The best entertainment of 2016 ran the gamut of nerdy comedy to sci fi drama. Let’s take a look at the best movie, TV series and book of 2016.
2016 was a heck of a year. The deaths of beloved musicians and actors, as well as a whopper of a U.S. presidential election, made 2016 a pretty rough year to endure. One could argue, then, that focusing on entertainment in such a traumatic time is frivolous. I submit, however, that the pain of reality is the perfect time to focus on something as seemingly frivolous as entertainment.
Luckily, 2016 offered up some quality escapism in movies, TV and books. Here’s a rundown of our picks for the best entertainment of 2016.
Best Movie, Drama
When I say drama, I don’t necessarily mean a movie where corsets and top hats feature prominently. I mean drama in the truest sense, when the main storyline hinges on a tragedy, when laughs are few and far between.
The best dramatic movie of 2016, for me, was Rogue One. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a movie based in reality that had more self-sacrifice or death, although that’s not why it was the best. Rogue One’s story was solid, never deviating from its straight path to the conclusion. Plus, the stakes couldn’t have been higher; the fate of the entire galaxy rested on Rogue One’s mission!
Rogue One was visually stunning, and incorporated new elements, like vehicles and locations, while working in old Star Wars touchstones. The variety in its geography, its sweeping pans of outer space, and its overall aesthetic made it very pleasurable to watch.
I only have two complaints about Rogue One. [SPOILERS] First, I didn’t like how they shoehorned C-3PO and R2-D2 into the story. That scene stuck out like a sore Bantha paw. However, I imagine fans worldwide would have cried out as one if they had not been included for continuity’s sake.
Second, why the hell can’t there be more female characters? Jyn Erso was the only female member of the Rogue One mission. Why couldn’t the blind ninja or the machine-gun wielding character be a woman? Or the defector-pilot? Why couldn’t some of the rebels storming the beach have been women? No reason, other than white men in Hollywood tend to cast their own. At least the cast had some cultural diversity.
Regardless, I enjoyed Rogue One more than any other “drama” I saw this year.
Best Movie, Comedy
It’s tough to choose just one comedy movie as the best for 2016! I saw a lot of funny movies this year. Ghostbusters was a great comedy, no matter what some critics said. (In fact, it finished in the top 20 of the biggest movies at the box office for 2016.) Deadpool was as much a comedy as it was an action movie, and it excelled at the comedy portion, mostly thanks to the performance of Ryan Reynolds. Sausage Party was a gut-busting laugh riot, and filthy as all get out. It would have received an X rating if it hadn’t been animated. (Even then, I bet the creative team had to parry with the MPAA.)
My favorite comedy movie of 2016, however, was Bad Moms. I was fortunate enough to see it in the theater with a bestie, who’s a bad mom like me, and we laughed ourselves silly. The writers had to be mothers, because some of those lines could only have come from the sleep-deprived, over-worked brains of a mom. Half the population who saw it may not have appreciated its humor, as evidenced by my own husband’s “meh” response, but enough people loved it that it finished #22 at the box office this year.
Best TV Series, Drama
TV just gets better and better, doesn’t it? Even the big four broadcast networks are producing better shows in order to compete with the no-holds-barred quality of paid cable TV shows. Netflix and Amazon are nudging into the market, too, with their own original programming. So, choosing a favorite TV drama out of all the shows out there is a daunting task.
One TV show stands out for me, above all others. Game of Thrones was simply the best TV show of 2016. Now that the HBO series isn’t tethered to George RR Martin’s books, it’s racing along at an exciting pace. Every single episode this year played out like a feature film, with lots of big revelations. Game of Thrones fans even had their big wish come true with the return of Jon Snow. (For a change, right? Normally, our hopes are dashed on the rocks of the Iron Islands.)
Normally, Game of Thrones teases a plot development for several episodes before finally putting out, but not this year. Each week brought big news for every character, while still maintaining a “what the hell is happening” vibe. No wonder, then, that it won the Emmy Award for Best TV Series, Drama this year.
