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Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Top 10 Best Television Shows of 2018

Needless to say, this tweet did not age well:

While I easily could have written about an additional 8 shows, I realized the back half of my list just consisted of the shows I always watch and love and recommend. Shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Superstore, and Bob's Burgers are shows I absolutely love and adore, but don't particularly like putting on lists anymore. A lot of that comes down to the fact that I don't have a lot of say about these shows that I haven't already said before outside of "It's still really good you guys", but I also don't want my work to feel repetitive. Additionally, there were so many new and great shows in 2018 that I didn't want to feel like I was cheapening my final list.

What you will not see on this list is a lot of HBO. I found their dramas and limited series this year to be downright boring or not worth watching. I know people seemed to have loved Succession, but after watching the entire first season and consuming all I could about the content after the show aired, I still don't particularly like or respect the project. I respected a lot of the first season of Westworld, but the show failed to solve any of its problems from it's rookie to sophomore season. In fact, they doubled down on the aspects of the show I never particularly cared for that it just became an expensive mystery box for Reddit to solve. And Sharp Objects was just plain boring. When your show is compelling, a slow pace is considered "deliberate". When your show isn't, it's just considered "boring.".

Netflix also took a hit on my list this year. For my 2017 list, five out of my top 10 shows came from Netflix. For my 2016 list, 4 out of my top 10 shows came from Netflix. For this list? Only 2. In the era of peak television, different channels and mediums are finally producing great content as opposing just just producing content to produce content. I have two shows from Amazon (and I haven't even seen The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel yet) and a show from YouTube. Showtime also managed to crack my list which I don't think it's managed to do since season one of Homeland. During a year where you could watch great television basically anywhere, I think my lists accurately reflects the great diversity of programs that we're living in. So without further ado, here is my list of the Top 10 Best Television Shows of 2018:

10) Homecoming (Amazon)
Season: 1
Created By: Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz & Sam Esmail
Starring: Julia Roberts & Bobby Cannavale

Brief Description: Based upon the popular podcast of the same name, Homecoming is paranoid thrilled ripped straight from the 1970's. Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz created an extremely compelling story for the audio medium and Sam Esmail works his usual magic to bring that storytelling to life. Of course, having Julia Roberts in peak form and Boardwalk Empire alums Bobby Cannavale and Shea Whigham who always elevate their projects. (My theory of having Boardwalk Empire alums as the third though fifth lead will always be good for your program or film remains in tact). I knew exactly how this story would end, and yet Esmail and crew kept me entertained throughout.

9) Better Call Saul (AMC)
Season: 4
Created By: Peter Gould & Vince Gilligan
Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn & Jonathan Banks

Brief Description: Not all of the fourth season of Better Call Saul worked. The show was slow to pick up steam after it's strongest piece, the relationship between brothers Jimmy and Chuck McGill, ceased to exist, and the Mike (Banks) subplot of helping Gus Fringe build his Super Lab felt like the show was spinning its wheels. But once the show found its footing by deepening the relationship between Jimmy (Odenkirk) and Kim (Seehorn) and focusing on Jimmy's stalled career, Better Call Saul really started to sing.

8) Killing Eve (BBC America)
Season: 1
Created By: Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Starring: Sandra Oh & Jodie Comer

Brief Description: I don't much care for classic spy stories and John La Carre novels/adaptations, but I loved the twist that creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge have managed to put on the genre. Sandra Oh playing the titular Eve as a low level British intelligence officer trying to hunt wickedly brilliant Villanelle played spectacularly by Jodie Comer. Comer's performance really made this season for me. It was over-the-top crazy in the most delightful way. As much fun as the spy stuff was, it was the characters of Eve and Villanelle and the relationship they ended up having together that really made for one of the best surprises of 2018.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Top 10 Best Songs of 2018

10) "Shallow" Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper

 A Star Is Born become an American phenomenon once we realized the movie lived up to the hype. A part of the hype was the release of "Shallow" which is the odds-on favorite to win the Academy Award for Best Song. The song premieres decently early in the movie and is the first big moment where the film really sinks its claws into you and never lets you go (despite the second half of the film). There's a reason the song has gained radio play, because of how good it is. 

