You already got to read the few albums and artists I discovered last year (and liked), so here’s (part of) the reason why I didn’t have more time for more music. Yes, I am a couch potato and I couch potatoed my way through last year.
If I had to describe “Claws” to anyone, then I would say it’s a crime story centered around a nail salon, told with the ridiculous twists and drama/comedy-tonality of “True Blood”. So yes, it wouldn’t make much sense. I try not to think too much about the plot of “Claws” because for one, Niecy Nash, who plays the protagonist and nail salon owner “Desna” is so good that I actually don’t care about anything else. BUT! The styling of the show, the plot twists and especially the cast of women are so good (“True Blood” Kelly Preston, Judy Reys from “Scrubs”, Jenn Lyon and Karrueche Tran are such a good team, I could watch them without any crime stories or other plot just minding their business in the nail salon every day).
Usually, I am really not into these kind of shows. Did not get into “Breaking Bad”, didn’t care for “Weeds”, did not get into “The Wire”. The whole money laundering, drug, mafia-stuff is really not my cup of tea. But “Claws” really got me.
Like many, I really love the Fullerverse (the usually intertwined universe Bryan Fuller creates with his TV shows) and especially his aesthetic and use of music. The soundtrack for “Hannibal” and “American Gods” is absolutely amazing and so is the one for “Pushing Daisies”, for completely different reasons, though.
I read the book “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman about 10 years ago in a library sweep of all his graphic novels and novels but had forgotten a lot of details. So, I was generally interested to renew my memories. But the real reason why I eventually stuck with it were to cast-choices I absolutely adore: Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Stormare respectively as Easter and Czernobog. I first saw Chenoweth in “Pushing Daisies” (and actually would have preferred her as the love interest because of her intense, overwhelming charm). And I basically watch everything with Peter Stormare in it because that’s an actor who gives it his all and is always so mesmerizing, no matter the movie. I still would recommend “Smalltown Murder Songs” as THE Stormare-movie because it’s such a good performance and an overall perfect movie (the soundtrack, people!, is the perfect metaphor of the protagonist’s inner rage).
Ok, but “American Gods” is generally cast perfectly and all those little stories between the main plot are incredibly beautiful and occasionally transcending. I can’t wait for season two because I actually forgot how the novel ended.
The OA (and particularly Alice Krige)
This weird, fantastic realism take on an abduction story is one of the oddest entries in this list because I still don’t know whether I liked it or not. Is it too ridiculous? Is it too cheesy? Still, it had an impact, a very emotional and visual impact on me and when I think of that show, I feel things and that’s, after all, something, isn’t it?
Most of those feelings and most of the reasons why I really loved the show came from Alice Krige’s acting. She plays the mother of the protagonist who sees her daughter after she has been missing for seven years. Every scene with Krige is absolutely beautiful and devastating.
In fact, she ranks amongst the most memorable acting scenes in the last few years for me:
(in no particular order):
Alice Krige – The OA (2016) (every scene in season 1)
Peter Abernathy – Westworld (2016) (episode #1, season 1)
Peter Stormare (see #26) – American Gods (episode #2, season 1)
Viola Davis – How to get away with Murder (episode #4, season 1)
I wish I had this show when I was in my twenties because it’s so funny and fun without dodging serious issues when you’re young, broke and full of self-doubt. I also love how the issue of racism is prevalent but never on the nose. There is a subtlety to it that is really effective because it portrays the micro aggressions that are difficult to address because “they’re not really racist, but …”.
Issa Ray’s fashion is also the best thing I’ve seen this year on TV (it’s a close race with that one Niecy Nash bodysuit in “Claws”, though).
My boyfriend and I got into “Survivor” recently and I have to give it to Jeff Probst and Co: this show is so well executed and thought out. I can live with the evil editing of some characters (I mean, that’s basically what makes reality TV interesting) and can tolerate some of the more forced emotional moments. But it’s in generally an excellence example how great editing can make the most inane premise thrilling and how devilish you can create drama with simple twists in the game formula.
I love this show. “Channel Zero” takes on a different creepy pasta (basically an urban legend born out of reddit or tumblr threads) each season and runs with it. The acting is amazing, the atmosphere is throughout unnerving and super creepy and the make-up and special effects are never over the top. The plot generally is pretty tight, so no “American Horror Story”-going-off-the-rails with this one. This is the horror anthology I expected when AHS started out.
