A year-end list of year-end lists: version 2k19

December 20, 2019

Good news, folks. It appears news outlets are still eagerly curating “best of” year-end lists. And luckily for you (I guess?) I’m still aggregating them all.

Last year, I solicited input from my colleagues on what they thought were the best shows, movies and other facets of pop culture. But in 2019, I really leaned into the self-important misanthrope thing and am instead offering just my own scalding takes.

Best in TV

Ava DuVernay, director of "When They See Us," speaks with Dr. Deb Willis, Director, The Institute for African American Affairs + Center for Black Visual Culture and Author/Arts Educator Sarah E. Lewis at Harvard University at NYU's Cantor Center on December 3, 2019 in New York City. Photo Credit/Mpi43 / MediaPunch /IPX

The Daily Beast: The 20 Best TV Shows of 2019: ‘Fleabag,’ ‘Watchmen,’ and More”
The New York Times: The Best TV Episodes of 2019
The New York Times: The Best TV Shows of 2019
The Washington Post: Best TV shows of 2019: ‘Watchmen,’ ‘When They See Us,’ ‘Unbelievable,’ ‘Succession’ and more
USA Today: The 25 best tv shows of 2019, from ‘Fleabag’ to ‘Chernobyl’
NPR: NPR’s Favorite TV Shows of 2019
Time: The 10 Best TV Shows of 2019
The Atlantic: The 15 Best TV Shows of 2019
Rolling Stone: 20 Best TV Shows of 2019
Slate: The TV Club, 2019
Vulture: The Best TV Shows of 2019
Entertainment Weekly: The best (and worst) TV shows of 2019
Salon: This one (only) goes up to 11: the best TV of 2019 and the many runners-up
Buzzfeed: 41 Of The Best TV Shows From 2019 That Are 100% Worth Watching
The Ringer: The Best TV Shows of 2019
The Hollywood Reporter: Daniel Fienberg: The 10 Best TV Episodes of 2019
Mashable: The 10 best TV episodes of 2019

Lane’s Hot Take: I binged just two shows this year. But only one that kept me up until a cool 3 a.m., jockeying between anger and sadness, and that’s Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us.” A dramatization of the Central Park Five, the Netflix mini-series spans the arrest, incarceration, release and eventual exoneration of the five young men of color accused of raping a white woman in Central Park in 1989. But the series isn’t a procedural; rather, it forces the viewer to look at the toll cast by a justice system that isn’t always just.

Best in Movies

Lucien Greaves, left, and director Penny Lane pose for a portrait to promote the film "Hail Satan?" at the Salesforce Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP)

The AV Club: The 25 best movies of 2019
The New York Times: Best Movies of 2019
Thrillist: The 50 Best Movies of 2019
Vulture: The Best Movies of 2019
The Washington Post: Best movies of 2019: A compelling mix of new and established voices
The New Yorker: The Best Movies of 2019
Vox: The 21 best films of 2019
USA Today: The 10 best movies of 2019 definitively ranked, from ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to ‘Jojo Rabbit’
Vogue: The 13 Best Movies of 2019
Time: The 10 Best Movies of 2019
CBS News: The best movies of 2019, ranked
Vanity Fair: The 10 Best Movies of 2019 – Richard Lawson’s List
Los Angeles Times: Justin Chang’s best movies of 2019: ‘Parasite,’ ‘Knives Out’ stand out as head of class
Us Magazine: Top Movies of 2019: ‘Hustlers,’ ‘Avengers Endgame’ and More
Slate: The 10 Best Movies of 2019
Variety: The Best Films of 2019
Esquire: The Best Movies of 2019; The Best Documentaries of 2019
Screen Crush: The Best Movies of 2019
IndieWire: 2019 Critics Poll: The Best Films and Performances According to Over 300 Critics From Around the World
The Ringer: The Best Movies of 2019

Lane’s Hot Take: Here is how I do movies. First, I see trailers for movies that look good and say, “I’m going to go see that.” Then, I never actually do, and two weeks before the Academy Award desperately scramble to see all the films nominated for best picture. We all have our systems.

Due to my aversion of leaving the house and putting on pants, I only saw a few movies — quite a number of them documentaries. Amid a ton of docs that garnered high praise, including “One Child Nation,” “Leaving Neverland” and not one, but two documentaries on the failed Fyre Festival, my sleeper pick is “Hail Satan?,” an engrossing look at a controversial group advocating for secularism in the United States through unconventional means.

Best in Books

Covers for Blake Crouch’s “Recursion” and Colson Whitehead’s “Nickel Boys," the author's picks for the year's best novels.

The New Yorker: The Best Books of 2019
The New York Times: The 10 Best Books of 2019
The Wall Street Journal: The Best Books of 2019
Vox: The best books I read in 2019
The Washington Post: Best Books of 2019
Chicago Tribune: The best books of 2019
GQ: The Best Books of 2019
Time: The 100 Must-Read Books of 2019
The Guardian: Best Books of 2019
NPR: Book Concierge
Goodreads: Best Books of 2019
Thrillist: The Best Books of 2019 (So Far)
Slate: The 10 Best Books of 2019 (according to Slate’s book editor); The 10 Best Books of 2019 (according to Slate’s book critic)
Vulture: The 10 Best Books of 2019

Lane’s Hot Take: I ran pretty hot with fiction this year, so both my top picks are literature. Debuting in June, Blake Crouch’s “Recursion” combines elements of time travel and memory into a story that forces readers to examine the consequences of progress, but the consequence of decisions.

