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totally top five: 2020

You ever spend at least five or six minutes a day staring into the middle distance and trying to process that we’re all living through like, three to five global catastrophes simultaneously? And then get up and put your clothes on and go to work anyway? Oh yeah of course you have that’s what 2020 was all about.

I know that, functionally and realistically, absolutely nothing is going to change between December 31, 2020 and January 1, 2021, but holy shit am I be glad to close the door on this shitshow of a year regardless.

My attention span went to hell this year, amongst other attributes, and I pretty much ceased watching or reading anything after about… August? I did continue to listen to new music as without it I die, but everything else was just a barren field of nothingness. My Goodreads year-end roundup felt particularly pointed this year, but what can you do, right?

ANYWAY, here’s my top five for the year. Just the one list, categories be damned.

Orville Peck was my most listened-to artist this year. Crystal gave me Pony at the start of the year when she did her annual comb-through of all the year-end lists; I was hooked from the jump and I stand by everything I said about it in January. Peck’s voice is so easy to listen to even though it’s deeply emotional and there’s something really magical about his arrangements. I’ve loved everything he’s done this year as well — the cover of “Smalltown Boy” is one of my favorite pieces of music from 2020 and “No Glory in the West” just absolutely kicked my ass across the prairie — and I also have to blame and thank him for really opening me up to country music this year. I had, obviously, moved away from my youthful “everything but country” attitude to music, but the algorithm responded to my listening habits and offered up a ton of new music I wouldn’t have necessarily been interested in before because it was country or country adjacent including some new legit favorites like Colter Wall and Evil and Sunny War.

Sarah Henstra’s We Contain Multitudes is still really the only piece of media I consumed this year that really fucked me up emotionally in exactly the way I like to be fucked up emotionally. My Goodreads review is still right on and what I said in May here still stands as well. This is just a really lovely story with characters it’s easy to care about and get invested in with complex life experiences that complicate how they relate to one another. I’ve bought, I think, almost ten copies of this book for other people since I finished reading it and if that’s not a ringing recommendation, I don’t know what possibly could be.

I joked earlier this year that since Crystal had decided to attempt to claim her Canadian citizenship, I was going to try to get into The Tragically Hip so that I could be adequately prepared for whatever it meant to live with a Canadian, but it turns out that they’re great and I was just missing out all these years. (Not that I necessarily assumed they weren’t good but like, you know… Canadians, right?) I would start listing the favorites I’ve accumulated here, but there are just too many to be honest. I do have a favorites playlist but it is incomplete, so tread with that in mind. Truly, RIP Gord Downie, and thanks for the boss tunes.

Letterkenny ended up being one of the only media experiences we had this year and I still stand by every word I said about it in March. Just thinking about it can make me laugh and we’ve held off on watching the new episodes specifically because we want to have something to look forward to. Crystal and I had a long conversation the other day that meandered over a bunch of media and it ultimately came down to the idea that not enough weird shit is getting made. Everything is a remake or re-adaptation or a sequel and I know we’ve all been screaming about that for more than a decade at this point, but it’s nice to watch something like Letterkenny that is weird and funny and has a big heart too.

As previously discusses at length (kinda), I watch hockey now! Again! Regularly for the first time since I was a youth. This was an exceptionally weird season in which to get invested in sports of any kind and by the end of it I had attached myself to thirteen teams (seven “primaries and six “auxiliaries” because I certainly cannot do anything normally) and several of those teams went to the playoffs, some of them deep, and one of them all the way to the Cup final! Which was rad, but also sucked because they lost, though it was tempered by my enthusiasm for the finals being between teams from non-traditional hockey markets! Anyway, I think cishet men should be banned from talking about sports where other people can see it, but otherwise I’ve been having a spectacular time and can’t wait for the new season even though having it happen under the current conditions of the world also terrifies me. The grueling mechanism of capitalism, etc etc.

      

Happy New Year! Here’s to high hopes and low expectations for 2021! I hope this year treats you kinder than the last and I hope you’re kinder to yourself than you ever have been before. I love you! Be safe!

totally top three: july 2020

It’s August! 2020! Holy fucking shit! Hi! This is your reminder to please donate to mutual aid funds if you’re able! Wash your hands! Wear a mask! Stay safe! Stay sane! I love you! A lot!


