2019, fittingly for the end of the decade, was a year permeated with creative, thoughtful and introspective works from masters of film, television, music, literature and beer alike. From emerging talents like Billie Eilish, Dafne Keen and Sally Rooney, to veterans of their craft like Quentin Tarantino, Danny Brown and Matt Warner, innovators shared of themselves in their creation and rewarded audiences with transformative experiences that disrupted the mundane. Here are a few of my favorites things from this year.
Best of 2019: Film
1a. ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD
This year’s must-watch film is Quentin Tarantino’s hilarious historical period piece. Standout Performance: Brad Pitt
No words can do justice to this brutal, black comedy masterpiece from South Korea. Standout Performance: Kang Ho-Song
2. MARRIAGE STORY
A stunningly tender yet difficult coast-to-coast story of the dissolution of a marriage. Standout Performance: Adam Driver
This bold, shocking film from Gasper Noé is a captivating decent into madness.
Standout Performance: Sofia Boutella
Grief is at the forefront of this unsettling, dread-soaked ritualistic dark fairy-tale.
Standout Performance: Florence Pugh
5. THE SOUVENIR
A bleak yet fascinating coming-of-age love story that demands your full attention. Standout Performance: Tom Burke
Jordan Peele delivers again with this ambitious, edge-of-your-seat horror-comedy.
Standout Performance: Lupita Nyong’o
7. THE IRISHMAN
Slow and durational by design, Martin Scorsese’s mob epic is a 209 minute triumph. Standout Performance: Al Pacino
8. HIGH LIFE
Claire Denis delivers a brutal yet contemplative avant-garde science-fiction masterpiece.
Standout Performance: Juliette Binoche
9. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM
The best action film of the year featuring the effortlessly cool Keanu Reeves. Escapism!
Standout Performance: Keanu Reeves
A hauntingly beautiful modern day adaptation of Anna Seghers’s moving 1944 novel.
Standout Performance: Franz Rogowksi
Just Missed: STAR WARS: RISE OF SKYWALKER; SHADOW; BOOKSMART; ASH IS PUREST WHITE; LEVEL 16; BRAID; TOY STORY 4; THE CHAMBERMAID; THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
Best of 2019: Television
1. DARK, Netflix
This German language show is as trippy as it is compelling. Your next obsession awaits. Standout Performance: Louis Hofmann
2. FLEABAG, Amazon
The exceptional second season of Fleabag can be summed up in two words: Hot Priest. Standout Performance: Phoebe Waller-Bridge
3. THE OA, Netflix
A mindbending show that is as brilliant as it is imaginative. #SaveTheOA already, Netflix! Standout Performance: Brit Marling
4. LEGION, FX
The perfect final season of this high art show is easily the best Marvel adaptation ever.
Standout Performance: Navid Negahban
5. WATCHMEN, HBO
From LOST to THE LEFTOVERS, anything Damon Lindelof creates is must-watch gold!
Standout Performance: Regina King
6. KILLING EVE, BBC
A twisted game of cat and mouse with the highest of stakes, and weird obsession. Standout Performance: Jodie Comer
7. SILICON VALLEY, HBO
Captures real-life Silicon Valley in the best, and most humorous, way imaginable.
Standout Performance: Martin Starr
8. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, FX
The most hilarious show that you aren’t watching, but absolutely should be. And go! Standout Performance: Matt Berry
9. THE BOYS, Amazon
A no-holds-barred riot of a good time look at supremely imperfect superheroes.
Standout Performance: Erin Moriarty
10. THE MANDALORIAN, Disney+
Baby Yoda will melt your heart, but the perfectly flawed Mandalorian will get your soul.
Standout Performance: Pedro Pascal
Just Missed: CHERNOBYL, HBO; YOU’RE THE WORST, FX; GAME OF THRONES, HBO; FLORIBAMA SHORE, MTV; RUSSIAN DOLL, Netflix; CORPORATE, Comedy Central; VEEP, HBO; SUPERSTORE, NBC; EUPHORIA, HBO; MR. ROBOT, USA
Best of 2019: Television Episodes
1. “Episode 1,” FLEABAG, Amazon
Flat-out the most entertaining, and uncomfortable, episode of television made this year.
