It is with great sadness that I announce that my reading list for 2017 is abysmal. I finished only five books. Where’d You Go, Bernadette was charming and a quick read. Dracula was fantastic as long as you overlook a few small “the lady is too weak hearted to fight vampires and would probably faint even though she has spent the whole book proving she is smarter, braver, and more level-headed than most of the men” parts.
Part of the reason I didn’t read too much this year is just that I tend to go through highs and lulls in my reading volume and in 2016 I read a lot of books. But I think another reason is that I read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and I needed some time to recover.
It was a long book and it was an absolute emotional punch to the gut. Like it punched you in the gut until you collapsed and then it started kicking you while you were down and somehow instead of PUTTING THE BOOK DOWN you kept reading it and it kept kicking you. It deals with some heavy subject matter; one of the characters has a outrageously traumatic and abusive childhood that you slowly learn about over the course of the book.
It also has some extremely beautiful characters and relationships. I read this book almost a full year ago but I can still remember the way that I felt about the characters and I can still see them and feel them in my head. I also read this book at work and I cried at work about it at least twice. I think that the horror you feel at the bad parts of the book makes the beauty in the good parts so much more vivid. And it seemed to go back and forth between the two often enough that you were never really sure if it would end happily or tragically. It is beautifully written. It is uncommon for a story to stick with me in such a visceral way. While I can’t remember anymore all the small details of the plot, when I think about the characters I can still actually feel the feelings I felt about them. Not in like a “oh I remember that I liked that part” way, but in a visceral “I can physically still feel how beautiful it was in the pit of my stomach” way. If that makes sense. It makes you feel a lot about what is fair and what is unfair and how our upbringing affects the way that we view our future and the things that we think we deserve. It was intense and I don’t know your tolerance so I’m not sure I can recommend it or suggest you read it, but I think I’m glad I read it.
I also did not see a lot of movies this year. I can think of maybe four movies that I saw in theatres this year. There was maybe a couple more, but I just can’t really remember. So obviously they weren’t that impactful. Here are the ones I liked.
I am 100% over superhero movies. I would not have seen this one in theatres had it not been for your bachelorette party. You wrote a whole post on this movie so I don’t think I need to say much about it other than it was a very beautiful thing to see a female superhero who was not made a superhero by being made into a one dimensional character who displays stereotypical male qualities. It was weirdly overwhelming and beautiful to feel like I was seeing an actual woman in a role like this. I guess that is what you get when the majority of superhero movies are written and directed by men. It was still a superhero movie and parts of it were pretty cheesy. But I liked more than I’ve liked most superhero movies. I’m pretty sure the No Man’s Land scene will always make me cry.
Beauty and the Beast.
Emma Watson is pretty much Belle in real life in my mind so when I heard she was going to play Belle I was very excited and also very nervous. What if they screwed it all up? What if it was one of those terrible remakes? But my fears were not realized. It was very good. Emma Watson came on screen and started singing the first song and I started crying. Now I did see this during my couple months of night shift last winter, so that may have had something to do with it, but I basically cried every time she did anything Belle-like. So the whole movie pretty much. Emma is such a good person and a strong and outspoken woman who stands up for what she believes in. She is the perfect person to play Belle and I was so happy she did.
Blade Runner 2049.
I did not cry in this movie! It was directed by the Denis Villeneuve, the same guy who directed Arrival, and we all know how much I loved that movie. I can say a lot of the same things I said about Arrival: the colours! the lighting! the cinematography! It is all so beautiful. I appreciated the subtle ways it tied back to the original movie. The way some of the scenes were filmed and the little details. The story was beautiful. It felt profoundly human in a profoundly unhuman way.
This was also not a big year for me in terms of new music. But here are a few things I found and enjoyed:
Stranger in the Alps – Phoebe Bridgers
This album is beautiful and I love the whole thing. There are maybe one or two songs I might skip sometimes, but really I usually just listen to it front to back. Her voice is beautiful and her songwriting is amazing. I particularly like Smoke Signals, Funeral, and Would You Rather.
Melodrama – Lorde
I wasn’t really on the Lorde train before this year. I think it is because I didn’t really care for Royals and that was the only song that ever seemed to get played from her first album. But I love this album. Again, it’s good all the way through. I particularly love Liability, Sober II (Melodrama), and Green Light.
White Noise – Noah Gundersen
This album was very different from his other albums. I like it in a different way than I like his older stuff. This album I find that there are a few songs I feel pretty meh about and a few that I absolutely love. So it is the same amount of love I usually have for a Noah G album, just distributed differently. Instead of being spread evenly over the whole thing like it was for Carry the Ghost it is slightly more concentrated on certain tracks. My absolute favourites are SEND THE RAIN (TO EVERYONE) and HEAVY METALS. But I also really like BAD ACTORS, THE SOUND, NEW RELIGION, and WAKE ME UP, I’M DROWING.
