Best Of The Year Archive

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Words of Resistance

I remember listening to Run The Jewels 2. I had just graduated, gotten my work permit and I was desperately looking for anything to keep paying rent since my parents […]

I remember listening to Run The Jewels 2. I had just graduated, gotten my work permit and I was desperately looking for anything to keep paying rent since my parents had just told me they couldn’t afford to help me. On the day the album was dropped (two weeks before the release date!), I had just finished my second job interview at a door-to-door salesman job so naturally I was utterly pissed, especially because they lied about compensation before the second interview.

RTJ2 came during some troubled fucking times. Not just for me, but for almost everyone I know. As Ferguson was blowing up, Ebola was spreading and Russia was invading Crimea, the world felt like it was inching closer to a reckoning. Events like those seemed muted and faded, the sort of footnotes that you joke about with your friends in a decade, but it’s not hard to think of them as build up to the brutality that defined 2016, with Russia’s confidence growing to the point it was willing to influence an American election (to which degree, we’ll probably never know), Zika ravaging through third world countries and police departments across the American continent gearing up for a war against those who dared speak truth to power.

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“How much of my life has happened inside of a car?”

“How much of my life has happened inside of a car?” Frank Ocean dropped that question on his zine, “Boys Don’t Cry”. If anybody else had asked it, I’d dismiss […]

“How much of my life has happened inside of a car?”

Frank Ocean dropped that question on his zine, “Boys Don’t Cry”. If anybody else had asked it, I’d dismiss it. But from Frank, an artist who often finds meaning in cars as refuge, as freedom, as vestiges from lives past, it was a perfectly valid question trying to negotiate one of his most recurrent motifs with its cultural perception as a “straight boy fantasy”, something that Frank, as a bisexual man, finds anathema.

Frank Ocean’s work is important to me. Hip hop is an environment that’s often hostile to queers like myself. Yes, there are rappers who are LGBTQ (and LGBTQ friendly) but Frank’s hangups about relationships, his desire for isolation and to live life in his own terms are things that I struggle with everyday. To me queerness is not in Pride parades and raising the LGBT flag. Queerness is in not playing by the rules, in not existing in the mazes and the labyrinths. To be free and to be yourself, discovering love in the world, regardless of how it’s packaged and giving it back.

I couldn’t help but stop and think of that as I was watching San Junipero, Black Mirror’s best episode from its latest season. In it, Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw play a lesbian couple (Yorkie and Kelly, respectively) in the 80s who find each other while vacationing in San Junipero, an idyllic California vacation spot. Their romance is relatively straightforward (Girl meets Girl, Girl loses Girl, Girl regains Girl) but it’s heartfelt and it works because it’s not afraid of leaning on the fact that these kids are queer and they’re fighting for happiness in a world where being queer has mostly meant missed chances and lives unlived.

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Heavyweight Champions of 2014: Interstellar

Space exploration is probably one of the most fascinating human concerns in our times, since it says so much about the idealized human spirit that we constantly chase as a […]

Space exploration is probably one of the most fascinating human concerns in our times, since it says so much about the idealized human spirit that we constantly chase as a society. We’re Survivors, We’re Craftsmen, We’re Heroes, bound not to this Earth but to this universe, and whose dreams are equal to our reach as well as our thirst for knowledge. Or some other philosophical wax.

I have personally always found it fascinating because it’s easy to link it up to another narrative that involves the re-examination of our collective and individual identities: the immigrant story. Much like in immigrant stories, the travelers are people who are searching for better lives and a place where they can finally let go of the emotional baggage that has haunted them in their previous lives, either due to their culture or due to their mistakes (sometimes and most often, both) It is in space, then, that most sci-fi storytellers decide to test and examine how much we’re bound to these concepts of countries, borders, cultures and “home”. And most importantly, the ones that compel me go a long way towards liberating or stripping these characters of these in order to reach a raw, naked emotional truth.

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Black Widow steals Marvel’s best #1 of the year

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2014 was a good year for Marvel’s women – certainly betters than ‘13.  Their flagship female-led title, Captain Marvel, was relaunched to consistently good reviews; Ms. Marvel was an instant critical and commercial darling, X-Men continued despite Brian Wood’s necessary departure and will soon be getting a new writer from Ms. Marvel’s G. Willow Wilson, and Storm, Elekrtra, Spider-Woman, and She-Hulk received titles of their own as well.  Not all of those titles are good, and some may be cancelled, but they were still there.

