The Siskoid Awards 2016

Every year, I fake-hand out Golden Typewriter Monkeys, that is to say, I hand out nothing except bragging rights (if anyone would actually brag about such honors), for excellent in what I've read, seen or heard during the year, regardless of when it was originally released. As usual, only newly experienced material will be up for consideration. For television episodes, no more than one per show can be put up for nomination. Other limits may apply. For example, because I more or less stopped reading new comics this year, I've had to at least temporarily retire the Best Comic category. I'm not sure I can get to 4 runners up in every category either. In any case, write-in votes/dissent go in the comments section.

Best Book of 2016 - The runners up are...
5. Giving Up (Mike Steeves)
4. Histoire de la maison qui brûle. Vaguement suivi d’un dernier regard sur la maison qui brûle. (France Daigle)
3. Railsea (China Miéville)
2. Strong Motion (Jonathan Franzen)
...and the Siskoid goes to: The City & the City (China Miéville) - "China Miéville could have dominated the list if I hadn't restrained myself, as I really got into his stuff this year, but The City & the City really resonated strongly with me as a child of a dual culture. From my original review: Though Railsea was a trip, Chine Miéville's The City & the City was a deeper read with a stronger central metaphor. On the surface a noir thriller/detective story with all the trimmings, including a protagonist you want to follow in Inspector Borlu, the fantastical setting is what sets the novel apart. Miéville posits two city-states superimposed on the same geographical point, with citizens in each "unseeing" each other lest they "breach" (which calls on a third possible city), and enjoying different laws, culture, and quality of life. Because Beszel is clearly East-European, it would be easy to say this was a take on Cold War Berlin, but the other city, Ul Qoma is more akin to the more Westernized Middle East, say Istanbul, maybe Dubai. The better analogy is between the haves and have nots. Who among us HASN'T "unseen" the homeless on our streets? Who from uptown has ever visited their city's slums and vice-versa? They might as well be different cities, with people passing each other by without looking in "shared" areas. It's also about culturally diverse populations giving each other a wide berth. I live in one of Canada's most exogamous towns and the novel felt true to that experience, where French and English speakers infrequently mix, where you don't want to say hi to a stranger on the street because what if you use the wrong language? And yes, there are places in my town I've never been to because they're obviously "Anglo" and I've never known anyone who lived there. Is the reality of The City & the City fantastical, science-fictional, or merely psychological? Miéville leaves it open-ended, and there's a lot of value in that ambiguity. Yet another beautifully-realized world from this writer, and as with Railsea, I can't help but express a certain resentment when he brings things to a close. That's not a complaint so much as the feeling that I'd just been asked to leave."

Best Film of 2016 - The runners up are...
5. Moana
4. Youth
3. Wild Tales
2. The Nice Guys
...and the Siskoid goes to: La La Land - "It was The Nice Guys at the top for most of 2016, and wouldn't you know it, Ryan Gosling somehow pushed another one through at the eleventh hour. Well, I just reviewed La La Land yesterday, but here it is again: Damien Chazelle made La La Land on the back of his success with Whiplash, and it's ambitious in a number of ways. An old-timey musical set (and indeed, released!) in the present day, long involved takes for practically every song and dance number, and an ending that's not what's expected... It succeeds on every level. Emma Stone is of course delectable in her role, but Ryan Gosling is extremely funny too, and the pair have undeniable chemistry. The songs are memorable. And as with Whiplash, there's a lot of jazz talk (Reynolds plays an old school jazz pianist), but the screenplay also conforms to jazz movements, especially the climax of the piece, which is, all at once, a means to communicate without speaking, a variation on a melody, a nice structural fake-out, and a way for the movie to have its cake and it eat too. A full entertainment that's shot up to the top of this year's list of best films."

Best TV Series of 2016 - The runners up are...
5. Jessica Jones Season 1
4. The Last Man on Earth Season 1
3. Better Call Saul Season 1
2. Mr. Robot Season 1
...and the Siskoid goes to: Fargo Season 2 - That is two for two for Fargo, back to back wins! I almost gave it to Mr. Robot, but it was a little too derivative in the end, whereas Fargo somehow blends its Coen Bros. inspiration into a super-cool new configuration. I really love this show. From my original review: "In Fargo's first season, they kept referring to "that business in '79". Obviously, that's where Fargo Season 2 had to go. This whole series is amazing, getting us invested in a whole new cast of characters (though headed by a younger Lou Solverson, and there might be a couple of other recurring characters) within moments of the opening. Set in the dying embers of the '70s, against President Carter's national malaise speech and Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign, the story is on one level that of the corporatization of organized crime, and to make room for it, the decade goes out with a bang. And whereas the first season had a look very much like the film's, this one takes changes visually. The film stock evokes the '70s, there are cool split screens to tie the action together, and even shifts in narrator and style that are very much in line with what the Coen Bros. have been known to do. There's even the intimation that these "true crime" stories might go back to the 19th Century. Is the show crazy enough to do that some day? I want it to go on long enough for it to try."

Best TV Episode of 2016 - The runners up are...
5. The Abominable Bride (Sherlock)
4. Mijo (Better Call Saul S1)
3. The Return of Doctor Mysterio (Doctor Who)
2. Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster (X-Files S10)
...and the Siskoid goes to: Subway/Pamela (Louie S2) - Louis C.K.'s unglamorous take on the stand-up comic sitcom continued to intrigue me with Louie Season 2, and I coined the term "observational drama" to describe it. The show's secret MVP is C.K.'s friend Pamela Adlon, who started contributing script material this season and is one heck of a character, and this episode puts their awkward friendship/non-romance into sharp relief in a way that really made me connect with both. The Subway half is darker (or darker still), and perfectly encapsulates what makes this show special and interesting. I'm a bit surprised I went for a comedy episode in a category otherwise overrun with genre pieces, but I'm not sure "comedy" quite covers it.

