I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do with this feature. I don't know what to do with myself, really. I've been in a weird place recently. I haven't been able to gather the energy to make anything, despite having a 3700 word script ready to shoot for months. Despite having tons of footage to make a Japan travel film. Despite having a handful of other ideas for editorial videos.
I just can't make anything. My brain clearly needs to make something, though. I can feel it. Something to work through all of this. I thought I could funnel that into making the Best of 2019 videos. I started writing them, but it became clear they were all over the place because I was all over the place. That's not the thing I need to make right now. I don't know what that thing is yet. What I do know is that I want to make some sort of thing talking about what I loved this year. So this is that.
It isn't the videos I hoped to make. It's just a few lines for each individual thing I chose to talk about. Honestly, it's a little disappointing after I declared the triumphant return of the Best of video features last year. But this is all I got right now. This is what came out. I hope that's okay.
Best Music of 2019
Best Old Album: I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It - The 1975
I got hyper into "Somebody Else" this year. It's not like it was a new song to me. I've liked that song for a bit. But it became part of a regular set of synthy songs I played in the car for a short drives and eventually I just couldn't get it out of my head. So, that was a sign I should finally listen to the entire album. I did. It's good!
Number 3: Everyday Life - Coldplay
This ended up being my least favorite Coldplay album after all was said and done. It's still a good album, though. Lots of good songs. Lots different songs too. There's a doo wop song, a church choir song, a gospel song, an unfinished voice memo song. It's weird. I really love "Flags", the Japanese bonus track. Listen to that.
Number 2: Bad Ideas - Tessa Violet
Bad Ideas is nothing crazy or new sounding. It's just a solid, well put together indie pop album. What makes me love this so much is that the one thing it does, it does so fucking well it hurts. Tessa Violet takes a singular, universal feeling, condenses it into pure concentrate, and decides to make 12 songs about that one feeling or situations that feeling creates. It's one of those where you'll listen to the song and think "oof yeah, fucking hell". Then you really listen to the song or see it written out plainly in front of you and it hits you again, harder. I'm just gonna tattoo the entirety of the lyrics to "Bored" on my back.
Number 1: I Am Easy to Find - The National
If I'm tattooing "Bored" on my back, put "Quiet Light" on my chest. This is my 2019 "in my feelings" album. Any feeling. Whenever I just need to sit and get something out, it's this record I put on. The National has slowly become my "get something out" band. Trouble Will Find Me was my anxiousness album. Sleep Well Beast was my sad album. This is my too many thoughts album.
Best Games of 2019
Best Old Game: Dead Cells
Dead Cells was the first game I gave 5 stars in an official Squeaky Whale review capacity. I've talked and written about other games I would give 5 stars, but this is the first time I did it with the review branding slapped on. That feels like a big deal even though it isn't really. It's maybe the second best game I played all year. I haven't tried the free updates because I had so many other games to play. I should check those out.
Number 3: Pokemon Sword
I played over 100 hours of Pokemon Sword. This is the first time I've hit triple digits in a Pokemon game in a long time, and I love Pokemon. I spent so much time raiding with people that it took me tens of hours before I got my first few badges. I was having so much fun playing with a community. I did not expect that considering how horrible the internet was leading up to this game's release. It was all stupid. Does this game have things to be critical about? Absolutely. But the National Dex, animations, and a fucking tree are not the those things. I think this game looks better than Fire Emblem, by the way. No one said jack shit about how Fire Emblem looked besides "lol look at this fruit texture."
Number 2: Judgement
It feels like the Yakuza games got big in the US the last couple years. My interest was peaked, but I was intimidated. Judgement was a fresh start. An easy way to get in. New characters, new story, same world, same style of game. I loved it. The narrative really gripped me. The side stories had me running all over town because I wanted to get them all. Playing Judgment so soon after coming back from Japan was also a treat. Now I'm going through all the Yakuza games before 7 comes out.
Number 1: Outer Wilds
While playing and talking about Outer Wilds with others, some said they wouldn't be surprised if this game made people cry. Some said they themselves cried. While I didn't find that to be out of the realm of possibility by any means, Outer Wilds didn't look like it would be something intensely emotional. The wonder of space and the journey I was on did lightly brush some emotional buttons, but nothing reminiscent of the ones some other games pushed.
Then suddenly it hits you. The entire endgame just opens the floodgates. From the way the music comes together, to final words of dialogue. It got me. I don't want to say what happens at the end, but the general message is one that made me want to tell all my friends how much they mean to me. It made me feel like everything is going to be okay. Whatever "it" is.
