Sunday, December 27, 2015

Jenn's Year in Review: 2015 (More and More Superlatives)

I had to double and triple-check that it truly was the end of the year and thus, time for my annual year in review post. I can't believe how quickly 2015 passed by and yet I could not be more thankful for all of it. We've added so many people to our staff this year alone. Additionally, I got the chance to go to San Diego Comic-Con for the first time ever as press and had the chance to meet amazing people and come face-to-face with the creators and casts of my favorite television shows. It's been an amazing year here at Just About Write in terms of numbers and new series — we've passed a million page views, over 2,000 followers on Twitter, and also launched our first ever Golden Trio Awards!

It's been a whirlwind of a year for me, too, personally. I traveled to San Diego (alone, for the very first time), got to meet a lot of our writers, changed jobs and moved into a house. I cannot thank everyone here — both on and off staff — enough for how supportive they've been of both me and the site in 2015. I'm so looking forward to 2016 and all that it will bring. We're welcoming a few new writers, shifting some staff around to accommodate, and planning more content than you could ever hope for. 

But before we enter a new year, it's important to take some time to reflect on what happened in 2015. As is customary every year for me (check out my 2012, 2013, and 2014 posts), I'm here to make the hard decisions and narrow down the best and worst of television, film, and music throughout the year. 

Are you ready to take a journey with me? Let's do this!

Favorite Single Episode of a Television Show (Comedy): "Clean Break," New Girl

For the FOURTH year in a row, New Girl owns the title of my favorite single episode of a television comedy. (Unfortunately, "Background Check" is not eligible because it aired in 2014, but let the record state that particular episode was one of the funniest in recent television history for me.) The resurgence in quality of writing for the FOX comedy during its fourth season was nothing short of impressive. Where the third season stumbled and staggered, the fourth season soared and honestly, it was one of the best and most consistent — that is important — shows on television in the 2014-2015 season. But it was the season four finale, "Clean Break," that earned my title of "favorite" this year. The finale had absolutely everything in it that makes this show so special. The character interactions and dynamics were wonderful — Schmidt trying to let go of Cece and realizing he still loves her; Coach attempting to detach from his emotions, especially his friendship with Winston, as he prepared to move to New York; Nick and Jess contemplating their relationship and whether or not they will get back together.

Everything about this episode was hilarious (just watch Max Greenfield try to get his stuff back from a donation box and you'll cackle), and there were so many amazing callbacks to little things throughout the season. But most importantly of all, the show reminded us that it is not the shenanigans that keep us coming back — it is the emotional heart. The scene where Coach leaves is beautiful (as "Rivers and Roads" plays and I cried), but Schmidt's proposal to Cece was honestly one fo the best and most rewarding things I've seen on this show. If you didn't watch New Girl's fourth season, you missed out. Go catch up before it returns in January!

Favorite Single Episode of a Television Show (Drama): "Pilot," Quantico

When I got the ABC screener for Quantico, I immediately jumped at the chance to watch it. And boy, was I stunned. The pilot had absolutely everything in it that worked — high stakes, great character interactions, strong women, and an intriguing, overarching mystery. Though the show has stumbled a bit recently in its own convoluted web of secrets, there is no doubt that the pilot was one of hte absolute best of the season. Priyanka Chopra's Alex was — and continues to be — an exceptional lead character. She's the anchor for the show and I absolutely love that ABC is all about female-led (and especially diverse female led) characters. The ensemble was what I really loved about the pilot, though, and it felt like all of these characters were instantly more complex than I would have presumed. There were secrets revealed (that Nimah/Raina twist was the one thing I had to keep mum about and it WAS SO HARD TO NOT TELL EVERYONE), and shocks delivered. And there were genuine, quiet moments of heartfelt character interaction (the pool scene with Simon, Caleb, and Shelby is still my favorite scene in the pilot I think).

Overall, Quantico impressed me the most this year with its stunning start.

Best Television Show You're Not Watching But Need to Be: Life in Pieces

I am always more than willing to admit when I am wrong about something, and I was wrong about judging Life in Pieces before actually watching the show. To be quite honest, I didn't know much about the sitcom other than the fact that it aired after The Big Bang Theory. What I quickly discovered was that this vignette-form of storytelling is actually incredibly genius and in spite of the format, the separated stories actually lend themselves to bigger character arcs. It's a really fun show, too, and hilarious — Zoe Lister-Jones is my MVP, because she has the most impeccable wit and delivery of the cast (not to mention I loved her this season on New Girl, as well) and she shines as Jen; Colin Hanks is adorable and delightful and I've missed seeing Angelique Cabral on my screen after the unfortunate cancellation of Enlisted. This is one of those shows that you immediately think cannot work given its premise, but totally and completely does. It's a hilariously quirky and endearing little family sitcom.