Stupidest Move in the Geekaverse 2015 - The runners up are...
5. CNN for its Captain Marvel gaffe
4. Rob Liefeld (what? again?!) for his less than gracious NY Times interview in the wake of Deadpool's movie success
3. The petition to close down Rotten Tomatoes
2. Zack Snyder (what? again?!) nor for Batman v Superman so much as for everything he's ever said about the movie in the media
...the Siskoid goes to: Paramount's handling of Star Trek's 50th Anniversary - This is one is near and dear to my heart. I can't help but be annoyed at the way this landmark happened with this little fanfare, especially when I compare it to Doctor Who's 50th just three years ago. Yes, a movie came out, and I really liked it, but it was badly marketed. There were commemorative stamps as if people still widely used snail mail. There's a new show in development... IN DEVELOPMENT?! Discovery should have launched IN 2016! Instead it's ever later in 2017, having missed the mark completely. They let the franchise kind of peter out, hoping for big returns on movie investments, and the underperformance in that arena apparently deflated any willingness to do something truly special this year. Given how life-changing the show has been for so many people, it's a crying shame. It's the year's biggest missed opportunity, a choice more than a mistake, and so, its stupidest move.

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


snell said...

"Paramount's handling of Star Trek's 50th Anniversary"

As part of the Viacom split up, the Star Trek rights were split, too. Paramount has the movie franchise, and the now-separate CBS has the TV rights. So it was two different entities mishandling their respective parts of the anniversary. (And from Paramount's view, it wasn't the 50th anniversary of their chunk of the franchise--although there's no reason they couldn't have used the event better for marketing purposes)

Not that I'm as down the lack of anniversary synchronizing as some--really, it's just an arbitrary date, and I'll take Star Trek whether it's in year 49 or 51 0r 52.3. With every year seeming to be a special anniversary year for several genre franchises, I sometimes fear pop culture is entering a phase where some things get celebrated only during special anniversaries, and ignored the other 9 years of the cycle.

Shotgun Godin said...

Damn... Now I'm even more sad that family gatherings forced me to wait until 2017 to see Moana and La La Land. Unacceptable!!!

Siskoid said...

Snell: Thanks for the corporate background; explains at least some of it. And I agree you can't just celebrate the one year and it's forgotten, but it makes a nice jumping on point. Doctor Who's 50th, I had all the Normies coming up to me and asking me questions and wanting to get in on this thing they kept hearing about. With Trek's, not so much. I think fans carried the banner a lot more than the property holders did. I mean, I did my part. I wrote a piece in a book that's just come out and launched a podcast about the show. But neither of those are going to get Norm and Norma excited about Star Trek.

Shotgun: I guess you'll have to put them in your list next year! (French readers should follow SG's linked name for her own Bests of the year.) When I put these things together, I sometimes feel like I should hand in my geek card. A Disney cartoon and a musical, but not Star Trek Beyond?! Deadpool? Civil War?! Not even Arrival?!

Toby'c said...

Favourite movies: Finding Dory, Zootopia, Star Trek Beyond, Moana, Deadpool, Kubo and the Two Strings and Rogue One. A few highlights from past years were Room, Blue is the Warmest Color and Atop the Fourth Wall: The Movie

This was mostly a year of starting books and then putting them down for months. Star of Deltora was looking good (quite different in tone to Deltora Quest, one of my childhood favourites), I read a few volumes of Ms Marvel and I made some progress on the early Pokémon manga.

TV highlights: Game of Thrones season 6 and Fargo season 2 were both great, I'm enjoying Jessica Jones so far, I finally caught up to the Kalos saga of Pokémon, I'm loving watching the 90s Sailor Moon on DVD (in Japanese and in the new dub), and my favourite local comedy or drama shows were consistently pretty good. But my favourite TV discovery of the year is a French superhero show called Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Chat Noir (AKA Miraculous Ladybug). In short, two teenage superheroes protect Paris from a butterfly-themed villain who brainwashes people who've been having a bad day and turns them into supervillains. It's kinda formulaic, but the heroes are just so likeable and so fun to watch interacting with each other, in and out of costume, and there are some promising changes coming in season 2.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea Moncton was so ... dichotomous. You learn something new every day. I've been meaning to check out Mieville's stuff, but I'm way behind in my reading ... hell, I just got around to Stephenson's Snow Crash about a month ago :)

As you said, your choices were a bit lacking in the geek department, but you've got plenty of cred built up so I don't think you need to worry; you did mention Jessica Jones, which was a great show. I find it interesting that Shotgun had Doc Strange on her list and you didn't, but maybe that's down to her admitted Cumberbatch bias.

Personally, I thought Supergirl's been going in the right direction (so far) this season, and Flash is pretty good too. But I don't consume nearly as much pop culture as you, so I don't have much to recommend!

Mike W.

Siskoid said...

The only officially bilingual city its size in the only officially bilingual province...

I liked Doc Strange fine, but I watch so many films that it's hard for genre flicks to float to the top 5. Top 10 maybe, but genre formula often keeps those movies from truly surprising me.

Nothing against Flash or Supergirl... I just haven't watched an episode of either this year except for the Invasion stuff. I'm way behind on most shows. Next year, watch for lots of shows actually aired in 2016 to get some love.


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