Daily Arts Editors: Who won 2016?
There’s a scene in episode six of “Atlanta” ’s first season — the brilliant “Value” — in which the love of my life, Zazie Beetz, tries to open a condom full of her baby daughter’s piss but spills it on herself. (When they talk about how “Atlanta” is relevant, this is what they mean; I’m so glad getting piss all over yourself isn’t a social taboo anymore). This is the final scene of what is perhaps the most remarkable 30-minute showcase of acting in 2016. My girl Zazie is so talented they gave her a whole episode, and then she went and crushed it again three weeks later in a Hall-of-Fame “drunk acting” episode. Oh, and did I mention she was also the only good part of the unfortunate “Brewery Brothers” storyline on “Easy”?
First things first: this is a GOAT name. You thought they couldn’t top “Zazie,” but then came “Beetz,” and your entire worldview was upended. In more concrete, serious terms, Beetz is preternaturally gifted; she might be the most effortlessly likable actor on TV this side of Gael Garcia Bernal. In both “Easy” and “Atlanta,” she portrays characters who might otherwise be written off as stock “girlfriend” types, but thanks to her inimitable charisma and layered performances, transcends limitations on what this type of character has to be. “Value” (“Atlanta”) and “Hop Dreams” (“Easy”), specifically, are such intimate, complex character studies, yet she pulls both of them off like a seasoned veteran. Also, look at this picture of her smiling and tell me she didn’t win 2016.
— Nabeel Chollampat, Senior Arts Editor
FX dominated 2016 with versatile content that never seemed to stop airing. Not only did three of its shows make The Michigan Daily’s Top 10 TV Series of 2016 — a compilation of the highest caliber — but the network also set a record for basic-cable with 18 Emmys and took home a leading four Golden Globes (if you care about that sort of thing). But arbitrary awards aside, FX series consistently showcased diverse talent and featured stories that have added immensely to popular culture and conversation. Donald Glover’s brainchild “Atlanta” was something completely foreign — and fabulous — to TV, as the offbeat comedy broke conventions of what a “good” show should look like. FX hit another homerun with “The People V O.J. Simpson,” a brilliantly written and directed retelling of the infamous murder trial, and “The Americans” ’s fourth season surpassed all expectations. Furthermore, “The Americans” co-stars and in-real-life-couple Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, both finally recognized for their outstanding performances at the Globes, announced in early 2016 that they were expecting a baby. We have FX to thank for that.
— Danielle Yacobson, Daily TV/New Media Editor
2016 was filled with emotional, hilarious and impressive events on campus, but Taubman College of Architecture’s “Triptychs” exhibit brought true inspiration and originality to Ann Arbor. The University honored the designs of Mr. Terry Sargent, Michigan alumnus and Lord Aeck Sargent architecture firm’s founding principal, who unfortunately passed away in 2014. Mr. Sargent has designed buildings all over the country and has made his focus creating the most sustainable and functional buildings for individual communities. The exhibit displayed the original sketches of Terry Sargent, the water color adaptations of Barbara Ratner and finally, the photos taken by Jonathon Hillyer that showed the finished building.
“Triptychs” represents the concept of advancement, inventiveness and collaboration. These buildings would not have influenced their up-and-coming communities or their extreme environments without the innovative designs of Sargent. Seeing one idea performed in three different mediums was vital to the empowering exhibit. Most importantly, this exhibit showed the amazing works of Sargent as a leader, a Michigan alumnus and an advocate for taking steps toward advanced styles of architecture.
— Erika Shevchek, Daily Community Culture Editor
In nearly every tangible respect, Gucci won 2016. Just over a year into his reign as creative director, longtime employee Alessandro Michele turned the Italian fashion house on its head, pushing it in a more whimsical direction than ever before; bold textures, intricate embroidery and color clashes are now commonplace. The red carpet ate it up, and soon a once antiquated label became the most stylistically progressive brand out there. Though Michele may be innovative, the proof is in the euros. That’s the real kicker — throughout the year, Gucci did just as well on paper as it did creatively. According to Kering, the brand’s parent company, the brand's sales increased by 17 percent in 2016’s third quarter alone, accounting for 60 percent of its profits. Take into account that Kering owns other powerhouses like Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, and it’s easy to see why Gucci (and, to those in the know, Michele) was the word last year.
