Best Movies of 2020

Movies suffered this year, with the continual push back of tentpole releases leading to the effective shrug-releases onto VOD where Hollywood’s biggest and best blockbusters could now first be experienced on your iPhone. Because of this, I decided to leave this as a running list, finalizing it the week of our delayed Oscars in April. Here are the films I feel comfortable citing as the best of 2020 as of this moment (as well as a list of what I still need to watch).

Still need to watch: Promising Young Woman; Martin Eden; Another Round; The Nest; A Sun; The Forty-Year Old Version; One Night in Miami; News of the World; Shirley; Kajillionaire

10. Emma.

Another in the trend of painting the Victorian-era and its most famous novels as wryly funny farces that showcase the selfish, awkward, and petty actions of its elegantly-clad characters. Autumn de Wild’s take on Jane Austen’s Emma. is sharp-witted, charming, and gorgeous to look at (even on my not so large television at home). Each color is vibrant and each insult pierces as Emma et al deal with the complicated romances of the era.

9. Bacurau

A weird film set “a few years from now” in a small Brazilian town, so inconsequential you may not notice if it disappeared off the map. This movie has the low-budget strangeness that exists in the first Mad Max movie, with characters acting in ways you don’t understand but merely accept as the way their world is. The second half brings the metaphor a little too into view, but what results is a walloping strike at colonialism, the divide between the haves and have nots, and the agency of the people who exist in forgotten worlds.

8. Wolfwalkers

This might be the best-looking animated film I’ve ever seen, designed with a feel similar to a pop-up book, with shades of green abounding. The story is similar to those we’ve heard before, colonialists overtake an area, but one of them befriends their enemy, leading to increased understanding of the other and the position of their loved ones. The story works, each beat hits all the right emotions, but where it truly thrives is in it dazzling visuals.

7. Nomadland

Ebert has an oft-quoted phrase that movies are an empathy creating machine and I think Nomadland really gets at the heart of this, telling the stories of those who choose to exist outside societal norms. Nomadland is about the drifters of the world. Groups of people who live by themselves in vans, working seasonal jobs before traveling on. Chloe Zao films this lifestyle in its difficulties and its poeticism. Sometimes it feels like the world has no place for these nomads, but at other times they have no place for the world.

6. Minari

Director Lee Isaac Chung’s personal story of a family who moves across the country to start a farm is both thoughtful and funny in its depiction of what it means to be a family, all the sacrifices, the selfish desires, and the quirks we deal with it. It’s also uniquely American, capturing the Korean immigrant experience with all its promised dreams and absurdities.

5. The Sound of Metal

I almost dreaded watching this movie, thinking it would be the person goes through a hard time Oscar-bait we get every year that lead to impressive performances, but altogether mediocre movies. This has an impressive performance at its heart, Riz Ahmed will hopefully become the first person of Muslim faith to get an acting nomination, but the rest of the film is just as good, offering such a deeply sympathetic portrait of each of its characters.

4. Lover’s Rock (A Small Axe film)

One of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series of films about London’s West Indian community across the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Lover’s Rock is pure joy. A cathartic experience that takes place at a house party, filled with reggae music, dancing, and food. The air is thick with romance, with sensuality. In a year in which intimacy and collective joy have been naught, when Black Americans faced continued injustice at the hands of the state, Lovers Rock was an antidote, a completely joyous occasion.

3. Da 5 Bloods

Spike Lee’s latest feature film was released at the height of an intense summer, focused on four Black Vietnam veterans returning to the country to search for something they left behind. It’s a messy film, Lee throws a lot at the viewer, but Da 5 Bloods hits heavy on both action and emotion. Centered around a tour de force performance from Delroy Lindo, the film showcases America’s long history of colonialist and discriminatory behavior, offering a transcendent experience.

2. Dick Johnson is Dead

Documentary filmmaker Katherine Johnson wanted to spend time processing her father’s increasing dementia, acknowledging the fact that he will likely die soon. To do so she works with him on a project where they simulate how his death could ultimately happen, having him play himself in these scenarios. Dick Johnson is Dead is about the impossible task of accepting a loved one’s death, but it succeeds most as a celebration of life.

1 First Cow

Kelly Reichardt’s latest is about two men trying to make their way through the wild western frontier, a land filled with hard men trying to find their way in a new world. When the richest man in town decides to bring in a cow, a luxury no one else can afford, Cookie and King-Lu hatch a scheme to steal milk to make oily cakes which they can then sell to others. It’s a beautiful, poetic, and tender vision of what humanity can be even in the midst of our most brutal tendencies.

Honorable mentions: Time; I’m Thinking of Ending Things; Boys State; Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Top 10 Albums of 2020

Check out other best of the year content here.

10. Phoebe Bridgers “Punisher”

A gorgeous, passionate, and solemn record that has really launched Bridgers to wide renown. I imagine it will be that way for a long time.

  1. Tame Impala “The Slow Rush”

Released to far fewer critical accolades than Tame Impala is used to, “The Slow Rush” took a while to grow on me, but Kevin Parker’s psychedelic pop creeped its way into being one of my favorites this year. 

  1. Fiona Apple “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” 

It took a late in the year revisit of this album to truly catch me. This has been heralded as the album of the year by many, Apple has created another astonishing work. From the chirping piano of the opening where she lays bare her desires for love to calling out abusive power mongers in “Newspaper”, Apple creates unique and powerful arrangements. 

7. Lil Uzi Vert “Eternal Atake” 

Lil Uzi Vert’s second full length is a jolt of energy, at times feeling messy, but he charms his way into your consciousness by maintaining a chaotic and almost puppy dog-like pace for over an hour. It’s a lot of fun. 

6. Porridge Radio “Every Bad”

A raw and passionate rock record that is filled with singer Dana Margolin’s repeated witticisms. It’s the kind of album that lends itself to shouting along with a crowd, a particularly unfortunate attribute this year, as the album was released the week of lockdowns. “Every Bad” contains Margolin’s deepest convictions and longings, the most harrowing of which comes in “Lilac” where she struggles through her failings before concluding “I don’t want to get bitter / I want us to get better / I want us to be kinder / To ourselves and to each other”, unleashing it at a near scream for the track’s final two minutes. 

  1. Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats “Unlocked”

Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats’ collaboration only ranks this low because it may not actually be a full length album. Clocking in at 18 minutes across 8 tracks, some may consider this an EP, but I see it more along the lines of a punk album, both because of this length and the pure tenacity both artists produce here. It’s a perfect high octane rap record. 

4. Charlie XCX “How I’m Feeling Now”

The first notable quarantine recording, Charli XCX’s “how i’m feeling now” is filled with the sort of bottled energy you would expect from being forced to stay inside. It’s restless, with beats amped up to blow-out-your-speaker levels. 

3. The Chicks “Gaslighter”

I hadn’t really ever listened to the band formerly known as the Dixie Chicks prior to this year, and the album’s first single “Gaslighter”, didn’t really win me over. But after listening to the album all the way through, I was hooked and don’t think I listened to any other album more this year. It’s an album filled with heartbreak, of moving on, and confronting those who have weighed you down in the past. It was a true comfort to me all year. 