One More Light – Linkin Park
This album is not on my list because Chester died. I genuinely love it. It is a very different sound for Linkin Park. Now I love classic old school Linkin Park. I grew up on it. This was the first band I ever loved and the first cds I ever bought. I used to listen to Hybrid Theory and Meteora exclusively and on repeat while I delivered newspapers for the bulk of my childhood/teenage years. But I have to say that I might like their new sound even better. My favourites are One More Light, Invisible, Good Goodbye, and Heavy.
I watched A LOT of tv this year. I’m not really sure how I feel about that. But I haven’t been reading much or watching very many movies, so it makes sense. I also tend to watch tv while I’m knitting and I’ve been knitting a bunch this fall. So here’s my (long) list of tv I watched this year.
Survivor: Game Changers (season 34)
Of course I watched this season. Returning players! Ozzy! Malcolm! Cirie! Sandra! JT! Andrea! Aubry! Did I say Ozzy already?!
I knew Ozzy wouldn’t win. He didn’t. Cirie came pretty darn close AGAIN. And Malcolm went out early in an absolute freak tribal council. It was a good season, even if the winner was not someone I was rooting for. It was also an absolute crazy season. There were a lot of game twists and blindsides (i.e. the insane tribal where Malcolm went home) and then there was the tribal council where Jeff Varner outed Zeke as transgender. It was insane. Zeke handled it with incredible grace and composure. He wrote this article which was published right after the episode aired.
In general, seasons like this are almost always a bit of a let down. They bring back all of these amazing people, and most of them get voted out right away. So you end up spending most of the season watching the people you really weren’t that excited about and you kind assume are sort of filler because you can’t really figure out how they were a “game changer” in their past seasons. But that’s the way the game goes. At least Ozzy was there for a while so that they could break up the insane game tension with peaceful spear fishing interludes.
The OA (season 1)
I had no idea what to expect from this. It was extremely original. Sometimes it was very heavy, sometimes it felt a touch silly, mostly it was serious. I had no idea what was going to happen AT ALL. I like it even more now that I know Brit Marling wrote it as well as starred in it; she is fantastic. I will definitely watch the second season when it comes.
No Tomorrow (season 1)
I have not heard a single person talk about this show. I found it on Netflix. It was good! It is the classic “type A perfectionist lady meets free-spirited, ‘live life to the fullest’ man” story. Only you quickly find out that this free-spirited man is seizing the day because he is convinced the world is going to end because a meteor is heading towards the earth. He claims to know this for certain. It is super cute and I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Girlboss (season 1)
This show had a lot of hype. I loved the best friend character. But honestly, I found the main character so profoundly unlikeable that I struggled to make it through the season. I actually gave up on it for a while but ended up coming back to finish the season. Netflix cancelled the show; I wasn’t upset.
The Good Place (season 1)
I have only seen one season so far because that is all that is on Netflix. But it is charming and funny and Kristen Bell is a delight as always. Love it.
Master of None (season 1/2)
The first time I tried to watch this show I watched maybe the first five minutes of the first episode, got bored, and shut it off. But I kept hearing good things so I went back to it. I liked it. It felt like a very real show. Kind of like an independent movie, stuff happens but the plot doesn’t feel contrived or over the top. I know there is some controversy around this now due to the whole Aziz Ansari #metoo story. I’m not going to get into that except to say that I have read good and bad arguments and read some poorly written articles on both sides. Because of all this, however, I did find out that apparently Aziz wrote the Chef Jeff character in a way that you were supposed to think he as a great guy and then be surprised to find out he was a sexual harasser. Which is absolutely bonkers. But he says it in an interview, you can read it for yourself.
I thought you were supposed to know from the first moment you met him that something was off. Like crazy foreshadowing. I was surprised it didn’t come out sooner. And it wasn’t just like a “oh wow, I wasn’t expecting that but now that you say it yeah I guess I see how it was coming.” I had clearly formed the full thought in my head already, “this guy is a total creep and he is going to do something inappropriate.” I thought he was going to make a pass at Francesca or something much earlier. So to hear that that was Aziz’s portrayal of an awesome dude is a little troubling. This is his actual quote from the interview: “Okay, what if this is one of those types of guys and we just get the audience to love him? And then pull the rug out from under them at the end and reveal that he’s actually not a good dude?” I did not love that character. From the moment he came onscreen he made me uncomfortable and I strongly disliked him. I was annoyed at Dev for not seeing what a douche he was from the start.
