in recent years

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totally top three: february 2020

I turned 35 this month! That’s pretty cool! I spent absolutely the entire month doing nothing but watching hockey! But here we are anyway!


I somehow missed the Mitski train when everyone went buck wild for Be the Cowboy last year, but because The Algorithm, as always, serves me well, I got served a bunch of her stuff whenever Orville Peck’s Pony finishes and I started paying attention. I’ve listened to most of her stuff now and I like it all, but Bury Me at Makeout Creek is the standout for me. I’m obsessed with “Townie” (the vocal warbles!) and “Jobless Monday” (sounds like Clara Rockmore!) and “Drunk Walk Home” (that big angry instrumental crescendo!) and the album as a whole just works and feels super soniccally and emotionally resonant.


I have such good luck with the algorithm, seriously, and I think serpentwithfeet is going to be my algorithmic find of the year. This album is so beautiful, musically and lyrically, haunting and thoughtful and romantic and so god damn artful I kind of lose my mind. Spotify gave me “whisper” and I immediately listened to the entire album and got obsessed with “mourning song” and “wrong tree” and “seedless” and “waft” and “slow syrup” which contains the lyrics “when you made a chorus of your painful things / didn’t know it was a song you hated to sing” and “I longed for the rapture between your knees / you need the calm, I need the world to end inside of me” which just absolutely knocked me on my ass in the best way.


I watch hockey now! Well, okay, I watch hockey again, but I’ve spent enough time rambling about my ~sports history~ on Twitter to do that here, so instead: I watch hockey now! A lot of it. Like, at least a half-dozen games a week, but usually way more. I follow seven teams and not all of them because they’re hot. My attention span has just been deeply non-existent lately and instead of trying to force myself to watch something and then getting frustrated when I can’t get through it, I just put hockey on which is both exciting and soothing simultaneously. I can look away and do something else and still follow commentary audibly and because I am not competitive and always hope that both teams have fun, I don’t get stressed out about it the way I think way too many sports fans do. It’s been so so so fun and will be genuinely sad when the season is over.


And three to look forward to…

roswell, new mexico season 2   one day at a time season 4   the hunt

totally top three: january 2020

2020 is a futuristic-ass looking year, isn’t it? Will I ever get used to it? Will I ever stop accidentally typing 2002 instead? Who knows!


Harry Styles’ Fine Line is so lovely and so artful and delicate and poppy and fun and emotive and I was so looking forward to it and so glad to not only not be disappointed, but to be deeply impressed and MOVED. I’m particularly fond of “Adore You” and “Cherry” and “To Be So Lonely” and “She,” and “Canyon Moon,” and okay, really, not going to list the entire album, but I am really into the whole thing. This is just a lovely cohesive experience that’s very repeatable.


Though I don’t consider myself a sports person, as surely I have mentioned before like the obnoxious pain in the ass I am, I’m not not-interested in sports and have often gone through phases of getting really into watching hockey and/or baseball depending on my ~mood and the season. This winter, Crystal and I have gotten pretty into hockey compilations on YouTube (I love injuries and fights. I know what this says about me. Hush.) and because of that, the algorithm served us a Bardown Quiz and we kind of fell in love. Everyone who shows up for the quizzes is a delight and we like the dumb inter-office competition and the yelling. The other Bardown videos are great too, but nothing tops the quizzes.


Orville Peck’s Pony is absolutely going to be on my top five of 2020 because I listened to it at least once every day in January. AT! LEAST! ONCE! A! DAY! FOR! A! WHOLE! MONTH! And I am not even a little tired of it yet. ORVILLE PECK SOUNDS LIKE QUEER “I LOVE YOU BECAUSE”/”I WILL BE HOME AGAIN” ELVIS MADE AN ALBUM IN TWIN PEAKS. If that doesn’t sell you… Well. This probably isn’t the album for you, I guess!

a tweet from ash which reads orville peck's kansas (remembers me now) makes me feel like i'm slowly bleeding out from a knife wound in a seedy small town honky tonk bathroom, but in a way where i've made peace with both my fate and my misdeeds and welcome the relief of the coming darkness


And three to look forward to…

nada surf, never not together   birds of prey   green day, father of all motherfuckers

totally top five 2019: watching

Let’s talk about some stuff I watched in 2019 now, yeah? Yeah!


