2015: A Year in Geek, from Rick and Morty to The Force Awakens
Rick and Morty
In just over a week, 2015 will come to a close. That means it's time for that most joyous of traditions — the year-end list! Everywhere you turn, lists of the best, the worst, the most and the least are springing up, informing you about all the cool shit that you missed or, more likely, giving you validation for the things you agree with and rage for the things you disagree with. Far be it from me to miss out on that fun! My 2015 was full of geeky joys, and these are some of my favorites.
Yes, that's right — favorites. I don't know what the best movies, games and moments of the year were, because I didn't try all of them. I sampled but a small portion of what's out there, and it would be as dumb as a bag of hammers to claim that the cream of my personal crop represents some sort of authoritative "best of geek." That said, everything on here is awesome, and you should check it out regardless of its year of origin or whether it's "the best." Okay, enough disclaimers. On to the list!
TV of the Year: Rick and Morty
I play cards with local entrepreneur and cannabis critic Jake Browne about once a month, and for most of this year's months he badgered me to watch Rick and Morty. Month after month, I offered excuses, mostly time-related, for why I couldn't. Then, after a night of cards and beer and cannabis, I found myself a bit too tipsy to drive home right away, and he used the opportunity — me sitting on his couch drinking water and waiting to sober up — to play an episode. That's all it took. I was hooked, and kicking myself for waiting so long. This is something approaching the platonic ideal of a TV show for me, with its drunken mad scientist and his nebbishy grandson gallivanting around the alternate dimensions of a multiverse so absurd and chaotic it almost defies description. Add in the bleakest existential humor you can imagine and a curious adherence to continuity that belies the show's seemingly haphazard stoner aesthetic, and you have a genuinely fantastic show. The only thing I don't like about it — hate wouldn't be too strong a word — is that I blew through both existing seasons in about two weeks, and now I have to wait a year or more for season three.
Unexpected Pleasant Surprise of the Year: Mystery Science Theater 3000 Returns
I've made no secret of my deep and abiding love of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its many offshoots over the years, so when I heard that original series creator Joel Hodgson was attempting to bring the show back, I was pretty pleased. After one of the most successful Kickstarters ever, we'll be getting a minimum of thirteen new episodes of the show, with more to come if some savvy network, cable or streaming service executive picks up what all those fervent fans were putting down (i.e. we really like this show and will do almost anything to have more of it). With its all-new cast and in the face of a fair bit of competition, who knows if it will succeed, much less live up to the original. No matter what, though, we all get to return to the Satellite of Love for a little while, and that made for a wonderful early Christmas gift for me and tens of thousands of my fellow MSTies.
Bill Corbett (left) and his fellow RiffTraxers
Interview of the Year: Bill Corbett from RiffTrax/ Greg Sestero from The Room (tie)
The task of keeping two toddlers alive and running my various business ventures severely cut into my time to plan and execute interviews with cool geeks doing cool stuff, but I managed a handful of great ones, including two I've wanted for a long time. My interview with Bill Corbett, formerly of Mystery Science Theater 3000, currently of RiffTrax, was one of my favorites of the year, completing a set of sorts for that show (I've interviewed Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and now Corbett at various points, who were the show's stars in its latter-day run). My other favorite interview was with Greg Sestero, the co-star of my all-time favorite so-bad-it's good movie, The Room. Both men were utterly relatable, down to earth and had a lot of insight into some of the weird paths we take to find success in its myriad forms. Oh, and both interviews were for The Room-related events, too — RiffTrax tackled the disasterpiece of a film in a live riff, while Sestero was in town promoting his fantastic memoir The Disaster Artist, about his relationship with Tommy Wiseau and how the film got made.
Movie of the Year: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
It wasn't perfect and by the time I saw it the hype was getting pretty annoying, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens exceeded my expectations and was a lot of fun. I'd rank it as the third best Star Wars movie, after Empire and the original film, which could be seen as damnation by faint praise (the drop off from there is steep) but I mean that in the best possible way. This one has me excited for the next movie in a "can't wait to see where this goes" way rather than the "oh god, hopefully the next one won't be this bad" way the of the prequels. I could nitpick — and there are plenty of well-reasoned and well-supported pieces out there doing so — but it was zippy, beautiful space opera (emphasis on the opera), heavy on the mythology and light on deep plot or character motivations. Tat's all Star Wars has ever been, and you know what? There's not a damn thing wrong with that.
Horror of the Year: The Black Tapes podcast
There were some pretty good horror offerings across all media this year, but my favorite is the creepy, addictive podcast The Black Tapes. The premise is that it's a NPR-style podcast about interesting jobs that quickly turns into a series about the paranormal, as one of the show's first subjects turns out to be a fascinating and enigmatic debunker of the supernatural with a collection of unsolved mysteries — the titular black tapes — begging to be explored. It comes off like The X-Files meets This American Life, with most episodes, especially early on, having a standalone plot that, as the story progresses, somehow all tie into something bigger, weirder and much scarier. It's one of the few horror fictions that's managed to get under my skin in recent years, perhaps in part due to the format, which by necessity leaves a lot of the heavy lifting to your imagination. For best results, listen to it on headphones, in the dark, with your eyes closed. If it doesn't get your skin crawling and your heart beating a little faster, you're made of sterner stuff than I am.
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