Monday, December 7, 2015

TV Spotlight – 10 Best TV Shows of 2015 – December 2015

The amount of Television I consume is not immense. I mostly only watch series available on HBO and Netflix (but, thankfully that is generally where the best stuff can be found). Thus, this list is biased by the overall lack of things I have seen (for example, I love Hannibal but I am a year behind, waiting for the Blu-ray release).

My 10 Favorite Television Series of 2015:

BoJack Horseman, season 2 (Netflix)
This animated series from Netflix might be television’s best comedy, highlighted by the phenomenal voice performances from Will Arnet, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Aaron Paul, Paul F. Tomplins, and Olivia Wilde. The series is hilarious, but even more engaging as a look at celebrity.

Community, season 6 (Yahoo Screen)
The series’ final season, and maybe its final moments if a movie never materializes, gives its fans everything they want: very funny, great/weird/wonderful episodes and a fantastic farewell. This is one of my favorite TV comedies (ever) and it is sad to say goodbye (though, made a little easier by the stellar, utterly fulfilling finale).

Daredevil, season 1 (Netflix)
Marvel’s partnership with Netflix is producing superhero properties that are as good if not better than their movies. Daredevil is fresh and engaging; but more so, it features full and great characters. Losing Drew Goddard and Steven S. DeKnight on the creative team is going to be a huge obstacle to overcome for season 2, but I have faith.

Game of Thrones, season 5 (HBO)
This is my favorite series on television. It is massively ambitious and thoroughly entertaining. It has everything fantasy adventure fans could want and the fearlessness to not stubbornly cling to its characters to the disadvantage of narrative. No one is safe in Westeros.

Jessica Jones, season 1 (Netflix)
Melissa Rosenberg, Marvel and Netflix have given us one of 2015’s most important series. On the surface, it is just another superhero series, set up like a film-noir private detective narrative, but Jessica Jones is so much more. Chiefly, it gives us a full, flawed and modern female character (who also happens to be a heroine). This series is unabashedly feminist in all the best ways. Now that we have Jessica Jones, we can never go back.

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (HBO)
This documentary series is groundbreaking (much like the podcast series Serial), likely to spawn many imitations. It is unflinching and utterly compelling. I do not know if an investigation documentary has ever been must-see television (across 6 episodes, culminating in “What the Hell Did I Do?”).

The Leftovers, season 2 (HBO)
Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s series asks big questions, plays with massive ideas and themes and completely delivers. The cast is brilliant, the writing is intelligent and the narrative is essential. The series is ambitious and bonkers, yet it feels like it speaks deeply and skillfully to the human struggle that is our relationship with faith.

Mad Men, season 7 part 2 (AMC)
This was my favorite series on television during its peak (season 3-5). Season 7, split into two parts, is very good, but does feel ever so slightly below the series’ best seasons and episodes. The finale is difficult to digest as well (I liked it a lot, but it does not feel as essential as the best episodes from Mad Men), but I think that is because it is hard to say goodbye to the series and characters.

Master of None, season 1 (Netflix)
This is another groundbreaking series from Netflix in the way it deals with women and people of color on television. Created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, the series puts people of color at its forefront. But it is just not a series centered on a minority family or character, it engages in a dialog with its viewers about how culture treats and engages people of color and women. I have not seen everything on TV, but I would be surprised if there are better written characters for people of color. Also, the series is very funny and not cliché at all, which is a relief.

Narcos, season 1 (Netflix)
This series detailing the rise of Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar is magnetic and alluring thanks to Wagner Moura’s superb leading performance and the narrative structure of the series: talking directly to the audience, taking them through each major moment. I think this probably should have been a single season story and slightly fear a quality step down in season two as the story is stretched over ten more episodes. Regardless, season 1 is electric, especially in the early episodes, playing as well as the best crime dramas.

My 10 Favorite Television Episodes from 2015:

Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television, direct by Rob Schrab, from Community
Daredevil, directed by Steven S. DeKnight, from Daredevil
Hardhome, directed by Miguel Sapochnik, from Game of Thrones
AKA WWJD?, directed by Simon Cellan Jones, from Jessica Jones
I Live Here Now, directed by Mimi Leder, from The Leftovers
Time & Life, directed by Jared Harris, from Mad Men
Nashville, directed by Aziz Ansari, from Master of None
Descenso, directed by Jose Padilha, from Narcos
Trust No Bitch, directed by Phil Abraham, from Orange Is the New Black
Spend, directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch, from The Walking Dead

My 10 Standout Performances:

Will Arnet as BoJack Horseman on BoJack Horseman
Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones on Jessica Jones
Kevin Carroll as John Murphy on The Leftovers
Regina King as Erika Murphy on The Leftovers
Justin Theroux as Kevin Garvey on The Leftovers
Noel Wells as Rachel on Master of None
Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar on Narcos
Rachel McAdams as Ani Bezzerides on True Detective
Tituss Burgess as Titus Andromedon on Unbreakbable Kimmy Schmidt
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer on Veep

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Movies Spotlight – Ranking the Films of My Favorite Directors – September 2015

These lists have been endlessly done by film fans and critics since the beginning of cinema. But, they are fun and interesting for those who like lists (which seems to be a lot of us). So, I am going to rank the films of ten of my favorite current directors and five of my favorite classic directors. I am only using directors that have made at least five films. (Further rankings: Elite, Good, Weak)

