These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things – 2016 Edition

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I didn’t think we’d make it, but 2016 is almost in the rearview mirror. This has been a weird year in a lot of ways, including the world of pop culture. While there were definitely things that I really loved this year, I feel like overall this was an off year for the entertainment industry in general and the film industry in particular. I didn’t go to the movies nearly as much this year as I have in the past, partially because the offerings were not that great. Of course, I’m just embarking on the end of the year movie binge when a lot of the best films are released, but overall there were a lot of clunkers. Television shined more brightly again this year, a trend that I hope continues. I went to fewer concerts in 2016, partially because of a reallocation of financial resources, but also because at this point I’ve seen almost everyone that I really want to see. I had an uptick in going to the theater in 2016 and I traveled more, perhaps a prolonged effect of having spent the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 cooped up at home with a broken ankle and its recovery.

So without further ado, here are my favorite pop culture items from 2016. As always, they come with the caveat that these aren’t necessarily the best selections for the year; even I can’t see/listen to/read everything, so my selections are limited to those things that I’ve actually experienced and enjoyed.

Television

Atlanta

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I wasn’t even going to do an end of the year roundup this year since I felt like this was an off year, but I felt compelled to do so simply to tell people how freaking great FX’s new series Atlanta was. This show, my friends, is the real deal and deserves all the accolades that critics have heaped upon it. The series is the brainchild of Donald Glover and while I certainly knew that he was talented thanks to his role on Community and his musical career as Childish Gambino, I had no idea that he was capable of a show like this. Atlanta is a breath of fresh air and perfectly balances being both thoughtful and absurd. The show follows Earn (Glover) as he attempts to help his cousin Alfred aka “Paper Boi” (Brian Tyree Henry) cash in on his minor success in the Atlanta rap world. This cast is so ridiculously talented that while Glover is probably the well-known cast member, the show is confident enough to focus entire episodes on the supporting characters, including Earn’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Vanessa (Zazie Beetz) and Alfred’s wonderfully weird pal Darius (Keith Stanfield). This is one of the few series that deals with the realities of living paycheck to paycheck and I appreciate the diverse viewpoint; some of the ideas on Atlanta have been addressed on other shows, but Glover and company provide a new perspective. I was in on this show from the pilot, but what completely sold me was an early episode where in this universe Justin Bieber is a young black man. This is presented without overt comment or explanation and while it is silly, it is silly it is also thought provoking. I love, love, love this show and can’t wait until its second season.

 

O.J.: Made In America

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The biggest debate over this five part ESPN mini-series is whether this should be considered a television event or a movie. Otherwise it is generally accepted that this look at the 1995 O.J. Simpson murder trial and the context for its controversial verdict is riveting and exceptional. I wrote about it at length when it debuted, but if you haven’t gotten around to watching it yet, I strong recommend it. Really good stuff.

 

American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson

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Further proof that 2016 was an odd year is the fact that O.J. Simpson has something of a moment this year. Not only was his trial examined in depth in the mini-series O.J.: Made In America, but it was also the subject of Ryan Murphy’s latest anthology series American Crime Story. The acting in American Crime Story is off the charts fantastic; there is a reason that they cleaned up at the Emmy Awards this year. Even though I lived through the O.J. Simpson trial, American Crime Story was must-see TV for me this year and is a wonderful companion to O.J.: Made in America. Sterling K. Brown and Sarah Paulson become Chris Darden and Marcia Clark, respectively.

 

Westworld

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 I will admit that I am not quite as enamored with this show as a lot of people that I know, but it makes the list because it was fun to have a watercooler show that let the viewer at home hypothesize on what was going to happen next. I hadn’t realized that I missed the fan theory aspect of shows like Lost until Westworld returned and while I definitely think that the show has some flaws (like focusing too much on the mysteries over character or plot development), it was nice to know that this was a show that was going to spark discussions. You can read more about my thoughts on the Westworld pilot here.

 

The Night Of

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HBO’s long gestating crime drama finally debuted in 2016 and it was instantly captivating. You couldn’t look away from the talented performances of John Turturro and Riz Ahmed and while there were some narrative missteps – especially related to the character of Chandra – I was excited to tune in every Sunday night at see how the story would unfold. I’m not sure that The Night Of totally broke through the cultural zeitgeist as I predicted, but it certainly made for some interesting viewing.

