Top 10: The inaugural Hamilton awards

Happy Monday and Happy Second-to-Last Day of the Year and Decade. Welcome back to Jacob’s Letter, a free pop culture newsletter full of puns and occasionally badly-PhotoShopped dog photos.

Nova would not throw away her shot

Instead of doing a typical Top 10 list for movies or music or books this year, I decided to do something a little different. I still have yet to see a lot of highly-regarded movies (if you want my rankings of everything I’ve seen so far, click here), and my new music listening taste this year consisted of me finding like two new albums I listened to over and over and then finding a bunch of old Pearl Jam bootlegs to listen to.

So the following list is a Top 10 blanket grouping of some of my favorite things all year: My first-ever Hamilton Awards. This list covers everything from books to movies to music and everything in between in no particular order.

I’m taking a break after this newsletter, but I’ll be back on Jan. 20. In the meantime, reply to this email with your favorite things from 2019!

Enjoy, and Happy New Year!


My 10 Favorite Things of 2019

jane the virgin list GIF

“The Righteous Gemstones”

I love that it makes fun of religious hypocrisy without ever being condescending to its characters or its audience. And “Misbehavin’” is a jam that deserves to be on more Top 10 Lists for 2019. Read my review here.

“Pinkville,” Rod Melancon

I stumbled upon this album after finding a review of it online that described it as “a record rooted in the swagger of 80’s heartland rock, the honest truth outlaw country, and the restless troubadour spirit of the best Texas singer-songwriters.” This is one of those two albums I listened to over and over again this year (the other being Jason Hawk Harris’ “Love & the Dark”). This is scuzzy, swampy country rock at its best.

Listen to it here.

“I Think You Should Leave” and “Black Lady Sketch Show”

Two very different takes on comedy and the absurdities of everyday life. “I Think You Should Leave” is on Netflix and “Black Lady Sketch Show” is on HBO. See the following sketches to get a taste of each one’s worldview:

“Luigi’s Mansion” for the Nintendo Switch

I played a lot of great video games this year. This one is still the most fun.

“Moonface”

I binged all six episodes of this podcast with Taylor on the way home from New Mexico last month. I still think about the final episode and its deft exploration of empathy and understanding.

Movies about class warfare

The theme for 2019 in film was class structure: Who has the power, what will people go through to obtain it, and who gets left behind? Movies like “High Flying Bird,” “Us,” “Parasite,” “Ready or Not,” “Knives Out,” “Hustlers,” “Midsommar,” “Long Shot,” and even “The Lighthouse” all dealt in some way or another with warring haves and have nots. And every single one of the above films is worth your time.

Essay and short story collections

By far, the genre I read the most of this year was essays/short stories/poems. Some of the best ones I read:

  • “Trick Mirror,” Jia Tolentino

  • “A Christmas Memory,” Truman Capote

  • “Full Throttle” and “20th Century Ghosts,” Joe Hill

  • “A Fortune For Your Disaster,” Hanif Abdurraqib

  • “Someone Who Will Love You in all Your Damaged Glory,” Raphael Bob-Waksberg

  • “I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution,” Emily Nussbaum

  • “The Fire Next Time,” James Baldwin

  • “Felicity,” Mary Oliver

  • “Interior States,” Meghan O’Geiblyn

Wild Rose and its soundtrack

This movie about a Scottish singer who just wants to make it big in Nashville is the best exploration and celebration of country music the genre has seen in a long time, and its soundtrack is one of my favorite country albums of the year. Go find this movie at a Redbox or stream it on Hulu, please. Read my review here.

Really long movies

From “Avengers: Endgame” to “The Irishman” to “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood” to “It: Chapter Two” to “The Goldfinch” to “Midsommar,” movies in 2019 weren’t messing around when it came to long running times. Personally, I liked it; I appreciate when a movie takes the right amount of length to tell its story. That could mean a nice 90-minute thrill ride, or it could mean a 3.5-hour sprawling epic about grief and regret. I enjoyed getting to see movies this year that enveloped me whole.

“Booksmart”

Every generation gets its own “Breakfast Club”; I’m just jealous Gen Z got “Booksmart,” with all of its empathy and heart.


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This newsletter is written by me and edited by my favorite person, Taylor Tompkins. Views expressed here are my own and don’t reflect the opinions of my employer, yadda yadda yadda.

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