Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Flashback

Is your browser not loading this page? Try clicking here.

Welp. 2016 sucked. It was a year, wasn't it? We lost Alan Rickman, David Bowie, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Prince, Angus Scrimm, Leonard Cohen, Gene Wilder, Garry Marshall, Florence Henderson, John Glenn, and – way too soon – Anton Yelchin. We found out that not all is well in the state of… pretty much every country on the map. And pop culture seemed to fail to pick up the slack, dooming our depressed selves to cold, comfortless TV and movie screens.

But that’s why we’re here today, for a very special annual tradition: The Popcorn Culture year-end roundup of the best and worst of 2016. Let’s celebrate the triumphs of movies, music, and TV and take joy from giving one last kick in the pants to the dreck we were asked to swallow. It’s all we have left as we tentatively shamble into the vast unknown of 2017.

Um, hooray! Let’s pick that mood right back up, shall we?

[EN: As always, I have only pulled from material that I have personally watched or listened to, so as not to cast judgment on things I know nothing about. If your favorite movie, TV show, etc. doesn’t show up on my list, it probably sucked. But it’s equally likely that I just didn’t get around to seeing it, and you can rectify this gap in my knowledge by pointing me toward it in the comments section. Enjoy!]


The Ten Best Films of 2016

#10 Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Although I certainly didn’t love this sequel as much as the original Neighbors (which, to be fair, I love an indecent amount), it’s a remarkable comedy follow-up that actually organically continues the themes of the first, bringing solid laughs along with some feminist underpinnings.

Read my original review right here.

#9 The Shallows

A harrowing survival movie slash one-woman-one-seagull show slash giant shark horror flick? What could go wrong? Answer: Almost nothing. The Shallows was the popcorn shocker of the summer, and an argument for the continuation of the giant shark genre.

Read my original review right here.

#8 Sing Street

John Carney strikes again, releasing a great piece of musical realism that flew right the hell under the radar. Landing somewhere between Once and Begin Again tonally, Sing Street is a soppy sweet love letter to the Dublin of the 80’s packed with childlike joy and wonder, a gaggle of Spielbergian kids you just want to hug, and a heap of terrific faux New Wave jams.

Full review pending.

#7 Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo has its fair share of flaws, but it’s a sweeping, inviting family adventure that I couldn’t look away from.

Read my original review right here.

#6 Deadpool

Finally, a superhero flick I can get behind. Deadpool is raucous, indelicate, and oh so loveable, even if its humor swings toward the juvenile a bit too often.

Read my original review right here.

#5 Nerve

Every year I plant my flag for an unlikely contender, and for 2016 it’s unquestionably Nerve. An electric teen movie with an almost-not-too-didactic message, it’s a sumptuous cotton candy treat of neon light, slick production design, and smooth integration of modern tech.

Read my original review right here.

#4 Swiss Army Man

The “farting corpse movie” turned out to be one of the sweetest flicks about friendship of the year, packed with ramshackle lust for life, a dark edge, and Daniel Radcliffe giving his single best performance in a pitch-perfect comic role.

Read my original review right here.

#3 Train to Busan

Sometimes a good genre flick is all a movie has to be. There’s nothing particularly fresh in Train to Busan, but it’s a bone-shattering thrill ride of zombie mayhem.

Read my original review right here.

#2 The Nice Guys

I’m sad we had to wait ten years for this after Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but if his next project is anything like this bawdy, hilarious gem, I’d be happy to wait another twenty. The ensemble is sublime, with Ryan Gosling shedding his movie star cool to achieve perfect comedy and Russell Crowe giving his best performance in a decade.

Read my original review right here.

#1 La La Land

This gorgeous throwback musical combines two funny stars and a timeless tale of romance and dreaming big into a dazzlingly emotional, purely cinematic experience that can never be replicated. Beautiful colors, beautiful music, and beautiful people. What more do you need?

Read my original review right here.

The Five Worst Films of 2016

#5 Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?

A remake of a Lifetime thriller as a lesbian vampire movie should have been an ace in the hole for me, but this plotless bore deserves to stay six feet under.

Read my original review right here.

#4 The Purge: Election Year

The action and political allegory are solid, but this script is loaded with more unnecessary racist epithets than Donald Trump’s Twitter page.

Read my original review right here.

#3 The Lobster

I genuinely liked quite a bit about the absurdist dystopia of The Lobster, including some tossed-off tragedy and Colin Farrell’s performance, but it was all too dull and underplayed to be remotely entertaining.

Read my original review right here.

#2 Dirty Grandpa

It’s cheap to take potshots at the fallen Robert De Niro, so I won’t. But Dirty Grandpa is an anticomedy slog that is actually worse for its good jokes, because every genuine laugh is a painful reminder that, if you ever want to experience them again, you’ll have to watch Dirty Grandpa.

Read my original review right here.

#1 The Darkness

The bloodthirsty ghost in this is named “Jenny.” C’mon people, work with me here. And that’s just one symptom of a larger dumbness at work in this generic, unscary, woefully misguided flick.

Read my original review right here.

Best Worst Movie: Wish for Christmas

It’s nothing to sniff at when you discover a new good-bad gem, and the evangelical holiday movie Wish for Christmas is a delightful blend of bonkers high concept and blissful incompetence.

Read my original review right here.

Biggest Surprise: Sing

I’m still flabbergasted that the most reprised song on this soundtrack was The Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers,” off Abbey Road. For a movie that pipes in Carly Rae Jepsen and Taylor Swift to pander to the kids of two years ago, this is a weirdly subtle and intriguing choice.

Read my original review right here.

Biggest Disappointment: The Boss

The Boss misrepresents The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as a “gory” film, showing clips out of order and making a hash of a horror masterpiece! Also, the movie isn’t great or whatever.

Read my original review right here.

Most Underrated Film: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

didn’t blow me out of the water, but it’s a clever, timely mockumentary that accomplished the impossible: Making me like The Lonely Island.

Read my original review right here.

Most Overrated Film: Manchester by the Sea

While I heartily recognize that Manchester by the Sea is far from the dreary, pretentious snoozefest I was dreading, it’s still not the second coming of the masculine tearjerker.

Read my original review right here.