2. Soccer Mommy “color theory”

Sophie Allison expands on her bedroom rock songs to provide luscious and quietly soaring explorations of self doubt. Soccer Mommy is my favorite artist working in indie rock right now. “color theory” shows Allison, who is only 23, has further progressed from her stunning debut and is set to create great music for a long time.

  1. Run the Jewels “RTJ4”

Released early to provide soundtrack to nationwide protest, the fourth LP from Killer Mike and El-
P continues the rip roaring, face smashing, and degutting hip hop the group is known for. El-P’s beats
almost invoking the feelings of the most punishing rock songs, driving forward rather than finding
grooves in which to settle. Killer Mike relentlessly offers his trademark rhymes and alliteration, in a riotous album that’s as relevant as ever.

Top 10 TV Shows of 2020

I wrote about the top 10 songs of the year here.

10. Earth to Ned (Disney+)

This is ostensibly a children’s show, though it’s format (a talk show parody), writing staff (veterans of the
alt-comedy scene), and guests (again, lots of alt-comedy people), make it hard to call it that. It’s a weird
show, about two aliens (who appear as puppets) trying to figure out what makes Earth tick, so they host
a late night talk show, bringing in various guests to interview about a certain topic. I love that something
like this exists in 2020, a time where media seems to be created according to whatever algorithm tells
them they will find the most success. The show breaks so many of those barriers and while not perfect is
a strange delight.

9. Never Have I Ever (Netflix)

A high school comedy about Devi (played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) trying to figure out her place in the
world. It’s a charming show that grows as you watch, detailing difficulties both small (like Devi trying to
get a boyfriend) and large (Devi’s father has recently died before the show starts).

8. Pen15 (Hulu)


I didn’t know where to place this as technically it’s only the first part of season 2, filming was interrupted
because of, well, you know. I turned to this expecting to find the ridiculous laughs that creators/stars
Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle brought playing versions of their teenage selves (they are in their 30s
now). While season 1 tackled some deep issues, season 2 almost turns dark in its depictions of slut
shaming and the tenuousness of friendships. I did not expect to need a pick me up after watching this
show, but I suppose it was just that kind of year.

7. Normal People (Hulu)


Based on Sally Rooney’s novel (which I have not read), Normal People is about the romance/friendship
of two Irish teenagers, following their lives years into the future as they go through the ups and downs
of the modern world. It’s sweet, loving, and frustrating, featuring two standout performances from Paul
Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones. If you’re looking for a winter watch, the gray landscapes of Ireland just
might fit your mood.

6. The Mandalorian (Disney+)


I fell way behind season 1 and ended up catching up with it out of obligation—I did not really like that
season. With season 2, I again turned it on out of obligation, but from the moment the sand people are
introduced as characters with agency and a big battle occurs with a sand monster I was hooked. For me
the show works better as an excuse to highlight the weird and (frankly) cool parts of Star Wars.
Creatures and costumes and set design are probably what make Star Wars great, not necessarily the
mythology. That’s what this season does, highlighting the Baby Yoda puppet work and offering glimpses
of coolness that you once experienced as a kid.

5. Mrs. America (Hulu)


I had never heard of Phyllis Shlafly before watching this show, so for me a lot of the fun of this was
learning about recent history (however dramatically skewed it may be). There’s been a lot made about
whether this show is sympathetic toward Shlafly (and whether it should be if it is). I found it to be fairly
neutral, showing her to be a character who is fine with accepting her role as secondary to her husband’s
even if she never really was that. More importantly, I found it to be a fascinating look into movements
and the tensions and compromises that occur to find success in what you believe to be right. At what
points do our disagreements necessitate a split? Should you compromise if it results in small success?

4. Ted Lasso (AppleTV)


If Friday Night Lights were a half-hour comedy, this is probably what we’d get. Ted Lasso is a sincere
show about an American college football coach who gets hired by an English soccer club as part of a
nefarious plan. Ted Lasso’s approach is all inspirational quotes and sweet viral videos. The kind of
sincerity that reality cuts into pieces. Yet, this show pulls it off. It wonders if in pure kindness we can find
the success and the fulfillment we long for and it proceeds to win you over despite your doubts.

3. How to With John Wilson (HBO Max)


Produced by Nathan Fielder, How to with John Wilson is ostensibly a documentary series where John
Wilson tries to teach the answer to some mundane question. What follows is a series of rabbit holes and
interviews with quirky characters across the country. Wilson personally captures it all with his camera (he’s rarelyseen in the show) and helps tell the story using years of footage he’s captured that represent his
awkward, stuttering voice over. The key to the show’s success is Wilson never leans too hard into
mocking his subjects (who include hardcore proponents of the Mandela Effect and anti-circumcision
activists, among others), instead he follows them, hoping to find insight about life’s peculiarities. It’s a
weird show, one that is best compared to Nathan For You, especially when that show took detours to
explore its subjects’ interiorities. All in all, I think it’s a love letter to New York City and the vastness of
humanity that is represented within.

2. I May Destroy You (HBO)


I May Destroy You follows Arabella, played by series creator Michaela Cole, who experiences a sexual
assault while out at a night club. Created from Cole’s own experiences, I May Destroy You is a dark, but
ultimately illuminating story of what comes after. It’s an uncomfortable watch almost all of the time,
because of the nature of its subject, portraying consent and the traumas of lines being crossed. It
achieves this through a comedic setting, Cole is a comedian after all, but there’s nary a light moment
that isn’t followed by immense dread. Sexual assault is overwhelming for those who experience it and
Cole makes us as an audience grasp with all these questions, not letting us stand by in silence.

  1. The Good Lord Bird (Showtime)

Based on a novel by James McBride, The Good Lord Bird follows Reverend John Brown on his mission to
end slavery in the 1800s. Brown (played by Ethan Hawke in a tour-de-force performance) is beyond
passionate in his desire to end slavery, killing in the name of the Lord and justifying it as righteous
violence. The show takes this violence seriously while also undermining it with a comedic edge,
displaying Brown as the zealous abolitionist he was, but noting that he’s a little out of his mind. This is all
seen from the perspective of Onion, a teenage boy who is mistaken for a girl and remains dressed as
such because you shouldn’t disagree with a white man. It’s about the ways in which even the most well-
intentioned white people can barrel through the world causing unintended damage, doing good for
others while neglecting that truly helping others means giving them a choice. Yet, the show doesn’t
deny that John Brown did in fact help to end slavery through his violent crusade, lighting the spark
necessary to start the Civil War. History is complicated as are each of our desires and motivations.
People can be bad and do good things and can also do bad in trying to do good. Good Lord Bird revels in
these complications in a violent, entertaining, and often comical way.

