2017 in review – I love TV and Sense8 and the Wachowski’s

Over the last few years, I’ve really noticed a shift in my habits and hobbies, I guess you’d call it. Growing up I loved movies and I’d say I still do but there’s a different kind of relationship now. And I’ve begun to understand that my relationship with film/cinema isn’t the same as a lot of the more hardcore movie people. I have no connection, no romantic feelings about going to a theater. The memories that stand out the most aren’t pleasant and the movies I love the most are ones I never saw in theaters. But I have vivid memories of TV shows, and over the past decade I’ve really formed lasting emotional connections to TV shows, in a way that film has never ever come close to. It’s probably been more than ten years at this point but decade just feels good.
Late 2005, I have this foggy memory (as most of them from then are) of staying up all night, bloodshot eyes and no desire to face the inside of my eyelids and so channel surfing seemed fine at the time. It was just before sunrise and I got lost in this scene upon a rooftop, it was raining and they were dirty and bloody. I wrote it off and almost changed the channel because it seemed like a soap opera but in that moment I understood that drama was important. It was a rerun of an early episode of Angel and I don’t think I’ve been the same since then. They aired the reruns in order, two by two and I watched the entirety of Angel twice over before seeking out Buffy.
Just for the record, Wesley’s journey from season 3 of Buffy all the way into the end of Angel is the finest character arc. It’s the benchmark.
I could write here about staying up late and learning how to “function” on five hours of sleep when I discovered Lost in 2007. Or the late night I found Hannibal on TV, I caught the end of the pilot and how I hated myself for writing that one off as well.
Wait, I just found the pattern. Revelations happen late at night for me and I’ve spent the last ten years or so working in those hours.

Since Fringe ended, TV for me hasn’t been the same. My heart remains broken over the cancellations of things like Terminator and Caprica and Hannibal and it just seems there isn’t as much to get really invested in. I have to make it an effort to not rewatch Lost every year. I think I’m close to ten times that I’ve watched it all. I stopped counting. The show I rewatch every year now is Mr. Robot. I have a full fledged review of the latest season forthcoming so I won’t waste time here about that one (spoiler – season 3 is hot fucking fire). Actually, I do watch The Expanse over as well, it’s almost time again for that!
As for 2017 specifically, I’d like to talk about two shows that actually are both Netflix originals. First being the life changing and utterly beautiful SENSE8.
I would follow the Wachowski’s anywhere. I’d fucking storm the gates of hell with them.

>>Shit is about to get real so if you want, now is the time to turn back, X out the page in your browser.<<

Still with me? Cool.
Sense8 is perfect and by perfect I mean it’s a flawed masterpiece made by perfectly flawed humans for every other perfectly flawed person to ever walk the Earth. The first season I loved but I understand it’s not for everyone, I get it. They were figuring it out, we all were. Season 2 is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
UNLIKE ANYTHING I’VE EVER SEEN.
I can say and I’m going to say that it’s because of the Wachowski’s that I write stories, I mean not solely but whatever. And I can also say that it’s because of the Wachowski’s that I’m happier in the skin I reside in. It’s because of them I want to write stories for all people, stories about people that don’t look like me.
Every single episode of season 2 of Sense8 has everything you could ever want. Somehow they managed to craft those episodes in a way that allows a huge emotional victory and often a devastating twist or loss. I was cheering and crying and all sorts of things every single episode. My favorite is Lito, his journey has been fantastic to watch, all the highs and lows are incredible. The show is a gift. I’ve gotten so much from it. Season 2 is everything I could ever ask for. It’s feel good TV with a healthy dose of intrigue and sci-fi.
And it’s almost similar to Firefly in how terrible Netflix has treated it. They waited forever to make a decision on renewing it after the first season. And next to no time to cancel it after season 2 aired. It’s almost like they WANTED to kill it on the first day of Pride Month.
But they can’t take the show from me. It’s part of who I am.
And I am not alone.

