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2015 in Review

My favorite product I bought last year was a dustbuster. No joke. And in a way, wasn’t the majority of 2015 about busting the dust of life? I wrote the most words, wrote the most code, took the most flights, took the most vacation and spent the most time in my hometown of my adult life. I went to Disneyland for the first time in two decades. I went to a feminist science fiction convention. I went to PAX in Seattle. I became an HBO subscriber. I went house-hunting in San Diego. I built a new computer in real life, and time machines in my writing life.

Still, time moves on. I’ve only managed to post a Best Of list two out of the past four years so let’s not get too precious about it. Here are some of my favorite things I remember from the year that was 2015:

Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road, the soundtrack of It Follows, Bill Hader and LeBron James in Trainwreck, anything and everything Amy Schumer,

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2013 in Review

Time is becoming downright relentless. One minute you’re compiling your list of favorite things from 2012, polishing it off, thinking it might even look fashionably forward to release the thing a few weeks after 2013 has begun and before you know it suddenly it’s 2014. That’s right, kids, that best of 2012 post never got published.

So to nip this thing in the bud of 2014 I present to you my favorite things from 2013 (that I’ve remembered in the past 48 hours):

Literally everything about Spike Jonze’s Her, Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha, Amy Adams in anything, anything put out by Annapurna Pictures, the lighting and music of Inside Llewyn Davis, those first two long takes that open Before Midnight,

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Mad Men Season 5 Episode 13, “The Phantom”

A promise is a promise, even if it’s several months late mmkay?

I guess naming a previous episode “Dark Shadows” wasn’t enough of a tone setter, eh? This season finale felt like something of a letdown, but mostly because the two episodes prior both featured huge turns. Overall I still prefer the struggling startup woes of Season 4 to the times-are-changing/modern marriage angle of Season 5, but kudos for making Megan more than just a secretary. Lane’s arc will always feel a little misplayed to me, but that’s the way the cookie crumbled.

This last episode’s power rankings:

10. Don Draper’s tooth — I think I know what you’re trying to do, Mr. Weiner, but why? Probably the most blatant allegory/symbolism of the season, followed closely by…

9. Adam Whitman — Yeah, we get it. Don’s haunted by nooses! Did Lane go through all this just so we could get some obvious scenes with Adam Whitmans wandering around?

8. LSD — What can’t Roger Sterling make look glamorous?

7. Marie Calvet — Great job stealing away to have your own fun, and great job calling Roger out on looking for a nanny.

6. Beth Dawes — I know I couldn’t have been the only one hoping for a (real) Beth sighting…though the shock therapy seems to instantly one-note her character.

5. Pete Campbell — Seriously, bro? Has anyone ever made having everything look less cool?

4. Megan Draper — Backstabbing your friend to get the lead in your own husband’s client’s commercial feels uncouth and beneath you, Miss. But well played.

3. Peggy Olson — Seems to be calling the shots at the new office…but still awkward at the personal moments, as witnessed by the chance encounter with Don at the movies.

2. Joan Harris — Nice to see her getting her due at the partners’ table. And channeling Lane out of nostalgia/loyalty, no less.

1. Don Draper — This season was all about the de-pantsing followed by the slow re-pantsing of our lead guy. That closing look on his face is perfect, promising everything and nothing for next season.

Next up: I’ve spent the past couple weeks getting up to speed with the slow-to-start-but-ultimately-ridiculously-amazing Breaking Bad so I can watch the final season live as it happens. Expect some form of blogging on the brilliance that is Vince Gilligan.

Mad Men Season 5, Episode 12 — “Fees and Commissions”

So I’ve not really been as timely with these rankings as I’d hoped but I promise to see this thing through to the end.

“Fees and Commissions” is a fairly gruesome episode when you come down to it, yet weirdly poignant. I’ll say this, Mr. Weiner — those days spent on The Sopranos really helped give you the cojones to do anything with your main characters, eh? Amazingly, this insightful interview with Jared Harris also goes a long way to confirming the Mob-like milieu in which actors learn about their characters’ fates.

