The Best Films of 2016

2016 was a horrible year – and a great year for movies. The films were so great, in fact, that I couldn't figure out how to list them in order. So, instead, I bunched them into three tiers. Behold: 17 great films of 2016!

 
 

THE FAVE TIER

The one that should win Best Picture: Moonlight

My problematic fave: The Handmaiden

My less-problematic* fave: Arrival (also has the best soundtrack)

 

THE REALLY, REALLY GOOD TIER

The one I was very skeptical of, but it totally won me over, so there: La La Land

Most underrated: Jackie

The one that made me guffaw: The Lobster

A horror film I actually liked: The VVitch

A very well-made film that I saw before I knew about Casey Affleck's ickiness, and, look, the film is still very well-made: Manchester By the Sea

A film that made me cry: Moana

One that made me think: Silence

One that made me smile: Paterson

 

THE ALSO-GOODS

American Honey, Toni Erdmann, Fences, Everybody Wants Some!!, Hidden Figures, Hail Caesar

 

*unless you find the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis problematic**

**I find the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis problematic

Best of 2015, Part I

Part II coming once I get my hands on some film screeners....

 
Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell

Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell

 

Music

For your listening pleasure: my Best of 2015 Spotify playlist. *radio announcer voice* We start you off with the smooth stylings of sad strummer Sufjan Stevens, then give you mood whiplash from the riotous Sleater-Kinney. Follow that up with some genre whiplash from Terry Riley and Grimes.... and then things get even weirder....

Basically, I dug through 154 hours of music and made a playlist with severe multiple personality disorder. Enjoy!

(Favorites not uploaded to Spotify include Joanna Newsom's "Divers" and Radiohead's rejected theme to Spectre.)

 
Nathan for You Season 3

Nathan for You Season 3

 

TV Shows (and where to stream them)

  1. Nathan For You
  2. Transparent
  3. Hannibal
  4. Mad Men
  5. The Americans
  6. The Leftovers
  7. Master of None
  8. Show Me a Hero
  9. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day At Camp
  10. The first eight episodes of Jessica Jones

Additionally, Person of Interest, which somehow got quite good somewhere in season 2 or 3, had two of my favorite episodes of the year: "If-Then-Else" and "YHWH."

 
Her Story

Her Story

 

Video Games

While I don't have time to play games -- I mean, look at all this TV I have to watch -- I still managed to beat one nifty, indie game from 2015: Her Story. If you have $4 and four hours on your hands, I recommend it.

I also just started Undertale, which is as lovely as everyone claimed, and finally finished Portal 2, which is not from 2015 but might be the best thing of ever.

Next up: Movies!

Shana's Best of 2014 List

It may not look like it, but I've actually been consuming a lot less pop culture than usual. To the list!

 
 

Best 2014 TV Shows (and where to stream them)

  1. Hannibal
  2. TIE: The Colbert Report and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
  3. Olive Kitteridge
  4. Transparent
  5. The Americans
  6. The Honourable Woman
  7. Mad Men
  8. Orange Is The New Black
  9. Veep
  10. Jane the Virgin

And maybe Rick & Morty, if we ignore that crappy gender essentialism episode.

 
 

Favorite 2014 Movies

  1. Boyhood
  2. Snowpiercer (I know this invalidates the list for many of you! My defense is here on the Overthinking It podcast.)
  3. Only Lovers Left Alive
  4. Birdman
  5. Citizenfour
  6. Whiplash
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy
  8. Force Majeure
  9. The Overnighters
  10. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Major caveat: I haven't yet seen Inherent Vice, Selma, or Two Days, One Night. Or The Babadook, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Listen Up Philip, or Goodbye to Language. Wow, I haven't seen a lot of things.

A Podcast

THE ANDY DALY PODCAST PROJECT. Specifically episodes 1 and 4 ("The Wit and Wisdom of the West With Dalton Wilcox" and "The Travel Bug With August Lindt").

I also liked Serial. You can hear me talk about it here on the Overthinking It podcast.

 
 

Music

My Best of 2014 Spotify playlist is here.

run them jewels fast run them run them jewels fast

Non-2014 Media Consumed In 2014

  1. The Act of Killing
  2. Before Sunrise
  3. Red Dragon (book)
  4. Rosemary's Baby
  5. Enlightened
  6. Bioshock
  7. Dogtooth
  8. The Sting
  9. Windy City Heat
  10. Blue Jasmine

And, hey, you can also buy my book while you're at it.

May we create, overthink, and gorge ourselves on as much pop culture as possible in 2015. Happy New Year, everyone.