It might be like going from breathing fire to building igloos but I don’t care. The other show that made a big impact in 2017 was The Punisher. Before this one dropped, I had about zero faith in the Marvel TV landscape. The Defenders was okay. It was about three hours too long and like I don’t like the guy playing Luke at all. I was ready to be super bummed about my boy Frank being dealt the short stick but NOPE. It exceeded even my wildest dreams.
The acting is on a level I didn’t expect and I didn’t ever expect to be in tune with it as much as I was. While watching I was locked in and actually “fell for” story twists I don’t think I would have otherwise. Because typically I’m pretty cynical about those type of things.
I think I first fell in love with the Punisher years ago because he was an adult that was allowed to unleash his rage and as a kid I had a lot of trouble with anger and Frank Castle sort of took some of it from me. As an adult, I find it all ridiculous and I’m so glad that they took the character and story as seriously as they did. Jon Bernthal is incredible. So much so that I kinda feel bad for hating Shane on The Walking Dead.

Other highlights of my TV watching life in 2017:
*The entire season one of Mindhunter. Watching this with Aleks was especially entertaining because we don’t really get a chance to watch more serious things and being able to see her really dive into something that challenged and satisfied her intellectually was a complete joy.
*Season 2 of The Leftovers is brilliant. Skip season 1 and just watch season 2. Seriously, do it. If you really dig it then maybe go back or just press onward. I have heard plenty of people just watched season 2 and 3 and had limited difficulties. Season 3 is on my to do list but the timing has to be right.
*I can’t remember if I started it in 2016 or 2017 but I know I finished it in 2017; Person of Interest is great fun. I’d say it’s worth watching just for Amy Acker but I could say that about anything with her. She’s incredible (they better give her something real to do on The Gifted, not just worried mom)
*If you’re not watching Speechless you’re missing out on so much happiness.
*Lastly, I’m so fucking stoked that Sterling K Brown is getting so much recognition these days. I’ve been hoping for good things for him for years and it’s happening. In the biggest way.

This has been long but I’m not apologizing, every post won’t be this long. I just really love TV.
Thank you for reading, if you’re reading this.

2017 in review – my favorites in film

In a year over stuffed with big blockbusters that became huge hits and also quite a few that bombed harder than anyone could have predicted, it’s very easy to get lost in that sea. I’m sure there’s little movies that I’ve missed, the truth is I feel I’ve really waned on movies. It might sound odd but often I feel it’s an investment I don’t get much return on. Especially these days when film-makers are lingering around 3 hour runtimes and mostly it feels like they just keep hitting snooze on their alarm clocks.
Everyone raves about Wonder Woman and that’s great, I enjoyed it for the most part and I totally get what everyone was grabbing onto but it was too long. It’s over an hour before something wonderful happens. One could argue, that the movie doesn’t really start until then… when the robes come off and she crosses No Man’s Land. It took me two days to watch the movie, that doesn’t equal a great movie to me.
I thoroughly enjoyed Alien Covenant even though the twist ending went the wrong way, he should have been turned instead of replaced. All of the signs were there, they told you the swap would happen, it would have been a lot better if the audience is like “he swapped with—” but then at the last second pull the rug out.
Similarly, Logan and Get Out were worthy of the hype and sure plenty of room for nitpicking there but the emotional weight of both eclipse any issues. I’m not sure anything outshined the impact of Logan, for those of us who’ve been following along all this time. And the beginning of Get Out before you are let in on the thing is the best suspense and anxiety I’ve ever experienced in film.
The reasons I feel I’ve fallen out of love with movies, is something I unpack a little in the following post about TV but before that, let’s talk about my favorite movie of 2017!

What Happened to Monday

It’s a Netflix original film, starring Noomi Rapace and Willem Dafoe (I’m not sure why they paid him when his role literally could have been filled by anyone— and that’s my one nitpick out of the way). This is a dystopian sci-fi action romp with more than it’s fair share of flair and fun. Most of the dystopian sci-fi genre is dark and dour and fucking mind bleachingly sad, I felt only a hint of sadness in this one. There’s some fairly dark elements about the terrible future but that’s not the focus of the movie. The focus is Noomi Rapace and how much she rules.
It’s just plain fun. Too often popcorn movies try too hard to be something else, something more. This one felt like someone saying “hey I want to have a good time, you wanna have a good time with me? Okay let’s go!”
There’s this really fantastic fight scene about half way through that puts a lot of bigger films to shame.
Also Noomi Rapace rules. Wait, did I say that already?

