Things That Brought the Rude Pundit Unmitigated Joy in 2015

This year sucked bags of dicks of every kind of animal for reasons personal and political. But every once in a while, the Rude Pundit found a bit of gold dust in the drying river bed of our long American decay. So before we drag this year out back and put a bullet in it before it gives the whole village rabies, let the Rude Pundit fondly remember those moments of catharsis that are seemingly few and far between:

1. This was the year where we Gen Xers were allowed to reclaim those things we loved when we were much younger. Berkeley Breathed took to Facebook to restart his brilliant comic strip Bloom County,  and it didn't miss a beat in bringing back Opus, Milo Bloom, Binkley, and the rest. The TV series Ash vs. Evil Dead is a great big pile of cartoon gore nonsense, like the original films that it's following up, but the Rude Pundit will take Bruce Campbell with a chainsaw hand over whiners whacking walkers any day of the week. Better than it had any right to be, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was an act of love and restoration, giving us back, in all its sense of wonder, a fictional universe that had been wrecked by its creator like an irrational god. Yeah, waste all the time you want writing about what's wrong with the movie. It won't wipe the smile off our faces.

2. But, more than any film this year, Mad Max: Fury Road was an exhilarating, deliriously thrilling, gut-wrenching, and insane demonstration of how to make a great film, not just a great action film. Director George Miller took us to an earth that has been decimated by climate change, gave us the usual male-dominated violence, and then he transformed it into a parable about the way that men's destruction of the land is matched by their destruction of women. The rest of the film was how women reclaim the earth from those men, assisted but not led by Max, and Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa is the hero we needed desperately.

3. Even more than the wildly overrated Trainwreck (great first half, overly-simplistic second half - Taming of the Shrew, anyone?), the most feministic mainstream comedy was Spy, with Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne upending traditional gender roles and doing it in a way that was so fucking funny that it was easy to miss how daring it was. And Emily Blunt in Sicario was amazing as an FBI agent who tries to be honorable while fighting the filthy drug war. The movie ends with a scene where you genuinely don't know if she is going to live or die. That's rare in American film these days.

4. While the year had its great hour-long dramas on TV, like The Americans, Mr. Robot, UnReal, the final seasons of Justified and Mad Men, and Better Call Saul (Fargo is on the DVR), there were so many terrific half-hour "comedies" that it's hard to narrow it down, from the subversiveness of Broad City and Review to the incredibly humane Master of None and Bojack Horseman to the just damn funny The Grinder and Silicon Valley. Two that stood out were You're the Worst, with Aya Cash's Gretchen going through a very realistically-portrayed depression while still being hilarious (when you have two rappers named Shitstain and Honey Nutz talking about their love of art house cinema, it's hard to stay too serious).  And, finally, Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland's Rick and Morty, about a mad scientist whose family, willingly and unwillingly, gets dragged into his nihilistic adventures through dimensions, was mind-blowing in its plots, its action, and its willingness to go into the darkest of places. There's too much goddamn good TV.

5. Concerts that stuck with the Rude Pundit include Sleater-Kinney at Terminal 5, where the rockers made their New York City comeback with an ecstatic roar of punk energy; at the Mercury Lounge, Algiers, a new band that combines gospel and punk to create an essential, passionate sound, with Franklin James Fisher channeling James Brown and Bruce Springsteen on stage; and The Decemberists at Radio City Music Hall, where a band that the Rude Pundit kind of liked shocked the hell out of him in a show that was warm, complex, and beautiful. (The albums by Sleater-Kinney and Algiers were two of his favorite of the year. Guilty pleasure: Ryan Adams' 1989, his recording of Taylor Swift's album but with a middle-aged white dude twist.)

6. On stage, the Young Vic production of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge starring Mark Strong is as exciting a piece of theatre as he's seen on Broadway in a long time.  A tiny production of a shadow puppet play, ADA/AVA, by the Chicago performance group Manual Cinema, was a gorgeous reminder of the power of simplicity on stage. The most disturbing and stirring moment in theatre this year was in Trash Cuisine by the vital Belarus Free Theatre.  In a show that used cooking and food to talk about torture, war crimes, and capital punishment, the performance hit a visceral high point when an actress is portraying a survivor of Rwandan massacre and describing how her husband and son were killed and cooked. Behind her, on a working stove, another performer is frying a steak, the smell filling the theater at La Mama. That's how you convey horror.

There was plenty more, sure, but let's end here.  Go hug someone for Christmas. Or get jolly on their naughty asses. Whatever is your pleasure.