The Siskoid Awards 2019

At the start of the year, we look back on the year that went before, and in my case, I hand out Golden Typewriter Monkeys - sounds like more than bragging rights but they aren't - for excellence in what I've read, seen or heard during the year (regardless of when it was originally released, unless I decide it's important). As usual, only newly experienced material will be up for consideration (so The Umbrellas of Cherbourg can't keep winning Monkeys). For television episodes, no more than one per show can be put up for nomination. Other limits may apply. I may or may not get to 4 runner-ups in each case, depending. In any case, write-in votes/dissent go in the comments section.

Best Book of 2019 - The runners up are...
3. Spaceman of Bohemia (Jaroslav Kalfař)
2. The Scar (China Miéville)
...and the Siskoid goes to: Bookwyrm: An Unauthorised & Unconventional Guide to the Doctor Who Novels, Volume 1 (Anthony Wilson, Robert Smith?) - A weak year, but that's totally on me. I've narrowed it down to three memorable books. On our winner, what I originally said still goes: "Some guide books take me ages to get through, others you don't really read cover to cover, but Bookwyrm? A real page-turner. Available from ATB Publishing, this book covers the Doctor Who New Adventures put out by Virgin in the 90s, and despite my having read only about half, I couldn't stop reading where I was up to. Spoilers be damned, I was having too much fun. The twist on the guidebook formula is that Wilson and Smith?'s voices are so clear, it's like you're part of a conversation between friends. There's plenty of humor, but also staunch devotion to what they think is a high-water mark in Doctor Who history. They draw links to the new series, which was more inspired by the novels than even I knew, gives examples of prose both good and bad, discusses all points of interest in a way that doesn't spoil everything (though the big beats are of course going to get spoiled, but I feel like I could still read the novels I haven't, perhaps with some distance, and enjoy them), before giving us their two reviews. I can't wait for the next volume, which proposes to give this treatment to the Eighth Doctor Adventures, but I guess I'll HAVE to wait, because that's a LOT of books."

Best Comic of 2019 - The runners up are...
The Glorkian Warrior and the Mustache of Destiny (James Kochaka)
Dial H for Hero (Humphries and Quinones)
...and the Siskoid goes to: Xum's Who (Xum Yukinori) - Very limited edition, though most pages can be found in the image galleries of the Who's Who Podcast, and Xum is a good friend who was kind enough to send me a copy of his Who's Who pastiche in glorious dot-o-vision. It contains entries for characters that did not originally get into Who's Who, but might have deserved it, including the Silver Age version of Superman and Wonder Woman who were wiped out by Crisis at the exact wrong time for Who's Who to actually write them up. There are also a few characters created by Xum himself, mostly of star podcasters as superheroes (but not yours truly, don't get your hopes up). There is some collage re appropriation, but for the most part, it's Xum's own, clean art. It's lovely and fun and nostalgia in a cool package. If you want a closer look at that cover, click the image, it should take you to the large size version. Thanks again, Xum, I really cherish this comics artifact.

Best Film of 2019 (out that year) - The runners up are...
5. Little Women
4. Knives Out
3. Us
2. The Lighthouse
...and the Siskoid goes to: Parasite - It could easily have been The Lighthouse, which is perhaps bolder and more literate and profound, but ultimately, Parasite was the more entertaining and relevant journey. Of this film, I said: "With Parasite, Bong Joon-ho drops the science-fiction metaphors of Okja and Snowpiercer to craft a much more subtle and layered film about inequity and class struggle. There are many surprises in this one, so even talking about its themes may prove to be a spoiler, but I'll do my best... At the start of the film, we're introduced to a poor family who very entertainingly con their way into a rich family's house because they're desperate. The wealthy Parks are, surprise, good people on the face of it, but privilege is an innocuous, oblivious evil, and the audience is presented with two kinds of "parasite" on society, the poor AND the rich, who are toxic to one another. Upper and lower class are fabulously represented through verticality and observational pathos, and the more extreme elements of the story portray how the poor are made to turn on each other because they've been sold on the dream that they too can achieve fortune. On the flip side, the rich have built unassailable fortunes on the backs of the poor, what's bad for the underclass, good for them, no matter how sympathetic they may play to "the help". Some lines cannot be crossed. Great cinematography, and memorable performances too. I especially like Cho Yeo-jeong's gullible young mom and Park So-dam as the slick grifting daughter. Best film of the year, they say. I'm not sure I can argue. It's definitely a film for our times."

Best Film of 2019 (out before that year) - The runners up are...
5. Double Suicide
4. Roma
3. The Red Balloon
2. The Favourite
...and the Siskoid goes to: The Secret World of Arrietty - "I've seen about two-thirds of Ghibli Studios' output and on the strength of that I'm declaring my favorite ever is The Secret World of Arrietty. Wow. The film rapidly immerses you into the world of tiny "borrowers", barely 4 inches tall, who live inside the walls and floors of a house. Arrietty is an engaging heroine, at an age where she wants to see what's out there and get into trouble, and she makes us want to follow her. Living at that size is beautifully imagined and the garden and house come off as magical places, while "human beans" are given extreme close-ups to show Arrietty's point of view. I didn't even need a plot line. I just wanted to experience the world. The story is pretty sweet, however. A sick boy comes to live at the house and discovers its tiny inhabitants, throwing their lives into turmoil despite his best intentions. The friendship between the two young people is nevertheless the key to saving the family from disaster. And still, it's a stolen season story, and we're not allowed to know what happens next, except in our dreams. Sad or happy ending? We decide. (Unless you're watching the English dub, in which case a needless voice-over blows the mystery.)"

