Things to Make You Smile: Best of 2016

What’s better than beginning a new year by looking back at what was good from the last? 2016 wasn’t one of the best years on the books, but it had it’s moments that reassured everyone maybe it would be okay after all. I mean, if you can’t escape with a good movie or book, then what even is the point? If you are still looking for a little bit of sunshine, I hope this list provides you with everything you need. Here are the ten things that made 2016 all worth it (well, kind of).

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La La Land

Damien Chazelle created a Hollywood musical masterpiece, and he knows it. Unlike traditional musicals, La La Land only boasts 6 songs with actual singing, but it’s soundtrack isn’t something to brush off. The songs littered through out the movie will make you fall in love and leave you humming for days. Maybe that’s just me, I have bought the soundtrack digitally and received the vinyl for Christmas (I can’t stop singing it, and I know I’m driving my loved ones crazy).

Much like the tagline, this movie is for the fools who dream. If the opening scene doesn’t draw you in and the last 15 minutes doesn’t get your tear ducts working, then I think we need to talk. Bring back the chemistry from Crazy, Stupid, Love. and Gangster Squad, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone sparkle like they never have before. Gosling hit a stellar year with film, and has already partnered up with Chazelle for a Neil Armstrong-biopic, but it is Stone who steals your heart and doesn’t stop running. Stone brings sincerity to every role she touches, but La La Land is the next level and her career best. I’ll be forever grateful for this 2-hour romantic stroll about the ones who dream. Until it is on DVD, I guess I’ll just be humming along to the soundtrack every day (sorry loved ones).

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Sarah Kuhn’s “Heroine Complex”

Lately, I’ve had a hard time connecting to books. Graphic novels are a different story, but traditional books have eluded me this year. That was, until I stumbled across Heroine Complex at our local Barnes and Noble. If the cover didn’t suck me in, the story did. A fine mix between your soapy fantasy love story and the baddest female super heroines previously missing from DC and Marvel movies,  you’ll fall in love with Evie and her fellow companions and see why representation is so important in storytelling (and, of course, every day life).

With the sequel, Heroine Worship, set to be released in July 2017, I can’t wait to fall back into the comfortable, sassy mind of Evie Tanaka and see if her life is still ridded with evil cupcakes. Cheers to Sarah Kuhn for making such an easily lovable character, and for reminding me that good books are always waiting around the corner.

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Arrival

Speaking of women who kick ass, have you seen Arrival? One of the sharpest sci-fi movies to date, I instantly fell in love and connected to Amy Adams‘ character, Louise Banks. The story felt familiar (in the best way), and the structure of the film will make you long for more science fiction stories. The movie is based on a short story by Ted Chiang called, “Story of Your Life.” If you connected to this film like I did, I highly recommend checking out the short story and connecting to some of Chiang’s other material.

I don’t want to spoil the plot of Arrival, but if you follow along closely you will catch little bits of detail that unravel for a very hard hitting final act. Don’t sleep on this film. If it is still in theaters around you, I urge you to go out and see it now.

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Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

One of the few new shows I actually loved this year, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency captured my heart with episode one. The titular character, Dirk Gently, is such a gem, but he doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all the supporting characters. Ultimately, this feels like the love letter Douglas Adams deserves, whose novel the show is based upon.

To anyone worried about getting too attached to a show, Dirk Gently’s has already been renewed for a season 2! That means another season full of ridiculous adventures, a new mystery to explore and an opportunity to show this show to the people you care about most in your life. With all of its quirks, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was the show I needed in 2016.

Added bonus: If you love the show as much as I do, be sure to follow their Twitter account for a little extra pep in your step every morning.

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The Nice Guys

Shane Black created a very raunchy buddy-cop comedy, and I’m here for every second of it. I remember seeing previews for The Nice Guys in February and wanting to see it, but alas my husband and I waited until it was out on DVD. Out of all the movies we saw in 2016, I wish we would have saw this one in theaters. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe had some of the best on-screen chemistry I have ever scene, and, much like Dirk Gently, the Twitter account did a great job of promoting that fact (enjoy).

