Thursday, December 31, 2015

My 20 Favorite Television Shows of 2015

90% of every best TV of the year feature makes some mention of "Peak TV," a term coined by FX president John Landgraf to explain the current overabundance of not just television shows, but quality television shows.  Even I've introduced at least three of my pieces this year by talking about this concept.  It's an annoying term, especially given its ubiquity, but it's also useful to describe today's landscape.  For obsessive completionists like myself, there's just too much TV.  The total number of shows I watched regularly in 2015 was a whopping 125, spread across 36 different networks.  Trust me, it's as exhausting as it sounds.

But this so-called state of Peak TV has also led to an interesting niche-ification of television.  Just a decade ago, there were 10 or 15 shows that almost everyone could agree upon as "the best shows on television."  And they usually boiled down to only a couple types of shows.  Now, great TV comes in all shapes and sizes.  So if you don't like that show all the critics are currently obsessing over, there are 50 more for you to try out.

For example, I don't like Bojack Horseman very much.  Critics are in love with it and think that it's an honest depiction of depression, when I find all of its emotional beats to be extremely hollow.  Season two of Transparent, which has a 93 on Metacritic, was a bit of a mess if you ask me.  Fargo, the show everyone won't shut up about being the best thing they've seen on television in a long time?  Kind of overrated!  And even still, there is an endless supply of shows that I loved, as you'll see from my list.  What a time to be alive.

The rules: Shows are considered for this list based on the episodes they aired in 2015.  This is a pretty plain and simple rule for cable dramas, where full seasons usually air within a single calendar year.  However, it gets slightly messy when considering network shows, which usually air the first half of their season in the fall and the second half starting January of the next year.  So something like, say, Fresh Off the Boat would be judged based on the second half of its first season (which aired at the beginning of the year) and the first half of its second season (which started in the fall of this year).  As for what constitutes a TV show, anything that airs on, you know, a TV station counts.  But shows that air exclusively on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon count too.  Okay, everything clear now?  Good, let's get this list started...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My 20 Favorite Films of 2015

I start my best films of the year list the same way every year, by mentioning the movies I had no capability of seeing and therefore weren't eligible for this list.  Many of the year's best and most acclaimed films often get released late in December in New York and Los Angeles only, in order to qualify for awards season.  Because critics get early screenings for these films, they appear on end of the year lists, but I'm not an official critic so I don't get that luxury!  It's very frustrating.  So here are some movies that could have possibly made my list were it not for the fact that they're not truly out yet: Anomalisa, 45 Years, The Look of Silence, James White, The Revenant, The Assassin.

Due to having less time this year and trying to focus more on older films, I saw slightly less new movies than I did in 2014, but enough to say with confidence that 2015 was a fantastic year for film.  We got great films of all shapes and sizes: blockbusters, animated films, foreign films, middle budget movies, horror, non-theatrical releases.  There were some massive disappointments -- looking at you, Spectre! -- but 2015 batted a pretty high average overall.  Here's to hoping 2016 is even better.

The rules: As long as a film got an official release in 2015, it was eligible for placement on this list.  This is an important thing to remember, since many of the films that appear in my top 20 premiered at film festivals in 2014, but didn't get released in theaters until this year.  And in the case where a film got no theatrical release, then a VOD debut in 2015 will make it eligible.  Now that all of that has been cleared up, on to the actual list...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My 20 Favorite Albums of 2015

2015 felt like a more enjoyable year for music than 2014.  There's always good stuff to find in any year, but there was more of it this year and it was better.  I could stretch my list out to 40 albums and it would still only consist of records I liked quite a bit.

This year also had more albums that seemed to grab the entire internet at large.  Of course, the one that towered above the rest was Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, which is currently running laps around everyone else on end of the year lists.  But there was also stuff like Sufjan Stevens, Jamie xx, Tame Impala, Deafheaven, and Father John Misty.  There was even a jazz album that the big blogs loved! (I haven't had the time to sit down with Kamasi Washington's triple album The Epic in full, but the bits I've heard of it certainly make the praise seem warranted.)

My top 20 only represents a fraction of the diversity of greatness we saw in 2015, but I'm still satisfied with how it turned out.  There's rap, punk, R&B, pop, old favorites, exciting newcomers, and an out-of-left field choice or two.

The rules: Due to the constant changing of the way music gets released, anything can be an album for the sake of this list.  You especially have to play fast and loose given the fact that many rap mixtapes function as albums anyway.  So LPs, mixtapes, 40-minute songs, EPs if they're good enough -- they're all albums to me!  If something got released in another country in a previous year, but got an American release this year, it works on a case-by-case basis (although there are no examples of that this year).  Otherwise, the eligibility window is that the album has to have been released between January 1, 2015 and today.  That means that D'Angelo's Black Messiah, which came out at the very end of 2014 but has appeared on many publications' lists this year, will not show up here.  (Plus it was my number 5 last year, since I actually wait until the end of the year to finalize my lists.)  So now with that bit of business out of the way, on to the actual list...