#16s of 2016 + Tweets, Footballers & Exotic Bet Types (Part 1)
#15s of 2016 + Journalism (Part 2)
#14s of 2016 + Gigs (Part 3)
#13s of 2016 + Food (Part 4)
#12s of 2016 + Words (Part 5)
#11s of 2016 + Memes & Emoji (Part 6)
#10s of 2016 + People (Part 7)
Прощай 2016 (almost)…
Halfway there! Whoo-hoo! Thank you dear reader for making it this far! I can’t believe I’ve kept this up for eight instalments! Today we look at the #9 in Films, TV, Albums and Books, plus there will be a riff on the year in trivia and a bumper look back at the Best Association Football Moments of 2016.
Some intercalated info: yesterday I took a bus and a train to Newtown to see Edge of Seventeen. It’s quite rare you see a teen sex comedy romp from the perspective of a female lead and it was very good. Hailee Steinfeld is such a refreshing face on the A-List. So much more interesting than the personality vacuum that is Cara Delevingne. Not just because of nominative determinism, I’ve decided to fold Edge of Seventeen into the films of 2017, and I have started a new page on this here blog collecting my trademark Single-Tweet Reviews of prenominate Films of 2017. Calendar year effort wise, I have now seen 74 films at the pictures in 2016. My psychologist says I am just not fulfilled enough in life and the attendant boredom is manifesting itself in near unbearable anxiety. She recommends I join a chess club. In other inserted news, Josh Thomas’ ABC sitcom Please Like Me is available on your streaming machine and it is certifiably bingeworthy. There was a time when I could stay up all night watching 10 episodes of Dexter’s first season and then go to work (and that is obviously a true story) but now I find watching TV for anything more than, say, 90 minutes makes me restless. Josh Thomas deserves thanks, therefore, for devising a televisual experience that kept me up to 1am snacking on cashews and pineapple, and here it is…
#9 in Films…
The latest chapter in the John Le Carré Le Renaissance was the intellectual spy thriller Our Kind Of Traitor. Set across Bondian locales stretching from Morocco to London to the French Alps, Our Kind Of Traitor twists the tale of a mild mannered poetry professor recruited by a Russian gangster to help him go straight and then subsequently recruited by British intelligence to nail his (ie the gangster) nefarious employer. I thoroughly enjoyed the gripping scenes of intrigue and deception filmed in a corporate hospitality suite during a real life Arsenal Champions League match at the Emirates (which is known as Arsenal Stadium for such European ties), and the red and white of the Gunners’ playing strip provided a noteworthy mirror to the blood seeping through snow, which tends to happen quite a bit in Russian mafia type films. Another riveting set piece involves indoor tennis, which always seems very sweaty.
There is a whole web of complicated gossamer to be unraveled by the viewer and, unlike in the overrated Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy adaptation that simply left me grunting huh? at the explanatory revelation, director Susanna White neatly ties the myriad strains together in the end. That’s not to say the audience isn’t made to do its own thinking — the perspicacity excellence bounces back and forth between screen and audience to elicit a fulsome cinemagoing experience — but that the complexity of the plot isn’t needlessly obscure, like in the tedious Mulholland Dr or the recent James Bond pics that, while enjoyable, have required enormous exposition dumps 3/4 in to explain everything that has just happened.
One thing I liked about Our Kind Of Traitor is that despite the necessary gunshots and helicopter crashes that are mandatory in action/espionage thrillers, this is still an essentially quiet film. Character speak in hushed tones and Damien Lewis particularly imbues his dedicated-to-the-point-of-obsessed MI6 operative character with a clipped and reserved gestalt that conveys substantially more information about his traits, motivations and failings than rabid shouting ever could. He steals several scenes merely by whispering a carefully considered remark at a rival operative. I enjoyed the scenes at his character’s house because the interior was so tastefully decorated with prêt-à-jouer chess sets, high-end cooking appliances and objets d’art in muted colour schemes.
(I am writing this while sitting on my red Ikea sofa-bed (it’s in L-shaped sofa configuration) while listening to Hit Machine 20 on my Sonos.)
