When we weren’t busy watching sports contests, we watched some things. Here are the best things we saw this year.
BABY FARTING!!!! - Drew Magary
If it hadn’t happened already, 2017 was the year that prestige TV got oppressively boring. The Americans faceplanted into a vat of molasses by trotting out 13 hour-long episodes filled with dead air. (Seriously, if I have to read the phrase “With one glance, Matthew Rhys communicates everything” one more time, I’ll throw my computer out the window.) Curb Your Enthusiasm—the comedy for people who don’t actually enjoy laughing—returned with little fanfare beyond a few eye rolls. Meanwhile, Netflix’s Ozark was the most prominent example of the numerous white-bread stars trying to become the next Bryan Cranston, while formerly hot shows like House of Cards and Transparent became grossly connected to shitty men, and series like Mr. Robot, which showed early promise, became irrelevant.
Enter the antidote, which, somehow, comes from one of the longest running comics series in America, and the corniest characters ever inked. It’s the ideal version of the “gritty reboot” that both tells a timeless story and capitalizes on modern trends. Riverdale—its entire first season and the first half of season two—was the best TV of the year, telling compelling mysteries in a strange, out-of-time location while still remembering to be a fun show about goofy teens.
Riverdale is based on the Archie comics, but knowing them isn’t much of a prerequisite here. In an early brilliant move, the show pops the balloon of any Betty/Veronica/Archie love triangle, setting up ace detective and girl-next-door Betty with Jughead (a delightfully broody Cole Sprouse) and making her best friends with an intelligent, strong-willed Veronica. Archie, then, becomes not exactly the protagonist, or the perfect all-American boy from the old comics, but an earnest ditz who plays guitar badly and doesn’t understand subtlety or the real world. Essentially, he’s a teenager, and those flaws and inconsistencies and blind spots everyone has in their high school years is something the show highlights and treasures.
The world of Riverdale is completely unbelievable, with its 1950s interpretation of gangs and drugs injected with soap-opera levels of melodrama. But with its cast of classic, lovable characters, it becomes a world worth revisiting. Riverdale is the bizarre experimentation of Twin Peaks without the contempt for its audience. It’s a show that has mastered the art of the awkward dinner table scene. It’s used a syrup conspiracy as a plot point. It’s had the gang accidentally stumble upon a snuff film. It’s had drag races, show-stopping musical numbers, and homages to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s a show that surprises its viewers every week—not simply with cheap, sudden plot twists, but by exploring the joyful freedom that a world within TV offers. Riverdale is a little present wrapped up lovingly for you every week. And more than the possible redemption of evil men or sparse, impenetrable dialogue, that kind of fresh, off-center storytelling is the best invitation to turn on the TV. -Lauren Theisen
Metástasis is the Colombian remake of Breaking Bad which aired on Univision’s UniMás network a few years ago but I finally caught it this year on Netflix. I have never seen Breaking Bad nor was I that interested in watching it; now, I don’t have to—because Metástasis is a scene-for-scene, line-for-line, episode-for-episode remake. The only changes in translation are literally translations: Walter White is Walter Blanco, Skyler is Cielo, Saul Goodman is Saúl Bueno, et cetera.
Oh, and it’s set in Bogotá instead of Albuquerque, but that’s a surprisingly minor change. Of the few scenes of Breaking Bad I have watched for comparison, I can say with confidence that Metástasis is better in every way. If you watched and enjoyed Narcos, I’m pretty sure you’d like the Colombian angle on Breaking Bad (plus, most of the actors appear on both shows, including Metástasis‘s versions of Tuco Salamanca, Hank, Jesse, Gus, El Loco … look, both shows feature all of Colombia’s best actors, Okay? IMDB says there are 12 different actors who were on both shows).
