2016 has nearly come to an end. Finally. Most of us sneer at it like a bully about to move out of the neighborhood, waiting with excitement for a fresh start. But the year has managed to offer up some really great contributions in pop culture, which we’re excited to carry with us into the new year. So here’s my “Best of” list within their respective categories.
Denis Villeneuve, director of Prisoners, Sicario, and the (so far) visually stunning Bladerunner 2049, continued to execute his directorial acumen this year. Arrival is a compelling and timely story about the complex and cooperative nature of language between worlds. It also showcases Villeneuve’s signature use of color. Fun fact: Dr. Strange’s Scott Derrickson recently tweeted to aspiring filmmakers that they study color theory. And I couldn’t agree more. Color is a component of visual storytelling that tends to get lost on most of us—directors and audience alike. If you haven’t already, pay attention to the yellows and blues Villeneuve uses in any given film. They help tell his stories so well.
Honorable Mention – MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
One of two Jeff Nichols films this year, Midnight Special is a visceral sci-fi story with the kind of smart narrative reveals he’s so good at. He doesn’t give many answers about the world he built, primarily because they’re not as important as our questions about the characters in it. David Wingo’s soundtrack is also fantastic.
SKELETON TREE by NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS
There are only a few albums you can play on repeat without tiring. This one sits high on that list. The song Jesus Alone is so complex, your soul may be subject to worthwhile growing pains.
Honorable Mention – POETS & SAINTS by ALL SONS & DAUGHTERS
A title taken from a phrase in Madeleine L’Engle’s book Walking on Water, Leslie Jordan and David Leonard conceived of an album that pairs past writers and saints into a singular imaginative and inspired voice. A pretty moving concept and well-executed.
Best Television Show
I thoroughly enjoyed this show. If you’re one of the 12 people who hasn’t watched it yet, you should. Especially, if you can appreciate an honest treatment of all things great about 80’s sci-fi/fantasy/horror.
Honorable Mention — TWIN PEAKS (1990)
If you’re planning to watch the continued series next year on Showtime, you should nestle in like I did for the original two seasons (currently on Netflix) of one of the best shows in television history. David Lynch’s quirky, unforgettable series will stay with you, like it or not. I hope this 2017 renewal captures the same damn good cup of its essence.
SILENCE by SHUSAKU ENDO
Silence is the story of Catholic missionaries who undergo persecution in feudal Japan while searching for their fellow priest gone missing. Reading Endo’s Silence has been one of the most enjoyable and affecting experiences of the year. The same was true for Martin Scorsese nearly three decades ago, which is why we’re all so excited about his upcoming film, Silence. Ever since Mean Streets, Scorsese has turned the camera on his conversation with God—something which we should all listen to carefully.
Speaking of listening, you can hear the StoryMen talk about Silence on January 6th for their 150th episode!
Honorable Mention – THE DAY THE REVOLUTION BEGAN by N.T. WRIGHT
Wright offers an expansive and accessible view on the meaning of the Cross, which I believe everyone would enjoy. And for my fellow theology nerds, he offers some worthy thoughts on atonement theory.
Best Podcast Episode
The RobCast, Ep. 121: TALKING ABOUT TALKING
Theologian Rob Bell puts out a weekly podcast, which is consistently enjoyable and insightful. In particular, this episode is uniquely compelling as part of his recent Wisdom Series. In a culture where words are spent like loose change on a dollar menu (I’m guilty), I highly recommend giving it a listen.
Funniest Movie Moment
Hands down, the “DMV Sloth Scene” in Disney’s Zootopia. Also, perhaps the biggest spoiler of 2016 since they squandered that comedy gold on the trailer. What a sin! If you’ve yet to see it, trust me, don’t watch the trailer. Go straight for the rental.
How about you? Share your favorite 2016 pop culture takes!