The most amusing part of pop culture is that nobody seems to agree on anything. Some people abhor what others adore, and the end of the year offers everyone an opportunity to make their preferences clear and then argue with everyone else about them.
I will not pretend to be above such list-making. While I won’t argue about the merits of your preferences, if you have, at all, any interest in mine, here’s a quick collection of my favourite pieces of pop culture (film, television, literature, music, etc.) from the past year. Feel free to disagree.
There was a time in my life when I watched almost 100 films in one year; these days, I’m lucky if I make it to thirty. Letterboxd tells me that I watched 38 movies this year, but only one of them had the confluence of so many of my interests — animation, emotion, family stories, meta-narrative, corny humor — and of course, that one had to be made by Pixar.
That Inside Out is my favorite film of the year is no surprise; that there were so many other movies that came close is quite surprising. The year in film was strong (and I have yet to see many of the late-year critically acclaimed films like Spotlight, The Revenant, and Carol) and this heartens me: everyone is quick to claim that television has outstripped film in quality story-telling, but this year proved that the big screen still has a lot to offer.
Winner: Inside Out
Station Eleven made me question my habit of getting books out from the library. Most of the time, I borrow a book from the local library, read it, take a few notes, and then return it in a few weeks. Station Eleven, on the other hand, I read, then re-read, then read again — and then returned it to the library late. I was happy to pay the fine.
It has been quite some time since I’ve been so rapt with a novel as soon as I pick it up, and this has led me to compare everything I’ve read this year to that novel. So many of the books I’ve read have been excellent, superlatively so, but none reach the impact that Emily St. John Mandel’s novel had upon me. They were all returned to the library on time.
Winner: Station Eleven
- The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle
- March: Books One and Two
Favorite Television Series
A few weeks ago, someone asked me to describe my “type” of television series. Was it comedy, horror, drama? Was it marked by music, cinematography, action? I was befuddled on how to answer that question, and the list of series below demonstrates my befuddlement fairly clearly.
I have no “type” when it comes to television. I will appreciate cinematic beauty (Hannibal shines, here), or cinematic risk (The Knick is unconventional in so many ways). I will be enthralled by local politics and the egos of the people who enter it (Show Me A Hero deserves a rewatch, soon), and transfixed by stories of how technology is changing our world (Mr. Robot is more about the impact, rather than the tech itself). I will laugh at pathos both large (Bojack Horseman is a treatise on depression disguised as a comedy) and small (Master of None captures the darkness amidst the brightness of everyday life quite well). I have no “type”, and that’s okay. As long as television keeps being this good, I will keep enjoying it.
Winner: The Knick
If a favorite album could be chosen based solely on what song was played or sung most this year, then the award would easily go to Justin Bieber. Since it’s release, I have listened to “Sorry” at least once a day, if not more. As infectious as that track may be, the rest of the album (with a few exceptions) falls mostly flat. It is serviceable, but not worthy of a favorite album designation.
The easy way out would be to choose Black Messiah for this category, because it was the album that I listened to most, top to bottom, this year. This would, however, be cheating, as I already mentioned it in my list of favorites from 2014. Instead, I thought about the year gone by and just how much it was filled with happiness, and bursts of joy that made me want to dance. That feeling of unbridled joy — that’s the feeling captured in E•MO•TION. If there was any album that captured the feel of the year, it was Carly Rae Jepsen’s.
Winner: Carly Rae Jepsen, E•MO•TION
- Tinashe, Amethyst
- Miguel, Wildheart
- Kehlani, You Should Be Here
- Bryson Tiller, Trapsoul
- Janet Jackson, Unbreakable
Public and serialized radio has grown up, and its new incarnation as podcasts makes me smile. There were times, just a few years ago, when people would ask me how I could listen to people talk all day in my headphones instead of listening to music; those same people are now the ones anxious to tell me about what they think of the new season of Serial. (So far, decent, but not enthralling.)
It’s no surprise that I love words; it is that love of words that made me an early fan of podcasts. It should be no surprise then, that the podcasts that made me most joyful this year revolved around words and narrative. Even the ones that aren’t explicitly about the spoken or written are implicitly related: each one of the podcasts below understands the value and importance of every word they utter, and how it affects the way we experience the world around us.
Winner: Another Round
If you’ve been keeping up with my monthly “Diversions” lists over the past year, you’ve already come across all of these articles and more. It was challenging distilling the 1,600+ articles I read this year into monthly best-of posts, but it was even more challenging to collect a list for the year as a whole.
Maybe I missed some really great ones, and maybe I added a few that won’t hold up over time. Either way, the list of articles below will keep you busy with really great reading over the holidays. Start with Nick Ripatrazone telling you about two of my favorite things — breakfast and literature — and make your way down the list from there.
Winner: Breakfast: A Love Story
- Frightened, Ignorant and Cowardly is No Way to Go Through Life, Son
- The end of walking
- Why Is Everyone Succeeding Except Me?
- The Terror of the Archive
- The age of loneliness is killing us
- The Cost of Paying Attention
- In Praise of Meaningless Work
- On What People Think
- How To Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps
- Why Our Are Parks So White?
- The Sesame Street Effect
- A New Theory of Distraction
- You Will Never Be Able to Thank Your Mother Enough
- What You Learn In Your 40s