Reel Charlie’s Best of 2016

reel-charlie-best-of-20162016 turned out to be an intense year filled with all sorts of complicated emotions. Unsure how I feel moving into 2017, but I will face it with an open heart, an open mind, ready to fight for our collective freedom. And when I need a break – because we all have to pace ourselves, I’ll turn to what brings me joy – film and television. Below is a snapshot of what I loved in 2016. I always start out with books and music. And then expand into film and television. The year in watching turned into a love fest for television, not so surprising. I revisited old favorites in-between discovering new series. I continued enjoying documentaries while my film viewing took a decidedly Hollywood turn, at least the ones I marked as must-see. And surprise, I read more books for pleasure than ever before. It’s all about balance. So here we go:

Books (links to Goodreads)

It was a great reading year for me. Thanks to Goodreads for keeping me counting and for my Genre Circle at work for keeping me open. I read 43 books this year. I’m a slow reader so that’s a big record for me. My perfect reads were:

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – mandatory reading on race in America
Books for Living by Will Schwalbe – essays on the joy and importance of reading
The Facts of Life by Patrick Gale – generations of family secrets
Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton – stunning coffee table book from the Facebook page
I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip by John Smith – the novel that started YA LGBTQ Literature
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson – crazy good YA novel – someone make this into a movie
In Memory of Angel Clare by Christopher Bram – Chris Bram’s AIDS era masterpiece
The Starving Years by Jordan Castillo Price – dystopia, geeks, sexy guys, danger
Treehab: Tales from My Natural, Wild Life by Bob Smith – uber-talented Bob Smith’s essays on life
Triad Blood by Nathan Burgoine – sexy threesome supernatural goodness
The United States Bill of Rights by Founding Fathers – mandatory re-reading for 2017 and beyond
The United States Constitution by Founding Fathers – mandatory re-reading for 2017 and beyond
The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov by Paul Russell – a masterful historical fiction novel
Wide Awake by David Levithan – Levithan reminds us how to fight

Honorable Mention: Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles by Eli Easton – a holiday romance between a small-town library director and his earnest second in command. I want a Mr. Miggles t-shirt!

Music (links to artist websites)

Ah, I get more and more away from new music. I’m not sure if that’s my age, or the fact that Spotify, TuneIn, Mixcloud, SoundCloud, Pandora, and Retro Soul Radio keep me entranced in old loves. I don’t feel like any of this is a bad thing. Meanwhile I did love a couple of new albums…

Bright Light Bright LightChoreography and Cinematography – Rod Thomas continues to make me swoon.
Will Young Summer Covers – Will Young’s my go-to contemporary pop god.

Movies (click on the links to read Reel Charlie’s review from 2016)

Docs:
Amy – captivating documentary on Amy Winehouse
Finding Vivian Maier – an archivist and scavenger’s dream 
Gaycation – Ellen Page and bff Ian Daniel travel the world in search of LGBT lives and rights
In Defense of Food – common sense explanation of eating healthy
Stephen Fry Live: More Fool Me – genius Mr. Fry on life and love
The Story of Us – Hillary Clinton’s final 2016 campaign ad
Tab Hunter Confidential – celebratory life of the 50’s sex symbol
Weiner – tragic documentary on Anthony Weiner
What Happened, Miss Simone? – shattering story of Nina Simone’s life

New Films:

99 Homes – excellent indie on the housing crisis
Arrival – intelligent sci-fi with a female lead
The Big Short – outstanding Oscar-winning film on the financial crisis
Carol – Todd Haynes’ gorgeous 50’s drama about two women falling in love
Confirmation – Anita Hill biopic starring Kerry Washington
Deadpool – hysterical anti-super hero
Eye in the Sky – military surveillance with Helen Mirren
La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty) – take a bite out of life and don’t forget to dance
Holding the Man – based on the true story. Two guys fall in love in 1970’s Australia
Infinitely Polar Bear – Mark Ruffalo as a loving Dad who isn’t quite right
Mommy – Xavier Dolan’s seering portrait of a mother and son and mental illness
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins incredible indie about a young gay black male coming of age. Go Oscars!
Room – Emma Donoghue’s novel gets a solid  film adaptation
Spotlight – delving into the journalists view of the Boston Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis
Steve Jobs – excellent adaptation of Jobs’ life and mostly work
Suffragette – feminism history for a new generation
Trainwreck – who knew gross-out comedy could be so evolved?
Trumbo – 50’s blacklisted writer tells his story
Truth – the Dan Rather war story that ended his career

Older Films for the first time:
Top Hat – finally I watched this classic for the very first time. Magic

Take Two (watching beloved films again):
Capote – the best of the two Truman biopics
The Celluloid Closet – adaptation of Vito Russo’s seminal book on lesbian and gay characters in Hollywood
Lantana – atmospheric modern Australian noir
Lonestar – John Sayles soars
Pee-Wee’s Christmas Special – always a holiday treat
Sunshine State – more John Sayles genius

Television:
Better Call Saul: Season 1, Season 2 – a perfect spin-off serving up its own unique oddness
Black Mirror: Season 1 & Season 2 – spooky, creepy tech wonder
The Crown: Season 1 – a gorgeous romp through Betty Windsor’s 1950’s
The Fall: Season 3 – can this be really the end for Stella and Paul?
Fargo: Season 1, Season 2 – blew me away. I want to watch them again before Season 3
The Fosters: Season 3 – still one of my favorite comfort food hopeful for the future shows
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Lifemy girls are back!
Good Girls Revolt: Season 1 – please let there be a Season 2 for this essential feminism series
Grace and Frankie: Season 2 – finally got this one. All fell into place during Season 2
The Great British Baking Show: Season 1, Season 3, Season 3 Masterclass – food yum people nice
Happy Valley: Season 2 – another I need to go back and watch again. Stunning
Looking: Season 1, Season 2, and The Movie – my favorite SF boys ride off into the sunset
Luther: Season 4 – damaged never looked so good. Thank you Idris Elba
Mozart in the Jungle: Season 2, Season 3 – celebratory classical music series
One Mississippi: Season 1 – dark and meaningful and dryly hysterical
Orange is the New Black: Season 4 – can’t get enough of my girls
The Outs: Season 2 – our favorite Brooklyn 20-somethings are back on Vimeo
Prime Suspect: Series 1, Series 2, Series 3, Series 4, Series 5, Series 6, Series 7 (Blu-ray) – the Queen, the Grandmother of all murder mysteries still shines bright after all these years thanks to Helen Mirren
Rectify: Season 3 – wrecked over Rectify
Red Oaks: Season 2– laughing with this underrated gem
Les Revenants (The Returned): Season 1, Season 2 – creepy French ghost mystery
Run – interlocking stories in contemporary London
Sex and the City: Season 3, Season 4, Season 5 – the NYC gals still give me good comfort food
Transparent: Season 3 – unreal how good this series is.
True Blood: Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5 – blood curdling comfort food. Oh Lafayette!
The Walking Dead: Season 6 – final season I watched of this ground-breaking series

Thank you for taking this journey with Reel Charlie, now entering the 8th year. I always try to be honest and not too mean. Constructive over destructive. I realize it takes a lot of work to get these projects out to the world. I hope these year-end lists remind you of my deepest love and respect for film and television. Happy 2017. I think I’m ready. I know Reel Charlie will continue to point you towards important media filled with a combination of intelligence, diversity, fun, and love.

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