As 2015 ends and 2016 begins, I thought it would be fun to do a year-end list, a staple of blogging that I have never attempted before. Here are a few of the things I enjoyed in 2015:
Best Film: Mad Max: Fury Road.
Many of you who know me well may have expected to answer with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Star Wars is imminently enjoyable, and mostly lives up to the hype, but I somewhat agree to the growing concern of some that the film is the beneficiary of low expectations. Fury Road, however, is a tour de force of high-action storytelling. Through what is basically just an extended chase scene with scant dialogue, director George Miller manages to tell a very human story with fully realized characters. Film schools should use this film to teach big-budget action directors how to tell an exciting story without sacrificing narrative and character development.
Best TV Show: Daredevil, Mad Men (tie)
This was the year we finally said goodbye to Mad Men, which has been one of the greatest television shows of all time and began a string of successes for AMC that included the equally great Breaking Bad. Like Breaking Bad, I was satisfied with its conclusion, a rare feat for a show that sets such a high standard of continued excellence. Without it, I’m not sure what to do with myself. Fortunately, Netflix’s relationship with Marvel Studios yielded twin blessings in 2015 with Daredevil and Jessica Jones. It was difficult to choose between the two, but Daredevil’s intensity, fight choreography, and the fact that it was first, won the day.
Best Album: Pageant Material, Kacey Musgraves
My head tells me that I should join the chorus of voices praising Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly; that album is truly great, and will have no shortage of accolades from other year-end lists. However, I am a country boy at heart, and a well-crafted Country album will win my heart every time, and Kacey Musgraves has indeed won my heart. Pageant Material is charming, honest, and fun. Her songwriting is sharp, but never too clever for its own good. Musgraves manages to avoid a sophomore slump after her wonderful debut, Same Trailer, Different Park. Her future, as well as the future of Country music, looks bright.
Best Book: Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
What else could it be? As Toni Morrison’s blurb on the back cover indicates, this book is required reading. Not only is this the most important book of the year, I can think of no other book that encapsulates 2015 better than Between the World and Me. This year awakened much of white America to what most already knew to be true: that we do not live in the post-racial utopia we would like to believe we do. There is not much more to say about this book that has not already been said. Go read it.
Best Comic: The Valiant, written by Matt Kindt and Jeff Lemire, art by Paolo Rivera (Valiant Entertainment)
As a lifelong comics fan, it has been heartening to see the growing quality of comics coming from all corners of the industry. It is a medium boundless potential, far beyond just superheroes and nerd culture. Image Comics has asserted itself as a top publisher along with the Big Two of Marvel and DC, making for a Big Three. In addition to Image, several smaller publishers have also emerged. One of these, Valiant Comics, is small in its output (releasing no more than ten comics a month) but focusing more on quality over quantity. Like Marvel and DC, Valiant boasts an interconnected superhero universe. The Valiant serves as a brilliant introduction to that universe; it is a compact story with stunning artwork by Paolo Rivera. The Valiant Universe will make it to the big screens soon, so now is a great time to hop on board and there is no better starting point than The Valiant.