Top 10 Songs of 2020

What a year. Obviously this has been memed to death as the year faded and we arbitrarily look to “2021” for brighter times. I had meant to do a top 25 list of my favorite songs, but I’ll chalk it up to 2020 and the difficulties of making anything happen. The songs below are my favorites from the year. This year more than ever I tried to pick songs that truly encapsulated what it felt like to live in 2020. I hope to release lists for best TV shows, albums, and movies soon, so keep checking this space. Here’s to 2021!

10. “exile” by Taylor Swift (feat. Bon Iver)


Perhaps the most indie-head poser choice from the excellent surprise album that Swift dropped mid-
quarantine, but this duet with Bon Iver is gorgeous with its layered vocals, which overlap to express the
feelings of a tumultuous relationship. There’s just nothing better for us sad sacks, thank you Taylor.

9. “Is There Something in the Movies?” by Samia


A pretty straightforward end of the album ballad that finds its place here because of 35 seconds where
Samia shifts from hushed longings into an emotional and impassioned cry. Sometimes all it takes is
moments like this that stick with you and you wish to hear over and over. This is one of those for me.

8.“Garden Song” by Phoebe Bridgers

The official album opener and first single from Bridgers’ sophomore album is another somber and
quietly beautiful track, if you’re listening to these one by one I’m sure you’re sensing a theme.

7. “circle the drain” by Soccer Mommy

Sophie Allison’s ode to self doubt and depression is representative of a lot of how I felt and I’m sure
most of us felt at one time or another this year. She sings “hey I’ve been falling apart these days /
Watching my heart go ‘round and around / Circle the drain I’m going down / Tryna seem strong for my
love / For my family and friends / But I’m so tired of faking”. I don’t think there’s a much better way of
putting it.

6. “Martin & Gina” by Polo G

There’s a couple of outliers on this list and this is one of them, a joyous song about trying to get the girl
that ironically comes from an artist known for writing sad songs. Polo G’s vocal inflections are infectious
resulting in a song I couldn’t get out of my head for most of the year.

5. “Dressing America” by TORRES

TORRES sings this ode to her love with a restraint that falls somewhere in between joy and frustration.
Her amour keeps coming up with excuses to doubt their relationship, but TORRES assures her “Come on,
woman / I tend to sleep with my boots on / Should I need to gallop over dark water / To you on short
notice”. It’s a beautiful song of devotion, with bits of lingering doubt that prevent it from becoming a full
on love song.

4. “My Best Friend’s Wedding” by The Chicks

I went back and forth on many songs from this album to include in this top 10, but I ended up choosing
this. The chorus goes: “I see a wildfire comin’ / Burnin’ the world that I’ve known”. While this is not explicitly about an actual wildfire, when they sing those words the emotion is palpable, taking the sorrows felt from the end of Natalie Maines’ relationship and transporting each feeling into 2020 where California wildfires destroyed so much and prevented one of the only comforts we had at the time in the ability to hang out outdoors.

3. “Take_it_Back_v2” by Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats

This is a straight up riot; a punch to the face both in the verses and beats. Curry uses multiple voices to
the point that I had to look up whether there were guests on the song. Kenny Beats samples a song from
“Shake Hands with Danger”, a video from the construction company Caterpillar raising awareness about
safety on construction sites. It feels like something from an old cowboy movie. You may need to wear a
hard hat just to listen to it.

2. “walking in the snow” by Run the Jewels (feat. Gangsta Boo)

RTJ released their fourth album early, saying that the album felt timely in the aftermath of the killing of
George Floyd at the hands of the police and the protests that followed. Their music has always felt like
protest music and “walking in the snow” features a song where Killer Mike imagines the cops choking
him repeating Floyd’s words, “I can’t breathe”. It’s haunting and infuriating. Our world has
tragedy on repeat and our country consistently treats Black Americans as subhuman. “walking in the
snow” wraps all of the sorrow and the fury into one.

1. “The Ascension” by Sufjan Stevens

“The Ascension” brings everything I’ve felt for the last four years together in one 6-minute magnum
opus. Everything I once thought about the world seemed to sink before my eyes, opening up a hell on
earth that I suppose I knew existed, but not in the ways that were revealed. When it comes time to
stand up for goodness where were those who taught me to be good and to stand for what’s right? Sufjan sings:
And now it frightens me, the thought against my chest
To think I was asking for a reason explaining why everything’s a total mess
And now it frightens me, the dreams that I possess
To think I was acting like a believer when I was just angry and depressed
And to everything there is no meaning, a season of pain and hopelessness
I shouldn’t have looked for revelation, I should have resigned myself to this
I thought I could change the world around me
I thought I could change the world for best
I thought I was called in convocation
I thought I was sanctified and blessed
But now it strengthens me to know the truth at last
That everything comes from consummation, and everything comes with consequence
And I did it all with exultation while you did it all with hopelessness
Yes, I did it all with adoration while you killed it off with all of your holy mess
What now?

The song ends with Sufjan singing “what now?” Some have seen the end music as a hopeful ascension of
good, while others see this unanswered question as him embracing the unknown. Maybe it’s both
hopeful and dark. But what better question is there as we head into this new year, leaving behind one
that was universally awful: What now?

Best Films of the 2010s (pt. I)

I’ve finally got around to it, counting down my favorite films of the decade. I figure Filmspotting is doing their March Madness bracket to determine what movies were the best, so I can release mine now without feeling too dumb.

These are the best movies of the decade according to me. It’s some combination of what I enjoyed the most during the decade, feel best represents the height of movies during this time period, and what I think are just pure achievements that will hold up for all time. It’s a ridiculous list, filled with a fairly wide-ranging amount of directors and styles and acclaim. Hope you hate it!

101. Chef

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Early conflict leads to what ends up being a pleasant ride focused on the pleasures of food, friends, and family. What a joy.
100. Embrace of the Serpent

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A dark and strange depiction of the effects of colonialism in South America.
99. Declaration of War

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Declaration of War is a heartbreaking movie about choosing to fight for what you love, it’s a battlecry for hope and goodness even when the darkness surrounds.
98. Toy Story 3

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A brilliant conclusion that gives characters we grew up with the perfect send off as the reality of growing old and useless rears its head.
97. It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

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Marielle Heller puts its lead character into an episode of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood to teach lessons of forgiveness and learning the discipline of kindness.
96. Winter’s Bone

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A tense backwoods thriller was a star making turn for Jennifer Lawrence who scavenges to ensure her family’s survival in a world that would just as soon leave her for dead.