How much did I enjoy Metástasis? Enough that we took a week’s vacation to go explore Bogotá. It was great! I did not consume any meth there. - Tim Burke
One of the first thing you see in Twin Peaks: The Return is a big empty box, a box that’s closely observed from a couch, a box in which nothing happens or changes until all of a sudden, something utterly evil manifests inside of it and annihilates a pair of confounded bystanders. Whether it’s a cipher for the noise of the modern world, television itself, or something more opaque, it’s clear that David Lynch wants you to be scared of it.
The original seasons of Twin Peaks were concerned with the hidden evil at the core of small-town American life. It’s been 25 years since Twin Peaks was last on the air, and the peripheral horrors that moved David Lynch aren’t even below the surface anymore. Lynch looked out at a country devastated by opioids, recession, collapse, ennui, and anachronistic tribal resentment and saw that whatever was lurking during the original run of the show isn’t even bothering to hide itself anymore.
By that token, Twin Peaks: The Return is principally concerned with decline. All those characters you loved in the original series have been ravaged by time. Andy’s got a considerable gut now; Bobby Briggs has white hair; several beloved actors died during (Catherine Coulson a.k.a. the Log Lady) or after (Miguel Ferrer as Albert Rosenfield) the filming of the series. Even Kyle MacLachlan, the epitome of sparkly perfection 25 years ago, is weary, and Lynch denies viewers the true Dale Cooper until the very end of the series. The specter of death haunts this series, and if you think you’re in for a happy ending, let alone an ending at all, you’ve come to the wrong town.
And yet, somehow, Lynch created something beautiful. Amid the metaphysical uncertainty is a beating heart that not even BOB could stick a knife into. In any less able hands, this journey into the unknown would have ended too far up its own ass. Instead of trying to answer questions or give a single centimeter to nostalgia, Lynch plunges deeper into the cosmic uncertainty that made Twin Peaks so magnetic in the first place. The story, such that there is a story, is a tableau of people trying to connect themselves to memories and past selves, and largely finding themselves unable to do so.
While we see the show through the eyes of Dale Cooper (and a few alter egos in The Return), the story is and always has been about Laura Palmer. Lynch took the story to nearly nonsensical places, but never lost sight of the thread he’s always been pulling at. He’s been accused of being voyeuristic or exploitative, and while he tends to pen his female characters into defined tropes, he’s never flippant. The high point of this season (as well as, in my opinion, the past decade of television) is this season’s eighth episode, a nigh-indescribable acid trip of an hour that affirms that Twin Peaks has always been about a Manichean struggle between good (represented by Laura) and evil (represented by BOB). It’s heartening that the closest Lynch gets to actually explaining anything is with an inscrutable firehose of surrealism.
The new season of Twin Peaks is certainly difficult, as the pacing is frustrating and the show does not get its feet under it for five episodes or so. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s ferociously unique. Even if he’s wary of the medium, television is a better place with David Lynch in it. - Patrick Redford
Freaks and Geeks
There’s not much about Freaks and Geeks I can say that hasn’t already been blogged a million times: It was a show gone too soon; it realized exactly how to portray public high school and not be a total clumsy dipshit about it; the child actors are stunningly competent; yes, the bully is Squints from The Sandlot; the music rules; Jason Segel looks literally the exact same, minus 30 pounds; the parents are perfectly cute; the storylines are interesting and engaging; and did I mention it was a show gone too soon? The worst part about watching this show for the first time in 2017 is what happens after you finish it. You search the show, look up the actors and what they’re doing now (the guy who plays Sam co-wrote Spider-Man: Homecoming!), and then you find out why the show never got a second season—Garth motherfucking Ancier. Via the Vanity Fair oral history, you discover that he showed up between the pilot and NBC picking up the show and reportedly “didn’t get the show. He went to boarding school and Princeton—he doesn’t understand public school.” I get it: The show wasn’t doing monster ratings and most of these actors weren’t yet household names (James Franco didn’t break out until his Harry Osborn turn in 2002). But come the fuck on. This show is so clearly one of the most well-crafted performances on public high school life, one that managed to sneak all the stupid details of high school you would rather forget into a comedic narrative, that only some high-nosed, rich twat would be like, “Uhh, but why aren’t they all in uniform; also, where’s the lacrosse team?” Fucking private school kids, man. - Nick Martin
American Ninja Warrior
I have thought about it, and it just doesn’t seem like there’s any way it can be a good thing that basically everything I fondly remembered watching in 2017 was in fact something I watched in 2016. There were things I enjoyed watching, for sure, but the things that startled or overpowered or otherwise awed me all somehow came in The Before Times. This is a drag, but it makes sense as I think back on how I was and what I was doing in 2017. I definitely watched some shit, but given that I mostly spent the year—one that was politically Year Zero of Sundowning Biff Tannen’s America and personally marked by upheaval and loss—in a state of hunkered down shock, it fits that all I could really come up with was like gradually warming to The Good Place and generally enjoying Blade Runner 2049. There is a “best” in there, probably, but nothing that quite feels like good enough to deserve that status.
