Best and Worst of 2016

Best and Worst of 2016

2016 isn't likely to go down as the best year of anyone's life–not even for the smarmy racists who can't wait for Trump to take power. Wait until they get a load of what he really has in store for peons like themselves! In the "mixed bag at best" spirit of things, here's my short list of the Best and Worst of 2016.


It was a pretty good year for art–one enhanced by a relative dearth of "blockbuster" shows. I'm a big fan of smaller exhibits–especially those that expose us to the works of those likely to get lost in the hype of "big" art events.

Two shows stand out as, simply, a whole lot of fun. There was, first of all, one devoted to quirky Maine artist Bernard Langlais that I saw at the Ogunquit Museum of Modern Art last spring. The other is at the Norman Rockwell Museum through May of 2017: an exhibit devoted to Hanna-Barbera cartoons. (Watch the blog for an upcoming review.) 

My vote for the worst was Milton Avery in Vermont at the Bennington Museum of Art. It wasn't horrible—simply minor work that didn't justify the hype. 


This was another stellar year in fiction, but one would be hard-pressed to read anything more magical than Fredrik Backman, My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She'sSorry. Is it Shakespeare? Who cares!

Margaret Atwood surprisingly takes the booby prize for worst novel of the year with her The Heart Goes Last. Maybe it does, but I've seldom seen a great writer–and Atwood falls into that category–so completely lose control of a narrative. The last third of this book is an embarrassment.


So many wonderful things came out last year, but two stayed with me: Ten Strings and a Goat Skin kicked up a mighty Celtic ruckus on Après du Poêle and Carrie Newcomer scored with earnest, honest, transcendence on The Beautiful Not Yet.

The worst? Not much turned me off, though Louise Goffin, the daughter of Bernie Goffin and Carole King reminded me on The Essential Louise Goffin that chips often fall pretty far from the block.


Mediocrity ruled in 2016–so much so that it's no longer silly to contemplate whether Hollywood has a future. Sequels, video games made into features, and f/x that can't disguise the essential vacuousness of scripts have become Hollywood's stock-in-trade.

My best American film of the year is Hell or High Water, which came out earlier in the year and probably won't win any big awards come Oscar time, but it has more soul and humanity than most of what's on offer. And, as is always the case this time of the year—Oscar front-runners won't be released in most of the country until around February 1. 

Rams, an Icelandic gem, was the best foreign film of the year. 

The worst? So many choices, but I found Anomalisa creepy in a disturbing way. I also thought  A Bigger Splash was awful in just about every way it could be.


I'm supposed to say the Cubs winning the World Series, right? Actually, I was more thrilled to see the Cleveland Indians get that far. I've long said there was no excuse for a team as rich as the Cubs to have sucked as long as they did, so let's show some love for the champions from the postindustrial shores of Lake Erie.

Worst: The NationalFootball League. It makes me want to vomit—not just because people my neck of the woods worship Yuppie scum Tom Brady, but because the NFL is an entire industry supported by taxpayer dollars that lines the pockets of owners that ignore concussion syndrome. Is there anything more vile than literally killing young men for a gladiator spectacle? In a just world, football would be banned–like dog fighting and bear-baiting.


Was there anything good? Barack Obama got nothing done in his final year in office, lacked the courage to fight for his Supreme Court nominee, and began easing out of town after selling out Israel without making any demands that Palestinian terrorism cease. Ugh!

But the shining moment—and alas! It was just a moment–was the campaign of Bernie Sanders. For a shining moment we actually discussed the importance of class and imagined a world remade. Young people were engaged and excited, Wall Street was quaking in its collective boots, and the Democratic Establishment was wringing its hands. I cherish those memories, as I doubt their like will come again in my lifetime.

The worst? Of course it's impending racist, neo-fascism regime of Donald Trump. But my runner-up low light was the bankruptcy of liberalism. Liberals are just as responsible as the Tea Party for Trump's victory. What a crock of bullshit they tried to peddle. That Hillary was a progressive. That she who only ever won a single political race in her life was more "experienced" than Sanders. That everything that happened to her was due to sexism or some other external unfairness. That she cared about ordinary Americans. That "only she" could beat Trump. I'd gloat—except that Trump is too dangerous to allow that. But dammit! Liberals got what they deserved. Those who fail to dream never wake up. I'm honestly not sure the Democratic Party can be salvaged. Or if it should be.

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