We discussed books highlights of 2019, now it’s time for movies and TV-series. A few of the favourites and a few of the disappointments in both categories, to round up the past year in media :).
I haven’t had much time for movies and series. I’ve watched a nice mix of old and new, and enjoyed quite many of them – though only few made a lasting impression. The absolute winner in this category is…
The Mandalorian (2019)
Set in the Star Wars universe, exploring old and new worlds in a simultaneously uniquely original way and one that pays well deserved tribute to the foundational trilogy, The Mandalorian is what Star Wars always wanted to be – and always ought to be. A story about good and evil, told in an openly and unabashedly Wild West style, fabulously suited to the times of turmoil between the fall of one systemic order (the Empire) and the birth of another one (New Republic). Of course, one of the main draws of the series is Baby Yoda, and he is indeed cuteness incarnate, even when swallowing live frogs whole 😉
But it’s only one of the draws of this series, which in its entirety is basically devoid of faults. The story is solid, the acting very good, and the worldbuilding simply splendind. I haven’t watched The Rise of Skywalker, and after reading the reviews I don’t intend to – at least not in the cinemas, whereby my ticket payment might give Disney the wrong impression of achieving success 😛 Instead, I have The Mandalorian, which is a series cut out for fans like me, pining for another reimagining of the mythical hero’s journey, or a coming-of-age story firmly based on universal, mythological foundations and realized in a fantastically developed universe. In short, it’s Star Wars as it should be made.
Piotr: Can’t really comment on that, as I haven’t seen this yet, but my hopes are big, I want to finally see some great new Star Wars. Baby Yoda… looks a bit too cute, but we’ll see 😉
Ola: Oh, don’t you worry about this 😉 I’m looking forward to the discussion of Favreau’s revolutionary approach to Force as power in essence neither good nor evil 😀
Short Circuit (1986)
It says something about the state of the contemporary movie industry, and/or about my tastes and this year’s movie choices, that the best movie I’ve seen in 2019 was this 1986 oldie. And a re-watch to boot! I must admit, the nostalgia factor weighs heavily in this choice, but the re-watch was an absolute delight. Johnny Five with his deeply humanistic message of peace and understanding is a protagonist I’ll not only always root for, but also identify with 😉
I sincerely doubt such a movie would have been made today, not only because it’s absolutely and quite hilariously politically incorrect, but also because it combines a worthy, thoughtful message with openly embraced and good-hearted goofiness that so rarely seems to go hand in hand it contemporary movies.
Season three of Stranger Things didn’t disappoint, and I would love some heated discussion on the way gender representation of Billy plays in his role of a selfless saviour, and how certain famous items of the 1980s once again found their way to the set, but this isn’t the time for it 😉 Suffice to say, I will be eagerly waiting for season 4, as Stranger Things remains one of the few series which are still on, and still deliver.
As for the Netflix series Daredevil, I was quite disappointed to see it end, but ended it did, and on a very satisfying note. I very much enjoyed season 3, centred once again around Fisk and fulfilling my predictions of the incorporation of the Born Again storyline. The creators went a step further and added some juicy bits from Kevin Smith’s Guardian Devil story, and I’m still on the fence about this, as I’m not a fan ;). And yet, the Netflix Daredevil series ended very well, maintaining till the very end the ambiguity and conflict that defined the original.
Piotrek: Now it’s my turn 🙂 I have to say I should have remembered to include Daredevil, but it’s been early in the year and I’ve seen so much since. It definitely was very good, better then season two, and made me even more frustrated this part of the Marvel world closes.
Finally, a splendid Pratchett show. Writing is good, length is ideal, and the acting… David Tennant as Crowley and Michael Sheen as Aziraphale are a perfect duo. It was the most fun I had in front of a screen in 2019.
Ola: I’m definitely looking forward to watching it!