1)      The Dark Knight
2)      Inception
3)      The Dark Knight Rises
4)      Interstellar
5)      The Prestige
6)      Batman Begins
7)      Insomnia
8)      Memento
9)      Following

1)      Rushmore
2)      The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
3)      The Darjeeling Limited
4)      The Royal Tenenbaums
5)      The Grand Budapest Hotel
6)      Moonrise Kingdom
7)      Fantastic Mr. Fox
8)      Bottle Rocket

1)      The Big Lebowski
2)      No Country for Old Men
3)      True Grit
4)      Fargo
5)      The Hudsucker Proxy
6)      Miller’s Crossing
7)      The Man Who Wasn’t There
8)      Inside Llewyn Davis
9)      Burn After Reading
10)   Blood Simple.
11)   A Serious Man
12)   O Brother, Where Art Thou?
13)   Barton Fink
14)   Raising Arizona
15)   Intolerable Cruelty
16)   The Ladykillers

1)      The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
2)      The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
3)      The Social Network
4)      Gone Girl
5)      Se7en
6)      The Game
7)      Fight Club
8)      Zodiac
9)      Panic Room
10)   Alien 3

1)      Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
2)      Children of Men
3)      Y Tu Mama Tambien
4)      Gravity
5)      Love in the Time of Hysteria (Solo con tu pareja)
6)      Great Expecations

I have not seen A Little Princess.

Michael Mann

1)      Heat
2)      The Last of the Mohicans
3)      Blackhat
4)      Miami Vice
5)      Public Enemies
6)      Thief
7)      Collateral
8)      The Insider
9)      Ali
10)   Manhunter

I have not seen The Keep

Steven Spielberg

1)      Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
2)      Raiders of the Lost Ark
3)      Saving Private Ryan
4)      Schindler’s List
5)      Munich
6)      Minority Report
7)      Catch Me If You Can
8)      Lincoln
9)      Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
10)   Jurassic Park
11)   Empire of the Sun
12)   E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
13)   Jaws
14)   Close Encounters of the Third Kind
15)   War Horse
16)   1941
17)   A.I. Artificial Intelligence
18)   Amistad
19)   War of the Worlds
20)   The Adventures of Tintin
21)   The Lost World: Jurassic Park
22)   The Terminal
23)   Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
24)   Hook

I have not seen The Sugarland Express, The Color Purple, and Always.

Quentin Tarantino

1)      Inglourious Basterds
2)      Django Unchained
3)      Pulp Fiction
4)      Reservoir Dogs
5)      Jackie Brown
6)      Kill Bill: Vol. 2
7)      Kill Bill: Vol. 1

Paul Thomas Anderson

1)      There Will Be Blood
2)      The Master
3)      Magnolia
4)      Punch-Drunk Love
5)      Boogie Nights
6)      Hard Eight
7)      Inherent Vice

1)      The Thin Red Line
2)      The New World
3)      Badlands
4)      Days of Heaven
5)      The Tree of Life
6)      To the Wonder

I have not yet seen Knight of Cups.

1)      Rebecca
2)      Notorious
3)      Rear Window
4)      Vertigo
5)      Shadow of a Doubt
6)      North by Northwest
7)      Frenzy
8)      Suspicion
9)      The Lady Vanishes
10)   Dial M for Murder
11)   Marnie
12)   Psycho
13)   The Birds
14)   To Catch a Thief
15)   The 39 Steps
16)   The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
17)   Torn Curtain
18)   Strangers on a Train
19)   The Trouble with Harry
20)   Spellbound
21)   Foreign Correspondent
22)   Lifeboat
23)   Rope
24)   The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
25)   Saboteur
26)   The Wrong Man
27)   The Paradine Case
28)   Family Plot

Whatever is not on this list, I have not seen.

1)      The Red Shoes
2)      The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
3)      Black Narcissus
4)      A Matter of Life and Death
5)      The Small Black Room
6)      ‘I Know Where I’m Going!’
7)      A Canterbury Tale
8)      49th Parallel
9)      The Tales of Hoffmann
10)   Pursuit of the Graf Spee

Whatever is not on this list, I have not seen.

1)      Lawrence of Arabia
2)      The Bridge on the River Kwai
3)      Doctor Zhivago
4)      Great Expectations
5)      Brief Encounter
6)      Hobson’s Choice
7)      Oliver Twist
8)      The Passionate Friends
9)      Ryan’s Daughter

Whatever is not on this list, I have not seen.

1)      The Best Years of Our Lives
2)      Ben-Hur
3)      Mrs. Miniver
4)      The Little Foxes
5)      The Big Country
6)      Roman Holiday
7)      The Children’s Hour
8)      How to Steal a Million
9)      The Letter
10)   The Heiress
11)   Wuthering Heights

Whatever is not on this list, I have not seen.

Stanley Kubrick

1)      Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
2)      2001: A Space Odyssey
3)      Paths of Glory
4)      The Killing
5)      Lolita
6)      A Clockwork Orange
7)      The Shining
8)      Spartacus
9)      Barry Lyndon
10)   Full Metal Jacket
11)   Eyes Wide Shut

Let me know if there are any additional directors you want to see.