The Worst of 2016

According to whom you talk to, 2016 was literally the worst! “This is the darkest timeline!” kind of stuff. However, there was a lot worse out there that may have gone unnoticed and for that I bring back the tradition of highlighting a few things I found to be subjectively the worst about 2016.

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Ghostbusters “Think Pieces”

Ghostbusters (2016)(heaven forefend anyone actually get a good and bad Ghostbusters films mixed up) was a mediocre movie, in a summer full of movies (see below) that wasn’t very good. However, before all that even happened, people started filling The Internets with “think pieces” about what Ghostbusters, with an all female cast, would mean for women…and science? How about the film being shouldered with the awesome responsibility of “proving Hollywood wrong” by anchoring the film with four leading ladies to show that that is nearly enough to fill seats with more female butts, thereby supplanting the dudebro iron grasp on butts in seats during summer movies?

I’m sorry that teenage boys tend to “muck up” the summer movie season. It’s either go see some banal movie with loud noises for hours at a time, or sit at home harassing women all day on The Internets.

It wouldn’t be so bad, had so many social justice websites not spent all their time leading up to the movies release being “exhausted” about the supposed nature of a film that they hadn’t even seen. Then take people (read: men) to task for hating on the horrible trailer, then the second horrible trailer that addressed certain aspects of the first trailer, flinging around accusations of racism and misogyny for no real reason other than it was apparently the perfect springboard to  finally cross the streams of nerd culture and social justice as critique. This would legitimize the entire enterprise I guess? Substantiating the need for the form?

What happens when the movie is mediocre? Silence. Snow falling on a winter’s night silence. Even social justice minded “movie critics” had to contort themselves in to liking the movie, because if you don’t like, then you’re a misogynist and racist and on and on and on. Better yet, where are all the “think pieces” on the Ghostbusters “think pieces”? The art form of critique cannot get better if there is never any self-reflection.

Or better yet, maybe next time social justice warriors pick their battles better.

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Amy Schumer

2016 was a pretty good year to be Amy Schumer. Your stock is never higher, you’re in a lot  more commercials, you are everywhere. Then the inevitable backlash as fans turn on you. First, there’s accusations of joke theft (a cardinal sin in the joke world), then a shitty fourth season of Inside Amy Schumer comes and goes, one of the shows writers, Kurt Metzger goes on a Facebook “supposed rape apologist” tirade that she gets dragged in to amid an internets shit spiral, then a horrible parody of a Beyonce video sends The Internets in to another shit spiral. What a great year to be Amy Schumer!

I wanted to preface this entry with a whole “I’ve been a big fan of Amy Schumer for long time, but…” and it’s true, I have been a fan of her work for a long time. When Amy Schumer Live at the Apollo came out last year, I felt something shift. The jokes weren’t that good; it was lower grade material than what I had seen from her in recent times. It quickly became apparent that after three seasons of a TV show and a movie, that maybe the Amy Schumer joke barrel was nearing the bottom.

But it’s not even that, Amy Schumer’s success has unleashed this monster of a person that’s not even remotely relatable anymore. Better yet, she has come to resemble what the olds think of the “millennial generation”, along with her compatriots Kim Kardashian and Lena Dunham. Why do we give a shit when any of them fart on a napkin and post it to social media? Why is it news that Amy Schumer isn’t ashamed of her body? Who gives a shit? It’s been a part of her “act” for over a decade.

As an aside, Amy Schumer got on this list mostly because one episode of her show featured a “sociopath” named M.E. Thomas.

I read her book Confessions of a Sociopath and it is the most insipid, boring, grating, gross book I have ever read. M.E. is one of those people that has grown up and resided in a bubble their entire life. Being raised hyper-religiously in the Mormon sect, the book reads of some sheltered girl “pushing the boundaries” of…being a dick to everyone and little else. It’s reading a girl learn “How to Woman to Succeed” with the kind of results you expect from a selfish asshole: Nothing’s ever her fault and she’s always the winner.

The beginning of the book even has a doctor’s note saying that M.E. is a clinical sociopath, but if you read the note carefully, you see that M.E. has apparently been shopping around for this diagnosis and knows how to finagle diagnostic tests to get the results she wants. So much for being a sociopath, huh?

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Summer Movies 2016

Goddamn what a shitty summer for movies! It was so bad that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was my favorite movie of the summer. That movie wasn’t very good, mind you. To its favor, it lessened the Megan Fox presence, added Bebop and Rocksteady…and Casey Jones, it has to commended for that…even if the plot was nonsensical and clearly globe trotted for tax write-offs.

