What follows is a highly scientific and completely exhaustive list of the ten things or people I most enjoyed in 2015. But first, those who came close before getting nixed from the final ten.
Honorable Mentions: Future, Serena Williams, Roberta Vinci, Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, J. Cole (just kidding), The Big Short, Sicario, Show Me a Hero, Master of None, Transparent, Fargo, Jennifer Lawrence, Stephen Colbert, Amy Schumer, Travis Scott, Vic Mensa, Sia, Tinashe, Steph Curry, Kristaps Porzingis, Crying MJ, Katie Nolan, and many more that I’m currently forgetting.
Now onto the ten.
It’s a weird feeling to have, actively yearning for minimalism as a moviegoer. Even weirder is the moment you realize the director you’ve entrusted with your two hours has acquiesced, and the enduring image ingrained in your brain, one of Michael Keaton answering a phone in his character’s humble, albeit buzzing Boston Globe office, elicited a heavier chill and greater sense of satisfaction than any grandiose show of classic Hollywood action could have dreamed of accomplishing.
Spotlight doesn’t waste its time with extraneous love interests or get sidetracked by irrelevant office drama. In that sense, this movie about a team of investigative journalists sacrificing their personal lives for a story that would forever alter the city of Boston’s relationship with the Catholic Church is perfectly fitting. Director Tom McCarthy relies on the merits of a tragically compelling story and gets out of the way, using his talents to shoot Boston’s different neighborhoods in various fashions while letting his star-studded cast carry Spotlight’s plot on their respective, overly capable shoulders. My goodness is the payoff huge.
In terms of scope, Spotlight isn’t All the Presidents Men; how could it be? Yet everything else, from the dare I say perfect casting, to the heart-wrenching portrayal of this stories many victims is every bit as captivating as the aforementioned holy grail of journalistic cinema experiences.
And before you chastise me as a hyperbolic millennial with no respect for the damn classics, let me kindly inform you, person of more years than I, that All the Presidents Men is amongst my 10 or 15 favorite movies of all time. Give it time to breathe, and Spotlight may not end up all that far behind.
Mad Men begins with Don Draper, alone at a booth in one of those dark, smoky, distinguished New York City restaurants we would so quickly become accustomed to, searching. Searching for a way into the mind of an older African-American waiter whose loyalty to Old Gold cigarettes ran deeper than Don’s affinity for the bottom of a bottle. Searching for the next great advertising campaign, one that could be pawned to a panel of Lucky Strike executives anxiously awaiting what their creative genius Draper had dreamed up this time. Searching for a way to understand what drove people to act how they did, and subsequently, for a way to profit off of these profound realizations.
Mad Men ends with a strikingly similar search, albeit in a drastically disparate setting, only this time a sly smile on the face of our so-called anti-hero signifies some sort of closure … did Matthew Weiner really have the gall to imply that Draper came up with one of the most famous commercials in American television history?
While Jon Hamm’s Draper will live in infamy as one of the greatest television characters of all time, and rightfully so, it was Peggy Olson (played by Elisabeth Moss) who comprised the emotional core of the show. In that sense, it’s fitting that what became the lasting image of Mad Men’s final season wasn’t Don smirking on the sunny beaches of California, but rather Peggy, right at home in the hallway of her new New York City office building, reveling in her long awaited “eff you” moment as if to declare, “hey, to all you assholes who didn’t want a woman in a position of power, look at me now.”
That’s the final season of Mad Men in one screenshot, and goddamn if it wasn’t absolutely and utterly perfect.
Here’s a complete list of things sadder than Adele’s hit single “Hello:”
Here’s a complete list of things more beautiful than Adele’s hit single “Hello:”
Here’s a complete list of things I enjoy singing at an earsplitting volume in a horrifically off-key falsetto to the annoyance of my entire family more than Adele’s hit single “Hello:”
It’s always fun, every four years, being reminded that nobody sings better than Adele (except maybe Sia or Tinashe but I’ll save that for next year).
The only sports figure on this list is here for a simple reason: nobody has more fun doing their job than Cam has doing his. This isn’t the kind of in your face positivity we’ve seen from many past athletes (“Hi I’m Reggie Miller, look how fun it is to be me, aren’t you jealous?), but instead true, unfettered joy emanating through your TV screen as another young Panthers fan receives the souvenir of a lifetime.
Here’s all you need to know about how dope Cam Newton is. Before writing this section, I googled “Cam Newton Santa,” assuming some whacko on the Internet with way too much time on his hands had made a compilation of every football Cam had given to a young fan, set to “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” Shockingly, I came up empty, but what I did find was ten times better: Newton spent five hours handing out gifts to underprivileged youth in the Charlotte area, all while donning a Santa hat AND A SWEATER IN WHICH SANTA HIMSELF IS DABBING.
I’m slightly concerned about Cam spending time with Kevin Hart and having all the enjoyable parts of his personality sapped from his soul, but the fact that he’s friends with Steph Curry offsets that concern in a major way. Cam is the best, and I can’t wait until he and our mutual pal both carry the title of world champion.