Best 2015 Film I Missed: Brooklyn

Brooklyn is a lovely, mellow film. It’s a colorful period piece, a funny fish-out-of water drama, and a relaxed romance that proves that Emory Cohen can actually act.

Read my original review right here.

Worst 2015 Film I Missed: Magic Mike XXL

I know this really doesn’t deserve to be my entry, considering I also watched Fantastic Four this year, but Magic Mike XXL was such an abject, frequently hilarious disappointment that I need to give it credit. It’s terrible, but its pure lunacy is still worthwhile. And it honestly comes by this slot for the reason that every one of its strippers keeps his pants on 100 % of the time.

Read my original review right here.

Best Actor: Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!)

I’ve had my eye on Ehrenreich for some time, since he co-starred in 2013’s Beautiful Creatures, but I had no idea he could act like this. In Hail, Caesar! he is a standout in a sea of stars, human and hilarious as a hapless cowboy finding his way in Hollywood.

For my original review of Hail, Caesar!, click here.

Worst Actor: Jesse Eisenberg (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

I like Eisenberg, but his performance as Lex Luthor is cartoonish and exhausting, deflating the overbearing atmosphere of the film, but only to the degree that you can’t take anything seriously.

Read my original review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice right here.

Best Actress: Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters)

McKinnon is by far the best thing about this year’s Ghostbusters reboot. She is pure comic anarchy, unpredictable and hilarious, given free reign in a vast sandbox and milking every last molecule of it.

Read my original review of Ghostbusters right here.

Worst Actress: Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse)

It takes real (lack of) talent to be giving an obviously bad performance when you have almost no lines and your only requirement is to power pose while Oscar Isaac shouts at people, but by God, Olivia Munn pulls it off!

Read my original review of X-Men: Apocalypse right here.

Best Child Actor: Harvey Scrimshaw (The Witch)

Scrimshaw gave a sublime performance for such a young actor, capturing the terror and ecstasy of a killer possession sequence.

Read my original review of The Witch right here.

Best Child Actress: Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys)

In an archetypical role as a precocious youngster who wants to help solve the mystery, Rice is truly dazzling, giving a performance that demands attention, confidently standing head to head with heavyweights Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.

Best Cameo: Ant-Man (Captain America: Civil War)

Ant-Man’s appearance signals that the film is ready to not take itself so seriously for a couple minutes, leading to the film’s single best action scene.

Read my original review of Captain America: Civil War right here.

Worst Cameo: Lisa Kudrow (The Girl on the Train)

Don’t get me wrong. I love Lisa Kudrow. But this is just another waste of her in a role that’s onscreen for 30 seconds and gives her no chance to show off her ample talents as a comedic or dramatic actress.

Read my original review of The Girl on the Train right here.

Best Score: Swiss Army Man

I’ve never seen a movie that isn’t a musical in which the score is more integrated with the dialogue. The soaring, triumphant a cappella anthems and dirges are the perfect complements to the film’s handmade, piecemeal construction.

Worst Score: Jackie 

I think I’ll let these excerpts from my original review speak for itself: "atonal shrieking… banshee parade… like having a gallon of syrup upended over your head…"

Read my original review right here.

Best Monster: Myrtu (The Other Side of the Door)

The Other Side of the Door was a forgettable horror attempt, but horror icon Javier Botet’s four-armed death goddess is a triumph of uncanny design.

Read my original review of The Other Side of the Door right here.

Worst Monster: The Monster (The Monster)

I suppose it was nice of the ravenous monster to chill out for half an hour at a time to allow his idiotic victims to regroup, but it sure didn’t make for an exciting film experience.

Read my original review of The Monster right here.

Best CGI Creation: "Piper"

I loved "Piper", the short before Finding Dory, so much that I considered at length whether or not it should be placed at number 1 on my Top 10 list. It’s an adorable, earnest story and a true delight to watch play out onscreen, but it’s also a dazzling triumph of photorealistic computer animation, breathing life into feathers, sand, and water like never before.

Worst CGI Creation: Grand Moff Tarkin (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)

On our planet-hopping adventure through space, we seem to have made a pit stop at the Uncanny Valley. This ghastly attempt at digitally resurrecting Peter Cushing is more terrifying than any horror flick I’ve seen this year.

Read my original review of Rogue One right here.

Biggest Cry: Baby Dory (Finding Dory)

The mind-melting cuteness of Young Dory’s design is already enough to lubricate the tear ducts, but the ruthless tragedy of her separation from her parents is just too much for me, man.

Read my original review of Finding Dory right here.

Biggest Scream: Border Massacre (Desierto)

I wasn’t a big fan of Desierto, but an early scene of Jeffrey Dean Morgan mowing down a dozen immigrants with his rifle is flatly terrifying in its merciless brutality.

Read my original review of Desierto right here.

Biggest Laugh: Religion Round Table (Hail, Caesar!)

Of the many memorable comic moments scattered throughout this uneven movie, the round table discussion between representatives of each major religion is a triumph of theological wordplay that still puts an unholy stitch in my side.

Best Title: Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?

I don’t care if the movie sucked, but that always has been the craziest, most awesome title cooked up by the English language, and it always will be.

Worst Title: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

This title is definitely not as flippant as it thinks it is, and it foreshadows the film’s catastrophic repeated use of the phrase “wedding date” as if that’s a thing that actual human beings say.

Read my original review right here.

Best Line: "This is the best day of my life... Until tomorrow." Everybody Wants Some!!

Although I wasn’t a huge fan of Linklater’s college coming-of-age flick, this line perfectly captures the warm nostalgia he was attempting to harness.

Read my original review of Everybody Wants Some!! right here.

Worst Line: "I put him in a hole and threw away the hole." Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad was an unholy mess of a movie that I liked just enough, but there is no defense for this screechingly bad ten-car pileup of the English language.

Read my original review of Suicide Squad right here.

Best Poster: Green Room

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Green Room, but it still has the perfect poster, an unsubtle but beautifully tinted green affair that captures the anarchist punk tone in perfect motion.

Read my original review of Green Room right here.

Worst Poster: The Conjuring 2

This just isn’t a poster for a suavely terrifying summer horror smash hit. This lazy as hell design looks more like key art for a buried Redbox turd called something like “A Haunting on Exorcism Lane.”