 

Horace and Pete

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Louis CK is always full of interesting surprises and his out-of-nowhere debut of Horace and Pete was no exception. Closer to a stage show than a TV series, Louis CK brought together a dream cast to tell the heartbreaking and hilarious story of Horace, Pete, and their family bar. This is so well done from beginning to end and it worth watching just for Laurie Metcalf’s mesmerizing performance in episode 3. She is a gift to us all. I wrote about the series previously here. The series is now available on Hulu, so you have no excuse for not watching.

 

Stranger Things

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Like the rest of the world, I was completely charmed by this wonderful Netflix series. It doesn’t hurt that it channels plenty of nostalgia for the movies of my childhood, but Stranger Things works even if you don’t have the same 80s point of reference. The casting director deserves some sort of medal for assembling such a stellar cast of young actors; it’s hard enough to get one good kid in a movie, let alone a whole bunch of them. I’m both excited and a little trepidatious for the second season; the first season was great but it was also an unknown quality. I’ll be interested to see how the series fares under the pressure of expectations. Read my thought about the series here.

Honorable mention to returning shows Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which all had great seasons.

Movies

The Nice Guys

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This was an unexpected treat; you don’t necessarily think that Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are going to be a great comedic team, but here we are. Not enough people saw this movie so sadly I don’t think it will get a sequel, but it was an enjoyable ride. Check out my full review here.

 

Captain America: Civil War

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I’m always a sucker for a Marvel movie and the Captain America films are among the best that Marvel has done. Civil War did a nice job of both giving loyal viewers payoff from watching all the previous films as well as a relatively seamless introduction of a bunch of new characters; I am now way more excited about the forthcoming Black Panther and Spider-Man reboot than I was previously. Read my full review here.

 

Deadpool

This is the movie that won me back over to liking Ryan Reynolds again. It’s nice to have a fun superhero movie again; I knew basically nothing about Deadpool prior to the movie, but this was a delightful and dirty trip. Finally a rated-R superhero film. It’s about time. This is probably the most fun that I had at the theater in 2016. My full review can be found here.

 

The Hateful Eight

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Yeah, technically this movie was released in 2015, but I reviewed in 2016 so I’m counting it. It’s always a good year when Quentin Tarantino has a new movie. Violent and challenging, The Hateful Eight is a welcome addition to the Tarantino canon. My full review can be found here.

 

La La Land

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LLL d 29 _5194.NEF

Look for a full review next week

 

Music

Lemonade – Beyoncé

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This is easily my album of the year, not just because it is full of phenomenal songs and has a compelling visual component, but because no other album dominated the culture quite like Lemonade. In the weeks after its release, everyone was talking about Lemonade; I walked down the streets of NYC and every outdoor café I passed, people were analyzing the songs and debating who “Becky with the good hair” might actually be. In my mind, Beyoncé can do no wrong, but Lemonade may be her most triumphant work yet. Socially aware, raw, and damn catchy – Lemonade has it all.

This pretty much sums up 2016

This pretty much sums up 2016

 

Adele – Madison Square Garden

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I turned 40 this year, which sucked on many levels, not the least because while I spent the last three years celebrating other people’s 40th birthdays, no one planned much of anything for mine. But if one thing can soften the blow of not getting a party, it’s seeing Adele live and in concert. Seeing Adele wasn’t even on my bucket list because I didn’t even know if the opportunity to see her would ever arise. I dared not to dream that big. But thanks to my friend Kristin, it happened. And it totally lived up to expectations. It was a magical evening. She doesn’t plan to tour again any time soon, but if the chance to see Adele presents itself, you must take it. Read my post about the concert here.

 

Garth Brooks – DCU Center

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I’ve wanted to see Garth Brooks forever; despite being a casual country music fan at best, I’ve always like Garth Brooks’ songs and have long heard that he’s great in concert. I missed in him 2015, but managed to make it happen in 2016. He was great and the show was a lot of fun. No one can quite crank out the hits like Garth. Read my post about the concert here.

