Best of the Decade

While of course I’ll write a post about what caught my eye this year, I wanted to take some time to highlight what were the best performances, movies, or stretch of movies over the past decade.  What do we call this decade? Is this the teens? Does that mean we’re about to embark on the roaring 20s again?

Though political machinations have made the last three years feel like they were a decade in their own right, entertainment since 2010 has really seen a lot of change: three Tonight Show hosts, two Late Night hosts, two different Spiders-Man, nearly every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, two different Batmen, the rise and fall (and rise?) of the DC Comics movies franchise, the rise and fall and rise and fall of Ben Affleck, Netflix becoming the most powerful player in the TV landscape, and – oh yeah – the return of actual Star Wars movies to theaters. Suffice it to say, it’s been a memorable decade. Let’s take a look and see what the true highlights were, shall we?  (Note: As always, this is an extremely personal list. You’ll notice no mention of “sitcoms” created by Lena Dunham, nor any shows about and/or containing dragons, to name a few. Glad if others enjoyed them, but they are definitely not for me.)

Best: New “Star Wars” Movies! In 2005, I went to see the first showing of “Revenge of the Sith” in London with my brother and some friends from college. I then saw it six more times in the theater, because it was billed as the final Star Wars movie.  So imagine my shock in 2012 when Disney purchased Lucasfilm and promised to release more movies. “The Force Awakens” was amazing, “Rogue One” was inspiring, and then “The Last Jedi” and “Solo” left me wanting. Also worth mentioning the fantastic “Rebels” animated series here.

Best (for a while): The McConnaissance: Between his bonkers cameo in “Wolf of Wall Street,” his star-making turn in “Dallas Buyers Club,” and the one-two punch of him and Woody Harrelson in “True Detective,” McConaughey could do no wrong.  And then, of course, he made a movie in which he plays a fisherman in a video game. And “Interstellar.” No good thing lasts. 

Best: Sam Rockwell: “The Way, Way Back” is an underrated gem, and though he was primarily known as merely a character actor for much of the decade, Rockwell scored back-to-back Oscar noms (and a win) for his turns his “Three Billboards” and “Vice.” 

Best: The Marvel Movies: Imagine introducing Thor, and Captain America, and Black Panther, and (the best version of) Spider-Man, and Captain Marvel…and then also making several movies wherein they team up? And having each of those movies make hundreds of millions of dollars, and be entertaining (“Thor 2” excepted)? It’s a stunning achievement that so many studios tried to copy (DC and Sony tried to make cinematic universes out of Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman and Spider-Man/Sinister Six, and Universal wanted to make a Dark Universe out of its horror movie monsters).  It’s an incredible accomplishment. 

Mixed Bag: Other Comic Book Movies: “X-Men” movies were both great (“Days of Future Past,” “First Class”) and terrible (“Dark Phoenix,” “Apocalypse”); their spin-offs were good (“Logan,” “Deadpool”); and some of the DC Universe movies were enjoyable (“Joker,” “Wonder Woman,” “Man of Steel”) while others (“Justice League,” “Batman v. Superman,” “Aquaman”) were what this critic might call “atrosh.”

Best: Netflix Series: “Master of None.” “GLOW.” “Love.” “Russian Doll.” “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” “Black Mirror.” Both iterations of “Wet Hot American Summer.” And dozens more. It’s no wonder that Disney+ and Apple+ wanted in on the streaming action. 

Worst: Most Reboots and Remakes: Not everyone needed to know about the continuing adventures of the Tanner Family (“Fuller House”) or “Will and Grace.”  Similarly, did we need another “Magnum, P.I.,” another “MacGyver,” or another “Hawaii 5-0?” 

Best: Zoe Kazan: “Ruby Sparks” was brilliant, her work in “Olive Kitteridge” was Emmy nominated, I loved her on “The Deuce,” and then she goes and makes “The Big Sick,” which was the best movie of the year in 2017. (I also *loved* “What If” with her and Daniel Radcliffe.)

Best: Michael Keaton: from getting a scene-stealing turn in “The Other Guys,” to being a great MCU villain in “Spider-Man,” to “Spotlight” and “Birdman,” and even “The Founder,” Keaton put together an incredible decade.