Even movies I thought would be great like Kubo and the Two Strings were just “Meh. Maybe the source material didn‘t speak to me, the film is beautiful to look at and what Laika manages to do with CGI and Stop-Motion Animation is astounding. Nevertheless, the film is overlong, boring and the voice acting is miscast. Now You See Me 2 possessed none of the charm of the first film and Lizzy Caplan continues to be an actor that cannot seem to adapt to a scene. I can always tell she’s acting, I don’t see any characterization, I just see Lizzy Caplan being snarky and sardonic in everything she does. She’s like an uncharismatic female Seth Rogen.

I mean most of the filler of “Top Ten Worst Movies of 2016” is the vast bulk of these summer 2016’s movies! This goes even further when you look at just how lazy some of the movies were, with their banal-ass bad guy(s) sitting around some giant world destroying hole in the middle of a major city. This is mostly a holdover from a lot summer movies past! Nothing from this summer stuck out…in a good way…and I’ll be damned if I’m going to pretend that summer starts at the beginning of May and laud Captain America: Civil War for not being a hot garbage fire!

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Waypoint/Vice

When any new site dedicated to video games pops up, I tend to get a little excited. For every one of those that pop up in a calendar year, there’s the inevitable two or three other sites closing down. Which leads to a free agency of sorts of the same faces you know and love/hate from other sites doing work hither and yon for the few that remain. Vice hiring Austin Walker for a new video game themed venture seemed like a good idea. And there was a time everyone thought that Polygon was a great idea too.

Austin Walker has done some great work, the things he writes about pop culture and gaming are insightful in a way without being too stuffy and “try hard”. He critiques on the video game industry, and by extension, the games press, leads one to believe that if given the opportunity his new website could be the shift towards better.

You begin to wonder why social justice types complain about diversity of thought and person and the like in the video games industry, when given the opportunity to be “game changing” they stick with their version of “status quo”. This is what Waypoint represents in the fullest.

Filled to the brim with people of dubious ethical integrity, such as Patrick Klepek and Danielle Riendeau, Waypoint states that it’s the future of games writing, but has the hot stale breath of an aging whore, who’s seen a few things, tried a few things, and BOY does her breath stink of sameness! I get the notion of hiring two “veterans” of the games press: access, after all, is golden. But those two specifically have proven to be less than worthy of serious journalistic and ethical merit for some time now.

In the sites infancy when it was just another “blog style site” about video games, I emailed Vice/Waypoint and asked if they were going to have someone like me on the site to be the consumer advocate type. Gaming is expensive, I stated, lots of us daisy chain trade-ins and use sales to stay current in gaming. I feel we’re being left behind. To his credit, and several months later, Austin Walker got back to me.

He agreed that there should be sites for that “everyday consumer” but thankfully, “dozens” of those sites exist. Did he give examples? Hell, no! However, he did go on to mention that Waypoint firmly established their direction and voice. But this was well after I sent my email. I visited nigh daily and was aghast at how little the site spoke to actual gamers. Who was this site for? He also continued that it was much more important for the site to focus on what they do and do it well.

This point is odd because, again, what is Waypoint doing and doing well? Even in it’s infancy it was little more than a concern troll Kotakuesque blog about racist aspects of Mafia III, deep diving on God Hand making the writer feel icky because it’s Japanese as fuck, and other articles that you surely couldn’t find anywhere else, like say a Polygon or Kotaku…or The Mary Sue?

Even now, with it’s voice and direction firmly established, what is Waypoint doing that supposes this is a future trend in games coverage? Do we have to endure another E3 where Austin Walker looks sad and frustrated at a trailer that “triggers” him? Patrick Klepek’s social anthropology experiment of watching gamers “oggle” the breasts of a video game character and then be disgusted to be a white male?

The site design is awful, and though there is daily content, there’s nothing of real value here. Unless you like scrolling down an article about something as “insightful” and “intelligent” as yet another BioShock think piece, and getting slapped in the face with a Taco Bell ad!

It’s an odd marriage, a site dedicated to critically thinking about video games and the Vice brand. Though they share that “academic try-hard douche bag” DNA, there’s an air of venture capitalist money demanding Vice add more verticals to their brand, and it just so happened to be video games’ turn. Waypoint is the video games press at its most self-indulgent and hedonistic, masking itself as insightful and cerebral. I don’t foresee it being around for too long when there are dozens of other sites out there that do this kind of stuff better.

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The Witness

Well, I got one game on here. The Witness is an overpriced iOS game with a $35 Jonathan Blow tax slapped on it. I tend to look at the $40 I wasted on this game as an investment in to future Jonathan Blow games, and that maybe the next one will speak to me more.

I wanted to like The Witness, I put a good few hours in, solved a bunch of puzzles, but learned nothing. I even looked up a little map to get some “direction”. I was punished for brute forcing puzzles and not learning the “correct way” of things. And while I was dazzled by some of the deeper elements I encountered, I was left deflated by what was on offer and my brain hurt.

