Favourites of 2015

Getting this in on the last day of the year! I like to take part with my version of the usual best-of lists/year-end recaps, which is basically just a list of my favourites from the past year. It is in no particular order at all. It is what it is.

ALBUMS

  1. PENTATONIX, Pentatonix
  2. KELLY CLARKSON, Piece by Piece
  3. ADELE, 25
  4. MATT NATHANSON, Show Me Your Fangs
  5. TORI KELLY, Unbreakable Smile
  6. JAMES BAY, Chaos and the Calm
  7. JOY WILLIAMS, Venus
  8. HAMILTON Soundtrack
  9. DAVID COOK, Digital Vein
  10. SARA BAREILLES, What’s Inside – Songs from Waitress

Some of my favourites released some truly good albums this year that I haven’t stopped listening to. 2015 also brought on new favourites in Tori Kelly and James Bay, plus Joy Williams’ first solo effort since The Civil Wars ended. And of course, there was Hamilton; how I wish I could witness it in all its glory, but I’ll have to settle for hearing the soundtrack on repeat.

SONGS

  1. JANET JACKSON, BURNITUP! ft. Missy Elliott
  2. MISSY ELLIOTT, WTF (Where They From) ft. Pharrell
  3. JOJO, Save My Soul
  4. ROZZI CRANE, Crazy Ass Bitch
  5. BRITTANY CAIRNS, Everybody’s Got That Something
  6. JUSSIE SMOLLETT & YAZZ, No Apologies
  7. DEMI LOVATO, Confident
  8. SELENA GOMEZ, Same Old Love
  9. NICK JONAS, Levels

Outside of all the songs I loved on my favourite albums this year, there were these songs. First of all, the return of Missy Elliott! I would’ve been fine with just the feature on Janet’s song, but then she released “WTF, which is just so classic Missy. Also, the return of JoJo who was in record label limbo for so long; she came back with an EP that was a nice re-introduction to her and I can’t wait for what’s next. I loved a lot of the songs that came out of Empire, but my favourite of the bunch is definitely “No Apologies” which fuses the rap, hip-hop and R&B so well. I have to say that I’m actually quite impressed with what Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez did this year on their respective albums; they’ve really come into their own as music artists.

NEW TV SHOWS

  1. iZombie
  2. Fresh Off the Boat
  3. Agent Carter
  4. 12 Monkeys
  5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  6. Daredevil
  7. Dark Matter
  8. Killjoys
  9. UnREAL
  10. Empire
  11. Master of None

SO MANY TV SHOWS!!! These were by far my absolute new favourites of the year. There were also shows I enjoyed like Limitless and Quantico, as well as shows I haven’t had time to watch yet like Jessica Jones.

RETURNING TV SHOWS

  1. The Flash
  2. You’re the Worst
  3. Jane the Virgin
  4. Agents of SHIELD
  5. Orphan Black
  6. The Americans
  7. Outlander
  8. Arrow
  9. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  10. Survivor

These are the shows that are still tops for me, though there are a whole other bunch that are just below these ones that I still really like to watch.

SHOWS THAT ENDED/GOT CANCELLED

  1. Parks and Recreation
  2. Hart of Dixie
  3. Parenthood
  4. Chasing Life
  5. Graceland
  6. Hindsight

The first three shows came to their natural end, the other three were abruptly cancelled (or in the case of Hindsight, renewed then cancelled – thanks a lot, VH1). Either way, it sucks.

MOVIES

  1. Dope
  2. The Martian
  3. The DUFF
  4. The Last Five Years
  5. Brooklyn
  6. Spotlight
  7. Ex-Machina
  8. Cinderella
  9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  10. Inside Out

Mind you, there are A LOT of other movies I still haven’t seen yet, so this is a very small sampling.

So that’s that, my favourites of the past year! I hope you all had a wonderful pop culture filled year, and here’s to more fun in 2016!

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5 Fandom Friday: Favourite Fandom Phrases

5fandomfridayI’ve been neglecting the blog. After a well-rested vacation, I came home to a lot of work and have just been so busy. When I saw the prompts for August, I knew I had to at least do this one. But of course, I forgot and didn’t get to it. So this is me, sharing some of my favourite fandom phrases/quotes a week later.

FRIENDS – “If you know it through a wall, you know it too well!”