The movie itself found a way to pair up two unlikely candidates to solve a mystery that is so ridiculous, that you will want to follow it until the in. Sprinkled with inappropriate jokes, Gosling truly owns every scene, but his character’s daughter, Angourie Rice stole the show in her own way. Crowe reminds you that he can be charming, but more than anything the movie left me wanting a Yoo-hoo! If that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will.

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Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr’s Batgirl Issue 50 (and before)

Why Issue 50? Well, that is the last issue that the Batgirl trio, Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr, worked on together. Batgirl of Burnside, as I like to call the journey (but it also the name of the first volume), was one of the greatest re-envisions of Batgirl and I relished in every issue. If you ever glanced at any of Tarr’s work, then you know exactly the kind of beauty you are getting yourself in for. As for Stewart and Fletcher, they help bring the images to life and create a story worth living in.

Don’t be too sad that they aren’t creating any more issues for Batgirl (even if I’m still silently sobbing in my pillow), they developed a new comic series through Image Comics called Motor Crush and it is worth diving into. Just as vivid and lively as Batgirl, this is a dynamic trio that I would keep my eye on in years to come.

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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

When I recently read Danielle Gutierrez’s article about Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, it was everything I’d been feeling and more. With little promotion before it’s release, Popstar was one of the best comedies I’ve indulged in. The Lonely Island has always had a direct line to my funny bone, but this felt like a refinement over their past material and built a monster that I’ve watched multiple times since purchasing on DVD. Unfortunately, like Gutierrez mentioned, I was one of the few who saw it in theaters, much less to tell all of our closest friends about it who didn’t even know it existed.

If you are looking for a good laugh or some good weekend entertainment, rent it. Get stuck on the comical soundtrack, buy it and play it on repeat. After a gloomy 2016, who doesn’t need something like”Incredible Thoughts” to brighten up their day? If this is any sign of what is to come from The Lonely Island, sign me up for more. Like usual, I’ll be there waiting for it the day it releases.

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Kate McKinnon

If you’ve made it through 2016 without anyone bringing up Kate McKinnon, I’m utterly shocked. One of the brightest stars of 2016, McKinnon not only dominated SNL, but also made a name for herself in Ghostbusters amongst other comedies released this year. Even with lackluster releases of Office Christmas Party and Masterminds, McKinnon found a way to make herself stand out against a crowd of comedic superstars. If she didn’t steal your heart as Hillary Clinton on SNL, then I truly have no hope for you going forward.

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Mahershala Ali

The best parts of Moonlight and Luke Cage, I’ve been a huge fan of Mahershala Ali since his role as Remy in House of Cards. Every time Ali graces the silver screen, he brings something new to the show. Whether charming or threatening, I’m almost always captivated with what he is selling. The most disappointing part is that Ali is almost always in a supporting role. Somehow, he never lets that stop him from dominating every scene, usually stealing the light from the main performer (looking at you Mike Colter). Let’s leave it at this, there is a reason he is sweeping the awards for best supporting actor this season.

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Grease 2: Live Dream Casting

Those who know me know I adore/prefer Grease 2 (yes, over Grease, go ahead and get your judgement out of the way). In fact, out of celebration for Grease: Live, I forced my husband to watch Grease 2 and appreciate how much better it is (insert your scoffs here). When Fox announced they were doing Grease: Live, I only had one thought: “Why not Grease 2?” I played along and watched Grease! Live. Vanessa Hudgens stole the show as Rizzo, Aaron Tveit was terrible not great as Danny (alas, people were mesmerized by his *ahem* dancing), and Jordan Fisher really made Doody come to life. That’s what these performances are about, giving people a chance to shine as iconic (or not as iconic) characters. After the show, Buzzfeed‘s Louis Peitzman made my Grease 2 dreams come alive. He put together what he thought a Grease 2: Live should look like. While I was intrigued by his article, it got me thinking about who I would love to see in these roles. So, without further ado, here is my Grease 2: Live dream casting (please make this happen, Fox).

