For some years I have kept an annual log of books read, movies and plays seen, etc. Then at year’s end, I review them and identify the ones that stand out. Here are my favorites for 2019; they are not listed in order of preference.
Movies (some of which were 2018 releases that I saw in 2019)
If Beale Street Could Talk. I loved this movie based on a James Baldwin story.
The Green Book. Critics didn’t much like it; won best movie Oscar; I loved it.
Apollo 11. There were a number of retrospectives marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. This CNN produced version was the best documentary, especially experienced on the big screen in a theatre.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. More than a tribute to Mr. Rogers, this movie shows how Fred Rogers influenced a hardened, skeptical Esquire reporter who was given the assignment to write something about Mr. Rogers. This is a beautiful movie in every way.
Amazing Grace. A documentary of the young Aretha Franklin singing pure gospel in a black church in LA in 1972. Watch for Mick Jagger to sneak in and sit in the back row.
They Shall Not Grow Old. Peter Jackson restores original film of British soldiers in WW1. A look at some of the terrors of war and the humanity of warring soldiers.
Two oldies re-watched
Glory. My favorite Civil War movie, made in 1989. In a great cast, Denzel Washington shines.
A Guy Named Joe. One of my favorite WW2 movies. Spielberg said he became a filmmaker because of this movie and produced a remake, Always, in 1989, which is also very good, but removed from the WW2 context.
When They See Us (and When They See Us Now, which features interviews with the real men and the actors that portrayed them). Netflix. Griping portrayal of the so-called Central Park Five, found guilty of a crime they didn’t commit (as happens to too many young men of color).
CBS Sunday Morning. From the opening trumpet notes by Winton Marsalis, I find this the best Sunday morning viewing on TV. And yes, I worship on Sunday mornings and preach on most of them, so this is taped and watched later.
60 Minutes. It just keeps doing outstanding investigative journalism.
On the Road with Steve Hartman. Short American human interest stories shown on CBS Evening News on Fridays and repeated on CBS Sunday Morning.
Les Miserables (PBS). The eight-part non-musical portrayal gave more of the story than any other version I have seen.
Blue Bloods. This continues to be my favorite TV weekly drama.
Jeopardy, when James Holzhauer was on. It was amazing how one player, a professional gambler, re-imagined how the long-running game show could be played and did it.
Come From Away (this was my second viewing of Hamilton and Come From Away, first on Broadway, then in touring companies in Rochester; both got better with a second viewing)
Guys and Dolls (featuring my grandson Evan at Gates-Chili High School)
Becoming, Michelle Obama. An amazing woman; an amazing life.
Leadership in Turbulent Times, Doris Kearns Goodwin. After her magisterial biographies of Presidents Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson, she puts them side by side in how they responded to the challenges before them.
Educated, Tara Westover. The most gripping book I read in 2019.
Holy Envy, Barbara Brown Taylor. A fresh and open look at world religions by one of the best preachers alive today.
Desk 88, Sherrod Brown. The senator from Ohio was assigned desk 88 (of the 100 in the senate chamber), when he was sworn into office. Most senators mark their desks with their names and initials, and they are only replaced if they can’t be repaired. Brown studied the senators that preceded him at desk 88 and wrote sketches of eight of them, some well-known and some not.
Faith Unraveled, Rachel Held Evans (read a second time shortly after her death). Held Evans’s death last spring was a shock. Still a young woman with two young children, her thinking and writing were influencing great numbers of people, including me. And that continues.