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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.