2016 is by any available metric, an utter and complete arsehole. It’s the guy who sits in the pub picking arguments that has a glint in their eye that makes you think they’ll break a bottle over your face if you ask them where the toilets are. Yes, 2016 is a prick of a year that’s went from the death of David Bowie and countless others, to Brexit, to America electing Donald Trump – but in all this misery and horror comes endless commentators offering their end of year reviews which I suppose offers some respite before 2017 comes lumbering towards us all like a grizzly bear on speed wielding a machete. Here’s a review of 2016 that covers the highs, and lows, of what we’ve seen that’s distracted, or even commented on, the current state of the world.
There’s a lot to choose from. The clusterfuck of Suicide Squad comes leaping to the forth, but the star power of Will Smith and a nice performance from Margot Robbie saved it from being utterly worthless. Zoolander 2 comes preening down the catwalk ensuring that some things are best left as an idea, see also a fairly pointless Independence Day sequel of which the best thing to say about it is that it gave people a job. 2016 featured some utter dross, but most even though these films may be dreadful, but they’re on the whole watchable.
Zack Snyder’s Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is at times, barely watchable. That’s not just because the film is shrouded in eternal gloom, but because as a film it shows an ineptness that suggests Snyder could have been replaced by a wanking blind panda to oversee the film and we’d have equivalent – or better – results.
Cinematically, there have been some surprising little gems in a year where film hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory. Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon offended and confused critics, however, as a work of art it looks extraordinary. Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake showed cinema could be angry enough to spark debate and hopefully enact social change. Doctor Strange was fun, even though it slotted into Marvel’s frustratingly routine directorial style that makes most of their films seem as challenging as a Tesco’s cheese and coleslaw sandwich,
Ben Wheatley’s High Rise, based from the J.G Ballard novel, isn’t just a fine work of satirical genius, it manages to capture a 1970’s setting without it slipping into smug parody. A fantastic work from a director whose last work, A Field in England, was an overlooked gem, and is one of our most diverse, talented young directors.
It’d be lazy and cheap to say ‘’every superhero comic’’ so let’s take that as read, but there’s more than just bad superhero comics. There’s bad comics stinking up the plughole of the industry and frankly, the industry and fans are responsible for buying crap because it features a character they like. Every Wednesday I scour through Comixology to see what’s out there in terms of new releases and it really is like wading through fields of waist high jaggy thistles with no clothes on.
There has been some great stuff released this year, but for me Love and Rockets saw a welcome return. Charles Forsman’s Revenger is a wonderfully stripped down satire of violent comics, while Alan Moore’s Providence is a dense, menacing work that constantly surprises. However, for me the year is split between the constantly brilliant Demon by Jason Shiga and Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang.
There’s some gems out there, but both Paper Girls and Demon are excellent examples of storytelling in comics, with the latter being one of the best horror comics of the 21st century.
Where to start? There’s a positive smorgasbord of shite out there. There’s shite SF shows, shite horror shows, shitey shite everywhere in the age of iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon Prime. To make it worse unless you’re unemployed, on the sick, or a student, there’s no physical way anyone has the time to wade through the shite to pick out the diamonds floating into the cesspool of modern television. There’s a cookie cutter approach to far too much television that renders too many ideas tediously samey in an age where we’re spoiled for choice. That’s grimly, and sadly, ironic.
With that said, in an act of supreme hypocrisy I’ve developed an addiction to the CW’s DC Comics superhero shows. The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow are essentially soap operas for superhero fans yet they’re enjoyable, disposable junk for those times when the old brain needs to turn off. Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror returned with a patchy third series but still kept up enough quality to make it worth checking out. Channel 4’s National Treasure was by far the best piece of drama on television this year, while Ash vs Evil Dead provided viewers with gory comedy in year where we need gory comedy.
But, by far the finest, most interesting, most provocative bit of TV in 2016 is HyperNormalisation by filmmaker Adam Curtis. Over a running time of nearly three hours Curtis tells a story of how politics and culture fell into the post-truth era from 1970’s New York, to post-Cold War Russia, and to the times we’re in at the minute with Donald Trump and Brexit. It sounds like a chore, but it isn’t. Curtis makes the story fascinating, gripping, and considering the subject matter, terrifyingly funny at times. It is however how Curtis uses, and manipulates existing film/video to create something brilliantly new and fresh. It works as a work of art, political/social commentary and satire all in one.
And that’s 2016. We’ve went from fresh, excited things in January to broken, battered husks in December. 2017 is coming at us fast smelling vaguely of cheap gin and Werther’s Originals, so until we await being locked in 2017’s basement, we can look back at the good times we’ve had in 2016.