It’s the end of the year, which means it’s time for end of year lists. I like year-end lists. I like reading them and I like writing them. I tend to be a little closed off when it comes to the media I take in. I rewatch a lot of the same stuff that I have for years. I'm pretty closed off on the music that I take in. There are so many good books out there already and so much more that comes out every year. So I don’t like to do lists of stuff that came out within the year, but just of what media that I took in and enjoyed the most. Doesn’t matter when it came out or when I first heard it, it’s just a matter of whether or not I took it in this year and enjoyed it. So here we go, my 2017 year-end media power rankings!
5. Logan - I didn’t really like any of the X-Men movies. Even the ones that I liked the most I thought were just okay. X2 isn't’ bad, but it just seemed so lazy and bland and trying to appeal to everyone and left me bored. They all just felt really empty to me. Say what you will about Logan, but this is not a movie that’s trying to appeal to everyone. It’s violent and profane, almost to a silly degree. But it was still really damn good.
4. Rogue One - I’m not a huge Star Wars guy, but I like the movies fine. I think this is one of the finest Star Wars out there. I’m also glad that the “this is a rebellion” line didn’t make the final cut. Because fuck that.
3. Wrath of Khan - I got to see Wrath of Khan in the theater. I wrote about it earlier in the year. I’d of course seen this movie multiple times before and really enjoyed it. But I saw it before I started watching TOS in earnest. Now that I have a relationship with these characters the movie took on a whole new
2. The Big Short - Whoof. If you haven’t seen it, see it. It’s about the housing and banking crisis. I know it isn't the point of the movie, but watching it makes me want to be a banker because who gives a shit. The world is fucked anyhow, might as well cash in and drink champagne like these monsters. However, this movie also makes me want to throw a molotov cocktail through the bedroom window of every banker and watch while they burn up in their beds. It’s pretty good.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - These movies are just so much fun. I’m a little sick of the whole Marvel Universe. They’re all good, but I still just don’t really give a shit about any of them at this point. That goes double for the tv universe. I really liked this one though. It’s hard to keep these movies fun after so many of them. These ones do. The opening credits scene was one of my favorite things I saw this year.
Honorable Mention - Wonder Woman It’s good. I liked a lot of it. DC movies have a very distinctive look and feel for their action climaxes. It’s a look and feel that I really don’t care for. Most of what leads up to it is pretty good though.
Dishonorable Mentions - Batman Vs. Superman Nothing prepared me for just how bad it would be. It’d be almost impressive in how bad it was if it wasn’t so goddamn boring. Also, The Dark Tower I haven’t seen it yet. I was looking forward to this movie for over a year and as soon as I saw the trailer I said “nah.” Maybe I’ll get around to it in 2018, to give my anger at it even more credence.
5. Brandi Carlile: The Firewatcher's Daughter - I’m a big Carlile fan. The Story is one of my favorite songs of all time. This album doesn’t have The Story on it, but it’s really good from start to finish. It's folk without being annoying about it. Her voice is distinctive and she sells every song on this album. Give it a listen if you haven't. Even though it doesn't have my favorite song of hers on it, I think this is my favorite album as a whole. Favorite track: Wherever Is Your Heart
4. Neutral Milk Hotel: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea: This has been one of my favorite albums for years. It continues to be so. I can't count how many times I've listened to this album and I just never get sick of it. Favorite Track: All of them
3. Days N' Daze: Rogue Taxidermy - Fun catchy acoustic punk rock from a bunch of very dirty looking folks from Texas. I just found out these guys exist this year. I’m glad I did. They're so much fun. Favorite track: Misanthropic Drunken Loner
2. Ezra Furman & The Harpoons: Inside the Human Body - Ezra Furman is another person I just started getting into when they came up on my Spotify Discover playlist. The music is just so much fun. I’ve listened to a few of their albums, but I think this is probably my favorite one. So far. Honestly, I like them all so far and have been really enjoying getting into an artist I was unfamiliar with. Most new music I listen to just leaves me so empty and bored. Turns out all the music my friends have been trying to get me to get into just kind of sucked. Get your heads out of your asses, folks and recommend me some better music. Favorite track: We Should Fight
1. Jay-Z: 4:44 - What could I possibly say about this that hasn’t already been said by people who are better at saying shit about music? It’s so personal that I almost feel guilty listening to some of these songs. I feel like I’m listening in on something that was written for someone else and I was never supposed to find it. I'm glad I found it though. Favorite track: Story of OJ
5. Kindred: Octavia Butler - I can’t remember who recommended this book to me, but someone told me to read it and I did. Which is rare, because I will very rarely read a book that someone insists I’m going to love. Usually, they’re wrong. Books are more personal than most other kinds of media. How are you to know that just because you liked that I’m going to? Who the fuck do you think you are? That being said, I read this one and really liked it.
