(Written by Martha S.)
I touched on the fact that the things that usually make my Top Ten end of the year lists are some combination of things that I think were best, and also things that are my favorites, and somewhere in the Venn diagram of those things is the top ten I eventually summon. The point is, the things that are best are not always the things that I love, since I occasionally have trash taste and also will prioritize things that give me feelings over things that are technically excellent (IT was a very good example of this).
Logan, for example, on Pete’s list, was probably one of the ten best films of the year – but I did not leave that theater desiring to ever watch it again, because it was so exhausting and such a raw experience. I recognize that it is a stellar film (because the Academy won’t, amiright), but I would rather watch Wonder Woman ten more times.
I realize this makes me seem like a lazy consumer, and in many ways, I am – which is not to say I don’t enjoy being challenged by media, but rather that the structures under which I want to revisit something are more specific than wanting to study something in-depth.
ALL OF WHICH IS TO SAY, that here are some other truly excellent things I experienced this year, which did not make it into my list for the episode, but that I would like to give credit to.
The Shape of Water, film, directed by Guillermo del Toro
I am leading with this because if I had seen it before we recorded the episode, it would have bumped something off my list. It is a truly excellent, beautiful movie that cares about as much for logic as a Grimm’s fairy tale, which is to say, not at all. Sally Hawkins gives a lyrical performance, and I have been describing it to people as “Think about if Beauty & the Beast and The Creature from the Black Lagoon had a film baby,” and I stand by that.
Turtles all the Way Down, book, written by John Green
John Green is a hard author for me to talk about as an adult human because I can see so desperately what his appeal is for teenagers, I simply came to him too late in my life to be truly enraptured by his “talk like tiny adults” teenage protagonists. TATD suffers from this greatly, but it is also an incredibly raw, relateable story about someone dealing with crippling anxiety and OCD, and I approve of the conversations it inspired in my teen book club.
Rick and Morty, s3.07: “The Ricklantis Mixup,” tv episode written by Dan Guterman and Ryan Ridley
The fanbase for Rick and Morty may be terrible, but the show has reached some truly transcendent moments, and I particularly enjoyed this Lord of the Flies-esque diversion into Citadel life. Politician Morty is superior to Pickle Rick, don’t @ me.
Brooklyn Nine Nine and The Good Place
The biggest reason I didn’t include any episodes of Brooklyn Nine Nine or The Good Place on my list were simply that I couldn’t pick just one, and I wanted to get granular and stay consistent. But both of these shows have delivered consistently excellent, intensely watchable tv, particularly TGP 2.02 (“Dance Dance Resolution”), 2.05 (“Existential Crisis”), and B99 5.04 (“HalloVeen”), 5.09 (“99”), and 5.10 (“Game Night”).
All the Crooked Saints, book, written by Maggie Stiefvater
I am still a bit unsure about how I feel about this book! As a reading experience, it is excellent: it is whimsical, emotional, fun to read. However, it is a very Hispanic story about Hispanic people using Hispanic culture, written by….a white lady. I haven’t been able to find any quotes or writing by Stiefvater about the research process for this book, or who she did or did not consult while writing it, but my kneejerk reaction is that this is a bit what people are talking about when they talk about cultural appropriation: was Stiefvater’s voice the best voice to tell this story? Is this her story to tell?
Release, book, written by Patrick Ness
Patrick Ness wrote one of my favorite books in the universe (The Rest of Us Just Live Here) and I think it is an UTTER TRAGEDY that it has not been turned into a CW show about beautiful teenagers making terrible life decisions. That said, I truly loved about 70% of Release – the other 30% was a fairly obtuse fairy tale interweaving between the story of one summer day in not-quite-out Adam Thorn’s life, and I am still not quite sure what the relationship between those two stories is.
Thor: Ragnarok, film, directed by Taika Waititi
It was good! I had a lot of fun! It was also super dumb? Not in a writing or humor way, because I actually thought most of the humor was delivered excellently; the story, however, makes NO sense, and a lot of my favorite bit players from earlier Thor chapters were tossed aside very unceremoniously, which I did not appreciate.