Odds and Ends

In the Dark podcast

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My true crime obsession showed no signs of letting up in 2016 and one of my better finds to scratch that particular itch was the podcast In the Dark. What I particularly liked about the case that was examined in the podcast was that it wasn’t unsolved; instead of focusing on trying who committed a crime or in exonerating a person who was wrongfully imprisoned, In the Dark could instead focus on the process and why it took so long for the case to finally be closed. What they uncover is disturbing and probably all too common – failure to follow basic police procedure and tunnel vision. Well researched and thoughtful, I looked forward to each weekly installment. Read my post about the podcast here.

 

Hamilton

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I was lucky enough to see Hamilton for a second time this year and it was just as good the second time around. Read my review here.

 

Museum of Ice Cream

I don’t know what people were more of jealous of me for this year – seeing Hamilton again, seeing Adele, or visiting the museum of ice cream. It was a fun day that didn’t totally live up to the hype, but swimming in a pool of sprinkles is easily a highlight of the year. Read about the trip here.

 

Biden Memes

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The 2016 election seemed to last forever and showed just how divided our country has become. But one of the best things to come out of the election was the proliferation of memes celebrating the friendship of Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama. Regardless of your political affiliation, these memes were funny. “Uncle Joe” has always been a source of comedic relief, but never have we needed that so badly as we did this year.

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Now it’s your turn – what were your favorite pop culture things in 2016? Share with the class in the comments section. Happy New Year!

Heather Watches the 2016 Golden Globes

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It’s that time of year again for awards season to kick into high gear with the Golden Globes. The Globes are always a weird night – the winners are often odd, the booze is flowing and television and movie stars are trapped together in a room. Ricky Gervais was back again to host after taking a few years off; I like Gervais, but I’ll miss the comedy stylings of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Gervais spends way too much time trying to be edgy and pretending he doesn’t care about any of this, but I thinks he doth protest too much. I’ll admit that I’m not much into the Globes this year and would have preferred to go to bed, but a blogger’s life is full of sacrifices.

As always, I kept a running diary of my thoughts of the show.

Red Carpet coverage – skipped this completely. I was far too invested in the Packers/Washington football team playoff game to switch the channel to hear awkward banter. I have enough of that in my life already.

Watch the full monologue here.

8 pm – Topical Sean Penn jokes kicks things off. Like that Ricky Gervais has a beer on the podium.

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8:01 – Shots fired at NBC’s zero Golden Globe nominations.

8:03 – This material about Jeffrey Tambor and Transparent isn’t working; Ricky – you can do better.

8:05 – “Remember if you do win tonight, no one cares about that award as much as you do. Don’t get emotional, it’s embarrassing.”

8:08 – Jonah Hill as the bear in The Revenant.

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8:09 – Hill is getting bleeped a lot. This premise could have worked, but it does not.

8:10 – Jane Fonda is not amused by ANY of this.

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8:11 – Kate Winslet wins best supporting actress in a flim for Steve Jobs and looks very surprised by this. She’s pulling a Taylor Swift.

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8:12 – They really need to have a clearer path for the winners to get to the stage.

8:13 – Important reminder – Winslet’s hubby is named Nick Rocknroll.

8:14 – The Rock and J Lo to present best supporting actress on TV. That’s a lot of attractiveness on the stage.

Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

8:15 – Maura Tierney and her glasses wins for The Affair.

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8:20 – Andy Samberg here to present best actress in a comedy TV series.

8:21 – I would actually pay to see the guitar dude from Mad Max: Fury Road to play the In Memorium segment.

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8:22 – Whoa – Rachel Bloom wins for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Did not see that one coming.

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8:23 – Uh – there was already a musical comedy on network television. It’s called Galavant and it’s awesome.

8:24 – Oy. Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard to present best TV comedy. Are they contractually obligated to do everything together?

8:25 – Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle wins – a show I just realized was a thing like two weeks ago.

8:26 – Viola Davis is here to present a scene from Carol. Shine bright like a diamond, Viola.

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8:33 – Brad Pitt appears to be the only person paying attention to the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press’ speech.

8:34 – Ben Affleck cheating BURN.

8:35 – Isn’t it weird to have Matt Damon present a scene from his own movie?

8:36 – Odd pairing Bryce Dallas Howard and Orlando Bloom present best limited series or TV movie.

8:37 – Wolf Hall wins, marking the first award going to something that I actually have seen.

8:39 – Amber Heard and Jamie Alexander need to get their act together. They are doing a terrible job of presenting best actor in a limited series or TV movie

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8:40 – I can’t argue with Oscar Issac’s win, but David Oyelowo is amazing in Nightingale.

