My Favourite Books/Movies/TV Of 2019, What’s Yours?

The year is almost over, so it’s time to send my list of favourites for the year: books, TV, and movies. I’m sure I’ve missed much, so send me yours too! Here are my picks:

MOVIES

Avengers: Endgame – A fitting finale to the Infinity saga. The opening was surprisingly somber, there were humorous turns of characters (fat Thor, and cardigan Hulk) and there were enough twists and turns kept you engaged. Of course, if you thought about the time-travel too much – none of it made sense, but who’s checking 😉

Joker – A dark and twisted interpretation of the well-known comic book villain. It’s good to see DC taking a more grown-up path compared to Marvel movies. The film is almost Scorcese-like – a cross between Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. Creepy, disturbing and unsettling.

Us – An awesome horror movie from Jordon Peele of Get Out fame. A family gets terrorized by their doppelgängers. The way these ‘monsters’ move and sound is frightening. Visually clever and original – well worth watching.

The Favourite – This came out at the start of the year. It’s from the director of “The Lobster”, so the film’s absurdist style is an acquired taste. I loved it, though. It’s a period drama with a stunning and slightly uncomfortable performance from Olivia Colman (she won an Oscar for it). Also stars Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.  

Last Christmas – I know, I know – why is this corny Christmas movie on my list. Well, it’s not a conventional one. The poster makes it look like a syrupy romantic comedy, but it’s more a take on the Scrooge story. It has a plot twist, which gives the film some depth. Great George Michael soundtrack too.


TV

Succession (Amazon) – A rare drama, where none of the characters are like-able. We see a family trying to side with or usurp the power of the Rupert Murdoch-style media mogul father. Addictive.

Schitt’s Creek (Netflix) – A gem of a comedy, where a rich family is forced to live in some backwater of a town after a financial scandal. Very funny.

Dave Chappelle: Sticks and Stones (Netflix) – Yet again, Chappelle makes my annual list. What I like about him is that he has no fear! He is unapologetic and he takes on any issue – the less PC the better seems to be his mantra. So, he talks race, gender, guns and more. You’ll be cringing and laughing at the same time.

The Boys (Amazon) – I couldn’t stop watching the 8-part season (surely season 2 will follow). This subverts the superhero genre by showing them as sleazy, fragile and corrupt. The plot revolves a group of regular people trying to bring the superheroes down.

SAS: Who Dares Wins (UK Channel 4) – There’s an American version of this show, but the British one is much better. High-performance members of the public are put through an elite military training. One by one they fall away until we are left with a few who vie to win. What you realise how much of the training is in the mind as much as the body.  

Prince Andrew and Epstein Scandal: The Newsnight Interview (BBC). Real life is stranger than fiction. Watching Prince Andrew trying to justify his friendship with convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, was like watching a car crash in slow motion. Yuk.


FOREIGN-LANGUAGE TV

The Inmate / El Recluso (Spanish, Netflix) – Mexican prison drama, where an American ex-military chap has to infiltrate a prison to find a kidnap victim. The prison contains a large cast of colourful characters. You feel for some who fawn for him, while others betray him. Shakespearean in some ways. It’s actually based on an Argentine show, El Marginal, which apparently is also very good.

Terrace House (Japanese, Netflix) – A reality show like you have never seen before. The set-up is standard – get a bunch of singles to live in a house and see who pairs up. But unlike Western versions which are full of drama, this Japanese show has a sweetness to it. Everyone is so polite and awkward with each other. Plus, their cooking will make you hungry. Refreshing!

Money Heist (Spanish, Netflix) – Excellent Spanish thriller. Season One/Two centers around a seemingly perfect robbery of a printing press. As the robbery proceeds, we get flashbacks and glimpses of the lives of each of the robbers. Season Three revolves around another more grand heist. Gripping, I’m addicted. By the way, watched it with subtitles, not the dubbed English voices

Kingdom (Korean, Netflix) – A medieval Korean zombie movie – need I say more. A great take on the zombie genre, but done in a very classy way with royal political intrigue at its core. Stunning cinematography. Binge-worthy.


FICTION BOOKS

A Visit From the Goon Squad (Jennifer Egan, 2011) – An excellent and very readable novel. It centers around a record producer and various people he is connected to – basically lots of flawed and troubled characters. The book jumps back and forward in time, that adds an interesting texture to the book.

The Invoice (Jonas Karlsson, 2011) – Kafka-esque novel, where the main character suddenly gets an invoice for the happiness he has experienced in life. It’ll make you appreciate life

Scoop (Evelyn Waugh, 1938) – A classic and very funny. William Boot gets mistaken for a competent journalist and gets picked up by a national newspaper. He gets an international assignment and stumbles into making the big scoops. One of the best takes on all the flaws of the media.

The Captain’s Verses (Pablo Neruda, 1952) – Reading the verses brought a big smile to my face. You can feel the passion he felt towards the love of his life. But he doesn’t just stay with the happy side of relationships, he touches on the darker moments too. The poems are worldly, exciting and heartbreaking. 


NON-FICTION BOOKS

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets (Svetlana Alexievich, 2017) – A very original book that tells the true stories of a diverse range of people who experienced the end of the Soviet Union. You learn about the fear of living in a totalitarian regime (everyone spies on everyone), but also the certainty it brought. This was in sharp contrast to the insecurity and freedom capitalism brought after the end of the Soviet Union.

Best. Movie. Year. Ever.: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen (Brian Raftery, 2019) – I loved this book. It highlights the best movies of 1999 from The Matrix to The Fight Club to The Sixth Sense. It also provides the context of the movies – so describes what was happening in the world at the time (Bill Clinton not convicted after being impeached, Y2K fears, Columbine High School massacre)

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It  (Chris Voss, 2017) – One of the best books on negotiation and by extension sales, I’ve ever read. After reading it, you feel like you’ve inducted into some secret circle of knowledge. Chris Voss was a top FBI hostage negotiator and he gives his top tips. I blogged on this too.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work (Jason Fried, 2018) – Fried, the founder of tech company Basecamp, is one of my guiding lights. He has a similar philosophy to me in terms of company culture. His tips for a start-up have been invaluable to me. His core view is to focus on making a profit rather than raising money from VCs and to work in a way that is healthy for personal life too.

Let me know what you think!

Bilal

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