Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Studicus Selects 2019

Once, long ago, I posted on the internet as Studicus, an in-joke nickname related to a skit from high school. When I first started blogging, I called my year-end entries "Studicus Selects." The tradition has continued since 2005...although I skipped 2006 for some unknown reason.

You'll find past entries here (scroll down for the 2019 picks):

Studicus Selects 2018
Studicus Selects 2017
Studicus Selects 2016
Studicus Selects 2015
Studicus Selects 2014
Studicus Selects 2013
Studicus Selects 2012
Studicus Selects 2011
Studicus Selects 2010
Studicus Selects 2009
Studicus Selects 2008
Studicus Selects 2007
Studicus Selects 2005

Biggest Family Addition, Cute Dog Category. I have resisted getting a dog for years. I grew up with two dogs, Runt and Kodie, and absolutely loved them. They were outside dogs, however. Anne and I live in a condo. The idea of sharing a living space with an animal was never something I wanted to do. But, you know what? Things change.

While I was at work on June 24, Anne emailed me a photo of a dog named Howard at the Animal Protection League in Anderson:
This is a chiweenie! 🙂 LOL! Omg... I'm in love. He's adorable. He's a mix of a chihuahua and a dachshund. He's old enough that he's housebroken and mellow. Surprisingly, Chihuahuas and dachshunds were on the list of best breeds for people who work. We should visit him. He's precious!  
This was our introduction to Howard
Anne has said several times that the photo "just spoke to her." It must have spoken to me, too, because I relented and said we should go visit him. We traveled to Anderson on June 29 to pick him up and life hasn't been the same since. 

Howard is a fantastic dog, and we're so happy to have him in our family. I could write several paragraphs about him--several--but instead I'll just post a few more pictures.

Anne, Howard, and me at the Animal Protection League in Anderson, Indiana, on June 29, 2019. This is just before we took him home.
We sometimes take Howard to doggy day care at Camp Bow Wow. He looked a little...apprehensive...about his first day...
We take Howard to Petco for grooming. They gave him a little bowtie after his first visit
Howard enjoys some sleepy time with Anne
One of my favorite photos of Howard...a very happy dog!
When it's cold outside, Howard wears this "Adidog" sweatsuit. I think it's adorable.
We dressed Howie as a taco for Halloween. He was thrilled.
A very noble dog.
Part chihuahua. Part dachshund. All hero.
Howard's a big fan of naps.
Best New Purchase, King-size Bed Category. Anne and I have had the same bed since we got married. My parents bought the queen-size bed for me as a college graduation gift in 2003. Anne and I got married in 2006--and the bed had been along with us the whole time. We finally decided to get a new one. If you've ever listened to a podcast, you'd know that Casper is the best bed out there.

But we bought a Nectar instead. It's the same concept--a memory foam mattress--but I thought Nectar was a slightly better deal. The reviews were also pretty good for it, so we decided to go with the Nectar bed. My brother-in-law Tom came over to help us set it up, and no one died, so that's good. We went with the king-size bed, and it's fantastic. Howard can sleep between Anne and me without fear of someone rolling over on him.

I have occasional back problems, and I can tell you that I look forward to go to bed every night and haven't had any back pain since the bed arrived in September.

Best Family Trip, Disney World Vacation Category. My mom has wanted to go to Disney World since, well, pretty much forever. She didn't get to go as a kid. She didn't get to go when my brother and I were young. So, she and my father took the whole family to Orlando for a magical weekend in the Magic Kingdom.

It was a fantastic trip. Absolutely unforgettable. There were so many great moments (we did a whole podcast about the trip if you want the play-by-play), but here are a few highlights:
  • Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
  • Mad Hatter's Tea Party (spinning maniacally with my brother)
  • Splash Mountain (and the family picture)
  • Space Mountain (I got to ride twice!)
  • Building a Lightsaber (see below)
  • Star Tours (see below)
  • So much blue Powerade
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Indiana Jones Stunt Show Spectacular
Anne was STOKED for Prince Charming's Carousel
It's only a life-size AT-AT walker...
This is from the last day of our vacation in Hollywood Studios
The Adams Family...many of them in Cincinnati Reds gear...poses at Chef Mickey's
Some family members are having fun. Some are terrified. Some are ambivalent. And then there's the youngest member of the family, Ryleigh, holding her hands in the air!
The family poses for a photo after our dinner with Cinderella's family
Best Ride, Disney World Vacation Category. Look, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run was a great ride, but Star Tours was absolutely fantastic. I rode it three times and would've ridden it three more if time allowed. I just really liked this one. The sense of speed, the way the ride threw you back into your seat and made you feel like you were really zooming around the Star Wars universe was awesome.