Best: Jake Gyllenhaal: What a weird decade. He moved on from chasing box-office glory (“Day After Tomorrow,” “Prince of Persia”) to really interesting artsy territory (and, you know, “Spider-Man: Far From Home”). His work in “Wildlife,” “Stronger,” “Everest,” “Southpaw,” “End of Watch,” “Nightcrawler,” and “Source Code” show an actor who is hitting his stride.

Best: Bradley Cooper aka Cooper Bradley: “Silver Linings Playbook.” “American Hustle.” Rocket Raccoon. “American Sniper.” “Limitless.” All great. And then he gives us the best movie of last year, “A Star Is Born.”

Worst: Blah Origin Stories: How many “Robin Hood” movies did we need? Surely not the two we got. (Bonus points if you remember both “Robin Hood” movies this decade. One had Russell Crowe!)

Best: Quality Sitcoms: “Happy Endings,” “The Good Place,” “Suburgatory,” “New Girl,” “Brooklyn 99,” most of “Parks and Rec,” most of “Community,” “Superstore,” “Silicon Valley,” the best (i.e. non-first season) of “Cougar Town,” and “Veep” really set a high bar for laugh riots.

Best: Bill Hader: His work on SNL and in “Trainwreck,” were great, and then he went and made “Barry” into one of HBO’s best shows in years.

Best: Brie Larson: Also great in “Trainwreck,” plus solid work to garner an Oscar in “Room,” and then an incredible MCU debut with “Captain Marvel.” Even her work in “21 Jump Street” was great!

Worst: Unnecessary Sequels: The “Hangover” Sequels totally sully the good work of the first one. “Wreck-It Ralph 2” was clearly a cash grab. “Independence Day: 2” might be the biggest drop-off in quality from one film to the next since…well, “Jurassic World 2: Fallen Kingdom.”

Worst: No National Treasure 3?
I mean, what are we even doing here then? 

Worst: Seriously? They made a TV show…musical….called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend? Oy. Hard pass.

Best: Some Reboots (When done properly): “Creed” and “Jurassic World” put oomph back into their respective franchises (though their sequels did not continue the upward momentum).

Best: Guilty Pleasures: “This is Us” reliably tugs on the heart strings every week. “Hart of Dixie” – a show about Zoe Hart, a City doctor who became a small town physician – lasted four majestic seasons. “Girl Meets World” – while admittedly a cash grab – finally answered what happened to Mr. Turner. And “The Challenge” produced a lot of memorable drama, and a number of Johnny Bananas and Cara Maria wins.

Worst: Seriously?? When you watch award shows and things like “Green Book,” “The Shape of Water,” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” win awards but Amy Poehler never got an Emmy for Leslie Knope, you know that…well I guess that award shows are meaningless!

Best: Amy Adams: Her role in “Arrival” alone probably gets her on this list, but also her work in “Sharp Objects,” “American Hustle,” “Her,” “The Master,” “The Muppets,” and “The Fighter.”

Best: Don Cheadle: His work on “House of Lies,” “Black Monday,” and as Rhodey in the MCU made it a fine decade for the actor. Speaking of “House of Lies…”

Best: Kristen Bell: Her work on “House of Lies,” “Veronica Mars,” “The Good Place,” and brief cameos on “Parks and Rec” moved Bell to the A-list.

Best: Rami Malek: His work on “Mr. Robot” (even when the show’s quality has waned) is fantastic, and when you’ve won an Oscar and an Emmy in the same decade, you’re obviously doing something right.

Best: Other Streamers: Disney+ only just started but it already has a content library (MCU/Star Wars/Old Disney) that will sate me for weeks on end; Amazon Prime and Hulu had quality offerings (“The Handmaid’s Tale” being the best of the lot); and even Yahoo rescued “Community” for its last season.

Best: HBO dramas: “The Leftovers” – What an amazing three-season journey the Garvey/Durst clan took us on. “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Deuce” were the network at its best. And the aforementioned first-season of “True Detective” was sublime. And I may be one of the only ones left, but I’m still a huge “Westworld” fan.

Best movie of each year of the decade:
2010: The Social Network
2011: Drive (this year was hardest for me to choose from of the decade, easily; I also loved 10 Years, Planet of the Apes, First Class, the first Captain America, and more.)
2012: Avengers
2013: Prisoners
2014: Lego Movie
2015: Force Awakens
2016: Arrival
2017: The Big Sick
2018: A Star is Born
2019: Avengers Endgame

Best: This Blog!: Because it gives me a reason – frequently – to thank you for reading my rambling, nonsensical thoughts on the entertainment industry.