Best TV Series, Comedy
Speaking of Emmy Awards, I just don’t get Veep. The TV Academy continues to award Veep with its top prize, and HBO continues to support it. Meanwhile, I find it boring and slightly repulsive. Maybe it has the same appeal as Curb Your Enthusiasm, which was an acquired taste that took me many episodes to acquire.
My favorite TV comedy of 2016 was Silicon Valley, with black-ish coming in a close second. Ironically, I realize that Silicon Valley is also an acquired taste. I’m sure lots of people tune in to see what the hubbub is about, but the high saturation of nerd and tech sends them off to bed.
I absolutely love the nerdy tech aspect (no surprise), but where Silicon Valley excels is socially awkward humor, which is no surprise, because one of the co-creators is Mike Judge, wrote and directed Office Space, another comedy that explored socially awkward situations in a business environment.
The combination of commentary on our digital age, as well as the tech plots that feel like they’re behind-the-scenes drama at Google, and the genius performances of its main nerds, makes Silicon Valley an absolute treat. (It’s also a lovely palate cleanser, airing immediately after Game of Thrones on HBO.)
Choosing a best movie of 2016 is tough, but choosing my favorite book of 2016 is even tougher. I read so many wonderful books, most from my favorite authors, that choosing one is nearly impossible. But, for you, loyal readers, I will bite down and go for it.
But before I do, I want to encourage Goodreads users to visit your year in books. Goodreads has tabulated several fun stats on the books you read in 2016. For instance, I read 18 books, for a total of 6,693 pages. The most popular book I read, based on user ratings, was The Girl on the Train, and the least popular was Antonia Barclay and her Scottish Claymore, deservedly so.
My favorite book of 2016 was Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarity, which I listened to. To come up with this choice, I thought about which book kept my attention best, which book was the one I didn’t want to put down (or turn off, in this instance), which book had the most emotional punch.
Two others came very close: Smoke and Just One Damned Thing After Another. Smoke is part historical fiction, part fantasy, and singularly unique. Just One Damned Thing After Another wasn’t published in 2016, although the paperback version came out this year, and I’d never read it before. However, it’s the first book in my new favorite series. (Read more about my favorite books at Run Spot Run.)
Truly Madly Guilty took me by surprise. I don’t normally like books that aren’t set in some other reality, or that don’t have a murder mystery at its center. Bestsellers, like the kind Nora Roberts and James Patterson write, aren’t generally books that I enjoy. Truly Madly Guilty is about ordinary people in ordinary circumstances. But Liane Moriarity is able to write their stories so that they seem like Greek tragedies. You can see these folks heading toward a collision, and you can’t look away.
The Walking Dead
Being a huge The Walking Dead fan can be very frustrating. The show is uneven, has spotty motivations, and let’s face it, just spent eight episodes to get to a place where everyone know we were going to get to: Rick deciding they have to kill Negan. But I’m always talking about the show, frequently thinking about it, and it gives us something that no other show on TV gives us, although I’m not sure what to call it. At the end of the day though, I am thankful for The Walking Dead.
Game of Thrones
Man, was this season of Game of Thrones crazy since it was the first year that I didn’t know what was going to happen from reading the books. I could tell that what did happen was like a Cliff’s Notes version, if Cliff also eliminated and combined characters (which I don’t think he does). But it was still one of the most amazing stories I can think of and things are finally, finally starting to pay off. I actually think the series could have ended with Tyrion meeting a dragon because it was such an emotional moment. But my favorite moment in any season of Game of Thrones might be when Sam awkwardly pilfers his father’s Valerian steel sword. Way to go, Sam! And stay by Gilly!
On a personal note, I have a physical need for George RR Martin’s The Winds of Winter to be released. I dream about it.
Too short! But lovely. There are some problematic moments, but it scratched the Gilmore Girls itch, which it is possible that somewhere out there a Wookiee also has an unexplained itch. I wrote a review that goes into more detail, but the bottom line is that if you like the Gilmore Girls and don’t need for shows to make sense, this is fun comfort food; although hardly the insightful, smart show it once was. A lot of cheap jokes! But hell, I like cheap jokes.
Batman Comics by Scott Snyder
Still knocking it out of the park. Give this a shot! Do you like Batman movies but think that the comics are like “Biff!” “Pow!” Well, they’re not. Scott Snyder is writing some of the best Batman stories since Frank Miller said, “Hey, what if Batman was older?”