The only thing I watched that really seemed to work as well as it had in the past, the more I think about it, is the thing that has worked best for years now. It’s been working for me long enough, in fact, that I no longer feel weird saying that NBC’s American Ninja Warrior is my favorite show on television. It’s a summer replacement show in which a cross-section of obsessive American goofball virtuosos—rock climbers and ex-gymnasts and also day-traders and hairdressers and stuntmen and stuntwomen and a healthy number of former college pole-vaulters—work their way through a hilariously sadistic obstacle course. They hang from doorknobs and sproing off trampolines and suspend themselves between flat lucite walls or from inch-wide ledges; they cheer each other on and a pair of deliriously overstated announcers shout themselves hoarse. It is all giddy and positive and rather gleefully corny; it is also, from one moment to the next, the best and most life-filled programming on television.
It’s sports in the purest sense, without any of the other shit that can make sports exhausting. It’s a silly thing that people are serious about, generally in a positive way; it’s dumb but inclusive, individuated but oddly communal, stilted right up until the moment that it is shocking, mostly impossible in a way that doesn’t seem futile. More than that, though, it is growing—this year’s field of competitors is stranger and more brilliant and more diverse, with strange new geniuses percolating upwards through the ranks. My experience of being sad, this year as at other times in my life, is a sensation of sinking and slowing but mostly of closing, of things winding down without ever quite having started up. If I valued American Ninja Warrior especially this year, it was because of how much I needed it to do what it reliably does—kick closed expectations open, leap through the roof, and make the experience of struggling a little further forward feel as worthwhile as it is. - David Roth
Movies are, at their core, escapism. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that my escapism during this hellscape of daily reports about the sexual harassment and assault of women, the still routine failures of the criminal justice system, and our president saying not all Nazis are bad was a movie about one woman who just wants to do her damn job. Okay, so her job is defeating the god of war, helping end World War I, and singlehandedly making DC movies relevant again. No small tasks. But she did it.
I, unfortunately, do not have a golden lasso of truth or the ability to fend off bullets with metal cuffs, and probably don’t have the upper body strength to carry, let alone wield, a sword. I definitely would not have survived No Man’s Land. But it’s nice to think that if Diana of Themyscira can pull all that off, I can still handle all of this world’s bullshit. - Diana Moskovitz
The Jawbreaker Reunion Show
I spent a fuck-ton of money to see Jawbreaker play a reunion show at Riot Fest. They started with “Boxcar”—not my favorite Jawbreaker song, but the right one to break it open, to bring an end to the 20-year hiatus since they’d broken up shortly after releasing Dear You, their sell-out album, on Geffen.
For 75 minutes the trio zipped through a smattering of their catalogue, ending with “Bivouac,” the odyssean finale to their sophomore album of the same name. Blake Schwarzenbach dropped to his knees, screamed into the strings of his yellow guitar, and looked like he was flirting with smashing it on the stage. Instead, he laid it face-down and tuned his pedal to carry the reverb as Adam Pfahler pushed his bass drum off the platform, and they walked off the stage packed with friends and family, and that was it.