Andy Greenwald is the best television writer on the planet (this isn’t an opinion, it’s proven fact), and trying to re-phrase what he has already written on the show of the summer would be a futile exercise.
Please ignore the suspect title and overlook USA Network’s previously uninspiring lineup of programming; Mr. Robot is one of the best, and certainly most unique things to hit the small screen in years. What’s so riveting about these ten episodes, and what makes season two that much more anticipated, is show-runner Sam Esmail’s complete disregard for the natural beats of conventional dramatic television. Sure we’ve seen shows defy expectations in the past (did you happen to catch True Detective season two?), but to allocate narrative control to a self-described junkie, going through withdrawals as his two closest female friends try ecstasy to the tune of Schoolboy Q’s Hell of a Night? My GOD, that was just in episode 4.
Esmail still has a lot to work with, which makes Mr. Robot’s future more intriguing than anything I’ve seen in the last few years. This show can function as an episodic crime thriller, but it reaches a whole new level when Esmail delves into the income inequality epidemic facing Americans today. That’s what truly sets Mr. Robot apart; strip out New York as you’ve never before seen, a soundtrack that pairs Pixies covers with the Alabama Shakes, and still, you’re left with a series that’s relevance to society in 2015 is unparalleled in this crowded television landscape (only the excellent Transparent comes close).
Lead Rami Malek is as excellent as he is odd, which serves as a more than accurate descriptor for the show itself.
Just making sure you were still paying attention.
In the second month of 2015, a football game was played that, in the eyes of this unbiased beholder, is unworthy of re-visitation. What happened in between the contests first and second halves however was glorious and shall not be forgotten.
There was only one acceptable conclusion to be drawn from what we had all just witnessed: This was the greatest moment in Super Bowl halftime show history and there’s nothing you can say to convince me otherwise. Elliot’s release of the song WTF (Where They From ft. Pharrell) early in November only further supplanted her spot on this esteemed list.
Speeding through these next three in the interest of time and sanity. Related: if you can’t understand what Bernie, Vince and Kendrick have done to make it onto this list, I’m sorry but I can’t help you.
First there’s the 74 year old Democratic Socialist who has resonated with the under 30 demographic on the merits of his platform alone, a feat that highlights just how rare Sanders truly is. Even if he fails to get the nomination, and his chances aren’t good, Bernie has laid the groundwork for future candidates to engage youths in a political system that many have lost faith in. To put it in overly simplistic terms, because I said I’d make this quick and I could go on all day about feeling the bern, Sanders sees a generation of people who’ve been handed a raw deal, and he wants to fix it so that everybody is operating on a somewhat even playing field. It’s a shame the media labels a candidate with no personal agenda “unelectable,” but my hope is that with a little more time, the aforementioned “stigma” is shed, and a Bernie Sanders or an Elizabeth Warren in the White House isn’t so inconceivable after all.
Next we have Vince, who made my second favorite album of the year. I’m not super great when it comes to writing about music, so just go listen to it. That will be all.
It was easy to be disappointed after your initial listen of “To Pimp a Butterfly,” and that’s okay to admit. After Lamar’s debut album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” cemented it’s status as one of the biggest and best West Coast rap projects ever released, many expected King Kendrick’s follow up to be a murderers row of bangers. It wasn’t. What we got, while maybe not as easily digestible at first, was a record that, corny and pretentious as it sounds, transcended the music industry alone and served as an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement that so heavily influenced what this past year will mean going forward.
“To Pimp a Butterfly” possesses the same quality of every other great album ever made; it will serve as a time capsule for the hatred and hypocrisy, the love and positivity, and the hope and togetherness that was so constantly on display in 2015.
And if you’ve had enough of my morally authoritative analysis and just yearn for a reminder as to why Kendrick is the king of hip-hop, well, he’s got you covered there as well.
In the second most impressive re-branding campaign of the year (number one is the current he-who-must-not-be-named of American politics) hip-hop artist DJ Khaled breathed new life into his previously stagnating career through the use of Snapchat, and if that isn’t the most 2015 sentence of all-time, I’ll trade an elliptical and a pair of Another One slides to figure out what is.
For those under 30, I need not explain to you why Khaled was one of my ten favorite things about this past year. For those over 30, an explanation would read much in the same way the previous paragraph did: it may as well have been in a foreign language.
So then, before I leave you all to venture into 2016 with two more television shows and another movie piled up on your already overflowing DVR, three final questions regarding our pioneering, undisputed king of the Snapchat.
-Who is this mysterious “mogul” Ben, and what kind of operation is he running to have a business that never ceases to be “boomin.”
-Is Chef Dee on Snapchat? Has she had enough of Khaled’s breakfast videos and does she secretly despise him? These are questions I need answered.
-Why is Khaled, a millionaire who owns a mansion on the coast of Miami, driving from Florida to Nevada? Are we sure he wasn’t kidnapped and taken hostage? Is it possible that they didn’t want him to fly, and for once they succeeded? I refuse to believe it.
That’s all. Enjoy the holidays, have a great 2016, and of course, BLESS UP.