I love Friends. What else is there to say? As far as phrases go, I feel like I always say “Could you BE…?” and half the times I say “Oh my god”, I hear Janice’s voice. And I will find an excuse to yell “PIVOT!” But this is one of my favourite lines because, well, doesn’t it just explain us as fans? I mean you watch or hear something often enough, and you can just figure it out from just about anywhere/anything? We’ve all been there.

ONE TREE HILL – “Always and forever”

I loved OTH, but more than anything on that show, I loved Naley. This line was them, and I’m tearing up just looking at that gif.

FRINGE – “You belong with me”

Speaking of lines that make me cry…I mean, like come on, Olivia and Peter! The way she said it just kills me every time I watch it.

NIKITA – “Live the lie until the lie becomes your life”

Live the lie

I could’ve continued the sappiness, and pick a Nikita/Michael quote, but this one is just so meaningful. Being spies/undercover agents, they have to forget who they are and take on these roles. Sometimes they have to immerse themselves into their cover, that it does become their life. It’s a quote that gets said a lot on the show, and as the characters grew, so did the meaning of the quote.

HAPPY ENDINGS – “Suh cyuht”

So many quotables! But I have found myself incorporating “Suh cyuht” (“So cute”, Penny and Alex-style) and also “A-Mah-Zing” into my life a lot. It’s kind of just engrained in me at this point.

HONOURABLE MENTION:

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER – “On your left!”

Every time I hear the words “on your left”, no matter the context, I instantly picture this scene and just laugh.

Music Monday: Absolute Favourites

If you’ve read the blog or have known me long enough, you probably have a good idea at who my most favourite music artists are – Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, Britney Spears, Kyle Riabko, and Delta Goodrem. I could go into detail about why I love them so much, but the simple and vague answer is that, there’s just something about who they are and their music that I connect with. There are also a bunch of other artists whom I am a big fan of and really love – Sara Bareilles, Matt Nathanson, Gavin DeGraw, Christina Aguilera, Kris Allen, The Script, Tyler Hilton, James Morrison, Michelle Branch – though not quite at the same level as the other six. That’s not to mention my love of Vietnamese music as well. For this week’s Music Monday, I share with you my favourite songs from my favourite artists (limited to 3 songs each), plus some additional songs I absolutely love (not including any Vietnamese songs in this playlist though, that’ll be for another day/post).

 

Favourite DWTS Performances

Over the years, I’ve given Dancing With the Stars a lot of flack. First of all, there’s a very loose definition of “Stars.” Up until recently, they had their orchestra band perform all the songs, which I understood, but it resulted in a lot of not-so-good versions of pop songs. Their insistence on using a lot of pop songs was also met with mixed results; some songs just did not work with the style the pairs were supposed to be dancing. Nowadays, it annoys the hell out of me that they insist on including contemporary and jazz (just no, leave it to SYTYCD). Regardless, there has been multiple times where everything just comes together and we get legitimately good/great performances. After a certain point, I was just watching for the Pros and their group numbers during the results shows or dancing alongside the musical guests, but sometimes the stars actually do leave an impression and that’s the reason for the show’s existence. So here goes my top 10* favourite performances from the past 20(?!) seasons, in no particular order.

*Plus a few cheats. Because I can.

1.) Season 2, Drew & Cheryl – “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy”

This freestyle eventually set the bar for all future freestyles. Anyone who actually watched this back in the day, just has fond memories of it. It showed off Drew’s dancing skills that he learned from the weeks of competition and it was a lot of fun to watch. I guess it’s also one of the reasons why I’m not particularly fond of the slow, almost-Contemporary freestyles, because when I think freestyle, I think fun and upbeat. But that’s just me.

2.) Season 10, Nicole & Derek “El Capitalismo Foraneo”

Have I mentioned how much of a sucker I am for a good Tango or Argentine Tango? It’s such a gorgeous dance, and requires the partners to be strong and bold, yet sensual. Sure, Nicole Scherzinger was very much a ringer this season, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t earn her win. This routine was flawless from top to bottom, and it certainly helped that they got a more traditional song to dance to, as opposed to a pop song. Ugh, LOVE IT!

3.) Season 5, Helio & Julianne – “Hey Pachuco!”