As I stood in the crowd, crushed by the bodies and sentimentalism of a bunch of fine strangers, I realized that I was “finally” getting old. I was aging out of the scene and had become a square, and it happened without me noticing, really.
Which feels worse, though? Growing up and out of the scene, or outgrowing it and staying there?
I was a fucked-up kid, and Jawbreaker was there for me to channel my fury into punk rock, real emo, and a love of dirtbag shittiness that stretched well into my 20s. I grew up to be a fucked-up adult, too. My identity was, because it had to be, someone aware of that fucked-up-ness. But sometime in the last few years I got a little less screwy. It happened somewhat without my noticing it, or, at least, without me noticing how drastically I’d changed.
I’ve held onto my black jeans, my keys are still attached to me by a carabiner, and I still have a wildly long emo playlist and general displeasure with the world around me, but when I moved to New York in 2014 and left my group of friends in San Francisco, I lost a crew of people interested in going to local shows twice a week. I started working in sports media, entered a stable relationship, and at some point, began shopping at Ann Taylor Loft every once in awhile.
I went to Chicago to see Riot Fest with two friends I knew in San Francisco but who no longer lived there either. I am no longer in my early 20s, and I’m not the person I was when I was closest to these friends, and the weekend spent together really drove home how much my love of Jawbreaker—who recorded their best records when I was an infant—punk rock, and real emo was suddenly rooted in nostalgia. It was something I used to love. If introduced to it new again today, Jawbreaker would no longer have anything for me.
I imagine that’s the preferable route, and as I watched Schwarzenbach finally return to the stage under the Jawbreaker moniker, I thought he probably felt something like this, too. He wrote these songs in his early 20s; his niche Bay Area band took a shot at superstardom and failed, and sometime in those two decades, the legend of Jawbreaker grew enough to produce a festival crowd that looked like it stretched a mile back, full of people who loved what he’d done when he was a different person. It was fucking wild. It was the best thing I saw this year. - Lindsey Adler
The Pink House
If a movie is really good, you might say it made you forget that the people in it are actors playing made-up characters. The Pink House is a documentary that’s so good I had to repeatedly remind myself that that the two women at the center of the film were not artfully crafted characters imbued with exactly the right amount of pathos and idiosyncrasies.
The realness makes this story about the oldest operational brothel in the bush town of Kalgoorlie, Australia deeply tragic. Caramel, the octogenarian madam with a prudish attitude towards sex and an affected posh accent, bought the brothel after her husband passed away. P.J., the aging prostitute with no affectations whatsoever, has been a sex worker since she was a teen and struggles throughout the movie with a debilitating drug addiction. But as much as it’s a movie about prostitution in Australia’s remote mining towns, it’s a movie about the relationship between these two women and their mutual efforts to keep the Pink House open for business. And ultimately, to its credit, the movie feels more narrative than didactic..
I’ve watched a lot of documentaries this year and a big thing I noticed—that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s given this any thought—is that it’s hard to capture really dramatic action on camera. If you’re making a documentary it’s because the people or the place or the situation is inherently interesting, and if the doc is good, you’ll not only hear about that but see glimpses of emblematic action. But for something life-changing to happen to those characters—beyond what originally attracted them to you in the first place—over the course of filming is far more rare.
The Pink House was already a heartfelt, rollicking movie about fascinating women when, around the third act, there’s a murder. The final movie represents years of filming that serve to both introduce viewers to a little-known world with a complicated sociopolitical backstory and give its main characters time to live out compelling, unscripted dramas. I saw it at the NYC doc festival in the fall and I don’t know how or where it’s available for viewing now, but I highly recommend seeking out The Pink House. - Hannah Keyser
James Dolan’s Weird Song Performance
The best thing I saw in 2017 was a guitar solo from James Dolan. Yeah, the Knicks owner. The wondrous notes, caught live on tape, came near the end of a video of a song Dolan wrote for Deadspin. Dolan wrote a song for Deadspin.
