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Entertainment wins and whiffs in 2016

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Justin Bieber performs at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas in 2016.

MOVIES

Trends

>> Marvel goes counterculture: Between this year’s psychedelic, trippy-dippy “Doctor Strange” (co-produced by Disney) and the R-rated hit “Deadpool” (not with Disney, but with Fox), the Marvel machine has figured out how to offer edgy counterprogramming to its own mainstream programming (“Captain America,” “The Avengers.”) Either way, your money goes to the same place. Resistance is futile.

>> Hollywood opens its doors (slightly): Major movies directed by women (including “Queen of Katwe” and “The Edge of Seventeen”), high-profile roles for black actors (from Denzel Washington in “Fences” to Taraji P. Henson in “Hidden Figures”) and one clear instance of nonwhitewashing (the Pacific Islander voice actors of Disney’s “Moana”) add up to proof that the male-dominated film industry is starting to spread around its opportunities. Whether we’ll see that reflected in the Oscar nominations is still an open question.

Letdowns

>> “Ghostbusters”: It was greeted with elation: an all-female version of the 1984 classic starring Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig! Then came the backlash from African-Americans (over Leslie Jones’ diminished role) and general doubts about the muddled trailer. When the movie finally arrived, it wasn’t a triumph or a disaster — just another so-so summer comedy. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is probably regretting his involvement.

>> “Birth of a Nation”: Following the #OscarsSoWhite outcry, this film seemed the answer to Hollywood’s prayers. Little-known actor Nate Parker pulled himself up by his industry bootstraps to direct and co-write an ambitious film about a slave rebellion, and clinched a record-breaking $17.5 million deal at Sundance. But then came revelations about Parker’s years-old rape charge. He’d been acquitted, but the damage was done to Parker and to his Oscar hopes. It’s a sad fate for what was otherwise a solid and well-crafted film.

— Rafer Guzman

POP MUSIC

Trends

>> Streaming concerts: Fans of live music can pretty much see as many concerts as they want from the comfort of their living rooms, as streaming shows now trickles down from the biggest tours and festivals to local bands. And it’s only going to be more prevalent as virtual reality use increases in the near future.

>> Video mania: Fear not, YouTube addicts. There will be even more music-related content for you to watch. Now that we’re used to three videos being released for nearly every major single — a lyric/preview video, a traditional music video, a live-version video — you can increasingly add a behind-the-scenes video, as well as all the Facebook Live, Snapchat and Instagram clips that go with them.

Letdowns

>> Justin Bieber: Yes, The Biebs, pictured, cobbled together a halfway-decent album with “Purpose” in 2015. But by the time his tour reached Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in May, he seemed so bored he didn’t even bother to hold his mic to his mouth as he lip-synced, and he forgot to sing his No. 1 single “Love Yourself” until someone reminded him.

>> Zedd &Aloe Blacc: It’s tougher and tougher to call out anyone as sellouts, but “Candyman” (Interscope) from this unlikely duo is an M&M’s commercial masquerading as a song. From the lazy, wilted lyrics to the EDM buildup and drop, it sounds like an “SNL” parody of a pop single.

— Glenn Gamboa

TV

Trends

>> The diversity boom: 2016 was by far the best year in history for diversity, on-screen and off. More actors, more writers, more directors of color found their way to the small screen — and Emmy winner circle — than ever before, yielding some of the best of television, from “black-ish” to “Master of None” to “Luke Cage” to “The Get Down.”

>> Comedy reborn: Television, along with its vast audience, sometimes collectively wrings its hands over the question, Is comedy dead? No wringing in ’16; instead everyone was preoccupied with the comedy boom. There’s almost too much out there now, from a show about a horse (“BoJack Horseman”) to a newcomer about motherhood (“Better Things”) and another about breast cancer (“One Mississippi”). Another had an unusual name (“Fleabag”) and a very funny lead (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). TV comedy is more alive than ever.

>> Peak TV gets peakier: Once there was an old, tired joke about 500 channels (and nothing on any of them). In 2016 there were 500 scripted shows (and no one had time to watch them all). As FX chief John Landgraf — who did all the counting — has predicted, TV will reach the peak one of these days and then begin the descent. But for now television is booming — or, more accurately, the streaming services, which are scrambling for subscribers and using high-quality product as bait.

Letdowns

>> “Vinyl”/”Divorce” (HBO): Mick Jagger meets Terence Winter (of “The Sopranos”) meets Bobby Cannavale meets the ’70s Manhattan music scene … meets cancellation. Meanwhile, another HBO letdown: “Divorce,” made more disappointing by the obvious fact that this represented the return to TV of Sarah Jessica Parker, who couldn’t save this leaden series.

>> “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (Fox): At the extreme outer realms of the reboot boom came this re-imagining of one of the enduring cult landmarks of our time, which itself was from the extreme outer realms of pop culture way back in the ’70s. But instead of re-imagining, it only reconfirmed the obvious: Some stuff should just be left alone. Homage was the intent, but as fans well know, this movie doesn’t submit well to homage. Catcalls and thrown underwear — yes — but homage, no.

— Verne Gay

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