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Top 10 TV Shows of 2015

Welcome to, not just golden age, but the platinum age of scripted American TV programs. Gone are the days of accusation that watching too much TV is not good for our well being. The concern instead is that there are too many good TV shows that one is impossible to watch the all. Thus, you may find some other critically-acclaimed shows are not listed here, because 1) this is a personal list, and 2) I have no time yet to watch those shows yet.
Mind you, there are other shows that do not make the cut in the top 10 list below, yet I still watch them because you cannot just watch 10 TV shows in a year. There are simply too many good TV programs out there. But thank you, TV! You show us that good story and good storytelling are found in TV these days.

Alright, the list, in alphabetical order, starts with:

1. THE AFFAIR

The Affair

The Affair

I started watching the entire first season earlier this year, and boy, was I hooked from the start. The series takes a hardly original approach of telling an illicit extra marital affair from both he-said and she-said perspectives, but what unravels in further episodes take us by surprise. Noah Solloway may be the most complex, despicable and well-written family man character in television right now, yet we can not just say otherwise to Alison Lockhart with her doe eyed soulful persona. It is possible to have a series that leaves you devastated week after week.

2. THE AMERICANS

The Americans

The Americans

Not many series get better each season, but The Americans does get better, if not more thrilling. Each season brings the tension closer and more gripping, and season 3 of The Americans may be its best yet. Paige finally learns the true profession of her parents. This brings many opportunities of future developments, as the storyline progresses to the peak of Cold War in mid 1980s. The terror is getting more subdued, and feels real. It’s a crime that the series is still overlooked by the Emmys so far.

3. BLACK-ISH

Black-ish

Black-ish

I put it simply: it is possible for a TV show to laugh at itself (and its presumably core audience), be genuinely funny, and be heartwarming in almost every week. What an achievement, indeed.

4. CATASTROPHE

Catastrophe

Catastrophe

The set-up wins: an American guy impregnates a British girl during their one night stand. What follows is nothing but hilarity that ranges from chaos to madness. I cannot get enough of the short season, as it packs more rom-com moments than any other series attempting the same.

5. EMPIRE

Empire

Empire

Anywhere you turn, you can never escape the Lyons, especially the cracking wits of Cookie Lyon, played with feisty persona by the great Taraji P. Henson. The show grows its audience week after week until it becomes a cultural phenomenon. It has been described as Dynasty for R&B and hip-hop millenials, which worries me the most for being excessive in style in future seasons. But as long as Cookie’s in the house, the matriarch shall balance the entire kingdom. Bring the kidnaps, murders, and music then.

6. DAREDEVIL

Daredevil

Daredevil

Perhaps the series has the most serious treatment among other superhero series right now. In fact, I am torn between choosing this over other noteworthy entries, i.e. Agent Carter and The Flash. Yet, for what it is worth, Daredevil gives us, pun intended, justice. The series equals straight-forward action scenes with multi layered characters and muted, often heavy dramatic moments that bring the entire serious feel almost like a work of art. For real. The last four episodes of the season will put you on the edge of your couch.

7. MAD MEN

Mad Men

Mad Men

We say goodbye to Don Draper and co., with the last scene that easily goes down as one of the finest in TV history. But if you watch carefully, it is the women of Mad Men that soar in this last season. Joan Harris, Peggy Olsen, Betty Francis, and even Sally Draper, each one of them are given prominence in their roles that we can only daydream how great it will be if there’s a spin-off among them. As the show stops before the feminism era, we imagine that their imaginary prominence will play pivotal role should there be a continuation. Alas, the show ends on a high note, and as a fan, I cannot be more satisfied than that.

8. UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I dare you not singing, or at least humming, its theme song after binge-ing the series even for just after 3 episodes. The theme song is indeed addictive, and so is Titus Andromeda’s Pinot Noir. Don’t Google or Youtube that. Oh, you just did? Well then. Good luck!

9. UNREAL

Unreal

Unreal

The most surprising new drama of last year airs in Lifetime channel, associated with its female-centric tearjerker shows. UnReal is still female-centric, but tearjerker it ain’t. It offers a fictionalized behind-the-scene look of a reality program a la The Bachelor, where dramatic moments are unfold as staged by the deceptive, manipulative, ruthless characters played with excellence by both Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer. You can feel the female bromance between the two against their love-hate bantering and wits. You root for them each week as they keep showing their flaws, and still hold their heads high among the seas of men as their objects of frustration. Perhaps it is the most daring program of last season, and no one notices yet.