Read my original review of The Conjuring 2 right here.

Best Poster For a Bad Movie: Suicide Squad

This is actually also indicative of the movie itself, in that its bold, poppy colors and design scheme are the best thing about this blasted project.

Worst Poster For a Good Movie: The Shallows

This is more of a complaint about the tagline, even though the poster design is still boring as all get out. But seriously, what an awkwardly worded jumble! And there’s no reason to have the phrase “The Shallows” appear twice within like three inches. Just slap some ellipses on that sucker!

Best Use Of A Song: "Single Ladies" Doctor Strange

Coming as a punchline to the worst joke of Doctor Strange (Strange lists single-name celebrities in a dud attempt to mock the librarian Wong), “Single Ladies” appears at just the right time to combat a bit of the film’s irritating exoticism and prove that there’s more to the humor than that.

Read my original review of Doctor Strange right here.

Worst Use Of A Song: "Try Everything" Zootopia

It’s not film-breaking by any means, but one thing Zootopia patently did not need was Shakira growling out a pop song with manufactured inspirational lyrics. That hook is a dang powerful earworm, though.

Read my original review of Zootopia right here.

Best Song From a Musical: "Get Back Up Again" Trolls

I know this seems like sacrilege when Moana and La La Land both came out this year, but while those soundtracks form a fantastic whole, no one track stands out as a masterpiece. And while “Get Back Up Again” is far from that level of quality, it’s a vigorously catchy bubblegum tune that captures Princess Poppy and Anna Kendrick’s saccharine sweetness in a perfect place, not too overbearing yet relentlessly joyful.

Read my original review of Trolls right here.

Worst Song From a Musical: "The Great Beyond" Sausage Party

Wow, this really is a sacrilegious section, because I’m about to badmouth an Alan Menken song. I love the man, and his music is passable here (he clearly wasn’t trying very hard), but it’s the lyrics that kill this sucker, indicative of Sausage Party’s worst tendency to lean on foul-mouthed cartoon food being a source of humor in and of itself. And let’s not forget the avalanche of weirdly racist depictions of food that build up to a f**king Hitler cameo. No thank you.

Read my original review of Sausage Party right here.

Top Five Pretty Guys

#5 Edgar Ramírez (The Girl on the Train)

I feel like Ramirez is constantly on the verge of breaking into the mainstream, and I hope it happens soon so everybody can respect his beauty.

#4 Ensemble (Everybody Wants Some!!)

For taking some of my favorite onscreen crushes (Ryan Guzman, Glen Powell) and adding a few new ones (Tyler Hoechlin, Blake Jenner), I owe Everybody Wants Some!! a debt of gratitude.

#3 Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight)

Is Trevante Rhodes the buffest man in the world? I see no evidence to the contrary. (The Rock doesn’t count, because I’m fairly certain he’s not a real human being.)

Read my original review of Moonlight right here.

#2 Yoo Gong (Train to Busan)

You wouldn’t think this suit-clad lead would have a body like that, but you’d be wrong. If only the zombies had torn off his shirt at some point, Train to Busan would have been a solid 10/10.

#1 Zac Efron (Dirty Grandpa, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates)

I hate to beat a dead horse, but when the horse has maybe the most perfectly engineered male body in the world, I’ll give it a pass.

Bonus: Brahms (The Boy)

SPOILERS: The adult Brahms (see here) is, I’m ashamed to admit, quite a catch. You know, after a shave and a haircut. And a couple decades of therapy.

Read my original review of The Boy right here.

Top Five Pretty Girls

#5 Adriana Ugarte (Julieta)

Ugarte is one of Almodóvar’s first new muses in a long time, and there’s no questioning why. Just look at her. Stunning, even under that terrible hair.

Read my original review of Julieta right here.

#4 Sofia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond)

I’ve been a fan out Boutella since Kingsman, and I’m glad she got a chance to strut her stuff in Star Trek Beyond, even if she was covered in makeup.

Read my original review of Star Trek Beyond right here.

#3 Carmen Ejogo (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them)

Her character may not have been very likeable, but her style more than made up for it. Those lustrous blonde curls are to die for.

Read my original review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them right here.

#2 Janelle Monáe (Moonlight, Hidden Figures)

It’s odd that this entry isn’t in the “music” category, but Monáe is beautiful on whatever path her career takes her down.

#1 Amy Adams (Arrival, Nocturnal Animals, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

Girl knows how to work a bold lipstick, what can I say?

Read my original review of Arrival right here and Nocturnal Animals right here.

Bonus: Tilda Swinton (A Bigger Splash, Doctor Strange, Hail, Caesar!)

Tilda Swinton counts as a bonus because 1) I’m fairly certain she’s not from Earth, and 2) she’s not conventionally gorgeous but she’s captivatingly strange in a way that draws the eye like an electromagnet.


Top Ten Songs of 2016

#10 "True Colors" Zedd ft. Ke$ha

The first song released by my beloved Kesha in two long years, this collaboration isn’t perfect, but it’s filed with vocal rage and pain that proves she’s more than just a dime-a-dozen pop star.

#9 "Higher" Rihanna

Rihanna’s actually attempting a vocal song? This stripped-down track is far from a perfectly polished pop machine, showcasing a side of Rihanna we rarely get to see: a raw, emotional artist.

#8 "Good Grief" Bastille

It doesn’t have the bombast and anthemic quality of previous lead single “Pompeii,” but Bastille’s “Good Grief” is a funky little track that showcases more of those delicious soaring vocals.

#7 "Cheap Thrills" Sia

I’ve resisted coming to pop weirdo Sia for some time, but this pounding, writhing dance track is where I really clicked with her droning, layered vocal style. The rhythm here is propulsive and irresistible.

#6 "Daddy Lessons" Beyoncé

Although Beyoncé’s Lemonade album didn’t speak to me (which is fair, because it wasn’t written for me), “Daddy Lessons” is a country-inflected track that breaks from her norm with a strong lyrical narrative and a twangy, infectious tune. (This video is of a live performance with the Dixie Chicks, because the real track is kept under lock and key by Tidal.)

