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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

totally top three: december 2019

Crystal went to Florida without me this month and in her absence I read several books, listened to a metric fuckton of music, watched a couple of movies, and some TV. I’ve never been so productive in my life.


I’ve been watching Good Mythical Morning daily for a while now and sporadically for a real, real long time before that and while I think Rhett and Link are funny (even when they aren’t retching and/or hiccuping convulsively) I genuinely had no idea what to expect from Buddy System, so while it was out from behind the YouTube Red paywall, I sat down in my bachelorhood and watched all of the first season and had a great time! I must admit to a moment of visceral bewilderment so strong that I had to pause when it moved from the GMM format opening and then had them step out from behind the desk, but it was weirdly effective. I really liked that this leaned way into the sense of weirdness I get from their humor and that it was just happily, balls-out goofy. As I am sure I’ve said before, I hate musicals with very few exceptions and I think comedy songs are mostly bad, but I had a remarkably good time with these, especially “So Dang Dark” and “Power Nap” and “Tough Decisions”. I like that they both commit so wholly to their bits and Link’s straight delivery of every absurd thing he said sent me into hysterics. I also watched and liked season two a lot, but this is long enough already, yes? (“I Like What I Like” and “Naked” are the stand-out songs this time, but “Kings of Bellevue Estates” made me actually legit laugh out loud because it was just extremely spot-on as a parody. Okay really, shutting up now!!)


Here is my first opinion: people who post on the internet about how they don’t like the things people post on the internet are the worst and shouldn’t be allowed to access the internet. My second opinion: if you can’t summon any interest in hearing about the things your friends like… why do you have friends? My third opinion: the Spotify wrapped infographics are fun and I’m glad people share them! How can I be adequately obsessed with you as a person if I don’t know what pop culture you’re obsessed with?! Also, mine rules, specifically, because I have an excellent and varied taste in music. I thought the decade thing was pretty interesting this year although mostly useless to me because I listen to Spotify at work and when people are agitating me, I listen to a playlist I have called “Soothe” on repeat and it’s just Vince Guaraldi Trio’s “Great Pumpkin Waltz” and “Thanksgiving Theme” so those have been my top two songs like, four years running and that was my artist of the decade too. Otherwise 2019 was very spot-on for the stuff I listened to and loved the most and it has me AMPED for my Totally Top Five this year.


I liked Late Night so much! Mindy Kaling is so, so charming and funny and I liked SO MUCH that even when the circumstances of the story pushed Molly into a really awkward moment that could have been played as deeply humiliating and for laughs, it instead leaned toward more regular human behavior. I like that the story didn’t demand that Molly change and become ~one of the guys~ in order to succeed or survive and that her success came directly from her personal experience, talent, and willingness to stand up for herself and her ideas. Emma Thompson was GREAT and I ended up liking the guys as the plot let them develop too, especially Tom, obviously, because I am a sucker, though I stand by my opinion that the SPOILER shoulder kiss at the end was a bad choice because of COURSE they would end up together, it didn’t need to be made TEXTUAL. Anyway, I laughed a lot AND had a nice time emotionally and I don’t really need anything else to have a good time with a movie, so I’d say it was a very solid watch.


And three to look forward to…

amy spaulding, we used to be friends   kesha, high road   gretel & hansel

totally top three: september 2019

For the first time in almost two years, I completely spaced that these posts are a thing I do! Just absolutely blacked it out like it was redacted by the CIA, so I did part of this on my phone while Crystal drove us toward Minneapolis and the rest very, very early today! Apologies for… any remaining mess.


As I’ve probably mentioned a hundred-thousand times before, I have a LOT of trouble absorbing information aurally, so I’ve – frustratingly, tbh! – never been able to get into podcasts. But I kept seeing people talk about My Brother, My Brother, and Me and just generally excitedly recommending all of the McElroy endeavors, so I tried it out and it’s 1. hysterical, and 2. so much easier to listen to than I expected and Crystal and I have been listening to it a lot! (Well, like, one or two a week. YMMV on “a lot”. I know you people are insatiable when it comes to podcasts.) I still don’t know which one is which or whose voice belongs to who, but that’s really fine and I figure after enough time I’ll probably get it and in the meantime I laugh a lot and also extremely love listening to them laugh at each other. What finally convinced me to try listening was this animatic someone did about decorative fettucine. Perhaps it will convince you also if you don’t already listen!