8:45 – Jason Statham, Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig present Spy.

8:46 – I enjoy Statham doing comedy.

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8:47 – Tom Ford and Lady Gaga present best actor in TV series.

8:48 – Christian Slater wins for Mr. Robot, a series that I quite enjoy.

8:50 – Jamie Foxx and Lily James present original score in a motion picture.

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8:51 – Foxx is such a creeper. Even Denzel looks bewildered.

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8:52 – Will Smith might be the only person enjoying this.

8:53 – Foxx pulls Steve Harvey and give the award to Straight Outta Compton. Real winner is The Hateful Eight, which Tarantino accepts for Ennio Morricone.

8:54 – Tarantino just called movie composing “the ghetto.” I’m sure that will be well received.

8:54 – Also – Tarantino’s speech was factually inaccurate; Morricone has previously won a ton of awards, including two Golden Globes.

8:55 – Foxx introduces his daughter as Miss Golden Globe, whom I assume he will not hit on.

8:56 – Ricky’s beer is getting pretty low.

8:56 – America Ferrera and Eve Longoria having some fun with the fact that they are mistaken for other Latina actresses before presenting best actor in a TV drama. This is a legit stacked category.

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8:57 – WHOO-HOO!!! Jon Hamm wins for Mad Men. This has made the last hour worthwhile.

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9:03 – The awesomeness continues with Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer. They’re here to present clips from Trainwreck and Joy.

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9:04 – Unexpectedly, they are adorable.

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9:06 – Amy Adams is here to present best actor in a comedy.

9:07 – Why do they have Mark Ruffalo sitting in the dark?

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9:07 – Matt Damon wins for The Martian, which is not really a comedy but whatever.

9:14 – Keeping it in the family, Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson present best animated film.

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9:15 – The closest thing to a lock tonight – Inside Out gets the win.

9:16 – Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt are almost too handsome for this stage. They’re here to present a clip from The Big Short.

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9:19 – J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette present best supporting actor in a motion picture.

9:20 – I love that they are playing the Rocky theme as Sylvester Stallone accepts his win. And a standing ovation to boot!

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9:21 – Glad Stallone won, but he really should have thanked Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler.

9:23 – Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are here to present in silly glasses.

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9:25 – Haha – they are making fun of the TV people seated in the back.

9:27 – Aaron Sorkin wins best screenplay for Steve Jobs.

9:28 – Supergirl and The Flash present for best actor in a comedy series.

9:29 – Aziz Ansari – amazing!

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9:33 – UPSET ALERT – Jeffrey Tambor does not win! Gael Garcia Bernal wins for Mozart in the Jungle, which the Foreign Press apparently loves.

9:37 – Helen Mirren and Gerard Butler present best foreign language film.

9:37 – Mirren tells Butler that he looks good for his age 😉

9:39 – Hungry wins for Son of Saul.

9:40 – Gervais is right – this show could be half an hour.

9:41 – Kevin Hart and Ken Jeong are in fact short. They’re presenting best actress in a limited series.

 

9:43- Proof that the Hollywood Foregin Press are crazy – they just gave Lady Gaga a Golden Globe for American Horror Story: Hotel.

9:44 – Watch Leo’s face in this Vine. #Priceless

 

9:45 – There are some very weird cutaways during these speeches – especially to people who are not paying attention.

9:46 – Take it down a notch Gaga. I’m sure that you’re excited to win, but you didn’t cure cancer.

 

9:50 – Now Katy Perry is presenting. Did this morph into the Grammys? And is she wearing a bumpit?

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9:51 – It’s not a surprise that the song from Spectre won, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it.

9:53 – Well Ricky Gervais certainly went after Mel Gibson in such a way that I seriously thought that Gibson wasn’t actually there. That was

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9:54 – The uncensored version of what Gervais said when he came back out on stage:

9:54 – Whatever Gibson said to Gervais, it was bleeped out and shocked Alan Cumming.

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9:56 – Gorgeous duo Olivia Wilde and John Krasinki to present best drama series.

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9:57 – Yay! Mr. Robot wins. The Globes make no sense, but sometimes they make fun picks.

9:59 – I would literally pay $1,000,000 to find out what Jane Fonda and Terrence Howard could possibly be chatting about.

