I’m going to skip my usual ramble about how good entertainment was this year (it was SO good) and get to the meat of this post. Let’s go!
MOVIES. This year, I worked at an art house cinema and one of the perks of working there was the chance to see movies for free. I took advantage of that opportunity as often as I could and saw some gems that I would have never considered. I was blown away by a lot of the movies that the production company, A24, put out but there were a few films that were particularly special to me.
- The Last Black Man in San Francisco. This is my favorite movie of the year, hands down. There’s this scene in the middle of the film where one of the characters stares into a mirror, puffs up his chest and tries to replicate the mannerisms of one of his peers. If you’re like me and spent a good time questioning your racial identity and mimicked stereotypes from your culture, you will understand that scene. It broke me and made me cry. But I loved it. Everything about the movie is beautiful. Seeing San Francisco filmed so vibrantly made me yearn for the West Coast- this cover does, too.
- The Lighthouse. What a wonderfully weird movie… I hope it’s nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards next year (maybe for Best Foreign Language Film because I had no idea what Willem Dafoe was saying a good chunk of the time). The song playing over the closing credit WILL get stuck in your head- I sing it to my cat quite often.
- Midsommer. I’m not a horror person. I watch scary movies through the cracks of my fingers as they cover my eyes. But man, this movie was fantastic. It doesn’t play into the traditional horror troupes, the ones with lots of blood and gore. The movie is bright and cheerful at points. It does have the Final Girl troupe– and she does came back triumphantly.
- Hustlers. Not going to lie- I love strip clubs. And I loved this movie. Yeah, the ending was abrupt but can we just talk about the make-up- all that black eyeliner and glitter? My high school self ate up those costumes. I also love how JLo asked Fiona Apple permission to use her song, “Criminal” in the movie. Jennifer Lopez is an icon. Puerto Rican pride all the way.
- Avengers: Endgame. I’m so tired of superhero movies. I loved Black Panther but I didn’t see the majority of the other Marvel films. I saw Avengers: Infinity War (my friend, Ashley, dragged me by the ear to see it with her) and I liked it (mostly because of Chris Evans- hello, nurse!) But man, was this a solid end to a story building up the last ten years (unlike a series about a certain Jedi…Ugh).
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
TELEVISION. This year was an especially hard one for me and TV was such a comfort. I loved coming home from work, making myself dinner and binging on something until I went to bed. I sought out shows that took me out of my life and I discovered- rediscovered- some gems. (And yes, I have to mention Game of Thrones. The last episode was the first full one I watched and honestly, I didn’t think it was terrible. I’ll get through the series eventually.)
- Euphoria (HBO). After the credits of the final GoT episode, HBO previewed a trailer for Euphoria, a high school drama featuring Zendaya. I will always stand for tales of high school (Can’t Hardly Wait continues to be one of my favorites) so I decided to check it out. Man, high school has changed A LOT since I was a student. Maybe for the better? Maybe for the worse? I don’t know. But I loved this show. It’s dark yet colorful. The acting is stellar. And the music… I’ll get to that later.
- Watchmen (HBO). I’m one of the few who actually like Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. So when HBO announced that they’re bringing the series to their network, I was pumped! What a roller coaster those episodes were- just give Regina King her Emmy now! I’m bummed that audiences didn’t love the show as much as I did. I hope that HBO continues with the series despite what viewers thought- ahem, the pool scene in the last episode. If you saw that, you know what I’m talking about and I know that you want to know what happens next.
- Mr. Robot (USA). I have to admit that I stopped waiting Mr. Robot after the second season (a lot of people did). Something told me to start watching again this season and boy, I’m glad that I did. Like Watchmen, this season is this gradually build up of intensity. There’s this episode in the middle of this season that almost feels like a play with the four leads bouncing line after line off each other. Rami Malek’s eyes alone do so much talking and connecting. There is ONLY one episode left of the series. I can’t wait to see how it ends (I’m guessing a time loop?).
- Unbelievable (Netflix). I was recommend this show several times but finally gave it a watch because Toni Collette is a powerhouse in it. It’s a tough to view (especially when you are a survivor of sexual assault) but the ending is so satisfying. I can’t believe that this series of events happened and I’m glad the story is being visually told. I also highly recommend a book about the case. I just finished it and WOW. (Side note: I need to write more long form pieces. New Year’s resolution #1 is getting back into journalistic reporting somewhere, somehow.)
- Sex Education (Netflix). Quirky. Fun. British. Do I need to say more? Sex Education was another recommendation and let’s face it- Gillian Anderson makes the show. I love how eager her character is to fix everyone’s love/sex life. I can’t wait for the next season. I want more and more.
- Modern Love (Amazon). I fell in love with The New York Times‘ “Modern Love” column a few years ago and gobbled up tales of romantic, heartbreak and New York City. When the show was released, I binged the entire season in bed with a bowl of ice cream and six glasses of wine. My favorite story is in the third episode that features Anne Hathaway. As someone who has depression, I related to this episode’s message so much (another side note: dating when you have a mental illness can be tough but remember to be kind to yourself as if you’re the person you’re seeing).
