Survivor’s Most Troubling, Yet Beautiful Moment Ever

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Still processing what happened on Survivor this past Wednesday. What happened transcended the game, and one castaway crossed a line that couldn’t be un-crossed, doing something awful that had nothing to do with gameplay: he outed someone as transgender that wasn’t wanting or asking to be outed. Sometimes Survivor brings out the worst in people, albeit usually within the confines of gameplay with the result of being entertaining TV for those watching (case in point: Johnny Fairplay’s lie about a dead grandma who wasn’t really dead! It was wickedly epic.). This was something different altogether. But then, as we see in the other tribemates’ reactions and Zeke’s courage and grace under unthinkable circumstances, Survivor brings out the best in people too. The Tribal Council was upsetting, repulsive, and moving all at once. There’s much to learn here about how such an act can hurt someone (and in some cases put them in physical danger or worse). Just as there are plenty of moral dilemmas that arise on whether CBS should have aired this in the first place. But I think they made the right choice—this is a real thing that happened, and it has consequences for real people. Props to Probst for handling this how he did and being an ally for Zeke. You can read Zeke’s powerful essay to get his perspective and learn how growing up watching Survivor, and now playing Survivor, has impacted his life for the better…and hopefully continues to do so!

Zeke in his own words: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/…/survivor-zeke-smith-oute…

Wednesday night’s Tribal Council: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BXqrOSNKn0

Resource for being a better ally of transgender people: http://www.glaad.org/transgender/allies

 

Ranking the 2016 Best Picture Oscar Nominees Based on My Tears

This year, instead of ranking the Best Picture Oscar nominees based on my bachelor’s degree in film studies (such a useful degree Mom, I promise!), I’ve decided to do a fun little ranking game based on how much I cried during each screening of the following nine films nominated, and maybe even how much I cried immediately AFTER the movie (I can tell that the suspense is killing you already). The ranking does not necessarily reflect the order of best to worst, but I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying Hacksaw Ridge was most certainly the worst movie on this list (Sorry, Mel! JKJK NOT SORRY). Without further ado, I bring you the first edition of “Ranking the 2016 Best Picture Oscar Nominees Based on Lauren’s Tears.”

 

  1. Hacksaw Ridge

NO TEARS! I almost cried because of how old and terrifying Hugo Weaving (aka the ageless Elrond) looked in this film, but then, not even five minutes into this war movie you witness some of the most atrocious green screen that has ever been committed to the big screen. Like, it is seriously terrible. It’s also hits ALL of the most stereotypical moments that you would expect from a war movie, yet there are so many better war movies! And then there’s the religion. The religious aspect of this story, that Andrew Garfield’s character is a pacifist and therefore won’t kill on the battlefield—because he hit his brother with a brick when he was younger I guess?—is SO heavy-handed (Thanks, Mel!) that it becomes eye-roll worthy. On paper, this is an amazing story. But again, the green screen is so horrendous at times that it really takes you out of it. That alone almost made me cry. Almost. Don’t even get me started on the gratuitous, exploitative violence. Good luck next time, Mel, because apparently Hollywood has forgiven you. 0/10 Cries for Lauren.

 

  1. Hell or High Water

Admittedly, I spent most of the film wondering about the life of Ben Foster (Is he this crazy in real life? What’s it like dating Robin Wright??) and thinking Chris Pine’s eyebrows were just too perfectly shaped for this role. But there was one scene with Jeff Bridges and his cop partner that made me a bit teary-eyed, but no spoilers here! 1/10 Cries.

 

  1. Fences

How dare you, Denzel. How dare you make Viola Davis cry. And when Viola Davis cries, we all cry. OK, I didn’t really cry. But I did well up during that pivotal scene in the backyard. She had snot coming out of her whatever for crying out loud! The rest of the movie almost made me cry, but only because I wanted to cry out of frustration of watching almost two and a half hours of unrealistic dialogue, Denzel being a major dick, and waiting for that goddamn fence to be built. If I could have jumped into the screen I would’ve built that fence myself. I did not particularly enjoy this play, er, movie. 2/10 Cries. I’m sure the play is great.