10. VEEP

Veep

Veep

I have no idea how they do it. How can a show get more hilarious every season? Just when I thought the season 3 is the funniest yet, the presidential campaign in season 4 pushes the funny envelope further, with a welcome addition from Hugh Laurie and his surprisingly acute comic timing. Julia Louis-Dreyfus could not be funnier than in this season. As we anxiously await the result of the presidential election in the series, here’s a cheers for Armando Ianucci as the creator of the series. Thank you for the wonderful 4 seasons you have helmed. Even without your presence as the show-runner in subsequent seasons, we always have the entire wacky, incapable team of Susan Meyer to humor us. The Emmy for Best Comedy Series is justified.

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Posted by on 12/22/2015 in Blog, English

 

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Top 10 Cinema Going Experiences in 2013

This is the year of … binge-watching?

Shamelessly, or maybe not, I have to admit that yours truly have finally succumbed to the trend of TV-series marathons.

Why not? In the past few years, (mostly the US) TV series have given us reasons to be couch potato, mostly from their compelling stories, unthinkable twists, well-rounded characters. In short, those qualities are in contrast to what we have found in our cinema.

Thus, cinema becomes a reason to dress up, go out and socialize; whereas television becomes our comfort zone with “people” we know the most.

We need them equally.

The dearth of summer in cinemas this year could be fixed by tuning in to Girls and House of Cards as we reach home. No matter how compelling The Newsroom is, but once in a while, you need to be entertained by big spectacle in 3D, especially with gorgeous costume like The Great Gatsby.

We hang on to bits of sensation from big, wide silver screen. We are pampered with latest technology to shake us in 4DX, or to be surrounded with sound in Dolby Atmos.

But the real big screen experience is the sensation we feel during or after watching the film.

The sensation may come few(er) and between as years go by, but here, in alphabetical order, are what matters most:

1. ABOUT TIME

Date of watching: Friday, October 25, 2013.

Some films make up their flaws by emotion.

I came to watch this film alone. As the film went on, I started noticing oddities in its logic and inconsistency, given the nature of the plot. Yet, despite my awareness, I don’t mind of those pitfalls. In fact, I surrendered myself to the smile of Rachel McAdams and starting picturing myself witnessing each of the time-traveling scene.

It was not until I took a cab home then I cried recalling the film in my memory. It is a rarity to cry not during the film, but afterwards. Glad to have this weird but loving film to make the mark.

2. ALL IS LOST

Date of watching: Wednesday, November 6, 2013.

There I was, in the middle of a winter afternoon in Toronto, I snuck in a cinema to start watching Robert Redford all alone in the sea. Literally, alone.

We don’t see anyone but him, there is no volleyball to talk to, no tiger to befriend with, nor another astronaut to hang on to. We only see Our Man (Redford’s nameless character) doing a little talk, and he is busy maneuvering his way in the harshness of the sea for 90 minutes.

This is a testament of masterclass in screen acting, and Redford has taken a great challenge no other actors may be able to survive. When the light of the cinema has turned up, we are still glued to the screen, reeling from the brave journey.

3. BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Date of watching: Saturday, July 27, 2013.

Before Midnight

Before Midnight

The best part of the film comes when Celine (Julie Delpy) sits on a cafe with Jesse (Ethan Hawke), now they’re married, while looking at the sunset as it happens. She says, “Going … Going … Gone.”

We cannot help that the trilogy feels like a conclusion of an 18-year affair, the one that has inspired to roam around Europe finding undiscovered places the films were set in, to be rightly romantic at specific group of age, and to think about love and relationship in general. I watched this on a Saturday midnight show in Lido cinema in Singapore, where majority of audiences in attendance are couples, married or dating, who hug each other to find comfort as they watched the film.

To be able to follow this trilogy in its intended period of time is a lifetime investment worth having.

4. THE CONJURING

Date of watching: Thursday, August 8, 2013.

Lebaran may not be the golden time of Indonesian film anymore (when is it ever this year?), because during the holiday period, people flocked to watch Ed Warren and Lorraine Warren excise demons in an old house in 1970s.

This is the first time in a few years that local film no longer ruled cinema in the supposedly coveted time, and gave way to a chilling horror that does not feature teenagers making out.

