From my obsession with all things true-crime to Jess and Katie's appreciation for a good teen drama, our team consumes a lot of content. These are the shows, movies, books, and podcasts that we loved most this year. xEmily
1. PEN15 (show) - I rarely watch comedies that aren't my go-to, background noise choices, but after G forced me to watch this show, I can easily say I'm a convert. Watching two adult actresses play out some of the most embarrassing acts of middle school was too laugh out loud funny. The show is nostalgic and hilarious, and I truly can't recommend it enough!
2. About Time (movie) - I know, I know. This isn't a movie from 2019, but I did discover it in 2019. When I told you all on Instagram that I needed a good cry, this movie was recommended to me in droves. About love, family, and time, About Time is guaranteed to make you cry harder than you ever have before.
3. Save Me The Plums by Ruth Reichl (book) - I pretty much love anything Ruth Reichl and have read every single one of her books within weeks of its publish date. It's not often that I find a book that makes me eager to go to bed each night, but this one does that and more. It's inspiring and delicious, and you can't miss it!
4. To Live and Die in LA (podcast) - By this point, everyone knows my obsession with True Crime, and podcasts about the topic are my favorite way to dive deeper into that world. I loved this series about the disappearance and death of aspiring actress Adea Shabani, who was last seen alive leaving her Hollywood apartment with her boyfriend. It will keep you hooked until the end.
1. Fleabag, Season 2 (show) - Honestly, this show may win as my favorite show ever, for the simple fact that it's the first show I've ever been able to binge-watch. While I felt neutral about Season 1, I cruised through Season 2 in one sitting, then loved it so much I rewatched both Season 1 and 2 with Jonah the next week. Phoebe Waller-Bridges' writing is laugh-out-loud hilarious and is so relatable that she somehow makes wanting to have sex with a priest completely understandable and also funny?? I loved it! Honorable Mention: Shrill
2. Parasite (movie) - I haven't been able to stop thinking about this Korean film by Director Bong Joon Ho, which is still in theaters in most major cities!. It was unbelievably striking and, like a parasite, sticks with you. Honorable Mentions: The Favourite and Yesterday.
3. The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells (book) - I didn't want to read this book—reading about the end of the world and how humans are completely F-ing up the planet isn't necessarily a good time—but I'm so glad I did. It condensed the environmental crisis, which is often too large to grasp, into something tangible, and Wallace-Wells is the best person to have as your narrative/guide/guru through it all. This should be required reading for everyone (especially those in denial about the dire trouble our Earth is in). Honorable Mentions: The Hearts' Invisible Furies by John Boyle, Normal People by Sally Rooney, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh, Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
4. The New York Times Book Review Podcast (podcast) - The 'Books' section of the New York Times is my favorite, so I don't know why I put off listening to this podcast for as long as I did (okay, I thought it would be boring). But every episode starts with an interview with an author, which feels like skimming a book (which is convenient, since they're usually books I wouldn't necessarily pick up myself!), and ends with a conversation about what the section Editors are reading. Every single episode leaves me feeling smarter and inspired to read more. Honorable Mention: Family Secrets with Dani Shapiro
1. Bob's Burgers, Season 10 (show) - I am a television fiend, and no matter how many new, good shows I stream, I always return to a classic favorite. When Bob's Burgers returned for their tenth season, they did not disappoint me in the least. The characters are loveable, hilarious, and most importantly flawed. What brings them together, through all their quirks and hardship, is how much they love one another. My fiance and I both grew up in big, East Coast families, and Bob's Burgers feels like home to us. Every Sunday, we cuddle up on the couch and get ready to spend time with our Belcher family, while our real one is miles away. Honorable Mention: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
2. If Beale Street Could Talk (movie) - I technically saw this at a pre-screening last December, followed by an incredible discussion with Director Barry Jenkins, but it was easily the best movie I've seen since then. Based on a James Baldwin novel, this movie tells the heartbreaking tale of an African American couple in New York City in the early 1970s. After Fonny is falsely accused of a crime he did not commit, the couple struggles to fight against the bleak reality of their situation. Told in a non-linear structure, Jenkins creates a beautiful story of love and injustice, with unbelievable acting to boot. Honorable Mentions: The Irishman
