Its no secret 2016 felt rougher than most
I’ve seen lots of writing on how it’s ‘not that bad’, on how it only feels like all the best celebrities are dying because of more widespread coverage than before. The same goes for acts of terrorism and violence, or plane crashes, or deadly weather and natural disasters; it only feels like the very actual end of the world for real, when in fact, it’s just that we hear more about it now than ever before. But, here’s the thing about facts; My Brain Exists. My brain exists so facts about how in actual numbers, things are getting better, mean sod all. My brain wants to panic and prepare for the end, it wants to hide under duvets.
2016 has been hard for damn near everyone, but it hasn’t been all awful. Oohlo wants to remind you about all the great things that happened in 2016, so here we go (Bright Spots Part 1). — Nadine Morgan
David Bowie, Blackstar
Starting on a melancholic note, David Bowie knew he was dying of cancer when he wrote and performed his final, perfect album, Blackstar. Two days after its release in January of this year, word came that the Starman had returned to whatever strange and wonderful planet he was visiting us from, but he left us with one gift. And it was a gift. It is a goodbye and a thank you to the fans, the universe, all rolled into one. The videos are not so subtle sendoffs to Bowie’s various personae and characters from his decades long career; the lyrics are more than merely moving, but philosophical too.
Bowie surprised us with his death, but only because of how soon it came after the album dropped, too soon for any of us to have fully realised what he was trying to tell us through his music. We have been so unprepared, so shocked by the many deaths this year; David tried to save us from that. Just ponder on that a moment; when David Bowie knew he was dying, he made sure the whole world would be able to process the grief. — NM
While all set in the same corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Netflix hero shows have each managed to create a look and feel all of their own. Nowhere was this more striking than with the first season of Luke Cage, which captured look, feel, music and soul of Harlem to its core. Telling stories of indestructible superheroes isn’t an easy task, but Luke Cage made up for whatever flaws the titular character had by creating rich supporting characters like Simone Missick’s Misty Knight, Rosario Dawson’s return as Claire Temple, Alfre Woodard’s Mariah Dillard and a virtuoso performance from Mahershala Ali as Cottonmouth. – Craig Wack
Fargo Season 3 Scored Double Obi-Wan
Technically this won’t happen until 2017, but the news that Ewan McGregor will head up Fargo‘s third season is just that fanforkintastic; it lit up our 2016 world. To top off the deliciousness, not only was Obi-Wan the younger announced as the series lead, we also got word he’ll play twin brothers; a pair of perfectly polar personalitied people purportedly personifying these guys:
McGregor’s casting, alongside the likes of Carrie Coon, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jim Gaffigan David Thewlis, Michael Stuhlbarg, Shea Whigham, Karan Soni, Fred Melamed, Scoot McNairy and Thomas Mann, set to Noah Hawley’s sure to be brilliant script is such a coup, just the thought of Season 3 is enough to give us hope for a better year. — Cindy Davis
Robyn Fenty made us wait for her eighth studio album, but that’s only because genius takes time.
Taking a step away from her club and dance friendly roots, this time around Rihanna focused her and our attention on her powerful and distinct vocals. I challenge you to hate Love on the Brain and for all the memeing and internet deconstruction of Work it’s a danceable earbug that serves as a perfect wind up track when you’re getting ready for a night on the town. — NM
Although it debuted on CBS in the fall of 2015, Supergirl didn’t find its footing until the calendar turned to 2016. The show’s tone lurched wildly in those early episodes but by the time its first season ended, the series had found a groove of unbound optimism, thanks to Melissa Benoist’s Kara Danvers and a solid supporting cast. There was concern over the summer that despite solid ratings numbers, Supergirl would be a one-season wonder because CBS didn’t pick up the show (mainly due to hefty rights’ fees that added to the show’s bottom line). In swooped The CW which, along with three other Greg Berlanti-produced superhero shows, made it a more natural fit, anyway. A funny thing happened on the way to the CW, Supergirl became culturally relevant in a way it would never be able to on CBS. The show addresses racism and immigration with its allegorical story of aliens living on Kara’s earth. It put Alex’s journey of sexual discovery front and center. And, Supergirl did it all without losing the fun and relentless optimism that made it appealing in the first place. – CW
Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play made for, quite simply, the year’s best film. Drawing on both creators’ childhood memories — the two men grew up in the same area of Miami in similar circumstances — the three chaptered story of boy to manhood, self-discovery, survival and hope is so beautifully shot, portrayed and scored, anyone who watched is forever affected. With another powerful turn by Mahershala Ali, moving — sometimes shocking — performances by Naomie Harris, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Trevante Rhodes and incredibly talented kids (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders), Moonlight is an ultimately uplifting gift from all involved. — CD
Babymetal, Metal Resistance
If you’ve been living on the far side of Pluto then you may not have heard of the delightfully strange Japanese metal band made up of three adorable teenaged girls in pigtails and New Rock boots. Babymetal never seems like it should work as a concept but it does and it’s perfect. The mash up of Japanese epic pop, with wall-shaking heavy metal is just magical and their most recent release, which coincided with a giant world tour, is hours of listening fun. Probably my favourite thing about the whole concept is the fact that metal heads are eating it up, and with good reason; Babymetal shreds. — NM
Awards Get It Right
