A Few of My favorite Things of 2019

The clock is winding down on 2019, and as usual, what I like to do in this blog is to highlight some of my favorite things I’ve experienced this past year when it came to film, television, and music. I’m putting off my top ten films for a few more days and I’ll probably be adding my Best films of the decade very soon as well. But for the purpose of this blog, I wanted to focus in on some things that were new to me in 2019, which made my year a little bit brighter.

Favorite Classic/Older Films I viewed for the First time in 2019

Perhaps the best thing that happened to me this year was my girlfriend Katie, who is not only one of the sweetest most caring people I have met, but she shares an affinity with classic movies. This year we introduced each other to films from our own private collections, and in that way I found myself seeing films I probably wouldn’t have had on my own. In some cases, Katie and I have very similar tastes such as our love for all things Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, French New Wave, or Ozu. However, I found the most interesting thing was the differences we shared. An example of this would have to be Katie’s love for 60s sex comedies, which ranged from romantic innuendo films involving the big stars of the day, or some teenage beach movies featuring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. She also introduced me to the wonderful world of the Godzilla franchise, which was a favourite of hers as a kid. Despite viewing the first film and the most recent Godzilla movies, I have not seen many of them, but Katie showed me a wide set of films which I found very fun to watch. Along with the films Katie introduced me to, I also saw a few of my own that were new to me as well which I thoroughly enjoyed. Rather than ranking, here is a list of films I cherry picked that really stuck out in my mind.

Vivacious Lady (1938): Starring Ginger Rogers and Jimmy Stewart, this film will always be special to me as it was the first film I watched with Katie, and it’s a nice screwball comedy, and the only film Stewart and Rogers did together. Very charming and romantic,

Don’t Make Waves (1967): Not saying this was any bit of a masterpiece, but this is a fun surfing sex comedy I really enjoyed. Probably infamous for featuring tragic star Sharon Tate, who is practically silent in the film and is mostly there to be shown off in a bikini. It’s silly yes, but Claudia Cardinale is also in it, and anything with her is worth seeing.

Between Two Worlds (1944): Featured in one of my Religion in Film articles, Katie introduced me to this film about a couple who die and find themselves in the afterlife, adrift on a boat carrying other passengers. This was a very bittersweet film, which was romantic but also heartwarming. It was probably meant to serve as a morale boost during WWII and it does that in spades.

Gaslight (1944): As a fan of Ingrid Bergman, this remained a blindspot for me for many years, but I finally got to see it this year. The story of a woman who is being tricked by her husband into thinking she’s crazy is quite the quiet thriller and Bergman is simply wonderful in it. Also great is Angela Lansbury as a very salty maid.

Bikini Beach (1964): Katie introduced me to quite a lot of Frankie and Annette beach movies, but my favourite was this one. Pure lunacy featuring a gorilla as a race car driver as well as a chauffeur. That’s really all you need to know, and it was probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Portrait of Jennie (1948): An elegant melodrama with Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones about a man who falls in love with a girl who seems to get older each time he sees her. She ultimately serves as inspiration for him as an artist.

The Trial (1962): Orson Welles’ The Trial is a very difficult film to track down, but I was finally able to see it this year thanks to Katie who had a rather obscure copy of it. This was a real treat to see for the first time as I consider myself a Welles completist and this helped me obtain that goal. Based on Fraz Kafka’s book about a man who is under trial for something he’s not sure of. It plays with the idea of paranoia and the futility of life very much, while also being a very darkly comic film.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.(2003):I saw a lot of Godzilla movies with Katie, and they were all fun and campy. You haven’t lived until you see Godzilla fight some other Kaiju monster in the middle of a crowded city. While they were all enjoyable, I remember liking Tokyo S.O.S. the best as it seemed to have the most action and best fights between Godzilla and various monsters.

Written on the Wind (1956): A famed Douglas Sirk melodrama featuring Rock Hudson, Laren Bacall, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone. Sirk knew how to exude extravagance, and glamour in beautiful technicolor unlike any other filmmaker, and this was a real treat to see for the first time.The story isn’t unlike something you might see in a prime time soap opera, but that just makes it more entertaining and almost comical in some ways.