20 Funniest Shows….Ever

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A few weeks ago, my friend Kim and I went to see a live performance of Tituss Burgess (“Titus” from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”). While waiting in line, Kim mentioned that one of her friends had asked why she and I would go to something like that, considering that “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” isn’t one of the 20 funniest shows ever. I don’t disagree with the unnamed critic, at least as far as rankings go (though, as long as it’s a show that I enjoy, why wouldn’t I pay to see Tituss (and Jane Krakowski) live?). But of course, it got me thinking about what shows actually are the 20 funniest ever.

A few caveats: 1) I purposefully did not count talk shows, so you won’t see shows like Late Night with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, or the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on here. 2) Shows get dinged for going on past their natural expiration date. For instance, I have “How I Met Your Mother” off of the top 20 – had it ended after, say, season 4, it easily would have sailed into my top 20. 3) This is a list about funny shows. I know there are good shows, especially on cable, that are categorized as comedies (“Transparent,” “Shameless,” etc.). These are not funny shows. They are purposefully not included. No show has ever been more liberally described as a comedy than “Girls.” Yet there’s not one laugh in any of the episodes I watched. 4) My (long) list of Honorable Mentions is beneath the Top 20, presented in alphabetical order.  5) This endeavor is wholly personal. Please feel free to disagree with me in the comments below. Without further ado, my top 20:

Continue reading

Best of 2015

In many ways, 2015 was pre-ordained to be a massive year. After a down year at the box office in 2014, pundits predicted 2015 would be huge, given the releases of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the final “Hunger Games” movie, and “Jurassic World.” And (for those that have been released), those movies delivered well at the box office (including “World” setting an opening weekend record, and then, you know, “Star Wars” demolishing it.). But there were a number of pleasant surprises that pundits didn’t see coming, and that’s what made 2015 quite an impressive year for entertainment. These are my favorite pieces of entertainment from 2015, presented in no particular order, but, for sake of readability, I’ve broken my list down by categories. Let me know what I missed, or what you enjoyed, in the comments. And, as always, thank you for reading this blog – and I hope you’ll stay with me in 2016. Continue reading

Best TV, 2014 Edition

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Well, it’s that time of year. I’m hesitant to do a traditional Top 10 list, if only because there may not be ten shows that I loved, or there may be more, and, as I’ve said before, it’s my blog and I’ll make the rules. So without being beholden to numbers, let’s dive in to the television that I enjoyed the most in 2014. Note: some of these will be individual episodes or moments from a show, and some will be the show’s entire season. I’m sure you’ll figure it out as I go along. Continue reading

Fall TV 2014

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I know we’re still a little ways away from the beginning of the fall TV season, but I figured it’s as good a time as any to write about what I’ll be watching this upcoming season. While some of last year’s picks ultimately ended up being disappointing (I’m looking at you, “Mom” and “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland,”) here’s my best effort at predicting what I’ll be watching live, what I’ll be DVR-ing, and, most importantly, what will be entertaining me for the 2014-2015 TV season. One other note: this is just for broadcast (i.e. traditional network) shows. That’s why, say, “True Detective” season two or stand-bys like “The Soup” or “Last Week with John Oliver” or “The Daily Show” won’t make the list.

Sunday

What I’ll Watch Live: Once Upon a Time, NFL Football

What I’ll DVR: The Simpsons, Mulaney, Family Guy, Brooklyn 99

I am an admitted “Once Upon a Time” fan. Last season, the show had two half-season story arcs: a journey to Neverland to battle the evil Peter Pan, and the Storybrooke crew fighting The Wicked Witch. While the show is never going to mean as much to me (or be as well-written or well-executed) as LOST, it’s still a show I enjoy week-in, week-out, that rewards longtime viewers. As for FOX’s Sunday comedy block, Brooklyn 99 was my favorite new comedy last year; it’s a show that really clicked early on, and gained momentum as the season went on. Besides Andy Samberg’s Jake Peralta, the rest of the cast shines, but especially Andre Braugher and Chelsea Peretti.

As for “Mulaney,” having seen him do stand-up and with the knowledge that he created Stefon, he’s earned a season pass on the DVR, even if that first trailer looked rough. Besides, anybody who can write this Girl Scout Cookies monologue has my undying admiration:

https://screen.yahoo.com/weekend-john-mulaney-girl-scout-000000179.html

And “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy”? They’ve been on the air, what, a combined seventy-five years? (Approx.) And still deliver laughs. Sundays are going to be great for comedy.

