Following on from yesterday’s article; here are some more of our entertainment faves and fails from the first half of 2016. This round sees us going from Beyonce, to Captain America, to Disney, to James Corden.
This year saw Beyonce slay yet again, with the release of her album Lemonade.
The album, which premiered as a one hour ‘visual album’ film on HBO in April, and was released via streaming service Tidal, has been heralded by many critics as her best, and sees the artist soaring to wild new heights.
The album, whose title heralds from the phrase ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’, has been described as bold and creative; and Beyonce shows herself to be unafraid to be controversial in her new venture. Tidal explained the concept as “every woman’s journey of self-knowledge and healing”, but as well as themes of female empowerment, the album also focuses on the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement; the film including clips of the mothers of some of the young men killed in the last year.
Beyonce has been extremely honest and raw about her life and about herself in this new album, especially when it comes to difficulties in her marriage. She deserves the praise she gets for being innovative, and this album will go down in history as a work of art.
words by Rehana Nurmahi
Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 & #2
In proving that many people have abandoned all understanding of longform storytelling in favour of outrage, the first issue of Steve Rogers: Captain America ruffled many feathers. Writer Nick Spencer’s last-page twist that the good ‘ol blue boy scout has been a secret Hydra agent all along was shocking, and secretly brilliant. Yet you could easily read the issue to see the answer behind the twist, or simply pick up the second one. Without going into spoilers, it’s a nuanced and interesting decision, because almost everything but those last pages of the comic show Steve Rogers at his most Steve Rogers-iest; whether you’re a comic reader or not (it would seem the people who got angry were definitely not).
Aside from the sheer fact that these first two issues alone are shaping up to be part of a seminal, character-affirming Captain America story- it revealed a lot about modern fandom. Mostly ugly: angry fans sent death threats to the writer; some said the story dishonoured the character’s Jewish creators; some claimed to be personally hurt by it. On the optimistic side, it said a lot about how great people’s attachment to the character is, whether or not they actually read the comics.
words by George Seabrook
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 2
In 2015, Tina Fey and Netflix brought us an entirely new, original, and fresh comedy by the name of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. In 2016, the streaming site gave us the show’s second season, which was as brilliant, if not more brilliant, than the first. Having just finished the show earlier this week, my mind is still reeling at how great it is, and is most definitely playing the theme song on repeat in my head…
The show, which follows a women formerly in a cult as she adjusts to real life, is so much fun, and in its second season has grown. The thing I love about Unbreakable is that it has ounces of heart, and has this sort of fresh-faced innocence in the way that it approaches things. It is true and honest in its portrayals of characters; each equally as wacky and unique. The thing that showed this season to go even further than the first, is the fact that the characters have all grown since the first, and they each continue to grow. Titus grows through his relationship with Mikey, a gay man who is only just coming to terms with his sexuality; Jacqueline grows through her adjusting to being single and her trying to care more about her (bizarrely) Native American roots; and Kimmy has to learn to deal with the things she is holding on to because of her time in the bunker. All these things are handled with a sense of sentimentality, but also never lose their laugh out loud humour.
As well as this, the latest season sees appearances from names such as David Cross, Anna Camp, Lisa Kudrow and Tina Fey herself.
words by Rehana Nurmahi
‘Bury your gays’ television trope
The ‘bury your gays’ trope erupted earlier this year following a large number of deaths of gay, often female characters in television. Beginning with the murder of Bridget Regan’s bisexual character Rose on Jane the Virgin back in February, the movement accelerated significantly with the death of Alycia Debnam-Carey’s lesbian character Lexa on The 100 which sparked extreme criticism from fans, who were already frustrated by repeated poor treatment of people of colour in the show. The extreme backlash led to a public apology being uploaded by the series’ showrunner, Jason Rothenberg.
Unfortunately the pain didn’t end there, as Yaani King’s character Kira from Syfy’s The Magicians was also executed alongside Merritt Wever’s Denis on The Walking Dead. The movement was punctuated by articles and responses such as Marie Lyn Bernard’s breakdown of every queer character slaughtered on television. ‘Bury your gays’ stood as a wakeup call to many viewers who were awakened to the deplorable treatment of queer characters on the small screen in modern times, many of which are tragically disposable in the eyes of the writers. Hopefully we can look forward to better treatment of LGBT characters at the hands of their insufferable writers later in the year.
words by Laurence Russell
Panic! At The Disco- Death of a Bachelor
Panic! At The Disco’s fifth studio album, released in January, came into the world shiny and new and fresh from the band’s previous material. With built in synthesizers, a multitude of brass elements, and an unmistakable Sinatra feel to it, Death of a Bachelor symbolised the band’s explosive return. Well; I say band – the only remaining member left, apart from touring members, is frontman Brendon Urie. But boy, has he done a stunning job of getting to grips with his newfound independence. With the majority of the album written and recorded all by the man himself, Death of a Bachelor is a tale of a life lived long ago, a story of one lifestyle ending and another beginning, inspired by a life living with his wife, which, Urie has said, “is so different from who I used to be.”
With songs like the unnerving ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ and ‘Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time’ creating a sharp, juicy contrast with more lighter, bouncier tracks such as ‘LA Devotee’ and ‘Hallelujah’, the entire album feels thick and brimming with experience, empathy and emotion. There’s not one track which drags the project down, with the most striking aspect of the entire thirty-six minute and six seconds run time being its underscoring feeling of brutal honesty. 2016 seems to need a bit of that in its veins. Props to you, Panic.
words by Sophie Trenear
Ratchet & Clank
In the modern video game world we receive countless first person shooters, MMOs (massive multiplayer online) and open world games, that the enjoyment and sheer fun of gaming can get lost among the online trolling, multiplayer feuds and bug ridden environments that accompany these.
