TV-VCR’s typically belated end-of-year favorites

FAVORITE FILMS

Booksmart

Olivia Wilde came out swinging with her directorial debut, a coming-of-age comedy that confidently eclipsed its “Superbad, but with girls” elevator pitch. The wonderfully, believably codependent central friendship performed by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein is only enhanced by a capable support staff (especially an insane Billie Lourd), a cool soundtrack, and some genuine visual aplomb. Until Black Canary becomes a reality, keep on directing, O.W. [Kevin]

The Lighthouse

A year ago, if you’d asked me whether I wanted to see some old fashioney guys get drunk and lose their minds while isolated in a lighthouse, I’d have said, “Yes, absolutely. Is that on YouTube? I desperately want to see that. Give me the link.”

That it ended up not being real-life footage was disappointing, but that it was Robert Pattinson going bat-shit on Willem Dafoe made up for it. So good. [Mark]

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Unlike the 209 minute-clocking greatest hits package The Irishman (sorry, Marty), it’s really telling that there’s an audience hungry for a potential 4-hour cut of this recent Golden Globe winner for Best Motion Picture (the songs and/or funny one). Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is an enthralling, sometimes hilarious string of loving vignettes about old school Holywood, and as such one of the already-indulgent Quentin Tarantino’s best—and most personal—efforts. [Kevin]

Parasite

From The Host, to Snowpiercer, to Okja, writer-director Bong Joon-ho is clearly familiar with themes of class inequality and struggling families who rally together to save themselves. But never has he brought them together in a way so straightforward, incisive, and unfortunately timely as his latest, a comedy-meets-thriller social satire that delivers on all fronts.

While Snowpiercer took class warfare at its most literal—to its detriment—Parasite gives Bong a hotter take on similar material, asking: do the bourgeoisie pit the lower class against themselves, whether willfully or not? The answer is, of course, obviously, both in reality and the motion picture. His thesis leads to a first half that plays out like an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, with the film’s gang coming together to scam their way into a rich family’s home, and it scarcely falters from there. [Mark]

Uncut Gems

The third chapter of the Grown Ups trilogy was an unexpected closer—but what a ride! [Mark]

FAVORITE SUBGENRES

Violent black comedies

2019 saw a fitful resurgence of this sort of 1990s video store staple, with approaches including the nihilistic (The Art of Self-Defense), the out-and-out gleeful (Ready or Not), the bizarrely romantic (Piercing), and the unabashedly silly (Happy Death Day 2 U). They’re all as surprisingly decent as their female leads are pretty and blonde. [Kevin]

Old fashioney shit

I’m entirely just thinking of The Lighthouse here, but it’s nice that someone besides Guy Maddin is making weirdo lighthouse dramedies that look like silent films. [Mark]

POOPY FILMS

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

In his career nadir (Yes, I’ve seen Yoga Hosers), Kevin Smith finally, definitively, disappears all the way up his own asshole. [Kevin]

Serenity, Replicas, Probably Cats

Look, I didn’t see Cats, and I hope to never see it. No one goes to sleep hoping for a nightmare. I know it’s a thing, but we’re going to dodge it here. Obviously it’s Hell, so let’s move on.

The things I thought were insane were less visibly so. Specifically: when some 50-something hunks made the weirdest sci-fi shit about being cool dads in the oddest way possible. More specifically, Serenity (review) and Replicas (review) are so fucking weird. Genuinely the weirdest things I’ve watched in ages. I’ve seen worse, but not much, and not so bonkers nor within a month of each other. I simultaneously hope for these films to be forgotten forever and remembered with weekly midnight screenings. [Mark]

Jexi

Somehow worse than advertised, Jexi stars an absolutely intolerable Adam DeVine and the same two or three lazy jokes about Millennials repeated for an agonizing 84 minutes. They made Michael Peña unfunny, you guys. They made Michael Peña unfunny.

Wait, only 84 minutes? That can’t be right… [Kevin]

FAVORITE TELEVISION

John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch

Early in Mulaney’s Netflix children’s musical special, a member of his eponymous Sack Lunch Bunch asks whether it’s meant to be ironic.

“That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?” he says. True to his reply, it’s never really answered. What he’s made is somehow a winking pastiche, an earnest joy, and a wholly original effort all at once. With how laugh-out-loud funny, affecting, and re-watchable it is, whether it actually works as children’s programming is beside the point. I’m ready to be Mr. Music for Halloween and get my Googy tattoo by the next holiday season. Merry Christmas to me. [Mark]

Succession

It took me a while to commit to finally giving this cable news take on The Royal Tenenbaums a chance, but once I found out it came from Peep Show co-creator Jesse Armstrong, I had to—and I’m glad I did. Finally, Kieran Culkin gets a well-deserved Home Alone second act of again playing the gross little relative of a scheming brother ready to take out anyone. [Mark]

Anyway, we missed a lot of other stuff, but here’s what we liked. How about you fellow idiots?

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