Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 End Of Year Media Power Rankings

2015. What a year. What a year for media. Lots of great shit came out this year. Some I decided to take in. Most I didn’t. Who the fuck has the time to take in everything they put out every year. Who the fuck wants to. Most stuff sucks. And of the stuff that doesn’t suck it’s still probably not worth taking in. There’s already so much good shit out there. That’s what I spend most of the time doing. I’m sure some of the media that came out this year, I’ll end up taking in at some point. Maybe it will even be on next year’s power ranking. I wish them all the best of luck. 
Movies:
5. The Professional
This isn’t the first time I’d seen this one. I watched it for the first time at my friend Greg’s house when I was a kid. We watched it there because he was allowed to watch cool movies and I was not. I noticed it was on Netflix, and couldn’t wait to revisit my old friends Leon and Mathilda. I’ve watched it twice this year. The first time I was little put off by Gary Oldman going full whatever the fuck you call that, but the second time through I was eating it up. 
4. Wild
I have to admit, I wasn’t even eager to see this one. Almost don’t want to describe the movie, because the premise sounds irritating. Lady having a rough go of it decides to “find” herself on the Pacific Crest Trail. Sounds like garbage right? Wrong. Shit load of credit to Reese Witherspoon for really selling someone going through some shit, and showing us this person warts and all. 
3. Best of Enemies
Even as a big dumb liberal I’ve always has a soft spot in my heart for William F. Buckley. Conversely I’ve always thought Gore Vidal was kind of a douche. I was aware of their debates, and the one in particular where Buckley calls Vidal a slur and threatens to punch him in the face. Seeing the build up to the debates, what brought them to be, how each man treated them, and how they brought about today’s media landscape was fascinating.
2. Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country
Definitely my favorite TOS movie. One of my favorite Star Trek movies. Probably has something to do with the fact that this was the first one I saw in the theaters when I was a kid. I’m generally not a huge fan of the TOS crew. They’re fine, but TNG or DS9 are usually my drug of choice, but this has everything I love about Star Trek. It’s funny, silly, heavy handed, and exciting. If you’ve never seen a Trek movie I think this is the perfect one to start with.
1. Serenity

I don’t know where people put this on the list of greatest sci-fi of all time, but it deserves to be in the discussion. I don’t know how someone who has never watched Firefly would feel about this movie, but I can’t think of a movie I enjoyed watching more all year.
Honorable Mentions
Trainwreck and The Night Before. (Sorry. You were both good, but not good enough).
Dishonorable Mentions
Jurassic World and Mockingjay Part 2. 
Books
5. Back in the World - Tobias Wolff 
This is a collection of short stories. I love Tobias Wolff. He has a memoir, a novel, a book of essays, and a few books of short stories. They’re all worth reading. His characters always seem to feel like people you know that you’re getting to peak in on for a small window of time. More often than not you’re getting to see these characters as they realize they’re not exactly who they thought they were. 
4. Oryx and Crake / Year of the Flood - Margaret Atwood
These two are a part of a trilogy, so I guess I should’ve read the last one before I judge the all of it, but I’ve only gotten this far yet. Atwood imagines a plague that destroys just about every person on Earth. The first book has you with one of the last people left. If was pretty good, but I really started to feel engaged when Atwood was fleshing out the world just before the flood in the second novel. I look forward to reading the conclusion in MaddAddam next year. 
3. Watership Down - Richard Adams
I wasn’t sold on the concept of a book about a bunch of bunnies doing bunny shit, but that’s because I was a fool. It’s sweet, but it’s never talking down to you. They’re rabbits with distinct personalities, but avoids anthropomorphizing them in a silly Disney way. They’re bunnies doing bunny shit. It’s sweet and funny I suggest you read it. 
2. In The Garden Of Beasts - Erik Larson
Erik Larson found his way to the power ranking last year for Devil in the White City about the Chicago World’s Fair and one of the most prolific serial killers ever. This year I read his story about America’s unlikely ambassador to Germany between the time of the Nazi’s rise to power and before World War 2. It’s written using personal letters and journals written mostly at the time. So the reader knows just how bad it’s gonna get while the characters keep on hoping for the best. 
1. The Plot Against America - Phillip Roth