95. Phantom Thread

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Phantom Thread may grow on a second watch (I’ve only seen it once), but Paul Thomas Anderson’s tale of a controlling creative genius and their being forced to humility is a true and necessary critique as well as the most unique love story of the decade.
94. Midnight Special

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Another one that could go up or down on a rewatch, but Jeff Nichols’ tale of a family trying to protect their son who seems to have special powers is one of the most underrated of the decade.
93. If Beale Street Could Talk

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A beautifully crafted movie tackling racial injustice while celebrating love, family, and Brian Tyree Henry’s ability to act.
92. 10 Cloverfield Lane

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One of the best surprises of the decade, a satisfying thriller that mixes sci-fi and horror with a perfect sense of dread.
91. A Prophet

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This modern day crime flick has one of the most tense inductions into the crime world ever.
90. Her Smell

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Alex Ross Perry delivers an unsettling character study on the self-destructive creative, hammering it home with redemption and grace.
89. The Kid on a Bike

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The Dardennes’ are known for their neo-realistic portraits of working class Europe, throwing their characters into impossible struggles and showing their responses. Here, the beauty of compassion wins out in the midst of life’s difficulty.
88. The Babadook

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Jennifer Kent uses horror to tackle trauma, twisting her story around, and throwing in a Home Alone-esque homage to deliver scares and a fight to survive in more ways than one.
87. I Am Love

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The first movie to put Luca Guadagnino on the international map is just pure aesthetic pleasure.
86. Everybody Wants Some!!

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Richard Linklater’s fairly subdued baseball movie has only grown on me, I think it’s up there with the greatest baseball films of all time as far as capturing the joys of playing the sport.
85. Drive

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I haven’t seen the whole thing a second time, but that opening car chase sequence is one of my favorite theater experiences of the last decade.
84. Edge of Tomorrow

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Another movie whose legend has only grown, Edge of Tomorrow is a near perfect genre movie, the kind that when it shows up on TV years from now you won’t be able to resist it.
83. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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After watching a third time earlier this year I can truly call this one of the best Star Wars movies. There are just so many moments that I love, proving that having a real talent behind the camera and letting them go to work can make all the difference.
82. Roma

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Alfonso Cuaron’s tale of a young housekeeper in Mexico City is at once heartbreaking and beautiful, highlighting the joys and struggles of the era in which he grew up.
81. Something in the Air

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One of my favorite depictions of the restlessness of youth, the passion of activism, and the arbitrary walls that get built within movements, something that perhaps can speak to our current political moment.
80. Logan Lucky

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Soderbergh’s latest heist film hasn’t gotten the most love, but I find it hilarious and fun, a movie that I will be going back to for years.
79. Everyone Else

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Everyone Else perfectly captures the insecurities that lay at the heart of fragile relationships, the fraught comparisons that can occur, the small lies, the role playing, and pettiness.
78. Drinking Buddies

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A modern day, mumblecore When Harry Met Sally, can men and women have a friendship where they don’t fall for each other? Olivia Wilde gives her best performance in a movie I love way more than anyone else in the world.
77. Diary of a Teenage Girl

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A disturbing movie about an inappropriate relationship, turns itself upside down by telling the story through the perspective of through Bel Powley’s charming, lustful, and confused Minnie.
76. 12 Years a Slave

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Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is absolutely devastating while featuring enough heart and characterization to never feel exploitative or of a genre.
75. Dunkirk

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With Dunkirk Christopher Nolan may have made the only war movie that prizes the act of surrender. In doing so he’s made a movie that’s anti-war without making a deliberative statement–we’re all trying to survive in this absurd world where we’ve resorted to killing each other.
74. Good Time

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I avoided this movie for a while because I thought it would be too stressful. It’s certainly tense, but is actually more fun than anything. The Safdie’s cemented themselves as much watch directors here.
73. The Fighter

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This may rise or lower with another watch, but I loved the fast paced dialogue of the script, the Eklund’s sisters coming in and out of the story, and found the boxing scenes thrilling.
72. The Descendants

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I loved this movie so much I went and bought the book afterwards. George Clooney discovers his wife who’s in a coma was cheating on him, while simultaneously figuring out what to do with the land his family has inherited that is technically but not rightfully there’s. Shailene Woodley cemented herself as a serious actor here in a performance she has (unfortunately) not lived up to again.
71. Captain Phillips

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This movie became a meme, but is actually a deft tale of the injustice at the heart of globalism with a fantastic Tom Hanks performance.
70. Oslo August 31

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Anders leaves his rehab center looking to start his new life, but is met by the barrage of life for a recovering addict. One of the best scenes of the decade is Anders sitting at a cafe as Joachim Trier zooms out focusing on the conversations surrounding him, a life of normalcy that Anders doesn’t know if he can ever achieve again.
69. Anomalisa

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Charlie Kaufman’s R-rated stop motion movie wrestles with mid-life crisis and the arrogance at the heart of our white male protagonists that so often are portrayed going through them.
68. Jackie

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I found every inch of Jackie to be gorgeous and heart wrenching in its portrayal of grief in the aftermath of one of our nation’s most famous and tragic deaths.
67. The Nice Guys

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The Nice Guys is a throwback to two classic genres, melding noir and screwball comedy in what is a pitch-black delight.
66. The World’s End

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As you can probably tell, I love a movie that uses genre conventions to deliver emotionally resonant statements about humanity. Edgar Wright’s love of genre enables him to do this brilliantly and The World’s End showcases this.
65. Interstellar

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A flawed movie to be sure, but one that features so many unique ideas and beautiful moments that elevate it to greatness.
64. Knives Out

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Rian Johnson crafted one of the best whodunnits of all time while speaking into modern politics and advocating for kindness! A master.
63. Our Little Sister

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Koreeda’s Our Little Sister is quiet and tender, telling of three sisters welcoming in their father’s daughter from an affair into their lives. It’s Koreeda’s ability to focus in on the small moments that make him the king of the family drama.
62. Only Lovers Left Alive

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Vampires have always been cool, but never quite like this as Jim Jarmusch turns them into aging bohemians lamenting modern culture.
61. Mother

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The first Bong Joon-Ho movie I ever saw was 2010’s brilliant multi-genre story about a mother’s hellbent desire to protect her son, a story that really highlights the hell in hellbent.
60. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

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A group of police and judges and a criminal search for a body in the sparse wilderness of Anatolia. A slow rumination on the question of inherent evil, humanity’s motivations, and whether the light can overcome the dark.
59. Sing Street

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A coming of age story through the lens of pop music and creativity, Sing Street is a modern John Hughes film.
58. Exit Through the Gift Shop

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Riding the Banksy obsession of the early 10s, Gift Shop was made to seemingly highlight the burgeoning street art movement, but comically twisted and turned until it was questioning the very definition of art itself.
57. Hail, Caesar

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This Coen’s movie is in love with early Hollywood exemplifying the great romance that people have with it through a dazzling Scarlet Johansson swimming sequence and a tap dancing Channing Tatum. Yet the film does more than recreate nostalgia, at its heart it asks if the movies can lead us into goodness, even in the midst of capitalistic corruption and political nefariousness.
56. Call Me By Your Name

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Guadagnino once again demonstrates his ability to capture hedonistic pleasures, but this time does it by telling the story of forbidden summer love. Desire blooms into romance, cut short as the summer fades, the sun sets, and an eras cultural inhibitions tragically kick in.

