Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Top Eleven: Things I Blogged About In 2015

This is coming a bit late, but to my credit, I was visiting family over the holidays.  Plus, it's my blog, so I'm entitled to a vacation every now and again.

Planned ones, anyway.  I'm going to try to cut back on the unplanned ones.

Anyway, another year come and gone and- holy cow, I've been doing this since 2013?  This is going to be my fourth year in a row working on this blog.  That's pretty impressive!  I'll have to shake up some of the stuff I was going to post (I saw a bunch of movies during those long plane rides) and do a few looks back at some of the more popular things I've talked about.

But that's neither here nor now!  Now, we're going to look back at the past year of posting and look at what I enjoyed the most enjoyed about the year 2015!  At least, it'll be the things I enjoyed talking about during 2015.

Here they are, in order of how much fun I had.

First, an honorable mention:

My trip to Vermont was amazing.  Seeing one of my favorite radio programs live again in a completely unfamiliar setting, seeing sites and eating at places I had never been to before, there wasn't a single thing that I think back to and go "man, that part of the trip was unbearable."

I'll only say that if you're going to have that many steep cliffs for people to drive past, you could at least decorate them some.  Draw a giant smiley face, or hang large posters or something.  Also, when did hotel bed sheets just become pathetic?

Number Eleven: Wytches

Okay, so to be fair, I didn't so much "enjoy" Wytches so much as I felt exhilarated and terrified every time I turned the page.  It's one of the few times a book has genuinely made me feel fear for the characters within it without feeling cheap or like there was an editorial mandate to simply "kill people off to be shocking" (looking at you, Marvel and DC).

Number Ten:  The Law Enforcement Guide To Satanic Cults

There are not enough words to describe the enjoyment that comes from watching something that someone genuinely meant to be engaging, informational, and interesting, and instead having it only succeed at one of those by being the professionally paid and produced movie about satanism version of your friend falling down and not hurting himself.

That's a terrible analogy, but I'm not going to put more effort into making a comparison than the production company did in researching the data behind this movie.  It's terrible, but so bizarrely interesting, not for the subject material, but because you spend the entire time wondering about every single decision the primary characters make.  Why did they choose this location?  Why did they film from that angle?  Why are they saying these things?  Was there an editor?  What does the unused footage look like?  How much was that camera guy paid?

Number Nine: The Walking Dead: Season Two

As promised, we have the second season of Telltale Games' foray into zombie storytelling, and while I am a bit wiser now about how games are made, the fact that the series was willing to go out on such an emotionally charged ending that leaves you with a choice that will genuinely affect the start of the next season (provided it features Clementine, naturally) is amazing.  I look back at the choices I made during the game, and still wonder if I would have done anything differently.  I know that many characters would have died regardless of what I did (the circumstances of "when" and "how" would be all that was altered), but I think that I would have still made the decisions I did regardless.

Number Eight: The Great Race

This movie is to movies what Rocky Road is to ice creams.  It's an almost perfect combination of flavors put together with expert precision, and anybody who doesn't like it is wrong.  With an amazing cast, perfect delivery of jokes, slapstick humor that rivals any of the best I've seen, and a story that veers into madness so quickly that it lets you accept anything that follows, it's a (extremely long) viewing experience that leaves you in stitches.

In this place I almost put my experiences watching Rifftrax, which did regularly have me howling with laughter while watching the movies, but the only condition is that you're also required to watch some really bad cinema, and sometimes the jokes don't outdo the movie itself.  This isn't the problem in The Great Race, which is simply wonderful from start to finish.

Number Seven:  The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Like the last entry, this movie is an absolute delight to watch.  It's not funny, by any means, though there are some cute, humorous moments.  Instead, this movie is a delight for the eyes, daring you to blink and miss something.  Expressions are simplified, but still so engaging that when the main character is happy, you feel happier.  When she's upset, you want to reach into the screen and offer comfort, except the sharp lines and quick movements would cause you to lose a finger.

Plus, it's impossible to reach into a screen, so there's that.

The movie does take a very "Japanese" twist at the end (which I don't imply to be racist, simply that if an American director put a similar ending into one of their movies, I'd assume there was a gas leak during production, plus, it is based on Japanese legend) and it might throw off some viewers who expected an ending to bring real closure or make sense, but I think it still strongly holds up with everything else the movie brings.  The tree with the blossoms scene still gets me, to this day.

