Well, those last ten years were certainly a decade.
Alas, as the inexorable march of time goes on, ‘tis the season to look back at the past twelve months and celebrate the very best, the crème de la crème… essentially the things I liked. Strap yourselves in, dear handsome readers as I, your equally handsome friend Tom runs down his top things of 2019.
Best Movie – Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker
Up until a couple of days ago, this award was definitely going to Avengers Endgame, a film that shares more than a few parallels with my official pick. Both wrap up expansive stories that span multiple films, multiple decades and explore rich, exciting universes. But after going to two recent screenings of The Rise Of Skywalker, my mind was firmly made up
This film ends the Skywalker family saga, a story I’ve been following my entire life, and arguably the biggest compliment I can pay this final entry is that it gave me the same giddy excitement that compelled me to stand up on the cinema chair and sing along to the opening credits as a four year old. Without diving too much into spoilers, it’s quintessentially Star Wars; it’s funny, emotional, exciting and fulfilling in equal measure, and very much keeps to the spirit of the series. It’s peppered with Easter Eggs, references and fan service moments that might be groan-inducing to some, but for me felt like a welcome return on the time and passion I’ve invested into this series.
In a similar vein, if you’re a lore junkie like myself, it’s a veritable treasure trove. It carves out its own corner of the universe, and in my opinion leaves a more indelible mark than the other sequel trilogy films. And although we’re now moving away from the galaxy’s most disruptive family, I’m excited to see how the themes touched upon in this film are expanded upon in future tales.
It’s not perfect, but Star Wars never was, and it’s these imperfections that, to me, make it so endearing. Perhaps it’s recency bias, maybe it’s just nostalgia, but it just worked for me on every level.
Check out our spoiler-free review of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker here.
Honourable mentions: Avengers Endgame, Joker, IT Chapter 2
Best Video Game – Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
I’m starting to think I might like Star Wars, idk.
But seriously, Fallen Order has plenty to offer regardless of if you’re a diehard fan of the franchise or not. Set between Episode 3 and 4, you follow the story of Cal Kestis, a former Padawan who managed to escape the Jedi slaughter of Order 66. Never finishing his training, we find him as a scrapper, surviving on an imperial junk planet. After an altercation with a gang of the Empire’s Jedi execution squad, Cal is saved by former Jedi Master Cere Junda. Together with her surly alien co-pilot – Greez, you’ll soon be whisked away on an adventure to rebuild the Jedi order.
Exposition aside, it’s a really fun game! Many press outlets have referred to it as ‘Star Wars meets Dark Souls’, and to a degree that’s accurate; it shares similar combat mechanics, punishing bosses and game save format. But in many respects it does Fallen Order a disservice, as it pulls from a broad assortment of influences, ranging from the weighty melee strikes of God Of War to Metroidvania-esque multilayered levels, creating something decidedly unique. For scrublords such as myself, it’s also far more accessible than a ‘Soulsbourne’ title, meaning you can enjoy the narrative without having to constantly rage quit.
This is the only game I’ve completed this year, and that’s a testament to how it kept me playing for hours on end.
Check out our spoiler-free review of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order here.
Honourable mentions: Death Stranding, Crash Team Racing Nitro Fuelled
Best Album – Issues Beautiful Oblivion
This category was particularly difficult as there’ve been some outstanding releases this year. From the return of Tool to the breakout of British upstarts such as False Advertising and Gender Roles, the global alternative music scene is very much alive and well. With the competition so fierce, I’ve had to resort to hard data and pick my most played artist and album of the year – Issues’ Beautiful Oblivion.
For anyone who’s not heard of the Atlanta natives before, they jokingly refer to themselves as a djent boy band, a description that I think is pretty apt. They expertly straddle the hitherto unexplored line between buttery smooth RnB and crushing metalcore to create an entirely unique sound.
Beautiful Oblivion is the best example of this to date. After recently parting ways with heavy vocalist Michael Bohn, this is an album born out of adversity, and as with most art created under this pressure it helps to accentuate its authenticity and emotional impact. From the brutal riffs of ‘Tapping Out’ to the self aware campiness of ‘Flexin’’, it’s the most fun I’ve had listening to an album this year, and I’m sure it’ll still be on repeat for me in 2020.
Check out our interview with Issues here.
Honourable mentions: False Advertising – Brainfreeze, Gender Roles – Prang, Puppy – The Goat
Best Song – Issues ‘Drink About It’
Grouped here with best album as it’s for very similar reasons; Issues’ ‘Drink About It’ is my most played track this year, and my personal favourite from the new album. The bridge of this song is one of the catchiest things I’ve heard in a long time, and there aren’t many days that go by that I don’t do a little bop to it.
Only a little bop, mind, don’t want to pull anything.
Honourable mentions: False Advertising – ‘Personal Gain’, Poppy – ‘Scary Mask’, Whitechapel – ‘Forgiveness Is Weakness’
Best TV Show – The Mandalorian
And just like that, we’re back in a galaxy far, far away!
Even though the last two episodes are yet to be released, I can already say with certainty that The Mandalorian is my favourite TV show of the year. The first live action show set in the Star Wars universe, we follow the adventures of an unnamed Mandalorian bounty hunter across the seedier backstreets of the galaxy.
It’s essentially a spaghetti western, following the ‘man with no name’ archetype perfectly and demonstrates you don’t need space battles or lightsabers to tell an interesting story in this franchise. I hope the hype around the series leads to more smaller tales in this universe, helping to augment the rich tapestry beyond the main players of the space opera.
Plus Baby Yoda. Baby F***ing Yoda.
Away from Star Wars, a special mention must also be made for Nirvanna The Band The Show, as recommended to me by our Neale in 2018’s end of the year awards. It’s one of the funniest things ever committed to serial TV, and you can check out our interview with the guys behind it here.
Honourable mentions: Nirvanna The Band The Show, Stranger Things, Good Omens
And that’s a wrap on my highlights from 2019! Make sure to stay tuned to upsidedownshark.com and our YouTube channel to find out what the other UDS guys enjoyed this year.
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