Big Little Lies
Ok, so, I will start with a disclaimer: Given the ending, I feel like one particular actress should have been featured a lot more often and not pushed to the sidelines that much. But that actress also was able to tell her story in one singular scene without even speaking. Which means: if there is a season 2, give that woman more to do because she obviously is capable enough to even work with an undercooked character and breathe life into her.
“Big Little Lies” was so mesmerizing because despite its sometimes pretentious-leaning look it was so well made from the set, the camera, the soundtrack, the lighting and obviously, the acting. I loved the fact that the scenes were given time to play out, that the characters could breathe and really get everything out of the performances. There are certain scenes with Nicole Kidman that convey so much that it breaks your heart (it reminded me of “Birth” where she was equally amazing).
I still wonder whether reading the book will actually expand that great impression or minimize it, that’s how good that show was.
GG Gab and MrKravin
I have these weird phases were I can’t be bothered to watch TV or read a book but want to just lie there and watch Let’s Plays. But I generally prefer horror games and non-problematic Let’s Players who are not too loud and annoying which really decimates my choices. This year, though, I discovered GG Gab aka Evelien from the Netherlands who is not only a lady (hurray!) but also fun, swears without slurs and is entertaining without putting on a show. Plus, she plays a lot of games, so even when I want nothing but watch Lets Plays for a whole weekend, I will not run out of material. Thanks for that, Gab!
And it’s Evelien’s own fault that I discovered MrKravin aka Mike through her because she recommended him a couple of times. MrKravin is equally one of the more low-key players in that you can watch him and not get your ears shattered with every jumpscare-scene because the player just screams in your face in (mock) surprise. He’s also pretty funny and tends to go for even the shittiest horror games which can be quite entertaining.
(also: wordless commentary on tired clichès)
Horizon Zero Dawn
I finally brought myself to buy a PS4, because I want to have it when “The Last of Us 2” comes out (don’t fight me on this, Muriel, I know you didn’t like the first one but that’s just how it is!). The first game I decided on was “Horizon Zero Dawn” which is basically an open world game with robot animals and dinosaurs. It’s visually striking, has a good storyline and a pretty awesome protagonist. You can’t get lost in it that long which was a shame once I really got into it but generally that’s quite good because as a working adult in a happy relationship and numerous interests I really don’t have the time to ever finish stuff like the Witcher ever (EVER!).
The Big Sick
The weirdest thing about “The Big Sick” on this list is the fact that the last romantic comedy that I loved as much was “Obvious Child” and it’s equally about a stand-up comedian. Maybe that’s my kind of genre? I don’t know. Kumail Nanijani’s kind of autobiographical love story is really funny, very well plotted and superbly cast (give me Holly Hunter every day, even though I will have to scrunch up my face sometimes in concentration to really understand her). What I also love: at least for me, it didn’t have those weird, lengthy moments where I am wondering how long the movie might be till the end. That’s a good thing!
“Prey” is a PS4 game set in space but without the great saga element of “Mass Effect” which somehow really puts me off (it sounds too time-consuming!). Instead, it’s a pretty fun sci-fi-dystopian story and you’re basically trapped on a space ship and have to fight an unknown (and evolving) evil. I know that it was originally supposed to be a remake of an old game with a similar premise and that fans of that old game were not too happy with the result but since I haven’t played that original game and don’t really care, I’m like … yeah, whatever.
Disclaimer: I played the game in easy-mode after two attempts to hack it in the normal mode. I am a casual player and can not be bothered with investing hours on end honing my gameplay before I can finally beat a single, measly boss. Shame me for it, I don’t care.
The game is beautiful, it plays up to my hoarding-tendencies that I have by making collecting crap to make other crap necessary to survive and the story might not be mindblowing but it is interesting, somewhat unique and makes for a fun 20-30 hours. In a way, it was a bit like “Horizon Zero Dawn” since it also is a somewhat open world with a very clear cut main storyline and a few fun side quests.
I also liked that I could choose between a male and a female protagonist, even though promo material and most reviews picked the male “Morgan”.