A&E’s Best and Worst of 2019

We asked our staff to pick their favorite and least favorite media from the entertainment world in 2019. Below are their picks. First, the best…

Good Omens

Miniseries

Ollie Gratzinger, Editor-in-Chief

 

The on-screen adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 dark comedy novel Good Omens came to Amazon Prime Video on May 31. Chronicling the exploits of an unlikely duo — angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and demon Crowley (David Tennant) — Good Omens is all about self-determinism and defying expectations.

With Armageddon just days away, Aziraphale and Crowley privately decide they aren’t quite ready for the world to end, and Adam (Sam Taylor), the young antichrist tasked with bringing it about, would really rather just play in the woods with his friends. With Frances McDormand’s narration as the voice of God, the show retains the comedic voices of Pratchett and Gaiman, all while reinventing itself for a 21st-century audience; a diverse cast and a modern romance supplement the original storyline and plot, making Good Omens an all-around good watch.

 

Metro Exodus

Video Game

Joseph Phillippi,  Staff Writer

 

Metro Exodus is the third installment in the Metro video game series, inspired by the Metro book series written by Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was released on Feb. 15, and is an absolute achievement in the art of video games and media in general. The gameplay has been refined to a degree where the story and game blend together seamlessly, culminating in the richest and most fulfilling gameplay experience I have had to date. This is likely because the direction it has gone is the best possible evolution for the Metro game series, going from the perspective of a boy trying to save his home station to a man trying to find a home for his family.

The characters are more organic than ever, with each and every member of the crew getting a chance to speak and a chance for you to learn about them. Artyom, the protagonist, is utilized just as well. The main cast having such depth makes the world seem to be more alive than ever. Even in unsavory places such as bandit camps, there are guitars and musical instruments you can give to your train-bound family. One of my personal favorite moments is when Artyom sits with his Spartan brother Stepan and they play the guitar. It takes my breath away every time. I have no complaints for Exodus other than not showing Artyom’s face. An absolute masterpiece that everyone should experience.

 

Euphoria, Season 1

Television Series

Sean Armstrong, Staff Writer

 

When I saw the trailer for Euphoria, I instantly knew I wanted to see it because the cinematography was gripping. I anticipated it having a sub-par story, but the way the videography team used lighting manages to contrast the darkest parts of the frame with some of the brightest shades of color on the spectrum. The sharp contrast conveys disharmony and is what drew me in. This visual representation is a fantastic clue to what the show is about. A bunch of teenagers getting into reckless situations is a classic American story, but how the plot focused on fleshing out every character is what makes the show exceptional. Couple that with the lighting techniques the staff use, and this show is a unique spectacle.

While some of the things depicted on the show are blown out of proportion and exaggerated, many of the circumstances these teens find themselves in, are issues that should not be ignored. I know plenty of parents found the show shocking, and some people even claimed that this generation of teenagers is less reckless than previous generations. Yet Euphoria shows the dark side of what can happen to some otherwise mostly good kids when they are exposed to toxic living conditions. While some of those toxic conditions were almost entirely unavoidable, like Rue’s father dying from cancer ,giving her access to painkillers at a young age, it also shows the humanity in the people that are often dismissed by society.

 

10,000 Hours

Dan + Shay, Justin Bieber

Song

Kellen Stepler, Features Editor

 

I probably wouldn’t have believed you if you would have told me that I would like a country song with Justin Bieber in it, but here we are. I’m not a big fan of the Biebs, but his voice gels with Dan + Shay and the song has a fun, flowy nature to it. I’m not alone with liking this song, as it reached no. 1 on the country chart in October.

 

Us

Film

Hallie Lauer, News Editor

 

Us was the best movie I saw in 2019, and honestly, maybe 2018 as well. Jordan Peele is a genius, and I spent days after watching  it reading critical analyses of the movie. It is so uncommon for a thriller to be this engaging — most these days rely heavily on jump scares to keep the audience going, but not Us.
With a great cast and a great original horror story, I can’t praise this movie enough. I am eagerly awaiting Peele’s next film.

 

Pittsburgh

Frank Santoro

Graphic Novel

Sean Armstrong, Staff Writer

 

 Pittsburgh has been active in the comic book scene for years, with both the Comics Salon and Comics Workbook. Frank Santoro has always been in the discussion as part of the best comic book artists in the city, but with his autobiographical comic Pittsburgh, he may have reached new heights. Pittsburgh tells a story that may seem eerily familiar to those who grew up in the area. The story centers on a close-knit family struggling for money with generational trauma that manifests in various ways such as alcoholism.

