I’m about to write SO MUCH about the stuff I liked this past
year. Read if you dare!
2016 Favorite Movie #1 – La La Land – This one sucker
punched me. I wasn’t expecting the
hit. I thought this was going to be a
film about a boy and a girl falling in love.
What I got was a film about falling in love with your dreams and the
sacrifices you might have to make to follow that love. This film worked for me on a higher level
than any other I saw this year. The
actors were both wonderful. I hope Stone
gets another Oscar. Gosling is next DiCaprio
in terms of only being offered the top tier projects from here on out. Each frame the cinematographer captured would
look good in a frame. The singing was
charming. The score was haunting. The script broke me for all the best
reasons. Gosling plays a keytar. This film had it all.
2016 Favorite Movie #2 - Hell Or High Water – Coolest film
of 2016. Felt old and contemporary at
the same time. Makes me long to go to
Texas with my camera. All the acting is
top notch, the cinematography is wonderful, and the script is lean, sharp, and
ends with a bite. It felt important,
depressing, and real.
2016 Favorite Movie #3 - Jungle Book – The best action film
of 2016. A great example of how to do
CGI right. Each shot more beautiful than
the next. One of the few films that
visually impressed me. This film
balanced play, adventure, horror, and heart in a way that few movies can. It reminded me of why I miss the earlier
Spielberg. Disney flexing its muscles
and creating a better Avatar. Sadly seen
as “just a kids movie”, this is the one film that deserved more than it got.
2016 Favorite Movie #4 - Manchester By The Sea – I never
want to see this film again. Soul
crushingly depressing. A lot of reviews
mention the humor… well I remember 0 jokes.
Only the black clouds of sadness that enveloped every character in this
movie. That being said, for what it was
trying to be, it was pitch perfect. The
actors deserve all the awards. The
inability of the men to communicate to each other or process grief felt so real
and so sad. Too real, too sad. Great shots of the frozen Massachusetts
coastline intersperse this film, hammering home just how cold is their world.
2016 Favorite Movie #5 - The Nice Guys – For those who miss
the lack of new Lethal Weapon films, this one is for us. Ryan Gosling at his funniest, and a script
willing to playfully follow random thoughts toward their conclusion. And how can I not love a movie with a scene
where one character dives for his friend’s angle gun holster, just to realize
that he only dreamed that his friend wears and angle gun.
2016 Favorite Movie #6 - Star Wars: Rogue One – Fan fiction
come to life! One of the perks of Disney
purchasing this property is that quantity of Star Wars films which are about to
be thrown at us. As a life long fan,
quantity is fine with me. And as a life
long fan, I could have made this script a lot better. I know how arrogant that sounds, but I swear
the version of Rogue One what has always played in my head was better than this
one. That being said, I loved this film,
mainly just for existing. I can nitpick
it all day, but out of love.
2016 Favorite Movie #7 - Sing Street – Irish kids in the
80’s form a rock band, from the guy who made Once. Sign me up!
I was smiling through the whole film.
The songs written for this film were perfect. The music videos they made were
priceless. I want a sequel 20 years from
2016 Favorite Movie #8 - Zootopia – The smartest and
funniest kids movie of the year. I wish
the art design was a little more stylized, but the script more than made up for
it. This film was fun and had things to
say, but never in a way that felt preachy.
That’s a tricky line to walk, but this film pulled it off.
2016 Favorite Movie #9 - Captain America: Civil War – This
is the year I got tired of superhero films.
I mainly blame the mishandling of my DC heroes, but even the mighty
Marvel is starting to feel worn.
However, this one still worked for me.
It helps that I’m invested in these characters and I don’t want to see
them punching each other. It also helped
that the script pulled off a pretty successful trick in explaining with
believability why these heroes might want to fight each other. It also helped that these directors know how
to film great, creative fight scenes, something it is surprisingly often
lacking in contemporary superhero films.
