Things I Loved This Year: Small But Not Forgotten

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: two movies that ought to have been huge hits, but weren’t.

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Some movies seem destined to falter at the box office — they’re bad, they’re lazy, they’re weird, they lack star power, they’re in another language. It’s often a shame to watch those movies’ inevitably meager box-office returns, but you saw the disappointment coming, so it’s easier to manage and rationalize.

But other movies seem tailor-made for runaway blockbuster success and yet struggle to find it. Often, you can blame the marketing, or the distribution, or an accident of fate. The best you can hope for is a fruitful run on home video and streaming.

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Things I Loved This Year: Why Do You Ask?

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: a weird scene from a weird season of a weird show.

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Many of the most satisfying television moments bring you into an unfamiliar world and ask you to draw conclusions, a task that’s often futile. Mr. Robot did that a few times this year, none more memorable than the scene in which a sullen young girl sat in front of an antiquated computer screen and asked Angela (Portia Doubleday) if she’s ever cried during sex. What was the purpose of that question, and the others she asked? Why was a young girl delivering them? Why didn’t Whiterose (B.D. Wong) invest in some more era-appropriate technology?

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Things I Loved This Year: A Stupid Movie That Knows It’s Stupid

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: The Shallows lives up to its name.

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There are many dumb things about The Shallows, a movie I enjoyed when I saw it and have recalled fondly in the months since. Why is Nancy, a medical doctor on leave while she grieves her mother’s death, so fixated on her own Instagram repertoire? Where is this secluded beach with wi-fi lightning-fast enough for crystal-clear FaceTime calls? What kind of monster friend begs off on a relaxing trip to the sun and sand because she’s too hungover, but then decides only a few minutes later to go meet the guy she slept with the night before during her drunken escapade? Does the movie really need to end on a sentimental denouement, scored to Sia? Oh, and back to the medical school thing — what about that character description screamed “Blake Lively”? Does any character description scream “Blake Lively”?

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Things I Loved This Year: “BoJack” Goes Deeper, and Much Darker

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: the BoJack Horseman episode that stuck with me.

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Most year-end lists that feature the remarkable Netflix series BoJack Horseman have focused on the third season’s dazzling fourth episode “Fish Out of Water,” which has virtually no dialogue as the title character takes an emotional roller coaster under the sea. A few mentions have also been afforded to “That’s Too Much, Man!” which depicts a bender gone horribly wrong between two self-destructive friends.

Both those episodes deserve the accolades they’ve been given. But equally astounding was “Best Thing That Ever Happened,” which comes five episodes after the former and two before the latter. (Incoming: sentence I never thought I’d write.) This episode is to BoJack Horseman what “The Suitcase” was to Mad Men, and the two hit with a familiar, devastating force.

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Things I Loved This Year: An “SNL” Oops

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: a tiny SNL moment only eagle-eyed viewers would remember.

No one would agree that the moment I’ve chosen to highlight from this year’s unusually high-profile run of Saturday Night Live episodes is the most iconic, or the most influential. It’s certainly not the funniest, the sharpest or the wittiest. It’s not even a sketch, or a pre-ordained bit. It’s a slip-up.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that Larry David butchered Ariana Grande’s name in that clip. That would imply that he touched it at all. No, Larry David gingerly gestured his knife towards that slab of meat, took a brief and halfhearted stab, then tossed his knife aside and walked away with a shrug.

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Things I Loved This Year: The Kids Are More Than Alright

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: kids!

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You never want to admit when a child actor isn’t quite cutting it. I wouldn’t want to be the director on a set with a kid who just can’t nail the take, or isn’t quite right for the role. It’s one thing to tell a full-grown adult that they missed the mark — most of them can take it. But a child? What kind of monster tells a child they’re just not good enough?

Luckily, this year, I don’t have to wrestle with that moral dilemma. There were so many great kids on TV this year! Here are a few.

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Things I Loved This Year: Shedding a Tear for Kacey Musgraves

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: feeling some feelings with one of country’s brightest young stars.

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If Christmas makes you cry, “Christmas Makes Me Cry” will make you cry. If Christmas doesn’t make you cry, “Christmas Makes Me Cry” will make you cry, because Christmas makes Kacey Musgraves cry, and when Kacey Musgraves cries, you feel it.

Kacey Musgraves wrote this song with Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark for A Very Kacey Christmas, which came out on Halloween this year. Christmas sets are a dime a dozen, but the whole set is lovely, and this song takes the cake.

That trio of songwriters is also responsible for this and this. They are good.