 

  1. Hidden Figures

This movie is a bit more “by the books,” but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I teared up at Janelle Monáe’s speech to the judge as she tries to attend an all-white school so that she can be an engineer, and of course during Taraji P. Henson’s dramatic speech about having to walk all the way to the other side of the NASA campus to use the colored bathroom. That said, no actual tears fell, just teary-eyed. I was honestly distracted by having to take Jim Parsons seriously. 3/10 Cries.

 

  1. La La Land

If you have a 10-minute finale of beautiful music, fun dancing, and colorful sets à la An American in Paris, and add in handsome Ryan Gosling and charming Emma Stone, and then end it in an unexpected way à la Sliding Doors (Yes I did just reference an underrated Gwyneth rom-com), then yeah, you’re gonna make Lauren cry. 5/10 Cries.

 

  1. Manchester by the Sea

My god this moving is depressing. You think you know what this movie is going to be about thanks to the trailer: A man returns to his hometown to care for his nephew after his older brother suddenly passes away, and apparently that man has some old beef with Michelle Williams. But no, it gets WAY more depressing than that, just you wait. I will say, in all seriousness, the moment that truly choked me up was a scene with the man (Casey Affleck) and the nephew (Lucas Hedges), when the nephew breaks down while looking through the freezer. That was tough, but felt so realistic for how someone might deal with grief. The tears fell. Then you get extremely emotional moments between Casey and Michelle, and there I go again with the tears. 6/10 Cries. (This could have earned more, but it loses some since Casey allegedly harasses women in real life. So there’s that.)

 

  1. Moonlight

Moonlight provided a steady stream of tears from start to finish for me, but it was really Act II of the film, when our protagonist is a teenager, that got the heavier, full-bodied cries. The young actor playing teenage Chiron was able to emote so much in his face and body that I was moved to tears. So heartbreaking, yet so beautiful. Everyone in this film was superb. Please give more acting roles to all of these actors, including Janelle Monáe (That’s right, she’s in TWO of the Best Picture nominees. You go, girl!). 8/10 Cries.

 

  1. Lion

The first true tears, two perfect drops on either side, came as tears also streamed down Dev Patel’s beautiful face during a pivotal moment in the middle of the film. But oh man, the mother load of tears to end all tears came at the end of the film. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know how a true story of a young man finding his biological mother (in an entirely different continent!) is going to end. Hint: If it’s a true story and they’ve decided to make a movie about it, it probably is going to have a joyously happy (and yes, melancholy) conclusion. SO MANY HAPPY TEARS. 9/10 Cries.

 

  1. Arrival

I’m pretty sure this movie wrecked me. This was a flood of tears. But the real flood hit in the moments (read: hours) after walking out of the theater. I didn’t see the “twist” coming, and when I started putting two and two together, forget it. I was a goner. Amy Adams got robbed for the Best Actress nominee. Never would I have suspected that a movie about faceless heptapod aliens and Jeremy “Hawkeye” Renner would make me cry so goddamn much. For sake if spoilers, I’ll just say that if anything tragic has happened in your life, this movie will make you confront all the hard philosophical questions and dilemmas head on that come with grief and loss. You can have my boyfriend verify that I basically ruined a Friday night because I just. Kept. Crying. 11/10 Cries.

Why Baskets is the Show America Needs Right Now

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The most recent episode of Baskets (Thursdays at 10pm on FX) did something monumental. In the midst of political theater and chaos, at a time when many Americans feel lost and at a loss of words day in and day out, Baskets — a show branded as a story about a struggling, modern-day clown — showed what it meant to put partisanship aside for the sake of human decency. I’m of course talking about our favorite TV matriarch (I’ve decided for us all), Christine Baskets, played with such heart (and heartache) by Louie Anderson, and her journey to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Although Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis) is our protagonist, and we’ve rarely glimpsed any sort of political leanings one way or another from the Baskets family in its first season, last week’s episode confirmed my suspicion that Christine is a proud Republican. We know this now because of her undying love of Ronald Reagan, as she proactively escapes the confines of her hotel room in Camarillo, a hotel she has to stay in thanks to Chip’s wandering ways and potential jail sentence on the line. Anywho, while killing time before her son’s sentence hearing, she decides they need to get out and visit the not-too-distant presidential library. But here’s the semi-twist: she brings her new acquaintance, a fellow baby boomer parent whose daughter is also up for a hearing, but who also happens to be a much bigger fan of Carter. Christine, a white woman, and her new friend, a black man, put aside their political affiliations for the sake of sharing some company for an afternoon.

