Juliette's Best of 2019

Hello!!!! I've been forced to take a break from reviewing lately, because of Real Life Job issues. But I couldn't stay away from doing my regular end-of-the-year round-up! I'll keep coming back and writing these as long as Billie is happy for me to keep doing them!

New Shows


I've been watching The Mandalorian, and feeling much the same way about it that I feel about Star Wars in general - it's quite fun, great in places, but sometimes kinda dull. I also really enjoyed the BBC's cute new sitcom Ghosts, made by the team who make the children's educational comedy show Horrible Histories. But my standout new show of this year is definitely Carnival Row, which I really loved. Its urban fantasy and folklore-based blend of detective noir and period drama is just the sort of thing I go for and it's lovely to see Orlando Bloom taking the lead again. If you're into urban fantasy, period drama, and/or detective shows, give it a go!

Mini-series


There have been some great mini-series out this year, and the long-awaited adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens did the book justice and I could watch Michael Sheen and David Tennant all day. But the stand-out TV event of the year (sorry Game of Thrones) was the HBO mini-series Chernobyl, which was utterly compelling and somewhat terrifying. If you're a fan of the show, the writer (also known for The Hangover!) talks about the sources behind the series and how he put it together on The Chernobyl Podcast, and its a fascinating listen.

Bowing Out


I quite liked the ending of Game of Thrones. I don't think (spoiler alert) that Bran becoming king made a lick of sense and the various plot developments were quite rushed, but for the most part I think it knew where it was heading and it went there. I'm tempted to stop re-watches on 'The Long Night', though, and end on a high (and I suspect the books will switch the two endings around if they ever get finished).

I also enjoyed the series finale of The Big Bang Theory, which wasn't spectacular and which continued Sheldon's takeover of the show, but it was sweet. The Man in the High Castle's finale was odd, with some characters' arcs finishing in a satisfying way while others just - stopped. Orange is the New Black (I came back to this but not to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) also ended more satisfyingly for some characters than others, but finished with a very strong final season that got back to the show's roots and raised some really important issues.

...And About to Bow Out


The Good Place has barely a handful of episodes left, but they won't air until the new year. I will miss it very much, but I suspect it would have suffered from a severe case of running out of ideas if it had continued any longer. Shows that constantly reinvent themselves can only keep that going for a limited amount of time, unless they go full anthology like American Horror Story.

I'm also super excited that BBC sitcom Gavin and Stacey is getting a new one-off Christmas Special on Christmas Day this year. The show finished ten years ago, and since then one of its writer-stars, James Corden, has become properly famous thanks to Into the Woods and his talk show hosting. If you've never seen Gavin and Stacey, it's a short binge-watch (being British) and its a brilliant, quirky sitcom that feels incredibly real while also being very funny. It's about a Welsh woman's relationship with an English man, and maybe it's just because I live in England and my parents live in Wales, but it's one of my favourite shows. It's unlikely to get any more specials after this one thanks to Corden's schedule so this might be its final finale - though I'll be very happy it comes back for another next year!

It's Still Going - For Now...


Supernatural is finally ending next year. I'm torn about the final season. I don't particularly like some of the story arc developments, as one of my favourite characters has been completely derailed (arguments could be made that he was always that much of a d*ck, but then we get into comparative theology and it all gets a bit complicated! Up until the season 14 finale, I liked him). However, on an episode by episode basis, the decision to do something of a greatest hits while slowly wrapping up a number of dangling story threads is working out quite well and there's no denying I still enjoy the show as much as ever. I will really miss it when it's gone - and I'm still amazed that a show I joined in its 10th season has become something I watched for years that became part of my routine!

I'm Still Watching...


I still don't really get The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which has far more Satan-worshipping in it than I'm comfortable with and is far too literally dark - I can't see what's going on a lot of the time. I'm still watching it though, largely out of loyalty to the franchise, and because I like the characters. I'm still only up to the end of season 2 of American Horror Story (Asylum), but I'll get to the rest of it eventually! Peaky Blinders is still good, if a little less grounded than it used to be, and I'm still enjoying Outlander a lot. And of course, Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville. Because Star Trek is wonderful and I will love it forever.

So much TV is so depressing at the moment (I haven't even finished the latest season of The Handmaid's Tale, though I'm sure I will at some point), my favourite show right now is probably The Magicians, for its humour - though that can be tough to watch and tragic in places as well - I still can't believe they killed off That Character They Killed Off (spoilers redacted) this year! Especially after teasing the idea that they might finally take him and Elliot seriously as a couple. They say he's not coming back but I'm not sure I believe them...

