Best Movie: "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"
2016 was an odd year for movies. Ticket sales soared for summertime blockbuster hopefuls like “Sausage Party” and Pixar’s “Finding Dory,” while DC Comics projects like “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad” left fans dissatisfied. One movie that lived up to its hype, however, was Lucasfilm’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” For many longtime Star Wars fans, the film marked the next step in the Star Wars universal expansion, as it was the pilot for a series of upcoming anthology films outside of the original saga.
Overall, the movie excelled in the realms of world-building and character relations, as it was able to afford an even greater level of depth to complement the original few movies, which are now well over three decades old. “Rogue One” follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), and their droid (Alan Tudyk) as they are each faced with the challenges of an evolving Galactic Empire under new dark-side rule. The story works to fill in the gaps between the third and fourth movies, and features many cameos by character favorites like Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and the notorious Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones). And yet, despite all of this familiarity for the viewer, the story maintains a sense of nuance and relevance about it that underscores what Star Wars is really all about: the tides of good and evil are always warring, folding in on themselves and starting over. In this, there exists an underlying force that really brings any and all of the Star Wars stories together. And as one character in the film states quite candidly, “All is as the Force wills it.”
— Write-up by Jonathan Franklin
Best TV Show: "Stranger Things"
Released in the summer of 2016, “Stranger Things” instantly stole the hearts of its viewers, offering a unique twist to modern mystery and sci-fi television. Although the first season only had eight episodes, each was filled with intense action that kept viewers on their toes. Among the thrilling scenes and strange trips into “the upside down,” there was wit and humor to lighten the mood, which created a nice balance between thrilling and slower scenes. Everyone fell in love with the classic '80s style and the bond created among the main characters Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Eleven as they searched for their missing friend, Will Byers. The season ended with a cliff hanger that rivals many other shows of its kind, leaving viewers craving more. For all those die-hard fans out there, don’t worry because season two is said to be released sometime in the summer of 2017.
— Write-up by Hailey Covell
Best Album: "Lemonade" by Beyoncé
2016 was a good year for music, if nothing else. It was a year of Drake and Bon Iver. The 1975 was incredible, Chance the Rapper released his music for free and we all tried to pretend like we didn’t dance like fools in our cars to the Chainsmoker’s “Closer.” However, Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” was unquestionably the album of the year. Beyoncé was musically impressive, unsurprisingly, especially in tracks like “Formation”, “Hold Up” and “Sorry”— all of which became power anthems for many women this year. But, “Lemonade” was more than just another mysterious piece of work by Beyoncé (who is Becky with the good hair?!) or a few fun songs to sing in an Uber. This album sparked conversation and emphasized the importance of identity. In a year that felt politically and socially divisive, “Lemonade” was empowering and thought provoking. Leave it to Beyoncé to create a sense of liberation and hope in a year that was particularly lacking in both.
— Write-up by Stuart Pennebaker
Best Video Game: "Uncharted 4: A Thief's End"
For years, Naughty Dog has been one of the most successful and iconic game developers out there and arguably their biggest claim to fame is the "Uncharted" series. This year, Naughty Dog not only showed that "Uncharted" is just as relevant now as it was when the first game released in 2007, but also that they are still by far the most prized studio under the PlayStation umbrella. "Uncharted 4" pushed Naughty Dog's storytelling abilities to new heights with incredible voice acting and writing coupled with breath-taking set pieces and fantastic character development. On the gameplay side, "Uncharted 4" adapted to the times by taking the best elements of their critically acclaimed 2013 game, "The Last Of Us," and other games with more complex gameplay mechanics without betraying the simple yet graceful and cinematic style that the series is known for. "Uncharted 4" is an incredible all-around package, winning numerous awards and providing the perfect ending to the story they started many years ago, should they decide to leave "Uncharted" in favor of a new IP. Through multiple delays and lots of speculation, "Uncharted 4" finally emerged this year as an iconic, emotional and artful game that won't soon be forgotten.
— Write-up by Darby Hallman