Other highlights include:
**Mark Ruffalo Hulk-smashing all through Thor Ragnarok. He’s a gift. Thanks, Joss.
**Seeing IT in that tiny theater with the sound allllllllllllll the way up with Aleks (we also saw Thor together cuz she rules, yes more than Noomi)
**Tom Hiddleston’s Metal Gear moment in Kong: Skull Island (gas mask and green mist, he absolutely should play Gray Fox)
**Neill Blomkamp’s OATS STUDIOS short films
**I haven’t seen it yet but Blade Runner 2049 looks incredible. Though it might take me a week to watch it.
**The Infinity War trailer.
**Last but never ever least, Keanu Reeves slaying everyone in John Wick 2. If I ever write a movie, I’m sure that I’ll write a part just for Keanu Reeves because he’s fucking Keanu Reeves. His movies stay with me while everyone else’s seem to leave.

And we’re out of time, don’t say you missed the rhyme.
Next up we have TV, hope you come back to see me.

2017 in review – my favorite albums part 2

If you missed part 1 – click here!

This whole list is not in any particular order, except for maybe the last one on here is last for a reason. But this half of the list is seemingly bigger, with meatier releases but that could just be a psychological thing going on in my own head. Anyway here it is:

Elder – – Reflections of a Floating World

This was special because I wrote most of the first draft of my forthcoming novel to their last release, Lore, and here we are two years later and I’ve gone back to that novel with new Elder to listen to. I described this one to a friend as taking the scenic route versus Lore which is more like taking the highway. There’s more room for reflecting here (get it?) and it seems a lot bigger. Though, as I write this, I’m not sure which one I like more. Of course they have more albums, it’s just easy to compare the two most recent.
This is one that I think the back end of the album is much stronger than the first half. Mostly because I think the first track goes on too long. I’m clearly still poring over this one, even after months of steady listening. I can’t think of a stronger compliment to give to a piece of music.

The Contortionist – – Clairvoyant

One of the surprises of the year for me. Years ago, I had checked out their previous release because someone had compared them to Periphery but no, not my thing. Way too much deathcore going on and so I wasn’t really paying attention this one. I think I was bored when I tried this new one, there wasn’t anything new in my ears for a bit and I didn’t feel like getting lost in Bandcamp. I’m really glad I did. This is probably the finest prog album I’ve heard all year. The deathcore sound is all but gone. It’s an incredible album, stunning start to finish. And it seems to be endlessly listenable. This one has only been out for a couple months now so it’s hard to really put it up with other things. I’m sure I’ve already got twenty or so listens in. It’s so good. Especially “Absolve” and “Relapse”, I could listen to those forever. Very pleasing.
Another one that’s great to really listen to and obsess and scrutinize every detail or just put it on and let it float.
We all float down here.

Ed Sheeran – – divide

I wasn’t expecting to like this as much I do. Mostly it’s that itchy anti-mainstream voice in the back of my mind, it’s one monkey on my back I haven’t been able to fully dispose of. This album has one of my favorite and most memorable album openers I’ve heard all year. Put the fire up front, don’t make people wait.
I didn’t get around to listening to this until late October, when I was in Macedonia with my fiancée. By the power of music and the human mind, it’s permanently tied to her (like I am) and every time I hear “Galway Girl” I see her and hear her dancing and humming as she leaned over the table to move her Monopoly piece.
And after listening to it on laptop speakers for a couple weeks, I listened with my Klipsch earbuds and whoa, it’s like a different album. There is so much going on in these songs, it’s exceptional. The hype is real.

Mick Gordon – -Prey OST

I played the demo of Prey and loved it and there’s one song that plays when things really go through the roof, action-wise and that made me check out the soundtrack. It’s incredible and easily my favorite music to write to. Whenever I needed a boost, whether it be of inspiration or just a word count boost, I’d put this on (if I wasn’t already listening to it) and I’d almost always surpass where I was looking to be. It’s short but oh so sweet.
I’m worried about playing the game now because I’ve written to this so much.