Original Film of the Year


This is my annual award (the prize is my recommendation and general esteem, it's very valuable) for a film that I've seen, that was released in cinemas, that's not a prequel, sequel, or random franchise extension, and not based on a book, TV show, comic strip, comic book franchise, older film, theme park ride, toy, Japanese videogame, limerick, or dream the director once had. In recent years I've also got quite fussy and excluded documentaries, biopics, or anything based on a true story, though films with a generalised historical setting are OK. This year the nominees are:

Us
Yesterday
Brittany Runs a Marathon
Knives Out

(If I wasn't being fussy about biopics, we could add Stan & Ollie, Tolkien and Le Mans '66).

Yesterday was fun, but I found the concept a bit too weird to entirely get into it. I had similar issues with Us - it was very good and the performances were fantastic, but it's just too weird to really stay with me. I watched Brittany Runs a Marathon on Amazon but I know it got a cinema release - it was sweet and fun but fairly forgettable. Knives Out is the winner, then, but not just by default - it was a really great movie, funny, intriguing and with heart. Granted, there's an argument to be made that it's so closely inspired by Agatha Christie novels crossed with Cluedo (Clue to Americans) that it should be disqualified, but I'm feeling generous just now.

Inventive Murder or Attempted Murder of the Year


Nominees:
Brooklyn Nine Nine (Unnamed perp on Luann's son)
Carnival Row (SPOILER on Ritter Longerbane)
The Man in the High Castle (John Smith on Himmler and numerous Nazi leaders)

But the winner is:

Knives Out (SPOILER on Christopher Plummer's Harlan Thrombey)

This film is pretty recent so I won't spoil it. I'll just say that The Bad Guy's plan is impressively inventive and deceptively simple.

Best Callback


Nominees:
The Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special (2019) (details redacted but safe to say, there will be lots!)
"I've got a bad feeling about this", from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Numerous returning characters, good and bad, in Supernatural

But the winner is:

"On your left"

from Avengers: Endgame. Honestly, I'm welling up just thinking about it. If you need this explained, you won't get it. But it's the biggest movie of all time, so you probably know what I'm on about.

I Can't Wait To See...


PICARD, of course!!! So excited for this series. I'm also eagerly looking forward to The Haunting of Bly Manor (season two of The Haunting of Hill House, which is going for an American Horror Story anthology model) and the new series of Doctor Who. I do wish there were more cheerful shows out there to watch, though. I think I'll be joining however many thousands of other people are re-watching Friends.

TV Episodes of the Year


10. Brooklyn Nine Nine: The Crime Scene
9. The Good Place: The Book of Dougs
8. Supernatural: Lebanon
7. Star Trek Discovery: Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2
6. The Orville: Identity Part 2
5. Orange is the New Black: And Brown is the New Orange
4. Game of Thrones: The Long Night
3. Carnival Row: Grieve No More
2. The Magicians: Escape from the Happy Place
1. Chernobyl: The Happiness of All Mankind

Films of the Year


NB: At the time of writing, I haven't yet seen  Jumanji: The Next Level or Cats, both of which have a decent change of breaking my Top 10 - I know the reviews for Cats aren't good, but I like the show!

10. Us
9. Spiderman: Far From Home
8. Knives Out
7. Aladdin (2019)
6. Downton Abbey
5. Joker
4. Dr Sleep
3. Captain Marvel
2. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
1. Avengers: Endgame

Happy Christmas/Holidays everyone!

Juliette Harrisson is a writer, Classicist, Trekkie and ghost story enthusiast. Her monthly blog, Creepy Classics, re-tells ancient ghost stories accompanied by historical info on their origins.

5 comments:

CoramDeo said...

My new favorite way to tell whether or not somebody lives in America is whether they saw Le Mans '66 or Ford v Ferrari.

It's interesting to see someone who doesn't completely love The Mandalorian. I haven't yet seen it, but everyone says it's amazing.

Patrick said...

"On your left" was quite possibly the most uplifting moment of Avengers: Endgame. :)

Billie Doux said...

I'm also torn about this final season of Supernatural. Haven't tried Carnival Row yet because the promos with the fairy wings keeps putting me off. And of course, I'm obsessed with Outlander and can't wait for season five.

magritte said...

Juliette, thanks for highlighting Carnival Row. I like the show a lot too, but it hasn't gotten great reviews. It seems to me that it's a combination of the misguided Game of Thrones comparisons and some reviewers not responding to the Orlando Bloom character. I'd say more about why I liked his character but it's hard to do without a major spoiler.

Anonymous said...

Magicians is dead to me.
The Cats trailer is truly scary in an uncanny valley way.