Best Movies of 2019
Best Old Movie: Room
Out of the 10 old movies I saw this year, half of them were things I either felt were middle of the road, or outright didn't like. That left 3 Evangelion movies, Collateral, and Room. So I chose Room. I thought that entire movie was gonna take place in the room and be like a character piece about escaping. That's only the first third. The rest of the movie is about the aftermath of dealing with trauma and learning how to live in a world you never knew existed. Which is honestly way better than what I had in mind. It's good.
Number 3: Booksmart
I have a story about how I came to see Booksmart. I had zero intentions to watch this movie because my initial impression was not a good one. I had wound up seeing the last... 30(?) minutes of it by accident. It was roughly around the end of the pool party forward. I didn't like what I saw. Granted, I wasn't fully paying attention, but the moments I caught did nothing for me. At this point I still had no idea what the movie was, how recently it came out. Nothing.
The very next day, a friend tells me they just saw a new movie they are giving 5 stars to on their Letterboxd. They link me to it. I see a screenshot of the movie and I realize it was the very same movie from the night before. I was surprised. 5 stars? From what I saw, it didnt look very good. I was in the minority though. The buzz around Booksmart was very positive after I looked it up. So, a few weeks later I went and watched it. Turns out, watching the the end of a movie completely devoid of the context leading up to it is a poor way to judge how much I might like it. Crazy, I know.
Once I understood the tone and mood the film sets up for itself, it clicked with me. It almost has this similar vibe to the game Life is Strange with the way it portrays teen life. By that I mean it's maybe a little on the nose on its own, but it's believable and works well within the material itself. I like it a lot!
Number 2: John Wick 3
Did I need two more movies after the original John Wick? No, but I sure as hell am happy with the outcome anyway. Those movies rock. The first is still my favorite but Chapter 3 is my favorite of the sequels. I just want to watch Keanu Reeves kick some more ass. Do I need a 4th movie after this? No, but you bet your ass I'll be in a theatre watching it when it comes out. Si vis pacem, para bellum, bitch.
Number 1: Knives Out
This movie just GOES. It starts as a murder mystery and then does things that I thought would totally lose me at first, but it takes all of 2 minutes for it to convince me it was the perfect decision and I'm back on board. It's got layers. A lot of those layers are ridiculous, but it knows it's ridiculous and has fun with it. Go watch Knives Out. It's a good time.
Best Anime of 2019
Best Old Anime: My Hero Academia
It took two people and a slew of Nendoroids to convince me to finally watch MHA and here I am. I am now watching season 4 as it airs. The thought of giving up one of my three seasonal anime slots to MHA every few seasons in perpetuity is kinda terrifying. I like shows that end. MHA is not gonna end anytime soon, if ever. But I've made peace with it. This is my life now.
Number 3: Given
My first BL anime. I came for the character drama and music as an emotional arc themes, stayed to watch the boys kiss. The episode 9 song has stuck with me like no other song this year. I see myself a bit in Mafuyu. Someone who loves music. Someone who sometimes desperately wants to make music. But also someone who has trouble expressing themselves, but through music it all comes out. Hell, I see myself a bit in Uenoyama too. Someone unsure of themselves. Someone who has a real passion for something, but is in a place where they need a little extra push from someone or something to get back into it.
Number 2: Kimetsu no Yaiba
What an incredible show. Holy shit. Every week something would happen and I would say to myself "Surely they can't top that." Then they would. Week after week, Yaiba only got better. It is unreal how good this show looks. There's a movie coming out next year and I can only imagine what that team could do with a movie sized animation budget. Shonens generally aren't my thing. The exceptions are usually because they don't quite follow a traditional shonen formula (Promised Neverland, Dororo), or they just happen to be really great iterations of that formula (My Hero Academia, Yu Yu Hakusho). Yaiba feels closer to the former and I love it. Episode 19, holy shit.
Number 1: Fruits Basket
I'm just going to copy and paste what I wrote immediately after finishing the last episode of season one earlier this year.
What a show. It’s special and it’s gonna continue to be special. I can feel it. I think I understand why the manga and the original series is so important to people. Even after only seeing this first part of the story. This show is just so... reassuring. It makes me happy to be who I am.
Fruits Basket made me tear up multiple times. It got to a point around the second half that it was happening every week. "Stop that, Fruits Basket! I can't keep doing this!" I thought. Fruits Basket is a loving hug of a show. It was a nice weekly dose of sweetness that I needed.
There it is. That's Best of 2019. I might be in a weird place right now, but I'll get past it. I always do. Through either sheer force of will or through support from my friends. Either way, I'll get past it and I'll get back on that video train in 2020. Those Japan videos are gonna happen. Maybe along the way I'll figure out what this feeling is and what it is I need to make to get it out too. Thanks for reading this far! See you next year.