You didn’t think I would let the year end without offering my annual and entirely unsolicited take on my favorite slices of pop culture from the past year, did you?
- TV: Even I had a difficult time keeping up with the overwhelming quantity of scripted and unscripted television that networks and streaming outlets produced this year. It’s an embarrassment of riches, but I wonder how long this can go on before economic forces catch up with the ambitions of creators and executives. As in past years, shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead kept me thoroughly entertained, even if the writers made some questionable plotting decisions along the way. Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, a visually stunning adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s alternate history novel, is a grim look at life in an occupied America. Netflix’s Jessica Jones took a minor character from the Marvel universe and delivered a gripping noir that addresses the lingering aftermath of sexual assault and challenges our traditional notions of villainy. And Stephen Colbert made The Late Show his own, demonstrating that his wit and intelligence could thrive beyond the confines of the character that he played for the past nine years.
- Movies: I had a lot of fun at the opening day of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While the script calls out the first movie in ways both obvious and subtle, this is definitely a Star Wars film for the 21st century. The younger cast members, particularly Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, are a pleasure to watch and I can’t wait to see what the next episode brings. But the movie that captivated me the most this year was Mad Max: Fury Road. The title is misleading because Max isn’t the movie’s focus; it’s the young women escaping a predatory tyrant and their champion, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). This is their story and Max is quite literally along for the ride. And it’s a ride that is brilliantly executed by director George Miller, a demented car chase through a Technicolor wasteland that features actual cars careening into each other. Also, a flame-throwing electric guitar.
Later this week: music and books!