Best Male Character: Brian Finch, Limitless

I didn't fall in love the Limitless pilot when I saw it at Comic-Con, not because it was bad, by any means, but I liked it rather than loved it. I have since grown to fall completely in love with this unexpected CBS drama. It's a procedural, but not one. And the reason that I love the show as much as I do is because of its leading character, Brian Finch. Brian is incredible. He's snarky and hilarious, yet extremely compassionate and emotionally vulnerable. He uses his humor as his defense mechanism a lot, but he truly does care deeply for the people around him. Brian doesn't have to learn how to be a hero in the course of this show, even though he feels that way. A slacker by definition and a disappointment to his family (his words), Brian seems like the kind of person who would have to learn to overcome his obstactles in order to finally be a hero.

But he doesn't do that. Because from the moment that there is any indication his family is in trouble, Brian doesn't hesitate to save them. He loves people and he loves feeling like he can help them. He's constantly struggling with his identity (being on and off NZT), and that's only served to make him more complex and endearing as the series has progressed. Brian is just such an amazing character and I am thankful he is on my television this year.

Best Female Character: Rebecca Bunch, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

When critics began hailing Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as the season's best new comedy, I was skeptical. It didn't SOUND promising and the trailer was okay, at best. And then I gave the show a shot, and found myself immediately interested in the character of Rebecca Bunch. Presumed crazy by society for hearing musicals in her head and following her former boyfriend across the country, Rebecca is so much more than that and the writers keep peeling back layers of her characterization. It's easy to dismiss her and to point out her flaws. But what fascinates me so much about Rebecca is that she is a lot more than a label could ever presume her to be.

We label people as "crazy" because that's easier than taking the time to understand their messiness and it keeps us in a position of superiority. And I'll admit, as I watched the pilot episode, I judged Rebecca a bit for the way she was acting. But as the series progressed, I've come to see a lot of myself in Rebecca — a lot of her struggles and feelings are not dissimilar to my own. And the best part about Rebecca as a character is that she proves that it's okay to not be okay all of the time. It is okay to progress and then regress. Life isn't linear and characters on TV can't be either.

Rebecca is endearing. She is flawed and she is funny and she is loving and she is caring. She sometimes gets wrapped up in her own world, but she always realizes when she is wrong and is a big enough person to not only admit that, but to actively try and fix herself and her mistakes. I absolutely love her and I'm so grateful that she is a character who exists.

Show That Had So Much Potential This Year But Lost it All: Community

... sigh.

I've already waxed poetic about how unfortunately abysmal the final season of Community was, but it bears repeating. (Also worth repeating is the fact that this is the third year in a row the show has "won" this category. Ouch.) I loved Community when it was at its best because it was a show about flawed people who were ultimately redeemable and whose journeys made logical sense. Dan Harmon threw in the towel on the final season of the show and it showed. There was no overarching plot, no real semblance of character development (in fact, there was just the OPPOSITE in the form of wild character regression), and the entire series ended on a sour note, in spite of the exceptional series finale.

Really, now that I've begun to re-watch the series, the first season through third season are all you need to watch. Pretend the show ended there. Please.

Most Annoying Character on Television (Female): Clara Oswald, Doctor Who

Between allowing Danny Pink to verbally harass and insult The Doctor, then becoming grating and demanding, and ultimately wildly self-righteous, Clara Oswald became one of the worst and most annoying characters on television this year. Doctor Who, in general, has fallen into a horrible writing slump with characterization becoming wildly uneven (in what universe has The Doctor EVER REWRITTEN HISTORY IN ORDER TO SAVE A COMPANION? NOTHING ABOUT THAT MAKES ANY SENSE), and Clara Oswald somehow devolved into a petulant companion, insistent on playing God (and Doctor) when she had no right to do so.

(Heads up, Clara: just because you yell at people doesn't mean that you're somehow "owed" or "deserved" anything and I swear, the fact that she told Twelve that he owed her anything will go down as one of the worst things a character on this show has said to The Doctor).

