Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Top 10

The end of the year brings the list of the 10 best or worst of ....fill-in-the-blank... that the writer, reviewer has seen/read/heard/assessed for the past year.

Sure, I have read books, watched, TV, seen movies, gone to theater, eaten stuff and have a ton of opinions so writing a Top 10 list would be easy if I just condensed it into one size fits all of random thoughts and opinions on what I have seen/read/thought/did this year.  So of course here are my top 10 or so (I have no draft of this I am totally free balling, free basing, whatever) of the things I liked and didn't this year.

Of Movies I loved, Room and Carol for they are stories about women and the way women are seen in the eyes of others and how they find themselves despite it.   That said the Diary of a Teenage Girl was kiddie porn utterly offensive and I felt sick watching it, despite the acting which is why this film made many top 10 lists as they made utterly repellent self involved narcissists interesting.    The other worst film of the year was Beasts of No Nation.  There was a story there but I think it went with the second season of True Detective, despite the pedigree of both (irony was the director of Beasts was the director of TD Season one.. he should have stayed with that and dumped the other).

Spotlight, I have no words but utter amazement at the story telling about story tellers. Journalists have an ability if not obligation to tell a story and to do so to both inform, educate and inflame and all of that has the ability to bring change.  And from that comes change both good and bad.   This movie does all of that, it tells a story about the most horrific aspect of what a community can do when it protects itself and its benefactor and that is Boston and its relationship with the Catholic church. We condemn varying factions of Islam for its abuse but again in America are we in any position to criticize?  We just do it differently.   If you come out of this movie not feeling rage, anger or shame you need to ask yourself why. 

I have not yet seen Big Short will be my favorite as the financial crisis is a crisis that is another aspect of our damaged institutions and culture.   But as a reader I prefer non fiction so it is more of a "read the book, saw the movie, liked/hated it" and Michael Lewis wrote a great book so how bad could it be with a cast of attractive white men?  Hmm.. angry white men, can we ever get away from them?

 I also loved Truth as well, Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford can do no wrong. I also loved Jobs as frankly anything Michael Fassbender is in is automatically great, the same with the two Matts - Damon and McConaughey - that said Martian was everything Interstellar wasn't.   As for the movie Truth and Jobs, they were flawed as we know the endings but in reality we don't know these people at all. Dan Rather is a complex man who has a long history in journalism and the lack of ego and pretense was utterly missing, I cannot believe he has none.

 As for the movie, Jobs,  that was all ego. And that we know but his dead corpse supporters were in high dudgeon when the film was released (which reminded me of the dead Reagan supporters).   And Sorkin admitted that none of that film came from any documented fact, which included Wozinak who admitted it was made up and yet collected consulting fees, but they both claim the story was to illuminate Jobs relationship with his daughter, whom I believe has said little to deny or confirm any of it. So take it for what it is worth just interesting acting and storytelling, however,  the documentary about Jobs that aired on CNN was superior in every sense of the word.

Which brings me to documentaries.  Wow just wow a wealth of them this year starting with the Jinx. Then we have the Jobs one, Going Clear on Scientology, The Hunting Ground, Making of a Murderer on Netflix are all amazing ways of telling a story and trying to put a new spin on what is reality for those who lived it.  Documentaries are no different that fiction telling as we have seen in dozens of movies, they have an angle and a purpose but they have some freedom in the how the narrative is told.  So listening to Serial, and the podcast about Adnan Syed or Bowie Bergdahl is how the host, the director or filmmaker wished to present the story and that has to be considered as in any case.  But I do think that it ultimately leaves that decision to you.    And yes even the Jinx as Robert Dursts quote "what do they want me to say, I killed them all" could be perceived as a rambling incoherent comment and not a declaration.  I again will leave that to you.

 There are no bests in theater or concerts as they are all great or I would not have gone.  I am lucky to have seen some great shows on Broadway and even here with a local production or two that were enough to make me think a little bit more. And the same for live music, would you go if you did not love them? 

The books I have read have been fewer than I would like but I read Missoula, Katrina, Unfair, Dead Wake,  Leah Remini's book on Scientology, and dozens of books that I checked out from my local library, the greatest resource ever, always a top 10 on any list.  I wish I had read more and I have a shelf full of books unfinished or never started and I think it is my television obsession that keeps me from reading more frankly.

And my television obsession.  I used to love Bravo but it so obnoxious now that I watch the housewives franchise to see who is currently in or out of jail and to know what they are talking about on the only talk show that matters - Watch What Happens Live. 

Which brings me to all the talk shows that have changed.  I enjoy Larry Wilmore who took over for Steven Colbert but it is not a must but I had long abandoned both the Daily Show and Colbert, I find humor reading the real newspaper, who knew!!  The same for Letterman, whom I used to love but like Cosby I bailed during the sex scandal (at least he is not a serial rapist) so  Steven Colbert talking the Letterman was something I thought I might enjoy.  I do not it is a debacle.  The same with the Daily Show, Craig Ferguson, Late Night and well any other show on the TV that turned hands.  The truly make me go, really is this the best they could find.  Although,  I actually have been coming around to Seth Myers on Late Night. But how many men do we need to change a lightbulb?  The same amount apparently that host late night shows.

The exception is John Oliver.  His HBO series is beyond outstanding. He can be one angry white man but in a way that resonates.  And his rants are on YouTube so no you don't need HBO to see them.  And see them you must.

But back to Colbert, there was much concern that the real Steven Colbert would not be as interesting or amusing or provocative.  He isn't.  In fact I don't think Steven Colbert knows who Steven Colbert is. And the talented band John Batiste is just well out of place and almost minstrel-esque as he seems to be grinning and smiling to the white owner out of obligation.  No edge, no real opportunity to show musical chops as Questlove does with the Roots on Jimmy Fallon, so this band is just a waste of both talent and space.  

Which brings me to Fallon. I watch the comedy and the music the rest I press fast forward.  Don't care and even some of the comedy bits with his buddies is annoying but there is a positive which again is there any on Colbert?

Netflix and Amazon TV.. well I really don't need more TV but thankfully I have and I have watched many on both, some good to great and some not.  I never thought I would enroll in Amazon Prime but alas that and subscribe to the Washington Post ensures me that I have become Jeff Bezo's bitch.

Which brings me to the Post and the New York Times. They have never been perfect and never will as the perfect paper like said person is non existent. Not even that adorable Pope who should be on every top 10 list.    The series on criminal justice in the Post and the ones on wealthy and their tax dodges and obfuscation are always illuminating, enlightening and goddamn frustrating.  If there is one thing I have learned is that anger is a top 10 quality we share in America, which explains Trump on one side and Bernie Sanders on the other.

I expect more of the same in 2016 and I hope this year is my year out of here. Not in any final sense but out of Seattle, out of its horrific public school system, the end of my never ending saga in the justice system - both criminal and civil - and the end to some of my own anger.

I don't know if there are 10 things on that list I just wrote, or even if it matters. Today is the end to mark a new beginning. And then we move onward, forward and upward or downward (depending on your economic status) but we all just keep on trucking. And that is not a bad thing as long as you don't cross the lines into oncoming traffic.

So the best and worst of the year is yours to make. 

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