Monday, December 30, 2019

Sean's Best and Worst of 2019

Just in time for the start of 2020, here is my best and worst of 2019.

Best Movie I Saw In The Theater/Airplane: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

On Friday, January 11th, I boarded a flight from Washington Dulles airport to Dallas-Fort Worth for my annual-ish hockey road trip. I realized the night before that I had an economy ticket, meaning that I was allowed only one item that fits under the seat. Any other bag would need to be checked for $25 or $30 each way, so I successfully fit everything for my weekend trip into my backpack including a 2011 Kindle in the hopes of downloading the United app for in-flight entertainment. Although the Kindle was too old to download the app, it worked on my phone, so I watched documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" on a very small screen. What a film! First, Mr. Rogers is iconic and an excellent subject matter. Then, the clips, and especially interviews with people who knew Fred Rogers the best, were outstanding. It definitely got a little dusty a few times during the flight. How this film didn't receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary is one of the biggest snubs in Oscars history. Because of this oversight, I fully expect the 2019 film A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (which I also saw) to receive several nominations with Tom Hanks winning for Best Supporting Actor.

Worst Movie I Saw In The Theater: Angry Birds 2

The problem was that I never saw the original Angry Birds, so it was difficult to follow along. Actually, the movie wasn’t that bad, and there’s an amazingly deep voice cast including Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Leslie Jones, Bill Hader, Sterling K. Brown, Awkwafina, Peter Dinklage, Tiffany Haddish, and more. My frustration is that I took 5 year old Pedro Tulo to the movies, and he chose to see Angry Birds 2 over Toy Story 4. I tried to convince him that Toy Story 4 would be a better movie, but it’s really difficult to persuade Pedro Tulo once his mind is made up. We still haven't seen Toy Story 4.

Best Song: Bad Guy by Billie Eilish

As always, my criteria for best song is that I have to feature the song in a blog post at some point during the year. My best song for 2019 is by a teenager who hadn't heard of Van Halen when asked. She's also really talented and recently earned 6 Grammy nominations including those in the biggest categories like Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist.

An honorable mention goes to Here We Go by Dave Grohl with Elmo and Big Bird.

I love this song!

Worst Song: Bad Guy remix by Billie Eilish with Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber's verse in the remix version of this song is totally unnecessary and simply not nearly as good as the original.

Best Television Show: Barry

This was the most difficult category for me. I watched both seasons of both "Succession" and "Fleabag" in 2019 which are outstanding shows that deserve all of the recognition and praise they receive. My pick though is another show that I started watching in 2019, Barry. This HBO show features Bill Hader (of Angry Birds 2 fame) as a hit-man who joins an acting class. Hilarity (and murders) ensue! I guess you'd call this a dark comedy or a funny drama if that's a thing. Anyway, I'm always entertained by the show and love the acting by Stephen Root, Henry Winkler, and especially Anthony Carrigan who plays a "nice" Chechen mobster named NoHo Hank. He makes the show.

Worst Television Decision: ABC Cancelling Speechless

I don't have a worst TV show. I pretty much watch the shows I know that I'll like and even then I don't have time to watch what I want. For example, I have over 40 episodes of "This Is Us" and "Modern Family" saved on my DVR that I haven't seen yet. Even the shows that my kids have watched this year like "American Ninja Warrior Junior" and various cooking competition shows have been fine. It may not have been the best parenting decision to let the kids watch The Masked Singer, but we are fascinated by the reveal of who is behind the mask. It's probably not appropriate to have them chant "TAKE IT OFF" though.

That's why I'm creating a worst TV decision category. I don't understand why ABC cancelled "Speechless," a show about a family where the oldest child of three has cerebral palsy. They could have made this a heart-warming drama, and there are definitely some touching moments, but it was a really funny show. USA Today even included Speechless in its top 25 shows of the 2010s. It deserved more than three seasons, especially since it would have been fun to see how the writers dealt with JJ going to college. ABC could have made room to fit the show in its schedule, even if it's only a 12-episode season. Here are a few clips to remember the show.

Best Book: John Temple

This was John Temple’s year even if he didn’t realize it! Temple published "Up in Arms: How the Bundy Family Hijacked Public Lands, Outfoxed the Federal Government, and Ignited America's Patriot Militia Movement" over the summer, and I also read his 2015 book "American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America's Deadliest Drug Epidemic" this year. Both nonfiction books are thoroughly researched and filled with detailed first-hand interviews. These books are examples of what journalism and story-telling should be.