I did not hate the movie version, but it was not a very good motion picture, and a very poor adaptation of the books. This – is great. Excellent adaptation and a very attractive piece of TV. The story was too long for one movie, but it’s not just that. Production values are great here (well, maybe we could see more daemons), actors seem to really be into it (unlike, say, Nicole Kidman in the Golden Compass)… close second in the “best TV of 2019 category”, in part because I prefer Pratchet/Gaiman over Pullman.
Second season of the excellent German Netflix show. A more German Stranger Things? Darker (!), smarter, well thought-through – these creators clearly had a vision of the complete thing from the very beginning, it’s too intricate to have been constructed on the go. More fun than Stranger Things? Well, more so than Season 3, anyway, overall – different, but also very, very good.
And now something deadly serious. An accurate, detailed description of a catastrophe I remember – despite being three year old, I have a memory of a rather panicked visit in a hospital where I was given Lugol’s iodine. The disaster damaged the credibility of communist regime in the entire Soviet Block, Poland included. The series – said to be pretty accurate – is very impressive.
I haven’t read much about it online, but this short (6 episodes) adaptation of Catch-22 is great. It looks and sounds great, amuses, moves and terrifies, and manages the difficult source material well. Produced by George Clooney, who also plays Gen. Scheisskopf, and highly recommended!
Ola: Another one on my TBW list…
Witcher is big question for me, a category in itself. I’ve been waiting quite some time, we explored the the books on Re-E long before the show started, and I need to really think about how I see this show. There are mishaps, and great scenes, I like the acting overall, I need to see the entire thing to judge the writing – I’m halfway through and not fully convinced. I’m sure there will be a two-shot, at some point, for now lets say it’s a 2020 show for me, as I did not manage to see it all before December 31st.
Ola: Oh yes, there will be a discussion about The Witcher! It’s not bad, and there are some great bits, but it could be so much better 😉
And something from outside the realm of live action:
I’ve seen the original Dark Crystal, liked it a lot, this might be even better. Hellishly difficult to produce – puppet animated, I rarely watch the making of… documentaries, but here I did and I’m impressed.
In short, it is a prequel that shows the struggle of several fantastic races to discover the truth and free themselves from the oppresion of Skeksis, their alien overlords whose obsession with immortality leads them quite far on a path of cruelty. It threatens not only the freedoms and lives of their subjects, but a destruction of the entire planet is quite possible. Can we think of another planet that is in danger?
Best children friendly fantasy animation since Avatar? I quite believe so. Pretty, with nice characters and surprisingly nuanced story, it gave me so much joy, and I’m sure it would have given me even more were I still in its designed target audience…
This is definitely not created for kids. Quoting Wikipedia:
Retsuko is a 25-year old and single anthropomorphic red panda, who works in the accounting department of a Japanese trading firm. Facing constant frustration every day from pushy superiors and annoying co-workers, Retsuko lets out her emotions by going to a karaoke bar every night and singing death metal.
Amazing, at least from my perspective of a slightly older, human accountant slaving his days away at a multi-national corporation… It’s a short, strange, quick-paced joy 🙂
Not-quite the top, but with great potential, eagerly awaiting further seasons:
This series did not get enough love. It might not be perfect, but Amazon created such an interesting world… a very dark steampunk London-like city (of Dickensian nature), with downtrodden faires thrown into it to suffer the fate of unwanted refugees. Fantasy… again, can get pretty close to reality 😉
I tried to only watch good stuff in the limited time I had, and did quite a lot research before starting each series. Still, there are some shows I’ve seen at least one episode of and did not like.
Suburra is an Italian-Netflix show that had a pretty good first seasons. Millennial gangsters from Italian and Roma families challenge the old-timer in a beautiful Rome scenery. Season two had, regrettably, atrocious writing and despite the actors still doing good job – was an utter disappointment.
Succesion is very popular, acknowledged by the Nerwriter1 himself ;), and I’m not saying it’s bad TV – I just couldn’t get into the troubles of the members of a spoiled billionaire family and it’s ruthless patriarch.