My second top book of the year is less fantastical and more dire. Colson Whitehead’s “Nickel Boys” is grounded in realism and follows protagonist Elwood Curtis, a driven yet naive black teenager in 1960s Florida who is falsely convicted of a crime and sent to the brutal Nickel Academy. Loosely based on the horrors of the Dozier School for Boys, a now shuttered reform school in Florida, the book offers a heavy look and twist ending about race, justice and how we treat some of our vulnerable citizens.

Best in Music

Lizzo has been named TIME Magazine's Entertainer Of The Year 2019. She was bestowed the same honor by Entertainment Weekly Magazine and she has secured eight nominations for the 2020 Grammy Awards - the most of any artist. - File Photo by: zz/KGC-138/STAR MAX/IPx 2019 11/6/19 Lizzo (Melissa Viviane Jefferson) performing in concert at Brixton Academy on November 6, 2019 in London, England, UK.

Pitchfork: The 100 Best Songs of 2019; The 50 Best Albums of 2019; The Best Music of 2019
Vulture: The Best Songs of 2019; The Best Albums of 2019
The New York Times: The 54 Best Songs of 2019
The New Yorker: The Best Music of 2019 and the Best Music of the Decade
Slate: The Best Albums of 2019
Time: The 10 Best Songs of 2019
Complex: The Best Albums of 2019
The Washington Post: Best music of 2019: Lana Del Rey sings lullabies about the end of America
NPR: 25 Best Albums of 2019; 25 Best Songs of 2019
The Ringer: The Best Albums of 2019
Uproxx: The Best Songs of 2019; The Best Albums of 2019
The Atlantic: The 14 Best Music Moments of 2019; The 18 Best Albums of 2019
Esquire: The Best Songs of 2019; The Best Albums of 2019

Lane’s Hot Take: First off, I want to note how last year I observed the popular music scene was marked by the meteoric rise of Latino pop, trap and reggaeton artists. This ascension continued in 2019 with artists like Bad Bunny, J. Balvin, Maluma, Ozuna and Rosalía. Basically, I just wanted to say that I nailed it.

Anyway, my 2019 song of the year has to go to one of the year’s most infectious and contentious offerings: Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” specifically the remix featuring Mr. Achy Breaky himself, Billy Ray Cyrus. Is it rap? Is it country? Whatever it is, it’s catchy, has a fun music video and stayed number one Billboard’s Hot 100 list for a record-breaking 19 consecutive weeks.

My top artist spot belongs to Lizzo, the breakout star of 2019, who found fame with “Truth Hurts” (despite the single dropping two years ago). With a message of positivity and self-love and music that combines pop, hip-hop, R&B with notes of soul and trap, Lizzo dominated both the charts and Grammy nods.

Dubbing Lizzo Time’s 2019 Artist of the Year, writer Samantha Irby notes: “In 2019, Lizzo was a beam of light shining through doom and gloom, telling us to love ourselves even if the world doesn’t always love us back. We needed her.”

Best in Podcasts

Time: The 10 Best Podcasts of 2019
Vulture: The Best Podcasts of 2019
Thrillist: The Best New Podcasts of 2019 (So Far)
The Economist: The best podcasts of 2019
Esquire: The Best Podcasts of 2019 (So Far)

Lane’s Hot Take: Man, wouldn’t it be cool if someone wrote a whole story on this?!

Best in Sports

Fans cheer as Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman holds up the World Series trophy during a parade to celebrate the team's World Series baseball championship over the Houston Astros, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The Ringer: The Ringer’s 41 Favorite Sports Moments of 2019
CNN: The Year’s Best Sports Photos
Yardbarker: The best sports moments of 2019
Sports Illustrated: Sportsperson of the Year
The New Yorker: Seven Turning Points From the Year in Sports
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Nationals post monumental victory: The top 9 sports stories of 2019

Lane’s Hot Take: Last year, some folks accused me of including this as a category simply so I can brag about the Washington Capitals finally breaking their Stanley Cup drought. And that was 100% true. But sports also touch so many other aspects of culture, society and politics, despite what some editorial leaders may say, so it’s worth inclusion in this list regardless.

Plus, this year my baseball team won the World Series. The Nationals, winning a third title for our nation’s capital in just two years, following championship wins by the NHL’s Washington Capitals and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, were the Goonies of 2019. With a never-say-die attitude, the Nats went from a dismal 19-31 record in May to make the Wildcard game to World Series champions, on the backs of clutch hitting, ferocious pitching and a little ditty called “Baby Shark.”

Best in Photo

Marching anti-government protesters are seen through a window with peeled off posters in Hong Kong on Oct. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

National Geographic: The best photos of 2019
National Geographic: The best travel photos of 2019
The New York Times: The Year in Pictures 2019
The Atlantic: Top 25 News Photos of 2019
CNN: The world’s best travel photos of 2019

Lane’s Hot Take: I said it last year and I will say it again: Photography is a damn art. Look at all the pictures. They are sad, beautiful, powerful and reminders about why what journalists do is so important.

Miscellaneous

The Ringer: The Best Memes of 2019
Vulture: The Best Video Games of 2019; The Best Board Games of 2019
The New Yorker: The Best Videos Games of 2019
Esquire: The 58 Best Sneakers of 2019 (So Far); The Best Memes of 2019 Pain a Hilarious Portrait of Our Unhealthy Times