Linkin Park – – One More Light

If there’s one thing I’ve learned to count on, it’s that Linkin Park will stretch and bend expectations and I’ve come to love that. I especially loved on this cycle that they trolled the fans that want them to go back to their early sound by releasing songs called “Heavy” and “Battle Symphony”, and I confess I didn’t like them much on their own. But putting them in context of the album, yeah I enjoy them much more. The album as a whole is much simpler listening experience, it’s free of the bells and whistles and other add-ons. And within that realm, they really shine. “Sharp Edges” if you listen to only one song from this, make it that one. I fucking love it so much. It’s hard not to cry and that’s not because… but because of the song.
When I finished listening to this for the first time, I immediately felt that excitement of “I can’t wait to hear what they do next.” And now, there’s so many other thoughts that have all but destroyed that one. For most of the month of June, I was knee deep in the 2nd draft of my novel and most mornings on the way home from work, I’d listen to Hybrid Theory because few things inspire me on the level that that album does. And after work, often it’s hard to get my butt to do anything but doze off. It’s a symptom of working in the middle of the night, the body wants to sleep at night, often it can feel like I’m trying to paint the sky red with a paintbrush. And so when July 20th came along, everything came to screeching halt. It’s difficult, still, to get my head around it all and I know that I’ll be thinking and most likely writing more about how it has and will affect me. Especially when it comes to the way that particular day went for me. There’s still so much to unpack.

Thank you for reading.

Next in my 2017 in review series is about movies, which came out a bit differently than I expected. I set out to write a review for one movie and instead I review my movie viewing experiences and opinions of the past year. It’s all encompassing. Look for it in a few days!

2017 in review – my favorite albums part 1

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my favorite things of 2017. I’m starting with things that released in the calendar year, there will be categories that are devoid of new releases. This is the first half of my favorite albums, the second half will have more recognizable names but for the most part I don’t partake in a lot of massively known music. I spend a lot of time dredging through Bandcamp.com searching through tags and I’ve found some really exceptional things there. Some made this list:

Circa Survive – – The Amulet

Their last, Descensus, was fantastic, arguably their finest effort to date and knowing that, it was a pretty safe bet The Amulet would pale in comparison. After such a high there’s usually a slump but apparently no one told these guys. The Amulet is enchanting and easily their most addictive collection of songs. I especially love the cohesion here. This isn’t a collection of songs, this is a well crafted 43 minutes of sonic love. It’s so well put together that at first glance and many subsequent listens, it seems to have an underlying story- – it doesn’t. Though that didn’t stop me from writing my own (check back next year for that).
If I had to pick one album to represent 2017 it would be this one.

OHHMS – – The Fool

This one I was eagerly anticipating, having loved their EP Cold and then the track list was released, revealing a concept around Tarot cards. Tell me, what’s not to love already? While Cold was two long soundscapes, The Fool is a driving force which I wasn’t expecting. The songs are still long but there’s more variety here, more intention, much like how every turn and reveal of a Tarot card is different, each song here varies. The short intro track eases you in, the suspense builds before slamming that first card (song) down providing plenty of reason to, at the very least, nod along. I really like how right when I thought I understood what was happening and what to expect, the fourth track comes as lovely curveball. Oh, and that closer? So good, so satisfying.
Can’t wait to see what the future holds for these guys. A truly stunning debut full-length.

Envy on the Coast – – Ritual

What a surprise this was. I had come to terms with the idea that I’d never hear new material from these guys again. It’s a short EP but it’s perfect much like their two full-lengths. Endlessly enjoyable. Few things are this much fun. And the shoegaze-y closing track is fucking incredible. More of this, please and thank you.

Outrun the Sunlight – – Red Bird

This is one of my favorites to write to, it’s great to focus on or to let float into the background. For fans of Pelican and the like. I find it much more engrossing and interesting than their previous release. Great to unwind to, whether it be with headphones or just filling the air around you as you read or study or what have you.

I, the Mighty – – Where the Mind Wants to Go / Where You Let It Go

I’ve been following these guys for a few years and there’s always been a feeling I’ve had about them. Each release there’s massive moments of greatness and I’ve enjoyed each one but there’s always been a sneaky, lurking feeling like they are so close they can see it. I can feel it and I can see it too. We are all so close. When this one came out, I let it lie because I was worried that they’d never get to the point I want them to reach. The point that they have been so damn close to…
and then I listened to it:
Wow. This album exceeds my expectations. It’s a drug I can’t let go of, though I’d really appreciate it if the world around me would stop intruding right when “Symphony of Skin” comes on. These guys have outdone themselves. This completes what feels like a trilogy to me. Satori was the introduction of a lot of ideas and sounds and Connector took everything a little further while also experimenting with new ideas and now, this one puts a cap on it all. They’ve mastered these sounds and ideas. Watching these guys grow and these releases flow outward has been incredible. “Where the Mind Wants to Go” has one of the smartest choruses I’ve heard this year. I could go on and on but I’ll just stop now.

Thank you for reading! I hope you found something new to listen to. Come back in a few days for part 2.