Standout Performance: Phoebe Waller-Bridge
2. “407 Proxy Authentication Required,” MR. ROBOT, USA
A moving, commercial-free, five-act play episode that uncovers Mr. Robot’s true identity.
Standout Performance: Rami Malek
3. “The Gang Texts,” IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, FX
A hilarious episode where a group text derails the gang’s trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. Standout Performance: Glenn Howerton
4. “Chapter 8: Overview,” THE OA, Netflix
The most meta ending of what is now the series finale is as jaw-dropping as they come. Standout Performance: Brit Marling
5.“This Extraordinary Being,” WATCHMEN, HBO
The superhero origin story we didn’t know we needed was all kinds of impactful. Wow. Standout Performance: Jovan Adepo
6. “Pancakes,” YOU’RE THE WORST, FX
A perfect ending to the most imperfect “couple” on television. This series will be missed.
Standout Performance: Aya Cash
7. “An Endless Cycle,” DARK, Netflix
A standout episode for the best show on television is like a dream that is all too real. Standout Performance: Louis Hofmann
8. “The Concert,” CORPORATE, Comedy Central
The perfect summation of being youngish and trying to be cool but wanting to be home.
Standout Performance: Matt Ingebretson
9. “Vichnaya Pamyat,” CHERNOBYL, HBO
A gut-punch of a finale to HBO’s sad but true finale based on the Chernobyl disaster.
Standout Performance: Jared Harris
10. “The Trial,” WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, FX
Directed by the iconic Taiki Waititi himself, this episode is an instant classic. Watch it! Standout Performance: Kayvan Novak
Just Missed: “Chapter 27,” LEGION, FX; “The Long Night,” GAME OF THRONES, HBO; “Ariadne,” RUSSIAN DOLL, Netflix; “Stories,” BROAD CITY, Comedy Central; “Veep,” VEEP, HBO; “Freaky Tuesday, GLOW, Netflix; “Russfest,” SILICON VALLEY, HBO; “Chapter 2: The Child,” THE MANDALORIAN, Disney+; “Rony/Lily,” BARRY, HBO
Best of 2019: Albums
1. ‘The Destroyer,’ by TR/ST
Musical nirvana is Robert Alfons’s brand of dance-inducing industrial beat synth-pop.
Standout Tracks: “Gone,” “Unbleached,” “Destroyer,” “Grouch,” “Wake With”
2. ‘Crushing,’ by JULIA JACKLIN
The Australian singer-songwriter turns personal heartbreak into a soaring knockout. Standout Tracks: “Body,” “Pressure to Party,” “Head Alone,” “You Were Right”
3. ‘U Know What I’m Sayin?,’ by DANNY BROWN
One of rap’s most interesting unique figures is at it again with this flat out fun album. Standout Tracks: “Dirty Laundry,” “Savage Nomad,” “Shine,” “Theme Song”
4. ‘Stuffed & Ready,’ by CHERRY GLAZERR
The rare sweet and savage punk rock band that seamlessly fuses feminism and music. Standout Tracks: “Daddi,” “Wasted Nun,” “Self Explained,” “Isolation”
5. ‘Assume Form,’ by JAMES BLAKE
Mr. Collaboration delivers his own standout record, with help from talented friends. Standout Tracks: “Barefoot In The Park,” “Tell Them,” “Where’s the Catch”
6. ‘The Fall of Hobo Johnson,’ by HOBO JOHNSON
The Sacramento native, who used to live in his 94 Corrolla, is a rising singular talent.
Standout Tracks: “Subaru Crosstrek XV,” “Typical Story,” “Uglykid”
7. ‘Crush On Me,’ by SIR BABYGIRL
Unabashedly bubblegum, unashamably queer pop that is pure fun syth-pop fantasia. Standout Tracks: “Everyone Is a Bad Friend,” “Haunted House,” “Heels”
8. ‘Degressive,’ by DARK SMITH
The Seattle based queer dreampunk band delivers atmospheric goth without pretense.
