2016. I think it’s safe to say that it’s a year most people aren’t sorry to say goodbye to. 2016 took Prince from Minnesota, Snape from Hogwarts, and Princess Leia from a galaxy far, far, away. 2016 was the year of Zika, Brexit, the Syrian refugee crisis, and He Who Must Not Be Named. On a personal note, 2016 was the year that brought me my daughter, and for that I am thankful. In a year where an escape from reality was all too needed, I am also thankful for another year that had more to love than to hate in popular culture. That being said, it wasn’t all roses. There were still enough entertainment flops too large to simply go un-ridiculed. And for that, dear readers, you have us. That’s right, folks, I said “us.” Rejoice, because once again my bestie Brooklyn is here to impress with her razor sharp wit and scathing snark. Our entries may be a bit laissez faire this year (read: we’ll write when we bloody well can), but I promise our reviews of the best and worst of 2016 will be worth waiting for. So, better late than never, I bring you Over/Underrated 2016.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Warning: Contains mild spoilers
Let me start by saying that nobody, and I mean nobody, was more excited about the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie than I was. As an fervent fan of the Harry Potter franchise, I was not at all mad about the idea of a spin-off franchise. With a screenplay by Jo herself, Eddie Redmayne leading a talented cast, and my desperate Harry Potter withdrawal, I was having a real Joey Tribbiani “What’s not to like?” moment.
Still, when I look at the movie objectively rather than as a blind-with-loyalty fan, Fantastic Beasts just doesn’t hold up cinematically. Yes, it was visually stunning. Yes, the Niffler was cute af. And yes, that Bowtruckle was the most adorbs tree-like-creature onscreen since Baby Groot. All this was fine, the acting was fine, and the overall story was, well, slightly-less-than-fine. Therein lies the problem.
While each Harry Potter book/film can stand alone as an entertaining story, there is a clear overarching storyline at the forefront of each installment that ties them all together. Fantastic Beasts tells us from the opening newspaper sequence that anti-Wizard movements are gaining traction and Grindelwald is at large, but at the end of the film Newt’s role in regards to anti-Wizardry or Grindelwald’s plans is still a giant question mark.
It’s obvious that the makers of Fantastic Beasts were banking hard core on movie-goers being satisfied with a seemingly endless menagerie of magical creatures being paraded on screen. If you happen to be one of those people that doesn’t find animals, real or magical, to be either cute or entertaining (like a certain friend of mine), then Fantastic Beasts doesn’t really have a cinematic leg to stand on.
What makes this so disappointing is that the possibilities for the Fantastic Beasts franchise were literally endless. Moving the context of the wizarding world from the U.K. to the U.S. opened countless creative doors for the Fantastic Beasts team. Sadly, there was nothing more than a magical creature behind each one. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a disappointingly lackluster start to what had the potential to be a fantastic (see what I did there?) reincarnation of a truly magical (oops, I did it it again) world.
I was talking recently with a friend of mine about the show Insecure. This is a friend whom I find generally more informed than I in regards to all things political and the current state of our country. I’m going to say the same thing here that I said to her: “Even though I am not a black woman, and I cannot begin to comprehend what it means to be a black woman in today’s society, I like Insecure because I find relatable.”
Not that a show has to be relatable to be likeable. It doesn’t. However, I’m at a time in my life where a lot of programming is supposedly about my life. Young(ish) professional(ish) woman making her way in the world. Ups and downs with friends and family members. Mishaps in love and dating. Pressure to get married. Pressure to have a family. We’ve ALL seen that show. I’m Hannah Horvath without the neuroses. I’m Carrie Bradshaw without the Manolos (well…if you want to get technical, I am a Miranda, but I digress…). So, it helps if when I look at the characters, I see myself instead of some caricature-ized version of myself that Lena Dunham thinks I am.
When I look at the girls on Girls, I don’t see myself. Not even close. When I watch SATC, I see what I would be if I had unrealistic budget constraints. But when I watch Insecure, I see myself. I see my relationships. I see my struggles.
The title literally says it all. Who can honestly say that they have never felt insecure?
Anyone who has ever set up an online dating profile can relate to Molly’s seemingly endless string of dates that are complete and total duds, myself included, but that’s an entirely different post.
Anyone who has ever said something about someone and instantly regretted it can relate to Issa when she sings about Molly’s broken…well…you know…
Issa Rae created a show that elevated modern black female narratives on television. Her show revolves around a strong female friendship. Her show casts a more sympathetic light on the oft vilified unemployed black man. And she did it in eight emotional, funny episodes.
Insecure seems to be the little engine that flew under the radar on HBO this year. Up against heavy hitters like Westworld, it’s understandable that there wasn’t a ton of buzz about the show, but it got picked up for a second season, nonetheless.
Insecure has proven itself to be a worthy successor of shows like Living Single, and hints at being capable of delivering characters and stories reminiscent of HBO’s glory days.