The major awards shows are often targets of outrage when the same familiar names take home the statuettes based more on the hype machine backing them than the quality of the performance. This year, the Oscars and Emmys do deserve credit for recognizing fresh faces for their stunning work. It started with Brie Larson beating a Best Actress field stacked with Academy favorites for her heart-wrenching portrayal in Room. It was justice served after a similarly touching performance in Short Term 12 was snubbed by the academy a couple of years earlier. Tatiana Maslany, of BBC America’s cult phenomenon Orphan Black, saw a similar slow rise to glory awarded with her first Emmy win. Maslany plays no less than seven genetically identical, yet radically different clones, making every episode of Orphan Black a miracle of acting (and stretching a thin budget). Two years ago, Maslany wasn’t even nominated. Last year the TV Academy made up for that with a nomination, and this year it earned her a win over such Emmy stalwarts as Viola Davis, Claire Danes and Robin Wright. The Emmys weren’t done, as Rami Malek of USA’s Mr. Robot won Best Actor in a Drama over the likes of Liev Schreiber and Kevin Spacey. It’s always a good day when the underdogs get the recognition they deserve. – CW
Captain America/Chris Evans
Peggy’s once and forever love is also ours. The line between superhero and actor blurred this year, with Evans as seemingly kind and caring a superstar as his alter ego. In between cheering trips to children’s hospitals, USO tours and banking bucks for movie studios, Evans isn’t afraid to speak his mind, but he’s also wise enough to stay above the fray when the situation warrants. The kind of guy you’d happily take home to mother, as Captain America — even amidst a Civil War — Evans is a symbol of the strong, great America we are, and always want to be. — CD
Frank Ocean, Endless and Blond
Frank Ocean is another genius who likes to make us wait for his gifts, but this year he went above and beyond. Dropping two spectacular albums over two days in August, Ocean changed the game for album releases in a way that challenged even Beyoncé’a low key drops. Frank had been teasing an album for months (after years of near total radio silence) but it was hard to be clear when, or indeed if any music would land. But then, two albums in two days. In a move of even greater genius, the first album Endless was his last for Def Jam, and finally ended his contract and a contentious period of his career under the label. Blonde, which is … arguably the superiorof two great records, is his first under his own label, Boys Don’t Cry. It’s just so magically shady that even if you didn’t like the albums (and honestly, how can you not?) you have to love the way he played the game. — NM
Fans of Adult Swim’s Venture Bros. are a patient lot. With just six seasons and a few one-off episodes since premiering in 2003, the Ventures aren’t as prolific as those kids over at Archer, but our patience was rewarded — as it always is. Hank, Dean, Rusty and Brock may have relocated from their retro-futuristic compound to a tower in the big city, but the crazy characters and hilariously labyrinthian rules of engagement between the Office of Secret Intelligence and Guild of Calamitous Intent followed to riotous ends. – CW
Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool
While at first listen (and lyric study), one might find Radiohead’s ninth studio outing largely lamentation, there is a deep and abiding optimism and beauty in Jonny Greenwood’s orchestral maneuvers and Thom Yorke’s impossibly direct vocal link to listeners’ blood-pumping organs. Suddenly, the sounds and accompanying emotions seemingly emanating from some otherworldly dimension seeps in through ear canals, osmotically working their way directly through vein walls and inexplicably entirely filling every neuron until we are entirely enveloped — cradled — in its ethereal vibrations. When this group of magical musicians enter you, there is nothing else; nowhere other than that particular moment exists, and it is pure, gorgeous sensory perception. — CD
I found The Expanse quite by accident when surfing the Netflix for something to watch at bedtime. I had heard little bits about it for months but never enough to sit down and pay it attention. I haven’t read the series of books on which it’s based (though I’m getting the first one for Christmas!) but the show follows a group of characters in the not too distant future, and weaves film noir, Game of Thrones-style political intrigue and cyberpunk together to create a universe wide science fiction epic.
While a group of ice miners are dragged nearly by accident into a sprawling plot to destabilise political powers, Tom Jane’s Belter detective investigates a missing woman whose disappearance becomes turns out to be inextricably linked to the ice miners’ strange fates, and all of them have stumbled across a far darker and more terrifying secret than anyone could have imagined.
I powered through this series in about two days and when I was between episodes, having to Do Real Life, I was thinking about the show. If you can … see beyond Tom Jane’s amazingly weird haircut, The Expanse stands to be the best science fiction show of the year. — NM
With Breaking Bad and Mad Men already gone and The Walking Dead staring to show its age, AMC needed another hit show to keep its future bright, and it may have just found it in Preacher. The story of Jesse Custer and his divine powers of persuasion in the dusty town of Anvil, Texas was filled with the right mix of quirky characters (Tulip, Cassidy, Odin, Arseface) and mystery before they literally blew it all up to start the roadtrip story depicted in the comics. Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga and Joseph Gilgun were electric whether alone, or together onscreen. To see them in a car spreading the gospel, and literally searching for God is going to make Season 2 a surefire treat. – CW
New beginnings can be scary and lonely, but this adventure with Nadine and Craig — and every single one of you who have given us your messages of love and support — is a wonderfully bright light in my life. To have talented, enthusiastic writers and excellent technical support (thanks to the mister) has made for a wonderful first year out in the interwebical wilderness. Thank you so much for welcoming us, and to my partners, for everything! My heart grows three sizes each day (which means by the time I’m in my 90s, it might actually be of normal human proportions). — CD
Sia, This Is Acting
How much do I really need to say? It’s Sia. Flawless vocals, powerful lyrics and of course, artful and creative videos featuring muse, dancer and professional adorable weirdo, Maddie Ziegler.
Any year we get Sia and Maddie collaborating is a good year. — NM
Honourable Mentions: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (and Taika Waititi), Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, Outlander, John Oliver, Carpool Karaoke (mostly), the Cubs’ World Series win, The Legion teasers, Mary, Mel and Sue, Agents of Geek, Hamilton, Tom Holland’s Spidey, and one of the most uplifting and just plain fun moments of this entire year (says Nadine). If you listen to this and somehow resist the urge to dance around your house, please consider checking if you are, in fact, a Robot.