#5 "Closer" The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey

This driving pop song is an immensely powerful earworm that is both a purely experiential tune and a banging club track. For a really interesting take on it, check out this superb episode of the Switched on Pop podcast.

#4 "Come to Mama" Lady Gaga

The best track to arise from Lady Gaga’s ecstatically boring album Joanne, “Come to Mama” is a bit didactic in its songwriting, but nevertheless is a satisfying jazzy number that you can’t help but sing along to.

#3 "El Barrio" Eden xo

This tale of a love between a white girl and a “cholo from el barrio” engages in the worst kind of exoticism, but I can’t resist being seduced by its ABBA-esque production and swaying vocals.

#2 "This is What You Came For" Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna

This is the first (and probably only) time Rihanna has ever appeared on this list twice, but she earned it with this slinky smooth club track that has the best electrovocal breakdown in a music landscape that’s just littered with them.

#1 "Good as Hell" Lizzo

I never thought a song from a Barbershop soundtrack would make it onto this list, but “Good as Hell” is pure, undiluted joy bottled into a three minute pop gem. It’s an affirmative, positive message (with the most adorable music video) that we could all use right now.

Bottom Five Songs of 2016

#5 "How Far I'll Go" Alessia Cara

I know Disney has been having pop stars cover their songs since Christina Aguilera did “Reflection” for the Mulan soundtrack, but it sucked since then too. Alessia Cara’s cover of Moana’s “I Want” song is a useless, empty confection that converts the musical’s best song into a hotbed of irritating vocal trills and mindless bubblegum pop, though at least they included a steel drum in their ill-advised electro breakdown.

#4 "My Way" Calvin Harris

Did the dude take songwriting lessons from George Harrison? These gratingly repetitive lyrics aren’t helped by Harris’ vocals, which prove that he’s better off sticking to the mixing board and not the mic. Also, the overdone glitchiness of the video makes me want to smash my monitor with a hammer. 

#3 "I Hate U I Love U" Gnash ft. Olivia O'Brien

I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. Whiny vocal ennui over nasal white rapping? And text speak in the title? In 2016? Count me out.

#2 "M.I.L.F. $" Fergie

The only reason this irritating chant song isn’t #1 is because I’m pretty sure even Fergie knows it’s a joke.

#1 "Ghostbusters" FallOut Boy ft. Missy Elliot (Ghostbusters)

If you thought FallOut Boy had reached rock bottom with their song for Big Hero 6 (I certainly did), just wait till you hear their mockery of the Ghostbusters theme. Luckily the movie had the good sense to mostly stick to the Ray Parker, Jr. version. 

Best Mashup/Remix: "Into Pieces" DJ Earworm

This spot is pretty much locked down by DJ Earworm until the end of time, but his mashup of 2016’s number one crappy pop songs once again combines them into a transcendent, eminently danceable track.

Worst Mashup/Remix: "Send My Love (To Your New Lover) (Tropical Club Remix)" DJ Mich

DJ’s always feel the need to speed up Adele songs for radio play, but this one’s up-tempo as it is. Leave her alone!

Best Featured Rapper: Kendrick Lamar: "Don't Wanna Know" Maroon 5

A featured rapper who’s not too intrusive and feels like an organic part of the song? Sign me up!

Worst Featured Rapper: Sean Paul: "Cheap Thrills" Sia

My number 7 song drops down the chart by the hundreds with the addition of Sean Paul, who attempts to force a reggae flair on a cold, layered pop song that rejects it entirely.

Biggest Surprise: Alessia Cara is still going

The “Here” singer had all the hallmarks of a classic one hit wonder, but Alessia Cara has lived to fight another day with tracks like the perplexingly titled “Scars to Your Beautiful.” Good for her.

Biggest Disappointment: Ke$ha's lawsuit

Kesha is my favorite pop musician and the fact that she’s barred from releasing music while her sexual harassment lawsuit against her contract with Dr. Luke rages on is a crying shame, indicative of the fraught environment American women have found themselves in this year especially.

Most Overrated: Drake

I’m deeply impressed with how Drake has gamed the system using a constant drip of new singles, but the ubiquity of his music only highlights the fact that it just isn’t very good. His producers and influences are solid, but his voice is nasal and disinterested all the time.

Most Underrated: "Taste the Feeling"

This collaboration by some of YouTube’s premiere musical artists on a Coca Cola ad for Cinemark theaters doesn’t seem like it would have the makings of great music, but the dangerously catchy jingle combined with crystal clear vocals is an unrestrained delight during my many moviegoing excursions.

Best Music Video: "Youth" Troye Sivan

love low budget videos with great lighting. “Youth” presents a high school party as a fairy-lit wonderland rather than the typical raucous, sweaty rave. It’s gorgeous and low key and I adore it.

Worst Music Video: "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" Adele

While I adore this song and love that Adele has finally included an upbeat track in her oeuvre, this video is just embarrassing, creating an illegible human centipede out of the singer and distracting from a terrific song.

Best Song for a Movie: "Good Girls" Elle King (Ghostbusters)

This track Elle King wrote for Ghostbusters captures a grungy badass power that the movie only wishes it had. And just try not to sing along to that chorus.

Worst Song for a Movie: "Levitate" Imagine Dragons (Passengers)

It’s a tradition at this point to cross-promote the latest crappy Top 40 band in the end credits of Hollywood releases, but the wailing “Levitate” actually makes me yearn for imagine Dragons’ dire contribution to the Suicide Squad soundtrack.

Best Song for a Movie Trailer: "I Think We're Alone Now" (10 Cloverfield Lane)

Although the use of ironically cheery songs in genre films is a trend that has maxed itself out, the way this track grinds to a halt and becomes a grimy, jagged underscore lyrically commenting on the action is superb.

Worst Song for a Movie Trailer: "Walk the Line" Halsey (Power Rangers)

Do the Power Rangers deserve better? OK, maybe not. But Johnny Cash does, and this miserably mopey cover wrecks an undisputed classic.

Best Guilty Pleasure: "Starving" Hailee Steinfeld

I’ve tried very hard to avoid Steinfeld’s so-called musical career, but I can’t help but get “Starving” stuck in my head. At least it’s better than “Love Myself,” even if that electrovocal drop is the most irritating sound I’ve ever heard.