Oh, and keeping us in suspense about Peggy to lead up to the season finale is a great touch.

10. Julia (Megan’s friend) — Still kind of a floozy, but I’m a sucker for recurring character continuity. She may be Megan’s only outlet going forward so who knows what seeds are getting planted here?

9. Glen Bishop — Alright, the nepotism is really starting to get to me. Do we really need this much of this character? Doesn’t he have any interesting qualities of his own?

8. Megan Draper — Continues her plummet, this time unable to become a true surrogate mother for Sally.

7. Bert Cooper — Nice to know he can understand the books when he wants to.

6. Pete Campbell — You dodged a bullet/noose this season, Pete. Earn this.

5. Lane Pryce — I never really loved this character, but it still seems a little cruel to do this to him. Kind of a lost opportunity; still don’t believe he wouldn’t have just asked Don for a loan in the first place.

4. Betty Draper — I actually like that Sally ran back to her in her moment of need. Nice to see Betty get a bone every once in a while. Er, you know what I mean.

3. Ken Cosgrove — Smart to stay out of the wooing of Ed Baxter, and doesn’t even want to be a partner. Now can we please get back to the writing career?

2. Sally Draper — Clever work staging your secret date. I know it didn’t go as planned, but these things happen. So I’m told.

1. Don Draper — Love the newfound fire to go after big accounts. And even if the handling of Lane’s situation backfired, at least it was done from a place of integrity he’s suddenly rediscovered 10 episodes into this season. Just don’t go for the hanging hat trick.

Mad Men Power Rankings: Season 5, Episode 11 — “The Other Woman”

Poor Mr. Draper; just when he gets his mojo back, all the women in his life grow more distant than ever. And the goodbye scene with Don and Peggy in Don’s office, right on the heels of Don reeling from what Joan has done? Devastating.

10. Ted Chaough — Unfortunately I don’t really remember him from previous seasons, but seems like competent foil for Don. Who knows what tricks/secret lives Peggy’s new boss will have?

9. Roger Sterling — Surprisingly quiet, but not speaking up more for Joan speaks volumes.

8. Ken Cosgrove — His loyalty to Peggy is admirable. When will we hear more about the sci-fi writing?

7. Pete Campbell — Pretty much locking down his status of most odious, most un-respectable-yet-undeniably-successful member of the firm with his organized purchase of Joan’s services.

6. Megan Draper — Falling fast.

5. Michael Ginsberg — Doesn’t fall for Megan’s friend’s attention-whoring.

4. Lane Pryce — Probably ends up doing the most for Joan.

3. Don Draper — Stood up for Joan, but in the least effective way possible. And finally notices Peggy’s unhappiness, at the least meaningful moment possible.

2. Joan Harris — Can you blame her?

1. Peggy Olson — You made your move, girl. Let’s see how far this goes.

Mad Men Power Rankings: Season 5, Episode 10 — “Christmas Waltz”

Should have known it was coming: a Lane Pryce feature episode. At least Don’s re-ascendancy seems complete. Bonus: having a Christmas episode in May isn’t nearly as odd as i thought it’d be.

10. Bert Cooper — Congrats, Bert! You made it into another episode. And you even got more screen time than Peggy.

9. Lane Pryce — It’s funny how you forget how much you don’t miss Lane Pryce until he turns up again. Why all the dramatic skulduggery for a character that matters so little?

8. Paul Kinsey — Never saw this coming. Hare Krishna’s one thing, but a Star Trek spec script!

7. Lakshmi Bennett — As conniving women go, kind of lukewarm. Still worth seeing Harry Crane get the time of his life though.

6. Harry Crane — Unclear whether Kinsey’s actually lucky to have him as a friend or not, but at least he gets the girl.

5. Megan Draper — Mostly on the periphery this time around, but good job calling Don out on his lack of enthusiasm for work. Plus: (post) modern theater!