Of course, it’s easier to let bygones be bygones when both presidencies are behind them, and they both offer slights to the other’s preferred president (Really, the peanut guy?! Really, the actor-turned-politician?!). But their seriousness of allegiance is met with equal fondness, amusing in the fact that they can be worlds apart in their political leanings and life experiences yet here they both are decades later in the same predicament tending to their adult children. And it’s in these moments that these two characters find such human similarities and a connection beyond party affiliation that felt so reassuring in today’s strange political times. Did it make me wonder what Christine Baskets would think of our current president? Yes. Not sure how that would make me feel. But this Christine-centric episode, plus Chip’s journey to deliver his late friend’s pan flute to a rightful new owner, proved why this show has become so much more than Zach Galifianakis being a goof in a clown costume (and it’s actually never really been that show, but a tease at the first season would make one think that was the case). Baskets has proved to be a show with a lot of heart while it showcases the many idiosyncrasies we encounter in daily life, and often in really bizarre but amusing ways. And sometimes those encounters are with people who we think are very different from ourselves, yet when you spend a little bit of time to get to know them, you just may be surprised of their character. And if you’re lucky enough, that stranger just may buy you a bracelet of little Reagan faces strung together and make you giddy with glee (if you’re a Reaganite, that is).

Catastrophe — Season 2

They’re baaaaack. Yes, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney are back for seconds for season two of Amazon’s Catastrophe and I couldn’t be happier and sadder at the same time. Once I started the second season, I realized how much I had missed these two main characters and their collection of strange, bewildering secondary players. Just six episodes in, and approximately three hours later, BOOM. Season two is over. Ensue sadness. I want more more more.

A clever plot twist that I wasn’t expecting, however, was the time jump. Instead of picking up where we left off at season one’s “My water just broke” cliffhanger, we start here with a pregnancy (how tricky of them!) and birth of their second child. So we’re now about three years ahead from where we last saw them. Somehow Sharon and Rob have managed to not berate each other too badly and are thus still, sometimes barely, holding it together. It’s a smart way to keep the basic premise of this show from feeling stale, and luckily for the audience we reap all the benefits with bundles of laughs and TMI-worthy dialogue (but in a good way, of course).

Lastly, I do have a confession. I’m in love with something in this show. The first season I was too shy to admit it, but the second season solidified my feelings. I am in love with Sharon’s wardrobe. Unequivocally, utterly-obsessed with it. She pulls off that last-minute, but totally put together look that I completely envy (yes, I know, she didn’t actually just roll out of bed like that). She mixes bold patterns and textures, and has the confidence to do so. Plus, the show wisely reuses items. It’s just ALL so realistic that I am so in love. If anyone can tell me where I can get her purple (flowery? leopard?) sweater, I will love you too. Even more so if you tell me it won’t cost me my future first-born child.

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She’s concentrating hard because she knows how good she looks.

 

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Look how much fun she’s having because of that shirt she’s rockin’.

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She’s a grown-ass woman and can wear poppy-themed rompers whenever she pleases.

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It’s bold. It’s professional. It’s sexy. And she matches her glass of wine.

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She’s hungover and looks fan-freakin-tastic.

Winter/Spring 2016: What I’m Loving Thus Far

Baskets

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Baskets — Pictured: Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets. CR: Frank Ockenfels/FX

Two words: Louie Anderson. It’s enough reason to tune in to this comedy of errors, and enough reason to keep watching week to week as he plays mother to Zach Galifianakis’ Chip Baskets. Reminiscent in tone of Louis C.K.’s Louie, Baskets (also co-created by Louis C.K.) follows the mostly discouraging lives (at least to anyone not living in Bakersfield) of an aspiring clown and those who weave in and out of his life. Galifianakis as the titular character has his moments, but it’s Anderson and the adorably average Martha, played wonderfully by Martha Kelly, who steal the show. That and the overt Costco/Kirkland product placement that is so prominent in the show’s mis-en-scène that it’s a hilarious/depressing reminder how prevalent Costco is for middle-class America.