Best Memento, Disney World Vacation Category. Look, this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Do I regret spending $200 on a lightsaber? Absolutely not. My brother, nephew, and I traveled to Savi's Workshop in Galaxy's Edge so we could put together our own lightsabers. I chose the "Peace and Justice" model with a green kyber crystal (my nephew, a true Sith, chose "Power and Control" with a red kyber crystal). The experience was awesome! Because the lightsabers are unwieldy, we shipped them back home.

My lightsaber arrived safely in Indianapolis after its journey from Orlando.
Most Ambitious Podcast Production, The Matt Adams Podcast Category. Anne and I do a podcast that, um, kind of varies in frequency (we're going to be better about this). We usually delve into pop culture--a lot of Star Wars and Marvel stuff--but we tried some original fan fiction with a production called Six Stones to Peggy. It tells the story of Captain America's quest to return the various Infinity Stones to their rightful places and is our love letter to the MCU. You can read it or listen to it.

Best Video Game, Star Wars Category. I'm not the biggest video game player in the world. I play sporadically (with the bulk of that around Thanksgiving and Christmas). When I heard about Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order and saw the trailer, I preordered it (I never preorder games).

And, man, it was really good! I liked the exploration element (reminded me of Tomb Raider) and LOVED the little droid BD-1. I liked him so much, in fact, that I bought a BD-1 sweatshirt. The combat took some getting used to, and I dropped the difficulty level here and there to get past a particularly tough boss, but I really enjoyed the game. The story was fantastic and there were some great surprises. Check it out!

Image via Star Wars.com
Best Rewatch Decision, Netflix Category. For some reason, Anne and I decided to rewatch Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix. We're on season five so far and will likely wrap up the whole series in the next month or so. That is such a great show and I'm glad we've decided to give it another watch.
Don't be so exasperated, Jean-Luc! We love the show!
Most Surprisingly Great TV Series, HBO Category. I like Zack Snyder's Watchmen and think it is a good film adaptation of a very complicated graphic novel. I also understand why he changed the ending. That said, HBO's continuation of the Watchmen graphic novel is incredible. I've been absolutely floored with how it adheres to and re-contextualizes the source material, all while grappling with some extremely weighty subject matter.

Most Intimidating Nacho, Helmet Nacho Category. I've always wanted to try the helmet nachos at Great American Ball Park--and I got my chance during a game on May 31. Even with help from my niece and nephew, we couldn't finish the whole thing. I went all cheese here, no meat or anything. It was Star Wars night, though, so we got to watch fireworks set to John Williams' epic score after the game. Plus, the Reds won.

We fought the good fight, but that is A LOT OF NACHOS
Favorite New Streaming Service, Disney+ Category. Listen, Disney owns everything you love. They have now put everything you love into a streaming service and given you even more things to love with shows like The Mandalorian and its true star, Baby Yoda. For $6.99 a month or $70 a year, it's hard to beat! Anne and I watch The Mandalorian every week and have started our own Wonderful World of Disney nights to watch old movies.

Geez, he's cute
Best Grocery Pickup Discovery, Kroger Category. It's not all that new or novel, but we've become big fans of Kroger's Clicklist service. You submit your order online, schedule a time, and then pull into special spots at Kroger. An employee will then bring your groceries to you and load them into your trunk. As an aside, did you know people in the U.K. and Australia call the trunk of a car the "boot?" I learned it from Mr. Sunday Movies

Most Used Gif in a Text, Anne Category. Anne is all about a particular gif of a dancing banana (made famous by "Peanut Butter Jelly Time"). She uses it a lot. I have seven documented cases of this being used since Nov. 21, so while it's a relatively recent phenomenon, it's here to stay. It signals that Anne is happy.

Best Streaming Cable TV Replacement, Sling Sucks Now Category. A dispute between Fox regional sports channels and Sling forced my hand this year. I canceled Sling after learning they would no longer carry Fox Sports Indiana or Fox Sports Ohio (I have to watch the Reds and Pacers!). I signed up for YouTube TV and haven't looked back since. Yes, the service is more expensive than Sling, but you don't get nickel and dimed for add-ons like Cloud DVR. The interface is pretty intuitive and I probably won't go back to Sling, even if the sports stations came back.