The Quickstep is endearingly(?) referred to as the kiss of death on SYTYCD, and that’s because it is HARD. The stamina and energy required to just get through a one minute routine is crazy and mixed with the fact that you have to be light on your feet is crazy difficult, whether you’re a dancer or not. What was great about this routine was that Helio managed to do all that and look like he was legitimately having fun.

4.) Season 9, Joanna & Derek – “Living on Video”/ Season 10, Nicole & Derek – “Spanish Guitar”

As the show grew and with each passing season, it was expected of them to change things up a bit. First they added in non-typical ballroom dance styles, and then they started playing around with these fusion dances (some straight-up combos and some incredibly random). And if anyone could rise up to the challenge, it was Derek. [Full disclosure: I’m a huge Derek Hough fan. I think he’s an amazing dancer/choreographer and deserves all the praise in the world.] It was evident first in season 9, when Derek had to choreograph a ‘Futuristic Paso Doble’ (set to an 80s song) for his partner Joanna; then again in season 10, when he was tasked to choreograph a ’50s Paso Doble’ for Nicole. The end result was all kinds of awesome.

5.) Season 8, Gilles & Cheryl – “Assassin’s Tango”

See #2. Plus using the score from Mr. and Mrs. Smith gave it an extra edge that was absolutely wonderful.

6.) Season 5, Mel & Maks – “Free Your Mind”

The changing of the lyrics was actually hilarious, and exactly what I was talking about earlier. Mel B was just such a beast though, you kind of had to ignore the song arrangement.

7.) Season 18, Meryl & Maks – “Feel So Close”/ Meryl & Val – “Too Close”

I never usually call ringer, even when there’s someone in the competition who has dance experience, because normally it’s like a hip-hop or Broadway background, not ballroom. When Meryl Davis, along with Charlie White, were announced as part of this season’s cast, boy did I ever yell “RINGER!!!” I mean they basically ballroom dance, ON ICE! AND Derek had helped them with choreography for the Olympics! As the season went on though, I just couldn’t deny how great a dancer Meryl is, and she had such a great partnership with Maks. Had to choose both her Tango with Maks and Argentine Tango with Val because I would not have pegged those songs to use for Tangos (which would have annoyed me before), but they made it work!

8.) Season 8, Shawn & Mark – “Do Your Thing”

It was just non-stop dancing, and simply put, so much fun and entertaining to watch.

9.) Season 15, Shawn, Derek & Mark – “Jungle Jazz”

Sure, it was more Afro-Jazz with touches of Samba, but you couldn’t deny how good the performance was. Shawn getting to dance with both her partners on the show was such a treat.

10.) Season 19, Alfonso & Witney – “369”

When it was announced that Alfonso Ribeiro was going to be a part of the season 19 cast, everyone pretty much called it that he was going to win, pretty much based solely on “The Carlton.” From the beginning, he proved that he was going to work hard and earn that Mirror Ball Trophy, starting with this dance. A Jive in week 1 is no joke; you have to get those flicks and kicks right, and make sure you’re light on your feet with a natural bounce/rhythm. Alfonso’s routine was all of that and then some.

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Non-competition performances

1.) Season 5, Jennifer Lopez performs “Let’s Get Loud” with the Pro Dancers

I don’t remember many of the group numbers from seasons 1-4, though obviously I always knew the Pro Dancers were crazy talented. Things changed after watching this performance; I loved every part of it, with our Pro Dancers performing, while J.Lo sang. I think it had finally dawned on me how much I love the Pros dancing as a group, when everything just comes together – choreography, music, costumes. I can’t ever listen to this song now without picturing this performance in my head.

2.) Season 7, Jennifer Hudson with Derek & Julianne – “Spotlight”

The Hough siblings are ridiculously talented and I love them both dearly. It’s just so great to see them dance together, every once in a while.

3.) Season 10, Chelsie & Derek – “Malaguena”

I absolutely loved the simplicity of the performance. An acoustic arrangement (featuring Mark on guitar) and they let the dancing do everything else. It was very much a classic Paso Doble. It’s no wonder they were Emmy nominated for this.

