From Out of the Awful: Oohlo’s Bright Spots 2016, Part One

Saying that 2016 has been an awful year is an understatement. We lost cultural icons, put a Cheeto-skinned real estate hustler in the White House, and saw hate-fueled horrors of all shapes and sizes unfold in our news streams.

Despite our cynical candy shell, in our hearts, we at Oohlo Labs™ are relentless optimists. Among the losses and the ugliness there were many things that are worth celebrating. Join the staff as we shine a spotlight on a few things we believe add some shine to an otherwise gloomy mass of trips around the sun.

Kickass Women

The entertainment industry may still have its behind-the-scenes issues, but it did make some progress in front of the camera by giving us a welcome number of kickass women on our screens of all sizes. It started with a holdover from late 2015, Daisy Ridley’s Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That kicked open the door for Peggy Carter, Tulip O’Hare, Eleven, the women of Game of Thrones, Wonder Woman, the Danvers sisters, Harley Quinn, Misty Knight, Maeve Millay and a host of others to stride through, and into our collective consciousness. These characters were strong, resourceful and gloriously complex. Let’s hope this is only the beginning of a greater trend. – Craig Wack

Beyonce’s Lemonade


If a meteor had struck this planet 48 hours after Beyonce dropped Lemonade on us, we as a planet would have died satisfied. Much has been written on the political and social reach of the album, as well it should have been. Beyonce drew battle lines with this record, placed her self squarely on one side of the line and dared everyone to challenge her. The visual album was a breathtaking piece of artistic perfection that celebrated Black Girl Magic, powerful women of colour and the fight for Black Lives Matter, recognition and respect.

Even hadLemonade had been our only decent musical release this year, I think we’d all have been pretty happy. — Nadine Morgan

Agent Carter

Though we lost the television version of Peggy this year, 2016’s first ten weeks were gloriously lit by Hayley Atwell’s unstoppable charm and her chemistry with every single character that crossed Carter’s whirlwind path. Whether chatting up a friend (Jarvis), mesmerizing potential lovers (Wilkes, Sousa), or outwitting baddies (Dottie, Frost) matters not; in her second season, Agent Carter hit her perfect stride. No other series so rewarded audiences with fabulous fashion, lighthearted fun (that musical!), and a fierce feminist way ahead of her time; we’re all on standby until some clever network realizes Agent Carter‘s value. And, that’s not even accounting for the cast’s delightful Dubsmash Wars or Atwell’s long-awaited return (thank the gods!) to social media. — Cindy Davis

Deadpool

Ryan Reynolds’ passion project was met with more than a little skepticism, mainly because the star of a string of forgettable rom-coms and the enormous flop that was Green Lantern wanted to get back into an already overcrowded superhero game. Its clever marketing campaign (both traditional and viral) got people’s hopes up because fans have been burned before by slick trailers. Reynolds and his merry band of believers delivered a hilariously profane, ultra-violent superhero spectacle that was everything the character of Deadpool was supposed to be – and did it all at a fraction of the cost of some of its more famous peers. It ended up being arguably the best and most profitable superhero film of the year. – CW

Childish Gambino, Awaken, My Love!

Donald Glover is someone I’m always just a little worried about. The man is a creative genius and I’ll talk more on his other activities in 2016, but he’s always seemed…sensitive. Whatever he was or did or has gone through, he’s found his way back and 2016 was The Year of Donald. Awaken My Love is a stunning new direction for the mercurial performer, leaning hard on Soul and African influences both musically and visually to add to his already unique hip hop style. Each new song leaves you stunned by the vocal talent on display. I knew the man could sing but I did not know he could do this. — NM

Westworld

Take a group of incredible actors at the top of their game, toss in timely questions about what happens when artificial intelligence becomes self-aware, and throw in a jumbled timeline; what do you get? Only one of the most intriguing and introspective series of this year. For those who love a puzzle coming together before their eyes, who enjoy poring over bits and pieces and theorizing about the big picture Westworld provided fantastic fodder. More than that, with their breathtakingly (often soul-crushing) powerful performances, headliners Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright soundly dispelled any notion that diverse casts don’t draw in huge audience numbers. — CD

Atlanta

We’re back with Donald Glover again, and to get it out of the way, another major highlight of the year was his casting as a young Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars Han Solo standalone movie. Despite his considerable talent and success, it’s seemed at times like Hollywood didn’t know quite what to do with Glover, but at long last, they worked it out; don’t do anything. Let him do it and just make space for him in the line up. So, they did. And thank the gods for that.