This is the first thing I’d ever read by Roth, and I picked a doozy to start with. It’s an alternate history of America in which a rich man with fascist tendencies wins the presidency before America enters WW2. It follows a Jewish family in New Jersey as they try to adjust to the new reality of their country. It’s terrifying in just how mundane fascism can seem until it’s too late. 
Honorable Mention
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance 
Dishonorable Mention
Infinite Jest. Hey Wallace, go fuck yourself you dead pretentious piece of shit!
Music Division
5. Bars Of Gold - Wheels
Now here’s a band that knows how to woo the entertainment press such as myself, by giving me a free copy of their stuff. This has everything to do with the fact that I’m influential blogger, and nothing to do with the fact that I used to share an apartment with the drummer. Made up of parts of the bands Wildcatting and Bear Vs. Shark, so if you like either of those you should check this one out. Great album, great band, and Brandon Moss was a great roommate.  
4. Beirut - The Flying Club Cup
A recommendation from my friend Brad Hagen. Checked these guys out on one of the music streaming services and fell in love instantly. The band’s sound as described by the frontman is a combination of world and indie music. Sounds fucking awful right? But it’s not. 
3. Adele -25
Big year for Adele. I don’t want to attribute all of her success with being mentioned on this list last year, but she was on it before 25 broke all kinds of records. So Adele, you’re welcome. And thank you for giving us 25. It’s a much different album than I was expecting, but not in a bad way. Had I just been given 21 again I would’ve been happy for a bit, but ultimately would’ve been disappointed. First time through I wasn’t blown away. I liked it fine, but I didn’t realize how much I would grow to love it so quickly. 
2. (Tied) Live/Dead and Reckoning
I’m not usually a fan of live albums, and as much as I love The Dead I’m not crazy about all the jam stuff that’s associated with them. Live Dead and Reckoning are the exceptions. Live/Dead is everything that can go right when jamming. A 23 minute version of an, originally, three minute song probably sounds pretty excessive. Listen to Dark Star and then realize that that’s exactly how long that song needs to be. Reckoning is great because there isn’t a lot of live acoustic Dead stuff out there. Though it’s not quite as iconic as Live/Dead it’s great to hear some of the acoustic hits get the live treatment.
1. Grateful Dead - American Beauty 

I went a little Dead nuts this year. I’ve been a fan for a long time, and I kind of go through phases where I won’t listen to a Dead album for months, and then that’s all I’ll listen to for a while. Well I went all in for a while during the summer. American Beauty is not just my favorite Dead album, but up there with Abbey Road in that it’s as close to being a perfect album as there is out there. If you aren’t affected by the song Ripple you’re dead inside and I don’t want anything to do with you.
Honorable Mentions
Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs, Lorde, and two Meghan Trainor songs.
Dishonorable Mentions
Every other song on the Meghan Trainor album, and every song by Justin Bieber I that someone told be about by saying “no, it’s really good! I swear he’s matured as an artist.” No he hasn’t. He just added some dumb flutes or recorders or something. 
TV Division
5. Mad Men
Just started watching this show this year. I don’t know why I resisted for so long, but the whole idea just never seemed like something I’d get into. Turns out that a show that’s been on for years and has won multiple awards isn’t too shabby. Haven’t watched the part two of the last season yet, so I really like Don and co’s chance of making this list next year. Hopefully if they make this list two years running they won't have to be so mad. 
4. Daredevil / Jessica Jones
It’s probably not fair to rate these as one. So let’s just call it a tie. I liked them both a lot. Both received a shitload of acclaim as well as a bunch of people bitching about how heavy handed and cheese they could get. Yeah. They’re shows about folks with superpowers cleaning up the streets. It’s gonna get silly sometimes. They did some great stuff too. Daredevil had some of the best fight scenes I’d seen in a long time. I’m glad the era of the shaky cam is going away in favor a week choreographed fun to watch fight. Jessica Jones is real well written with characters that you almost immediately care about. That’s rare. Especially when I watch a lot of TV when doing other things. Ignore all the think pieces that tell you how “important” it is. It’s not empowering. It’s good. Or maybe it’s empowering, who gives a shit. I don’t know. I do know it’s really fun to watch. 
3. American Dad
Don’t know why I decided to watch this one. I think I remembered a real funny Christmas episode, and I wanted to rewatch it. After the injury I really got a chance to get some work done on my Netflix queue. A lot of people just automatically shit on it because it’s a Seth MacFarlane joint. And if you’ve seen Family Guy or the other one, you probably don’t think it’s worth giving a shot. But it is, and if you refuse to give a good show a try, then go fuck yourself. More for me. 
2.Black Mirror 
If you’ve heard about this show, it’s the fact that this is the show where the dude fucks a pig. Yes. He does. It’s pretty nuts. But aside from the pig fucking this might be one of the best crafted shows of all time. Each one shows you what a nightmare technology has become or can be. It’s smart and terrifying.
1. Game of Thrones 
(Even though this didn’t happen, it still gives me goosebumps)
This season didn’t start out as being my favorite, but good gravy they really grabbed me by the balls towards the end of it. I’d say this is the best show on this list, and I can’t get enough of it. I sometimes wonder if one of the reasons I like it so much is that I’m forced to wait a week to watch each new installment instead of shoving them all in my head at once like a goddamn monster. I’m watching them like the creators intended and also I get to process each installment before starting the next one. It’s certainly the only show on this list where I get angry that I’ve finished it, and have to wait until next season. 
Honorable Mentions
Scrubs, Fraser, The Sopranos, & The Wire
Dishonorable Mention
Making a Murderer. (Just kidding haven’t watched it yet.)
Well. That’s it. The media I enjoyed the most this past year. Anything I should have taken in but didn’t? Let me know. I’ll probably ignore it so I can Deep Space Nine again. Happy 2016 everyone. 

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