A guy I follow on Instagram (He did merch at a show Crys and I went to and was extremely nice and friendly!) mentioned he was going out on tour with the KVB later this month, so I did as I almost always do when people talk about music in any capacity and went to check them out. I listened through their entire discography and was super into it! I am especially into their most recent album Only Now Forever, especially that eponymous song, “On My Skin,” and “Afterglow,” but the album as a whole is just really solid. It’s that sort of dreamy and ethereal synth pop shoegaze thing, which has been extremely my musical wheelhouse lately and I’m glad to have another discography to add to my playlist and a new “Fans Also Like” section to explore on Spotify.


Because Crystal and I have a long, long, looooong history with Supernatural and because it’s about to go into its final season, we decided to try to catch up so we could watch it in (roughly) real time as it airs. It hasn’t gone exactly to plan — we’re nine episodes into season 13 — but it has been pretty fun! I can’t say that I’ve ever thought of Supernatural as GOOD, per se, even when it was my favorite show, but it has always been a pretty okay time. The characters get both a little better and a little worse each year, but I’ve really fallen for some of the recurring characters (Rowena! Jack! Crowley, obviously! Castiel, sometimes to often!) and have really, really loved the reintroduction of Mary Winchester. If you could go back to 2006 and tell me that this goofy show I was obsessed with would get FIFTEEN SEASONS, I would have laughed in your face. What a wild ride, man.


And three to look forward to…

the addams family   stephen chbosky, imaginary friend   big mouth season 3

totally top 3: july 2019

July is over already. July! I know time gets faster as you get older because of like, relativity, but SHEESH, 2019 is just blasting by. I’m not ready for 2020. I didn’t even like typing that. Yikes.


Spider-Man: Far From Home was SO MUCH more fun than I expected it to be and also had a decent plot and satisfying emotional payoff and also Jake Gyllenhaal is… so beautiful. It’s UPSETTING, honestly. Gosh. The teenaged characters in this are also just really charming across the board and I like that they act like idiots and talk like idiots because that’s what being a teenager is like! (But you know, like if human speech had an editor, right? So it’s never TOO real because that would be… unbelievably boring. Same as adults, obviously.) The adult presence is also great (Marissa Tomei and Martin Starr in particular. And JB Smoove popping into scenes to be hilarious was also great.) and I got very emotional during Happy and Peter’s conversation on the jet. Every time I watch a Marvel movie, I assume it’ll be the one that finally makes me lose interest, but they keep being fun and easy to watch, so I just keep coming back.


Stranger Things (SPOILERS!) season three was so, so fun and satisfying and I cried,,, so much, Jesus. I cried. SO MUCH!! I cried… more than I could have ever anticipated!!! I cried at Alexei! I cried at Billy! I cried at Hopper! I cried at the entire three months later sequence!!!!!!! I just cried! I CRIED SO MUCH!!!!!!!!! It was so fun and so stressful and so funny and charming and I wanted Robin to be a lesbian SO BAD and then SHE FUCKIN’ WAS!!!!!!!!!!! And watching Joe Keery’s beautiful, talented face work through the emotions of that admission fuckin’ ruled!!!!! All of these kids are just, so much better at acting than I will ever be at… literally anything. It was also really exciting and gory and gross, which is great, and just. “It’s not my fault you don’t like girls.” !!!! MAN!! What a freakin’ EXPERIENCE!! We loved this so much that we started re-watching the series from the beginning and we almost never do that! (Sorry for all the exclamation marks and incoherency, but it’s not like you didn’t know who you were dealing with here.)


I had no freaking idea that I was going to L-O-V-E Tuca & Bertie so much. I love the theme song; I love the characters; I love the animation; I love the fucking weird-ass parameters of the universe; I love the theme song; I love the phenomenal interstitials between scenes; I love Birdie; I love Tuca; I love Speckle; I love that it’s gross and that it feels effortlessly weird; I love the theme song!! It is so fun and so funny and so wonderfully reflective of ride-or-die friendship. Also, I did NOT expect my marriage to be extremely represented on tv by heterosexual bird people, but 2019 is truly wild that way. (That argument about Speckle needing it to be his turn to freak out… HOO BOY.) This’ll be one I revisit for sure and Netflix is dumb as hell for not ordering a second season.


And five to look forward to…

scary stories to tell in the dark   katie henry, let's call it a doomsday   slipknot, we are not your kind   james brandon, ziggy, stardust, and me   where'd you go, bernadette

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.