At this point, she literally used The Doctor's love for her as a bargaining chip. I mean... really? Clara, once a selfless and pretty independent woman while traveling with Eleven, somehow become vain and self-righteous, telling others what to do... including The Doctor. And in some cases, that's okay because sometimes The Doctor needs a kick in the pants from his companions. But Clara took it a step further by not caring about their bond or trust (throwing away the keys to the TARDIS, even if they weren't real was the worst and most unforgivable character offense from Clara Oswald), and then turning around and claiming to love and care about him.

Every time Clara opened her mouth this season, I audibly groaned, knowing that the episode would probably fixate on her trying to be The Doctor and relegating Twelve to companion status. Just because she had one adventure at U.N.I.T., suddenly Clara became an expert on the universe and the desire to do everything herself and consider herself invincible is ultimately what got her "killed" (until the season finale but UGH don't get me started on that). She claimed to care about The Doctor, but only did when she it suited her. She berated him constantly and honestly? Twelve and Clara's relationship was toxic and borderline abusive, masqueraded with pithy lines of dialogue intent on sending shippers into squeals. It honestly scares me that people consider Twelve/Clara to be a model relationship. It's like Twilight all over again!

Clara deserved to learn that her actions had consequences, but she never did. All she learned was that if she yelled loud enough, she could pretend to be the authority for everyone around her. She was unafraid to risk human lives in the process, too, and only loved The Doctor when it suited her needs. She was self-righteous, and stubborn in the most reckless way possible. She was definitely the most annoying character on television this year.

Most Annoying Character on Television (Male): Ray Palmer, Arrow

I also waxed poetic this year about how horrible Ray Palmer was (and how Arrow and Mac Guggenheim refused to acknowledge the fact that he had very problematic tendencies as a character — ones that those who have suffered in abusive relationships would, and did, balk at). Ray is back to being alive in the fourth season of Arrow (and is tolerable now, in small doses), but it was his treatment of Felicity and Oliver in the third season that earns him this spot as my most annoying male character of the year. (And honestly, this has nothing to do with Brandon Routh because I think Routh is a delightful human being). In fact, the more that I think about it, the more that I realize it was less of a problem with Ray as a character that I had as it was with the writers, who insisted on making audiences fall in love with/excuse Ray's behavior, only to fail.

Here's a lesson to all of the television writers out there — the harder you try and force a character onto us, the more we will resist you. The more you insist that your character is not the problem and that we, the audience, are interpreting them as such, the more we will fight you. Basically, if you're going to write a character who is problematic, own up to that fact. Don't be mad when people find faults with them. Don't belittle the problem down to "shipping," just because that is an easy target.

Own the fact that we may not like a character simply because they suck.

Television Show That Left Us Too Soon: Chasing Life

*plugs ears, hums, and cannot hear you when you tell me Leo died*

I marathoned Chasing Life on Netflix simply because I was in between shows and had nothing better to do. And I loved it. Italia Ricci, in that show, gave one of the most stunning performances of a woman battling cancer that I have seen since Monica Potter on Parenthood. I loved the series, from the strong women that it presented to the complex family dynamic it explored, to the very real decisions about health and love and life that people have to make on a daily basis. I think that April Carver's evolution is one of the most important you'll see on television and the show was not only gut-wrenchingly sad in parts, but ultimately hopeful and inspiring.

If Blood & Oil hadn't gotten picked up, I know that Scott Michael Foster would still be on Chasing Life and I wouldn't be typing these words. But alas, he left the show and it was not the same. I'm not sure if the death of Leo directly impacted the cancellation or if it was just the final straw, but I'm deeply sad that this show didn't have the chance to stay on television longer.

Show That Should Be Put Out of Its Misery: None.

IT IS SO WEIRD THAT I DON'T HATE ANYTHING ON TELEVISION THIS YEAR. (Or, rather, that there isn't a general consensus on a show that needs to end this year.)

Best Performance in a Television Series (Male): Elyes Gabel as Walter O'Brien, Scorpion

First of all, I would just like to take this brief opportunity to mention that if you have not started watching Scorpion, you really need to. The first season was good — it was a fun introduction to a quirky new procedural. The ensemble is really what makes this show click a vast majority of the time. All of the characters are developed enough that they are not caricatures or stereotypes. And I really love that. But what the first season established, the second season has far exceeded. Scorpion's sophomore year is proving to be one of the strongest I've seen from a drama in a long time. That is partially due to the writing, which has been outstanding, but a great deal more to do with the acting and the nuances that each of the actors bring to their characters.

