Is this year over yet? 2016 has seriously been the equivalent of the worst Monday ever and at this point we have gotten past hump day and are all asking if its Friday yet. Only Friday represents 2017, so it’s kind of poetic that New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday giving us a chance to go out, party, and leave this horrendous week aka year, behind us. While this year has undoubtedly brought on a ton of awfulness it has had its moments. Those faint glimmers of hope that may have been the only thing that helped many of us get through the previous months. So with that in mind combined with the fact that I review everything from movies to burlesque shows, I’ve decided to bring you my 2016 Top Ten Highlights or favorites or best of’s, whatever you want to call them. This is a list of shows, movies, and events that I may or may not have reviewed, but that stood out to me as good times (most of them anyways) because after all, ’tis the season to be jolly, right?
1. Favorite Movie of the Year that I DID NOT Review: Rogue One
While I did not have the honor of reviewing this flick, I did have the good fortune to see it early and by early I mean Thursday night. This movie was everything I hoped for and more. It made me realize that one of the reasons I love Star Wars is that women are treated as equals whose badassery is never written off because of their gender. The Star Wars universe creates a world where we see characters like Leia, Rey, and Jyn, not only be their own heroes but never have anyone be surprised by their abilities due to the fact that they are female. Maybe it’s the idea of the force flowing through everyone, maybe it’s because there are so many species gender seems like a trivial identifier. Whatever the reason, this is a saga that has consistently given us some of the baddest female characters this side of the galaxy. That being said, I am not blind to the issues of under representation of these femme fatales when it comes to marketing and merchandise and often these females are surrounded by an overwhelming number of strong male leads. However, damsels in distress they are not and even when they find themselves in precarious or dangerous situations, they aren’t the type of characters that are sitting around hoping to be rescued.
2. Favorite Movie of the Year that I DID Review: Collateral Beauty AND Man Down
Don’t hate me for being that person. Choosing my favorite movies is like asking a mom to pick her favorite kid. I love them all because they’re all special in their own way. When asked to pick my top ten favorite movies, I will cheat, every time. I pick Star Wars knowing I mean just about all of them. I pick The View Askewniverse because I don’t want to pick between Clerks or Clerks 2 or act like just because it was kind of hokey that I don’t love Jay and Silent Bob Strikes back. I pick Kill Bill because I mean volumes one and two. Yes friends, picking my favorite movie is hard for me so narrowing this down to just two is a good start for me!
It’s funny to me because these could not be any different from each other if they tried with two exceptions. First, they both saw their lead actors turn in tremendously emotional and believable performances. I even went as far as to say that Man Down should be nominated for an Oscar and I stand by that. You might argue that that statement alone should be what pushes that movie over the edge, taking my best movie title and keeping it to itself however, I cannot deny that Collateral Beauty struck a deeply, personal emotional chord within me.
The second commonality found between these films is that they both follow the life of a man who is dealing with personal tragedy. Both Smith and LaBeouf drive home powerful performances that audiences don’t usually expect from them. Smith is admittedly a bit more underrated than LaBeouf but that is more so due to his experience and longer length of his career. However, both started on trendy TV shows and have had to work hard to get audiences to see them as more than just Even Stevens and The Fresh Prince. If these movies don’t do that for you, I don’t know what will.
3. Most Underrated Movie of the Year: Wiener Dog
What a weird and wonderful movie. Yes it was dry and there were some slow moments but all its awkward, quirky parts totally make up for that. It’s a movie that I’ve recommended long after seeing it and I still recommend it, especially to fans of director Todd Solondz. Its four vignettes have literal cringe worthy moments that will bring you into the movie in a real way. Its dark humor and awkward moments are just the kind of thing I love in independent flicks and part of the reason it made my list.
4. Worst Movie of the Year: The Neon Demon
I really don’t know what it would take to get me to watch this movie again. I literally wanted to walk out when I went to see it, not because I something in it offended me but because it was just that bad. Still have no idea what the plot or actual story of this movie is, not sure if the people in it knew either. This was the movie that made me want to start doing video reviews. I f you know me personally, you know I can be loud, passionate, and animated. Those traits were flying high when it came to my description and review of this overrated 80’s commercial. Even that gives it too much credit because even weird 80’s commercials had some form of entertaining quality and at the very least you can look back at them now and laugh. I never want to look back at The Neon Demon, I’m still recovering from the haunting image burned into my brain from close ups of Elle Fanning’s face that went on far too long and made me want to turn away as if I had just witnessed a gore filled scene in a horror film. The Neon Demon uhhhhh…
5. Favorite Burlesque Show of the Year: G.I. Joe presented by The Bare and The Bold
I bet people thought I was going to go with the burlesque tribute to DC Comics, huh? Well friends, despite the fact that it was definitely one of the events I totally enjoyed the most for many different reasons, I selected the G.I. Joe themed show because not only did it hit me in my Saturday-morning-80’s cartoon-kid heart, but it inspired me. Back when I was still playing roller derby in Philadelphia, I produced, directed, choreographed and hosted 2 amateur burlesque shows as fundraisers for my league. It was a lot of hard work and stress but the show was a ton of fun and everybody had such a blast doing them that even now, I am asked to revisit the idea and put together another show. Up until that night, it was something I didn’t really give a second thought too. However, that night an idea came to me that even now I won’t say out loud in fear that one of Philly’s amazing professional burlesque troupes will pounce on the idea and take it to levels that me and my goofy friends could only hope for. G.I. Joe burlesque was every bit of fun you would expect form a show themed around a classic 1980’s cartoon.