- Conan Without Borders (TBS). Conan O’Brien will always be my favorite late night host. I was devastated what happened to him at NBC but Conan only came back stronger. He and his team have this great segment where they travel to various part of the world, interview the locals and learn their customs. It’s brilliant, hilarious and at times, incredibly touching. This year, Conan went to Australia and Greenland but it was his trip to Ghana that was most impressive. He went to experience the Year of Return, which marks 400 years of the first enslaved Africans arriving in Jamestown Virginia. That particular episode was so insightful and Conan hosted with love and grace. Please give him the funding for a full-time travel show already.
- Joe Pera Talks With You (Adult Swim/ Cartoon Network). Are you having a bad day? Watch Joe Pera Talks With You. A bad week? Watch Joe Pera Talks With You. A bad month? Watch Joe Pera Talks With You. A bad year? Watch Joe Pera Talks With You. Joe offers the most wholesome humor in each 10-minute episode. Start with episode six of the first season and let your worries melt away. Your heart will sing and your face will hurt from smiling so much.
- YouTube. Does YouTube count as television? Sure, it does! GQ and Vanity Fair‘s YouTube channels have this awesome series where different actors break down movies from their careers, adding fun trivia and tidbits about their directors and costars. Most recently, the publications have had Kathy Bates and Jack Black talking about the highlights of their most memorable films. The Pastry Chef Attempts to Make Gourmet series on Bon Appétit‘s channel is the perfect watch when you need something light and comforting (and are done with Joe Pera). I want to be BFFs with their chef, Claire Saffitz– can we make gourmet Maltesers together, please?
MUSIC. Look, I listen to the same ten songs on Spotify account, as well as the same six podcasts. It usually takes an act from God for me to listen to something new so when I do, I scream about it. Below is some of the reasons why I have a sore throat now:
- “The Ride” by Amanda Palmer. It was a Sunday after a terrible week. I spent the day before in bed, didn’t shower but needed from coffee. I put on clothes, found the New Music tab in Spotify and walked to Starbucks for a latte. “The Ride” was the first song that came up. I stopped midway and cried as I listened to the lyrics. I only knew Amanda Palmer from the Dresden Dolls, a band my college roommate loved. I’m a fan now. From the sweeping carousel sounds to the lyrics about getting off the ride… I can lie in bed and listen to it over and over and over again and somehow, it makes me feel safe and less alone.
- Lil Nas X and Lizzo. It was their year. Need I say more? I love them both and all of the positivity they both stand for.
- “Medellín” by Madonna and Maluma. I tried to challenge myself musically this year and break away from my regular song rotation, incorporating more Latin music through my day. 2020 will be the year I finally become fluent in Spanish and I had a good refreshers translating lyrics from Latin pop hits. I also am my mother’s daughter and thus, will be a Madonna fan for the rest of my life. This year, she release Madame X which featured a lot of Latin-inspired rhythm and beats. She brought Maluma, this fantastic Colombian singer, on a few tracks and they make magic for your ears.
- “I Know” by King Princess and Fiona Apple. Who knows when Fiona Apple will release a new album? Until then, I devoured this reworking of her song with King Princess. I have no idea why this version feels more “Fiona Apple” then the original version but nevertheless, it’s gorgeous.
- “All For Us” by Zendaya and Labrinth. I raved about Euphoria earlier. The show is fantastic but the music is… whoa. The closing scene uses a reworking of a Labrinth song which now features Zendaya. Just do me a favor and watch the YouTube clip. Trust me. Do it.
- Music from Avengers: Endgame. Alan Silvestri was given the incredible task of scoring the biggest movie of the year and boy, is it good! From the building crescendo of the strings to the thunderous brass and percussion, listening to the whole album makes me feel like a superhero. It’s my favorite music to run to (I pretend that I’m Captain Marvel when I do).
- Music inspired by Game of Thrones: I didn’t watch GoT but I listened to a lot of great music inspired by the series- like this YouTube video that I played countless times (man, I wish that I could play like Tom Morello). The Weeknd, SZA and Travis Scott also came out with this great little number that I fell for.
MUSIC OF THE DECADE. I wanted to add something about the musicians that inspired me this most this decade. Music has the been the form of entertainment that shaped my soul the most and I can think about the two artists that I will always rep and hold close to my heart.
- Lana Del Rey. I was living in Brooklyn in 2011 when I first heard the songstress’s voice for the first time. “Blue Jeans” was moody and haunting and pulled me in instantly. I just went through my first break-up with a boyfriend and Lana felt like the pain of losing a first love. She felt like New York City. I followed her career closely since and have been memorized by everything she puts out. Lana is my musical best friend, getting me through bouts of depression and pumping me up for a night out.
- James Blake. One of my favorite TV shows ended this year. “iZombie” had its ups and downs but in its first season’s finale, “Retrograde” by James Blake was heavily featured. I heard that loop of his vocals and hooked. As decade progressed, I appreciated the fact that he collaborated with artists like Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce. James is so innovative and gives me the chills. I had the privilege of seeing him live this past autumn and I stood in the crowd mentally sobbing with the biggest smile on my face. I love him and everything he stands for.
What were your favorites of the year, dear reader?