2016 Favorite Movie #10 - The Witch – The creepiest horror
I’ve seen in a while. You probably won’t
like it. It doesn’t play by normal
horror movie rules, thus it can feel really boring for those accustomed to the
contemporary horror genre. No jump
scares, just high-brow art house Puritan horror that could stand alongside Nathaniel
Hawthorne and Arthur Miller. English
2016 Favorite Movie #Honorable Mention - Hunt For
Wilderpeople – So cute! Maybe too
cute. Almost too cute. It helps that the characters feel genuine
enough to pull the cuteness off. An old
man and a boy hiding in the New Zealand bush so the boy doesn’t have to go to
child services… and adorable silliness ensues. At it’s best, it reminded me of
Wes Anderson but with more heart.
Extra Credit - Coolest fight scene of 2016: Moana and Maui vs. the Kakamora coconut
pirates. More than the penguins of
Madagascar, THESE are the minor characters in a cartoon film that deserve a
spin-off tv series. What are they?! Maybe crabs wearing coconuts? I have no idea, and I want to know more! Their one scene was like a Mad Max Fury Road
action set-piece for kids, and I want to see this film again mainly for these 5
minutes. I loved the whole film, but
this scene was Disney at the top of their game.
Movies from 2016 I’ve Yet To See But I Think I’m Gonna Love:
Silence, Don’t Think Twice.
Least favorite film I saw in 2016: Trolls.
Really, really disliked it. It
actually tried to pull the heart strings with a sequence that starts with the
line: “Music killed my grandma.” The
soundtrack, which is now a big hit with my kids, represents everything I
question regarding those who market art by committee. Part of the fun of the LEGO movie is that it
somehow worked, when in reality, it should have played like Trolls.
Movies I’m excited about in 2017: The LEGO Batman Movie, Get Out, Logan, T2:
Trainspotting, Kong: Skull Island, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder
Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes, Dunkirk, The
Dark Tower, Baby Driver, The Snowman, Thor: Ragnarok, Star Wars: Episode VIII,
Downsizing, Annihilation, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Okja, Coco, Three
Billboards Outside Ebbin Missouri, Kathryn Bigelow‘s Untitled Detroit Riots
Drama, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Charles James ’50s period drama, Roma, Blade
Runner 2049, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Montara, Mother, Weightless, Soldado.
2016 Favorite TV Show #1 - Stranger Things – I really
disliked the last episode. I could see how they could have tied it all together
with a bow, giving Officer Hooper’s character an emotionally satisfying ending…
but they didn’t. They want to drag us
through at least another 10 episodes, and I really think that was a huge
mistake. It is very hard for me to
imagine a second season working half as well as this one did, which means I
don’t think I’ll get an ending that will work hit me. That’s too bad because literally everything
else about this show was spot on for me.
The cast, the dialogue, the villains, the score… all perfect. I loved the high school bully being maybe
okay after all. Eleven stole every scene
she was in, which was surprisingly hard to pull off with the rest of those
boys. I’ll be excited to watch more, but
I really think the show runners have set them up for an impossible task to make
season two work.
2016 Favorite TV Show #2 - The People VS OJ Simpson – How
did this work? Lead actors Cuba Gooding
Jr, Travolta, and Schwimmer were all pretty miserable in this. Yet, I could not look away. And not in a “So bad it’s good” sort of
way. It just told the story in an
engaging way that felt fresh and current.
For as uncomfortable it was to watch those above actors on screen, Sarah
Paulson, Courtney B. Bance, and Sterling K. Brown all just killed it. The scripts were great. I have no interest in seeing this again, but
after each episode I found myself very impressed.
2016 Favorite TV Show #3 - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt –
Mainly, I miss 30 Rock, but Kimmy and Titus consistently make me Laugh Out
Loud. I’m a fan of jokes, and this show
throws them at me one after another. I’d
pay big money to sit in the writers room and watch those jokes travel from
there to the scripts. I don’t know who
any of the writers are, but I would like to spend time with them.
2016 Favorite TV Show #4 - Saturday Night Live – Favorite
Sketches of 2016: First Place = Dirty Dancing Live. Second Place = Close Encounter with Kate
McKinnon and Cecily Strong and Ryan Gosling.
Third Place = High School Theater Show.