Standout Tracks: “Waiting,” “Ghost Me,” “Take a Picture It’ll Last Forever”
9. ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, by BILLIE EILISH
Weird texts from Drake aside, Billie Eilish is 2019’s breakout star. Her future is bright! Standout Tracks: “Bury A Friend,” “Ilomilo,” “You Should See Me in a Crown”
10. ‘Herstory in the Making,’ by YOUNG M.A
The hungriest rapper alive rose up from the streets to create herstory. OOOUUU. Standout Tracks: “PettyWap,” “BIG,” “PettyWap 2,” “She Like I’m Like”
Just Missed: ‘Designer,’ by ALDOUS HARDING; ‘Everythings for Sale,’ by BOOGIE; ‘Proto,’ by HOLLY HERNDON; ‘Gallipoli’, by BEIRUT; ‘Magdalene,’ by FKA TWIGS; ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell,’ by LANA DEL REY; ‘Zandoli,’ by CHARLOTTE ADIGÉRY
Best of 2019: Songs
1. “Dirty Laundry,” by DANNY BROWN
No rapper, really no artist, delivers such clever lines with such impressive bravado.
“High Tide, Gain, or the Arm and Hammer,
Swim towards the current, system tryna drown me,
Stain your record like Clorox and darks,
Spin cycle had four tops for one.”
2. “NOT,” by BIG THIEF
From tender whispers to snarling howls, Adrianne Lenker’s voice is breathtaking.
“It’s not the hunger revealing,
Nor the ricochet in the cave,
Nor the hand that is healing,
Nor the nameless grave.”
3. “Barefoot in the Park (feat. Rosalía),” by JAMES BLAKE
The talented Brit joins forces with an equally talented Spaniard to deliver this angelic gem. “Agujerito del cielo,
Cuelando el brillo de Dios,
Un rayo cayó en tus ojo’,
Y me partió el corazón.”
4. “The Barrel,” by ALDOUS HARDING
This indescribable artist is an odd but talented dove, said the ferret to the egg.
“It’s already dead,
I know you have the dove,
I’m not getting wet,
Looks like a date is set,
Show the ferret to the egg,
I’m not getting led along.”
5. “Subaru Crosstrek XV” by HOBO JOHNSON
How much fun can one song have? Hobo Johnson does his unique best to find out.
“I just bought a Subaru Crosstrek,
We’re both pretty reliable.
But got in a couple accidents”
6. “War,” by BRUTUS
An inspiringly rebellious, explicitly aggressive but beautifully tragic commentary.
“I came for help.
Did you just really pull my hair? Aaugh.
Unleash your warmth.
7. “Bury a Friend” by BILLIE EILISH
Tracks like this have helped establish this 17-year-old as a global pop phenom.
“What do you want from me? Why don’t you run from me?
What are you wondering? What do you know?
Why aren’t you scared of me? Why do you care for me?
When we all fall asleep, where do we go?”
8. “Cellophane,” by FKA TWIGS
Like a tea cup balancing on a ball of flame, FKA Twigs delivers delicate complexity. “Didn’t I do it for you?
Why don’t I do it for you?
Why won’t you do it for me?
When all I do is for you?”
9. “Money in the Grave (feat. Rick Ross),” by DRAKE
A disrespected Drake is the best kind as the aggression at seemingly everyone is fire.
“I don’t wanna change ’cause I’m good where I’m at,
Mob ties, so I’m always good where I’m at,
Word to Junior, Jazzy, Baby J,
Tell ’em when I die, put my money in the grave.”
10. “Con Altura (feat. El Guincho),” by ROSALÍA, J BALVIN
The collaboration I never knew I needed from the queen of modern Flamenco herself.
“Esto es pa’ que quede, lo que yo hago dura, (Con altura)
Demasiadas noches de travesura, (Con altura)
Vivo rápido y no tengo cura, (Con altura)
Iré joven pa’ la sepultura, (Con altura).”