55. The Favourite

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A wickedly funny period drama where power, seduction, and greed form a love triangle that showcases how darkness can overcome the human spirit.
54. La La Land

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Damien Chazelle’s modern musical throwback will likely seem cornier and cornier as time goes on, but watching people break out of the cars to dance in the midst of LA traffic and the this-could-never-be dream ending are just too much fun for me not to love.
53. A Ghost Story

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An aesthetically sparse reflection on grief in which Rooney Mara sits down to eat a whole pie and Casey Affleck sports a white sheet as a ghost, what else can you ask for?
52. Inception

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I’m still enraptured by the world of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, a cultural phenomenon that’s become somewhat eye-roll inducing ever since, it’s still thrilling to watch DiCaprio, et al lay out the stakes of this world and imagine its 2010 all over again.
51. Moonlight

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I didn’t completely fall for this the first time around, but on a rewatch for this list, I fully succumbed to Barry Jenkins ability to shoot movies. Moonlight is just incredible to look at and the combination of heart, hope, and sorrow that lie within its story bring all the feelings that the greatest films do.

Best Films of 2019

They say having a kid forces you to stop watching the movies you want. This is true. But not in the way that I thought it once was. The assumption is that babies will take all of your time and then dominate your media consumption. This is also true. But you can still get around it if you prioritize it (and have a generous, flexible partner). Where you run into trouble is that by the time you sit down at 8:00 after putting your child to bed, the 2.75 hour Tarantino flick is a time barrier that even the most ardent cinephile will struggle to overcome. This exhaustion was a difficult barrier this year and I pushed back films I might have otherwise enjoyed by this point. Nevertheless, I managed to see almost everything I wanted to, a decent enough number of what are widely regarded as the best films of the year. This is my ranking of those movies.

Before I give you my favorites, here are those I haven’t seen yet: Portrait of a Lady on Fire; Pain & Glory; The Nightingale; Monos; Transit; Clemency; Tigers Are Not Afraid; 1917; Jojo Rabbit

My favorite movies of the decade list will be coming soon. I again blame being a parent for my tardiness.

10. Ash is Purest White (Zhangke)

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The personal and political overlap as the story of Qiao (played by Zhao Tao) unfolds over decades. Jia Zhangke’ s gangster drama is a slow burn, walking the line between how much our personal choices affect who we become and how much the system forces us into it. Tao is marvelous here as a forlorned lover seeking answers about what happened to her life after she is imprisoned for her involvement in a crime. The club scene involving crowds of people doing the YMCA and the motorbike fight are two of the best shot sequences of the year in what is a gorgeous, subtle, and complex film.

9. Uncut Gems (Safdies)

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The Safdie brothers latest is like if you combined the zany nonstop movement of a screwball comedy with a tense thriller. Every scene features constant motion as Sandler’s Howard Ratner concocts and re-concocts plans to “win”. It’s a jaw clenching movie, stuffed to the brim with great performances from the strangest cast of the year (Sandler playing off-brand! Kevin Garnett giving a good performance as himself! Lakeith Stanfield! Broadway star Idina Menzel! The Weeknd as himself! Julia Fox’s debut!). This movie is airtight, there’s no false note to be found, no wonder the Academy blanked them!

8. Birds of Passage (Gallego / Guerra)

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This is ostensibly a gangster film, it’s about the rise of the drug trade in Colombia, particularly amongst tribal peoples, and how this forces them into modernity. Directors Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra focus on the specificity of this setting, allowing the traditions and practices to speak first, while gorgeously showcasing them in ways that make for revelatory cinema. It’s a gangster film, but one that spends time in this specific setting, allowing the tensions that rise and all that breaks after it to truly mean something.

7. Marriage Story (Bambauch)

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Twitter memes may have ruined the reputation of this movie, highlighting images out of context in ways that seem silly, yet Bambauch’s divorce story is fantastically written and more subtly executed than the internet would have you believe. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are both great as a couple experiencing the messy fallout of a split. Bambauch adds his devastating wit and a musical moment from another famous story about relationships in what is a wholly satisfying drama.

6. Parasite (Joon-Ho)

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The breakout film of the year lives up to all the hype surrounding it. Like many Joon-Ho projects it’s darkly funny, nails genre conventions, and critiques capitalism with a strong conviction. This story about a poor family who con their way into working for wealthy socialites twists and turns until the very nature of humanity is laid bare. We’re all selfish at  heart, it’s just that some of us can pay our way out of ever having to feel that way.

5. The Lighthouse (Eggers)

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This is a wild film. Eggers again dives into a period with such passion, writing a script that so replicates its characters way of speaking, that it becomes difficult to understand the dialogue at times. It’s 1.19:1 aspect ratio forces you to feel the claustrophobia present in the small island that Dafoe and Pattinson occupy, while the black and white images evoke old mythologies. Their hysteria soon becomes your own and your mind becomes hallucinatory. Did you actually see that on screen or is it just a trick played by Dafoe? This movie delivers, fully encapsulating you in its era, in its characters crazed brains, and its seagull infested location.

4. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Heller)

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While watching this I wondered if it might be the best biopic ever made. I’m not sure if it’s there, only time will tell, but Marielle Heller has come up with the best biopic convention ever. Heller places you within an imagined episode of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, to introduce you to Lloyd and how he will come to have his life changed by the ethereal man. A Beautiful Day tells the story of Lloyd Vogel and Fred Rogers, but it also serves as a guide to doing the hard work of being kind. It’s beautiful and honest and will make you a better person.

3. Her Smell (Ross Perry)

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Some slight spoilers will follow so for those of you who don’t want to know the direction this movie takes please avoid, but I feel it’s necessary to talk about what Her Smell is able to accomplish. Her Smell stars Elizabeth Moss as aging rock star Becky Something. We meet Becky at her most destructive, she’s drug fueled, self sabotaging, and a new mother as unfit to accomplish this job as any that’s ever graced the screen. Alex Ross Perry films her as if he’s shooting a horror movie, it’s claustrophobic, often following her from room to room as she makes horrid decisions and ruins her relationships with anyone who cares for her. The first half to two thirds of this movie are almost nauseating in their intensity. BUT! But, Ross Perry allows room for growth. He allows Becky to change. It’s not easy, but we see Becky slowly break her addictions, break her self-destructive habits, open up to being a mother. What Ross Perry (and Moss) are able to accomplish here, moving from the horrific to a truly grace filled ending is truly astonishing.

2. Knives Out (Johnson)

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Rian Johnson is the best working genre filmmaker. He’s done noir, time travel, Star Wars, the con movie, and now the whodunnit. Knives Out is so much fun. It’s funny, clever, well shot, well acted, filled with twists and turns, tackles the political and class tensions of our modern era, and actually has a satisfying conclusion! It’s the kind of movie I will throw on for years to come, just to watch it all unfold again. Ana de Armas is a revelation, Chris Evans’ sweaters are perfect, and Daniel Craig proves his comedic chops once again. I can’t think of a single person I wouldn’t recommend this movie to.