Tied for Fourth Place = Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base, Black Jeopardy
with Tom Hanks, Haunted Elevator with David S. Pumpkins, Adele's Thanksgiving
Miracle, Dave Chappelle's monologue, and Melissa McCarthy at a horror film test
2016 Favorite TV Show #5 - Star Wars: Rebels (Especially season
3 episode “The Last Battle” and the season 2 finale “Twilight of the Apprentice”)
– After all the movie nerds saw Rogue One, so much of the excitement was about
finally seeing Darth Vader being the evil Sith lord we’ve never actually seen
before on screen. For my money, the most
evil (and emotional) Darth Vader moment of 2016 was watching him duel with his
former padawan Ahsoka Tano. Her saber
sliced off a chunk of his mask to show just a glimpse of face of Anikan buried
under that armor, and the image still chills me thinking about it now.
TV I’m excited about in 2017: Twin Peaks! Top Of The Lake.
TV Show From 2016 I’ve Yet To Watch But Sounds Intriguing:
2016 Favorite Album #1 – Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of
Denial. Contemporary Indie Rock is a
sad, dying genre that I fear trickled away due to pirated music taking away any
chance of a sustainable income. Maybe it
can come back to life through bandcamp.com or something. I miss it.
This album reminds me of what I’ve been missing. It’s loud, it’s messy, it’s risky, it’s
catchy, it’s snobby, it’s fun, it’s long, it’s sad, it’s funny, and it rocks. Easily my favorite album of the year, and it
gives me hope that there might be a future for Indie Rock yet.
2016 Favorite Album #2 – Leonard Cohen – You Want It
Darker. I was pretty obsessed with this
album the two weeks that led up to Cohen dying, which was wild. This album was released right before he died,
and it was seeping with sad, blatant lyrics foreshadowing of his demise. I know Bowie did it too, but this album hurt
me more. At first listen, I thought
Cohen was singing lyrics about a rough break-up with a loved one, but I slowly
came to realize he was singing about God.
He was a man who hunted for spiritual truth his entire writing career,
and as he saw his end approaching, he gave up.
Somehow, he captured this surrender in song.
2016 Favorite Album #3 - Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool – I
love that this band can still surprise me and continue to sound just a few
years ahead of the pack. Critics tend to
point out the new vulnerability and heartbreak that’s on display, which I too
interesting and pretty. However, this
thing really grabs me when it gets loud and creepy. In “Identikit”, when Yorke starts singing
“Broken hearts make it rain” with a choir, is my favorite musical moment of the
2016 Favorite Album #4 - Weezer – White Album. Pinkerton was so good that I will always buy
anything this band puts out. Usually,
it’s not quite half as good as Pinkerton, but I’m content with not quite half
as good as Pinkerton because Pinkerton was that good. I’m mainly embarrassed about how much this
band has meant to me over the years, and that embarrassment is mainly justified
with their stream of terrible radio singles that annoyingly ear worm their way
into our skulls, but on every Weezer album, I can find a few songs that make me
smile and say, “That kinda sounds like what I liked about Pinkerton.” At first, I mostly liked this album, but then
I didn’t. Somehow, it has climbed its
way back up to become my third favorite Weezer album. Not all the songs work, but those that do,
really do. It sounds to me like Beach
Boys mixed with the Ramones, but the songs I really like are also mixed with
Pinkerton. Southern California beach
music is a good fit for this band, and I’m happy they went there.
2016 Favorite Album #5 – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam - I
Had a Dream That You Were Mine – This sounds like a dream that walks the fine
line of almost becoming a nightmare, but stays more dreamy than not. Like a
misplaced and long forgotten Sun Records album that had warped in the hot sun,
this would be a good soundtrack if anyone ever made a post apocalyptic film
that somehow still took place in the 1950’s.
“I had a dream that you were mine” is a lyric that has stuck in my head
for the past six months, and I like it up there.
2016 Favorite Album #6 – Damien Jurado – Visions Of Us On
Land – Another freak folk dream of an album, but I don’t care. Jurado is probably the most consistent and
underrated artist of his generation.
Extra credit goes to Swift’s production, who continues to find ways to
make Jurado’s voice echo, haunt, and boom.