This comic has a drawing style that likely did not look pretty until photocopied for print. Some drawings were so good that it would not be unthinkable that Santoro sketched over a photograph, specifically in the faces of his family members. The art style is unconventional and the storyline is anything but neat, jumping around from memory to memory without any sort of mind for pacing. Yet, there is something so raw about it that compels you to finish the book. I cannot speak to everyone from Pittsburgh, but I can say that Santoro, despite being a few decades older than me, captures a Pittsburgh that I find familiar even though so much has changed in the time between our childhoods. Something about his book, for me, feels exactly like how I picture Pittsburgh: oddly compelling and community-oriented, but lacking opportunity.

 

The Office! A Musical Parody

Musical Theatre

Griffin Sendek, Photo Editor

 

The Office! A Musical Parody tour at the Byham was by far the worst piece of theater I saw in the entirety of 2019. Going in, I was not anticipating to be utterly enamoured, but I was hopeful for  at the very least for a night of a few laughs. My expectations were absolutely too high. The Office! A Musical Parody, was written for those whose lives cycle around watching and endlessly re-watching The Office. Rather than  being a celebration of what the show was, this musical decided to cram the entire nine seasons of television into a two-hour performance, a poor choice that resulted in a ruthlessly unfunny piece of theater.

 

No. 6 Collaborations Project

Ed Sheeran

Album

Katia Faroun,  Staff Writer

 

While Ed Sheeran certainly makes his music difficult to complain about, let alone be called some of the worst of the year, I would say that his July release of No.6 Collaborations Project was more a disappointment than anything else. Fans of his humble and raw tone that centers around his guitar, loop pedal and voice surely opposed the record’s heavy incorporation of Top-40-friendly beats and tracks. While the collaboration with various pop artists allowed Sheeran to expand his fanbase by reaching those of vocalists such as Cardi B, Justin Bieber and Camila Cabello, this decision sacrificed the originality of his music, exchanging it for a mundane pop album. Thankfully, his authentic and poetic lyrics didn’t take a huge hit during this fourth album (minus the less-than-creative “South of the Border”), but this eagerly-awaited album was more of a let down than a welcomed treat.

The Politician

Season 1

Television Series

Hallie Lauer, News Editor

 

I could only watch one episode of this show. I was under the impression it was about a political race for the presidency, which it sort of is — if you’re talking about the high school class president. One of the many reasons I was confused about this is because Ben Platt plays the main character. Platt looks young, but he’s 26 and definitely looks 26, not 17. It is also just so odd. I couldn’t handle the characters and how they relate to each other. Somehow it got approved for a second season, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

The Big Day

Chance the Rapper

Album

Sean Armstrong, Staff Writer

 

Chance the Rapper released some good songs in 2019 — like his guest verses on “LSD” by Jamila Woods, but his album The Big Day was a big flop. It lacked direction, it was pandering to what Chance thought his fans wanted, but it lacked vision. The tracks sound forced together and the promotion he did with Lyft on the release weekend of the album was in bad taste. I respect Chance for creating the blueprint for new revenue avenues so artists can support themselves, but I cannot support whatever the concept was for this album.

The album was pure and utter garbage. His tracks were technically well produced and sounded fine, but it lacked the emotion that has made Chance popular throughout his career. Chance was clearly capable of creating something better, but for some reason, he just didn’t produce on The Big Day.  Maybe the Chicago rapper should focus more on the art and less on the promotion in the future now that he has a name for himself.

Antrum

Film

Joseph Phillippi, Staff Writer

 

This was one of the most disappointing movies I have ever seen, and no, that is not an exaggeration. My disappointment mainly stems from the hype that surrounded this film prior to its release. The tagline for the film was, “the deadliest movie ever made,” and there were promotional videos in a documentary style surrounding the film and its fictional history. No snippets of the film were shown at any time during these documentary style trailers in a clever method of building hype. The issue therein lies from its inability to deliver on hype. When a movie claims to be the “deadliest film ever made,” I would hope that it could deliver on that, at least marginally, and it barely did. There was exactly one scene that actually creeped me out somewhat, and that feeling decided to run for the hills to never return for the duration of the movie.

The movie feels as though it was holding back in terms of its ability to do something meaningful to the characters. The advertisement and premise of this movie are absolutely genius and it fails to deliver on being any amount of horrifying or meaningful. The two leads never elicit any emotion from me despite the hardship they go through, nor does the movie itself. I legitimately, could not bring myself to care at any point, and when you make a horror movie, I feel as though that is a crucial step. Antrum is an absolute disappointment, and I would not recommend it.

 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

John Legend, Kelly Clarkson

Song

Kellen Stepler, Features Editor

 

Christmas time brings gifts, friends and reviewing the so-called controversial song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Whether you think the original is creepy or not, one thing we can all agree on is that we did not need an updated, “woke” version by John Legend and Kelly Clarkson. Don’t get me wrong, I like John and Kelly and think they are very talented artists, but this song just missed the mark in so many ways. Especially when Kelly sings about getting another drink, and John responds with the lyrics, “It’s your body and your choice.” If you were going to change the lyrics that much, just create a new song.