Angel (1937): One of my favourite actresses combined with one of my favourite directors. Angel was the one time Marlene Dietrich worked with Ernst Lubitsch, and the result is a very elegant romantic drama, of a woman who is leading a double life and is in love with two men. Lubitsch enjoys the romantic triangles, and this one is mostly played straight although it does give us a glimpse of his usual wit here and there. Even though the ending feels like a compromise, the rest of the film is nearly perfect.

The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice (1952): This film perhaps might be my personal favourite simply because a Yasujiro Ozu film always seems to be working on a different level than any other film you may see. I am ultimately sucked into his worlds and characters so effortlessly, I’m never left disappointed but always fulfilled. In this case, The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice is one of his most charming films concerning a married couple who see their life as routine, and it’s disrupted after a slight argument. Ozu focuses on the little things which makes his films masterpieces of observation and silence. I am transported each time I watch his films and this was a real treat which was a very big highlight.

Since I don’t want to sound long winded, I’ll stop my list there, but I will also point out three Christmas films Katie introduced me to just recently over the holidays which quickly became instant favourites. They are The Bishop’s Wife, Remember the Night, and The Man who Came to Dinner, all of which were all charming, funny, and entertaining to watch.

Favourite Television

When it comes to television, I tend to not binge watch that many shows, particularly since I mostly have time for films which take up most of my leisure time. After all I still haven’t seen Breaking Bad which I do intend to rectify one of these days. That being said, there were a few shows I saw this year worth highlighting.

The Sopranos: I finally made it through The Sopranos which started the year for me, and everything you hear about it is true. As a big fan of Mad Men I could see how it was influenced by this show right off the bat. The performances and episodes are truly something special, and the show should enjoy its status as the one which ushered in this new Golden Age.

Stranger Things (Season 3): Stranger Things came back over the summer with what I think was their best season yet. It was kinda nice seeing everyone growing into their roles, and playing off each other really well. I felt this was the most humourous season, and colourful creating a new pallette mostly thanks to the 80s tinged mall which was the main set piece this season. The characters are the reason to keep watching this show. Thinking back I can’t quiet remember what the big bad monster was they fought, but I remember the relatioships, the fun, and the adventure. Looking forward to season 4

Glow (Season 3): After what I thought was a spectacuar season 2, Glow returned for what was their most mature season yet. This time the focus was less on the wrestling show, and more on the women who all seem to be on their own personal journeys. This felt like the most polarizing season critically wise, as the show went a bit darker with their characters, however the themes it plays with this time around make the characters more fully rounded, and with word that next season will be the show’s last, it’ll be interesting to see how they tie it all up.

Downton Abbey: This came courtesy of Katie, who was a big fan of this show about a high class British family at the turn of the century as well as their downstairs help. I admit at first I was apprehensive about the show thinking it might not be my cup of tea. However I fell under its spell rather quickly and I found myself lost in the inner drama within the house of Downton Abbey. The fact that the movie came out earlier this year was like a cherry on top of a delightful dessert.

The Good Place (Season 3) Catching up on The Good Place from last season, we are given yet another inventive chapter in the lives of our lovable group of ne er do wells as they try to navigate through the afterlife in search of life’s questions of what makes a person good. The show is on top of its game and probably my favorite show currently on the air.

Favourite Music

This will be quick as I only have one album that I wish to talk about which I couldn’t stop listening to and that’s Bruce Springsteen’s Western Stars. I’ve been a fan of Springsteen since I was a teenager, and I have never been disappointed with any of his albums. Western Stars has a different sound than we are used to, it’s more introspective but grandiose with its orchestral arrangements. The songs to me are some of the most powerful I’ve heard from Springsteen and each time the music stopped, I felt the urge to listen to it again. It’s already a personal favourite of mine, and I highly recommend the concert film which was released this year and is just as beautiful as it is memorable. Here’s a little taste from what is probably my favourite song from the album.

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