Just missed: “RNP (feat. Anderson .Paak)” by YBN CORDAE; “Gone,” by TR/ST; “Daddi,” CHERRY GLAZERR; “Body,” by JULIA JACKLIN; “Big,” by FONTAINES D.C.; “Eternal,” by HOLLY HERNDON; “Hologram,” by TACOCAT; “Follow God,” KANYE WEST; “School of Design,” by TINY RUINS; “Heavenly,” CIGARETTES AFTER SEX; “Loving Protector Guy,” by THE DISTRICTS; “Seventeen,” by SHARON VAN ETTEN
Best of 2019: Concerts
1. ALDOUS HARDING, at Tractor Tavern
To be front row in a small venue for an intimate show with this odd Kiwi is a real treat.
2. TR/ST, at Neumos
Robert Alfons brought so much energy and passion that he literally danced his pants off.
3. CHERRY GLAZERR, at Neumos
The raw power of lead singer Clementine Creevy’s voice live is a thing to behold. Wow!
4. HOBO JOHNSON & THE LOVEMAKERS, at Showbox Sodo
Hobo performs like a cool, smirking high school senior who lets everyone in on the joke.
5. BEIRUT, at Paramount Theater
Choosing to spend at night with this band feels like attending an old school party.
6. JULIA JACKLIN, at Neumos
Julia’s voice resonates with even more power and conviction live than expected. YESSS!!!
7. TACOCAT, at The Showbox
Seattle’s best band is always a good time, especially when they have a new album out.
8. SOAK, at Barboza
The ‘Tiny Dreams’ solo tour is wonderfully intimate and a joy to experience.
9. THE STEEL WHEELS, at Ballard Homestead
Like a warm blanket, watching TWS perform live is comforting and makes you feel good.
10. NILUFER YANYA, at Tractor Tavern
Nilufer’s malleable and endlessly expressive voice alone is worth the price of admission.
Just Missed: PALEHOUND, at Neumos; ERIN RAE, at The W Hotel; FENNE LILY, at Barboza; HANA VU, at Tractor Tavern; HELADO NEGRO, at Paramount Theater
Best of 2019: Literature
1. THE BROKEN EARTH TRILOGY, by N.K. Jemisin
This three-time HUGO award-winning science fiction trilogy is worth every accolade.
2. MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION, by Ottessa Moshfegh
A fantastically thought-provoking idea that is wickedly interesting from cover to cover.
3. FRENCH EXIT, by Patrick DeWitt
Tremendously witty and insightful. DeWitt is a master of dialogue. An utter delight.
4. BORNE, by Jeff Vandermeer
As with The Southern Reach Trilogy, Vandermeer creates a captivatingly cruel world.
5. NORMAL PEOPLE, by Sally Rooney
Tremendous storytelling and character-building in what is a truly awkward love story.
6. THE WATER CURE, by Sophie Mackintosh
A relatively straight-forward dystopian delight that pushes ever forward.
7. WHEN SHE WOKE, by Hillary Jordan
An inventive and engaging dystoptian novel that focuses on morality.
8. MY SISTER THE SERIAL KILLER, by Oyinkan Briathwaite
A crisp, fun read on the importance of loyalty and family in the wake of murder.
9. THE LARGESSE OF THE SEA MAIDEN, by Denis Johnson
Terrific prose and witticism abound in this collection of morality-based stories.
10. THE WHITE DARKNESS, by David Grann
An inspiring tale of perseverance and the power of belief. Quietly powerful.
Just Missed: THE MARS ROOM, by Rachel Kushnar; THE MOTHERS, by Brit Bennett; KAISER! THE GREATEST FOOTBALL NEVER TO PLAY FOOTBALL, by Rob Smyth; BEFORE THE FALL, by Noah Hawley; THE STRANGE BIRD, by Jeff Vandermeer
Best of 2019: Hikes
1. TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand
Hiking by sulfur lakes, lava-strewn terrain and LOTR’s Mt. Doom is simply awe-inspiring.
Length: 14 miles, Elevation Gain: 3,050 feet, Route Type: Point to point
2. ROY’S PEAK, Wanaka, New Zealand
A demanding but rewarding hike past grazing sheep to breathtaking 360 views.
Length: 10 miles, Elevation Gain: 4,104 feet, Route Type: Out and back
3. BRYCE CANYON RIM TRAIL & BASIN, Bryce Canyon (UT), United States
Whether in the snow or on a hot day, hiking into the “hoodoos basin” is amazing.
