19 December 2015

2015: What Have We BECOME?! Looking Back on Looking Forward

Way back in the nether reaches of January, 2015 we produced a list of fifteen great pop cultural events dropping in the year that we ranked in order of most-looking forward to. As usual, most of these were utter, utter crap that I know don't care about. But let's take a look at what we were looking at a year ago anyway:

#15: The Return of Archer (01/08)

I'll be honest, I didn't really remember much of Archer's sixth season when it came time to write this reflection. It only ended in April. I suppose in early January of last year I was really looking forward to it and so it was naturally on my mind, but looking back at some of the episodes now to refresh my memory I'm filled with a surprising amount of "meh." I recall really enjoying the season when it was on, and there is still hardly a more complex and funny animated spy comedy on television right now, but for all my purpose here, it's fitting to be #15 and no greater.

#14: Pitch Perfect 2 (05/15)

I didn't end up seeing this. I want to. It landed with more a thud then a "YEAH!" and appeared to be mostly a re-hash of Pitch Perfect (2012), as awesome as that still is. It suffers from a hard case of sequelization where nothing is really added to the premise except that things get bigger, badder, and more outrageous. It's essentially a skip.

#13: Minions (07/15)

Why is this on this list?

#12: The Avengers: Age of Ultron (05/01)

I have really mixed feelings still about Age of Ultron. I left the theater really enjoying myself, but with seven months now to reflect, it's astonishing how much of a shitty movie it was. Ultron, while promised greatness in Jim Spader's voice and a stellar marketing campaign, ended up being a bit lackluster, with murky motivations and an evil maniacal scheme that seemed reductive at best. The film works well as an advertisement for Captain America: Civil War (2016), but shouldn't we hold our movies to a higher standard than that? We all know this. This film actually broke me - I didn't and still contain no desire to see Ant-Man (2015). I guess this was compounded by the excellent one-two punch of Marvel Avengers Assemble episodes, "Crack in the System" (S2;E14) and "Avengers Dissassembled" (S2;E15), which deal with a similar story line with greater efficiency and cleverness.

#11: Jurassic World (06/12)

I'm going to have to side with similar feelings to this as I did with Ultron, although certainly not as drastic. It's a fine litmus test to try to think of a great scene from a movie six months down the line, no matter how jazzed I was watching it in the theater. Maybe it's the general souring of this film on the Internet that has me jaded, because I was a sole voice of reason during its initial $1.6 billion run. I did point out at the time that Chris Pratt only exists to explain things and be the only reasonable human being on screen at any given moment, and the film serves more as a meta-indictment of current blockbusters while acknowledging the superiority of Jurassic Park (1993) while relishing in its own blockbuster-yness. In the end I sorta just wish they made a better movie instead of pumping nostalgia, even if their commentary on doing just that is pretty canny.

#10: Better Call Saul (02/08)

This is certainly a deserved chunk of pop culture and Better Call Saul quickly became extremely watchable television. It's amazing that a spin-off prequel to Breaking Bad could be so successful, but it works in part because it's not beholden at all to the original's mythology. It has simply taken a handful of characters from the original show and elucidated them under different circumstances. This is exactly what we want. It's what we always want.

#9: Halo 5: Guardians (Fall)

This is kind of a curveball, I totally forgot that this was even coming out and that I even cared about this until I was re-reading this list. After slamming through some playthroughs, because I never actually play video games any more. Again, I'm totally just into the single-player campaign, which is probs the minority opinion among Halo Junkies. Anyway, the split focus recalls the middle chapter in the previous trilogy, although Locke is a bit less interesting than the Arbiter. At least we don't have to play as a gross Elite and be disgusted with ourselves. The composition of the story ends up being a little disjointed, and after Halo 4 really impressed me by subtly breaking away from some of the Halo conventions and feeling really fresh, suddenly Halo 5 seems like a retread. Well, time to look ahead to Halo 6: Space Monster Boogaloo.

