2016 Year in Review: Highlights and heartbreaksDec. 20, 2016, 7:05 p.m.
2016 was a year of surprises: President-elect Donald Trump, Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, the end of Angelina and Brad (or was that one inevitable?).
We were hacked by the Russians, panicked by Zika and horrified by shootings across the country. After the November election, adult Californians could smoke marijuana -- legally. We said goodbye to Kobe and Vin, binge-watched, rocked out to "Old-Chella" and signed up for the Tesla 3.
Beyoncé and "Hamilton" ruled.
So, yes, it was a big year. And we'd like to suggest that you take some time to recall the biggest stories of 2016 -- if only to prepare for the cacophony that undoubtedly will erupt in 2017.
You realize, if they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even have this job.
In 2012, a Times investigative series called attention to the overwhelming white maleness of the film academy. So when, for a second year in a row, the acting categories of the 2016 Oscars were filled with white faces, #Oscarssowhite became more than a hashtag.
The ensuing criticism and calls for a boycott, which started right after the nominations were announced in January, made it clear changes must be made. A Times analysis found that wouldn’t be easy, but the academy began addressing the problem, vowing to double the number of women and minority members by 2020.
Times staff members offered their own list of 100 possible candidates , many of whom became part of the academy’s unprecedented opening up of its membership, achieved by inviting 683 to join its largest and most diverse class.
In a new Times analysis , we crunched the numbers on the new class and found the academy still has a long way to go. And yet, as we head into a new awards season, a slate of Oscar favorites include films revolving around female characters and what the African American Film Critics Assn. called the best year in film ever for people of color.
At least they recognize there’s a problem. And at least they’re embarrassed.
Jennifer Warren, actress & director
January El Chapo arrest
In a deadly, predawn shootout in early January, Mexican naval special forces captured Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman , the world's most sought-after drug lord and commander of a vast narcotics empire that stretches across continents. Guzman, a billionaire thanks to his Sinaloa cartel, which traffics in cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine, had escaped from prison the previous July -- for the second time — using an elaborate tunnel out of Mexico's top maximum-security facility. He had been jailed for less than 17 months, and there had been a great deal of doubt in Mexico that he'd ever see the inside of a cell again. The day after the arrest, Rolling Stone published a secret interview that the actor Sean Penn had conducted with Guzman that fall.
January The death of David Bowie
David Bowie, the barrier-breaking British rock musician and actor, died just days after releasing a critically acclaimed album on his birthday. He was 69.
Everyone who worked with him had the same experience. This used to frustrate me, as a producer. He comes in with no songs and says, 'Let's jam.' I'd say, 'Oh, no, how's this gonna turn out?
Tony Visconti, producer
January A new leader for LAUSD
I believe you gather data before you strike out.
In January, Los Angeles' massive school system got a new leader in Michelle King at a moment of truth for the LAUSD. King’s appointment comes as charter school forces push for a major expansion of those institutions in the city. Some fear the expansion will batter the struggling school district even more. King is a longtime LAUSD insider, and the jury is still out on how effectively she will deal with these challenges.
January Water crisis in Flint, Mich.
Lead contamination in the city’s drinking water from corroded pipes led to a state of emergency being declared by the state and federal government in January.
Gov. Rick Snyder mobilized the Michigan National Guard, which distributed water and water filters and testing kits to residents fearful of the tap water — for good reason. At one point, 5% of the children under 5 had elevated exposure to lead , according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.
President Obama visited the city in May, demonstrating the reliability of water filters newly installed in many homes by taking a drink himself .
January A standoff at a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon
Across the West, there were calls among conservatives for handing over more control of federal lands to state and local authorities. The burgeoning movement came to a head in Oregon, when two sons of renegade Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy led the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge .
The takeover began Jan. 2 and lasted more than a month. Supporters from around the country joined Ammon and Ryan Bundy in what had been a peaceful occupation until Jan. 26, when authorities moved in to arrest several people and one of the occupiers, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, was shot and killed.
Eventually, all the occupiers were arrested. But in a stunning blow to federal authorities, the Bundy brothers and five co-defendants were acquitted Oct. 27 of federal conspiracy and weapons charges.
Trend Struggle and signs of revitalization in San Bernardino
The Inland Empire city started 2016 mourning the losses from a shocking terrorist attack. The pain continued as the city endured a major spike in homicides . Long struggling, San Bernardino also saw signs of hope : Revitalization in some areas and a likely exit from municipal bankruptcy.
January Good time turns ugly for Blake Griffin and Clippers assistant
Clearly, we feel awful about it. He's a good guy, he had a bad moment and it's just part of life and you have to deal with it.
Coach Doc Rivers
What was supposed to be a dinner among friends in Toronto's entertainment district took a horrific turn in January when Clippers star Blake Griffin, pictured right, repeatedly punched assistant equipment manager Matias Testi , leaving his longtime buddy with a severely swollen face and Griffin with a broken right hand.
Griffin publicly apologized to Testi , bringing to end a bizarre affair.
January Medical scopes, superbugs and the threat of a deadly infection
Olympus’ silence on this important issue was unethical, irresponsible and dangerous.
Dr. Andrew Ross
A U.S. Senate investigation released in January concluded that scores of hospital patients treated with medical scopes were infected with potentially deadly bacteria because of repeated failures by manufacturers, regulators and hospitals to report outbreaks.
The report confirmed the findings of a series of Los Angeles Times stories that concluded Olympus Corp., the leading maker of the device, knew of the potential flaws in the scope but failed to alert U.S. hospitals or regulators. Olympus is recalling and redesigning the troubled scope.