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10:02 – Now here’s Tom Hanks to try and lend some class to this dumpster fire of an award show. He’s here to present Denzel with the Cecil B. DeMille award.

10:08 – It’s clear from that montage that there are a surprising number of Denzel Washington movies that I’ve never seen.

10:12 – It’s sweet that Denzel brought up his whole family. Here’s his speech.

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10:19 – Does Chris Evans have a slight speech impediment? He seems to have trouble with words “story,” “abuse” and “church” in introducing Spotlight.

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10:20 – Person in the audience – do not “whoop” for the city of Boston when it is preceded by “rocked by sex abuse scandal.”

10:23 – Moran Freeman presents best director in a motion picture and has surprisingly worked with none of the candidates.

10:24 – Alejandro G. Inarritu wins for The Revenant, which I hope to see this week.

10:25 – Two people I don’t care about give Taraji P. Henson her award for Empire.

10:26 – Haha – Taraji hands out cookies on her way to the stage.

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10:27 – Dude! Do NOT step on her train!

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10:28 – Word to the producers – if you know what’s best for you, do not play off Taraji. I sincerely believe that she’ll rough you up.

10:31 – Michael Keaton to present best actress in a comedy. Fingers crossed that it’s Amy Schumer! I’d love to hear her speech.

10:32 – Eh. Jennifer Lawrence is always great. Didn’t love Joy but always love her. She and A Shu hug it out.

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10:33- I’ve got bad news for you JLaw – Kentucky is not a hometown.

10:34 – Maggie Gyllenhaal introduces clips from Room. She always seems so regal and composed. Though I’m not fully on board with that dress.

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10:39 – Tobey Maguire introduces clips from fellow “p*ssy posse” member Leonardo DiCaprio’s film The Revenant

10:41 – Jim Carey has two Golden Globes. Let that sink in.

10:42 – Actually, he’s pretty funny. That’s a low bar tonight, but I’m finding him amusing. He’s here to present best motion picture comedy. And his beard is amazing.

Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

10:43 – The Globes is committing to their nonsense about The Martian being a comedy by also giving this award. Great movie, that also has some laughs, but it is not a comedy.

10:51 – Eddie Redmayne presents best actress in a drama; has to put up with Ricky Gervais’ silly intro about his role in The Danish Girl.

10:52 – Hooray for Brie Larson, who has been overlooked in Hollywood for too long. She’s good in everything.

73rd ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS -- Pictured: (l-r) Brie Larson, "Room", Winner, Best Actress - Motion Picture, Drama at the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2016 -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC

10:52 – This also seems like the appropriate time to say that the father of her young co-star is very attractive:

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10:53 – Julianne Moore presents best actor in a drama.

10:54 – Leo wins. Everyone is happy. He still wants a goddamn Oscar.

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10:57 – We almost got through this show without anyone talking about issues, but Leonardo gets a plea for the protection of indigenous people in just under the wire.

11:02 – The Golden Globes brings it home with Harrison Ford presenting the award for best drama.

11:03 – The Revenant is the big winner.

11:04 – Inexplicable reaction shot of Jon Hamm, but I’m not complaining.

11:05 – Tom Hardy apparently does not do awards shows. This is not surprising.

11:06 – Thank goodness this foolishness is over.

So as far as awards shows go, I’m going to say that this one was pretty terrible. Gervais was only occasionally funny and a lot of his “edgy” material was pretty dated. Plus I don’t really understand the point of having a host that consistently wants to complain about how little these awards matter and how he doesn’t want to be there; a little self-deprecation is totally fine and welcome, but after a while it’s like “if you are so miserable, why are you here?” I’m all for edgy if it’s also funny, which most of his jokes were not. Same goes for a lot of the presenters, who suffered from bits that just didn’t work or from their sheer lack of giving a shit about what they were doing. Of course, then there were the people who went in the opposite direction, like Lady Gaga’s over the top acceptance speech. I’m never going to love the Golden Globes, but they were a much more enjoyable mess when Tina and Amy were hosting. Maybe have Brad Pitt and Ryan Glosling do it; they were the surprise comedy duo of the evening. This awards show was instantly forgettable – thank goodness that I took notes while watching it or I would have forgotten most of it. I think Rob Lowe’s reaction sums it up best:

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