlanta, Luke Cage, Mr. Robot, and Halt and Catch Fire, which I expect to top all of those others. There’s a lot of good TV lately! Good thing I have that 4K.
I have no idea who’s reading this website these days, if anyone (I would promise to post more in the future, but if you’ve read blogs at all, you know that’s always a hollow promise, unfortunately). At any rate, whoever you are, thanks for reading. Hope your 2016 was good when it was good, not so bad when it was a mess, and hope the next year is always better than the last. Good luck to you and yours in the future.Discuss this post over at The Board.
Posted on Sunday, January 1st, 2017 at 2:56 pm. Filed under discussion.