Aly Michalka as Stephanie Zinone

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No one will ever be able to top Michelle Pfeiffer, but if there is someone who could come close my bets are on Aly Michalka. One half of the female duo, Aly & AJ, they made all teenage girls feel empowered with their breakup hit “Potential Break-Up Song.” While she has the singing down to a pat, she also has some acting range. Look to the CW hit iZombie, she may not be in every episode but she makes an impact when she is there. Plus, wouldn’t you just love to hear her belt out the best of Grease 2 with “Cool Rider” and  my favorite “(Love Will) Turn Back the Hands of Time.”

Blake Jenner as Michael Carrington

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Peitzman was right, for Michael Carrington, Blake Jenner is the perfect choice (there is one other time that happens on this list). While not only having similar looks, Blake has a great voice (he won the The Glee Project for a reason, people). From his time of Glee, he had a lot of fun performances, but my favorite was when him and Jacob Artist performed “Unchained Melody” *note how great they sound together, just saying. Now let’s just hope he can bring alive “Charades“, the sleeper on an overall great movie musical soundtrack.

Ashley Tisdale as Paulette Rebchuck

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Remember how Vanessa Hudgens stole the show as Rizzo? Well maybe she can give some tips to her High School Musical costar/bestie, Ashley Tisdale. Tisdale could perfectly bring the sexuality and vulnerability of Paulette to the live production. Also, what better way to start bringing back the cast of HSM than television musicals? Trust me, with Paulette’s costuming, Tisdale is going to “Score Tonight.”

Penn Badgley as Johnny Nogerelli

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Before I get started, I just want to say that I adore Adrian Zmed and, like everyone else in Grease 2, he played this part to perfection. Now let’s dive into Penn Badgley. Don’t you want to see him as an insecure bad boy? No, not a mopey “bad” boy like his lonely boy character, Dan Humphrey in Gossip Girl (Disclaimer: I loved Dan, and I was huge Dan and Serena shipper), but a real bad boy. He’s the leader of the T-Birds and if you don’t want to watch Badgley going “Prowlin’” you can leave this list right now (but please stay so you can finish the dream casting).

Aja Naomi King as Sharon Cooper

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You know how you kind of love to hate Aja Naomi King‘s Michaela on How to Get Away with Murder? Well, that is kind of the same feeling you have about Sharon Cooper in Grease 2. Now don’t get me wrong, Aja Naomi King is amazing, but her character is kind of annoying, but she ultimately she is a boss (hence the love to hate). Imagine if she put that kind of personality into Grease 2‘s Sharon, and it’s a masterpiece waiting to happen. I wouldn’t want to miss King imitating Jackie O and bossing everyone around so they can achieve perfection in “Girls for All Seasons.”

Tyler Posey as Louis DiMucci

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Louis DiMucci, he’s definitely one of the more interesting characters in Grease 2. Ultimately though, he is the key to Michael becoming a coo-oool rider (he’s the first to ask Michael to do his homework), but that isn’t the reason DiMucci is so memorable. Tyler Posey‘s DiMucci would be the perfect balance to Aja Naomi King’s Sharon, and maybe he could inspire people to “Do it for Our Country.” But really guys, this is just creepy. Please do not ever attempt to do this.

Troian Bellisario as Rhonda Ritter

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Out of all the characters of Grease 2, Rhonda was the least memorable of the pink ladies. That is why I think Troian Bellisario would be the perfect choice for Rhonda. She could pull of Rhonda’s insecurities about her nose and transform her into a goddess of confidence by a two hour time mark without a problem. Give Spencer Hastings a chance, let her be the Rhona Ritter we deserve.

Jacob Artist as Goose McKenzie

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Like I mentioned earlier with Michael Carrington, Peitzman nailed the dream casting for Goose: Jacob Artist. Artist could make you love him one minute and hate him the next on Glee, which is exactly what Goose’s character needs (and deserves). Also, Goose and Johnny had a true bromance, and to see that come to life again would be magical. Between backing up Johnny’s remarks and causing him to swallow a cigarette, these are the scenes that make Grease 2 a joy to watch.