The "Nobody Asked For It But Here It Is" Best of 2013 List

It's almost 2014 and I'm feeling self-indulgent (typical). I like pop culture, I like lists, I like recommending things, and I like pretending my opinions are more valuable than anyone else's. So here is a list of my favorite pop culturey things from 2013. Maybe soon they will be your favorite things, too!

 

Walt's sad 2013's almost over. Poor guy.

Walt's sad 2013's almost over. Poor guy.

Favorite Movies of 2013

  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Tie: Frances Ha and Inside Llewyn Davis (the "you'll never make it as an artist" double feature)
  • Stories We Tell
  • Her
  • Computer Chess

 

Non-2013 Movies Watched in 2013

  • Mulholland Drive
  • A Separation
  • Certified Copy
  • King Lear (RSC/Ian McKellen version)
  • Passing Strange

 

2013 TV Dramas

  • Breaking Bad
  • Mad Men (yeah i said it)
  • Rectify
  • Orange Is the New Black
  • Tie: Broadchurch and Les Revenants (the "non-American season-long mystery set near a body of water" double feature)

Runners up in no order: Top of the Lake (the other season-long mystery set near a body of water -- h/t Alan Sepinwall), Orphan Black, The Americans

By the way, The Americans had the best opening theme of the year:

Plus that episode where they played "Games Without Frontiers" was awesome

Les Revenants had the second-best opening of the year (Mogwai!):

The whole Mogwai album is pretty sweet, actually.

 

2013 TV, Comedy Edition

  • 30 Rock if its last few episodes in January count
  • Colbert
  • Adventure Time
  • Moone Boy (the whole thing's free on Hulu. watch iiiiiit)
  • Parks & Rec

Runners up: Please Like Me, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Sunny, Childrens Hospital

 

Best TV Episodes

  • Mad Men, "The Crash"
  • Breaking Bad, "Ozymandias" (and every other episode)
  • Adventure Time, "Simon & Marcy"
  • 30 Rock, "A Goon's Deed In A Weary World"
  • Broadchurch, "Episode Five"

Runners up: Richard II (The Hollow Crown), "Coming And Going" (Childrens Hospital), the Game of Thrones episode you're thinking about right now, the Futurama finale

 

Non-2013 TV Watched in 2013

  • Twin Peaks (those crappy episodes never happened)
  • The Sopranos
  • Fringe
  • Slings & Arrows
  • Peep Show

 

I'm leaving off books because, meh, too difficult. You can listen to my Favorite Music of 2013 (unordered) on this Spotify playlist. Now go forth and pop culture.

Sales, Sleepy Hollow, and Celebrity Crushes

Annie's doing great, by the way.

Annie's doing great, by the way.

Today is Small Business Saturday, and in celebration my publisher Lee & Low Books is giving away books for 35% off. The sale ends December 2nd, so do your Christmas book shopping now!

In case you missed it, here are some other things I've written recently:

Merry Thanksgivukkah!

Kindle Sale! Limited Time Only

Book lovers rejoice: A bunch of the Tu Books (my publisher) e-books are on sale today. But not for long, so if you have any interest in reading these fantastic stories, pick them up now. Here's a breakdown:

CAT GIRL'S DAY OFF (Kimberly Pauley): Girl can talk to cats. Funny-ness ensues! $1.99

KILLER OF ENEMIES (Joseph Bruchac): Apache. Steampunk. I don't even need to sell this one. The premise is impossible to resist. $3.99

TANKBORN (Karen Sandler): Hard sci-fi dystopia about kids who are born from tanks. Super-exciting! $3.82

VODNÍK (Bryce Moore): Family moves boy to Slovakia. Suddenly boy can see monsters. Fun and clever. $1.99

And if you're big on diversity in YA lit, these books will scratch that itch for you, too. Tell your friends about the sale soon, because it's not going to last. The books are available at the Kindle Store, iTunes, and Google Play.

And if you're too cheap to spend two bucks on an amazing book (I get it; I am also a cheapskate), my publisher is also giving away three copies of HAMMER OF WITCHES for free . Zero dollars. And they're signed. By me, in case that wasn't clear.

Enjoy! Read and be well! 

Conventions, Readings, Giveaways, and More

The last month has been a whirlwind, but at least it was a fun one. I just got back from ConnectiCon, a wonderful nerd convention up in Hartford where I saw not one but three Carmen Sandiegos! I also got to speak on two panels: "Last Dance With Mary Sue" with super-moderator Brandon Sanderson, my Tu Books buddy Bryce Moore, and the lovely Leona Wisoker; and "Fantasy & Sci-Fi Writing 101" with Bryce Moore and awesome steampunker Margaret Killjoy. Check out their work; you won't be disappointed.