From observing him and his band, J.D. & the Straight Shot, for a story last year, I figured Dolan loved music more than sports; he’s more qualified to judge a vintage Les Paul than an old Chris Paul and he knows it. I was still shocked that when we asked him if he’d work up a ditty for our jokey awards show, he said sure, and followed through, and so grandly! Lyrically, Dolan’s tune delivers a mix of confession and ripped-from-the-headlines. Check out his opening verse: “You know I own a basketball team/For most people that would be a dream/For a trust fund kid, it’s a living hell/Always some asshole telling me to sell.” Talk about three chords and the truth! (Deadspin ran a story in April headlined James Dolan Called Me An Asshole, Knicks Fan Says; “He Is An Asshole,” Dolan Says.) And it rhymes! While Dolan rarely shows a fun side on his day job, he went for yuks, and damn if he didn’t get ‘em: Rejoice in the Carter Familyesque harmonies as he pairs “Deadspin crew” with “sniffing glue.”
But while the whole enterprise struck me as courageous to the point of foolhardy, the video’s biggest revelation came with the closing guitar solo (starts here at about the 3:45 mark). Dolan’s band is loaded with Nashville studio superstars, but for this session he waved his mates off like Carmelo Anthony at the top of the key, and does it all himself. But his licks aren’t forced or flashy; they’re restrained and even tasty. From the looks of things, there’s no finger-syncing going on in the video, either. When the red light went on, Dolan nailed every note. That’s buzzer-beater pressure. My jaw remains dropped. - Dave McKenna
The Hamburger Dipshit
The Hamburger Dipshit is simultaneously the greatest comedy and tragedy of the year. It joins The Dreaded Laramie in my personal Clickhole Hall of Fame, and enters the spot in my brain that is reserved for hilariously stupid phrases that I will never, ever forget.
Hamburger Dipshit. Hamburger Dipshit. Hamburger. Dipshit.
It gets me every time. - Tom Ley
I don’t really listen to podcasts or watch internet video shows. It’s just not my thing. But there is one show that I have watched every episode of: Old School Wrestling Review. This was another fine year for the three fine Irish gentlemen (Jay Hunter, V1, and Mr. OOC) who host the video podcast.
OSW Review, which began in 2011, at first revolved around things in my wheelhouse: Late ‘80s/early ‘90s WWF and ECW. But this year I happily watched reviews of TNA wrestling, a promotion I’ve never really seen and didn’t have much interest in. I watched their review of Watchmen. And I went back and re-watched all their old reviews again, too. They respect the wrestlers and their performances, but they also clown on it. Wrestling is goofy. Clowning on it is part of the fun.
But OSW Review is also frequently fascinating. Hunter does a tremendous job weaving the history and backstage politics of the time into the discussion of each wrestling show; OSW has produced interesting little histories of Brutus Beefcake gimmicks, the World Bodybuilding Federation, and the XFL.
I like OSW Review so much I used their term “Roidy McGoo” in an article about a Mayweather-McGregor press conference without even thinking about it. Their slang has made it into my slang! I will steal more of their slang to thank them: Can of Coke to these guys. - Dan McQuade
Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City
Terrace House is a reality TV show based in Japan that is about six people who move into a spacious Tokyo house, where they then ... go on with their ordinary lives. They live their lives and they simply happen to be living in this nice house with bunked bedrooms and low-slung luxury sofas and a pool out on the terrace. The members are free to pack up and move out of the house whenever they like, and will be promptly replaced by a new member. There are always six members: three men, three women. There is no gimmick, no adventure, no constraint, no script, nothing to muck up the works. The only experiment here is cohabitation. How will these six people live? If you pay enough attention—and this show does nothing as intensely as it pays attention—this question becomes somehow interesting.