And now, the Duke’s picks for the worst of 2019.

The Office! A Musical Parody

Musical Theatre

Griffin Sendek, Photo Editor

 The Office! A Musical Parody tour at the Byham was by far the worst piece of theater I saw in the entirety of 2019. Going in, I was not anticipating to be utterly enamoured, but I was hopeful for at the very least for a night of a few laughs. My expectations were absolutely too high. The Office! A Musical Parody, was written for those whose lives cycle around watching and endlessly re-watching The Office. Rather than being a celebration of what the show was, this musical decided to cram the entire nine seasons of television into a two-hour performance, a poor choice that resulted in a ruthlessly unfunny piece of theater.

No. 6 Collaborations Project

Ed Sheeran

Album

Katia Faroun, Staff Writer

While Ed Sheeran certainly makes his music difficult to complain about, let alone be called some of the worst of the year, I would say that his July release of No.6 Collaborations Project was more a disappointment than anything else. Fans of his humble and raw tone that centers around his guitar, loop pedal and voice surely opposed the record’s heavy incorporation of Top-40-friendly beats and tracks. While the collaboration with various pop artists allowed Sheeran to expand his fanbase by reaching those of vocalists such as Cardi B, Justin Bieber and Camila Cabello, this decision sacrificed the originality of his music, exchanging it for a mundane pop album. Thankfully, his authentic and poetic lyrics didn’t take a huge hit during this fourth album (minus the less-than-creative “South of the Border”), but this eagerly-awaited album was more of a let down than a welcomed treat.

The Politician

Season 1

Television Series

Hallie Lauer, News Editor

I could only watch one episode of this show. I was under the impression it was about a political race for the presidency, which it sort of is — if you’re talking about the high school class president. One of the many reasons I was confused about this is because Ben Platt plays the main character. Platt looks young, but he’s 26 and definitely looks 26, not 17. It is also just so odd. I couldn’t handle the characters and how they relate to each other. Somehow it got approved for a second season, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

The Big Day

Chance the Rapper

Album

Sean Armstrong, Staff Writer

Chance the Rapper released some good songs in 2019 — like his guest verses on “LSD” by Jamila Woods, but his album The Big Day was a big flop. It lacked direction, it was pandering to what Chance thought his fans wanted, but it lacked vision. The tracks sound forced together and the promotion he did with Lyft on the release weekend of the album was in bad taste. I respect Chance for creating the blueprint for new revenue avenues so artists can support themselves, but I cannot support whatever the concept was for this album.
The album was pure and utter garbage. His tracks were technically well produced and sounded fine, but it lacked the emotion that has made Chance popular throughout his career. Chance was clearly capable of creating something better, but for some reason, he just didn’t produce on The Big Day. Maybe the Chicago rapper should focus more on the art and less on the promotion in the future now that he has a name for himself.

Antrum

Film

Joseph Phillippi, Staff Writer

This was one of the most disappointing movies I have ever seen, and no, that is not an exaggeration. My disappointment mainly stems from the hype that surrounded this film prior to its release. The tagline for the film was, “the deadliest movie ever made,” and there were promotional videos in a documentary style surrounding the film and its fictional history. No snippets of the film were shown at anytime during these documentary style trailers in a clever method of building hype. The issue therein lies from its inability to deliver on hype. When a movie claims to be the “deadliest film ever made,” I would hope that it could deliver on that, at least marginally, and it barely did. There was exactly one scene that actually creeped me out somewhat, and that feeling decided to run for the hills to never return for the duration of the movie.
The movie feels as though it was holding back in terms of its ability to do something meaningful to the characters. The advertisement and premise of this movie are absolutely genius and it fails to deliver on being any amount of horrifying or meaningful. The two leads never elicit any emotion from me despite the hardship they go through, nor does the movie itself. I legitimately, could not bring myself to care at any point, and when you make a horror movie, I feel as though that is a crucial step. Antrum is an absolute disappointment, and I would not recommend it.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

John Legend, Kelly Clarkson

Song

Kellen Stepler, Features Editor

Christmas time brings gifts, friends and reviewing the so-called controversial song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Whether you think the original is creepy or not, one thing we can all agree on is that we did not need an updated, “woke” version by John Legend and Kelly Clarkson. Don’t get me wrong, I like John and Kelly and think they are very talented artists, but this song just missed the mark in so many ways. Especially when Kelly sings about getting another drink, and John responds with the lyrics, “It’s your body and your choice.” If you were going to change the lyrics that much, just create a new song.

 

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