Rowan Blanchard as Dolores Rebchuck

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NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 09: Actress Rowan Blanchard attends 2015 Glamour Women Of The Year Awards at Carnegie Hall on November 9, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Glamour)

Dolores Rebchuck was a scene stealer, and so is Rowan Blanchard. Dolores was ready to rule the school and redefine what a pink lady was, and her friendship with Michael was precious. Rowan is already making platforms on feminism, sexuality and friendship, and more than anything I am excited to see her star grow brighter. The pink ladies won’t know what hit them when Rowan’s Dolores steps into each scene.

Karan Brar as Davey Jaworski

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Truthfully, if I could have any person play Davey, it would be Fresh Off the Boat‘s Hudson Yang, but since he is still a bit young the next best thing is Karan Brar. He has the youthfulness that Davey embodies, and he is simply just the most adorable. Plus, isn’t Brar the perfect choice for Dolores to have a crush on in the end?

Rashida Jones as Miss Mason

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Miss Mason is the reason boys are hot for teacher, so who better to play her than the ever sexy Rashida Jones? Plus with Jones’ comedic chops, she will be able to kill the scenes that call for a little more jokes. I mean, without her would Mr. Stuart even be interesting? While I wait to get to that particular song, can you imagine Jones stealing the scene with just a few looks? I can, Rashida Jones is pure gold.

Jason Segel as Mr. Stuart

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An I Love You, Man reunion. Think of Jason Segel as Mr. Stuart, only he could pull off the suave awkwardness, while also wooing Miss Mason with his teaching skills. I mean, what better way to learn about “Reproduction” than sitting in on one of his classes? Plus, Jones’ Miss Mason and Segel’s Mr. Stuart might have the hottest chemistry of all.

 

 

Best Dressed and Other Fun Things: Oscars Edition

Award shows are great for two reasons: 1) they provide a glimpse into the mind of award winners and losers, 2) the fashion. Last year, I was so upset with the fashion choices that I refused to even create a top 10, but this year the actors and actresses finally brought their “A” game. Few honorable mentions before we get started: 1) Scarlett Johansson looked divine in her emerald Versace dress, unfortunately that neckpiece was a disaster, 2) Zendaya was killing it her Vivienne Westwood gown, 3) snaps for the sultry Jenna Dewan Tatum in Zuhair Murad,  4) America Ferrera dazzled in her Jenny Packham gown, the awkwardness up top held it back from being on the best dressed though.

While the ladies of the night were strutting their stuff like it was New York Fashion Week, the guys were sporting new accessories that aren’t the usual at award shows. You might be curious what I am referencing, but deep down you know that I am talking about the beards. While some of the guys used it to help enhance their looks, others were straight up tripping (I am looking at your weird baby scruff goatee Channing Tatum, and your mess of a beard Matthew McConaughey). Before I start beating a dead horse with beard etiquette, here are the men that got it right.

Top Ten Shows To Binge Watch on Netflix

Warning: Before we get started down this dangerous road, you should watch this first (for your own safety, of course). Now, lets begin.

Since Netflix has become this black hole of awesomeness, we need to set up the hierarchy of what you should be watching. These are ten of the most enjoyable series on Netflix right now and I can only hope that you enjoy them as much as I have. So sit back and relax (but remember only 13 episodes in one sitting).

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10. Pretty Little Liars (First four seasons are on Netflix)

This show has the everything a great TV show needs: mystery, drama and romance. While it might seem like a fluff teenage piece, PLL is actually a show that deals with a lot of mature topics. It is constantly pushing the limits of teenage dramas, and while it might seem like it is jumping the shark with a few story lines, it always finds a way to draw you back in. It uses subtle references to some of the greats (including Hitchcock), and it has a whole episode dedicated to the wonderful noir style that is delivered beautifully. Just because it seems young for your tastes doesn’t mean you should give it the short stick. 

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9. Scandal (First three seasons are on Netflix)

Right off the bat this show was doing everything right: it came from the brilliant mind of Shonda Rhimes, Kerry Washington was the lead character and it revolved around the white house. The writing on the show is flat out amazing (and sometimes outlandish), and Kerry Washington delivers each scene with such confidence that it literally oozes off the screen. This political drama follows POTUS and the scandals around the white house as Olivia Pope (Washington) and her group of gladiators as they try to fix each problem before it leaks. If you don’t fall in love after the first season, something is clearly wrong with you.