3. A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare's Plays Teach Us About Justice by Kenji Yoshino (book) - This is a pretty niche choice, but I truly could not put this book down. As someone who is as interested in the law as the Bard, every chapter was entertaining and enlightening. Each section addresses one of Shakespeare's famous plays through a current comparison and legal framework. How is Martin Luther King's "arc of the moral universe" speech related to Macbeth? Is it a page-turner like Educated (my other favorite from this year)? No, but it got me thinking in ways I hadn't since college. Honorable Mention: Educated by Tara Westover
4. Jesus is King (album) - Most people have disagreed with me on this, but I absolutely love Kanye's new album, Jesus is King. Whenever Kanye releases new music, it takes me a few listens to get into the tracks, which often feature new techniques and collaborators. After three full listens and one screening of IMAX's Jesus is King though, I was convinced that Kanye is one of the greatest musicians of all time. Each track outdoes itself, with the insanely talented choir backing Kanye's incredible rapping. My favorite song is easily "Selah," but "Jesus is Lord" is a close second. Honorable Mention: Christmas in the City by Lea Michele
1. Euphoria (show) - Euphoria became a cultural phenomenon (the sheer number of Halloween costumes confirmed it), and I totally understand why. It's dark yet hopeful, dramatic, and haunting, and Zendaya completely entrances you. I appreciate nuanced characters, and no one is deemed "all good" or "all bad" on Euphoria – they're all complicated and that makes for a more suspenseful (and less predictable) plot. I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of the show, and I'm already looking forward to the second season. Honorable Mentions: Stranger Things, Season 3, Couples Therapy, The Bodyguard, Dead to Me, Handmaid's Tale, Season 3 (I watch a lot of TV!)
2. Booksmart (movie) - This might be controversial since our team was so torn on Booksmart, but I found it to be eerily relatable as a Type A girl from the Los Angeles area who spent her entire high school experience prioritizing work over fun. I'm a sucker for a coming-of-age movie, and the fact that it was Olivia Wilde's directorial debut makes me love it even more. Amy and Molly's relationship reminded me of my dynamic with my sister–nearly dependent and fiercely loyal – so I found every moment of the hour and 45 minutes to be absolutely delightful. Honorable Mentions: Frozen II and The Lion King
3. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (book) - I powered through this in two sessions: One that resulted in 50 pages, and another, the night before our Of The Month Club meet up, to read the rest. Honestly, if it hadn't been so addicting, I wouldn't have been able to make it through, but Margaret Atwood's tale of the fall of Gilead through the eyes of three strong, female characters lived up to my expectations. I closed the cover only wishing there were more pages to devour. Honorable Mentions: The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
4. Lover by Taylor Swift (album) - As the resident Taylor fanatic in the office (we've debated her at great length), I'd be remiss to name any other album as my favorite of the year. After my first listen first, I wasn't blown away, but then it really grew on me – through many hours of my commute (mainly with Kelly!), plane rides, and downtime at home. Lover shows off the best of Taylor Swift; her lyrics are poetic (to me at least!) and The Man has become my feminist anthem. I'd memorized all the songs within a week (damn you and your catchy melodies, Tay). Honorable Mention: Soundtrack to The Politician by Ben Platt and Thank U, Next by Ariana Grande
1. Dark, Seasons 1 & 2 (show) - I haven't been this excited about a show probably since Lost. There's time travel, murder, mystery, and some straight-up A+ acting (even though the show is in German and I watch with subtitles on!). It's the kind of incredibly complex show that I need to hear (or read) every single word, otherwise, I'll rewind and go back to make sure I didn't miss anything important. The final season will be Season 3, which is rumored to be coming out on June 27th, 2020. Setting a calendar notification now. Honorable Mention: Mindhunter
2. Peanut Butter Falcon (movie) - I'll be honest–I didn't watch a lot of good movies this year. Maybe because I was reading more books and watching TV while on my Peloton, but I had to really think about this one. I'm not much of a Shia LeBeouf fan, but that's okay because he transforms into a completely different person in my pick for the best movie I watched in 2019, Peanut Butter Falcon. His character, a fisherman named Tyler who's on the run, befriends a young man with Down Syndrome, Zak, who has just broken out of an assisted living facility to pursue his dream of going to wrestling school. It's a beautiful story of odd friendships and explores the idea of living vs. just existing. Honorable Mention: Avengers: Endgame
3. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (book) - I'm not crying, you're crying. I read some great books this year, and The Great Believers was my favorite. This book is told in two different time periods: one in 1985/6 that follows a group of friends during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, and one in 2015 that follows one of the characters from 1985 as she searches for her daughter in Paris. The characters are incredibly well written, and the emotions the story elicits are intense. I cried several times and found myself often almost shouting at the absolutely devastating injustice of the AIDS crisis. This book is heartbreaking, beautiful, and 100% worth a read. Honorable Mentions: Less by Andrew Sean Greer, The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
4. Norman Fucking Rockwell! by Lana del Rey (album) - True story: I met Lana del Rey in 2015 because she happened to be assigned to the same table I was at a wedding reception (life is weird). Four years and three albums later, I feel as if I may have actually (briefly) met one of the greatest songwriters of our generation. I've been a big Lana fan since Born To Die; I used to play it during my evening jogs along Hollywood Boulevard the very first year I lived in L.A. I don't know if I could ever really choose a favorite album, but this one is certainly in the running. Every song punches me in the feels–my favorites are "Norman fucking Rockwell", "Mariners Apartment Complex", "Doin' Time", and "hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have". Honorable Mention: Let's Rock by The Black Keys, Thank U, Next by Ariana Grande, and I Am Easy to Find by The National
1. SAVAGE X FENTY Show (show) - With the end of 2019 came the sad and shocking news (to nobody) that the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show was no more! Cut to everyone wondering why it was a newsworthy story considering Rihanna had already come for their crown, wore it, looked better in it and somehow made what was seeming regressive (lingerie fashion show) into something inclusive and actually fun to watch! Although I binged-watched a lot of great series this year, this Amazon special was something that truly caught me off-guard, and I look forward to being served more lewks, amazing musical performances, choreography and body positivity in future specials. Honorable Mention: Gogglebox (UK) and The Mandalorian
2. Apollo 11 (movie) - Making a documentary about an event so iconic, so entrenched in pop-culture and American iconography can be challenging because no matter the premise—and in this case, it was how to make the first moon landing seem fresh again—when you know the ending, what's left to learn? However, Apollo 11's painstaking film restoration makes scenes look like 4K Mad Men footage from the cutting room floor, plus the impressive access behind-the-scenes and seamless edits somehow infuse this familiar story with drama and anticipation all over again. This was amazing to see on the IMAX screen, but I have since watched again at home and it was still awe-inspiring. Honorable Mentions: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and The Lighthouse
3. Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow (book) - Two great books came out this year that cover the Weinstein allegations (the above and She Said by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey), but this one, in particular, was an incredible read, mainly because Ronan is excellent at inserting himself into the story and driving the narrative without overshadowing the novels larger themes and victims. Plus, his audio recording of the book is something to behold as he performs in accents with such confidence that he would make his mother proud. Honorable Mentions: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh and Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
4. Dolly Parton's America (podcast) - I am a longtime listener of the Radiolab podcast, but when I heard of their newest series from Jad Abumrad (Radiolab and More Perfect, also excellent) I wasn't convinced. Sure, I am a hormonal woman who can't listen to Jolene or Coat of Many Colors without crying—but would that questionable emotional issue also sustain my interest for an entire series? Obviously, since it's on this list the answer is—yes! This is a touching podcast, which includes an insightful interview with Dolly herself that touches on both her life story and the impact she has on the people (mainly women) who listen and relate to her music and persona. This podcast made me into a true fan, and now I have added many more Dolly songs to my "make-me-cry-immediately" list. Honorable Mention: my continued affair with the Who? Weekly podcast, including their Patreon offerings, and You Must Remember This
What are your favorite things you've read, watched, and listened to this year?