We're either going to remember 2015 as a wonderful year full of horrible shit, or a horrible year full of wonderful shit (or you can completely ignore my fun linguistic juxtaposition and position yourself in the "Eh, it was just okay" corner). No matter how you recollect this year, one thing's for sure: a bunch of great stuff got made. I will, in the words that follow, exercise my dominion over this tiny chunk of the Portland Mercury to tell you about my favorite things from this year.
MASTER OF NONE
This probably isn't a thing I should admit as a stand-up comedian who enjoys having a career, but for the past few years, I really didn't care for Aziz Ansari. I thought he abandoned the fun, irreverent style that made him such a magnetic young comedian, and instead tried to shoehorn himself into a preconceived role as a genre-transcendent relationship expert. I didn't want to hear some guy (who was, like, a year older than me) "telling it like is." I thought he cranked out too much material in too little time, and his entire body of work suffered for it. Then, this year, I watched his new Netflix series, Master of None, and it's 100% certain whatever journey he was on was worth it. The show works on so many levels—it's funny, it's heartfelt, it uses surreal set-pieces and flashbacks in a beautiful way, it tackles social issues, and feels, at times, like a travel documentary about Brooklyn. I'm prone to hyperbole and I never have any idea what I'm talking about, but in Master of None, Aziz comes off like Woody Allen without the PROBLEMS, and Louis C.K. without the pretension.
PUSHA T'S DARKEST BEFORE DAWN
This album isn't even out yet. I haven't even heard every track, but I can already tell you it's my favorite album of the year. Pusha T makes rap for the winter. He makes rap for aching frigid fingers and wet socks in last summer's now puddle-stained Air Maxes. Your iPhone is entombed in a flannel pocket underneath a hoodie, underneath a sweater, underneath a jacket, but it doesn't matter because you aren't skipping any tracks anyway. Darkest Before Dawn has powerful co-signs via production from Kanye, Timbaland, Diddy, Q-Tip, and J. Cole, but none of it would mean anything without Pusha T's verses, which are sharp (clever) and sharp (I feel like I could cut deli meat with the dude's voice).
THE BIG SHORT
This is one of those movies where you kind of have to frown at a wall for about seven minutes after the credits start rolling. The movie is good as fuck, by the way, but it does such a good job of explaining, contextualizing and humanizing the housing bubble collapse and ensuing financial disaster of a couple years ago that it leaves you drained, furious and terrified when it's over. There are fantastic performances, particularly by Steve Carrell, that float momentarily above the chilling heft of the whole thing—but then you remember that these performances serve only as part of our present narrative as a nation and a people; that we can't stop fucking ourselves, and there are a grip of people who are more than happy to help us.