6. Favorite Male and Female Burlesque Performers of the Year: Liberty Rose and Sharp Robert
Liberty Rose continues to epitomize classic burlesque. She puts the tease in strip tease and knows that showcasing every line and curve of the body is one of the most alluring parts of this art form. Her routines are consistently the highlight of any show she is in as she adds just the right touch of vintage style mixed with a modern edginess that makes her a sheer delight to watch. Making sure you know that all the sexy stripping and teasing is not reserved just for the feisty females of this city, Robert Sharp has quickly become one of the hardest working members of the Philadelphia burlesque community. Delivering consistently unique, campy, and fierce routines, Sharp stepped his game up this year and took on the role of producer for The Bare and the Bold’s G.I. Joe show. His passion for the art form clearly shines through and his confidence and abilities continue to grow. He is currently working on the Thundercats themed show scheduled for January, a performance I absolutely cannot wait for!
7. Favorite Geek Type Event that I DID Review: Superheroes That Are Super
Superheroes That Are Super was a live reading of silver age Batman comics. Just take a moment and read that again. Now, tell me if it’s possible to fit any more awesome into one sentence. I don’t think you can. However, you can actually put more awesome into that show when I tell you that we were treated to an intermission performance of a Joss Whedon themed parody of the Billy Joel Classic, “We Didn’t Start The Fire.” This was hands down one of the best shows I attended all year. I look forward to more shows like this in the future.
8. Favorite Geek Type Event that I DID NOT Review: Bob’s Burgers Live!
The only way to make this amazingly funny show better is to have some of its best episodes acted out live by one of Philly’s favorite comedy troupes, Creatures of the Night. So far I’ve been lucky enough to see “Sheesh! Cab, Bob” and “An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal,” the episode with one of Linda Belcher’s most famous songs, both performed in the upstairs backroom of Tattooed Mom’s. The shows are free but with limited space so you are encouraged to reserve seats early as they always fill up to capacity. The cast is great, the guy that I saw play Bob, Chase Byrd, does a spot on impression of the voice and the rest of the cast, though it’s been different at the performances I could catch, is still great. The shows last about 30-40 minutes and they are hilarious, somewhat interactive, and a great way to spend a random Wednesday in Philly, especially when it’s at T-Moms with Bob’s Burger of the Day on special. It’s played a few other small venues in the city but if you have not had a chance to check this out yet, I highly suggest you get on it!
9. Favorite Live Musical Act of the Year: MC Chris with Mega Ran And MC Lars
I admittedly went into this not knowing much about Mega Ran and MC Lars and after leaving the show I went straight home and downloaded some of their music. To be honest, I don’t get to go to a ton of concerts, between roller derby, movie screenings, burlesque, and other fun geek life events, can you blame me? I actually missed the Weezer concert because I mixed up the dates but after spending a long, hot, summer day at the BB&T Center in Camden, I’m not too sad I missed it. The show I saw there was great, as was The Reverend Horton heat at the TLA, but none compared to the perfect combo of MC Chris and friends at Milkboy. They kept the crowd hype and engaged and put on a killer show. If you’re not familiar with Nerdcore I suggest you download some of these artists music, you will not be disappointed.
10. My Favorite Event of the Year: 2nd Annual “Star Wars: The Costumed Dance Party”
I did not have the pleasure of attending this last year however, this year it was “Rebel, Rebel” themed in honor of the late, great David Bowie, and there was no way I was going to miss the chance to do such an epic cosplay mash up. I attended this awesome event as Chewie Stardust and took home 2nd place in the costume contest however; this night was about more than just dressing up. This party was just what the members of fandom needed after such a hard year. Drinks, dancing, and music provided by DJ Foxx Boogie. This event was just a small taste of all the fun stuff Atomic City Comics has been bringing the Philly area over the years and as with most things in my life, I am late to the party but glad I finally made it! The plethora of events either hosted or sponsored by one of the few good stores left on South Street are just further proof that it’s a fabulous time to be a fangirl or boy. With a second shop planned for the Fishtown area, they are continuously striving to become a Philadelphia staple and create a fun and welcoming community for the geeks and freaks that inhabit our city.
**BONUS** Honorable Mention-Favorite Non Philly Event: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade
If you know me, you know I’m not a huge fan of our northern neighbor, New York City. It takes a lot to get me up there because I’m not a fan of the huge crowds and hours of my life traveling on subways or stuck in traffic in an Uber. Not that the Big Apple doesn’t have a lot to offer, but my first true love is Philly and like Goldilocks, this city is just right for me. However, a good derby friend from Austin came up for a visit and wanted to check out the Mermaid Parade. It’s something I’ve always been curious about so I conceded and boarded the bus to NYC. It was well worth the trip. Not only was the parade swarming with costumes that came in all varieties of maritime measure, I was also able to check out the Coney Island Freak Show, which was worth the trip alone. This is an annual event that kicks off the start of summer and if you’re obsessed with the mermaid life, you need to make the pilgrimage to Coney Island tradition at least once in your life.