#9 in TV…
One thing a lot of people don’t realise about Atlanta, at least not from the gushing praise I’ve read as it sits atop most/all Best TV lists in 2016 is that it’s magical reality. At the very least, it’s fantastical or supernatural. There is certainly a fissure of absurdity that pulses through Donald Glover’s outré creation. At the very, very least, Atlanta is set in a parallel universe, and the not ridiculous long since shark jumped Atlanta from The Walking Dead: this other Atlanta runs in Sliding Doors-esque perpetuity to the actual Atlanta. What makes it all the more surreal is that Donald Glover’s character is not some thinly veiled Childish Gambino protorapper but simply a childish bambino: he’s dropped out of an Ivy League college and returned home to exist slightly above the level of wantaway boyfriend and deadbeat dad, smoking pot and flailing at his nascent management career to the inchoate rapper Paper Boi. Their adventures include playing basketball with a publicly urinating black Justin Bieber, dodging an invisible car, getting the run around in a labyrinthine nightclub, seemingly escaping a murder rap caught on CCTV and offending the transracial community on fictional TV talk show. In perhaps the single best scene of TV this year, the above pictured triumvirate’s third member, Paper Boi’s besty Darius takes an outline of a dog to a shooting range, making an hilarious and incisively cogent point about the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Glover is on record saying that Atlanta is not a comedy-in-theory; it is meant to be funny. Well done to the great man for not hiding behind newfangled convention and double well done for getting the job done.
(One of the songs being generated by the Hit Machine 20 is Too Close by Next. This song features the lyric “All the slow songs you requested, you’re dancing like you’re naked, oh, it’s almost like we’re sexing”. It is a little known fact about me that using ‘sex’ as a verb is one of my triggers.)
Friend Jèrömę requested my Top 10 Association Football Moments of 2016. I put the call out on social media and various instant messaging apps — I’m on several thousand — and received a brilliant response, both in terms of volume and value. Thanx to all the heroes I met along the way!
Alexis is a Sydney FC, Lazio and Arsenal fan and he nominated Hal Robson-Kanu’s goal for Wales v Belgium at Euro2016, Dmitri Payet’s free kick for West Ham v Crystal Palace, Xherdan Shaqiri’s goal for Switzerland v Poland at Euro2016 — he’s not alone on this one:
— Jamie Vardy’s goal for Leicester City v Liverpool and he described Mesut Özil’s goal for Arsenal v Ludogorets (which is an anagram of good result) as “wasn’t too shabby”. One of my faves too Alexis! “Diego Perotti for Roma as well, plus Timmy Cahill’s wondergoal against Victory; who could forget! Also Neymar’s free kick in the Olympic final is up there, with the Maracanã going berko! Over and out.” Thanks Alexis!
Ben is a Bristol City Gas Rovers Pirates fan, Sydney FC member and good friend who I admire and respect. He nominated Mo Diame’s goal for the Hull Tigers v Sheffield Owls. “The most valuable goal in football. Championship Playoff Final won by a single goal: Diame with a wonder strike.”
The self-same Jērømë who follows Red Bull Nasty Leeds United and Sydney FC and kinda Arsenal as well and requested this feature isolated “Sydney FC thumping WSW in front of an A-League record crowd” saying it “has to be up there”. Plus 1 Mr Diacriticals! He’s also pleased to have Garry Monk pouring the energy drinks at the Elan Rodeo nightclub.
Daniel is a handy midfield fulcrum who can fill in at centre-half or even go up to try and save a match with a scrappy late goal. He follows Manchester United, whichever team Jose Mourinho is managing (convenient), whichever team Jürgen Klopp is managing (somewhat less convenient) and Western Sydney Wanderers (extremely inconvenient for people like me who don’t travel west of Sydney Uni). His quinella is Iceland v England at Euro2016, which is best enjoyed thru the vector of Steve McLaren, and Western Sydney Wanderers 5-4 Brisbane Roar in the A-League semifinal (a match both Daniel and I attended). Cheers Daniel for this great contribution.
Paul is a scholar and a gentleman who supports the Socceroos and Steve Waugh’s interrupted association football career. He loved everything about Leicester City outfoxing the rest to be named the best. I’m not sure what he thinks about their 4-4-2 formation. He also appreciates being constantly reminded of when Brazil pretended Neymar had died and then went on to lose 7-1 in a World Cup semifinal.