Black Widow was particularly notable as it was considered long overdue.  Natasha Romanov should have gotten her newest solo title two years ago when she played a crucial and beloved role in the third-highest-grossing movie of all time. Why it took so long, I don’t know.  But when it dropped, Black Widow #1 was outstanding.  Below, now edited, were my thoughts when I first read it in January, and they hold up twelve months later.

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Heavy Weight Champions of 2014: Gone Girl

David Fincher is probably Hollywood’s most high-brow mercenary. A new Fincher movie is exciting because regardless of the script-work, we’re always going to get some highly beautiful aesthetic work on […]

David Fincher is probably Hollywood’s most high-brow mercenary. A new Fincher movie is exciting because regardless of the script-work, we’re always going to get some highly beautiful aesthetic work on all fronts. Unfortunately, Fincher’s last two projects before Gone Girl were disappointing because of the material he chose. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network are succesful movies, but they felt weak and overeliant on Fincher’s aesthetic work to carry out stories that most of the time felt generic and whenever they veered out of generic territory, they went into outright insulting and bizarre territory. This is especially jarring in the light of the fact that Zodiac proved to be a highlight in Fincher’s career.

So, when Gone Girl was released, I was apprehensive. On the one hand, this was another adaptation, not unlike Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and I had serious issues with the book in terms of its characterization of its two main leads, which by the end of the book felt less like people and more like plot devices in constant contradiction. On the other hand, Gillian Flynn’s structure really fit the flights of narrative fancy that distinguished Fight Club and Se7en from the pack. And it’s important to remember that Fight Club was also a barely-above average book before Fincher turned it into a turn-of-the-millenium grenade of a cult film.

And then we had the final product. Gone Girl is probably the strongest Fincher release in a career filled with modern thriller classics and it’s all due to the fact that when it comes to Gillian Flynn’s script, Fincher understands that while her characters could be strong and compelling in the page, they do not come across as humans unless someone imbues them with life. Cue Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, taking both roles and turning them from simulacra into living, breathing individuals. Pike, in particular, is a complete stand-out as Amy Dunne, switching from kind and sweet to conniving and menacing in the blink of an eye, she’s the ultimate femme fatale, taking her cue from the Lauren Bacalls and Veronica Lakes of old Hollywood and then ultimately giving them the chance to redeem themselves outside of the narcissist and misogynist narratives that defined them and blossom as the forces of nature they were meant to be.

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Birdman, (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Superhero Hate)

I walked into Birdman accidentally and apprehensive. I had planned on seeing Whiplash but there’s only one theater playing it and because of traffic, my friend didn’t make it in […]

I walked into Birdman accidentally and apprehensive. I had planned on seeing Whiplash but there’s only one theater playing it and because of traffic, my friend didn’t make it in time. In order to save the night, we decided to watch another movie. It was a choice between Birdman and something I don’t remember. The reason I was worried I was wasting my time and money was Scott Tobias’ review for the Dissolve, which makes a pretty comprehensive case against the movie and my own personal conflicted feelings about the Marvel and DC empire.

See, I love superhero stories. They’re powerful, meaningful operatic depictions of humanity’s best virtues put on the microscope so that they can be observed at their grandest and yet experienced at their most nuanced. This could be said of all genre fiction, but DC and Marvel’s spin is filled with an idealism and a humanism unparalleled in my experience consuming all sorts of media. I always point to the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie that ends literally with five friends holding hands to vanquish the antagonist…  As many problems as that movie has, the good moments feel so sincere that I could not look away.

But then there’s the business side of things, Marvel’s current film universe has stuck to a very specific formula and tone. While the films have been wildly varied in milieu, everything about them feels factory made. Taken on an individual basis and when we had few releases, this was tolerable because the outings were still fun. But by the time we reached a mediocre Thor 2 and a flawed Guardians, it was quite easy for me to jump off the bandwagon (and occasionally laugh whenever the train went off the rails) while mourning the death of my love for the genre.

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