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8. The Walking Dead (First three seasons are on Netflix)

While the zombie apocalypse might seem like a turn off for some, it’s the character driven stories that leaves them hooked. The series follows around a group of survivors led by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) as they find a way to co-exist in a zombie ridden world. It is based off the comic series by Robert Kirkman, who has a large hand in the television series as well. The story differs here and there, but big picture wise I feel like they are on par with one another. The series may never get noticed by the Emmys for the performances it churns out, but the series viewership has continuously increased each year and that has to count for something, right?

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7. Lost (All six seasons are on Netflix)

To even begin to explain this series, I feel like I wouldn’t be doing it justice. It will keep you on your toes the whole time, and just when you think you might have it figured it out it introduces another plot twist. For me, this is one of the most satisfying series on Netflix. It takes you on a journey with these characters, as you root for them to find a way home. Ultimately, after you finish the series you might find yourself saying “We have to go back!”.

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6. Parks and Recreation (First five seasons are on Netflix)

First and foremost, there is not a single character in this show who is not simply the most magical things in the world. Greg Daniels (The Office, King of the Hill) created this beautiful piece of comedy that is a mockumentary of everyday local politics. We watch the journey of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), one of my many soul sisters, as she battles each obstacle that holds her back. Most episodes will have you on the floor laughing so hard you are in tears, whether it is because of little treasures like Little Sebastian or one of the many guests stars (like Paul Rudd). Plus, that guy from that blockbuster, you know Guardians of the Galaxy, yea he is in this show too (it’s whatever though).

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5. House of Cards (First two seasons are on Netflix)

For those of you who are fans of BBC’s miniseries, I’m sorry but this is not what you are looking for. I am talking about the Netflix original series which was inspired by the BBC series and the novel. The show centers around one of the finest antiheroes on television and for some reason our culture has been eating that up lately. Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) charms you with his breaking of the fourth wall, but you should worry because he is likely stabbing you in the back at the same time. While the story thrives on Frank’s conniving tactics, the show finds life in its supporting and guest characters. There is a reason why political thrillers are so delicious.

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4. Fringe (All six seasons are on Netflix) 

I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with this sci-fi series, but it had me hooked on the first episode; maybe it was the superb cast or maybe it was the allure of a mystery (I cannot resist a good mystery). Alas whatever it was, it had me hooked. It also possesses one of my all time favorite characters, Dr. Walter Bishop, who is portrayed by the equally amazing John Noble. This is another one of the shows where I don’t want to say too much, because I feel like I would give it all away. I wouldn’t want to deny you of that pleasure.

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3. The Office (All nine seasons are on Netflix)

Once again, I am not referring to the BBC version, but you might have figured that out with the drastic difference in seasons. The series was developed by the Greg Daniels and him having two series on this list proves his brilliance (even if I am proving this to myself). This is one of the few series that I would have been okay if it decided to keep on going. I enjoyed all of the little episodes and the different special episodes (Christmas time was always the best). I love this show so much, I just finished re-watching the whole series for a second time on Netflix.

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2. Supernatural (First eight seasons are on Netflix)

This is the little show that could. I remember growing up watching this show and no one else knowing what I was talking about when I would bring it up. Now it is like the shows that runs the internet, or maybe just Tumblr. For some the first two seasons are just okay television, but it is in its third season the series really finds its groove. Also, the definitely listens to what the fan base wants, dedicating certain episodes to them just for their enjoyment (like the episode where Dean (Ackles) and Sam (Padalecki) go to an alternative universe where they are Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki who are staring in a show called Supernatural). It’s the little things that make this show such a pleasure.

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1. Breaking Bad (All five seasons are on Netflix)

I can honestly say that I have not talked to a single person who didn’t like this show, it’s just that good. Breaking Bad was constantly resetting the standard for great television. Out of all the shows on this list, this is the one I think you will have the hardest time putting down. I think the show is at its best when it centers on Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul), but all of the characters play a role that could not be erased. Unfortunately, you will never be able to view any show the same after you watch Breaking Bad