9) "Money" Cardi B

I'm not the biggest fan of Cardi B's music (although I'm a big fan of  persona) and I like "Bodak Yellow" and "I Like It" just fine, but something about this hook of I was born to flex / Diamonds on my neck / I like boarding jets / I like morning sex / But nothing in this world / that I like more than checks that really got me hooked (pun intended). Especially after her epic IRS rant

8) "& Run" Sir Sly

Every time I hear a song I enjoy, I place it on a list in my phone. This song happened to be on my list, and I was about to delete before I began writing this blog post. Then I started playing the music video of the song on YouTube and now it's been playing on a loop while I finish this post. That driving snare beat combined with the zig zag trill after the chorus (and to start the song) gets me every time. 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Top 10 Best Television Episodes of 2018

10) "Prague" Succession (HBO)
Season 1 / Episode 8
Premiere Date: July 22, 2018
Directed By: S.J. Clarkson

Brief Description: I know Succession is going to end up on a lot of Best Of lists this year, but this is going to be the only spot on my lists. Not a big fan overall. Yet I did enjoy this episode because it's probably the show's funniest. In a world of super rich people, instead of actually flying to Prague for a bachelor's party, the gang goes to an Everything Goes club in New York where Tom "closes the loop".

9) "Something Stupid" Better Call Saul (AMC)
Season 4 / Episode 7
Premiere Date: September 17, 2018
Directed By: Deborah Chow

Brief Description: After a slow start to the season, Better Call Saul picked up steam in the second half, solidified by an incredible montage to start the episode where we see Kim and Jimmy drift apart in a split screen. This show is able to say so much without saying anything at all.

8) "Janet(s)" The Good Place (NBC)
Season 3 / Episode 9
Premiere Date: December 6, 2018
Directed By: Morgan Sackett

Brief Description: The very concept of The Good Place, a demon torturing four mortals in the afterlife, by its very nature can lead to limitless possibilities. Add to the fact that you have the genius behind Parks and Recreation and the serialized nature of the nature inspired by the creator of Lost and The Leftovers, and you're left with the possibility if creating some incredibly creative television episodes. The mid-season finale of season 3 of this show was no exception and was a phenomenal showcase for breakout star D'Arcy Carden. As the gang of mortals are struck in Janet's void (Carden), Michael (Ted Dansen) and Janet meet the afterlife's accountants led by the great Stephen Merchant.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Top 17 Best Television Shows of 2017

17) Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
Season(s): 4 and 5
Created By: Dan Goor & Michael Schur
Starring: Andy Samberg & Andre Braugher

Brief Description: It is difficult for a network comedy to be funny. It's harder for it to be both funny and good. It's even tougher to be both funny and good for five straight seasons. Yet Brooklyn Nine-Nine has managed to accomplish the seemingly impossible. There's a reason the show was saved almost immediately by NBC after FOX cancelled it.

16) Black-ish (ABC)
Season(s): 3 and 4
Created By: Kenya Barris
Starring: Anthony Anderson & Tracee Ellis Ross

Brief Description: Blackish is another consistently funny and great network comedy that helps anchor a fresh a new comedy line up that includes Fresh Off The Boat and Speechless. The structure of the comedies is basically the exact same as when television started, but what makes them great is their perspective. By changing that slightly and seeing characters through a different worldview than your own, you get the rebirth of sitcoms.

15) Dear White People (Netflix)
Season 1
Created By: Justin Simien
Starring: Logan Browning, Brandon P. Bell & DeRon Horton

Brief Description: My son was adopted in April, and I remember waking up in the middle of the night feeding him and rocking him to sleep as a watch an episode of Dear White People. It feels apropos considering this exactly the type of show I want him to watch before he goes to college. Based upon his hit Indie film, Justin Simien tells the story of different Black perspectives as they navigate college.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Top 10 Best Television Episodes of 2017

10) "Who Rules The Land of Denial" 
Fargo (FX)
Season 3 / Episode 8

Premiere Date: June 7, 2017
Directed By: Mike Barker

Brief Description: I know the general consensus was the season 3 of Fargo is the show's worst season, but considering I wasn't the biggest fan on the sophomore attempt, I quite liked the latest from Noah Hawley and crew starring twins played by Ewan McGregor. What makes the show work so well is Hawley's masterful interpretation of films by the Coen Brothers- filmmakers who can make a straightforward kidnapping-gone-wrong film like Fargo and also an absolutely delightfully bonkers film like The Big Lebowski. What makes "Who Rules The Land of Denial" so great is the show's ability to play off of the Coen Brothers tropes and create a delightfully masterfully opening where Mary Elizabeth Winstead's character can be chased by goons one minute, and then sitting in a bowling alley of purgatory with The Wandering Jew (played by Ray Wise) the next.

