For the end of the annus horribilis of 2016, when once again this blog has been less than it should have been, we offer five short lists of five cultural highlights from the past year. Each of the five of us at Illuminations has chosen five things, whether movies, television series, books, exhibitions or whatever, that have meant something significant to us during the year. Up first is Linda Zuck’s choice, offered in no particular order.
O.J.: Made in America, ESPN
A completely compelling epic 5-part, nearly 8-hour, series directed by Ezra Edelman, who is the son of the towering rights activist and lawyer Marian Wright Edelman. Chronicling the O.J. Simpson story and using it to reflect American society in the last 50 years, this is an extraordinary and thought-provoking masterpiece of journalism about race, domestic abuse, celebrity, civil rights, the LAPD, the legal process and murder.
Three short stories of intersecting lives in small town Montana with superb performances from Michelle Williams, Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart, directed by Kelly Reichardt. Normal women with mundane lives whose stories nonetheless powerfully transcend the everyday. The third story is so achingly poignant and poetic that you are left quietly devastated.
Georgia O’Keeffe, Tate
Tate Modern’s major retrospective of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work was a terrific show. Her work was pioneering and her output was prolific. Her achievements made it possible for women to envisage a career as an artist. The New Mexican landscape paintings were mesmerising.
Here indeed are five reasons why this exhibition was not to be missed.
Created as a web series, directed, written and financed by Louis C.K. so as to avoid any interference with his artistic vision, and with powerful performances from the main ensemble cast Alan Alda, Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco and Jessica Lange, Horace and Pete is set in a bar run by a dysfunctional family in Brooklyn. It is by turns funny, shocking and extremely dark with lingering silences and Masterpiece Theatre moments — for example, a completely riveting 9-minute monologue in Episode 3 from a woman whose identity you’re not sure of until the reveal. It is deliberately shot like filmed plays from the 1950s. As Ian Crouch asked in The New Yorker, was it even really television?
Sadly there won’t be a second season, and here’s why.
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs
Chronicled by his friend and college room mate, this is the true story of the life of a remarkable young man who escaped crime-ridden Newark to attend Yale. As a stellar student and much-liked by everyone, his trajectory should have been ever upward. But once he returned to the hood, his life spiralled downwards, leaving a host of unanswered questions. A haunting and tragic story, beautifully written.