This Is Us
I still think that they hit the “fat” stuff from the perspective of skinny people, but the show is amazing, from acting to surprising story lines to great bit players knocking it out of the park. I’m looking at your suicidal Jimmi Simpson. Denis O’Hare bringing a weird energy to the show. I feel like the theme of the show is that your family continually brings strangers into your life and then you have to deal with them. Not since Picket Fences have we had so many awkward family dinners. In the Christmas episode, we had a lot of fun at Sloan’s family’s Hanukkah dinner. We even got to see Randall’s daughter figure out William was gay! My New Year’s Resolution is to spend more time with This is Us.
Live Bruce Springsteen Concerts from Nugz.net
Okay, I have a little bit of a problem with this kind of thing because the more I listen to Springsteen, the less I need to give newer acts a chance. I keep almost buying that Leon Bridges CD — it’s less than $10 — but instead I go out and buy classic Springsteen concerts whenever I have the opportunity to buy music. It’s wrong, but it feels so, so right.
The Good Place
Since my list is far from surprising, I’m putting something on here that isn’t something I love, love, love like Game of Thrones, but something that might be fun to dip your toe into in the New Year and I’m going to go with The Good Place. [Editor’s note: I love The Good Place!] I don’t know how many of you are watching this, but the show most surprised me by not being a situation comedy. Oh sure, there is a hell of a complicated premise to this show, but it surprised me by keeping the story moving. Without saying too much, the thing on the show that is most like Gilligan never getting off the island is ditched just a few episodes in. And it’s a very funny show. And the two leads, Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, are great and surrounded by one of the best supporting casts in recent memory. Check it out!
By the by, one of the things that I’m trying to get my head around in the new year is that I don’t have to watch every fracking episode of a TV show just because I liked it once. The Media Medusa wrote an article about Smallville and I thought, “Oh my God! I watched every episode of that! I’m a fool!” So I’m thinking that after this Season, I might be done with Arrow. Oh, sure, it’s fine. But it’s certainly not my favorite show. So I might keep The Flash and Supergirl, but it’s entirely possible I watch too much and many superhero shows. And I think after about seven seasons, most shows are done. Obviously, three million screaming Supernatural fans would disagree with me, but it’s a good rule of thumb. Hell, I still watch The Simpsons!
2016. Not the greatest year (I’ll be glad to see its back end). But three pop-culture things stuck with me.
I’ve been a fan since Deadpool debuted in 1991 and was so excited the movie was finally coming out I used it as a one-month-late birthday party for myself. With 16 friends, we got fancy reserved seats at the cinema with the giant screen, drank before and during the movie, went out for waffles and pancakes afterward, and had a raucous time. Was the movie perfect? Nope. But it was a lot of fun and delivered to both fans and newbies alike. Some comic book adaptations have been rated R before—and done well, such as Sin City, The Crow, and Kick-Ass—Deadpool may be the one that finally convinces the studios that popular characters can be true to their source and still make good money.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Friends know I love to see animation in the cinema not made by Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks. As good as those movies can be, as much heart as they can cram into them, I can always sense the massive merchandising efforts lurking underneath the surface. When something from a different studio makes it to my area, I do my damnedest to get out and see it. Kubo and the Two Strings had everything you could expect from one of the “big name” studios: a story like a fairy tale, character growth, and beautiful artwork. If you’ve not seen it, find it.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
I don’t do much theater, but I do Harry Potter, so I didn’t really have much choice, did I? I managed to avoid all spoilers for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and was absolutely blown away by the sets, the ‘magic’ they performed on-stage, and the actors portraying characters who are a literal world-wide phenomenon. The story was solid, and I’m glad JK Rowling had experienced playwrights working with her to make it all that it could be in a new medium. Getting to London can be a problem, of course, but now that the play will have a home on Broadway starting in 2018, there’s time to save up and get to New York to experience it. It’s not hyperbole to say that it should be on every die-hard Harry Potter fan’s bucket list.
That’s our top entertainment for 2016. What was yours? Tell me in the comments below!
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