No one this year was more impressive to me than Elyes Gabel, who plays the stoic Walter O'Brien. It's easy to see a show like Scorpion and judge it, presuming that since it has all of the elements of a procedural that the characters would be generic. And if you just briefly glanced at Walter, as a character, you might come to the same conclusion — he's a genius, but emotionally stunted. He deals with logic and theories and formulas. He bases his life on science and reason, not emotion and instability. But what Elyes Gabel did this year was allow Walter to begin to change, slowly, and let the people around him change the way he sees the world. The brilliance in Gabel's performance is his subtleties — his small facial nuances, the way that he allows Walter's eyes to well up, or the calculated way that he moves. When Walter loses his sister, Gabel's performance was elevated even further. He displayed such vulnerability (and believably so, for a character who struggles with his emotions and processing them), that it was absolutely gut-wrenching.

Seriously, Elyes Gabel is the one actor on television this year whose performance truly stunned me and did so consistently. Go catch up on the show, please.

Best Performance in a Television Series (Female): Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva, Jane the Virgin

When Gina Rodriguez won the Golden Globe this year for her role as Jane Villanueva, I cried. I couldn't help it, really, because she deserves every possible award for this character. I think the thing that really impresses me about Rodriguez is her range. In Jane the Virgin, she has the opportunity to play just about every possible emotion — ranging anywhere from giddiness and silliness to complete and utter devastation. And she makes it look flawless. This year, Rodriguez had the chance to add yet another layer to her performance with the birth of Jane's son, Mateo. Now, not only is Jane fighting for the best life possible for herself, but she is also doing so for her child. And that adds a completely different layer of complexity to the character.

Now, Jane is a mother and a daughter and a student and a regular woman trying her best to figure out who she is and what she deserves. I love that Gina Rodriguez's Jane isn't cookie-cutter — she doesn't always make the right choices and her flaws are not hidden. She's a character who lives by lists and order and Rodriguez plays the frustration and confusion when Jane's life is shaken up with such believability that I feel like I know Jane personally. I feel like she is my friend. That is truly all you can hope for while watching a television series — to have that level of connectivity with the main character because of an actor's performance.

I can't say enough wonderful things about Gina Rodriguez (not only as an actress, but a human being). She's taken an already well-written female character and elevated her throughout her performance. To Rodriguez, Jane isn't some facade that she puts on every time she steps onto set. No, to her, you can tell that Jane is a real, living, breathing character who dwells just below her surface. And because Jane is real to Gina, she is also real to us.

Best Series — Comedy: Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation bid farewell to Pawnee and to us in 2015, and I could not be sadder or optimistic about its final season. This show has always been one of those outstanding comedies that not enough people talk about. Leslie Knope is iconic and the Ben/Leslie romance is proof that ships don't sink comedy and that, in fact, they can make a show even better. (It's also proof to television writers that you don't have to break couples up in order to give them depth — Ben and Leslie had one minor break in their relationship and after that, they were together the entire series. BOOM.) The final season of the show was perfection, wrapping up storylines in little bows, and reminding us all why we fell in love with these characters in the first place.

This NBC sitcom was always a "feel good" one — you felt warm and fuzzy and just ultimately happy knowing that there were struggles in Pawnee but that the characters all loved and supported one another, so they would get through anything. Saying goodbye to this show was really difficult, as saying goodbye to any series is.  But the mark of a truly great show is when you can watch the final episode and know that each and every character will be okay. And honestly, when I saw that Parks department... I knew they all would be.

Best Series — Drama: Jessica Jones

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a DC girl these days. I'm invested in Arrow and The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. Marvel isn't what I choose to watch on television or in the movies (unless it is The Avengers or something). But I took the advice of friends, some of our writers, and critics and binge-watched Jessica Jones. While this show is dark — like, REALLY dark — it was also the best, most compelling drama I watched all year. Centered around an unconventional hero with the same name who has a tendency to solve her problems with drinking and bar-fighting, Jessica Jones is filled with allegories and allusions (chief among those to PTSD and abusive relationships) and plenty of character development.