4.) Season 11, Mark & Val “Toxic”

This was before Val became a Pro on the show, though the connections and relationships were already there. They set this up as Val and Mark always having had a friendly rivalry because they both danced and played musical instruments; this was just a fun showcase of that. One of my favourite things about this is that they were playing “Toxic.” I mean, I remember watching it and it starts off with the dueling violin and guitar, then I start hearing those recognizable notes/riffs, and I was like “Are they..? OMIGOD THEY’RE DOING TOXIC!!!” 😀

5.) Season 10, Pro Dancers – “Evacuate the Dancefloor”

It’s great when you see the Pro Dancers do straight ballroom, but it’s also so much fun to see them let loose like this.

6.) Anytime Derek & Allison choreograph something (Season 13/Season 15 “Heart Cry”/Season 18 “Animals”)

Before Allison became a Pro on DWTS, she had often choreographed special performances with Derek. Two of my favourite dancers working together? It was amazing! The first time they performed together on the show in S13, they did an incredible Tango/Paso/Flamenco/Contemporary fusion number;I remember being away on vacation, watching the performance on YouTube, and was honestly left breathless. In S15, they choreographed a beautiful Contemporary number, which also featured Melanie Moore, Kathryn McCormick, and Jessica Lee Keller. Then in S18, they worked together on the really fun fusion featuring some of the Pros and Troupe members, though Allison didn’t perform with them.

Underrated Movies

Hundreds (if not thousands?) of movies get made every year. Not all movies get the luxury of being a blockbuster or even getting wide released in theatres. There are a lot that get limited releases or these days, on-demand; so inevitably, many movies fall through the cracks and might not be as widely known as they should be. A lot of movies also get panned by the critics, some justifiably, others not so much, but I don’t trust the critics half the time anyways so whatever. Now I realized while I was doing a Fandom 5 post, that I owned quite a few of these little known movie gems, and wanted to share some of my personal favourite underrated movies.

THE PERFECT SCORE

Feeling the pressures and stresses of the SATs from all those around them, a group of high school students try to steal the answers. I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but what if I told you it starred Chris Evans, Erika Christensen, Scarlett Johansson, Bryan Greenberg, Leonardo Nam, and Darius Miles? And that One Tree Hill writer/EP/showrunner Mark Schwann was also one of the screenwriters for the movie? It was a teen dramedy with a caper twist! Such a fun watch that I even worked it into one of my class projects (Sociology class and Strain Theory!), which back in my school days was a surefire sign of how much I loved something.

10 YEARS

I’ve already written about how much I loved this movie after seeing its premiere at TIFF, but I’m still bummed that it didn’t get a bigger release.

TEN INCH HERO

This was really one of those movies that fell through the cracks. I remember hearing about it, mainly because a lot of One Tree Hill people were attached to it (Elisabeth Harnois, Danneel Harris, Bethany Joy Lenz) but it never got released in theatres and I had the hardest time trying to find it on DVD. One day out of the blue, I found it at Wal-Mart, bought it obviously, and have never seen it in any stores since. The movie is a different take on the co-workers become friends/family plot, though each of the main characters have their own mini-arc within the movie.

LIKE CRAZY

Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin star in this romantic drama about a couple struggling to deal with their long-distance relationship – she’s in London, he’s in Los Angeles. Director Drake Doremus and the actors really made you feel for this couple and all their hardships.

ANTITRUST

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a big movie when it came out in 2001, but I somehow stumbled upon it. I remember wanting to watch it just because Ryan Phillippe and Rachael Leigh Cook were in it. It’s sort of a cyber thriller, with Phillippe playing a programmer, who tries to take down Tim Robbins’ CEO of a high-tech software company. It’s not the greatest movie in the world by any means, but I thoroughly enjoyed it for many years (it’s been a while since my last re-watch), including this line “And in the real world, you’re fucked!”

THE GOOD GUY

This was one of those movies I sought out after finding out that it starred Scott Porter, Bryan Greenberg and Alexis Bledel. Porter’s Tommy takes Greenberg’s Max under his wing, showing him the ropes of being an investment broker and how to socialize with women. Tommy questions his decisions when Max starts getting close to Tommy’s girlfriend Beth (Bledel). Again, it’s not something you expect much from, but the end result was quite enjoyable.

BEGIN AGAIN

No, I will not shut up about it! I will make any excuse to bring it up! LOL

 

Have you seen any of these movies? What are some of your favourite underrated/under-appreciated movies? Share in the comments!