I was one of the people who queued for the film around 2 weeks after its initial release date, yet the theatre was still packed. Audiences were genuinely scared and thrilled, and seeing the entire room gasped and shrieked is an experience on its own.

5. GRAVITY

Date of watching: Saturday, October 5, 2013.

Gravity

Gravity 

It takes a space to bring us back to cinema.

Not even one extended trailer after another can make us prepared of what we were about to see. There, on the giant screen, Alfonso Cuaron takes us circling around wide, empty outer space, particularly in one uninterrupted 20-minute take that left us breathless. It is even more remarkable that Sandra Bullock, the reigning comedy queen, is the one that carries the entire film on her shoulder. When we see her breathing, we are sucked into the confinement of her helmet and actually feel her struggle. Clocking in under 120 minutes, something of a rarity among other blockbuster hits, upon exit we are wondering, “what just happened?”

The answer is clear: it’s the movie that restores my faith in cinema.

6. ILO ILO

Date of watching: Saturday, November 23, 2013.

One of the highlights in cinema-going experience this year was the moment when JIFFest (Jakarta International Film Festival) was held again. I was not part of the festival this time, but kudos to the programming team to pull off the impossible, given the circumstances and the pressing limit of time.

It was my first time as an audience of the festival, actually, and you can imagine my delight when this film happened to be the first film I saw on the festival. I had no idea that Singapore, only a few years ago still came behind its neighbors in world cinema recognition, now comes up front and strong with this sublime film. It is hard to believe that a film can speak loud in its subtlety, and this film proves that, with a lot more to sweep us off our feet. Perhaps the right words to describe this film are “a very human work”, because it puts empathy in each of main characters, and in turn, gives us a touching film-going experience. This one is a keeper for years to come.

7. MAN OF STEEL

Date of watching: Saturday, June 15, 2013.

Looking back a few months later now, it is not a good film.

But then, looking right at the big IMAX screen, I see my childhood once again, staring in awe watching Superman flying across Niagara Falls in his red cape, with soaring music in the background, making us believe that there is a hero to save our day.

That particular moment for a brief few minutes is one of my very memorable moments in cinema this year.

8. PACIFIC RIM

Date of watching: Saturday, July 13, 2013.

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim

I grew up watching Japanese series about superheroes who fight robots or work together with robots to fight monsters, like Voltus, Ultra-Man, although slowly I bid farewell to them as my attention shifted for good to other genres entirely.

But watching this on big screen on a Saturday afternoon surrounded kids and their parents, rooting over gigantic robots take over one another, who can resist cheering all the way? The banging sound that drums the walls of the cinema halls when the Kaiju moves and runs, the over-the-top fighting scenes, it’s like being in elementary school all over again.

9. 12 YEARS A SLAVE

Date of watching: Saturday, November 23, 2013.

There were films with in-your-face dramatic moments that I saw this year, but none came up as beautiful as this film. In fact, it is so beautiful that you could not look at or watch the film twice. Panoramic shots in many scenes are seemingly taken out of paintings in gallery or pictorial book, its scores are worth being played in a big concert by big orchestra, and production design is simply gorgeous. Bring all those elements to historical violence of slavery, you will be left with cringe and shriek.

I often pinched myself to say, “this is only a movie, this is only a movie” over and over again everytime the whipping tortures begin. Steve McQueen delivers a powerful film, no doubt, and the power is felt among us, audience, long after the credit ends.

You will be relieved to come out of such an experience. Watch it.

10. WADJDA

Date of watching: Monday, November 11, 2013.

Pardon me for being a little sentimental, but I saw this film in a small cinema a little further downtown area of Toronto. It is a one-man art-deco old cinema, and what a delight it was that the film here was shown on celluloid format! While the look of the film, clearly shot in digital, does not benefit from the showing format, it only heightens our experience in watching the film.

This is not a perfect film, for it bears signs of being made by a first timer, such as occasional loose focus and all. Yet, we cannot help rooting for the main character, a teenage girl seeking every possible silver lining in her mundane, almost repressed male-dominated world of Saudi Arabia. We cannot stop looking at her, and wanting to know what happens next as the story progresses. We are put right in the middle of daily life in Saudi Arabia, much to our chagrin sometimes, but the other part of us could not help being amused by the unexpected humor. A promising work that leaves us smiling.

What’s your most memorable experiences in cinema in 2013 then?

PS: If you must know my favorite film this year, this is the one.

Image.

 
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Posted by on 12/28/2013 in Blog, English, Film

 

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