4. Song Of Susannah: Stephen King - I made the mistake of reading all of the Dark Tower books in a row. That was probably a mistake because there’s a lot of them and by the time you’re into book seven you might be a little sick of them. I kind of was. I still enjoyed this one, but not nearly as much as some of the others.
3. Our Story Begins: Tobias Wolff Wolff - is probably my favorite author. I try to read something by him every year. He has a great memoir, a collection of essays about Vietnam, a novel, and a few short story collections. I read Our Story Begins which is a short story collection. It’s like a greatest hits book with a handful of new ones at the end. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read his story Bullet In The Brain, but it gets me every time.
2. The Underground Railroad: Colson Whitehead - Everyone should read this book. It’s brutal and weird and vivid and great. The descriptions of what the main character went through being a female born into slavery are rough. The book gets really fantastical, but the world feels very real. I’m reading Zone One now. Who knows maybe next year this list will be dominated by Colson Whitehead.
1. The Dark Tower: Stephen King - The final book in the Dark Tower Series. I’m not a fast reader and this is an 8 book series so I spent a lot of time in Midworld with Roland and the gang. I was almost nervous to get to the end. Particularly because King has a reputation as a guy who has trouble ending his books. I mean, he kind of has to because he couldn’t end The Gunslinger so then he just kept on writing these. That being said, King pulled out all the stops with this one. It's such a perfect ending for the series.
Dishonorable Mention - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Michael Chabon I want to unfriend every piece of shit who told this would be “right up my alley.”You obviously don’t know me or anything about my alley. You don’t know me at all.
5. Game of Thrones - This season wasn’t nearly as good as some of the other ones, but still pretty damn good.
4. Bojack Horseman - It’s funny that one of the most emotionally raw shows out right now is one filled with silly sight gags that’s about a depressed horse.
3. The Good Place - I did not really expect to like this show. My little sister tried to sell me on it when I was staying with her and I only half watched it and wasn’t really all that into it. My wife and I decided to give it another shot and man this show is something else.
2. Better Call Saul - Who would’ve thought what this show would be? I did not have high hopes for it. I liked Breaking Bad. I like Bob Odenkirk. But who would’ve thought that a spinoff could be this good?
1. Star Trek: Discovery - I wrote a lot about Star Discovery already. It’s just so good. It’s not at all the show I was anticipating and that’s probably a good thing. I already wrote a lot about this show. Why? Because it’s so fucking good. I can’t tell you just how cool I think this show is. It’s 100% not the show I thought I was getting and that’s great. Aside from minor timeline qualms, I think it’s just an amazing show and everyone should be watching it. I can’t speak from the perspective of someone who’s initiated, but it seems like this is the kind of Trek that can appeal to old fans and new fans alike.
Dishonorable mention - Breaking Bad - I loved Breaking Bad when I first saw it. I kept with it from near the beginning to the end and it was a hell of a ride. I rewatched it and felt completely different this time through. When you know how it’s going to end up it makes you look at Walt in a completely different light. He’s a fucking asshole and I’m glad he’s dead.
Spock, Kirk, and a few redshirt bags of shit are hanging out on the surface of a planet taking samples. There’s danger though because they’re being followed by, what appears to be a hipster vape nerd. Kirk smells honey and tells the bags of shit to go vape cloud hunting. Even though Kirk explicitly tells the bags of shit to fire on the vape cloud as soon as they see it the bags of shit do not. The one actually throws his phaser down as soon as he sees it. What the hell, bro? They all deserve to die. Fuck these idiots.