For that reason, Ratchet & Clank was a complete breath of fresh air. It’s a vibrant, lively and infectiously fun game that stands as one of the finest of the year. A straight laced, simply structured and well plotted platformer; it tells the story of the lombax (it’s like a space fox) Ratchet and his robot sidekick Clank and their fight to save the galaxy. Its simplicity is the key; the characters, the plot, the gameplay… it’s just so simple that it works on so many levels. We don’t need every game to be an intellectually challenging, time consuming and frustratingly engineered piece of nerdy rage debate – where’s the fun in that?!
Ratchet & Clank is also hilarious. There are numerous quirky and blink-and-you’ll-miss-them style lines within the game that are side splitting-ly funny, and there’s Captain Qwark, the idiotic and hilarious secret weapon of humour. Plus, there’s the weapons, the groovitron which spawns a disco ball to cause enemies to dance, the pixeliser that turns enemies into pixels and the sheepinator, which does what it says on the tin.
Please play this game. It’s so good.
words by David Mitchell-Baker
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Nine years since the release of the final book, and six years since the release of the final film; Harry Potter fans are rejoicing because 2016 saw the next installment of the franchise. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play staged in two parts, had its previews hit the West End stage recently, to both critical and fan appraisal.
The story follows on from where the epilogue of Deathly Hallows finishes, focusing on the middle child of Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley; Albus Severus Potter. Considering how many headcanons and fanfictions there are out there surrounding Albus and the other next generation characters, I was actually rather nervous when they first announced this play. What if the canon places characters in different Hogwarts houses to I did? What if the characters that we know and love from the originals have changed too much?
However, I was put at ease when the casting for the play was announced; because it showed that the creators were unafraid to stick with their creative integrity and do what they think is right. Jamie Parker, Paul Thornley and Noma Dumezweni were cast as the golden trio, with the world split as to whether the casting of a black Hermione was brilliant or ridiculous. I personally think it’s wonderful; diversity and representation should be celebrated.
However, I will not be completely at ease until next March, when I get to see the play for myself and decide whether this a welcome addition, or whether the next generation should have been left to the fans’ imaginations.
words by Rehana Nurmahi
Anna Meredith – Varmints
When she was recently crowned Scottish Album of the Year 2016, Anna Meredith took to twitter to respond with one word: “ShhhhiiiiiiiiTTTTTTTT!!!!!” The former composer-in-residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra released one of the most immediately striking pop albums of the year so far, with her debut LP Varmints. It’s intergalactic and epic, brash and personal, and meticulously composed. Her classical origins are obvious on the album, which seems to understand sonic arrangements on a molecular level, and understands how to put them together in the most surprising and satisfying fashion. From the brass of opening track ‘Nautilus’, to the rise-and-fall synths of ‘Dowager’, she takes Pop ides and concepts, and warps them to fit her symphonic-electronic soundscape. It’s the exact opposite of what most Pop artists do when seeking to incorporate classical sounds; Meredith however is not aloof, but appears to genuinely love pop music. All too rarely do genuinely weird and distinct albums have such an open-armed approach to the listeners, and Varmints is that rare album. Start with the single ‘Taken’, and be enchanted.
words by George Seabrook
Zootropolis – the UK release name for Disney’s Zootopia, for some unimaginable reason – hit cinema screens in March. A pinnacle in animation, which built on hyperrealistic fur-rendering technology which hadn’t been used since 2008’s Bolt, it featured voice acting from a range of talents from leads Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin, to a supporting cast including Idris Elba and Octavia Spencer. Oh, and it includes Shakira’s fursona. Basically: it’s excellent.
But the film, despite making only ripples in a Frozen dominated pond, was more than just a well paced, well produced picture. It was a progressive work of art, that made the most overt inroads to date at showing viewers of all ages the terror of timely themes such as prejudice, stereotyping, and institutional discrimination from positions of power. And the film isn’t subtle about it, either. It hits you over the head, in word-perfect responses on the natural hair movement and usage of reclaimed slurs.
Zootropolis – for all it’s wide eyed, fluffy cuteness – goes hard. Call it what you want, but Zootropolis proved to be everything the modern film should seek to be. Beautifully created, rich and bright and fun. But with weighty and honest messages; like hope, and unity. Not bad, for an animated film about a fox and a bunny.
words by Camilla Cassidy
James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke
The ‘Carpool Karaoke’ segment of The Late Late Show with James Corden is pretty much one of my favourite things on the internet, and in my life, right now. (And not just because being in my car is a very similar experience).
Kicking off the year with Adele being the first artist of 2016 to tackle the segment, ‘Carpool Karaoke’ has gone from strength to strength, with the likes of Chris Martin, Elton John, Sia, J-Lo, Selena Gomez and more having graced the car this year.
It’s such a simple idea- James Corden & *insert artist* drive around and sing-along to songs and have a chat. It’s so much fun, and also provides what are some of my favourite informal interview conversations. As well as just singers, this year has also seen actors like George Clooney and Julia Roberts making an appearance.
I think the reason that it’s so great is that it manages to feel so natural and homegrown, and a lot of that is down to the fact that James Corden does just seem authentic. I look forward to seeing who else joins him for the section in the latter half of the year: the next one is Michelle Obama and I cannot wait!
words by Rehana Nurmahi