I give you Christine Baskets:

 

The People V. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story

At times campy, at times moving – the first seven episodes of The People V. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, however, have been consistently riveting. With stellar performances from just about everyone (personal favorites include Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden, and Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran), this re-telling of the OJ Simpson murder trial is the perfect dramatization for someone like me. I say that because as someone who was 8-9 years old at the time of the trial, I have enough memory of the overall story and the important characters (albeit I was a rather mature pop culture watcher for my age, thanks to my night-owl parents, and was already aware of Saturday Night Live and other late night talk shows that made Marcia Clark and Lance Ito the butt of many jokes). I didn’t, however, pick up on the conversations on race and how that became a turning point in the case, nor did I fully understand the sexism and embarrassment that Clark faced in the tabloid culture of the time. So now with grown-up eyes and ears, this anthology is absolutely entertaining and feels fresh. While others may feel they are reliving the case, for me it’s an opportunity to learn more details on the trial of the twentieth century. A great companion has been Vanity Fair’s fact-checking summaries following every episode, and it seems that the FX production hasn’t taken too many liberties – because sometimes real life really is too crazy to make up.

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

She has proved to be the voice that late night was missing. Not so much a “female” voice (whatever that really means), but a voice that has had enough of the insanity, the hypocrisy, and the injustices in our government, elections, politics, and news media that she’s not afraid to say how she feels. Samantha Bee was always one of the stronger correspondents during her tenure on The Daily Show, especially when it came to interviews with the inept. On her own show, she truly shines, while maintaining the importance of the role her gender does actually provide to this job:

The Americans

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In anticipation of the fourth season of The Americans, I’ve been binging the first three seasons. Since its debut in 2013, I’ve heard from entertainment outlets and friends alike that The Americans is a show that needs to be watched. Last summer I finally set aside time to start the binge, and I haven’t regretted a moment. Not only is the plot gripping (a married American couple are actually spies for the Soviet Union!) but the violence and sexual encounters are very provocative for a cable series on FX (read: it’s not on HBO or Showtime). Enter Keri Russell who always has the most amazing hair and 80s turtlenecks and Matthew Rhys, who sometimes has unfortunate disguises but is otherwise handsome, and you’ve got a dynamic leading pair that produce a lot of onscreen chemistry (and off-screen too!). Beyond the storytelling, which luckily deviated from what felt was going to start being a procedural-style show in season one, The Americans has done an incredible job of incorporating pop music into the series, but without overdoing it (I love hearing everything from Fleetwood Mac and Phil Collins to YAZ). I have no idea where this show is taking us (except, you know, the Wall does eventually come down), but I am happily along for the ride.

 

The Influence of David Bowie in Pop Culture

There’s no doubt that the late David Bowie was an innovative, influential, genre-bending artist. And who didn’t love him, at least in some capacity? From the casual listeners to the fanatics, Bowie had an impact on all of us thanks to his presence in the pop culture zeitgeist—and a unique presence at that. I grew up getting into movies and television at an early age—probably too early—thanks to my parents’ interests. But I can’t say the same for music. Music for me was something that I later had to discover for myself, and a lot of that started in middle and high school as I became more and more in tune with my personality and growing tastes. Movies and TV were a gateway for me in learning more about music, and I was certainly someone who loved buying movie soundtracks (I still have the Batman Forever soundtrack, on cassette tape, because…you know…”Kiss from a Rose”). I’m pretty sure I knew who David Bowie was, and was aware of this guy called Ziggy Stardust, as a young child, but it wasn’t until he started popping up on soundtracks of movies that I got into in middle school that I actually started listening to him. Below I’ve rounded up just a few of the movie scenes that either play his music or reference him in some way, plus television shows that either feature Bowie or are dedications to him. I’m sure there are plenty more that I’m forgetting here, or just am not aware of, but that just goes to show how influential he was, and will remain to be.

2001’s A Knight’s Tale has to the real first time I remember hearing a David Bowie song and thinking, “What song is this? I love it!” The characters of this medieval set piece dance to “Golden Years,” and it’s a funky and hypnotic affair. Plus, I always think of Heath Ledger dancing when I hear it now. And I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

About a month after A Knight’s Tale was released, here comes Moulin Rouge (a movie I was certifiably obsessed with), which features three Bowie songs. You have his cover of “Nature Boy,” then Beck covers his “Diamond Dogs,” and then of course the Elephant Love Medley, which samples and adapts the lyrics of “Heroes.”