9) "Time's Arrow" BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
Season 4 / Episode 11
Premiere Date: September 8, 2017
Directed By: Aaron Long

Brief Description: Season 4 of BoJack Horseman dealt a lot with the titular character coming to grips with his past and his relationship with his negligent mother. The series culminates in a trippy penultimate episode where the Bojack's mother (voiced by Wendie Malick) and her dementia flip between the past and present and your left with a David Lynch-ian experience unlike anything you've seen before. A remarkable episode from one of the best and smartest shows on television.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Top 17 Best Films of 2017

17) Molly's Game
Starring: Jessica Chastain
Written and Directed By:  Aaron Sorkin
STARS:  3 out of 4

Brief Description: Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut is neither perfect, nor earth-shattering, but his own words and dialogue make for an automatically compelling story. Based on the interesting book and real life of Molly Bloom, a former Olympic skier turned underground Poker game runner, Molly's Game is a solid movie that is worth a rental. The floor of any Aaron Sorkin project is so high that he's turning everything he touches into Must-See entertainment.

16) The Greatest Showman
Starring: Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron
Directed By: Michael Gracey
STARS: 3 out of 4

Brief Description: My enjoyment of this film comes down to two things: 1) I'm familiar enough with the real P.T. Barnum to know what a terrible person he was to the point where Hugh Jackson's portrayal of the man was an outright lie more than viewing him through rose-colored glasses and 2) I'm a sucker for catchy music. I really enjoyed La La Land, and the same people behind that film come back with a vengeance with The Greatest Showman. The songs are so catchy I had to pause in the middle of this description to go watch some scenes on YouTube.

15) Spielberg
Starring: Steven Spielberg
Directed By: Susan Lacy
STARS: 3 out of 4

Brief Description: You can't be as big of a movie fan as I am and not enjoy one or ten Steven Spielberg films. Heck, you can't even be a casual movie goer and not enjoy a handful of his films. Despite the obviously slant towards this being a puff piece, I really enjoyed the look back on Steven Spielberg's life and career and just how much he's influenced everything. It's also weird because the film made me respect the director a lot less. He was widely (and rightfully IMHO) criticized early in his career for not being able to make a good, serious, prestigious film. Spielberg tried to prove everyone wrong (mainly with Schindler's List), but after revisiting many of those films, like List, I've to believe that argument more and more.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Top 16 Best Shows of 2016

16) You're The Worst (FX)
Season 3
Created By: Stephan Falk
Starring: Chris Geere & Aya Cash

Click here to read why Episode 11's "The Inherent, Unsullied Qualified Value of Anything" was one of the best episodes of 2016

15) The Carmichael Show (NBC)
Season 2
Created By: Jerrod Carmichael
Starring: Jerrod Carmichael, Lorett Devine, & David Allen Grier

Click here to read about my thoughts on The Carmichael Show

14) Speechless (ABC)
Season 1
Created By: Scott Silveri
Starring: Minnie Driver & Micah Fowler

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Top 10 Best Films of 2016

10) Allied
Starring: Brad Pitt & Marion Cotillard
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
STARS: 3 out of 4

Check out my original review of the film here

9) Moana
Voices Of: Auli'i Cravalho & Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Directed By: Rob Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, & Chris Williams
STARS: 3 out of 4

Brief Description: Moana was not a film I had on my original list in 2016, but time has been incredibly kind to it thanks to the fabulously catchy songs, mainly written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and the fact that I've had a kid between when the films first aired and it's current principal residency atop of my Netfliz queue. I don't know that the film is an effective critique of previous Disney tropes that it wants to be (especially not compared to a later film on this lost), but it's still a fun movies nonetheless with songs that'll gleefully get stuck on your head for days. And in the era of the #MeToo movement and the fact that we're now being honest about how terrible the former Disney princess movies really are, Moana is a great film that I think will stand the test of time.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Oscar Movie Review: Dunkirk

Written & Directed By: Christoper Nolan
Starring: Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, & Kenneth Branagh
STARS: 3.5 out of 4

SHOULD I WATCH IT: Rent it immediately and watch it on the biggest screen with the best speakers you can find.

Brief Description: Dunkirk begins with a group of young soldiers scavenging their way through an abandoned village next to the shore of Dunkirk, France during WWII. Flyers drop upon stating that the enemy has them surrounded. The young men suddenly come under attack leading two of them to the shore of the shore of the beach where they encounter an entire British battalion as they attempt to escape from Hell.