  1. Little Women (Gerwig)

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Greta Gerwig’s sophomore picture only further elevates her genius as a director and screenwriter. I’ve never seen or read Little Women (my mistake), so going into it cold I didn’t know what to expect, but what Gerwig (and Louisa May Alcott) delivered blew me away with its charm and its grace. I know they have been treasures for hundreds of years, but the March sisters are utterly delightful. Their rebelliousness, creativity, and compassion are a trio of characteristics that I hope and pray are instilled into my own family. I get the feeling that this movie will be a comfort to me for years to come, it’s warm without being easy, a celebration of life in all its complexities.

Best Albums of the 2010s

Any ranked list is an exercise in absurdity. To rank pieces of art is futile. To rank them across a decade is impossible. But it’s oh so fun and that’s why we’re here. When I came up with this list I ranked according to three pieces of logic.

1. It has to be something that represents my taste across the decade.

2. It has to represent music in the decade.

3. When I listen to it now I have to enjoy it just as much.

These 50 albums do that for me. Some have grown in estimation since they were first released like Manchester Orchestra’s “A Black Mile to the Surface”. Others have dropped a little but still find their way into the top 50 (Lady Lamb the Beekeeper). Most of the critical favorites are represented in some way, though the order in which I ranked them is certainly more personal than the general consensus (and is missing one huge artist, sorry Frank Ocean).

When I look at this just seconds before posting the list, I doubt the order that I’ve put them in, but at some point you just have to put things in stone.

As a writing exercise, I put reasons why you should listen to the top 10 which will certainly include something you haven’t heard or should give another chance.

50. Manchester Orchestra “A Black Mile to the Surface”

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49. David Bowie “Blackstar”

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48. D’Angelo “Black Messiah”

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47. The War on Drugs “A Deeper Understanding”

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46. Earl Sweatshirt “Doris”

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45. Janelle Monae “Dirty Computer”

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44. Julien Baker “Turn Out the Lights”

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43. Anohni “Hopelessness”

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42. Carly Rae Jepsen “Emotion: Side B”

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41. Frightened Rabbit “The Winter of Mixed Drinks”

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40. Right Away, Great Captain “The Church and the Good Thief”

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39. Grimes “Art Angels”

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38. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper “Ripely Pine”

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37. Sufjan Stevens “Age of Adz”

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36. American Football “III”

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35. Priests “Nothing Feels Natural”

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34. Kendrick Lamar “Good Kid, MAAD City”

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33. Titus Andronicus “The Monitor”

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32. The Tallest Man on Earth “There’s No Leaving Now”

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31. Arcade Fire “The Suburbs”

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30. No Name “Room 25”

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29. Beyonce “s/t”

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28. Snail Mail “Lush”

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27. Run the Jewels “2”

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26. Chance the Rapper “Coloring Book”

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25. Kendrick Lamar “Damn.”

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24. Soccer Mommy “Clean”

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23. Idles “Joy As an Act of Resistance”

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22. Vampire Weekend “Contra”

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21. Japandroids “Celebration Rock”

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20. Kanye West “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”

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19. Car Seat Headrest “Teens of Denial”

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18. Carly Rae Jepsen “Emotion”

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17. Vince Staples “Summertime ’06”

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16. Bon Iver “22, A Million”

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15. Chance the Rapper “Acid Rap”

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14. Cloud Nothings “Here and Nowhere Else”

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13. Parquet Courts “Light Up Gold”

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12. Makthaverskan “II”

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11. Lana del Rey “Norman Fucking Rockwell”

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10. Courtney Barnett “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit”

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Courtney Barnett is perhaps the funniest person in indie rock. Her sound is driven by wry witticisms and keen observations. Her songs are full of life and energy as she brings you along on her train of thoughts, consistently redirecting to observe some new detail you would have never expected.
9. The Beths “Future Me Hates Me”

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The Beths’ created a perfect summer album that grows with every single listen. It’s so well produced and the band adds layers of melody to match their tight sound. It’ll be a mainstay in by May to July rotation for years to come.

8. The War on Drugs “Lost in the Dream”

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The War on Drugs’ psychedelic Americana is absolutely beautiful. It slowly unveils piece by piece of subtle melody, occasionally meandering for several minutes on a musical idea Adam Granduciel has. It’s quietly upbeat, like the sunset on a long summer’s day.
7. Tame Impala “Currents”

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Perhaps the spiritual, psych-pop sequel to Post-Merriweather Pavilion, Kevin Parker’s work on Currents showcases pop-genius underneath warbles and extended bits of noise.
6. Florence + the Machine “Ceremonials”

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I may be the biggest fan of this album in the entire world. It’s a bold and bombastic pop effort featuring all the drama of an eleventh hour Broadway ballad for 12 tracks straight. For some it’s a little too much, for me it’s perfect.
5. Bon Iver “s/t”

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Bon Iver went from the hipster folk favorite to bona fide production genius with his (their?) sophomore album. The woodsy folk vibes are still there, but here he amps up production with layered falsetto and 80s effects.
4. The National “High Violet”

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My favorite of The National’s sad-sack indie rock albums which are always a variation of that theme. Matt Berlinger’s wrestling with demons never spoke more to me than here, whether it be his confession that he’s “Afraid of Everyone” or the time “England” shuffled onto my iPod after one of the worst flights of my life and I was about to land in London. If you find beauty in the melancholic this is for you.
3. Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Butterfly”

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Kendrick proved himself to be the most talented rapper of the decade, his technical brilliance and lyrical poignance are unmatched. With To Pimp a Butterfly, he proved he could push the genre forward, melding together hip hop, jazz, and R&B connecting with experimental producers to make the decade’s best rap album.
2. Vampire Weekend “Modern Vampires of the City”

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Ezra Koenig’s existential crisis pulls together the weight of death and God to create Vampire Weekend’s masterpiece. It’s fun (“Diane Young”), but features what may be the best religious song writing of the decade in songs like “Obvious Bicycle”, “Ya Hey”, and “Everlasting Arms” (a play on the old hymn), as the band wrestles through faith and doubt and growing old.
1. Sufjan Stevens “Carrie and Lowell”

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Carrie & Lowell saw Sufjan settle back into singer-songwriter mode after years of big and bold experimentation. I am a huge fan of the experimentation, but Carrie & Lowell showcased what caused his rise to fame and is the best album of his career. Here he too deals with death and doubt and faith, brought to reflection by the death of his mother. It’s a tragic record to be sure, but one in which Sufjan reaches into the depths of his soul to find and create something beautiful.

Top 100 Songs of the Decade

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Throughout the next few weeks I will be releasing my favorite things of the decade. I’m launching it with my favorite songs of the decade, a big mix that is representative of what I was into most in the last ten years. I wanted to write a little bit about some of these songs but ended up not having the time or energy, having a two-year old who is currently draped over me as I am writing this certainly makes it difficult. I attached a video of each song–its own time consuming process–so if you’re interested you can listen to each song. If you’re really interested, and you have Apple Music, I can send you the playlist. I haven’t posted it because nobody has Apple Music. Go ahead and comment if you do and I’ll post it.