#8: The Return, then Finale of Parks and Recreation (01/13)

Parks and Rec ought to have secured its place among the pantheon of contemporary classics, even if its intense serialization has actually made re-watching a less enjoyable affair. The final season limped a bit with heavy losses to the cast and a show that ultimately didn't feature any of its core characters still doing the same work, but in its own way, that's what Parks and Rec was always about - a workplace comedy that eventually had all its people spin out of the workplace and go on with their lives. The final scenes were some of the strongest and most inspirational in recent memory, which also boils down to what it's all about - the most positive and hopeful show on television.

#7: Furious 7 (04/03)

It's seemingly impossible that the seventh installment of a film series that once included Ja Rule would continue raising the bar for itself in every possible way. Each film seems better than the one that came before it both critically and financially. It's also amazing that we all realized that we cared so much about Paul Walker. It certainly lived up to expectations, although is it the Oscar hopeful we all thought it could be? Nah, but probs one of the better blockbusters of the year. Somehow.

#6: The Return of Broad City (01/14)

Yes, a thousand times yes. Broad City strutted out in 2015 for its second season with an absurd amount of confidence and put together some of the greatest scenes in any show this year. It's hard to find a weak episode, with Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson firmly making their case for the funniest buddy duo of our time.

#5: The Revenant (12/25)

It's tough to follow-up a film like Birdman (2014) in terms of both direction, cinematography, cast, cultural context, and ambition, but Alejandro and Emmanuel dare try. Stick these guys with Leo and Tom who have both had spectacular careers lately (lest we forget they were buddies in Inception [2010]), and there's a lot going on here amidst the bear attacks and river fights. Totally worth it and this should have been bumped up this list a ton.

#4: Tomorrowland (05/22)

I like a lot of what Tomorrowland tried to do, but it seemed to get lost in the shuffle of the summer and could never really break out sandwiched between Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), which drew the most eyeballs, Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), which drew the most wonder, and San Andreas (2015), which seemed to be able to mop everything up with the Rock and Alex Daddario better than Clooney and Britt Robertson. And Britt Robetson has total movie star potential, but Tomorrowland is ultimately forgettable - so she'll need something else lest she fall into fell Disney failure Taylor Kitsch territory fast.

#3: The Return of The Venture Bros. (01/19)

This was pretty sweet. Well, the one special, "All This and Gargantua-2" was. So many storylines were wrapped up....so much loss. We're virtually at the same point we were A YEAR AGO with the promise of Season Six premiering in February. So Venture Bross will totally be on our anticipated list for next year. Great. I'm not going to let it get to me that the pilot dropped on February 16, 2003. That's six seasons in thirteen years. There are no other fans that know our pain.

#2: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (Aug or Sep)

I'd say this has been pretty good but not really the great, awe-inspiring change to late night forever as we know it that I sort of hoped it'd be. He got off to a real shaky start, despite what a lot of critics have said, but I've been disinterested in his faux-pundit persona for a while now. The more he's steered away from that and discovered more of who he wants to be on camera, the stronger the show has become, even if Fallon and Kimmel have a slightly stronger hold on virality right now.

#1: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (12/18)

And he's cute!
If you really want to hear what I think about this and have a good forty-five minutes or so, you can check it out right here. Re-thinking all that now, though, I suppose that if we divorce ourselves from this film's utter reliance on basic plot points and motifs from the Original Trilogy, it is a pretty great film. That's a tough call to make, though. I still believe that this has some pacing issues and problems with establishing a clear plot, but every new central character is fantastic and it absolutely feels like a gift more than the prequels, which is a true Christmas blessing.

So that's 2015 in a nutshell. As always, most of the pop cultural artifacts we were looking forward to were really really terrible. I might say 5/15 of these were really worth it?

What do you think of 2015? Do you agree? Stay tuned after the new year to find out what crap we're looking forward to in 2016!

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