The story of Jessica finding Hope (literally and figuratively) is one of the most powerful I've seen from a superhero franchise. And that's really what sets Jessica Jones apart from other Marvel series (minus perhaps Daredevil, even though I have yet to watch that) — it is not a superhero show. It is a show about a woman who happens to have superpowers and occasionally uses them. She doesn't wear a suit, she doesn't go out looking for crimes. She is simply trying to survive, throughout most of the pilot. Until Jessica realizes that simply surviving isn't enough. She needs to fight — fight against her abuser, fight for the people she loves, fight for Hope, and fight for love, too.

Jessica Jones is a dark and gritty show, but it's one of the most well-acted and well-written shows I watched on television this year. It's extremely important in terms of female heroes, and discussions around sensitive subjects. I'm glad that it exists.

Actor I've Grown to Love a Lot More in 2015: Colin O'Donoghue as Killian Jones/Captain Hook, Once Upon A Time

I used to feel pretty apathetic toward Once Upon A Time. In recent years, it's kind of fallen off my must-watch radar (that Neverland arc was what really did it for me, if I'm being honest). And though last year's Frozen tie-in connected me back to Storybrooke in a way that the series hasn't before, it was this year's emotional display from Killian Jones/Captain Hook that really sucked me back into the series. Colin O'Donoghue did some of his strongest work ever during 2015 and it's hard to put into words exactly what changed. The fact of the matter is actually this — very little changed in his performance, and everything changed with how the show wrote him and trusted him to carry a story.

Hook's arc is far from over, but it is O'Donoghue who continues to propel it forward with his earnest glances, passionately-delivered lines, and careful nuances. The fact that O'Donoghue got the chance to shine for a few episodes as The Dark One was a smart move on the part of Once Upon A Time. And it cannot be overstated how intense and magnetic his chemistry is with Jennifer Morrison, either. The show not only heavily relied on O'Donoghue to carry stories this year, but also relied on him to carry something even more important — the emotional weight of Emma and Hook's love story. While Morrison excelled at depicting this during the first half of the season, the pre-winter finale was focused on Hook, primarily, and that choice was a smart one.

Honestly, I've always loved Hook. I love his sassiness, his eyeliner, and his smirks. But O'Donoghue gained more respect from me this year because of how deeply he dug into the character and the payoff that resulted because of it.

Actress I've Grown to Love a Lot More in 2015: Melissa Benoist as Kara Zor-El/Supergirl, Supergirl

When I heard that Melissa Benoist had been cast as the lead in the new CBS series Supergirl, I immediately thought: "Is everyone on Glee going to become a superhero?" Having only ever seen Benoist in the musical FOX comedy, I was interested to see how her personality would translate to a superhero show. I was not disappointed. I find Benoist to be extremely endearing as a character and person, akin to Grant Gustin's exuberance on The Flash. This type of energy and charisma is exactly the kind that suits Benoist well as Kara. I think that what I found to be most compelling and why I've grown to love Benoist as the iconic superhero is the fact that there are a lot of layers to Kara. She's presented, from the start, as an imperfect hero. And while I enjoy watching trained fight sequences where characters can take down the bad guys in 0.5 seconds, I actually enjoy the fact that Kara is young and struggling. She doesn't always win the fight. Sometimes she loses spectacularly. And I think THAT gives Benoist a lot more material to work with, as an actress.

Melissa Benoist completely blindsided me, too, with some of the really emotional work she did toward the midseason finale. She, much like Supergirl, is a force to be reckoned with and someone who should not be underestimated. I cannot wait to see what she does when the show returns.

Television Show Everyone Hopes Gets Can-Can-Cancelled: The Big Bang Theory

You can hope all you would like, kiddos, but this show is not going anywhere. And honestly? People can poke fun of the fact that it occasionally delves into silly or stupid (or stale) joke territory, but it has had some of the best emotional scenes of its run this season. The most recent example, of course, is the fact that Sheldon and Amy finally consummated their relationship. The show has done a really great job this year of respecting its characters and their journeys, and I'm hopeful that will continue.

Television Show I Keep Meaning to Catch Up On: Sleepy Hollow

I quit watching Sleepy Hollow last year, and it seems like I didn't miss a whole lot in doing so. After the show decided (or, well, was forced to) to reinvent itself, it seems like the little FOX historical/apocalyptic drama is receiving positive buzz again. It might be time for me to catch back up!

Television Show I Wanted to Like But Didn't Get There: The Muppets

I watched the first two episodes of this when the screeners were released and wasn't a super huge fan of the show. Though I really do enjoy The Muppets, I knew it was one of those shows that I would never commit to watching on a weekly basis. Thankfully, it seems like it's not the kind of show that you NEED to watch on a weekly basis in order to understand plot. Still, with the re-tooling of the series now, perhaps the show will be receiving a bit more buzz and positive reception from fans and critics.

