Man, looking back at last year’s tentative top ten lists, I still hadn’t seen Moonlight or La La Land. Needless to say, in between now and next September when the official Bummys are posted, these lists are going to look very different.
Nevertheless, because I must capitulate to our culture’s norms, I must release lists this December. It will ever be so.
1. Dunkirk: Christopher Nolan’s movies have always been editing marvels, but this one takes the language of movies to a whole new level, redefining bravery and honor in a language singular to cinema.
2. Get Out: Not only the breakout movie of the year, but Peele’s genre masterpiece brought social depth back to horror movies.
3. Logan: A superhero movie only by default, a great movie by sheer, gory effort.
4. After the Storm: Understandably, no one stateside has seen this Korean drama, but I dare anyone who considers themselves a movie fan to check it out- American movies rarely reach these heights.
5. War for the Planet of the Apes: The unlikeliest of success stories, this franchise reaches its peak in an old-fashioned western of a finale.
6. The Big Sick: Romantic comedies used to be a dime a dozen, but this one manages to be a rarity in the genre: wholly original.
7. It: This movie needed only to be scary; it did not need to be an insightful look at teenage longing, but that it was.
8. Thor: Ragnarok: Recency bias may be in effect, but this Thor is the best Marvel movie since- well, since Iron Man.
9. A Ghost Story: One of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen, but it moved me deeply, and I won’t forget it.
10. John Wick: Chapter 2: The original was a high octane ride, and the second somehow enriched its world without sacrificing any of the intensity.
1. Father John Misty, Pure Comedy: A surreal journey from doubting the heavens to faith in humanity, this is what I’d like to think I’d sound like if I made an album and were smarter and funnier.
2. Hurray for the Riff Raff, The Navigator: The best piece of protest art released this year is also a masterpiece of roots music that isn’t shy about its roots being Latin.
3. Joan Shelley, Joan Shelley: Shelley sings and plays in an unassuming style, but there is a world of feeling in her delivery and lyrics.
4. The War on Drugs, A Deeper Understanding: More languid than its predecessor, if you can believe that possible, but just as rich in its sweep.
5. Propaganda, Crooked: At this point, Jason Petty has established himself as Christian rap’s poet laureate; Crooked is his magnum opus.
6. Japandroids, Near to the Wild Heart of Life: Terribly underrated by a criticism community conflicted on how to cover rock music, Near to the Wild Heart of Life is a continuation of the band’s pure vision of idealist rock.
7. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound: Isbell is a wonderful storyteller, but Nashville Sound‘s strength is its ideas about morality.
8. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.: If the more introspective DAMN. doesn’t end up as beloved as TPAB, it will be because its themes are more personal than communal, and not because K-Dot has lost a step, which is decidedly not the case.
9. David Ramirez, We’re Not Going Anywhere: Folk troubadours across the country should look to Ramirez as a shining example of writing personal lyrics without navel-gazing.
10. Rhiannon Giddens, Freedom Highway: Like #2 on this list, this is a piece of Americana whose roots are “non-traditional” (read: non-white) and that enriches our American story immensely.
Best Book I Read
The Passage by Justin Cronin: I read more relevant non-fiction books (Abram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning and Michael R. Wear’s Reclaiming Hope) and more emotionally affecting fiction books (Brit Bennett’s The Mothers). But I’m a sucker for a well-written epic, and The Passage is both of those. It’s also expertly plotted around the theme of hope as the only response to hopelessness.
Best Comic I Read
The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker: I’m a big fan of several of Brubaker’s earlier series, including his run on Captain America and the Lovecraftian Fatale, so a Brubaker-written noir set in blacklist-era Hollywood could only be my new favorite title. Brubaker’s longtime illustrator, Sean Phillips, brings this macabre tale of the underbelly of the film industry to life in sobering detail.
Best TV Series I Watched
Master of None (season 2): The first season was a deft romantic comedy that dealt honestly with dating and friendship as an adult in your 30s. The second was the same but more, including a reimagining of the Italian neorealist classic The Bicycle Thief, the best Thanksgiving episode of television I’ve seen, and a reckoning with sexual assault by powerful men before the recent spate of allegations began. Also, the romance is easier to get swept up in than the one from the first season.