For the American viewer, Terrace House presents a staggering thought experiment into what reality television would look like if it chose not to fill a home with the most swole, self-dramatizing and Chaotic Evil people imaginable, but instead with people who were mild-mannered, respectful of others’ feelings, and had functional lives outside of this obviously ridiculous conceit. Here the dynamic of reality television is inverted: The lives of the contestants might appear more ordered and less absurd than your own life. The contestants eat and drink (socially, moderately), and they take each other out on dates (politely, sometimes hand-holdingly) and they continue to work whatever jobs they’d been working: student, baseball player, designer, model, barista, chef, entertainer, dancer. You just let them live. Many feel that watching Terrace House has a therapeutic, mildly narcotic effect. It washes over you more than you watch it.
That is not to say that the show is boring, or devoid of drama—the drama just comes in an unusual format. Every episode toggles between two modes. Either you’re watching house members themselves, living in the house, living in Tokyo generally. Or the show cuts away from the main action to present a panel of Japanese celebrities hanging out in front of a TV, having just watched the same scenes you just watched. Some hybrid of a Greek chorus and a team of crack psychiatrists, the panel will recount and rehash all the tiny gestures, asides, slights, apologies, and romances they just witnessed. Each is analyzed, unsparingly. On the surface of Terrace House barely anything is happening. Everything is placid, clean, and cordial. But all the real pathos is there, once you look for it. Then you’ll notice the pulverized dreams, the aching unrequited love, the prickly hostility, the debilitating career failure. See a whole world of weird roiling passions under the top inch of ice.
I will not spoil this season except to note that the interaction between one member—who is slurring-drunk and unusually antagonistic—and another member—who is fragile after having just been dumped on camera—was the single most emotionally rich moment I’ve ever seen in a television show, almost unnerving in its intensity. You could spend hours teasing apart all the layers of expressed and repressed emotion in this five-minute scene. So much is somehow happening in this show where nothing is made to happen. The new season is the only television I’m actively looking forward to in 2018. - Giri Nathan
American Vandal is a delightful mystery program about teens and shorn genitals. One of its co-stars, Griffin Gluck as Sam, is now the avatar of all of my professional hopes and dreams as a Serious Journalist; what Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman were for a generation of destructive dweebs in 1976, Gluck is for me in 2017. Extremely minor spoilers for Vandal follow.
Midway through the third episode, Sam and his Woodward, Peter, are chasing down a tip that Ms. Shapiro pulled aside Alex Trimboli after Spanish class one day, perhaps in a bid to coerce him to manufacture evidence. Trimboli’s classmate Sierra Sherrington tells Sam and Peter that “I thought that was really weird, because he was great in Spanish.” Exactly. Trimboli’s claim that he simply wanted to learn more about Spanish food and politics is highly suspect. Was Shapiro pressuring him to snitch?
Sam interviews class president Christa Carlyle in an attempt to get to the bottom of it, and Carlyle stonewalls him at first, saying that she doesn’t want to sell out a friend. It looks like intrepid young Sam is fucked. Every journalist has been in this situation—you follow a thread to the person who you just know knows what you want to know, and then they won’t tell you anything.
Faced with this conundrum, Sam, like the true greats, instantly figures out how to get around it. He raises his right hand, almost in supplication but still sitting up pretty straight. He then leans his head forward, gently but beseechingly, as if to say: “Come onnnn.” And Christa, previously committed to omerta, immediately spills the beans.
I certainly know how to use my right hand in interviews now, and we can only assume that this technique will take down massively corrupt evildoers who were previously getting away with it. - Dennis Young
Tay-K, “The Race”
In under two minutes, Tay-K’s “The Race” manages to encapsulate the rage and nihilism of street life, the emotional journey of impulsive, risky decision-making as body-suffusing thrill and exuberance gives way to ambivalence and maybe even regret, and the joy and terror of youth. It’s something like the ethos of La Haine and The Graduate as filtered through Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like” video, and it’s a wildly affecting document of an often ignored way of life because of it.