 

Adam Sandler must be a big Bowie fan, because at least two of his movies reference the songs “China Girl” and “Space Oddity.”

The Wedding Singer

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And maybe Drew Barrymore has a thing for him too, because in the sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle we get a short scene of her character having an alter ego, Lady Insane, complete with Bowie’s Aladdin Sane makeup, at the :50 second mark. Get it??

 

This is so random, but I saw the movie Bandslam on a bus in South America. It was a very long ride, so I had no real choice but to watch it. I somehow remember the plot, that the teenage protagonist’s music idol was David Bowie. Here’s an awkward scene where he tries to make some moves on Vanessa Hudgens, while voice-overing a letter to Bowie.

Who can forget this scene in Inglourious Basterds, leading to the climactic burning down of the theater? You’ve got your lady in red, and set along to “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” this montage is moody and quintessentially Tarantino and Bowie.

I can’t find the right clip, but “Moonage Daydream” pops up in Guardians of the Galaxy, as our heroes travel through space. Perfectly fitting for our Ziggy.

Another one where the clip just isn’t out there, but I wrote in my post about my favorite pop culture moments of 2015 that I loved the montage in The Martian when “Starman” graces our ears. This fan-made video gives you the idea of how those iconic guitar riffs set to outer space, and the moving, human story of The Martian, gel together so well.

My favorite Kiwi folk duo are also Bowie super fans. The sixth episode of Flight of the Conchords, aptly named “Bowie,” features not only their own song in the style of Bowie, but also features Jemaine Clement doing several specific Bowie impersonations.

“Bowies in Space”

 

For some reason a couple of years ago, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly decided to remake, nearly word for word, the “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” video that featured David Bowie and Bing Crosby. It ends with a classic proclamation from Bowie (aka Ferrell), yelling, “I’m David fuckin’ Bowie!” Indeed.

And then there’s Bowie’s cameo on Extras. To think that Bowie himself did this speaks to his sense of humor. And it somehow turns the lyric “little fat man” into a catchy tune.

My Favorite Pop Culture Moments of 2015

Movies, television, people, and moments that resonated with me this past year. And I’m warning you now, Star Wars pops up a lot.

Yes, I loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but what really marked the story of 2015 was the buildup to the December 18th release. From the moment it was announced that J.J. Abrams would be directing Episode VII, I knew he wouldn’t disappoint us fans. But I felt even more confident and excited once the first teaser trailer was released in November 2014. Then we got the second teaser trailer in April 2015. It conveys everything that the Star Wars franchise is about, while of course recapturing the essence of the original trilogy, in limited words and scenes. In the second teaser, we finally hear the voice of Luke Skywalker. Then, boom: Han Solo and Chewbacca. Chills.

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Catastrophe, a gem of a series, is the anti-RomCom RomCom we all wanted. I love nearly all things British, so I wasn’t at all surprised to fall in love with Rob and Sharon (played by Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan), as they play American guy and Irish woman who have a week-long tryst and end up pregnant. The show is brutally honest and funny, which means that it also has a big heart.

Admittedly, I started watching the Late Show with David Letterman at a very young age. I blame this on my mother, who has a habit of always having the TV on, and myself, who is a night owl. It’s fair to say I grew up watching Dave a lot, almost like a distant relative who was always there in the background. I remember every year watching his holiday episodes with Darlene Love belting Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) and Jay Thomas repeatedly coming on to tell the same story over and over again, followed by the annual football throw to dismantle a meatball pegged on top of the studio Christmas tree. And that’s only covering his holiday episodes! Dave created a tone for late night, mixing absurdity with honesty and heart. He’ll be missed on television, but never forgotten.

Carrie Fisher’s press tour for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been one helluva whirlwind. Like, the best kind of whirlwind you’d want to encounter. There are several moments to pull from, but it’s her appearance on Good Morning America that takes the cake, with her dog Gary Fisher making quite the cameo, and shows us why we love the unapologetic star. Plus, we got more of Carrie beyond Star Wars this year. Although a small part, she shone as the curt and scathing mother of Rob Delaney’s character in Catastrophe (and with Gary making yet another cameo!). The takeaway? Carrie Fisher is a national treasure.