— Tess Garcia, Senior Arts Editor
If perfect people don't exist, then explain Michelle Obama. It didn’t take long for Michelle to garner ogles from the fashion world, an industry she has tirelessly supported and spoken highly of throughout her time in the White House. Back in 2008, Barry O's better half took on the worst job in America with brains, grace, poise and charm, cultivating her own dynamic style in the process. Though Michelle consistently shook the world with her bold sartorial choices during her run as First Lady, her 2016 wardrobe demands special attention. Our First Icon took 2016 by storm with the help of Tracy Reese, Self Portrait, Naeem Khan, and Brandon Maxwell — a true testament to her spotlighting of up-and-coming-designers. She did, however, opt for an iconic label for her final White House State Dinner — during which she stole our hearts and gazes in the custom rose gold Atelier Versace chainmail gown. Lest we forget her absolutely stunning spread (and interview) shot by Annie Leibowitz (who else?) in November Vogue. She’s strong, sexy, stoic and everything else we’ll miss in the coming years.
— Caroline Filips, Daily Style Editor
PUP. Mannequin Pussy. G.L.O.S.S. Descendents. Joyce Manor. Jeff Rosenstock. So Pitted. Cheena. I could go on, but you probably get the point. If not, what I’m telling you is that 2016 was punk’s year. This is non-negotiable. Not only was 2016 a prolific year for punk, each new release was its own instance of enraged excellence. Artists turned out their work in the genre’s truest fashion — kicking, screaming and demanding to be heard.
But it wasn’t just more of the same; the soundscapes varied, the voices changed. There were some triumphant returns, but many more memorable entrances. We were introduced to the droning dissonance of So Pitted. G.L.O.S.S. showed us their snarling teeth. Mannequin Pussy challenged us to keep up with their ever-changing pace. Joyce Manor actually touched an acoustic guitar. If this writhing mass of music was brought on by the garbage fire that was 2016, 2017 is set to be one hell of a year.
— Carly Snider, Senior Arts Editor
Yell, scream and argue with me on this one, but of all the people who lost 2016 — me, liberalism and a simplistic terminology for sweatpants — Mariah Carey is not one of them. Her New Year’s Eve performance was one of the most fantastic failures of the year. The reverse-psychology genius of strutting on stage for seven minutes, telling the audience it’s their job to sing, and affirming “It just don’t get any better than this” demands respect. Carey bombed better than anyone, and for that, she won.
— Matt Gallatin, Daily Music Editor
“The Lobster,” “The Witch,” “Green Room,” “American Honey,” “Moonlight,” “20th Century Women.” Other than sitting side by side on most (credible) best films of the year lists, what else do these movies have in common? They were all distributed — or in the case of “Moonlight,” also produced — by A24. The independent entertainment company is only four (four!) years old. Ever since “Ex Machina” won the Oscar for best special effects against “Star Wars” last year, A24 has blown past all the preconceived barriers of independent filmmaking. But 2016 was really their year. With the first film they ever produced having just won a Golden Globe and in good position to take home the Oscar for best picture, A24 is successfully — very successfully — spreading stories from underrepresented voices. The movies they choose to produce tell stories of change and resistance, stories of marginalized populations and the persecuted — and they make money. In 2016, they upended and rewrote what filmmaking should and could be.
— Madeleine Gaudin, Senior Arts Editor
If copying is the sincerest form of flattery, 2016 is quite skilled at pitching woo, as film history took much of its stage. Hollywood has been plagued by sequelitis for more than a decade and while that shows no sign of stopping, the prospects of greater originality within revitalized properties appear promising. There were quality reboots like “Ghostbusters” (and we can just forget about really unnecessary “Ben-Hur” and “The Magnificent Seven”) and even better returns for franchises and characters — “Finding Dory” and “Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday.” There were filmmaker returns, like Christopher Guest’s “Mascots” (ten years since directing a feature film) and Warren Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply” (18 years). There were excellent films stuffed with odes to their predecessors, like the “This Is Spinal Tap” homages in “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” and “La La Land” paying tribute to the musicals of Gene Kelly and Jacques Demy. ’70s Spielberg popped up both in “The Shallows” (like “Jaws”) and “Midnight Special” (like “Close Encounters”). There were even two films that appropriated the names of old films — Nate Parker’s long-gestating “The Birth of a Nation” and Disney’s “Moana.” Some current franchises churned out quality films, including “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War.” And, what’s more, this trend is likely to continue; excellent directors are increasingly signing up to contribute to aid this sequelitis. We’ve already seen Gareth Edwards take on “Star Wars,” but get ready for Taika Waititi’s version of “Thor” and Denis Villeneuve’s revival of “Blade Runner.”
— Danny Hensel, Daily Film Editor
The past few years have seen an increase of the interest in historical pieces — of film, of TV and of books, especially as the relationship between the past and the present has been increasingly studied in various forms of media. This is reflected in the book that stands out the most in 2016: “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead, which won the National Book Award. “The Underground Railroad” wins the year not just for its timeliness — it explores the role of race in America beyond the Civil War era, even capturing elements of today — but for its brilliance as a piece of imaginative, evocative fiction.
— Sophia Kaufman, Daily Book Review Editor