Monday

What I’ll Watch Live: Gotham, Monday Night Football

What I’ll DVR: Big Bang Theory [until it moves to Thursdays at the end of October]

Wow, Mondays do not look promising. I know many people will watch “Dancing with the Stars,” “The Blacklist,” “The Voice,” and “Sleepy Hollow,” but…yikes. Not for me. Instead, I’m really looking forward to “Gotham.” Let’s be honest: when you are looking to make a TV show, and toss in Ben McKenzie, Gotham City, and multiple origin stories? Yeah, I’m there.

“Big Bang Theory” is the TV equivalent of comfort food, but I always enjoy it, and to have a few saved on the DVR makes for perfect Saturday-afternoon TV viewing.

Tuesday

What I’ll Watch Live: Selfie, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

What I’ll DVR: Marry Me, New Girl, Mindy Project

I really loved Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s last few episodes, especially they way they tied into the events happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (after Captain America 2). Bill Paxton as The Clairvoyant, Agent Ward as a HYDRA spy, the uncertainty surrounding Nick Fury and Fitz and Simmons…all much more enjoyable plot threads than the first few episodes, which were spent dodging the question of whether or not Coulson was a Life Model Decoy. Anyway, a show that, now that it’s entering its second season, I know what it will provide week-in and week-out. As for “Selfie,” I watched the pilot and, while I didn’t live it, the show’s creator Emily Kapnek was the showrunner on “Suburgatory,” a show I loved. Plus, John Cho. “Marry Me” has Casey Wilson, who I loved on “Happy Endings,” and Ken Marino, who I thought was contractually bound to always work with David Wain. The show is from the showrunner of “Happy Endings” (who is engaged to Wilson in real life). Should be funny.

I loved “New Girl” in its first two seasons, but last year was rough, to say the least. With “Mindy Project”, I have high hopes for it, but the show has to stop shuffling cast members and guest stars and figure out what show it wants to be. Both will still be in heavy rotation on my DVR, but I’d like to see both be more consistently funny.

Wednesday

Literally nothing.

No, seriously. Take a look at this schedule:Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 10.01.51 PM

The best show might be “Black-ish.” You could talk me into “Red Band Society,” possibly. And that “Mysteries of Laura” show? Oof. Here’s the trailer. Never have I not wanted to watch something more. It looks like a bad SNL sketch:

By the way, here’s where I remind you that NBC cancelled “Awake,” one of the best dramas I’ve ever seen, and greenlights things like “Mysteries of Laura.”

Thursday

What I’ll Watch Live: NFL Football

What I’ll DVR: Grey’s Anatomy, A to Z, How to Get Away with Murder

Grey’s is also just comfort food at this point – I don’t really like many of the characters, it’s sometimes too soapy for words, and there’s rarely a plot twist I haven’t seen coming hundreds of miles away. That said, it too makes for fine viewing on a cold Saturday when I don’t feel like leaving my couch. “How to Get Away with Murder” looks like one of the more promising new shows, with star Viola Davis as a law professor with a potential dark side.

As for “A to Z,” I watched the pilot and found it incredibly charming (I’ve embedded it below). It’s got a lot in common with “(500) Days of Summer,” especially given the close-ended nature of the central relationship. But I’m going to give it a shot. However, if the showrunners kill off Cristin Milioti like “How I Met Your Mother” did, I will be very upset.

http://www.nbc.com/a-to-z/video/a-to-z-pilot/2804273

Also, let me just bemoan the fact that “Parks and Rec” won’t be airing until winter 2015. I’m going to miss that show.

Friday

What I’ll Watch Live: Masterchef Junior

Kidding. Made the same joke last year. Will hopefully have social plans. Nothing worth DVRing on this night anyway.

Saturday

What I’ll DVR: Saturday Night Live

Even after a down season, this show still provides laughs in its best sketches. And I have high hopes for last year’s breakout stars Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett.

https://screen.yahoo.com/beer-pong-090000354.html

Other Notables:

Whenever “Community” premieres on Yahoo; “The Cosmopolitans” on Amazon, assuming it gets picked up (because any show with Adam Brody deserves my full attention).

https://screen.yahoo.com/community-sizzle-reel-203225340.html

Any shows you think I missed? Shows that I just shouldn’t be watching? Be sure to leave a comment.