100. “Bad and Boujee” by Migos

99. “Cut to the Feeling” by Carly Rae Jepsen

98. “no tears left to cry” by Ariana Grande

97. “Mean” by Taylor Swift

96. “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane” by Gang of Youths

95. “O.N.E.” by Yeasayer

94. “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” by Caroline Polachek

93. “Rill Rill” by Sleigh Bells

92. “Someone Like You” by Adele

91. “Blackstar” by David Bowie

90. “Nonstop” by Drake

89. “Swimming Pools (Drank)” by Kendrick Lamar

88. “Justice Delivers Its Death” by Sufjan Stevens

87. “Really Love” by D’Angelo & the Vanguard

86. “Blissth” by Sorority Noise

85. “All Night” by Beyonce

84. “Uncomfortably Numb” by American Football (feat. Hayley Williams)

83. “Birth of Creation” by The Comet is Coming

82. “Turn Out the Lights” by Julien Baker

81. “Family Don’t Matter” by Young Thug

80. “Ya Hey” by Vampire Weekend

79. “Continuous Thunder” by Japandroids

78. “The Coming” by Jesca Hoop

77. “Nikes” by Frank Ocean

76. “It’s Okay to Cry” by SOPHIE

75. “Ghost Town” by Kanye West

74. “The Mother We Share” by Chvrches

73. “Perth” by Bon Iver

72. “Four Bulbs” by Admiral Fallow

71. “Pusha Man” by Chance the Rapper

70. “Venice Bitch” by Lana del Rey

69. “Harmony Hall” by Vampire Weekend

68. “Sprinter” by Torres

67. “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” by Car Seat Headrest

66. “Virgin” by Manchester Orchestra

65. “Up in Hudson” by Dirty Projectors

64. “Sunday Candy” by Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment

63. “Manchester” by Kishi Bashi

62. “An Introduction to the Album” by The Hotelier

61. “Futile Devices” by Sufjan Stevens

60. “Eventually” by Tame Impala

59. “Night Shift” by Lucy Dacus

58. “King Kunta” by Kendrick Lamar

57. “Back for More” by Justine Skye (feat. Jeremih)

56. “Persephone” by Sidney Gish

55. “Deer” by Manchester Orchestra

54. “Part From Me” by The Avett Brothers

53. “Don’t Save Me” by HAIM

52. “Humble.” by Kendrick Lamar

51. “Drunk In Love” by Beyonce (feat. Jay-Z)

50. “Dance Yrself Clean” by LCD Soundsystem

49. “In the Evening” by Half Waif

48. “Groovy Tony/ Eddie Kane” by ScHoolboy Q

47. “Never Let Me Go” by Florence + the Machine

46. “Impossible Soul” by Sufjan Stevens

45. “Asleep” by Makthaverskan

44. “Q.U.E.E.N.” by Janelle Monae (feat. Erykah Badu)

43. “Lord Knows”  / “Dreams and Nightmares” by Meek Mill

42. “Fineshrine” by Purity Ring

41. “Play By Play” by Autre Ne Veut

40. “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn

39. “Love on Top” by Beyonce

38. “Pristine” by Snail Mail

37. “Motion Sickness” by Phoebe Bridgers

36. “Chum” by Earl Sweatshirt

35. “A Candle’s Fire” by Beirut

34. “I Bet” by Ciara

33. “Hold Up” by Beyonce

32. “Say You Love Me” by Jessie Ware

31. “DNA.” by Kendrick Lamar

30. “Everlasting Arms” by Vampire Weekend

29. “So Afraid” by Janelle Monae

28. “Nosetalgia” by Pusha T (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

27. “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” by Arcade Fire

26. “Latch” by Disclosure (feat. Sam Smith)

25. “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake

24. “Under the Pressure” by The War on Drugs

23. “Push Pull” by Purity Ring

22. “Crying in Public” by Chairlift

21. “Hannah Hunt” by Vampire Weekend

20. “Run Away With Me” by Carly Rae Jepsen

19. “Bright Whites” by Kishi Bashi

18. “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn

17. “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae (feat. Big Boi)

16. “Flawless” by Beyonce

15. “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen

14. “Architect” by Frightened Rabbit & Manchester Orchestra

13. “Flesh Without Blood” by Grimes

12. “Blockbuster Night Pt. I” by Run the Jewels

11. “Life” by The Avett Brothers

10. “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski

9. “Climax” by Usher

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8. “Cold War” by Janelle Monae

7. “Afraid of Everyone” by The National

6. “Monster” by Kanye West (feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Bon Iver)

5. “I’m Not Part of Me” by Cloud Nothings

4. “All of the Lights” by Kanye West (feat. Rihanna)

3. “Thinkin Bout You” by Frank Ocean

2. “The Only Thing” by Sufjan Stevens

1. “Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West (feat. Chance the Rapper, Kirk Franklin)

 

 

Best TV Shows of 2019

10. I Think You Should Leave, s1

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One of the surprise hits of the year, Tim Robinson’s I Think You Should Leave is a wacky sketch show about trying to fit in and tripping over your own shoelaces in the process.

9. Mindhunter, s2

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Season two improved upon the first by backing off from Holden and diving into Bill and Wendy’s lives. It’s particularly Bill who must deal with his own messes at home which hauntingly begin to overlap and interfere with his work. The overlapping scenes in Atlanta trying to find the child killer are thrilling and frustrating in their injustice.

8. Catastrophe, s4

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The final season of this bittersweet show ends with the same tone it carried throughout. Rob and Sharon end with an ambiguous note, seemingly stronger and more fraught in their relationship than ever before. There was no other way for this hilarious show about fragile people choosing to love each other despite their tenuous circumstances to end.

7. Russian Doll, s1

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A brilliant and twisting play on the Groundhog’s Day repeating day trope. Natasha Lyonne stars as a deeply damaged New Yorker who finds she must repeat her birthday over and over, dying at the end of each night. It’s rapidly paced, tremendously acted, and emotionally satisfying.

6. The Other Two, s1

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Drew Tarver and Helene Yorke star as the older brother and sister of a viral teen sensation. The Other Two parodies the modern entertainment world through the perspective of two jealous and stunted millennials trying to leech off their (truly sweet) younger brother’s dreams. Though Tarver and Yorke may be jealous of their brother’s success, the show never gets nasty, instead it mocks the era we live in, one in which we all believe we can be stars.

5. Ramy, s1

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Ramy Hassan’s portrayal of life in America as a Muslim is full of struggle and grace. Rarely is a show so able to capture two different parts of living, the struggles with being treated different for who you are, while also struggling with trying to be different as Ramy reconciles his faith with the desires of being a 20-something. It’s an immigration tale, but also one of the best portraits of trying (and often failing) to be religious I’ve seen on TV.

4. The Watchmen, s1

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Damon Lindelof’s sequel-of-sorts to the popular graphic novel of the 80s is a wildly entertaining, creative, and provoking piece of entertainment. Set in Tulsa, a town run by progressives but where racial tensions are bottled up and ready to explode. Watchmen examines our histories, both personal and national, and how the inflicted traumas have lead us to where we are. It’s a daring show, consistently forcing us to rethink our notions of who each character is and the injustices that have brought them to do what they do.