Trend Europe's refugee crisis
The massive influx of migrants and refugees into Europe that began in 2015 continued into this year, as more than 300,000 people, most of them from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq , made the dangerous Mediterranean crossing. In March, the EU and Turkey struck a deal that would deport migrants who crossed into Greece back to Turkey . In return, Turkey was promised visa-free travel for its citizens within the EU, and accelerated talks for the country to join the bloc of nations – promises the EU has been slow to deliver on, putting the future of the agreement into question.
Trend Nate Parker and 'The Birth of a Nation'
Since Nate Parker’s story was revealed to me, I have found myself in a state of stomach-churning confusion.
In January, Nate Parker was the darling of the Sundance Film Festival . His film, “The Birth of a Nation,” which he wrote, directed and starred in, was acquired for a record-breaking $17.5 million and seemed fast-tracked to Oscar glory.
But what seemed a ready-made answer to the #Oscarssowhite issue soon morphed into scandal when accounts of his 1999 trial, and eventual acquittal, for rape resurfaced. Responding to the news that his accuser, a Penn State classmate, had committed suicide in 2012, Parker published a statement on Facebook, saying he was "filled with profound sorrow," which prompted more headlines, as defenders and detractors continued to speak out. Some screenings of the film were canceled.
While "Nation" co-star Gabrielle Union shared her thoughts in an eloquent Op-Ed for The Times, Parker began deflecting questions in the weeks leading up to the film’s October opening. In the end, “Birth of a Nation” became the next big thing that wasn’t.
January The death of Alan Rickman
Possessing a mellifluous baritone and a congenital sneer that could signal aristocratic hauteur, Rickman invested dark, forbidding characters — from “Die Hard” to the “Harry Potter” movies — with alluring complexity and a winking self-awareness. He was 69.
Those characters “are just people to me,” he once told The Times.
I’m a lot less serious than people think.
January Here's $100. Can you win $1.5 billion at Powerball?
Earlier this year, the Powerball jackpot shot to a record $1.5 billion. The odds of winning were 1 in 292,201,338, but someone had to win, right? We put that idea to the test.
Trend Beyoncé rules
While wave after wave of pop sensations have risen, crested and washed up in her wake, success has given Beyoncé the freedom to make her career her own.
In January, she rocked, and shocked, the Super Bowl with the militant grace of new single “Formation.” In April, she debuted her new album "Lemonade" with an hour-long concept film on HBO, which she then dropped on Tidal. Her “Formation” tour sold out, and in December, she became the year’s top Grammy nominee, preparing to enter the ultimate sing-off with Adele. Throughout the year, she proved that the most powerful women are the ones who write their own story .
Trend Reporting on California's coast
Columnist Steve Lopez and a team of reporters probed the state Costal Commission, the agency charged with protecting one of California’s most precious resources: Its epic coastline. They found the forces of development were gaining a foothold at a time when the coast’s ecology and access were under siege. In February, the commission fired its executive director, over the objections of hundreds of supporters. In the summer, the agency found itself defending some of its previous decisions in court . Later in the year, development interests helped defeat two bills designed to improve transparency at the powerful California Coastal Commission.
The Coastal Commission will have a new director soon, a new chair and at least two new commissioners, and we need to watch closely because what's at stake is the greatest 1,100-mile coast in the world.
February The death of Maurice White
I have learned that music helps a lot of people survive, and they want songs that can give them something -- I guess you could call it hope.
White, center, was the co-founder and leader of the groundbreaking ensemble Earth, Wind & Fire, borrowing elements from funk, soul, gospel and pop for a distinctive sound that yielded six double-platinum albums and six Grammy Awards.
February Antonin Scalia dies, leaving the Supreme Court split
Get over it.
Scalia on Bush vs. Gore
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, an eloquent conservative who was one of the court’s most ardent combatants against what he saw as a tide of modern liberalism, died in February at the age of 79. His death left the court deadlocked on some important cases, including immigration and mandatory union fees .
President Obama nominated a successor, popular centrist judge Merrick Garland , chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. But Senate Republicans stalled on holding hearings on the nomination, and after the Nov. 8 presidential election, talked turned to likely nominees from the nation’s next president, Donald Trump.
February Peyton Manning caps his career with a Super Bowl victory
The 2016 Super Bowl was far from a tour de force for legendary quarterback Peyton Manning, who threw for only 141 yards, with no touchdowns. But Denver’s 24-10 win gave Manning an NFL record 200th career victory, his second Super Bowl title and guaranteed him a place among the all-time greats. His mom said it best after the Feb. 7 game :
“I would like for him to retire. I would. Physically, I just don't think it's worth going on. He won a Super Bowl — it's the best way to go out."
And retire he did, officially announcing it a few weeks later .
February The death of Harper Lee
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.
"To Kill a Mockingbird,” the classic 1960 novel about racism in a small Southern town, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, became a staple of high school reading lists and turned its author, Harper Lee, into one of American literature’s most revered figures. She was 89.
February Trump wins South Carolina, Jeb Bush drops out
I have stood my ground, refusing to bend to the political winds.
Donald Trump’s Republican primary opponents didn’t realize what was happening to them until it was too late. First, Trump won the New Hampshire primary in early February. Then he won in Nevada. But Republican rivals clung to the belief that those states were exceptions. When the race hit South Carolina, with its conservative, Southern voters, the brash New York businessman would fail, they told themselves. Instead, he beat them all . Jeb Bush, the party's one-time front runner, dropped out of the race that night, hoping the party would unite against Trump. It wasn’t to be. “We’re voting with our middle finger,” a Trump supporter in the state told one of our reporters.
Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times