Atlanta, following a group of friends trying to break into the music industry, is Glover’s best work to date. Strange and dreamlike, the show has a surreal quality that is absolutely addicting.  I’ve read critics who feel it lacks direction, but I feel like they’re missing the point. Atlanta isn’t about the destination, about whether the protagonists actually find fame and fortune. Instead it’s an observation of the journey, of the BS you have to swallow, the situations you lose control of or find yourself trapped in, just to try to get a chance at any kind of success.

My favourite episode is when Ern’s (Glover)  genuinely lovely wife Vanessa  smokes a joint with an old friend, forgetting that her job is performing drug tests the very next day. She tries to secure clean pee from everywhere before resourcefully draining her daughter’s used diapers for enough pee to use, but at the vital moment, she spills the pee all over herself. She admits the truth to her boss who reveals the county can’t afford to test the pee, they just do random tests to keep people ‘on their toes’. But, Vanessa confessed to drug use, so she’s fired anyway. It’s just a spot on, perfect examination of the kind of absolute and complete bullshit that good people have to deal with every day, one frustration after another, and so often, all for nothing. The futility of being a 30 something Demi Adult, just trying to stay afloat.

Watch it. Don’t make me tell you again. If you don’t know why people are talking about invisible cars, black Justin Bieber or the subject of my latest cult, Darius, by the beginning of 2017, then, bluntly, you can’t sit with us. — NM

The Obamas

With every day that inches closer to a new Oval Office resident, we’re ever more grateful for the Obama years. Barack and Michelle have carried us through their too short eight year residency with hope, grace and humor. Politics aside, we couldn’t imagine a more inspirational family, full of humor and eloquence, love for their country and each other; their warmth and thoughtful words — “When they go low, we go high” — have, and will continue to set the bar. This beloved, beautiful first family (and the wonderful, deeply caring Joe Biden) will stay in our hearts long after they leave 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. — CD

Stranger Things

With new content cycling in and out of Netflix on a weekly basis, it’s difficult to gauge which shows will break out, and which sink into the digital abyss. At first blush, Winona Ryder’s foray into series television appeared it might be a forgettable one, but Stranger Things proved to be so much more than Ryder; it quickly became the sensation of the summer. There was a little nostalgia for everyone in this twisty tale rich in sci-fi, supernatural and 80s cool. Ryder became an afterthought once the series’ young stars, particularly the precocious Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven, burst onto the scene. Soon, just about everyone was obsessed with sixth-grade friendships, Eggo waffles and justice for Barb. – CW

Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot‘s second season was, for me, perfect. The kind of television Sam Esmail crafts is not only compelling but it’s so intelligent, so cerebral that it feels like we’ve finally reached a point when audiences are no longer perceived by TV executives as mindless drones.

They’ve figured out we’re smart as hell, and TV is racing to catch up with us. We are, sometimes, spoiled for choice. Mr. Robot, with its heavy, layered themes, its Easter Egg riddled episodes and emails, the idiosyncratic look and directing style that sets it widely apart from other shows is a prime example of this. Esmail knows we don’t want to be spoon fed story and exposition, don’t want an easy ride. We want to discuss and debate and consider. We want to have to do a little work to really appreciate the story, and he is delivering. — NM

Stay tuned for Oohlo’s Bright Spots, Part 2!

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  • emmalita

    That was a great list of bright spots. A lot of these things are things I’m still discovering. Thanks Oohlo for being one of my bright spots this year.

  • THEasscrackbandit

    the subject of my latest cult, Darius
    https://media.giphy.com/media/wMY3LjQQMqo5W/200w.gif

    • Nadiney

      I am not even joking when I say he is my entire life.

  • PerpetualIntern

    Wow I’m late to the party but HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYLEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY