The Best Movies, TV and Books of 2019

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There are few things we can collectively agree on in the year 2019, but there’s one undeniable truth we must accept: There’s too much stuff clamoring to fill our ever-dwindling free time. As we close out a decade that irreversibly altered the way we process reality and perceive our individual place in the world, we’re faced with more choices and distractions than ever before. It’s much too easy to let corporations gobbling each other up for supreme profit spoon-feed us their definition of “entertainment,” as the underdogs—the passion projects and indie darlings that challenge and conflict—fade into the white noise. As you face days of uninterrupted couch time, make the choice to seek out the art that made a difference this year. We’ll get you started with the best 2019 had to offer below.

The Movie: Parasite

Rarely does a non-English language film break into the mainstream like Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, a beguiling Russian nesting doll of class disparity and domestic conspiracy. The South Korean thriller follows the destitute Kim family, who use their wits to con the spoiled Parks into supplying them with four cushy jobs. But as the Kims adapt to the access of their arms-length privilege, the film twists with a stab so sudden, you don’t immediately feel the fatal blow. Parasite is a meticulously-crafted puzzle that deftly infuses whiplash tonal changes with unexpected humor and unforgettable imagery; you emerge from the theater two hours and 12 minutes later, gasping for air and dazed from the labyrinth you barely escaped. —Julie Kosin, Senior Culture Editor

The TV Show: Watchmen

HBO

HBO’s Watchmen is such a huge swing in every possible metric that even after watching the entire run, I still can’t believe it exists. In an age where beloved creative properties often find their fates tightly controlled by a phalanx of executives with dreams of theme park rides and Cinematic Universes, it’s bit of a shock and quite a relief that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ cult favorite DC Comics graphic novel lives a second, extraordinary life. The series, from executive producer and writer Damon Lindelof, is in some lights a sequel to the source material; in other lights, a reinterpretation; and in yet other lights a reflection of the work, and the world that received it, back on themselves. It’s reverent and referential while also deconstructing its source material to create something new. In a time of incessant reboots, Watchmen is a remix, and a magnificent one at that. Come for the masterful storytelling; stay for career-best performances from the always-great Regina King and Jean Smart. Also, at nine episodes and without a planned second season, this is a journey you can complete in a day. Who watches the Watchmen? You, right now. —R. Eric Thomas, Senior Staff Writer

The Book: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale

In Atwood’s latest, she takes the maxim that all empires eventually fall, and asks: What are the mechanics of this? How is history recorded in the midst of the avalanche and in its wake? What moral negotiations happen to the willing participants? Set 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments picks up the narrative thread with Aunt Lydia and two new characters, between whom the chapters alternate. Gilead, Atwood’s religious oligarchy, is on the precipice of crumbling. The resisters, living across the Canadian border to the north, are organized. This hefty novel is a fast read, and Atwood’s theoretical probings are woven deftly into the accessible, almost thriller-like format. —Bri Kovan, Associate Editor

The Album: Shea Butter Baby by Ari Lennox

Shea Butter Baby [Explicit]

If you’ve ever witnessed an Ari Lennox Instagram Live session, you’d know the D.C. songstress is an open book. Her debut album Shea Butter Baby is equal parts funny and vulnerable; it feels a lot like group chat conversations with your girls. She recounts a one-night-stand with a man she met while buying cough drops at CVS on “Chicago Boy,” makes a toast with her “Dollar Tree wine glasses” for being a first-time apartment renter on “New Apartment,” and tries to get high enough to forget an unfaithful lover on “I Been.” Its R&B gold that sounds just as good during a Saturday morning cleaning session as it does paired with a Diptyque Baies candle after a long day. —Nerisha Penrose, Assistant Editor

The Podcast: Drilled

Critical Frequency

Drilled is about climate change, but not the way you think. Hosted by veteran journalist Amy Westervelt, the podcast bills itself as an investigative true crime series covering the “crime of the century: the creation of climate denial.” Westervelt guides listeners through the troubling and turbulent history of environmental disruption—and the role big oil plays in perpetuating denialism today. She starts the series with one of the most secretive propaganda campaigns of the century: Exxon’s knowledge and subsequent denial of climate change back in the 1970s. —Rose Minutaglio, Staff Writer



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