Writing Year in Review. This wasn't the most productive writing year I've ever had. I did finish some projects, including a G.I. Joe homage/ripoff called STARS vs. CRIMSON. I've finished a novel set in that universe along with four short stories. It's kind of fun to embrace my inner child!

This is a mock-up cover for my STARS vs. CRIMSON novel, The Miniaturizer
Movie Year in Review: As usual, Anne and I went to see plenty of movies in 2019. Here are some capsule reviews (you may encounter some SPOILERS):

Mary Poppins Returns. A 2018 release that we saw in early 2019, all I remember is that some of the songs were good and Emily Blunt was a fine substitute for Julie Andrews. And Dick Van Dyke showed up.

They Shall Not Grow Old. Peter Jackson of the Lord of the Rings movies put together this jaw-dropping documentary on World War I. He colorized some of that old, jerky newsreel footage and made The Great War come to life through the stories of the men who fought. It's amazing (we did a podcast on it).

Alita: Battle Angel: This movie based on a manga was surprisingly not awful (we did a podcast on this one). We actually had some fun! Best movie ever? Of course not...but it's a good special effects-heavy movie IF you can get past Alita's gigantic eyes. IF. 

Captain Marvel: The first of three MCU movies for 2019, this movie rewrote some MCU history and introduced a super-powerful character into the movies. We dug the 1990s vibe, the de-aging effects, the twist with the Skrulls, the humor, and mostly everything else. We still think Nick Fury should've lost his eye in a more satisfying way. Oh, we also did a podcast on this one.

Avengers: Endgame. This movie was incredible. I wrote about it in length. I laughed. I cried. I cried again. Then I laughed some more. Then I cried. But really, it was terrific. You'll be shocked that we did a podcast on this, too! Oh, and I wrote a guide to the MCU for my poor brother.

Shazam! After the crushing disappointment of Batman v. Superman, DC gave us some solid efforts in Wonder Woman and Aquaman. They also gave us Shazam!, a satisfying, fun superhero romp with heart. We enjoyed it immensely, for the most part, although a few things nagged at us. It's funny, though, and fun, and those are the most important things. Yep, podcast plug.

Aladdin. So, Disney likes to turn its animated classics into live-action spectacles that are basically the same movie. This is Aladdin, only with people. Naomi Scott is pretty much the real draw here, but Will Smith does bring some fun zaniness to the role of Genie. Really, it's not bad at all--just don't expect much variation from the original. Oh, and it made a billion dollars at the box office. 

Spider-Man: Far from Home. We really enjoyed this one, which is kind of the "coda" to Avengers: Endgame and that era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Tom Holland is an international treasure. He's surrounded by a great cast, including some quality Nick Fury-ness (well, um, kind of...) and I loved, loved, loved the take on Mysterio. If I had only one complaint, it's that it would've been really cool if the Mysterio of the movie really was a hero--now that would have been a twist. And, yes, we did a podcast.

Rocketman. Anne liked this one a lot more than I did because she likes Elton John a lot more than I do. I'm still impressed that Taron Egerton did his own singing.

Toy Story 4. It was...good? I'm sure it was! Listen, the previous three Toy Story movies are among my favorites, but I thought Disney Pixar ended things well with Toy Story 3. It's sad that I barely remember this movie even though I remember enjoying it at the time. Probably need to see it again.

The Lion King. Pretty much The Lion King, with...um...real-ish animals? Hey, James Earl Jones voiced Mufasa, so I'm in. Like Aladdin, they didn't stray much from the source material. I liked a lot of the voice cast! What they did to "Be Prepared" was a travesty. And while I like Chiwetal Ejiofor, if you're going to bring back James Earl Jones, why not bring back Jeremy Irons? And, yes, podcast.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. I'm not the biggest Tarantino fan in the world, but I like Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, so I thought it was worth a shot. This is kind of a slow burn movie featuring characters with great chemistry that takes a sharp left turn at the end. There is a flamethrower. Our full review, in podcast form.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. I remember Idris Elba was super-strong and there were lots of explosions and one-liners. The Rock and Statham are always watchable. I felt like the movie went maybe 20 minutes too long? Oh, Ryan Reynolds was entertaining. Listen, it's a Fast & Furious movie, okay?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers? It totally works. While not quite as great as last year's Won't You Be My Neighbor? documentary, this is still a heartfelt, feel-good movie. The story isn't so much about Fred Rogers--it's about the conflicted journalist he meets--but there's something reassuring about a movie that puts kindness front and center.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: Find the review here.