Worst Guilty Pleasure: "Can't Stop the Feeling!" Justin Timberlake

Tell me this isn’t the whitest sh*t you’ve ever seen. It’s a fun, poppy track, but I can never get out of my head how blandly manufactured the whole thing is.

Best Album Cover: The Boxer Rebellion, Ocean by Ocean

If I had to live in an album cover, I wouldn’t mind taking up residence in this gorgeous pop art seaside. And I don’t even like the ocean that much.

Worst Album Cover: Mind of Mine, Zayn Malik

A baby with tattoos? Oh, how edgy! Say, that reminds me of the time Lil Wayne did that exact same thing eight years ago. And it still wasn’t great then.

Best Cover Song: "I Love You Always Forever" Betty Who

I worried for her songwriting skills when Betty Who released this track, but my tune changed completely when I learned she was covering Welsh artist Donna Lewis. She completely transforms the song from a thin, dizzy tune to an ethereal, enveloping rush of sonic euphoria.

Worst Cover Song: "Wonderful Christmastime" Jimmy Buffett

Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” is a microscopically bearable song at the best of times, but having Jimmy Buffett lazily cover it and vomit steel drums all over the childish lyrics is a damn crime against nature.

Top Five Pretty Guys

#5 The Chainsmokers

This DJ duo has been tearing up the charts lately and I find I’m having a tough time resisting their hipster charm.

#4 Jason DeRülo

I still haven’t forgiven DeRülo for his abysmal “Talk Dirty,” but he’s sure easy on the eyes though.

#3 Zayn Malik

I may find this former One Directioner’s solo work profoundly irritating, but there’s not denying he’s still got it going on.

#2 Calvin Harris

I’m pretty sure the improbably buff Harris dressed as a lumberjack in a last-bid attempt to get me to like the “My Way” video. It didn’t work, but I see what you’re puttin’ down, Calvin.

#1 Joe Jonas

Old habits die hard, and I guess this former Jonas Brother (band-wise, at least. They’re all still related) was so used to being thronged with girls he decided to become one of the fittest men on the planet.

Bonus: The "Work at Home" Workers

I generally don’t pay attention to the girl group Fifth Harmony, but it’s hard to look away from their pointedly cast “Work from Home” music video.

Top Five Pretty Girls

#5 Katy Perry

I’ve been so bored by her music lately, but Perry is still gorgeous. You go, girl.

#4 Ariana Grande

Another person I’m wiling to toss a compliment to despite my profound disinterest in her musical and acting careers. You go too, girl.

#3 Tinashe

Could I name a single one of her songs besides Britney Spears’ “Slumber Party?” Hell no, but she sure made an impression in that video.

#2 Rihanna

Having spent the long years between her previous album and Anti as a fashion icon, Rihanna sure knows what she’s doing when it comes to elegance and beauty.

#1 Beyoncé

I really don’t like Beyoncé’s music all that much, but her activism and control over her brand is top notch. Also she’s still beautiful as all get out.

Bonus: The "Good as Hell" Gals

Let’s take one last moment to reflect on how positive and life-affirming this video was. We’re all beautiful.


Top Ten Episodes of 2016

#10 "Camp David" Veep

One of the sharpest political satires in a year where we really need them, this episode is a guns-a-blazin’ comedy of errors that proves that modern TV can still provide intricate, classical humor with aplomb.

#9 "Liv" Lovesick

Back when it was titled Scrotal Recall, this British sitcom landed the number one episode slot on my list. This year its Netflix-produced second season slipped somewhat but found its footing once more by the fourth episode “Liv,” which a is a delightful farce set in a lonely inn at midnight, showcasing the best of what the show has to offer: namely, Daniel Ings' mugging and Joshua McGuire’s impeccable physical comedy.

#8 "Halloween/Halloween II" Scream: The Series

I dig the Scream show as a trashy, slashy teen soap, but this post-season Halloween special pulled out all the stops, amping up the gore and postmodern referencing for a fun, non-sequitur island murder mystery.

#7 "Netwerking at the Nursing Home" Haters Back Off!

A Netflix show based off the Miranda Sings YouTube channel (which is just an endless series of videos of an actress in character as a terrible teen singer)? It sounded like a disaster, but lo and behold it produced a deeply misanthropic yet kind of sublime dark comedy, as evidenced by this secondhand embarrassment-fueled episode in which Miranda attempts to kickstart her career at the funeral of a Hollywood big-shot she barely knows.

#6 "Notes Toward a Post-Reagan Theory of Party Alliance, Tribalist, and Loyalty: Past as Prologue" BrainDead

This episode lands on the list on the strength of one moment: the single most hilarious sex scene ever broadcast. It makes absolutely no sense out of context, but I promise you it’s a corker.

#5 Stranger Things

Because it’s physically impossible not to binge the show all at once, I’m counting Stranger Things as a single episode.  The show wasn’t perfect, but it put 80 things I love into a blender and came out with a fresh, exciting nostalgia piece with some truly dazzling child performances.

#4 "The Power of Euphemism: How Torture Became a Matter of Debate in American Politics" BrainDead

BrainDead’s off-kilter vibe reached it peak in this take on a bottle episode, in which the entire plot hangs on whether or not our lead will be waterboarded. As the narrative arc take a midseason breath, the comedy and characters ramp up for a blowout episode combining political satire, slapstick, genuinely tense sci-fi horror, and the world’s friendliest torturer in a sharply funny gem.

#3 "Charlie Catches a Leprechaun" It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It’s hard to say which plotline is better: the escalating series of costumes and mishaps that lead Dee and Dennis to accidentally rob St. Patrick’s Day revelers at gunpoint? Or Charlie’s Reservoir Dogs-esque threatening of a tied-up man he’s convinced is a leprechaun. It’s the show’s second best holiday episode, a mean-spirited delight that’s both shocking and wildly hilarious.

#2 "Nosedive" Black Mirror

Imagining a lush, pastel future that would make Her jealous, “Nosedive” tells a hard-hitting fable of the ways we choose to define ourselves with social media. It’s alternately fun, lively, engrossing, and anxiety-inducing, and always deeply gorgeous.

