I’ve never been one to flow with the crowd. I resist the year’s hot new thing and delve into the hot new thing from five years prior, taking my time with it without facing the pressure to catch up with everyone else. As a result, I’ve only kept up with extremely current culture in recent years, when my job required it of me.
Still, my natural way of action is to explore what I want and not what critics, friends, and the people on the train are watching. Such was the case this year, when I leisurely read whatever caught my fancy and gleefully ignored whatever popular film just seemed unbearable to me. Life’s too short to sit through crappy entertainment.
As always, my favorite books and movies I read and saw this year are not limited to 2019 releases. These are the titles that left an impression on me throughout the year.
1) Man Up (2015) – Seen January 1, 2019
I love a rom-com with an unconventional leading man. Lake Bell’s pessimistic Nancy accidentally ends up on a blind date in London with Jack (Simon Pegg), going along with the case of mistaken identity as she starts to fall for Jack. The film follows their night spent together, eventually detailing their confrontations with their own issues related to love and relationships. Man Up is such a fun romp through London and presents a unique storyline, which is always a plus in the rom-com genre.
2) Little Miss Sunshine (2006) – Seen January 11, 2019
It turns out Steve Carell was delivering in dramatic roles long before his post-Office move to the big screen. Here, he plays the gay and suicidal uncle of Olive, a young girl who unexpectedly qualifies for a regional beauty pageant. Their entire family takes a spontaneous road trip to the competition, airing out grievances and hilarities along the way. I knew this film was beloved, but I immediately understood why when I watched it. It’s uplifting, yet it also delivers strong points about the unfairness of life and the need to march to your own beat.
3) Mystic Pizza (1988) – Seen February 15, 2019
I’ve actually seen Mystic Pizza before this year, but something about this viewing really struck me. The movie follows one monumental summer in the lives of two sisters and their best friend, who all work at a renowned pizza parlor together. It was Julia Roberts’ first major film role, and you can totally tell why she broke out so soon after it. She is simultaneously charming and heartbreaking as local flirt Daisy, who falls for a rich townie while little sister Kat (Annabeth Gish) finds herself crushing on the father of the girl she babysits. The film captures universal aspects of young adulthood and how different personalities encounter them, and it’s as easy to digest as a good old slice of plain cheese.
4) The Wedding Date (2005) – Seen June 16, 2019
This is a very low-key rom-com with a healthy, irresistible mix of ridiculousness and romance. Not many people talk about The Wedding Date, but I enjoyed it much more than My Best Friend’s Wedding, which shares its leading man. Debra Messing’s character needs a date for her sister’s wedding in London, so she hires a male escort (Dermot Mulroney) to play the part of her boyfriend. Despite the story’s extremities, I just found the film and its cast so charming. It’s set in London! It has Amy Adams and a de-wigged Commodore Norrington! Totally worth a rainy afternoon on the couch.
5) Little Women (2019) – Seen December 28, 2019
This is so deserving of all the praise it’s received. Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of the beloved novel is beautifully shot and structured, and the cast is marvelous. While I wish they slapped a mustache on older Laurie a la Christian Bale in the ’90s version, the movie has such a relatable, physical depiction of sisterhood and devastatingly true messages of what it means to grow up. It further confirmed that I am a total Jo with slight Meg undertones, liking things to be just right but also longing to use my talents for something more. I am in love with whatever Saoirse Ronan does onscreen, and I’m so excited to see her inevitably solidify her reputation as our generation’s Meryl Streep. Plus, here’s to the growing Gerwig Cinematic Universe with her merry band of Lady Bird loyalists.