DiCaprio/Pitt duo was great, and the story so interesting. Sharon Tate’s murder – something we all heard about, here totally changed, but in an epic way. Not go into spoilers, but DiCaprio with flamethrower will be one of my favourite Tarantino scenes ever!
Polanski as a human being is very controversial, and for important reasons. As a director he’s very good, and the movie about one of the great scandals of modern era, one of the archetypical political events that, in various forms, was repeated so many times in every Western democracy. Dreyfus affair showed what can happen when national honor of sorts becomes more important than truth and decency. Ideals of the French Republic were measured against its right wing military and… won. Guess on which side the Catholic Church was?
The movie is very academic, meticulous in it’s recreation of all the artefacts of the era. I know of some people that fell asleep watching the plot slowly unfolding… but for me, it was all the more powerful. I also enjoyed discussions about the progress of canon technology 😉
This was the good Adam Driver movie of 2019 ;). Just listen to him singing Being Alive:
I’ve seen it when I was decorating our Christmas Tree with my girlfriend. She wanted something cute and romantic and I closely avoided Bridget Jones 😀 This was… not Christmassy, but a wonderful movie that deserves all the Oscar nominations. The quarrel scene…. and most of the others… a must see!
This was a very good way to finish a franchise of movies (or, at least, it’s important stage). Way better than the other Disney series. Not a great movie, definitely not the best MCU has to offer, but a solid one, bringing many conclusions and no that many cringe-worthy moments. More in the review.
Ola: This was actually one of the meh movies of the year for me 😛 More in the review, indeed! 😀
For all the good things I said about movies above, this might be the movie of 2019, and it’s a genre one! A Joker movie with one of the best Joaquin Phoenix’s performances, with Gotham even grimmer and more hopeless than usual. The Waynes are trumpy, Joker is truly tragic (but still pretty evil), and the socio-economic structure of this decaying city will not be saved by a bit of rich man’s vigilantism. It is another genre story re-imagined for our times.
Ola: I can’t believe I still haven’t seen it. Is it New Zealand peculiarity, or do the cinemas elsewhere also limit the viewing time to two-three weeks for any given film? Before I find the time to actually go to the cinema, the movie I wanted to watch is already gone – or magnanimously played once a day at noon.
It was a bad movie by itself, and a shameful conclusion to the Saga. All the flows in JJ’s style, all the greedy indifference of Kathleen Kennedy.
This one was so bland and unremarkable that I was too bored to catch too many specific deficiencies. One of the greatest comic books stories reduced to something better left alone and forgotten.
And finally a few words about plans for 2020. There aren’t that many, actually 😉 I want to read at least one entire fantasy series, but it probably still won’t be Malazan, I’m going to continue reading Tokarczuk and Polish non-fiction, I might even get a library card, as available shelf-space diminishes, and money flows to different areas of my life… we’ll see.
I’m curious about Amazon’s LotR series, I’m going to watch the Mandalorian, definitely Star Trek: Picard will be on my radar as well.
Movies… with Ladybirds, Black Widow, Wonder Woman 1984 and Eternals, superhero genre’s position in my schedule is already secured. 2020 will end with Villeneuve’s Dune and I have some hopes for this one 🙂 There will also be, I’m sure, many non-genre gems I don’t yet know about…
Ola: My plans are pretty fluid as well. I had a very good year in reading, and not a bad one in watching, even if I’d seen less cinema movies than before. I’ll definitely continue reading some of the series I started this year, most notably Asher and Barker and Ryan, and I plan to read more non-fiction.
As for the movies, I’m currently a perfect example of superherosis lassitudo, and I’m pretty sure I’ll abstain from seeing WW1984 in cinemas; I might watch Black Widow, but mostly for David Harbour – the memorable Jim Hopper from Stranger Things 😉 Eternals… I’ll check the reviews first 😛 I’d definitely like to see 1917, though, and finally finish watching the second season of The Punisher! And I’m looking forward to Amazon’s LotR series, not only to see the familiar landscapes :D.