Television Show That Was Sacrificed Thanks to Television Scheduling: The Mindy Project

Actually, this one was more or less sacrificed because of the fact that it required me to pay money for Hulu and I just didn't want to do that. Plus, I was beginning to feel a little underwhelmed with the show. Danny Castellano's character proved to be extremely problematic last season, and the lack of acknowledgement from fans and the show alike drove me to be unable to really ship Danny/Mindy anymore.

Television Show I'm Most Anxious to Marathon in 2016: Breaking Bad; Chuck

Because I definitely need to balance out the intense drug-centric drama with some comedy (with a bit of drama added to that, too). Thanks, Netflix, for allowing me to watch both of these!


Best Movie Adaptation of a Book: Room

I read Room years ago, mostly because the cover of the book looked intriguing and I was in the market for a good summer read. When I finished the book, I immediately wanted to re-read it. And over the years, it's been difficult to find any book that matches Room in terms of narrative and innovation. So when I heard that there would be a movie adapted from the novel and that Emma Donoghue would be at the helm, I knew I had to see it. Since Room was not in wide release, I took a friend of mine with me to a tiny theatre in Winter Park to see the film. She loved it. I loved it. I cried, she cried.

The reason that Room worked so well was because it translated everything important from the book onto screen. Not to mention the fact that Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are absolutely stunning in the film. Without a doubt, Room was the best book-to-film adaptation in 2015.

Best Movie I Saw in 2015: Inside Out

I didn't understand the fascination with Inside Out until I actually saw the film in theatres. It was there that I laughed hysterically and cried harder than any Disney film in recent memory. I could wax poetic about what made this film my favorite of the year, but I'll spare you the novel and instead just note how important the movie was in understanding the complexity of my emotions as an adult. Sometimes we want life to be easy, happy, and carefree. We want Joy all the time. And when Sadness creeps in, sometimes we try to shoo it away or banish it at all costs. We relegate it to a small circle. But what Inside Out did impeccably was remind us all that we need Joy and Sadness and Anger and Fear and Disgust in order to function. All of these emotions make us human. And that was a beautiful thing to hear this year, from a children's film no less.

Actor I Wasn't Surprised to Find Myself Loving: Chris Pratt, Jurassic World


I'm really actually thrilled that Chris Pratt is gaining more recognition and respect in Hollywood these days. He's a genuinely lovely human being (or at least he appears to be that way as, alas, I have yet to meet him), and hilarious. His charisma shines through in every project that he does and it is unsurprising that this year's Jurassic World catapulted him even further into endearment in the public eye.

Actress I Wasn't Surprised to Find Myself Loving: Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect 2

Honestly, I don't know that there is a person on earth who could watch Pitch Perfect 2 and not immediately fall in love with Anna Kendrick even more than they were already. I actually enjoyed the sequel more than the original (which may be sacrilegious, but that is just where I am at), and Anna Kendrick did a stellar job playing to all of the nuances of her character and her struggles.

Best Movie of 2015 That I Won't See Until 2016: Star Wars — The Force Awakens

Chelsea is making me do this, you guys.

Most Talked About Movie of 2015 That I Have Not And Will Not Likely See: The Revenant

(Basically any Oscar-bait or awards show-bait movie this year I have no interest in seeing.)

Movie I Really Did Mean to See in 2015: Sisters; Paper Towns

Sisters was a movie that I was actually supposed to see in 2015 at an advanced screening (the perks of your sister working for Universal Studios in Orlando), but my sister was unable to attend. And it seems pretty absurd to not see Sisters with... well, your literal flesh and blood. Additionally, I really did mean to see Paper Towns but my plans to see the film fell through. I definitely need to buy or rent the film though, since that John Green book is one of my absolute favorites. (And it doesn't hurt that the entire film and novel are set in central Florida.)

Movie I Will Get Yelled At For Not Wanting to See: The Martian

... yawn. #sorrynotsorry


Singer I Just Wish Would Go Away (Male): John Legend

Mostly because he just bores me, not because he isn't good or talented. Though I do like the new song that he has with Meghan Trainor, I've always found Legend's music to be a bit slow for my taste.

Singer I Just Wish Would Go Away (Female): Miley Cyrus

Why is she still relevant again?