#1 "Dave Chappelle/A Tribe Called Quest" Saturday Night Live

After half a season of amusing but not terrific Trump mockery, SNL pulled out all the stops with this post-election episode, starting with the mournful, tastefully simple cold open and Dave Chappelle’s incredible monologue, then following it with some of the best sketches of the year, both political and otherwise.

Bottom Five Episodes of 2016

#5 "A Christmas Special" Sense8

This one-off holiday episode was packed with a lot of the sublime, mind-bending imagery this supremely weird show is known for, but it's utterly empty otherwise. An aimless plot that feels like a derailed slam poem chafes against a series of increasingly boring storylines and a between-seasons recasting that never can't be noticed. And it takes an hour and 36 minutes to even get to Christmas in this punishingly long 2 hour epic that's so far up its own ass it can see daylight.

#4 "The Rising" MacGyver

James Wan produced this reboot series and directed this episode, so I guess I should have expected it to be horrifying. The dialogue is trite, the protagonist is a douche, and the whole thing is lit like a 90’s strip club. Craft your escape, and quickly.

#3 "Pilot" Man with a Plan

I suffered through one episode of this eminently disposable sitcom, and that was enough. This show beats unfunny one-liners to death with a flaming club, all in service of the fabulously retrograde plot line of “mom’s working, so dad is in charge. Hoo, boy!” Is it 1966 again? Who needs this show?

#2 "Halloween Blues" Scream Queens

This episode really highlighted the flaws of the second season for me. Following the death of the show’s best character, it’s just a mirthless, focus-free slog through prissy tantrum after prissy tantrum. Then it went and killed off the second best character. F**k you too, Scream Queens.

#1 "Chapter 8" American Horror Story: Roanoke

What started off as a decent, if low-key season quickly devolved into a nasty, unending pinwheel of torture porn. It’s not scary or fun, it’s just relentlessly unpleasant.

Best New Show: BrainDead

BrainDead was everything I could ever want in a show. Timely political satire. Sci-fi pastiche that is both hilarious and legitimately tense. Packed with loveable characters. Possibly Tony Shalhoub’s career-best role. Cancelled after one season. If that’s not a mark of true quality, I don’t know what is.

Worst New Show: Shadowhunters

I won’t kick this misbegotten teenybopper programmer while it’s down, but no. The television adaptation of the feature film flop adaptation of the B-level YA book series was not good. Who’da thunk?

Best Netflix Show: Stranger Things

C’mon, nobody wants to listen to me or anybody else prattle on about this show. I’ll just say this. It has its flaws, but it smoothes them over with lush 80’s nostalgia. It creates a universe you want to wrap around you like a blanket, even with its creepy, dark edges.

Worst Netflix Show: Love

Judd Apatow’s geeky wish-fulfillment hits an all-time low in this unbearably reductive show about a  relationship between two of the most hateful characters ever written.

Best Returning Show: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

How can a show in its eleventh season still kick out fresh, misanthropic comedy masterpieces? As always, this season has its share of dud episodes, but they’re still churning out perfectly hilarious gems about terribly unpleasant people on a near-weekly basis.

Worst Returning Show: American Horror Story

You’ve already read my complaints about Roanoke, which at least started out strong, but Hotel concluded this year as well, and that season was an unholy mess form beginning to end. Ryan Murphy, what happened to you? You used to at least occasionally produce good TV!

Best Cancelled Show: The Muppets / BrainDead

God damn it, you guys! This is why we can’t have nice things!

Worst Cancelled Show: Episodes

It took me so long to stop watching Episodes, because I think I was hoping it would turn out to be Matt Le Blanc’s The Comeback. It didn’t. It’s a boring, shrill, hateful show and I’m glad it’s over. Although I’ll miss Kathleen Rose Perkins. Hollywood, give her jobs.

Best Actor: Walton Goggins (Vice Principals)

I love me a truly weird act of character creation, and Goggins’ fey cowboy of a vice principal is thrillingly offbeat. His razor sharp timing and retina-searing bow ties are works of true genius.

Worst Actor: Cuba Gooding, Jr. (The People vs. O.J. Simpson)

I didn’t think it was possible to find new things to dislike about O. J. Simpson, but Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s hoarse, flailing performance is certainly something to add to the pile.

Best Actress: Colleen Ballinger (Haters Back Off!)

This might seem like an odd choice, but Ballinger’s embodiment of the delusionally untalented Miranda Sings is a triumph of physical comedy. Her grotesque overconfidence and sheer weirdness come through from every aspect of her performance, down to her gait and the way she sits, but nothing can beat her “listening face.” Where most actors would opt for a neutral look while another actor says a line, she adopts a half-cocked, vaguely suspicious expression that’s utterly, hilariously weird.

Worst Actress: Laverne Cox (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)

Cox was the one element I was most looking forward to in Fox’s abortive Rocky Horror remake, but her attempts at camp were so abysmal, I’d rather take in an old Steve Reeves movie. And I hate to say it, I love her, but that girl ain’t a singer.

Best Couple: Titus and Mikey

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is progressive for even depicting the courtship of a gay couple, but the idea to make that love interest the catcalling construction worker from the first season is a stroke of genius that never stops paying off thanks to the easy chemistry between Tituss Burgess and Mike Carlsen.

Worst Couple: Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart

The inexplicable VH1 series Snoop and Martha’s Potluck Dinner Party is surprisingly OK, but a lot of its humor is derived from their freakish, inhuman attempts at creating chemistry with one another.

Biggest Surprise: Feed the Beast

A David Schwimmer/Jim Sturgess vehicle about two friends opening a restaurant together and it’s a crime drama? How did we allow this to happen?

Biggest Disappointment: Jon Benéxploitation

I already found The People vs. O.J. Simpson to be pointless and crass, but one more reason to dislike it is that it ushered in a new wave of true crime programming that led to a tidal wave of gross new material exploiting the tragic death of pageant girl JonBenét Ramsey. Thanks, guys.

Most Overrated: Ken Bone

Thankfully, people got over this one rather quickly, but the sudden popularity of debate attendee Ken Bone is a rather unfortunate symbol for America’s tendency to get distracted from the issues. We’re living in Ken Bone’s America now, and it’s all Twitter’s fault.