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On Wednesday I had the honor of reading from Hammer of Witches  at Teen Author Reading Night at the Jefferson Market branch of the New York Public Library. The reading was moderated by David Levithan, who is hilarious IRL. We all got to hear wonderfully witty passages from Alyssa Gross's thriller Shallow Pond ; Corey Ann Haydu's OCD Love Story ; Elizabeth Kiem's  Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy; Emmy Laybourne's Sky On Fire  (the second book in her post-apocalyptic Monument 14  series); Alex London's dystopia Proxy ; Jennifer E. Smith's celebrity love story This Is What Happy Looks Like ; and Sara Zarr's musical The Lucy Variations.  All the passages they read were fab, and they were all amazingly kind and welcoming. Did I ever mention the YA world is the best? 'Cause it totally is.

Speaking of YA, I was recently part of a roundtable for the Los Angeles Review of Books, where we talked about YA retellings of "The Little Mermaid." In the coming months, we'll look at reimaginings of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" and "Rapunzel." Fun!

In other news, you can win a free signed copy of Hammer of Witches  from OverthinkingIt.com. Be quick, though! The deadline is this Friday. If you're still on the fence about reading the book, check out this interview I did about the book, and check out this wonderful review from School Library Journal :  

"Mlawski is creative and daring in her YA debut, blending genres to craft an informative and literary historical fantasy. Raised in 15th-century Spain by his aunt and uncle, Baltasar has no knowledge of his parents’ legend. His favorite tales glorify his hero, Amir al-Katib, the renowned Moorish sorcerer and soldier who fought for the freedom of Christian Europe. To Baltasar Infante, stories are both enchanting and extremely useful; they educate, captivate, and enable him to escape from almost any situation. [REDACTED: SPOILERS] Baltasar is a combination of classic, bumbling coming-of-age protagonist and hero motif, making his character relatable and likable. The novel’s storyteller concept is fresh and innovative, making this a lively read for fantasy buffs."

Librarians. Gotta love 'em.

 

Cool Links for Cool People

Why, hello there, cool people. Would you like some cool links? Here are some cool links.

And we're still recapping Game of Thrones and Mad Men every Monday night on Overthinking It, so hop over if you want to watch us subject these television shows to a level of scrutiny they probably don't deserve.

More Giveaways, How-Tos, and Special Features

So many links! So little time! Want writing advice? We've got it. Want free books? I can hook you up. Want silly HAMMER OF WITCHES special features? Just you wait. Plus we've got a blog post by my mom. MY MOM. Hold your hats, kids. This is a link roundup for the ages.

For Writers

On Read My Breath Away, the blog of the lovely Jessica R., I talk about how to write different kinds of historical fiction.

For People Who Love Writers

On the Diversity in YA blog (one of my favorite blogs ever, by the way), my mother (yes, really) gives y'all five tips for dealing with a loved one who writes fiction. Wine is featured. Prominently.

For Readers Who Haven't Read Hammer of Witches Yet

You can win a copy here! For free! Wowzers!

If you're still not sure about whether or not you should read it, check out what the wonderful Laura Biagi has to say about it.

For Readers Who Have Read Hammer of Witches

Over at my new friend Elie's blog, I take part in her new special Friday Night Movie feature, where I tell everyone about my dream cast for the HAMMER OF WITCHES that is certainly never going to be made. But a girl can dream! A girl can dream.

For Those of You Who Prefer Watching to Reading

Our recaps of Game of Thrones and Mad Men continue on OverthinkingIt.com. This week, we talked about Jon Snow's posterior and Joan Holloway's anterior.

For Those of You Who For Some Reason Want to Know More About Me and My Feelings About Batman

I, along with a bunch of other amazing YA debut authors, got to answer a bunch of fun personal questions for the April Debut Author Bash over at Hobbitsies. We play "Kiss Marry Kill" with the cast of The Vampire Diaries (for the record: Damon, Alaric, Stefan), as well as "Never Have I Ever." Don't forget to sign up for Hobbitsies' YA Debut Author Challenge if you haven't yet!

That's it for now, folks. Happy reading.

Giveaways and Big Ideas

Hi, kids! The free HAMMER OF WITCHES giveaway is still going on at the wonderful Diana Peterfreund's blog. There are only a few days left, so sign up if you haven't already.

In other news, sci-fi hero John Scalzi graciously allowed me to write up a Big Idea on HAMMER OF WITCHES for the Whatever blog. Hop on over if you want to hear me overthink my own book!