Number Six:  Bioshock Infinite: Burial At Sea

Taking the story from one of my all-time favorite games and shaping it so that many loose threads were brought together from the rest of the series, Burial At Sea manages to be a brilliant stand-alone story that's truly enhanced by having played the rest of the franchise first.  Why you would play a follow-up game before playing the lead-ins, I have no idea.  Then again, I accidentally watched a movie sequel without watching the (probably) terrible original movie, so there's that.

It also finally gave closure to one of my favorite characters of all time, and while I was saddened by the ending, knowing how her actions would affect entire worlds left me satisfied that the story's ending wasn't pointless.

It was a perfectly folded bow tying together a wonderful package of a franchise...as long as you keep ignoring the second game.

Number Five: The Martian

The second book on this list (and the only actual novel), the Martian was probably one of my favorite stories this year.  Spoiler alert, the movie will probably be on this year's list, because I watched it during my vacation.  Being a total math and science nerd, I loved the descriptions of how things work, how the main character was able to cobble things together, and every fun description of how he solved problems that kept cropping up.

The math was a delight (and seriously, how often does that phrase get used?), the writing was fun, and the story had me engaged from the moment I started reading.  The humor was sharp (though often juvenile, creating a great contrast with the strict science and "professionalism" of what was being done).  There were no wasted characters, everybody has a clear purpose, and though I doubt there would be any kind of sequel, I would love the idea of the author putting out another book.

Number Four:  Avatar Week

As I think I said before, sometimes I really need to remind myself that the reason something becomes popular is because it's really good.  All the praise I can say for this series would simply be drowned out by the massive amount of praise and analysis I already gave it, plus the fact I gave the series its own Top Eleven list.  So just click those links and find out why this series has joined the 90s DC Animated Universe, Animaniacs, and just a few others on my list of my all-time favorite animated series.

Number Three: Tink Week

I honestly did not expect to like any of these movies.  A few people I knew asked me to watch them, stating that they wanted my analysis of them.  I ignored them.  Someone I knew who I respected the opinions of pushed me, quite hard, to give them a try.  I finally relented, and wound up being completely blown away by the quality of the animation, the storytelling, and the acting.

Look, I'm not going to claim that every fraternity in the world should watch these.  Most guys probably wouldn't get a lot out of it.  But people with daughters (or boys who like nature and good stories and parents who won't get weird about it) should let their children watch these.  Together.  As a family.  You might also be impressed with what they're doing with classic Disney characters to keep them fresh, especially if, like me, you remember some of the absolute travesty "straight to video" sequels that Disney was grinding out for a while.

Number Two: Danganronpa and Danganronpa 2

Some things just change you when you experience them.  It might be that watching a movie about a shark convinces you to never swim in the ocean again.  Maybe A Christmas Carol convinces you to donate more to charity.  Bio-Dome might convince you that mankind is doomed.

For me, the Danganronpa series taught me to stop trying to predict plot twists in video games, that story-based games were not dead (yet), and that I really, really need to stop getting attached to characters in games.  It only leads to heartache.

Plus, it left me seriously pondering the idea of what it would take to "break" people.  Between the surprise twist towards the end of the first game that absolutely blew my socks off and my pathetic attempts to force my feelings certain directions in the second game, Danganronpa managed to hit me hard every time a character was killed because it was at that exact moment that I thought I had everything figured out ahead of time.

There's another game out that takes the formula and shakes it up some into a shooter, but there's a third Danganronpa game in the works, and I know it'll be on my "must buy" list.

Number One: Moribito

I don't talk about this series as much to people as I do other things on this list, but Moribito holds the top honor because it did something I thought was going to be impossible.

It got me excited about anime again.

Without this series, I never would have started into watching Sword Art Online, or gone back to rewatch classics like Ghost in the Shell, eX-Driver, or others that were simply gathering dust on my shelf.  It's inspired me to browse through the shelves at my local video peddler seeing what new and amazing things I can discover and then actually looking them up to see what other people think.

It has me interested in doing two full weeks at some point in the future of nothing but Studio Ghibli reviews.

It got me to convince a friend to watch it, and I'm pretty sure it's gone up into his top three favorite series of all time.

This was the series that I most enjoyed watching, that changed how I viewed classic storytelling tropes, and kept me on the edge of my seat as I watched, waiting to see what would happen next.


Midorrian said...

I actually gave Tinkerbell movies a try because of your reviews. They really were much better than I was expecting! I want to get Netflix just so I can watch them more often. For my daughter, I mean. Of course.

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