Most Underrated: John Early

John Early has standout roles in both Neighbors 2 and the upcoming The Disaster Artist, but hopefully TBS’s Search Party is what puts him and his effortless comedy stylings on the map.

Best Theme Song: Stranger Things

I love the 80’s, and I’m glad everybody else has realized that they do too. This synth throwback is just terrific, no two ways about it.

Worst Theme Song: Fuller House

Carly Rae Jepsen is great, but her processed pop vocals are a terrible fit for the warm nostalgia of the instrumentation, creating a sonic jumble that hits the ears like a battering ram.

Best SNL Sketch: "Office Hours" (watch here)

I couldn’t say exactly why this sketch tickled me so, but the combination of Benedict Cumberbatch’s florid melodrama and Chad’s utter indifference gets me every time.

Worst SNL Sketch: "Talent Competition" (watch here)

I like John Cena’s comedy work, and he was certainly enthusiastic to be included on SNL, but this sketch hinges on a gross-out joke that isn’t particularly funny and closes with a whimper rather than a bang.

Best Musical Performance: "The Way I Am" The Muppets

It’s an immutable law of the universe that any song can be improved with the addition of Muppets, and Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am” was pretty stellar to begin with.

Worst Musical Performance: "The Time Warp" The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Hey, I’ve got a great idea! Why don’t we take the most iconic number from one of the most beloved cult musicals of all time and warp it into a downbeat funk track? No? Well, we’re doing it anyway.

Best Use of a Song: "Previously On" BrainDead

One of the many delightful elements of BrainDead is the “previously on” segment which, instead of being a bland clip show, recaps the previous episode via a jaunty song that never gets stale, catching you off guard with surges of spirited creativity.

Worst Use of a Song: "Star-Spangled Banner" Baskets

OK, this is a sneaky one, considering that it’s hilarious exactly because it’s terrible. Baskets underscores the depressing plight of Zach Galifianakis’ rodeo clown by having him perform at a stadium who thinks it’s a great get to have the O. J. trial’s Kato Kaelin sing the National anthem.

Best Guest Star: Barb (Stranger Things)

In just two episodes, Stranger Things’ Barb won over the hearts of millions. Her immensely relatable character leaves a big impression thanks to a curiously captivating performance by Shannon Purser and some delightfully tacky outfits.

Worst Guest Star: Lisa Kudrow (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

Don’t misread me, I adore Lisa Kudrow from the bottom of my heart. But she’s wasted in a flatly written one-episode arc about roller coasters that mostly exists to promote Universal Studios. …Whoa, déjà vu.

Best Commercial: Diversity

I’ve been seeing it everywhere. A typically “gangster” looking African-American depicted as a loving father. A commercial about a dad wanting to play catch with his kid, only it’s a daughter instead of a son. Little things subverting societal norms everywhere you look. It’s fabulous.

Worst Commercial: "ARCO Quality Top Tier Gas: Robot"

Then there’s this piece of sh*t. Advertisers are attempting to capitalize on the perceived randomness of internet humor and failing miserably. This commercial is shrill, incomprehensible, and doesn’t say a thing about the product it’s selling. You could show a car performing fellatio on a gas pump and it would still be a better commercial.

Top Five Pretty Guys

#5 Aarón Díaz (Quantico)

I wouldn’t be caught dead watching Quantico, but I’d be willing to at least risk getting maimed if Velez was in every scene.

#4 Justin Hartley (This Is Us)

I don’t watch the obscenely successful drama This Is Us, but if anything were to convince me to, it’s Mr. Hartley over here.

#3 Alfonso Herrerra (The Exorcist)

The Exorcist was a pretty dumb show, but Sense8’s Alfonso Herrera wears a tank top sometimes, so it’s worth it.

#2 Nyle DiMarco (Dancing with the Stars)

In addition to being (I assume) the only person in history to win both America’s Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars, Nyle is also a deaf superhero and one of the hottest men on the planet. A+ work.

#1 Glen Powell (Scream Queens)

Last year I thought Powell was the funniest dude on TV, but after what must have been a very productive summer, he’s now the fittest dude on TV, too!

Bonus: Richard Thomson (Lovesick)

From his face, you wouldn’t think Lovesick side character Richard Thomson would be totally ripped, but you would be dead wrong.

Top Five Pretty Girls

#5 Robin Wright (House of Cards)

She’s still got it, folks. Whenever I question why I’m still watching House of Cards, Robin Wright steps back onscreen to remind me.

#4 Kiana Ledé (Scream: The Series)

Ledé could have been just another boring doomed love interest in Scream, but she reigned over the screen with a quiet, dignified beauty.

#3 Mary Elizabeth Winstead (BrainDead)

C’mon, who doesn’t like Mary Elizabeth Winstead? I would fight off seven evil exes to win her heart.

#2 Kate McKinnon (SNL)

Talent can be a real turn-on, but Kate doesn’t need its help to be a powerhouse of sexy.

#1 Antonia Thomas (Lovesick née Scrotal Recall)

I know I’ve put her on this list before, but since the show’s name changed, I say she’s allowed back. Plus, who could say no to those eyes?

Bonus: Princess Bubblegum (Adventure Time)

In honor of Adventure Time’s impending cancellation, I’d love to give a goodbye shoutout to everyone’s favorite TV scientist, Princess Bubblegum.


Most Brennan-y Moment of 2016: Run Away With Me, Carrie

The only meme I’ll plant my flag behind is the deification of Carly Rae Jepsen’s saxophone-fueled “Run Away with Me,” which is depicted in this video being so incredible that it destroys an entire prom (using scenes from 2013’s Carrie remake that have the titular character edited out). Plus mixing horror with synthpop is a guaranteed way to catch my attention.

The Five Blog Posts I'm Most Proud Of

#5 "Popcorn Kernels: The Worst Idea of All Time" (Sex and the City 2, December)

Every year I try to bang out a good angry rant about a terrible movie, and Sex and the City 2 is this year’s deliciously inane target of my ire.

#4 The Exorcist Marathon

This Halloween gave me an opportunity to explore a franchise I’d seen very little of, and while it was mostly boring and frustrating I definitely feel like I learned something.

#3 Cardboard Science

Revel in the glory that is me, I actually finished this 50’s B-movie crossover with Kinemalogue on time for once! And I found two new classics to add to my movie knowledge.