Man, I LOVED Umbrella Academy. I liked it when we watched it initially, but we’ve rewatched quite a bit since and it’s just grown on me even more. I like that it’s a little dumb — as all ‘superhero’ properties should be — and that it doesn’t really look or sound like anything else I’ve seen recently. I like that it’s a story about a family surviving against the odds of their shitty upbringing under deeply suspect circumstances and having to reunite both because of and in spite of those circumstances and all the great ways that allows the characters to interact. I love all of the characters here, even the bad guys, and found myself surprisingly emotionally attached in the kind of fictional environment where I don’t normally do that. I’m interested to see where it will go in season two!


Rhett & Link put out a three part documentary [ONE | TWO | THREE] about a trip they took to their hometown to return to some of the places that inspired their new book, The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek and it was charming as hell. I like Good Mythical Morning for a variety of reasons — gross food! spicy food! great guest interactions! the crew! the comedy! the LAUGHTER! — but one of the things I like the most is the fact that it is extremely clear that Rhett and Link have been friends for an unbelievably long time and are still laughing at each other like they did when they were kids. Their friendship is palpable and that makes the chemistry of the show so, so much better because they know both how to play off of each other and how to play together off of other people. Seeing them in their hometown was very sweet and it was nice to see them so emotionally reflective on what they’ve done together and how important that youth is to it.


I haven’t truly binge-watched something in a long, long time. Not since before I started working full time in 2014, so when I sat down at my desk at home while in a hideously hard, bad mood and hit the second episode of Roswell, New Mexico on Netflix (I had watched the first shortly after it aired, but then like, life, you know?) I didn’t expect to finish it and then watch the next eleven in a row without any breaks except to pee. I mostly watch things in hopes of having a good time, but I also really like to FEEL things while I’m having fun and this just hit all the marks for me. Everyone is so, so beautiful and there is so much remarkable emoting. The dialogue is fun AND human AND emotionally resonant without ever hitting eye-rolling melodrama. Both the emotional and plot stakes are pretty high and the characters react and respond to them in ways that feel appropriate and real. It has a gay character! A bisexual character! There’s same-sex sex! And it made me care about straight romance because the characters are so likable! And I am deeply, deeply amped for season two.


Call Me By Your Name broke me in such a wonderful, satisfying, lovely way that I am still thinking about it often. I said quite a bit about how much I loved it previously, but the longer I’ve lived with it, the more deeply satisfied I am with it. It’s such a beautiful love story, such a beautiful coming of age story, such a beautiful heartbreak story, and it’s absolutely wildly lovely to look at, too, dreamy and summery and nostalgic. A near-contemporary period piece with great music and beautiful people and a lovely story with a deeply profound narrative moral that is spoken aloud, right out loud, for the people watching who are likely to need it the most. Such a lovely gift of a movie.


The Haunting of Hill House really emotionally destroyed me this year in a way I did not expect and also really enjoy thinking about. I loved the characters and the movement through time and the spooky and gruesome elements and the beautiful and terrifying house and that, at its heart, it’s a story about family and the ways that we sometimes inflict indelible damage on one another without ever thinking we are being callous or cruel. I really liked this one right from the jump and I stand by those things I loved: the gripping, creeping tension of it and the way the familial relationships tangled and stretched. It was also so beautifully designed and lit and shot — that long take during “Two Storms,” GOSH — and I hope the team behind it makes something else I can love again. Soon.


Honorable Mentions

unicorn store   tuca & bertie   rocketman   good omens   captain marvel


Previously

2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | 2K16 | 2K17 | 2018

you don't have to finish that thing

Today, I removed a TV show that I have not finished from the “To Watch” list I keep in my Wunderlist app.

It felt… good. It felt… free. It felt… transcendental.

It doesn’t matter at all what it was — I add like, everything to this list that sounds even remotely interesting when I see somebody talk about it — and it isn’t because I even think it’s “bad” or whatever (I don’t, actually. It’s good!) but just because I didn’t really want to watch anymore episodes. It just wasn’t a thing I needed to see through and for like, one of the first times in my entire dumb life I just… decided not to.