4. Joan Harris — Seriously, with Don previously divorced, Roger divorcing again, Joan divorcing, Pete and even Harry falling off the wagon, is Mad Men actually a show about divorce? How many couples will make it to the end of this series intact?

3. Pete Campbell — Still not getting any love from his colleagues but at least he stays out of trouble this episode.

2. Roger Sterling — Love the Hawaiian shirt.

1. Don Draper — Nice handling of the Jaguar salesman, nice handholding of Joan at the bar, nice driving/stumbling home drunk and nice speech to the troops to close out this episode. Welcome back, Tiger.

Mad Men Power Rankings: Season 5, Episode 9 — “Dark Shadows”

The darkest, most cutthroat episode of the season thus far, with some good reversals. Welcome back to the rat race, folks. And how crackerjack is the modern-day zeitgeist timing on this episode, managing to air on the opening weekend of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows?

10. Henry Francis — Jeez, what does this man see in Betty? Props for somehow maintaining sanity.

9. Pete Campbell — Still fantasizing about Beth. Still hated by all the partners.

8. Bert Cooper — Another deus ex Cooper! Seriously, how much screen time is this guy contracted for?

7. Jane Sterling — Good job negotiating the new apartment, bad job negotiating Roger Sterling’s voraciousness.

6. Roger Sterling — Love to see that the old coyote’s still got some drive and ambition, even if he’s gotta leverage his wealth to stay relevant.

5. Michael Ginsberg — Gifted copywriter who knows ideas are a dime a dozen, and you gotta admire that gutsy confrontation with Don.

4. Betty Draper — Am I crazy in thinking the fat suit might actually be helping January Jones’s acting? As questionable as the Weight Watchers storyline is, it actually had me starting to feel sympathy…and then the writers remind us about that emotional childishness.

3. Don Draper — The edge is back, but why? All he needs to focus is to not have Megan in the office? Ok actually that does make a lot of sense.

2. Megan Draper — Barely outwits Betty, yet ultimately shows that the new Draper couple is an upgrade in emotional stability. Teaching Sally how to cry on command feels almost like Palpatine getting ahold of Anakin.

1. Sally Draper — Totally manipulated by Betty, totally holds her own against Megan, and nearly treated like an adult by Dad. Plus suddenly doing well in school? This character could seriously go anywhere; do we smell a Mad Women spinoff starring Sally Draper in the 70’s???

Mad Men Power Rankings: Season 5, Episode 8 – “Lady Lazarus”

Fell a week behind, but a promise is a promise. I’ll post power rankings for the most recent episode (“Dark Shadows”) within a day or two. Best thing about “Lady Lazarus”: those fantasies of a Gilmore GirlsMad Men crossover coming to fruition.

10. Betty Draper — Probably shouldn’t even be ranked but I actually start to pity her for her lack of screen time. Out of sight, out of mind.
9. Pete Campbell — It’s kind of stunning how a character can have so much fall into his lap and still come out looking like a loser.
8. Sally Draper — Probably still reeling from the event she witnessed last episode. Smart to let it simmer for a week before (I’m assuming) bringing it back to a head next episode.
7. Don Draper — Slightly more of a man in this episode for at least realizing he can’t control his wife.
6. Peggy Olson — Flubbing her lines with Don during the dessert topping pitch was somewhat predictable, but Elisabeth Moss still pulls off the frustration of being a Peggy Olson in a Megan Draper world.
5. Joan Harris — Still the true boss of the office.
4. Beth Dawes — That’s some cold shit you’re playing with Pete, missy. But good work getting back at Howard. Who knew Rory Gilmore would look so good in period?
3. Roger Sterling — The bedrock of sanity in this episode, oddly enough. But where’s my Bert Cooper??
2. Matthew Weiner — Running a Beatles song just because you can is a little show-offy, but I admire the chutzpah in taking another left turn with the new Drapers (see #1). And I do like the looming threat of Don becoming out of touch with the zeitgeist he butters his bread with.
1. Megan Draper — Still overpowered as a character, but I’m definitely curious to see what she does next. Will her departure from the office create more or less time for Betty? And do we care?