#2 1981 Post Mortem

This was the year of actually finishing things, and with this post I finally closed the second chapter of my decade-long exploration of 1980’s slasher cinema.

#1 Christmas in July

One Christmas long ago, I forgot to finish my Silent Night, Deadly Night marathon so I had the idea to redeem myself in the middle of summer. I was rewarded with three of the batsh*t craziest Christmas films ever committed to celluloid.

My Top 5 Podcast Episodes of 2016

#5 "Mexican Horror Month #1: SATÁNICO PANDEMONIUM (1975)" (listen here)

Although we didn’t dig this classic nunsploitation title, it birthed one of our bawdiest, most lively season 2 conversations. Come for the culture, stay for the – and I quote – “often naked” Cecelia Pezet.

#4 "Halloween Bonus: HALLOWEEN II (1981) w/ Patrick Hamilton of Kill by Kill" (listen here)

I knew the second I heard Kill by Kill’s in-depth dissection of Friday the 13th characters that co-host Patrick Hamilton would be a perfect fit for our show. Lo and behold, he lived close by and was very generous with his time. Dreams can come true.

#3 "Extra Credit: THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR" (listen here)

I couldn’t tell you exactly why I like this specific episode so much, but I just feel like we were on our A-game with this one. Check it out!

#2 "Bonus Episode: Here We Go Again" (listen here)

Initially, Shannon and I meant to do a more serious review of Mamma Mia!, but it quickly morphed into a completely improvised monstrosity that I will treasure forever.

#1 "The First Annual Screamie Awards" (listen here)

This is possibly my greatest technical achievement. I loved the listener response we got on the voting tally for the awards, but I’m also very proud of our celebrity guests and our In Memoriam segment. This took a lot of work, but it was definitely worth it.

Top Five Song Discoveries

#5 "Johnny, Are You Queer?" Josie Cotton

This song from the Valley Girl soundtrack is so quaintly, brazenly offensive that I kind of have to love it.

#4 "Generation Love" Jennette McCurdy

I was watching an episode of Cupcake Wars (don’t ask) featuring iCarly star Jennette McCurdy, who was promoting her new country album. Like, c’mon. I cracked jokes through the entire hour, so you can imagine my chagrin when the music turned out to be kinda great.

#3 "Youngblood" Jem and the Holograms

I love me some bubblegum pop, and the spectacular cinematic failure Jem and the Holograms provided it in spades. The movie was silly and forgettable, but I still find myself re-listening to the soundtrack. Which I bought. With real money.

#2 "Turn the Lights Off" Tally Hall

Tally Hall is my favorite band that gives me hipster cred, and I was delighted to discover that they finally made a second album a couple years ago. It’s not the best, but “Turn the Lights Off” is an awesome update of their signature style in a creepy, kooky indie-pop song.

#1 "A Beat for You" Pseudo Echo

I never thought I’d get a music recommendation from a Friday the 13th sequel, but the Pseudo Echo track in A New Beginning led me down a dark path of some of the greatest, cheesiest Aussie New Wave pop around.

Top Five Movie Discoveries

#5 Muppets from Space

I love me some classic Muppets, but my favorite discovery from our recent marathon was Muppets from Space, a delightfully strange postmodern slapstick comedy that is neither a musical nor a space movie, but is still pretty great.

Read my original review right here.

#4 I Give It a Year

Rose Byrne is a massively undervalued comic actress, and she shines in this forgotten rom-com about a broken couple. It’s pretty hilarious in a variety of unexpected, exciting ways.

Read my original review right here.

#3 South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut

I expected a lot of what I got in the South Park movie: a vulgar, yet irresistible comedy. But I did not expect for it to be a more or less perfect movie musical with hilarious riffs on Les Misérables. Those are two incredibly wonderful things I’m happy I get to experience.

Read my original review right here.

#2 The People Under the Stairs

A Wes Craven movie I caught up with rather late, The People Under the Stairs is a film I truly regret not having watched earlier, so I could have had years of rewatching and loving this gleefully campy, frequently terrifying, socially conscious gem.

Read my original review right here.

#1 Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

was my entry point into Pedro Almodóvar’s filmography, but Women on the Verge was the spark that lit the raging fire. A hilarious, balls to the wall farce with an outrageous sense of design, it’s one of the few modern comedies that is also a  cinema masterpiece.

Read my original review right here.

Here's Some Stuff That I Did in 2016

Cupholder Radio

When I launched season 2 of Scream 101 this summer, it was under the shiny new umbrella of Cupholder Radio, a podcast network I created that already includes the Gore Gab podcast and will be expanding even more, soon!

All the Creatures Were Stirring

I got an arm workout as the boom mic operator on a weekend shoot for my friend Rebekah Mckendry’s feature film debut. The holiday horror-comedy All the Creatures Were Stirring. Boy, do I have some stories. Ask me about ‘em sometime. Pro-Tip: Microphones are heavy. Don’t carry them if you don’t have to.

Horror Trivia Champions!

Every month I attend Dead Right Horror Trivia Night with some nerd friends of mine. Usually we fail miserably against the much older, much nerdier (it seems impossible, but trust me) competition, but one month this year, we actually took home the big prize!

JoBlo Top 10's

I haven’t written any for Popcorn Culture recently, but I love me a good Top 10 list. Luckily my parent Web site has a YouTube channel I can use as an outlet. Several of the videos I’ve provided lists for (but not narration – I don’t necessarily share the opinions expressed by the host) are Top 10 Actors You Didn’t Realize Were in Horror Movies (above), Top 10 Horror Masks, and Top 10 Actors Who Moonlight as Musicians. Feel free to check ‘em out!

Geek K.O. (listen here)

I was featured on my friend Justin’s geek trivia podcast once again this October, this time bringing my best Donald Pleasence impression to a round of Halloween franchise trivia.
Word Count: 9231


  1. ExSqueeze me? I should be number one. Forever and Foralways. Chirp Chirp Chirp. Birds can cuss too. Chirpity Chirp.

  2. The best film of the year is a 9/10. Ouch.

    1. Well, I've seen it three times in the theater already, so it's a pretty solid 9/10 at least.