Full disclosure. I know John Temple's wife though I haven't talked with her since I was in high school.

I also wanted to share other books that I read this year for no particular reason other than to show off that I read some books!

- Educated: a memoir by Tara Westover
- The End We Start From by Megan Hunter
- Playing Through The Whistle: Steel, Football, and an American Town by S.L. Price (I thought about writing a blog post about this book and compare Aliquippa to my own Western Pennsylvania community. I still might in 2020.)
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- The Club: How the English Premier League Became the Wildest, Richest, Most Disruptive Force in Sports by Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg
- Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
- Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
- The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer by Caitlin Murray
- Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
- The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini by Joe Posnanski

Best Sports Moment: US Women's World Cup Win

Not a great year for Pittsburgh sports (I'll get to that momentarily), so to me, the best sports moment was the dominance of the women's national team. I included three videos below based on the round. In the quarterfinal, Megan Rapinoe scored twice in a 2-1 win over the host team France.

Alex Morgan's gave the US a 2-1 lead in the semi-final against England. A lot of people made a big deal about the sipping tea celebration. What a dumb discussion that was. This was a monster goal in a huge match. The celebration was fine.

Finally, with a 1-0 lead part-way through the second half of the final against The Netherlands, Rose Lavelle took a pass near midfield and sealed the victory for the US. She's an assassin!

Worst Sports Moments: Penguins vs. Islanders Playoff Series

Pittsburgh sports fans hoped that the Pirates would be decent in 2019, but I think we knew that seemed unrealistic. The Steelers lost Big Ben in week two and pro-bowlers RB James Conner and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster missed significant time. The fact they have been as competitive as they have been is a credit to the defense and head coach. Still, the most disappointing moment of 2019 was the Penguins getting swept in the first round of the NHL playoffs to the New York Islanders. Look, I don't think most fans realistically thought the Pens were going to win the Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay and Boston looked really strong in the Atlantic division. In the Metropolitan, Washington and the Islanders were better than the Penguins all season (and continue to be so far through the 2019-2020 season) and Carolina and Columbus were about equals. Still, with Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Guentzel, Letang, and Murray, you didn't expect the team to lose a series 4-0.

Best Blog: The Steel Trap

I really enjoy Heidi's writings. Her first world problems posts are worth the price of admission alone. (I should probably note that there are no fees to read The Steel Trap.)

Worst Blog: All of the blogs that I used to read but aren't around anymore.

I get it. Writing a personal blog takes a lot of time and life gets in the way. I'm going to write more about this soon in a separate post.

Best Podcast (No Budget Category): The Donut Bag

Joey is the hardest working man in podcasting. He puts out 3-4 podcasts a week on Pittsburgh sports, movies, television shows, random drafts, and more. I don't think this man sleeps!

Best Podcast (With a Budget Category): Hit Parade

I only learned about this Slate podcast regarding music chart history in 2019, and I'm only a few episodes away from going through every episode. This podcast was made for me. Chris Molanphy picks a song or artist in each full-length episode and does a deep dive on the song/group/time period with lots of song clips.

Best Sean's Ramblings Blog Post: Kamala, Katy, Ariana, & Demi

I had the most fun writing about what may have occurred when Senator (and now former Presidential candidate) Kamala Harris met with Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, and Demi Lovato.

Honorable mention to field trips. Specifically, our family vacation to Pittsburgh and taking Pedro Tulo to a DC United game. In addition, The Moose ran for class office.

Worst Sean's Ramblings Blog Post: ............

In late April, I fell asleep in front of my computer and either my finger got stuck on the keyboard or Ziggy sat on the keyboard. The result was a series of periods. According to Blogger, this has also been my most-read post of 2019, and it's not even close. Maybe I need to have Ziggy blog more often.

Best Play/Musical I Saw: Come From Away

This musical is based on 9/11 and the subsequent days where Gander, Newfoundland in Canada, a town of less than 10,000 people hosted approximately 7,000 people from international flights after the American airspace was closed. There are plenty of lighter moments but with the realization that 9/11 just happened. So so good.

Worse Play/Musical I Saw: None

With three young kids, you think I have time to see lots of plays and musicals?

Thanks for making it all the way through this post. Please feel free to click here to see my best of and worst of the last few years. Happy New Year!

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