As the year comes to a close and all the time spent with the lonely, on-his-own friend during the holidays reminds us to get our lives together, like two former lovers who awkwardly run into each other at a bar and small talk their way into a promise to “stay friends,” we keep up the tradition of making New Year's resolutions we know we'll never keep. (Who wants to quit drinking? Have you ever had beer!?)
However, another end-of-year tradition that's less painful is compiling best of lists. So, I've asked some of our bloggers and staff to submit their “Best Books of 2015” and “Best TV Shows/Movies of 2015” lists for your enjoyment. Needless to say, if you haven't read/seen any of these—step up your entertainment game in 2016.
Best Movies of 2015
Having studied cognitive science and philosophy of mind for years, I'm a sucker for a good movie that deals with the ideas of consciousness, artificial intelligence, and free will—especially when Alicia Vikander is involved.
Alex Garland's directorial debut was a hauntingly beautiful, critically acclaimed masterpiece that felt closer to present-day technological advancement than its predecessors (although if Kubrick would have been around long enough to direct A.I. he might have given Garland a run for his money). Dealing with the ultimate Turing Test, this movie will leave you wondering if the robots are already living among us, while we argue over how Ex Machina is actually pronounced.
*Plus, half of the cast is also featured in my next favorite movie. Talk about a good year for Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Really? The best movie of 2015 is Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Before you question my choice in movies, or the originality of my response, Star Wars: The Force Awakens elicits all the feeling and emotions that audiences fell in love with during A New Hope in 1977. Filled with the same stunning space battle scenes and lovable characters old and new, the nostalgia runs deep—even reciting callbacks from the previous movies (come on…a trash compactor joke!). Star Wars: The Force Awakens is fresh and even funnier, obsessing new audiences with the Star Wars universe. Even your friend that has never seen Star Wars before is joining the conversation of fan theories.
Spoiler Alert: Paulie’s dead in this one so don’t expect lines like, “I don't raise you to go with this scum bum!” but lovable, punch-drunk Rocky is still in the corner offering up sage short jabs like, “Time takes everybody out; time's undefeated.” Nietzsche’s got nothin’ on Philly’s favorite son.
Based on my pithy recommendation (yesterday), you’ve already read the book. Now see the movie that critics lauded as “Out of this world!” Plus, who can resist Matt Damon slapping his hand against a space ship window and yelling, “How do you like them potatoes!”
That doesn’t really happen…but it should!
Considering I watched Jurassic Park holed up in the West Village apartment of a legendary drunk who wore a stained, purple sweat suit and pushed a grocery cart full of Thunderbird up and down Jane Street, Jurassic World didn’t have too high of a mark to beat. That said, this is a tremendous addition to the Camarasauruscanon and even has a cameo with Jimmy Buffet.
Wasted away again in Jurassic World,
Searchin' for my lost Indominus Rex.
Some people claim that there's a Mosasaurus to blame,
But I know it's just special effects.
Canadian director Denis Villeneuve's Sicario is a tense look at the violent zone along the US-Mexican border, where the drug cartels are doing more and more business and gruesome murder is a normal part of their work. It's told mainly through the eyes of a woman FBI agent recruited to join a shadowy US task force that crosses onto Mexican soil to cause havoc among the different cartels. Filmed against bleak, dusty Texas and Mexican landscapes, Sicario is often eerily beautiful and has a great sense of pacing. From the first scene to the last, the tension never lets up.
Best TV Shows of 2015
Leanna Renee Hieber:
Admitting I have a bias for suspense, fantasy and sci-fi, as well as character-driven pieces, Mr. Robot tops my list because of the spectacularly compelling action and dialogue/narration of the main character, played by the incredible Rami Malek who really blew me away with his performances.
Amazon Studios has two of my fave new shows, one of them being Bosch—a solid take on a gripping cop drama, starring a compelling lead played by Titus Welliver who has great, seemingly effortless chemistry, rapport, and appeal with whoever he's on screen with.
The Man in the High Castle
The second of Amazon Studios great, new lineup is a terrifying, chilling alternate history where the Axis powers won World War II, based on a novel by Philip K Dick. The incomparable Rufus Sewell plays the most unnerving Nazi one could imagine and I was dreading/inexorably drawn to the next episode.
Marvel Studios can't seem to miss right now. Whether it's the A-List superheroes and huge box office hits (Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers) or the lesser known characters and new, darker, made-for-TV Netflix specials, it's clear that Marvel is in a different world completely.
While I admittedly liked Daredevil more (I liked the way the fighting/action scenes returned to the choreographed style of Kung Fu flicks, as opposed to the CGI mess that has dominated the screen as of late), Jessica Jones was a force to be reckoned with. While both shows follow the Nolan-esque, Dark Knight style of telling the darker origin stories rather than the sugarcoated, good-guy tale, Jessica Jones manages to take a huge step in the right direction for feminism. Not only was she a badass female superhero, but the show also dealt with issues of rape, domestic abuse, and female sexuality (both hetero and homo).
Whichever you choose first, make sure to catch up on both before Daredevil Season 2 and the new Luke Cage series begin in 2016.
Master of None
Boy do I love the new streaming, on-demand television services. It really allows the artists to regain creative control. And while you might not watch Parks and Recreation and think ol' Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) would have something insightful to say, Master of None proves you wrong.
Aziz Ansari is taking the comedy world by storm, recently selling out Madison Square Garden. His high-pitched voice and often millennial sounding vocabulary sometimes mask the fact that his comedy is smart, forward-thinking, and often deals with contemporary issues in society. This is never more apparent than in his new Netflix series, Masters of None.
The premise is simple: it's essentially Seinfeld—four friends living in New York City deal with normal life issues. And while it does seem to be a “show about nothing” (they spend hours looking for the best taco truck in NYC—not that farfetched…I've done it), Aziz and crew tackle some real issues in a fresh and always hilarious way. With only ten, thirty-ish minute episodes, you can binge this in one, lazy day.