To fully understand what makes “The Race” something more than your prototypical low-budget rap video, you need to know a little about the circumstances in which it was shot. “F-f-f-fuck a beat, I was trying to beat a case / But I didn’t beat that case, bitch I did the race” aren’t just the breathless lyrics that come hurdling at you the instant “The Race” starts, thumping into you like a dropkick to the chest—they’re also an accurate summation of Tay-K’s life situation at that point. For a summary of his current and prior run-ins with the law, check out the extended “Legal Issues” tab on Tay-K’s Wikipedia entry. The short version: Tay-K recorded and released “The Race” while on the lam from Texas police this summer, snipping off the ankle monitor he was given as part of the capital murder charges he’d been hit with, and fleeing for New Jersey to duck the cops and record music and be free.
(These, by the way, aren’t the only criminal charges Tay-K has been tied to in his young life. Before this, the rapper was involved in but ultimately cleared of responsibility for a fatal shooting committed by a friend and rap partner of his. Tay-K is just 17 years old.)
While the insistence on reading an artist’s work and their biography as inextricably linked is often a tedious, cheapening exercise, it’s impossible not to do so in the case of “The Race,” and doing so only deepens the impact of the video. That baby face, the ice-cold glare, the wanton brandishing of a slew of pistols, lines like “I woke up too moody, who gon’ die today?” and “You want action? You get turned into past tense” and “Do the dash, then I go out the way” and “I’m gon’ shoot, you can see it in my face,” the manic, at times shrill delivery Tay-K starts the song with before tailing off into a subdued, almost drugged cadence as the track comes to a close—all of it feels so perfectly befitting and revealing of a young man for whom a combination of hormones, justified existential fear, macho posturing, and the normalization of death and killing and criminality have led down a dark path to some distressing choices in life that feel exhilarating in the moment but ultimately will almost certainly prove self-defeating. It’s a sentiment that’s almost impossible for someone not directly involved in that world to articulate, and one we’d do well to honestly reckon with rather than ignoring or demonizing.
The first time I saw “The Race” and read about Tay-K’s backstory, I was completely transfixed. I felt compelled to watch it over and over at least a dozen times. It is such a potent distillation of a certain depressingly prevalent worldview and way of life, and is one told with a stunning range of artistic deftness. The video has recently past the 100 million views mark, proving that the glimpse Tay-K offered us all of his mind and life has truly connected amongst those receptive to it. Tay-K may have run away from the cops, but hopefully his life circumstances don’t lead him to run away from his creative talents. - Billy Haisley
Anime films in the mainstream are mostly dominated by Miyazaki and Pokemon. Makoto Shinkai’s film Your Name beat those household names became the highest-grossing film anime film ever this year. A mix of the supernatural and the intensely human, filled with gorgeous animation and a touching story about two teens connected across a vast distance.
Your Name is, foremost, a body-swapping rom-com. Rural girl Mitsuha and Tokyo city-boy Taki find that for some reason, they keep waking up in each other’s bodies. They leave messages on their phones, notebooks, faces. Who are you? Where are you? They start to help each other solve problems—Mitsuha helps Taki woo a coworker, Taki helps Mitsuha become more confident and popular. It’s a fun set-up, capturing the awkward twilight of teenagedom in the little ways they interact. Friends notice how each person is changing, becoming a different person on random days.
But then, the body swapping stops. I won’t spoil more, but what starts as a lighthearted and fun movie becomes the film manifestation of emotional strain. It’s like seeing a message left unread, never knowing what happens. And as the characters go searching for each other, to learn what’s gone wrong, Shinkai pulls at your heartstrings. It captures the loneliness each person feels without their counterpart, and the fallible nature of memories. Even the ones we desperately want to keep start to wither and fade with time.
Your Name deserves a spot alongside anime greats like Spirited Away, a tale of youth and awkwardness and romance wrapped up in a beautiful 107 minutes. - Eric Van Allen