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Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Top 11 Nostalgia Critic Episodes (Since His Return)

            It’s truly hard to believe, but this summer marked the 10th anniversary of when Doug Walker began posting videos on Youtube under the moniker “Nostalgia Critic.”  It’s hard to grasp just how consequential and far-reaching the work of the Walker brothers and their current and former colleagues on TGWTG/Channel Awesome have been in pushing the bounds of online content and media criticism, and just how many remarkable careers have been given a boost as a result.  Doing so would require far more time and space than I currently have on this site, but it is a project well-worth undertaking one day, because no matter what form human online activity takes in the future, this remarkable past decade is worth remembering and celebrating. 

            For now, though, we will train out thoughts of appreciation to the man who was part of the very beginning, and who was, for many of us, the gateway to an entire online world that has become a continuous and essential part of our daily lives.  Doug Walker initially wanted to retire the Nostalgia Critic persona about 5 years ago so as to move on to other creative projects, but soon found that he (or, perhaps more accurately, his fanbase) just couldn’t quit the raving madman with a black cap, bad tie, and worse attitude he had created. 

            However, in a touch of sweet irony given the name of his character, attachment to the past has never held him down from trying out new ideas.  Since bringing back the character in 2013, he has continuously reinvented and altered the format of the show, throwing in more sketches, outside recurring characters, theme songs, and has most recently taken to effectively creating his own “parody” versions of recent theatrical releases, often while they’re still in theaters.  It certainly took some getting used to the new feel of everything at first, but since then he’s continued at full throttle and seems to have no regrets with coming back, and at this point there are actually more of the “new” NCs than there are of the old ones. 

            And so of course, there’s no better way to pause and say “thank you” than to- what else- honor this important anniversary with a Top 11 List of the Best Nostalgia Critic episodes since the big return (I’m deliberately excluding the old ones because I’ve already listed my favorites of those).  Also, for this list I’ve only focused on the regular movie/show NC reviews, not his shorter editorials from the off weeks, since they’re a different creature entirely and thus can’t really be compared the same way. 

            And with that said, here is my list of the Top 11 Nostalgia Critic episodes since his the return.  Why Top 11?  Because he’s always gone one step beyond for us, so we ought to do the same for him. 

11. Mamma Mia (originally aired February 17, 2015)

            Doug Walker has often trained his critical sights on films and franchises that were meant to appeal to particularly narrow or problematic ideals of machismo and masculine identity (the Transformers franchise being a key recurring example).  His scathing critiques of the worst kinds of online internet “meninists” are undoubtedly some of his most important work, but with Mamma Mia, he flips his usual script and takes a similarly scathing look at the sorts of female-audience-seeking rom-coms that, in their own way, are just as backwards and repressive in their views of women as the works of Michael Bay or Zach Snyder are of men.

10. The Purge (originally aired July 29, 2014)

            Considered one of the worst missed opportunities for a horror movies of recent years, a Nostalgia Critic take on the film was always going to be good, but I’m sure no one could have predicted how good until the very end of the review, when a side gag about Pinky and the Brain breaking up concludes with the actual voice actors from the Animaniacs show appearing in Doug’s hotel room to record a profanity-filled fight between the two.  Forget being one of the best NCs of all time, this one should go down as a virtual cultural touchstone for everyone who grew up with the characters and perpetually wondered why the Brain really did keep putting up with his bumbling sidekick. 

9. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (May 28, 2013)

            This controversial Spielberg/Kubrick hybrid was right up in the wheelhouse of the Walker Brothers (Doug speaks repeatedly of his admiration for the work of Stanley Kubrick), meaning that an extra level of knowledge and passion was evident in every shot and joke.  That alone would have made this one for the record books, but the boys went the extra mile and used this NC as a vehicle for a vicious (and much-needed) takedown of TMZ specifically, and our collective culture of pulpy, superficial, scandal-driven media consumption in general.  Sadly, since the rise of a certain orange-colored Godzilla, this is one of those videos whose message has only gotten more potent and powerful with time. 

8. The 3rd Animated Titanic Movie (originally aired September 26, 2016)

            The first two animated Titanic musicals are two of the most horrific things ever created by mankind.  Ergo, the NC videos on them rank as two of the funniest things the Walkers have ever produced.  Yet despite this, Doug insisted for years that the THIRD animated Titanic movie was one of the films he would never submit himself to.  Well, last year he finally broke down, and the results were every bit as amazing (and the movie every bit as atrocious) as we’d all hoped. 

7. Wicker Man (originally aired January 21, 2014)

            The themed reviews of January are always a special time for the NC, as regular and as important a fixture of the Channel Awesome site as Nostalgiaween and Doug Walker’s massive Christmas Boner, and Nicholas Cage Month, the first January after the return of the character, was no exception.  The Wicker Man video was not only the highlight of that month, but is particularly special for being the official introduction of Tamara into the Channel Awesome universe after Rachel’s departure the month before.    

