Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Top Tens of 2017: #8s

Here are the eighth best podcast, film, album, TV show, and videogame of 2017:

#8 Podcast: The Adventure Zone

The Adventure Zone feels like it has to be on this list, although I kind of honestly think that calendar 2017 was the show's weakest year so far. Unfortunately I also started listening to it in that time, and completed two listens through the entire back catalog, so it's hard to separate in my mind. This year was largely the conclusion of their first "season," in which DM Griffin McElroy lead his two brothers and their father through a series of short arcs that lead to a big Final Fantasy-ass conclusion.

The final arc saw Griffin create a new ruleset based on the Powered by the Apocalypse engine to show the three heroes' prequel journey, and, to be entirely frank, I don't think his mod worked particularly well. Since the conclusion they have switched over to a series of "experimental arcs" where different members of the family run a short campaign in a different system. It has not been the most compelling thing in the world so far.

On the other hand, I did listen to three-ish years of biweekly content twice through, and some of it was very good. Plus, where the conclusion was often sappy or less interested in play than in wrap-up, it didn't do a bad job at the latter. And for the aspects of the experiments that I'm not quite gelling with, it's a genuinely exciting thing for them to do, and I found myself looking forward to the future of the show at the end of the year far more than I was at the beginning. That counts for something, I think.

#8 Film: Okja

Bong Joon-ho has, in my mind at least, long been a Korean director who makes films that are beautiful, engaging enough, and always worth seeing. They also happen to be, mostly, not super interesting in the long term. The only time I have had a good experience revisiting one of his movies is The Host, which mostly still works because it was his transitional film into Auteurdom. Especially because, for once, his broken character is a revolutionary rather than a detective. I suspect I'd find the same thing about Snowpiercer, though I haven't had a strong desire to revisit it just yet.

I expect to feel the same about Okja. It is a Netflix Original Feature that has a genetically engineered superpig for a title character (the CGI is very good). It's also a Jungle-esque critique of factory farming and a high school-esque explication of veganism. The ALF shows up in a decidedly liberal incarnation. On top of that, it has an embarrassing Jake Gyllenhaal performance, a pretty good Tilda Swinton performance, and a frankly wild performance by child actor Seo-hyun Ahn as the main character. All of which is to say, it's pretty enjoyable to watch.

#8 Album: All American Made by Margo Price

All American Made does a lot of good work with short songs that get in and out with a thought, and that show off Price's country range.

It also manages to present a fairly cohesive vision of a fragmented country, which sounds more grandiose than it plays. Songs reference the effects of neoliberalism in a critical way, including the fairly straightforward "Pay Gap" and a shoutout to the Iran-Contra scandal and the demonization of people on welfare on "All American Made," a truly strange and impressive closer to the record.

#8 TV Show: GLOW (season 1)

This dramatized version of the founding of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling takes forever to get going. The character work they do at the top of the show is largely gratuitous and sometimes outright boring. But after a handful of episodes, they actually get to the wrestling part. And then, it turns out, it gets kind of great. Who would have guessed that professional wrestling is a good vehicle for storytelling?

#8 Videogame: Vroom in the Night Sky

This Switch game is the best thing. It's a small group of low-res levels that you fly around on a motorcycle. You're a witch. You collect Stardust and go through circles and then you finish the level. You can shoot? Another witch shows up after a certain amount of time. I have no idea what she does other than have poorly-translated antagonistic/sweet conversations with you.

It might be the most solo-developer-ass game I played this year, and I played a lot for Playdate & the Podcast. It's a hassle to handle, its scoring is obscure as fuck, and you can unlock everything super easily. But the handful of hours I put in on my friend's system were always pleasant in a way that I really appreciated.

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