Here we are for my third annual “best of” list. Admittedly, with many of these categories, I likely have a very different taste from many of my readers. Still, I always like to try new things, and I invite you to check out some of these. At the same time, if you had some amazing movies, books, or TV shows from this past year, I’d love to hear about them; feel free to send me a note, and I’ll check them out!
And away we go!
Best movie of 2016 – I don’t go to many Academy Award winning flicks. I really don’t care for romance movies, where you can often figure out what will happen in the first ten minutes. Comedies are best saved to watch later on Netflix or other platforms. I generally only hit the theater for the big blockbuster action films.
Last year, the newest installment of Star Wars topped my list. With yet another movie in that franchise out this year, you might well expect it to continue that pattern. However, while I enjoyed Rogue One, it might not have even been #2 if I were ranking movies. It started a bit slowly and took a while to get you to care about the characters, but by the end, it had as good a climax to a movie as I’ve seen in a long time.
I hesitated before bringing my son to Suicide Squad, but at the end of the day, we enjoyed this action masterpiece. The directors did a nice job of introducing all the characters quickly and then getting right to the action. They didn’t hide any of this in the previews, so you knew what you were getting. It had a bit too much profanity for my tastes, just as Deadpool did earlier in the year, but both these movies were off the beaten track super hero/villain popcorn classics.
Ahead of Star Wars, too, was Doctor Strange. He’s always been one of my favorite Marvel Comics characters, but he’s rarely been done well in the comics. The film version takes the best of the best from the comics and puts it on screen. Casting Benedict Cumberbatch as the good doctor was a stroke of genius, and the visual effects were amazing.
However, it was another Marvel movie that was far and away the best movie I saw in 2016. Captain America: Civil War was not going to pull any punches in the amount of super heroes it would try to squeeze in, and it did not disappoint. The appearance of yet another new person playing Spider-Man really amped up fans for what we hope is the quintessential portrayal of this beloved character. Captain America may have been the title character, but just about every other Marvel character who has been in a movie made this one great fun.
Best book of 2016 – Last year was the year of the sequels in my reading queue. Thus, this year provided the finales of a number of trilogies. The Red Rising series came to a conclusion early in the year, and it was well done. My biggest problem was that, while it felt finished, the author came out shortly after to say that he’d be writing more in this universe he’d created. I’m worried about overkill in search of the almighty dollar.
Last year’s winning book was the second in the Tearling trilogy. It was masterfully crafted, and this year’s finale, The Fate of the Tearling, did a satisfying job of answering questions and bringing all the plot threads together. I absolutely did not see the ending coming, but it was done so brilliantly that I was very happy.
Upon a recommendation, I read the book Eileen, a disturbingly dark look at a single lady’s seemingly uninspired life, living at home with her dad in her 30s and stuck in a dead-end job. It was pretty well written for most of the way, but took some strange turns at the end which dropped it from a look at the top spot.
My top book from this past year was nonfiction, The World According to Star Wars, by Cass R. Sunstein. The author takes a scholarly look at the beloved movies and shows how the lessons they teach are important in our lives. It’s an educational book, a fun book, and a good read, especially for dads like me. If you’ve ever enjoyed the Star Wars franchise, this is worth your time.
Best TV show of 2016 – My winner from last year, The Goldbergs, continues to be great fun, reliving the 1980s piece by piece. If you’re not watching it Wednesdays on ABC, you’re missing out!
The Walking Dead has been a favorite of mine since it started. I was never a zombie lover until this amazing comic and TV show debuted. It’s one of the rare shows I feel like I have to see live and look forward to each new episode with great anticipation.
The super hero shows on the CW network have developed into unlikely hits. Four nights a week, this smaller network shows us how DC Comics should be thinking about their movies, which are consistently uninspiring.
But the best TV I saw this year was a six-episode miniseries on the National Geographic channel, Mars. It was part documentary, part sci-fi thriller about a manned mission to the red planet. The documentary parts flowed flawlessly with the story that was told about what settling on Mars might be like in 20 or fewer years. It was well cast and worth a watch if you enjoy outer space.
One more quick best of for the year. My wife and I don’t go to shows very much, but we got a chance to see David Sedaris live this year at the State Theater. He’s written many books based on his life experiences and is flat-out funny. Listening to him read live had me crying over and over with tears of laughter. We can’t wait for him to return to Minnesota!
I hope your 2016 was great, and no matter how it turned out, may you have a better 2017!
Word of the Week: This week’s word is kakistocracy, which means a government run by the least qualified or worst person, as in, “The people hoped that 2017 wouldn’t turn their country into a kakistocracy, but that their new leader would restore things to a great level.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!