6. Devil (October 29 2013), After Earth (June 30, 2014), The Happening (January 12, 2016), Lady in the Water (January 26, 2016)

            Oh Shyamalan.  Something about your awfulness as a filmmaker always manages to bring out the best and sharpest the Walker Brothers have to offer.  Because of how pointedly gleeful the NC takedowns of this man’s travesties masquerading as films are, I couldn’t bring myself to try and judge these separately; otherwise half this list would be taken up by Shyamalan films (they’ve also done an equally excellent NC for Signs, but that was before the retirement, so I’m not listing it here).  They are all works of comedic art, as brilliant as the films themselves aren’t, and deserved to be appreciated together. 

5. Les Miserables (originally aired August 20, 2013)

            Back in the very young days of this blog, which I coincidentally started right when Doug Walker tried retiring the Nostalgia Critic, I ranked the massive crossover review of Moulin Rouge as the best Nostalgia Critic review for its sheer size and scope.  Since the return, he has done an increasing number of really big reviews in the same vein, with larger effects, songs, and bigger and bigger stars, including ones tackling other big musical releases.  While some (Phantom of the Opera) didn’t quite reach the same heights as the Moulin Rouge one did, the review of the recent Les Miserables remake absolutely did, creating a comedic critic experience every bit as sublime as his first foray into this genre. 

4. The Last Airbender (originally aired September 3, 2013)

            Yes, this is also a Shyamalan movie, but there is a very specific reason I’m putting it ahead of the others listed above.  You see, there was once a time, way back in the early days of TGWTG, where Doug would list the upcoming reviews he planned to do a month or so in advance.  It didn’t take long, of course, for negative reactions to preemptively start filtering in beforehand, in the vein of, “How DARE he lay his hands on THIS classic??”  Soon, he abandoned the practice entirely, which meant that, in most cases, there would rarely be any clue what movie he was doing next more than a week or two in advance. 

            The Last Airbender was a rare exception to this- soon after the return, Doug announced that he fully intended to give the film the full NC treatment, but as he’d never seen any of the original show before, he announced almost a year in advance that he would first watch every episode of the original series and document his thoughts, the first time he’d ever done something like that.  This allowed our anticipation of the eventual film review, which was never going to be anything less than amazing, to build and marinate in a way that it never has for any other NC.  The payoff of finally seeing it when it came brought the sort of satisfaction few other things can. 

            Plus, his videos on the TV show (which he now lauds as his new favorite show of all time) directly led to the ongoing Vlog series he now does with Rob, which have expanded beyond The Last Airbender to include Legend of Korra, Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, and more, which are, in my book, every bit as excellent as any of the other material on the site. 

3. The Lorax (originally aired May 6, 2014)

            Dr. Seuss, much like Stanley Kubrick, has always been one of the artists Doug Walker professes a particular devotion to.  Naturally, this has made the recent slew of live-action “adaptations” of his classic books all the more painful for him to watch, and thus, all the funnier for us to experience.  With the Lorax review, though, he went the extra mile to deconstruct just how culturally harmful this particularly noxious form of modern capitalism is.  Not only are these movies and the marketing around them horribly at odds with the spirit of the original works, they represent a modern trend that simply seeks to consume all there is of a fad until nothing is left.  In addition to ripping into an awful film, Doug took extra care with this video to remind us how such seemingly “harmless” movies contribute to a culture where we allow ourselves and the world around to become an emptier, unhappier place, rather than a better one. 

2. Man of Steel (originally aired November 26, 2013)

            And speaking of Man of Steel, Nostalgia Critic was clearly hitting a sweet spot in late 2013, as he followed up his huge reviews of Les Miserables and The Last Airbender with another of his all-time greats, a crossover with Angry Joe looking at what, at the time, was the most bitterly divisive of the superhero movie franchises being created.  The review is every bit as big and bombastic as the film itself, featuring a return of Doug’s Donner-era Zod impersonation, and a crossover with the Superhero Café squad from How It Should Have Ended. 

            And the #1 Nostalgia Critic video since his return is…..

1. Top 11 Best Avatar Episodes (September 23, 2014) 

            There was a lot going for this episode from the outset.  It’s Avatar themed, always a winning choice.  It’s a Top 11, and those have always been some of the best and most interesting works by the Walkers.  What sets this one apart as both the best Top 11 they’ve ever done AND the best video they’ve done period since bringing back the character is the presence of Dante Basco as possibly the best guest appearance ever within the NC universe, appearing as a live-action version of Zuko obsessed with destroying the Nostalgia Critic for daring to critique his show.  Add in some of the greatest fourth wall humor ever written, and you have something truly special, something destined to last as long as the show will. 

            And that concludes our very, very brief look at the Nostalgia Critic’s work since returning from the beyond all those years ago.  It has been a remarkable journey with him and his cohorts, and I sincerely hope we have years more to look forward to.  Thank you, Doug and Rob, for everything. 

-Noah Franc `

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