I have always been finicky about Finishing Things. (Well, watching/reading-type things. If only I could produce the same kind of energy for producing things instead of consuming them. The books I could finish writing! The screenplays! The chores!) I’ve only ever really given up on a book TWICE (Both of which were boring and pretty bad. One or the other… I stick those out constantly. I have been ”’reading”’ House of Leaves for fourteen years.) and I am constantly having the incredibly stupid thought, unbidden, that I have to take in an Entire Thing before I’m like, allowed to decide whether I liked it or not.

But the older I get, the more I realize that life is just TOO SHORT to finish every single thing I start. I have no idea how much time I get on this planet, why the hell do I keep wasting it on stuff that I’m not even that into?!

This feels like a real evolutionary moment for me. I can change! I can reclaim my time! And stop wasting it on things I don’t really care about!

And! I walked the talk and doused the stupid little burning need I had to tell everyone about how This Thing Was Just Not For Me because… Who cares? Lots of things aren’t for me! (That’s like, a product of being alive in a time where there is more content being created every day than in the one prior: not all of it can or should be made for everyone. That actually rules, knowing there is SO MUCH media being made, that like, you don’t have to care about kind of a lot of it at all. That’s awesome.)#

(It’s almost like… I can be the person I actually want to be? Sometimes? If I try? Sounds fake, but okay.)

So, in case you need it, I am here to tell you: You Do Not Have to Finish That Thing.

Whatever it is, no matter how good it is or how much you want to be part of the zeitgeist or which one of your amazing friends recommended it, you can just stop reading or watching or following it. And you don’t even have to tell anyone about it. Just Quietly Quit That Thing and On To The Next. Liberate yourself. Bask in that freedom. You deserve it.

#: I hope it is obvious that this doesn’t apply to, like, diversity and representation in media. We always need more and everyone should be able to see themselves in the media they watch. This is a Mob Movies Aren’t For Me, not Movies Should Be For Straight White Cis People Only thing. Fuck white people. Including me.

totally top 3: june 2019


Holy crap did I love Good Omens. I read the book in college (200…4? I think) and loved it and have spent the ensuing years recommending it to lots and lots of people. A solid adaptation FULL!! of all the queer angel-demon love I could have dreamed of. I will miss the internet obsessively fan re-casting the story every few years and I maintain that they CERTAINLY could have casted it less white-ly, but we liked it enough to almost immediately watch the entire thing a second time anyway. I thought the narrative and the dialogue did a good job pulling the funny charm from the book into a visual medium and I thought the visuals and placemaking and costuming were ultimately very cool. I also thought it did a nice job of breaking the book up into episodes, though I could have watched a thousand more minutes of Aziraphale and Crowley begrudgingly becoming friends. I will be haunted by “You go to too fast for me, Crowley” for the rest of my life and I will love it.


I didn’t know anything about Drew Magary’s The Hike before I bought it (I have probably made it clear that I don’t ever know anything about what I read before I read it and yet I cannot stop repeating myself.) and even if I had, I don’t think I could have accurately imagined the off-the-charts level of weirdness in here. The writing in this is really solid and, as previously mentioned, really reflective of the passage of time and changes in the narrator. Ben is a solid narrator, but the stars here are really the secondary characters and the general bizarre nature of the story. The willingness to lean in to the strangeness of the premise and follow through with it was really refreshing and reminded me a lot of Unicorn Store, actually, and I thought the ending was similarly satisfying.


We were able to squeeze a viewing of Rocketman into a quick trip to the cities in June and I am SO GLAD. It was so big and fun and moving — making it a big fantasy musical was brilliant and fun and so fitting for Elton John’s music — and I ended up crying like, five times which I hadn’t really expected?? Taron Egerton is so, so, sooooooo unbelievably good. He makes acting look like it’s just having feelings on camera, right there all over his beautiful face, and he really drags you through them with him in the most satisfying way. Also, I had no idea Jamie Bell was in this before he popped up on screen and I kind of yelped in the theater and terrified all of the middle-aged couples that were there with us. As always, a beautiful, talented bitch. The “Your Song” bit is so good — two extremely talented actors just meaningfully, facially emoting at each other over a song I already loved so much — and I’m just going to think about it forever and ever.


And three to look forward to…

stranger things season 3   rory power, wilder girls   spider-man: far from home