Best TV Series of 2019 - The runners up are...
5. The Toys That Made Us Season 3
4. The Mandalorian Season 1
3. The Good Place Season 3
2. Russian Doll Season 1
...and the Siskoid goes to: The Ministry of Time (I'm partly through the whole series, so I don't know, but I'll gladly recommend the first season) - Spain has this time travel show, see, but the doorways can only go into Spain's own history, and are run by a secret government ministry, which allows the show to laugh at the civil servant culture as well as tell exciting tales across history. They never forget that, and characters (whether agents or desk jockeys) fret about things like overtime (ha!), paperwork, and of course, the many temptations the doors represent. As a time travel show, it's a lot smarter than most, and you learn a LOT about Spanish history. Not being my country, maybe that makes sense, but we're so used to time travel narratives always going to the same "cinematic" eras, this comes as a breath of fresh air. El ministerio del tiempo has strong, memorable characters from various eras working in concert to save history, and in the first season at least, there's a strong focus on what it MEANS to live this life, realistically. I quite love it.

Best TV Episode of 2019 - The runners up are...
3. "Shipwrecked" (Lost in Space S2)
2. "Sanctuary" (The Mandalorian S1)
...and the Siskoid goes to: "My Little Pony" (The Toys That Made Us S3) - I'm so glad the "That Made Us" crew did another season of Toys before moving to other topics (which I don't think, to date, are as relevant), because it gave us the single funniest episode of the documentary series, bar none. My Little Pony's story is laugh-out-loud funny, and that's really down to the people involved, from the horsies' humorless creator, to the macho guy who was assigned to work on the accessories, to the fans interviewed... I whinnied with laughter. Then watched some parts again just so I could whinny some more.

Best CD of 2019 - The runners up are...
3. Here Come the Wolves (Rheostatics)
2. Dirty Computer (Janelle Monáe)
...and the Siskoid goes to: Live in London (Flight of the Conchords) - What a fun show, as also immortalized in an HBO special, but it's not a particularly VISUAL show, so can still be tremendously enjoyed on double compact disc. At this point, I've watched the special several times, and I sort of can remember the expressions I'm missing from the live album. New Zealand's fourth most popular folk parody duo has updated several songs, but also crafted new ones which are instant classics, I feel. Joined by the one-man NZ symphony orchestra that is the silent but dignified Nigel, the group almost becomes a trio there, but never sacrifices Bret and Jemaine's chemistry and deadpan, we're totally useless as rock stars, comedy. A perfect blend of laughs and good music, by two of the most sympathetic figures in 21st-Century comedy. A charm in any format.

Stupidest Geek Move of 2019 - The runners up are...
3. Haters gonna hate (gaters, trolls, angry fanboys, Russian bots, any fandom, name it)
2. Game of Thrones lands with a thud (Benioff and Weiss)
...and the Siskoid goes to: Whoever at Disney failed to see the mercantile opportunity of having a Baby Yoda on the shelves for Christmas. They finally put one in production with an on-shelf date of March 2020, which may be too late to capitalize on the popularity of The Mondalorian's fan favorite character. It's especially surprising given how toyetic the Star Wars franchise is. I guess they didn't really know what they had. Not that the toy as pictured here (if it is the final plush) is as cute as the one we got on our TV screens these past few months, but still. I just hope it didn't cost anybody their job.

Let us know what YOUR picks would have been. In the next day or two: The Technical Awards as given in a ceremony prior to this one, just like with the Oscars!


Green Luthor said...

As improbable as it sounds, the lack of Baby Yoda merchandise was actually intentional. Jon Favreau somehow convinced Disney to hold off on the merchandise, so as to maintain the surprise of the character's reveal at the end of the first episode. In order to have merchandise ready for Christmas, it'd need to be manufactured before the show premiered. And if it was manufactured, it *would* have been leaked, and thus spoil the surprise. So Disney agreed to keep the reveal a surprise, even despite missing out on what would have been a huge merchandising opportunity. (HOW Favreau convinced Disney, I have no idea, although Disney has also avoided some big spoilers in the merchandising of other Star Wars and Marvel productions, so... I guess someone there realizes that surprises for the audience can be beneficial for generating excitement? I dunno.)

One can question whether it was the best move for them to make (though, personally, I was glad to not know about Baby Yoda ahead of time, at least), but it wasn't a failure to see the potential on anyone's part, and it's safe to say no one's job was lost as a result, so that's something.

Andrew said...

The Baby Yoda thing reminds me of the Star Wars Monopoly set that came out right before The Force Awakens was released. The game that got all kinds of flack for not having new protagonist Rey as one of the represented pieces. Except that before the movie came out, Finn was being presented as the new face of Star Wars.

Meanwhile, can you imagine the pandemonium that would have erupted in theaters the day Captain America: Civil War was released, if Disney and Marvel had managed to keep Spider-Man's appearance under wraps (or, to a lesser extent, Hulk in Ragnarok)? It seems to be what the Russos were going for, but the moment is lessened because we the audience knew it was coming. I can't help but also think that reaction to Baby Yoda wouldn't have been anywhere near what it was if during the first episode, we were all just waiting for him to show up.

Siskoid said...

Maybe it's me, but I didn't think it was much of a surprise. When something is part of a pilot, it's all a surprise or none of it is. But I'm sure Jon Favreau will get to keep his job.

Anonymous said...

Very limited? sad face... I really want a copy of that Xum Yukinori book! His art and lettering are surreal.

Anonymous said...

I was shocked to read this today. RIP.

Siskoid said...

I learned of Xum's passing after this had been written and posted. He was a great friend, collaborator, artist, and human being, one of the best I ever got to know in that last category, and he is already missed.

The podcasting world has not heard the last from his smooth silky tones, because he made sure to complete his personal objectives for his show before he got too sick to managed it, and there's content scheduled for several more months. He was like that.


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