Best Entertainment of 2016 (Okay, Really Just my Favorites)

This the time of year when you start seeing a bunch of “best of” lists. And perhaps the most ubiquitous “best of” lists tend to involve entertainment: best films, best tv shows, best music and so on.

There was a time when I’d be on top of all of that. I’d have seen every film, every television show, listened to every album and read nearly ever novel on that list. Sadly, those days are long behind me. I just don’t have the time for it anymore.

That’s why you’ll have to settle for a “my favorites” list instead of another “best of” list. I have to prioritize what I watch, what I see, what I listen to—and those priorities inevitably lean towards already established tastes. It’s kind of a shame, but with only 24 hours in a day there’s really no way around it.

Without further ado, then, I present my list of Favorites from 2016.

Favorites in Film

If you’ve read my other posts, it probably doesn’t surprise you that my favorite film from 2016 is Star Trek Beyond. To my mind, it’s a great film about the potential of humanity when we unite. There’s a great message, some great action, some great character moments. It’s just an all around wonderful film (though certainly not perfect).

You can read more about my defense of Star Trek Beyond in my previous posts. But it certainly wasn’t the only film that I saw in 2016. There were a few other contenders for the top spot:

  • Deadpool: At its core, Deadpool is a formulaic comic book movie. But it was so much energy sizzling along the surface that the film is immensely enjoyable. Ryan Reynolds delivers a great performance and the pace is fast enough that you don’t really have any time to complain about anything that doesn’t quite land.
  • Ghostbusters: Probably the funniest film I saw this year was the remake of Ghostbusters. I was a fan of the original film—and any time you remake a classic like that, there’s going to be enormously high expectations. There are definitely plot issues, and the tone of this new Ghostbusters is quite different from the original. But it’s a good, hilarious film with engaging performances from its cast.
  • Captain America: Civil War: I told you that what I saw tended to align with my already present tastes. Captain America: Civil War suffer from many of the same issues that other Marvel films suffer from (namely a kind of generic aesthetic and formulaic plot). But there’s so much fun to be had in the Iron Man vs. Captain America storyline that its easy to forgive the formula. The fact that there some deeper resonance with the film is just icing on the cake.

The Jury is Still Out

Like I said above, I haven’t been able to watch everything 2016 has been able to offer. So I won’t be able to generate a definitive top-five until I’ve seen the following:

  • Star Wars: Rogue One
  • Arrival
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Zootopia
  • La La Land
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.

Favorites in Television

In the past few years, we’ve been living in a kind of television renaissance. What I mean by that is TV is almost as good—as artistic—as films have ever been. And I mean that as a kind of high praise. Now, when I’m looking at this list, I’m mostly looking at narrative television, so I won’t be including something like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver even though I think it’s brilliant.

My favorite television show of 2016 was Stranger Things. The 80’s throwback, horror, sci-fi Netflix series was suspenseful, imaginative, and sometimes terrifying. And it captured perfectly a kind of nostalgia—not only about the 80’s, but by being the kind of outcast kid that, well, I was. The season was only 8 episodes, which made it great for a binge-watch the type of which Netflix excels at. But that also made for a tight, effective story—there wasn’t a single wasted episode.

There were definitely some runners up, though:

  • Luke Cage: This Netflix/Marvel production was the third series (after Jessica Jones and Daredevil) by this particular partnership. And it was great. The first half of the season, in particular, consistently delivered strong performances, provocative topics, and blistering plots. It was wonderful to see a black man in a hoodie not as a threat or hoodlum, but as a hero.
  • Vikings: Nobody (probably) expected the History channel to produce one of the best narrative television shows in the last ten years. Vikings is probably not historically accurate, but it feels true to the spirit of history. It follows Ragnar Lothbrok from farmer to king—and you never quite know what he’s going to do. It makes the show incredibly fun to watch.
  • Frontline: Okay, I’m kind of breaking my own rules here, because Frontline isn’t necessarily a narrative program. It’s a journalistic documentary, different topic every week. You can find it on PBS, and it really is required viewing. But it will depress you. Every single time. Frontline will ruin your week. But watching will make you more informed (and probably a bit more outraged) every single time. It’s powerful.

Star Trek doesn’t return to television until 2017, so that’s why it isn’t on this list yet. Ha! And there are plenty of other television shows that I have yet to catch up… but at this point, they’re too many to list.

Much Media to Consume

There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of movies and television and novels and, well, media, out there to consume. I’ve resigned myself that I’m never going to get to all of it. So I focus on my favorites, with some occasional and necessary detours outside my comfort zone. After all, I still think it’s important to challenge yourself.

So what do you think of my list? Did I miss anything obvious? Let me know in the comments!

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