There’s no denying that Oscar Isaac is a burgeoning acting powerhouse and star, mostly thanks to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But for those us who have been keenly watching Isaac’s career take off in the last few years (guilty!), in such films as Inside Llewyn Davis and A Most Violent Year, and his superb performance in HBO’s miniseries Show Me a Hero, we’ve known that he’s been destined for a multi-faceted and nuanced career. Plus, he’s charismatic as hell, on the screen and off. Much like Carrie Fisher, he’s had great moments during the Star Wars press tour showing this charisma, but he also proved this to us in this year’s sci-fi drama Ex Machina. And we’ll never ever forget the genius of his groovy moves as he tears up the f***ing dance floor (his words, not mine).

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Most catchy, meta theme song ever? Why that belongs to Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Technically I had just watched all of the documentary miniseries The Staircase by the end of 2014, but I couldn’t stop talking about it all year whenever I talked true crime (and the blossoming popularity of the genre in TV and film) with someone. Although it aired in 2004, I had only heard about it last year. It’s 10 episodes are gripping, as you get a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the defense team building their case for Michael Peterson, a novelist accused of killing his wife. You’ll have much uncertainty throughout the circumstantial twists and turns this case takes, and question the United States justice system in the process. You can find the first six episodes here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n061fS38_GA

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Season three of Nathan For You continued to push the limits of his brand of comedy – which actually has a surprising amount of humanity contained in its episodes, including a loose series-long arch of Nathan just trying to make human connections with the participants of his antics. There were many laugh out loud, cringe-worthy moments, but something about his creation of a Holocaust-awareness apparel company called Summit Ice sticks with me most. It even is a real functioning brand, with items available to purchase and all proceeds go to a good cause. Remember folks, deny nothing. You can watch him talking about the segment on Conan, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3Im37oRMRE

One of the more unique and human podcasts to premiere, Starlee Kine of Mystery Show inquisitively brings unique mysteries to life…and answers them. The best part is that you can’t predict what type of mysteries will be presented (i.e. What is Jake Gyllenhaal’s actual height? How did a local NYC video store disappear overnight? ). The worst part, we haven’t had a new episode since August. My particular favorite episodes are Belt Buckle (episode 3) and Britney (episode 2), in which Starlee is determined to track down Britney Spears for a friend.

31 seasons and counting, and Survivor has never been better. Thanks to a cast full of returning players (voted in by viewers) and new twists (more tribe swaps! Hidden Immunity Idols in challenges! Chaos Kass isn’t so chaotic after all!), this season delivered big time and ended with one of the series’ strongest final four and three. Plus, we got a lot of classic Keith Nale moments. Although there was an insane tribal council in the finale, the tribal council with the blindside of Andrew Savage, due to Kelley Wentworth’s idol, was a game changer…and so much fun to watch. As fellow contestant Stephen Fishbach simply puts it – “Wow.”

Network TV’s best comedy, Parks and Recreation, came to an end this year, and the show kept itself fresh by setting its last season in the future, in the year 2017. Amidst the silliness, Parks and Recreation never lost its heart and soul. Plus, we got an entire episode dedicated to Chris Pratt’s Andy Dwyer’s alter-ego, Johnny Karate, and depressingly spot-on fake commercials.

I did it. Finally. I watched the entire series of The Wire, the series that Entertainment Weekly crowned as the best television show of all time. I fell hard for the pragmatic storytelling, and even more so for the carefully nuanced characters, both good and bad. But what The Wire does excellently is portray that there is no easy definition of good and bad, and that it’s all relative to the circumstances and the environments that create a city’s social, political and economic structures.

The end of Mad Men is an end of an era, quite literally as the series portrayed American life and advertising culture from 1960-1970. The final shot of Don Draper, in all his mysterious, soul-searching and charming demeanor, brings us peace…and possibly brings him peace too, even if that peace results in an iconic Coca-Cola ad. And then there was Peggy’s story. A woman who climbed the ranks according to her own agenda and transcended the show’s own time frame to be a role model for modern feminism. The finale gave us the below scene, which the YouTube user labeled as “Peggy Olson walks into McCann Erickson like a badass,” which is all you really need to know.

