Kinda glad it’s nearly over.
Funny thing: had a rare chance to actually watch some TV yesterday. Checked out HBO and watched The Martian. (Great movie, BTW. Don’t know why it took this long to check it out.) Then noticed The Revenant was playing next. And around the same time, Castaway was on.
Seemed like someone was making a point.
Hope no one with abandonment issues was watching, because they were about to experience a pretty bad movie day. But I wasn’t thinking about abandonment so much as survival. So if you managed to make it this far, congratulations. It’s been that kind of year.
Creatively, I feel like I missed a lot of opportunities in 2016. Progress was slow, and distractions were aplenty. My fault, of course. I’ve finally come to realize I need something I’ve never bothered with before: a writing schedule. I have too many projects in the wings to be stalled by poor scheduling and a lack of self-discipline. I’m not beating myself up too much, because things happen. But I definitely plan to do better next year.
Fortunately it wasn’t a total wash. I was able to rejoin with my Alvarium Experiment mates and contribute a story to our (so far) annual anthology. If you haven’t checked out Return to Earth, you should definitely give it a try, especially if you enjoy your sci-fi yarns in bite-sized pieces. My offering was The Paradoxical Man, which is not only a twisty-turny tale in its own right, but also a key to understanding the correlation that ties all of my work together.
I also submitted an entry into the TNT Horror Contest via Wattpad. While I didn’t win, I did manage to make it into the top 100 entries and ended up with a solid story that follows up the events of the Aberration. That story, entitled The Blurred Man: Gestalt, appears in the special Edition of the Aberration along with two other related short stories: Nemesis and The Blurred Man. All three stories tie up some loose ends from the Aberration and prepare the reader for the upcoming sequel, Torment of Tantalus. Which will be published early 2017, I promise.
But enough about me. Let’s talk a bit about 2016, particularly what I’m interested in: movies, shows, and books.
To clarify: yes, I realize there was an election this year. And while many people behave as though this process doesn’t happen every four years without fail, I’m not one of them. So, not going there. Also, I’m also aware that many famous people died this year. This too happens at an alarmingly regular rate, so I don’t feel it necessary to add a tribute to the millions already out there. Death is too messed up a subject to elaborate on in a simple post like this one.
So. Movies, shows and books. This was an interesting year to me. Popular cinema continued its descent into mental junk food, while television continued to prove its case as the place to tune in for solid storytelling and thought-provoking dialogue. Television took risks that paid off in many cases, while popular cinema hedged their bets and lost big time in many cases. Of course, I don’t expect the blockbuster studios to change their thinking, because they’re all staring lustily at what Disney’s doing with Marvel and Star Wars. Expect to continue to see endless sequels and ‘connected universes’ when it comes to your popcorn movies, people. Everyone wants a sip of that Kool-Aid, not to mention mass-producing special-effects ridden entertainment that translates easily to foreign markets. In other words, complex storytelling takes a back seat to sheer spectacle.
So, how to break down the best of 2016? I can only comment on what I actually viewed, and I must admit I wasn’t impressed with much. This year was probably the worst movie-going period I’ve experienced in a long time. And while some of my choices were just plain bad (I’m looking at you, Independence Day Resurgence), I also believe the success of superhero films has limited the scope and ambition of film studios. Of course, we the audience are the main culprits for shelling out our hard-earned dollars for substandard fare. So when we finally get Godzilla v Transformers and Star Wars v the Avengers, we’ll only have ourselves to blame.
Superhero movies: Okay, this year alone showcased six major releases. (Six!) Deadpool, Batman v Superman, Civil War, X-Men Apocalypse, Suicide Squad, and Dr. Strange. Deadpool was an amusing romp into juvenile potty humor and stylized violence that doesn’t translate well on home viewing, when one is outside a theater full of enthusiastic fans. BvS, XMA, and SS were all muddled and disjointed in their own way, with BvS being the worst because it betrays the characters it was supposed to showcase. Civil War was the best of the bunch by far, delivering everything you expect from a Marvel film and even a bit more.
Lesson: I will definitely be slimming down on my superhero intake from here on. Too much inferior filmmaking makes you slow and fat.
Movies I thought I enjoyed but completely forgot about: Barber Shop: The Next Cut, The Legend of Tarzan, Star Trek Beyond, Jason Bourne, The Magnificent Seven.
Nothing wrong about any of those films, but no real wow factor with any of them, either. Simply disposable entertainment. Don’t know if that’s a bad thing, but I think if you invest hundreds of millions into a film, you want it to have at least some sort of impression with your audience.
Surprise movie of the year: Deepwater Horizon.