2016 Favorite Album #7 – Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels – This is
easy to write off because it’s his second album of standard covers in a row,
but I think I’ll cherish these two albums more and more as I get older. They are so easy and fun, breathing new life
into songs from long ago. Each track
sounds like a different ghost from when my great grandparents used to dance
together, and I enjoy the imagery that floats into my head as this album
plays. Dylan’s voice is aging well, and
I find his old baritone soothing, which I know is an acquired taste. For me, this sounds like an old family friend
stopping by for a welcome visit. I
wouldn’t mind one more of these, but maybe his Christmas album from a few years
ago could count.
2016 Favorite Album #8 - Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book
- To be honest with you, most of these
pop rap superstars are way too raunchy for my tastes. I have a love hate relationship with Kanye,
for example. His music is engaging, but
just so raunchy. I would love creative,
catchy pop rap to not feel pressured to drag itself to deep into the mud. Chance pulls this off for maybe only 1/3 of
the album, but that’s enough for me.
There is a so much optimism on this album that feels game changing to
me. It’s what I want from Kendrick. It’s what I want from Kanye. I understand that it would be hard to write
optimistic rap lyrics in todays uncomfortable racial climate, but hope is so
needed right now, and Chance is leading the way. I just with I could play more than three
songs off this album when my kids are in the car.
2016 Favorite Album #9 - Josh Garrels - The Light Came Down
– Yeah, this is a Christmas album, but it’s a great one. I’m excited for Thanksgiving 2017 to be over
so I feel welcome to play this album in my house again. I’m a Christmas music collector, and this
album pushes all the right buttons for me.
It’s dark, moody, and weird, yet still totally Christmas. This album makes me think more about life in
Israel 2,000 years ago more than gift wrapping and Christmas lights, which is a
welcome change in my Christmas music catalogue.
Those of you who are fans of the moody Over The Rhine Christmas albums,
this is your next keeper.
2016 Favorite Album #10 - Grant Lee Phillips – The Narrows –
I’ve always loved this man’s voice, and it is nice to hear it so calm,
comfortable, and clear. I read he moved
from California to Tennessee before writing this album, and I like to think I
can hear more Americana in this record thanks to the move. There is nothing revolutionary or
groundbreaking here, just a collection of solid, beautiful, safe songs that
sound warm while I’m doing the dishes in my house. I wouldn’t have thought this album would have
originally made the list until I realized how many times I’ve played it this
Favorite Albums of 2016 #Honorable Mention - Violent Femmes
– We Can Do Anything – This band meant the world to be in high school, so I
love that they put out something new.
This album is short, but it probably needed to be shorter. Some of the less polished songs are rough. However, the few that work here work well
enough to stand comfortably alongside their Greatest Hits classics, especially
“Memory”. Gano and the boys don’t sound
like they’ve aged a day, which is especially fun. If you told me these tracks were recently
found unreleased tracks from the 80’s, I would have believed you.
Music I’m excited about in 2017: U2, Pearl Jam, Belle & Sebastian,
Spiritualized, The Shins, Grandaddy, Ryan Adams, Spoon, Beck, Jesus and Mary
Chain, Taylor Swift, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend, Neutral Milk
Hotel, Sky Ferreira, LCD Soundsystem, Sigur Ros, Cloud Nothings, Zach De La
Rocha, Bruce Springsteen.
Favorite Young Life Staff of 2016: (tie) Savannah Saul and Ray Donatuchi
Favorite 2016 thing in the news: Bob Dylan wins a Nobel Prize for Literature
Least favorite 2016 thing in the news: politics
Favorite book from 2016: Superman: American Alien, by Max
Favorite Mason YL Summer Camp Moment: (tie) Chris Allgor asks over a camp radio if
he is allowed to lead water aerobics at 7am in the Timberwolf Lake. Kate Leathers misses the bus home.
Favorite Things About Moving To Mason in 2016: Mason high school kids stop by my house
now. The flocks of 1,000’s of starlings. Owning a house that has a garage and a
weeping willow. Rabbits. The Senior James Gang.
Things We Missed In 2016 By Moving From Madeira: The Sotelos as our neighbors. Madeira Elementary. Friends who still live there who we don’t see
as much now. Coffee Please. Kenwood
Favorite Restaurant of 2016:
Favorite Photo I took in 2016: I was with my family in northern Michigan
working at a Young Life camp. When the
month of work was over, we decided to stay up there a few days just to look
around (or “explore” for you Instagrammers).