There was some buzz when Sicario was released back in October, but for some reason it has nearly disappeared from the current awards season chatter. That’s a shame because Emily Blunt is a force to be reckoned with, as are her costars Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the bleak subject matter of the drug war between the United States and Mexico may be what the story revolves around, but it’s the beautifully haunting cinematography and superb performances that make you stay glued to the screen.

The edge to Spotlight is that it isn’t edgy. This film, about the investigative journalists of the Boston Globe uncovering the abuse in the Catholic Church, manifests simple, effective story telling. There’s no glitz and no glamour, which cements its authenticity alongside stellar performances by the whole cast.

My favorite moment from The Martian is indebted to Ziggy Stardust himself. During a montage scene, in which we see myriad characters living their daily lives while also doing their due diligence to bring astronaut Mark Watney home from Mars, David Bowie’s Starman non-diegetically plays. It’s the perfect song to portray the uplifting optimism needed among the characters, but also mixes in a sense of nostalgia and melancholy, unsure of what the future brings. I’m unable to find a clip of this scene from the film, but this video gives you the idea of the song and how it works with the film.

Conan as Lobot. Harrison Ford crushing Jordan Schlansky’s dreams. Carrie Fisher running her mouth. This hour of CONAN dedicated to Star Wars was just as earnest as it was side-splitting. It should also be noted that this is how you do a Star Wars tribute/interview set…maybe other late night hosts should take a hint.

Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show. The poised and thoughtful host has had many great moments over the years, too many to get into now. From the last show, I particularly enjoyed the taped segment of going around the entire staff in The Daily Show offices, set as an homage to the famous tracking shot in Goodfellas. To me, the presence alone of this segment speaks volume about Stewart’s character. And it may have made me tear up a little. Just a little though, I swear.

And thankfully there’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver to fill the void that Jon Stewart left (don’t worry, Trevor, I think you’ll get there in time). His segment on the refugee crisis is important and necessary. And somehow he managed to pull off a Days of Our Lives taping into the whole mix, because that’s John Oliver for you.

Hell hath no fury like Furiosa. What a fun, hypnotic ride Mad Max: Fury Road was. Jam-packed with action, yet it never got old.

Fans of Wet Hot American Summer rejoiced with Netflix’s prequel series, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, while those who never have seen the original movie were probably just confused. Sure, it’s full of inside jokes, but the campy nature (pun intended, of course), high levels of absurdity, and commitment by these actors is exactly what makes Wet Hot so great.

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The season three premiere of Inside Amy Schumer was transcendent. From discussing sexism and ageism is Hollywood to singing about bodily functions, Schumer continues to make social commentary a theme in her comedy. My favorite sketch was tackling rape culture…á la Friday Night Lights. And a great Tammy Taylor impression to boot.

I was in awe of Better Call Saul’s first season. Here is a show, much like Breaking Bad, that lets a scene build with time, and lets it breathe.

I could watch Will Forte mess around in the desert with a collection of balls as friends any day. I wasn’t as crazy about the rest of The Last Man on Earth’s first season, but the pilot is golden.

Billy Eichner may rampage through the streets of New York with zeitgeist-infused questions and criticisms on his show Billy on the Street, but he is also a provocative presence on TV, subversively tackling bigger issues and calling out hypocrisy in entertainment and pop culture, such as his made-up “game,” Escape from Scientology.

The Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer is equal parts captivating and infuriating. Following the trial of a man for a grisly crime, who had previously served 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit (as he was later exonerated due to DNA evidence), this series should and will make you angry at the discrepancies in the United States justice system and how it fails to protect citizens that are the most vulnerable.

Lastly, on a lighter note…It can be frustrating if a Saturday Night Live prime-time player breaks (i.e. laughs) over and over again, but not when it’s the host and that host is Ryan Gosling. Thanks to Kate McKinnon’s characterization, professionalism, and commitment, she delivers probably this season’s best moment in this bizarre alien abduction sketch. The fact that she keeps it together, and her costars do not, was so entertaining to witness.