As it stands, The Witness is a boring, pretentious, overly designed asshole of a game that is not worth buying at any price.

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The Worst of 2016

The Best of 2016

It was pretty difficult finding much to love about 2016, compared to the worst of 2016, which I, as usual, had plenty of. It was almost to the point of doing that stupid “honorable mention” nonsense that creeps in to other lists. No! I am better than that.

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Swiss Army Man

A movie that uses people holding in farts as an allegory to human emotions and how we deal with them, Swiss Army Man is something to behold. What initially appears to be a gross out black comedy, really digs in to that dark black matter towards the end in a twist that you should see coming, but don’t. This is mostly because you’re spellbound by the performance that Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe get up to. Taking up the majority of the screen time, the great chemistry and bizarre world machinations of human interaction that two actors share takes you away from the real reason Dano’s Hank was hanging himself in the opening moments. That the movie ends with a giant prolonged fart joke makes this a modern masterpiece in its own right.

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The Batman parts of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

BvS wasn’t a great movie, fine, I’ll give you that. Nothing that Warner Bros. and DC are doing cinematically to set up this “cinematic universe” is really lighting up the cinema world. However, both BvS and Suicide Squad made a lot of money, so it can’t be ALL that bad, right?

I have a little Batman bias though, and I think the Batman parts of BvS are superb. If there was an “extended micro cut” of the film with just Bruce Wayne/Batman and Alfred fucking shit up, then I’d still pay money to see that. As an aperitif to the inevitable future Batman movies, the Ben Affleck helmed The Batman, it was a fantastic tease in to just how much potential this could have.

Ben Affleck is a phenomenal Bruce Wayne and Batman, which hasn’t ever really been the case in the previous castings. You mostly had to settle with a strong Bruce Wayne and an “eh.” rubber-suited Batman. Affleck is handsome and charming enough to pull off Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy, and brooding, square-jawed (and ripped) enough to play a….I don’t know what that suit is…Batman.

Jeremy Irons as Arthur and a sexy modern Batcave introduced in BvS shows nothing but promise, and made that movie infinitely better than it hoped to be.

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DOOM (2016)

DOOM was a game I was itching for that I didn’t even know I wanted. I started playing Wolfenstein: The New Order earlier in 2016, hoping to scratch that OLD SKOOL first person shooter itch. It got close, but when I started playing DOOM a few weeks later, that itch was scratched and then it kept clawing deeper drawing blood and horrified screams of maybe glee as I got exactly what I was looking for.

Hell, DOOM’s later levels eerily reminded me of Quake III Arena, so much that I was more than open to the notion of a NEW one of those.

Sure, the multiplayer is a mish-mash of also ran modern-day FPS baloney, but my god is that single player campaign the greatest thing video games had on offer in 2016!

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Stardew Valley

I’ve played games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing; they suck me in for a time, as is their wont. The “just one more turn” button in my mind being mashed repeatedly, as I try to make gains in those types of games. Then inevitably, the grind loses its appeal and I abandon my tiny little world. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that Stardew Valley hooked me real hard earlier this year.

Developed by one man, Stardew Valley was a slice-of-life simulator like no other. The only problem  was hitting the wall in terms of things to do. While there are lots to do…there’s not enough of it, and after a while I had gotten good enough at the game that I wanted for nothing, and all the years started their Groundhog Day like march of sameness. However, we’re talking after nearly a hundred hours of play.

It doesn’t look like much, but Stardew Valley is a hell of an indie game.

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Atlanta

Just squeaking in here at the end is Atlanta. Donald Glover’s “Twin Peaks with rappers” show that doesn’t quite fit that description, but what does that even mean these days? Weirdness jammed up in the mundanity of everyday life? Something that seems cool in the writer’s room that winds up being a throwaway gag at the end of an episode?

Better yet, an entire episode that is essentially a straight half hour of a public access television station? Where only one of the main characters, and it’s not Donald Glover, is the only face we recognize. This kind of stuff is unheard of a first season of a show.

Superbly acted from top to bottom, with Keith Stanfield and Brian Tyree Henry being the MVP’s of the series, carrying it deftly and hanging with the show as it changes beats on a dime. Atlanta is the type of show that needs everyone bringing his or her best, and a network like FX that lets the show operate as needed.

Atlanta’s humor is perfectly balanced with representing the darker side of living life everyday. The odd interactions that we all have from time to time. When you answer the door and a man in a gray sweat suit, wearing a Batman mask asks if your cousin lives there, then runs away. All the while, it tells a great underdog story that ends in a very small, realistic, victory. Atlanta recognizes that the road is long and hard, and it is going to take a lot more than ten episodes to suss out.

The Best of 2016