2016 in media

As we wake up, blinking and trembling, to a new year, we thought it was time to look back at 2016 and the media we loved.

Movies

2015, which brought us Furiosa and Rey, was a magical year, but 2016 brought us Star Trek Beyond, the first movie in the reboot timeline that really felt like Star Trek — optimistic, humanist, sincere. Maybe future movies will go so far as to have more than two women in them!

Stephanie has proper Thoughts coming about Rogue One, but for her part, Liz liked it a lot for what it added to the worldbuilding and its dedication to giving us important information about archival processes in a galaxy far, far away.

There was also the delights of Ghostbusters, and Monkey King 2 / 《西游记之孙悟空三打白骨精》, an adaptation of Journey to the West featuring Gong Li as a scenery chewing evil spirit of excellence.

Books

Liz gave 24 books five stars on GoodReads this year. How to sort them out? By genre? By country of origin? (Canadian YA: still great, FYI.)

Well, you can see the whole list in GoodReads, but here are the highlights:

  • The Gaither Sisters trilogy by Rita Garcia-Williams (One Crazy Summer, PS Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama), the story of three African-American sisters and their family in the Civil Rights era. (Middle Grade)
  • On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis, about the most ordinary of families attempting to survive the apocalypse by bargaining their way onto a generation ship. (Young Adult)
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E K Johnston, CanYA about a cheerleader who is raped, and then gets all the support and love and respect she needs. So it’s a fantasy, sort of. (Young Adult)
  • The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks, an Avatar: The Last Airbender-esque fantasy graphic novel set in a city that has been invaded and colonised so many times that it no longer has a name. (Middle Grade)
  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly — which I strongly recommend reading before the movie comes out, since the film seems to have added a white saviour and other nonsense. (History)
  • When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah — discussed here. (Young Adult)
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, an entirely bonkers work of science fiction where reality is created by a mathematical consensus that might actually be the Force for all I understand it. But the important thing is, the heroine has an undead traitor living in her head, and they have to fight crime. (Adult)
  • Clancy of the Undertow by Christopher Currie, in which a straight guy writes a novel with a lesbian heroine, and the result is …. almost perfect? The Australian small town claustrophobia is too real. (Young Adult)
  • The Dry by Jane Harper, a mystery set in a small, drought-ridden Australian town where a pouplar local farmer has apparently murderd his family and committed suicide. Unable to accept that, his parents ask the protagonist, who was run out of town after another girl disappeared when he was a teenager, to investigate. (Adult)
  • Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta, discussed here. (Adult)

Stephanie didn’t read a lot of books in 2016, but of note:

TV

Cleverman – Our very own flawed masterpiece!

Ice Fantasy – speaking of things that are Avatar the Last Airbender-esque, Ice Fantasy is a super OTT Chinese fantasy series that has not only an ice kingdom and a fire kingdom but also a MERMAID KINGDOM.

Gravity Falls hasn’t had a full release in Australia yet, so getting the second (and final) season requires some shenanigans, but Liz adored this kids series, which contains nods to The X-Files, Fringe, Twin Peaks and lots of other shows its target audience isn’t old enough to watch, and then builds up a mythos all its very own.

Music

On high rotation on Steph’s iTunes in 2016:

  • Astral Debris – Georgia Fields
  • Every Open Eye – Chvrches
  • The Disappearance of the Girl – Phildel
  • Thelma Plum’s small oeuvre
  • This cover of Feel Good Inc. by Celia Pavey

Tkay Maidza released an amazing debut album (title: Tkay), and Coda Conduct released a bunch of great tracks.

Liz will also give a shoutout to The Hamilton Mixtape, which wasn’t exactly perfect, but featured considerably more Star Wars cast members than the original cast recording.

(One. It featured one. Take a bow, Riz Ahmed.)

Other excellent things

Stephanie’s two favourite magazines in 2016 were Overland, probably the best lit journal in Australia; and Dumbo Feather, a totally uplifting magazine that comes out four times a year and highlights excellence in social justice work.

2016 was the year Liz discovered podcasts. I fell in love with You Must Remember This, which covers “the forgotten and/or secret histories of Hollywood’s first century”. Episodes range from examining the career and feminism of Isabella Rosselini to a long series on the Hollywood Blacklist. I started listening because of the buzz around the series called Charles Manson’s Hollywood, and was particularly struck by Karina Longworth’s account of Roman Polanski’s life and career after Sharon Tate’s murder, ie, his rape of a young adolescent girl. Longworth’s recounting of those events was detached and unemotional, yet damning, and that was when I decided I could trust her.

I also rate Dead & Buried, which also deals with secret histories — but this time, the setting is Melbourne. It’s a little over-rehearsed, but also very interesting. I especially enjoyed the episode dealing with cross-dressing and transvestitism in Melbourne’s history, both in and out of a queer context. (It opens with a disclaimer about the inadequacy of historical vocabulary when it comes to possibly genderqueer presentation in the past, which is always a good sign.)

And finally, a shout-out to my most problematic fave, My Favorite Murder, the irreverent, inaccurate and frequently uninformed comedy true crime podcast that expanded my podcast subscription from just Galactic Suburbia. I spend at least part of every single episode of MFM going, “No! That is problematic language/a stereotype/just outright wrong!” and yet I keep listening? Maybe it’s the way hosts Karen and Georgia read out the emails calling them out and make genuine attempts to do better, or maybe I just really dig Georgia’s vocal fry.

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