Length: 11.5 miles, Elevation Gain: 2,605 feet, Route Type: Out and back
4. GREEN LAKE, Mt Rainier National Park (WA), United States
A two-part hike that is first a deep lush rainforest and then is a gorgeous PNW incline.
Length: 9.7 miles, Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet, Route Type: Out and back
5. COOGEE TO BONDI TRAIL, New South Wales, Australia
A trail from beach to shining beach filled with continuous glorious views and terrain.
Length: 4.5 miles, Elevation Gain: 300 feet, Route Type: Point to point
6. LAKE ANN TRAIL & CURTIS GLACIER, Mt Baker (WA), United States
A perfect Washington hike that is as demanding as it is rewarding, especially the glaciers.
Length: 9.5 miles, Elevation Gain: 2,585 feet, Route Type: Out and back
7. STAWAMUS CHIEF TRAIL, Squamish (BC), Canada
With a sharp incline and extremely slick rock faces and chains, it ain’t easy but it’s grand.
Length: 4.2 miles, Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet, Route Type: Out and back
8. KENDALL KATWALK, North Bend (WA), United States
With tremendous mountain views and long but gradual inclines, this is a must do hike.
Length: 14 miles, Elevation Gain: 3,202 feet, Route Type: Out and back
9. MOUNT STORM KING, The Olympics, (WA), United States
A slightly dangerous hike filled with a series of steep rope pulleys, MSK is a good doozy.
Length: 6.2 miles, Elevation Gain: 2,400 feet, Route Type: Out and back
10. MISERY RIDGE & RIVER TRAIL, Bend (OR), United States
With everything from sharp inclines to flat river trails, this is fun multi-faceted hike.
Length: 4.5 miles, Elevation Gain: 1,050 feet, Route Type: Loop
Just Missed: LAKE ALTA, Queenstown, New Zealand; LAKE SERENE, Sultan (WA), US; ANNETTE LAKE, Snoqualmie Pass (WA), US; OYSTER DOME, Bellingham (WA), US
Best of 2019: Beer
1. SUSAN, New England IPA, ParrotDog Brewing (Wellington)
Hands down the best beer, IPA or otherwise, anyone could ask for. Dayum!
2. EL CUATRO – GRAND CRU, American Wild Ale, Ale Apothecary (Bend)
A knockout from Ale Apothecary, the best sour or saison brewery, period.
3. DDH FALCON SMASH, IPA, Triple Crossing Micro Brewery (Richmond)
An amazing variant of the Falcon Smash, Triple Crossing has just achieved perfection.
4. MANTRA, Imperial Sour – Fruited, Urban Family Brewing (Seattle)
A wonderful, thick and juicy mango sour that is tart in the best possible way.
5. INCANDESCENCE, Sour Winter Ale, Dirty Couch Brewing (Seattle)
A mature barrel-aged sour ale with tons of rich flavor and a beautiful tart finish.
6. SENESCENCE, Belgian Saison, Floodland Brewing (Seattle)
Any Floodland beer is harder to get than even Heady Topper, but always worth it.
7. JUST THE TIP, Imperial IPA, Rhyme & Reason Brewery (Wanaka)
The happiest spot in beautiful Wanaka, New Zealand is home to this super tasty IPA!
8. I AWARD YOU NO POINTS, Triple IPA, Cloudburst Brewing (Seattle)
For the best IPAs in Seattle, go no further than Cloudburst. So good, so smooth.
9. SLEEPING FOREVER (2019), Imperial Stout, The Veil Brewing Co. (Richmond)
Aptly named boozy but extremely well-balanced beer from Richmond’s best brewery.
10. CHUCK’S FIRST CRUSH, New England IPA, Reuben’s Brews (Seattle)
A tasty collaboration with Chuck’s Hop Shop, Seattle’s iconic beer shop.
Just Missed: SACRED ARROW, Sour – Fruited, Urban Family Brewing (Seattle);
SAHALIE w/ CHAMOMILE, American Wild Ale, Ale Apothecary (Bend);
THE OLIGARCH – CHAMPURRADO (2019), Imperial Stout, Breakside (Portland)
I love perusing your picks. I may not get to most of them, but I will definitely keep them in mind. Thanks Michael.