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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.