Dunkirk follows three main story lines as the United Kingdom tries to rescue these men and get them off of this beach. The first story line follows Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and George (Barry Keoghan), two of the soldiers we met in the first scene, as they meet up with Alex (Harry Styles- who's surprisingly excellent in the film and who's fame works to the film's advantage to help distinguish between the random white kids we're following) as they spend a week trying to get off of the beach. Next, we follow Mr. Dawson (Rylance) and a group of rag tag civilians who spend the day boating across the English Channel in a last ditch effort to save the stranded, beached soldiers. The final storyline follows Farrier (Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden), two English fighter pilots spending an hour in the air to assist in the rescue mission any way they can.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Oscarmetrics: Lady Bird Is Now The Best Picture Favorite

Throughout this year's Award Season, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri became the favorite to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was announced so by Vulture! It cleaned up at the Golden Globes and the SAG awards, earned a butt load of BAFTA nominations, and the film's director Martin McDonagh earned a DGA (Director's Guild of America) nomination. The film was on a fast track to sweep at the Academy Awards come March. But then the Academy Award nominations were announced and a funny thing happened, the film lost its front runner status. It may not seem like it to the layman. Three Billboards earned a bunch of nominations like Best Picture, Best Actress, two Best Supporting Actors nods, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing. However, the one key nomination Three Billboards failed to earn was Best Director; Martin McDonagh was not nominated for Best Director.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Oscar Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Written and Directed By: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Francis McDormand, Sam Rockwell, & Woody Harrelson
STARS: 2.5 out of 4

SHOULD I WATCH IT: Only if you're an Oscars completionist. Otherwise, wait to rent it for the performances.

Brief Description: Mildred (Francis McDormand) is driving along a rural road outside her house when she sees three abandoned billboards. She spends the last of her money to take out ad space on the billboards so that they read "Raped While Dying", "And Still No Arrests",  and "How Come, Chief Willoughby?'. As Mildred's teenage daughter was raped and murdered a few months back without any arrests or leads to show for it, Mildred creates these billboards to cause a stir in her sleepy little town and to get her daughter's case back into the public eye so that Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) can re-open the case and, hopefully, solve the mystery for this grieving mother.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Oscar Movie Review: Get Out

Get Out
Written and Directed By: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, & Bradley Whitford
STARS: 3.5 out of 4

SHOULD I WATCH IT: 1000%. It's currently streaming on HBO.

Brief Description: I've seen Get Out three times and it gets more brilliant upon each new viewing. Ostensibly, the film is about Chris (Kaluuya) meeting the parents of his girlfriend Rose (Williams) for the weekend in upstate New York. However, that's just a jumping off point for the twists and turns that occur for the oddest weekend of Chris' life. You think Get Out is a standard film about a Black man meeting the parents of his White girlfriend, and then something strange will happen. Chris steps outside in the dead of night for a cigarette and finds the black gardener running straight for him, only to turn at the last moment and you realize he's just running laps in the backyard. The black maid doesn't seem quite right either. There's something a little off about her. In fact, everything about the weekend just seems a little off. The plot will eventually come together in the Third Act (and upon multiple viewings; it's definitely worth a re-watch), but you won't know what the hell is happening in the most glorious way possible until then.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

How The Academy Awards Passed Christopher Nolan By

In 2008, five films were nominated for Best Picture. Those films were: Front/Nixon, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Milk, The Reader, and the winner Slumdog Millionaire. 2008 also saw the rise of one of the greatest films of all time. The film has a 9.0 on and is ranked the #4 film of all time by the site, it has a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, and, at the time, was the 2nd highest grossing domestic film ever. The film was both a cinematic achievement shaping the way we not only viewed superhero films, but films in general, and a commercial smash. It was nominated at the Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Make Up, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects and it won the Oscar for Best Sound Editing and Heath Ledger won for Best Supporting Actor.

That film is obviously The Dark Knight. Conspicuously, the three major Academy Award nominations the film did not receive was Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and most notably Best Picture. In fact, The Dark Knight's snub in the Best Picture category famously helped paved the way for the Best Picture expansion we see today where up to 10 films can earn a nomination. Since the expansion, we've seen genre and action films like Avatar and Mad Max: Fury Road earn Best Picture nominations (as well as nominations for their directors). We have also seen the rise of genre and actions shows in television awards as well with Game of Thrones sweeping the Emmys in recent years.