We check out Sleeping Bear Dunes, which is surprisingly a national
park. We have yet to see the dunes, but
we park in a lot and start up a short trail that ends on the top of a dune that
apparently has a great view of whatever one of the great lakes its on. As we crest the peak of this dune, the view
on the other side opens up. Not only is
the white sand leading sharply down into the emerald water beautiful, but also
enjoying this view about 20 yards down the hill sat about 40 Amish men, women,
and children all dressed in their traditional clothes. Wherever you were on the day in early July
2016, you probably heard my gasp. The
sand, the water, and these unique models were such a dream for me. Knowing the Amish are stereotypically not too
fond of getting there pictures taken, I played it cool and snuck as many
nonchalant awkwardly aimed shots as I could without them noticing. If you know anyone who is Amish, please don’t
tell on me. There are maybe 5 shots that
I took that I absolutely love, but this one is my favorite: https://www.instagram.com/p/BHUQNc-AnQe/
Favorite Stupid Thing I Said in 2016 to Bruce Springsteen
that made him laugh and reply “Alright” during the 20 seconds I spent with him:
“I’m a fan!”
Favorite Place I Went with my Family in 2016 that I used to
Make Fun Of Even Though I Had Never Been but Now I Like It: Hocking Hills, Ohio
Favorite Instagram Picture of 2016: This one by Katherine Dalton which reminds me
of something out of the Terrance Malick film “The New World” (look at that
Favorite Bible Verse of 2016: “The kingdom of heaven is like
treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in
his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
Favorite Club Talk of 2016:
Pete Hardesty and his fish.
Favorite Movie I Watched with My Kids in 2016: (tie) The
Princess Bride, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (and parts of Pee Wee’s Holiday… mainly
the balloon scene which is one of my favorite scenes ever captured on film.)
Favorite Memory in 2016 with my Young Life Program Team at
Timber Wolf Lake: From a stage in front of a rodeo ring, Grady, Rachael and I
each have a microphone and we lead 500 teenagers through different rodeo
events. One joke we sometimes play on
each other is to ask on the spot if one of us would be willing to share a
little about the origin of the event, which is information none of us actually
know. While Rachael was explaining to
the campers how to do a wheelbarrow relay race, I asked her if she could share
with everyone the origin of the wheelbarrow relay. Rachael then gave a surprisingly long
impromptu speech that involved Harriet Tubman, the underground railroad, and
sneaking people through the woods at night via wheelbarrows.
Favorite Random Thing That Happened in 2016: I really love the Gillian Welch song called
“Look At Miss Ohio.” Last summer, while
in a Kroger, I turned out of an isle to see the current Miss Ohio sitting alone
at a table and willing to sign autographs for anyone interested. At that moment, nobody seemed too
interested. For fear of seeming creepy,
I didn’t say hi or take a picture, but it would have made a great picture. Seeing her sitting uncomfortably alone in her
crown, smiling awkwardly as people walked past… this random scene was so
haunting, yet pretty, just like the song.
My favorite Poem of 2016:
Diet Mountain Dew, by Timothy Donnelly
Favorite Stand Up I Saw in 2016 Even Though It Happened In
2015, I Just Didn’t See It Until 2016:
Norm Macdonald’s last performance on Letterman. https://youtu.be/mFjEvl43zYY
Favorite Commercial of 2016:
Kenzo World Perfume, directed by Spike Jonze. I’ve watched this more times than I care to
Favorite Late Night Band Performance of 2016: Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam performing “A
1000 Times” on the Late Show. https://youtu.be/V50OMXcYBcY
All Around Favorite Things in 2016: Family vacation to the beach, reading Harry
Potter books with my kids, YL Leadership, Mason YL Club, standing on the YL
camp property in Haiti, dancing with my wife at a really fun wedding, heckling
kids as a summer camp program villain via a cat puppet and a megaphone while
standing above a crowd of spunky teenagers in a bulldozer bucket. https://www.instagram.com/p/BHNMDFfgCtr/
Favorite Person of 2016:
You for reading this far. Thanks
for giving me your time. Here’s to 2017!