The only thing I had the energy to watch this month is a Fox TV show about baseball that was canceled in 2016. Well, I also watched a lot of hockey when it came back and a couple of baseball games, but stuff with an emotional arc? Plot? Don’t know ’em, couldn’t handle them if I did. Anyway, we did watch most of Pitch and genuinely loved it and the only reason we haven’t finished it is because we’re trying to ~savor what we have. I can’t believe this wasn’t a huge hit, every moment of it is pretty great and everyone is beautiful and also baseball? What’s not to like?


My two most listened playlists in July were Aspen Aspen‘s Black Country Matters and Jeremy Andrew Hunter (aka Ska Tune Network)’s LGBTQ SKA BANDS because they both rip and have introduced me to a bunch of artists I wouldn’t have probably otherwise found. One of the best things about Spotify aside from The Algorithm is that if I have an errant thought about a playlist I want to hear, there is already one waiting for me. These two are some of the best I’ve heard this year. (Yes, ska is good, actually. Shut it.)


The Old Guard was really fun! I liked all the characters and the universe it built and I thought the action was all pretty fun and the setup for a sequel was solid. I’d definitely watch another two hours of Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne kicking absolute ass with an occasional detour where two incredibly beautiful men say deeply loving and romantic things to each other if it was available to me.


And three to look forward to…

syed m. masood, more than just a pretty face   kiesza, crave   open 24 hours

totally top three: march 2020

Ho-ho-holy shit what a fucking month! I know there was like, absolutely no way to anticipate what 2020 would be like, but like, good god damn, what the hell, you know? Whooeee.

Here is some stuff that I managed to enjoy despite of or in fact possibly because I’m not currently leaving my house very often and don’t like, have much to do besides work and consume media, just like before except now I waste less time getting dressed and I’m always with my dog. I hope this finds you safe and healthy and as sane as you can be. <3


I had a great time plowing through Roni Simunovic’s Little Warlord which was just fast and fun and easy to read and sweet and satisfying. I said in my review that it’s like if mob movies were made for someone other than white guys and I stand behind that almost a month later. There are a lot of really likable characters in this and a lot of gentleness for a universe that could just have easily disposed of it entirely. Glad I found this when I did.


The highest compliment I can give I Am Not Okay With This is that we haven’t finished it yet, despite there being only a single season, because we like it so much and didn’t want to rush through and then just be out of it. Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Olef, and Sofia Bryant are all really great and I love the place-making and especially the set-dressing, the way everything feels a little out of date and the only difference between it being in a good way or a bad way is how the characters compose themselves around it. I love the music a lot and the dialogue is fantastic and the second highest compliment I can give it is that Crystal and I have both paused it to scream about how much it sounds like something I would write, which is narcissistic probably, but also true.


We also started watching Letterkenny, which we have also been savoring as slowly as possible and which we also pause to scream about constantly, but for entirely different reasons, the first of which is that we live in in like, American Letterkenny Lite (though the people of Letterkenny are consistently better people than I’ve ever experienced here) and the second of which is that every fucking thing about it is weird and hysterical in a perfect way. If you had told me in February that I would sometimes pause a sitcom about Canadian hicks to yell about the way they’ve staged a particular shot for Maximum Art, I would have scoffed. It’s also really funny to watch something that’s really stylized and goofy and feel weirdly represented and safe as a queer person. Everyone is so good at embodying these really weird, extreme characters and they all seem like they’re just committing every second they’re on screen. Every thing that comes out of Jared Keeso’s mouth is the funniest thing I’ve heard in my life. It’s also masterful at knowing exactly how hard to push a repetitive joke so that it always sails through the funny-too much-funny again-hysterical track every freaking time. I finally upgraded to ad-free Hulu to be able to watch this without interruption: I six-extra-dollars-a-month love it.


And three to look forward to…

grady hendrix, the southern book club's guide to slaying vampires   pokey lafarge, rock bottom rhapsody   promising young woman

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