Death is on Twitter @TheReaper76 and s/he describes him/herself as “# Destructor of lives. Eater of icecreams. Drinker of beer. Walker of dogs. Player of records. Follower of Arsenal” and s/he suggested:
I watched that destruction in Amsterdam, on an actual TV instead of on Optus at a pleasant hour in the afternoon instead of at 3am and I can testify it was one of the better football moments of 2016.
Some others I enjoyed include Portugal winning Euro2016; everything about Antoine Griezmann; Zaza’s ‘penalty’ for Italy v Germany; Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland overperforming and England, well, performing.
Everyone seemed to exact maximum pleasure for Iceland’s exploits in France, me included, and not just for the victory over England or the clapping thing they did. I also like how they fielded a team comprised completely of players with surnames ending in —son.
Obvs as an Arsenal fan it was irritating to be a fan of the club that came second to Leicester City but that success genuinely restored my faith in sporting humanity. The pain was soothed enormously by Arsenal securing St Totteringham’s Day at the last. Thinking about the lean-back, ease-of-watching enjoyment of that last night of watching the Premier League on Fox Sports makes me want to put my fist through the window of the nearest Optus store. I mean we knew it would be bad, but this bad?
The Socceroos had a distinctly mediocre end to what promised to be a stellar opening half of their 2-year 2018 World Cup qualification campaign. After breezing through the opening group, we’ve become mired in a real battle for instant progression and ties away in the land of Thais do not fill me with confidence that we can start reserving our tickets to the Hermitage and developing a taste for potato dumplings and high-tar cigarettes. A marked improvement very quickly in the 2017 fixtures is essential for us to maintain our forward momentum.
Thanks to all for what has become, mercifully sans too much exertion on my behalf, an eclectic and authoritative wrap up of the Best Football Moments of 2016!
(That retrospective was penned while sitting at SoCal in Neutral Bay imbibing a Pacifico, masticating some corn chips and tackling the world’s hardest crossword.)
You know what they say: they only thing better than winning trivia by yourself is having friends.
The second special feature today is my Year in Trivia. Time is awasting and this was always going to be very mucidly self-indulgent, add to that the unexpected length and (hopefully) entertaining riff on fitba and I’m hoping I can sorta phone this section in. Essentially, I had a very good year in trivia. I won seven times in a row during the middle of the latter half of the year, and maintained a general air of intimidating awesomeness throughout. I was especially pleased with my ability to win several times while playing on my own, winning on what woulda been my beloved granma’s 93rd birthday and all the times I chased down the Quizraelites in the final round to storm to victory. I just really enjoy coming from behind to beat them.
Trivia Newtown-John is such a deeply unoriginal name that one night this year three separate teams called themselves that. I always choose a new name for my team each week — it takes on the same majestic significance that naming a Radiohead album takes — and mostly throughout 2016 my names were inspired by DFW works because I am insipid and derivative.
One thing I would like to make clear is that while it is true that I have a very deep general knowledge, strong osmosis skills, a fantastic memory and a broad range of interests; the partrution of which melds to gestate a phenomenally good if often insufferable and surprisingly timorous trivia player, my real skill is actually research. You play any trivia long enough and you should be able to wise up to the types of questions being asked, so much so that with sedulous perusal of the internet you too can be almost as good as me. I’m good because of some Ford-given gifts but I am excellent because I work so so hard to be the best trivia player I can be. I am like the Tiger Woods of trivia, except without all the fame, women, respect, money, good looks, physique and forgiveness.
Here are some trivia sheets that I am especially proud of — see if you can reverse engineer the questions — and you will have to forgive my sudoric arrogance:
And just to prove I’m only human…
#9 in Albums…
(Australia #6, US #4, UK #16)
Just how uncool can you get? Coupla white rappers, one of them can’t even grow a full head of hair and a guest spot by daywalker Ed Sheeran. Sure, Drizzy and Kanye and Chance and Childish all dominated headlines with their very modern takes on the rap slash hip hop genre but none delivered the sheer unbridled hook heavy melodic joy that was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s tight as a gas chamber sophomore effort.
13 Things I Love About This Unruly Mess I’ve Made
- Mack’s narrative rapping on Light Tunnels, which always leaves me delirious due to its coruscant reprise.