3. Succession, s2

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Succession proved any doubters wrong by delivering a second season that was just as good, if not better than the first. The Roy family continues to struggle to hold on to the family company as each member within makes their own play for power. It’s the funniest show on television, as sickening as it is to say.

2. Pen15, s1

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Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle play versions of their teen selves in this 00s period comedy.  The show may seem like it would be nostalgia-heavy, and there are references-a-plenty but at its core it tackles growing up–the insecurity, heartbreak, and various awakenings–with great heart and cringey, but not unbearable, comedy.

  1. Fleabag, s2

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Fleabag season one was a clever, funny, and poignant reckoning of mourning and aging into your 30s. It’s probably a masterpiece. Season two definitely is a masterpiece as Fleabag’s internal tensions and emotional traumas continue to heighten, this time around her father and his partner and the priest who will marry them. There are questions of faith, interpersonal conflict, sex, and the entire framework of the show (Fleabag’s cutting remarks to us, the audience) is brought into question in an emotionally devastating manner. Lead actress/writer/creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge has said this is the final season of the show, and good for her for trying to stick to something that is so utterly a complete work, but there’s maybe nothing else I long for in television than watching Waller-Bridge play Fleabag once again.

Honorable mentions: A Black Lady Sketch ShowBarry; Big Mouth; Stranger Things 3; Fosse/Verdon

Best Albums of 2019

10. DaBaby “Baby on Baby”

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One of 2019’s breakouts, DaBaby blasts out of this album like a stick of dynamite and doesn’t stop until the album reaches its end 30 minutes later. Streaming services incentivize artists to create double albums to increase their streaming numbers so DaBaby’s nonstop (and non pop) flow is a refreshing and infectious ride.

9. Sacred Paws “Run Around the Sun”

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Sacred Paws is a two-piece guitar rock band that utilizes every ounce of talent from both of its members. Their bouncy guitar licks are met by overlapping vocals with the occasional 90s ska brass section that give this album a perfect summer vibe. Lay back in your flowery shirt, sip your icy drink of choice, and give “Run Around the Sun” a whirl. You won’t regret it.

8. Caroline Polachek “Pang”

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The former Chairlift front woman’s first proper solo album picks up where her Apple commercial approved indie pop band left off, while continuing to take her sound to places of new depth. The layers of production give her bubblegum pop a melancholic undertone. You’ll want to sing along, empathizing with every word, while dancing away the pains of loves lost.

7. Jay Som “Anak Ko”

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Jay Som’s second album is dreamy, lulling you back into the 90s with high soaring melodies over distorted guitars. After its airiness has melted your brain into clouds, guitar riffs jolt you awake, reminding you of other genres of the same era. Each bit overlaps with precision, a feat considering its bedroom rock production stylings.

6. Future “Save Me”

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This is probably and technically an EP, which would disqualify it, but 7 tracks seems long enough to constitute an album in 2019, so I’ll accept it here. “Save Me” feels like the apex of sad Future. It’s like Future went out to a cabin in the woods, became Bon Iver for a few weeks and released this album, regret leaking from every distorted note. Future’s tales of debauchery always feel regretful, but here he feels most out of sync with that life. He’s come down from his high and is wallowing in the midst of whatever his life is now. Most of this is mumbled through a Bon Iver-like voice distorter, making it even harder to understand what he’s saying and amplifying the melancholy in every song.

5. Tree & Vic Spencer “Nothing is Something”

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Self-proclaimed “soul-trap” artist Tree is joined by fellow Chicago-native Vic Spencer to create one of the best rap albums of the year. The “soul-trap” title is apt and the album is full of Kanye-like soul samples, with an experimental edge. Tree’s voice is pure gravel with a world weariness that is a joy to listen to. Spencer is more technical, using rhymes and wordplay to play against Tree, combining to create a unique listen.

4. American Football “LP3”

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American Football’s eponymous third album might be their best work yet. The legendary emo band continues their emotionally driven post-rock sound to create beautiful and technically crafted songs of sorrow. The band has never been in a hurry to go anywhere fast, they waited years to release a follow up to their highly influential debut and each song lulls in the moment before expressing itself fully. But perhaps more than ever American Football has let pop influence their sound, LP3 features several guests who add another layer to what is now American Football’s classic sound. Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell, Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, and Paramore’s Hayley Williams all accompany Mike Kinsella and bring new life to an already great band.

3. Bon Iver “i, i”

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Bon Iver could have had an okay career as that hip indie folk artist who sang “Skinny Love”. He could have joined the likes of others like him who came out of that era: Of Monsters and Men, the Lumineers, Mumford and Sons. That twee group of Urban Outfitters produced folk. Yet amazingly and consistently Bon Iver has evolved in ways that leave me surprised and nourished. “i,i” fits somewhere in between the soaring melody of “Bon Iver” and the beautiful chaos of “22, A Million”, showcasing all of what Vernon and collaborators are able to accomplish. Vernon is too good for any of this to feel stale and he’s once again created an album that pushes his folktronica (???) sound forward.

2. Theon Cross “Fyah”

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The London jazz scene is one of my favorite places to look for new music. It’s filled with blends of jazz, hip hop, electronic, and world sounds that are coming together to make fun and progressive jazz sounds. Theon Cross was my first real foray into that scene this year. Cross, a member of other modern jazz stalwarts like Sons of Kemet and a player for Makaya McCraven, is a tuba player, something I had never heard as the lead instrument in jazz before. Cross uses the tuba like a bass guitar, developing rhythms for his guest players to riff around. The result is an absolute blast and “Fyah” is filled with jams you’ll have in your head all day long.

  1. Lana Del Rey “Norman Fucking Rockwell”

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I don’t know how Lana did it, but she managed to create an album of sad songs without a single vocal inflection. I suppose that’s her thing, but here she perfects it, riffing on the American ideal in a way that is so post-everything she doesn’t even need to change her voice. This is the record for the post-irony age and in all sincerity, Del Rey has created a masterpiece full of despair. This is pop in 2019, a sorrowful, post-everything, classic-yet-hollow Hollywood of an album that is so beautifully made you can’t bear it. Each song creeps into your being, full of lament at the ways our longings have exposed themselves as farce. It’s beautiful.

Honorable mentions (ranked!): 11. IDK “Is He Real?”; 12. Pom Pom Squad “Ow”; 13. Sleater-Kinney “The Center Won’t Hold”; 14. Denzel Curry “ZUU”; 15. Carly Rae Jepsen “Dedicated”; 16. Nilufer Yanya “Miss Universe”; 17. Rico Nasty & Kenny Beat$ “Anger Management”; 18. FKA Twigs “MAGDALENE”; 19. Vampire Weekend “Father of the Bride”; 20. The Comet is Coming “Trust in the Lifeforce”; 21. The National “I Am Easy to Find”; 22. Maxo Kream “Brandon Banks”; 23. Drinking Boys and Girls Choir “Keep Drinking”; 24. Big Thief “UFOF”; 25. Thom Yorke “Anima”