With half the year behind us, two of our senior editors, Dave Verhaagen and Jonathan Hetterly, compare notes long-distance about the entertainment highlights so far. They seem to agree more than they disagree, but see what you think of their picks and recommendations.
Dave Verhaagen: I think we both agreed last year was an off year for film, TV, and music. This year seems better. Would you agree?
Jonathan Hetterly: The month of June didn’t help the argument that 2019 has been a better year in films. But overall, I’ve had more enjoyable cinema experiences in the theater at this point than I did in 2018. I think the year has been an improvement.
DV: For whatever reason, last year definitely disappointed. I kept waiting for the summer movies to change the outlook, but they only disappointed me further. This year’s been better so far.
What Pop Culture We’re Loving in 2019… So Far
MOVIES IN 2019
DV: So let’s talk movies. What are the best movies you’ve seen so far this year?
JH: Well, let’s start with Us, because I think Jordan Peele has established himself as a visionary filmmaker full of complex ideas and an eye for staging beautiful shots and scenes. Us is more ambitious where Get Out was more singular and economical in his themes and story, but I’ve thought a lot about Us.
DV: I liked Us when I first saw it but I knew I was missing a lot. It wasn’t until our podcast recording where you convinced me the movie wasn’t just good, but potentially great.
JH: I also have to commend Marvel for their epic Avengers: Endgame. It is a better film than it has a right to be and is a fitting conclusion to many of the superheroes I’ve grown to enjoy over the past decade.
DV: I completely agree. I rarely see movies twice, especially not in the theaters, but I saw it twice and thoroughly enjoyed it. They really stuck the landing. It opened as Game of Thrones was winding down and people were realizing the show was not going to have a great Breaking Bad-level final season and they weren’t going to finish as well as everyone had hoped, yet Endgame surpassed everyone’s expectations of how good an ending for a superhero series could be.
JH: I’ve also enjoyed such films as You’ll Always Be My Maybe, Yesterday, Rocketman, John Wick 3, and plan to watch Booksmart and Apollo 11.
DV: I thought Booksmart was good. Maybe not great, but definitely good. John Wick 3 was the same dumb fun as the other two. Someone asked me if it was a good movie and all I knew to tell them was, “It was as good as two hours of Keanu Reeves beating up and killing a bunch of people could be.” His cameo in Always Be My Maybe was also one of the best movie moments of the year. I laughed a lot at his new Toy Story 4 character, too.
It’s the Summer of Keanu!
Finally, you mentioned Rocketman and I thought it was audacious and daring and really good. Much better than I expected.
TELEVISION IN 2019
DV: Okay, let’s talk about television. Before the year started, I would have bet that Game of Thrones would have had one of the best finales of all time. I didn’t hate the final season like a lot of others, including those who started a petition to re-do the season, but I certainly didn’t think it was a truly great ending. What shows have you loved this year so far?
JH: There are two shows that stand tall above the rest, and both were on HBO and neither are named Game of Thrones. The first show is the second season of Barry, Bill Hader’s masterful black comedy that leaned more into trauma and darkness this season. I thought it outshined its superb first season. Then there is Chernobyl, a show I had high hopes for and it did not let me down. The show had a lot of empathy tenderness for the main characters, which only made the disaster that much more tragic.
DV: I couldn’t agree more. Those were the same two shows that I have not only enjoyed but have considered to be brilliant in all respects. The episode of Barry called “ronny/lilly” is one of my favorite television comedy experiences ever. Ever! Also, after a disappointing second season, True Detective was back in good form this year. I expect Mahershala Ali to not only get nominated, but to win.
MUSIC IN 2019
DV: What about music? I have to be honest, I rarely listen to the radio, which is sad to say because I’m an old radio guy, so I feel more out of step with current music than ever. Has there been any albums or songs that you’ve loved this year?
JH: Well, I must also admit I do not listen to the radio, but I have two teen daughters who are constantly blasting K-pop, BTS, and Billie Eilish, along with an endless playlist of show tunes. The one album that has dropped that I eagerly awaited for was The Nationals’ I Am Easy to Find. I love their alternative orchestral indie pop-rock symphonies and appreciate how they continue to push themselves beyond the limitations of indie rock sensibilities.
DV: The best album of the year so far is Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride.
I liked the new stuff already, but then I saw them in concert here in Nashville and only grew more fond of it. They have some of the best songs they’ve ever written on this album that has 18 tracks and runs for a solid hour. The song “Harmony Hall” is a classic, like the best Paul Simon song he never actually wrote.
So the first half of the year has had some definite highlights. Let’s hope for a strong second half. There seems to be a lot to look forward to on the horizon, so let’s do this again in December.