- Downtown is a multivalent modern pop-rap masterpiece that is every bit as beat-memorable and lyric witty as Thrift Shop.
- Silliness reigns on Brad Pitt’s Cousin. Thank Ford someone remembers that his rap game is meant to be fun!
- TBT the mosquito whining on Buckshot irritates me but not enough get me reaching for the double tap on my EarBuds.
- Growing Up is a fantastic piece of parent-to-child letter scribing set to music, with Ed’s soaring chorus a throwback to the golden age of rap-verse sung-chorus so popular in the late 90s and early 2000s. Most of Mack’s advice is sound, except for the ‘find God’ bit, so I like to focus on the ‘but beat the dogma’ corollary.
- Never a pair to shy away from the big issues, even if that creates a weird contrast with the bagatelles also explored, Kevin’s tale of prescription drug abuse is just as powerful as John Oliver’s exploration of the topic and one that does make you reconsider popping those Nurofen Plusses just because you have another tedious brainstorming meeting on the agenda.
- St Ides is one of the more descriptive and emotionally charged explorations of late adolescent alcohol abuse and its lasting redolence long after the cork has gone back in the bottle. “And when I lose perspective I need to go to a place where I lose reception” is a pathos-driven couplet that really hits me hard in the feels. Hidden away in this tale of overcoming the demon bottle are some interesting observations about encroaching urbanisation and how it and overpopulation tend to rent apart the finer things in the cities we love.
- Need To Know actually features Chance and it’s by far the best Chance song I know.
- Idris Elba pops up on Dance Off, another frivolous slice of life that showcases the lighter side of this biz.
- Anyone with precarious body image issues and a propensity to fall victim to food shaming should listen to Let’s Eat on repeat. The closest thing this LP has to a Same Love moment, Let’s Eat transmits the message that it’s okay to be who you are, regardless of how much space you take up. As I like to remind myself regularly: remember how happy you were before you found out carbs were worse than Hitler?
- Bolo Tie and The Train round off a record comprised mostly of 3.5-minute tracks curated with love to entertain and inform. We need to give thanks to M&RL for being conventional: they didn’t even feel the need to enslave us to a protracted multistage release itinerary involving several title changes, mercifully.
- That said, White Privilege II is a smidgen tonedeaf and at nigh on 9 minutes grotesquely overwrought.
- But even so, there are only 13 tracks! Praise be! You can actually listen to this record while going for a run or commuting or sitting contemplatively on your couch. Unlike all the other movie-length (and I don’t mean instantly forgettable rom-com, I’m talking Martin Scorsese director’s cut here) LPs released in 2016, you can actually get through Unruly Mess without having to block out half a day on your Google Calendar.
#9 in Books…
(and by Books I mean reading experiences of 2016, regardless of when the book was actually released)
My beloved Modest Mouse toured in March and I retain abiding memories of reading John Kennedy Toole’s crazy picaresque magnum opus A Confederacy Of Dunces at the Duke before launching my 1-man moshpit upon the Enmore Theatre. My Mum gave me this novel as an impromptu gift almost a decade ago but I only picked it up this year — not sure why the delay — but certainly not justifiable as this is a modern American classic that deserves readership, an attention made more tragic by Toole’s suicide due to lack of recognition based misery before ACOD had even gone into print.
Protagonist Ignatius J Reilly is a morbidly obese intellectual who knows everything about humanity except how to coexist with it. Via a series of hilarious random encounters and chance opportunities in and around his native New Orleans, his wheels of fortune spin up and down as frequently as his fabled valve opens and closes. His rabble rousing turn as a de facto union leader at a sweatshop reaches its zenith when he sends the most uproariously funny letter to a supplier, addressing it to the “mongoloid” businessman he is charged with interacting with. Then there is the off-the-wall crazy drag party Ignatius reluctantly cavorts in, all the while fuming about his long lost loves: the physical Myrna “The Minx” Minkoff from his undergrad days and the metaphysical respect of his family, friends and peers. JKT’s sparse, Hemingwayesque journalistic style doesn’t produce a superfluous word, phrase or expression — he is/was my antithesis — and while that adds up to never getting a break from the unfolding action, the quality of his prose means you never yearn for one either, except if your fave band is about to hit the stage…