Orange is the New Black (seasons 1-5)
I watched all five seasons this year. It is a good show. I don’t know how accurate it is, but it is full of diverse, well-written female characters. I love that even though the show starts out fairly centred on Piper, it widens significantly to the point where her story is just one of many. Also the way the characters are developed is fantastic. There were multiple times during the series where I found myself rooting for a character I hated two seasons ago, or discovering I was completely wrong about who a character really was. The writers do a good job of allowing you to make assumptions about characters and then slowly revealing their backstories.
There was one season that I thought was a bit boring in regards to the overall season story, but the characters were still great so I stayed. And I certainly did not love every character (Piper in particular is pretty annoying actually), but there are some absolute gems that I felt made it worthwhile. Poussey is easily my favourite character. And one of my favourite characters from any show, not just OITNB. She is fantastic and Samira Wiley is amazing. Also Danielle Brooks! I couldn’t watch her in Master of None without picturing that character as Taystee, like she got out of prison, became an agent, and then started representing Dev.
That 70’s Show
I started watching this because I wanted a fluffy sitcom to put on in the background while I knitted my sweater. It is on the same level as Friends, or How I Met Your Mother, or Big Bang Theory. Not that good, but somehow you keep watching it cause its a bit funny and it requires no emotional investment. I didn’t make it all the way through. The Danny Masterton rape allegations kind of killed it for me. Steven was my favourite character and the Jackie/Steven relationship was the only one I liked. So when I found out that the actor playing Steven was (allegedly) raping people and having the church of Scientology protect him it kind of made it hard to keep watching.
Here are some other reasons I probably should have stopped watching sooner:
(1) Eric is the classic “nice guy” in a sitcom who is kind of an entitled jerk but we’re supposed to root for him because he’s “nice.” Just think Ross Gellar or Ted Mosby. Same character. You’re not being friend zoned, thats not a thing. Shut up.
(2) Kelso consistently cheats on his Jackie to the point where he is straight up dating another girl on the side. Everyone in the friend group knows and no one tells Jackie. This goes on for more than a full season. What is it with tv shows and the whole, “I know he’s cheating on my other friend, but I’ve been friends with him longer so I won’t tell her cause that would be a betrayal.” It is garbage. Especially when:
(3) Jackie kisses another boy while dating Kelso and Eric finds out. He blackmails her into doing things for him to keep him from telling. He ends up forcing her into telling Kelso herself within one episode of finding out. Kelso throws a fit when he finds out.
(4) There is a very real idea that it is normal for guys to cheat because “boys will be boys” and they can’t help it. But they get outraged if a girl cheats. It is absolute bananas.
(5) Eric’s mom goes through menopause and it is used as comic relief. I’m assuming all the writers are men who think that menopause turns you into a wildly crazy and emotional train wreck and they thought continually make her look unhinged would be good for laughs.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (season 4/5)
This show is amazing and if you aren’t already watching it you should be. It is very funny while also being diverse, inclusive, and tackling real issues (race, gender, sexuality, etc) in a sensitive and positive way. It is a slam dunk of a show and everyone should be watching it.
Sherlock (season 4)
I’m a bit late on this one. But I finally got around to watching the newest season. It is darker and different from the older ones. Maybe it is just that I really miss Andrew Scott’s Moriarty and am sad he is gone. He makes a few little cameos in this season, just enough to remind you of how great he was and make you sad he’s gone. The Christmas special they did between season 3 and 4, The Abominable Bride, is fantastic. I watched it for the first time way back when it came out, but I watched it again before I got into season 4 and was reminded of how good it was.
Outlander (season 1/2)
I am not quite done this one yet. I’m about half way through season two. There are only two seasons on Netflix right now, but I believe the third season came out in the fall. I avoided this show for a long time because I had heard it was based on a romance novel and I wasn’t into that. But I finally gave it a shot after hearing a lot of good stuff. I actually just looked it up, and I don’t even know that it was based on a romance novel at all, so I don’t know where I heard that. It is based on a novel though. Anyways. Some parts of the show feel a bit romance novel-y, but it is a really good story with interesting characters and original ideas. I have also learned a reasonable amount about Scottish, British, and French history (assuming of course it is mostly accurate in its portrayal of the countries and times it takes place).
Big Little Lies
This show is absolutely fantastic. I managed to watch it without seeing any spoilers and it was crazy. They introduce that someone has been murdered at the very start of the first episode and then flash back and show how it all happened. I had no idea who died or who killed them until it actually happened in the finale. The acting is fantastic. The story is layered and well written. The cinematography is amazing, it is an absolutely beautiful show. At times it is unsettling and hard to watch, but the story feels important and worth watching. The acting is also amazing. Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard are winning award after award for their roles. It definitely one of the best shows I have seen all year and I highly recommend it.
So there you have it. It is another marathon post, I know. But once I got going it just kept going. You were interested in hearing about every tv show I watched this year, right?