You read that right. I saw the movie out of sheer boredom, and was pulled in by the intensity of the filmmaking. On IMAX, this movie almost literally blew me away. It really puts you right there in the nature of the best disaster flicks, while making you care about the real-life heroes whose lives were at risk because of greed and neglect. See it on the widest screen you have with the speakers on high. You won’t regret it. (Runner up: 10 Cloverfield Lane)
Biggest disappointment: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.
Yes, the jokes already in the title. I really wanted to like this movie because I enjoyed the first one a great deal. But while Tom Cruise shows up, the story doesn’t give him much to work with, and I’ve seen better and more intense action on episodes of the Blacklist. What happened? Cruise seems to desperately want another franchise, but this isn’t it. And the Mummy trailer doesn’t look like it’s going to work, either. Might be time to ease off the action a bit, Tom.
Worst movie of the year: Independence Day: Resurgence:
I seriously can’t describe how bad this movie was. If you really want to know, just watch the Honest Trailer.
Best movie of the year: Arrival
Yeah, I see you scratching your head. Just keep in mind this is my list, not yours. But seriously, the world needs great science fiction. It keeps the mental cogs turning and the imagination firing. The Arrival is smart, intense, and invokes thought. It definitely stayed with me long after the show was over.
Best time at the theater: Rogue One
Emotion, spectacle, dazzling effects, solid storytelling, memorable characters. It’s everything I go to the theater for. ‘Nuff said.
Let’s switch gears slightly and take a look at television. Boy, do I love my Netflix. Together with HBO, I have more story at my viewing pleasure than I know what to do with. I’m spoiled, man. Most of the shows I watch are pretty darn good, so this will be shorter than the movie list. Keep in mind I’m only judging shows I watched that either debuted or had new seasons this year. Older shows I caught up with (like True Detective season one) don’t count. And keep in mind that I still have shows on my TBW list and DVR, so I can’t speak for what I haven’t seen. One has only so much time, after all.
Most disappointing show: Luke Cage.
I very much wanted Luke Cage to be an excellent show. It simply wasn’t. The central character was more lackluster than dynamic, the main villain was a dud, and there were too many episodes where the story spun its wheels. Hey, at least the soundtrack was good. Reviewed here.
Show I gave up watching: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Sorry, guys. You can’t ‘Netflix’ a show that previously established its brand, no matter how kooky that brand is. Sure, the show got ‘darker’ and featured more gritty violence, but it’s not a Netflix show. It’s okay to do your own thing. So I’m not taking the ride with Ghost Rider and the new direction. Thanks anyway. (Runner up: Blindspot)
Best time watching television: Stranger Things
Notice I didn’t say best television show. Because that particular label can change anytime, based on the mood I’m in. At certain times and while watching certain episodes, a number of shows can seem like the best thing on television. I mean, we’re talking about a realm that encompasses shows like Game of Thrones, Westworld, Narcos, Daredevil, Black Mirror and even network shows like Designated Survivor and the Blacklist, just to name a few on the tip of the iceberg.
But it’s a rare show that is enjoyable from beginning to end, with no wheel spinning episodes or forced moments. Stranger Things was simply great television. I wasn’t even so caught up with the 80s nostalgia of the show like many viewers. Simply loved the story and characters. (reviewed here) I almost dread the thought of the inevitable sequel. Some things are good enough to stand on their own. But hey, I’ll give it a shot.
As far as literary pursuits, the well went nearly dry. I wasn’t able to really get into a good book for most of the year, which is a crying shame when I think about it. After all, a good writer must read, so perhaps there’s a correlation between that and my poor writing output. (Note to self: correct immediately.)
But I did manage to get into a couple of great series, both of which pulled me right into the distinct worlds and kept me hooked for the entire run. Those series are Wayward Pines by Blake Crouch, and Red Rising by Pierce Brown.
Both fall into the sci-fi genre, which gave me a nice break from fantasy novels. Wayward Pines can be described as Twin Peaks meets Wool (the Hugh Howey novels), while Red Rising is more like Star Wars meets Game of Thrones. If any of that intrigues you, I suggest you pick up either one or both of those series.
Okay, the sums up a bit of my 2016. It’s been a bit of drag, but the good thing is all we have to do is turn the page and get to writing the next chapter of the journey. Where do we go from here? It’s up to us, right? Let’s go do it.
Discipline is going to be my friend in 2017, despite the fact that I don’t really care for him much. But as previously stated, I need to be a more scheduled person in order to get things done. More focus. Less distraction. You know:
And there will be books! Much more than what was released in 2016. Here’s a sneak peek on what’s coming:
Are you excited? I’m excited. But I want to hear from you. How was your 2016? What are your goals for 2017? Let me know.
Be safe, and
As always, my name is Bard Constantine and if you’re reading this you already know that Bard Writes Books.