Turns out one of them is alive. Kirk goes plain old nuts. He’s got a history with this cloud. But he’s not letting on what the issue is. He goes hunting with some more bags of shit and wouldn’t you believe that more bags of shit end up dead via vape cloud. The new security officer fails to kill it and Kirk goes ballistic. His erratic behavior and the fact that Kirk won’t leave to deliver medicine to the Yorktown leads Spock and McCoy to do a little intervention. They’re afraid that he’s obsessed. Just like the name of the show. And his behavior is putting everyone at risk. Turns out Kirk has beef with the vape cloud. It killed most of his coworkers on his first ship. He was the young officer who couldn’t fire and now he wants revenge.
|Spocks shits on people for being dumb, but using your hands to hold off vapor seems less than logical|
Kirk convinces Spock and Bones that he’s not too nuts for the time being. The vape cloud leaves and the Enterprise goes on the hunt. It’s a pretty smart vape cloud though. Because it dodges the phasers and enters the ship. It’s personal now.
|Can you smell what the Spock is cooking?|
Because Spock has green blood he’s able to make vape cloud run off where for some reason they know it’s going to breed. I don’t know how they know this, but they seem to. This means they have to hunt it down and kill it. That seems like some fucked logic. But they track it down. They devise a blood baited anti-matter bomb(??) which Kirk and Ensign Garrovick take to the planet. They get out in the nick of time and go to the ship so Kirk can regale the once-disgraced ensign who couldn't fire in time with tales of his father.
There have been a few stinkers in a row, but this one is pretty good. I’m beginning to think that the more time they spend on the ship the better. It’s not just that the on planet sets are generally pretty terrible. Generally, episodes that take place on planets have a bunch of new aliens. Generally, the aliens all look like absolute shit.
|Peekaboo! Vape cloud sees you!|
I absolutely loved it when Garrovick attacked Kirk. What a great scene. It did a great job of subverting my expectations. I fully expected him to knock Kirk out and sacrifice himself to save his captain and the crew. Then he completely doesn’t. I guess I should’ve expected that ending considering that Garrovick’s father was Kirk’s old captain, but I didn’t see that coming and thought it was really funny.
This is yet another episode that would’ve made a better movie than either Into Darkness or Beyond. This is the third episode I think that would’ve been amazing had they decided to translate it to the big screen. Balance of Terror, The Doomsday Machine, and this one all would have made such great movies. I don’t understand with so much out there to choose from they decided to remake Khan and do whatever it is they did for Beyond. As I watched this I kept on thinking about how much cool stuff they could’ve done with the original attack on Kirk’s old ship. Even though it wasn’t a good movie it was a pretty goddamn good episode.
|Hats off to Kirk for his passable emoting in this episode|
I shit on Shatner a lot. Mostly because he sucks and deserves it. He’s easily the weakest actor on the show. So I hate to say that he did a pretty damn good job in this episode. He’s not nearly as intense as Avery Brooks but he does intense pretty well. Shatner is generally such a bad actor that watching him takes me out of the episode multiple times usually. Not with this one. I was pleasantly surprised by how well he acted this one.
|Food in the future is just giant-sized Runts|
I like this episode because the very best scenes are the ones in which folks are just talking to each other. That’s when Trek can really shine. I like all the explosions and assimilations and whatnot, but I love Trek because of how the characters interact. The effects in this episode are used very sparingly and when they are they look pretty shitty. But when Spock and McCoy are discussing whether or not Kirk has become unstable enough to remove from command, it feels real. Same with when McCoy confronts Kirk in the next scene. Kirk is one of his best friends and you can tell calling him out is killing him, but it needs to be done. This was just a solid entry and I’m glad I watched it.
DS9’s For The Uniform. This is a good one if you want to watch a captain in full Captain Ahab mode like Kirk. In this one, Sisko goes after his old adversary Michael Eddington who used to be his security officer before it turned out he was a spy. After finding that out Sisko was none too pleased and turned into a real grumpy Gus. Avery Brooks plays angry so great and angry Sisko seems like an absolutely terrifying person to have coming after you. You can see why Starfleet would think that maybe Sisko isn’t the best person for this job.
TNG’s Silicon Avatar. I don’t remember when I first saw this episode but I remember it just absolutely blowing me away. Now that I’m older it does less so, but I remember just thinking that the guest star Ellen Geer just knocking this one out of the park. She plays a woman whose son is killed. She's not taking it well. Most of the episode is her using Data to help her cope with her son's death and also about someone going full Ahab on an unconventional antagonist. This one is about the Enterprise chasing after something they call the Crystalline Entity, which is a giant space crystal that destroys life on planets. Like the vape cloud in Obsession, you don’t know who or what it is which comes up in terms of whether it has a morality and should it be hated for what it does. Does it even know? There are a lot more gray areas than in Obsession because TNG was a much better show with better writers. They’re all good. So watch all three.
That’s it for this week. Last Trek of the year next week. Hopefully, it'll be a good one.