Artist/Band I Was Surprised to Find Myself Loving As Much As I Did: Selena Gomez

I used to really love Wizards of Waverly Place on Disney Channel (don't judge me), and thought Selena Gomez to be a lot more talented — both comedically and dramatically — than the show allowed her to be. When Gomez transitioned into film work (Monte Carlo is a little cheesy, but it stars Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Catherine Tate, and Selena Gomez and is immensely FUN), her career didn't quite take off as she (I surmise) had hoped. And then she re-positioned herself in the music world and found her niche with albums and tours. And, surprisingly, I found myself invested in Gomez's music.

She's not the most incredible singer to ever enter the music scene, but she certainly is talented and has catchy lyrics and tracks. I was definitely surprised at how much I loved "Same Old Love" this year.

Best Album: Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

I don't care who you are or whether or not you love or hate Broadway musicals — everyone needs to listen to Hamilton. EVERYONE. When some of our staff talked about the show non-stop this year, I became intrigued and decided to give the album (available on Spotify) a listen. I fell head-over-heels for this musical and could not be happier that people like Connie, Rae, Jaime, and Deb kept pestering me to listen to it because now I do the same for others. It's difficult to explain in words exactly what makes Hamilton so special. But if I were to boil it down, I would say that it is its earnestness, its heart, and it's incredible musicality that has made this show the phenomenon that it is.

I absolutely cannot get enough of this musical. There are incredible vocal runs, flawless rapping, really powerful emotional moments (I dare you not to cry during "Burn" or "Stay Alive (Reprise)," all of which make this show so special. Lin Manuel-Miranda is insanely talented as Alexander Hamilton. You might think that a historical musical would be boring, but if every history class was like Hamilton, I would be signing up for them all tomorrow.

This musical is so important for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to the fact that it places people of color and women in positions of power throughout the narrative that are simply not present in actual American history. The "reimagination" of American history according to Manuel-Miranda is the kind of history I would love to live in. If you have yet to listen to this amazing and life-changing (I'm not exaggerating here) album, find it on Spotify. The benefit of Hamilton is that all of the musical is sung so you get the chance to experience the entirety of the play while you listen, too.

... I'll wait. Come back here in two hours and let me know your thoughts!

That One Song That You Belted To Everyone and Didn’t Know Why: "Hello," Adele

Actually, we all know why we belted this one to each other. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO NOT BELT IT DRAMATICALLY.

That One Song That Was Annoyingly Catchy: "Sorry," Justin Bieber

I wish I could hate Justin Bieber's new single, but I actually really enjoyed it. Darn the catchiness of the tune!

That Song That Was Good... Until It Was Overplayed: "Stitches," Shawn Mendes

What began as an endearing single quickly became the most overplayed song on Top 40 radio. Now, whenever I hear it, I automatically cringe and change the station. It's not that Shawn Mendes' song is bad, by any means, but it has lapped (and lapped and lapped) the radio so much this year that I honestly am tired of it.

(Honorable mention? "Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon. That single was on my running playlist as soon as it came out, and now it just makes me sigh because of how often Top 40 radio played it throughout 2015.)

That Song That Was Good... Even When It Was Overplayed: "Wildest Dreams," Taylor Swift

Anything by Taylor Swift could be played on the radio thousands of times and I would still be completely enamored with it. That's just who I am. This year, her "Wildest Dreams" single was played quite frequently on Top 40 radio, and yet I still turned the volume up as loud as possible and belted along to the chorus.

The Song You’ll Never Admit to Liking (But Secretly Know All The Words To): "Drag Me Down," One Direction

I mean, I'm not even ashamed to admit that I love this song a lot. But in case any of you out there are remotely ashamed of loving boy bands, know that there is no shame in loving what you love. Additionally, One Direction's album Made in the A.M. was really exceptional and I would recommend you all listen to it. JUST SAYING.

That Song You Couldn't Get Out of Your Head: "Watch Me," Silento

I'll be honest here and say that until I started teaching middle school students at my church, I had no idea what the whip and nae nae actually was. And now that I do, I'm afraid it's one of those things you simply cannot unlearn. Needless to say, this song was stuck in my head a lot during 2015.

There you have it, friends! This is my personal best and worst of 2015 list. What shows, movies, and musical selections made your cut? Hit up the comments below and let me know. And have a safe, happy, and wonderful New Year's celebration. :)


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