A woman in front of a red display

By Jared Free

It’s been a wild year in entertainment. Game of Thrones finally came to an end, but with its legacy, ultimately its bitter and disappointed fans. Avengers Endgame became the highest grossing film of all time, cementing Marvel – and by extension, Disney – as the most powerful entertainment company in the world. Several of pop’s most ubiquitous stars released career defining projects, from Lana Del Rey to Ariana Grande. There’s a wealth of lovely and unique things to pick as favorites from this year. I’ve whittled down my list to five here.

  1. The Criterion Channel. Cinephiles of every type were disappointed when Warner Brothers announced that FilmStruck, a lovely collaboration between the Criterion Channel and Turner Classic Movies, would be shuttered ahead of Warner Brother’s unified streaming service. Thankfully, we weren’t put out for long, as the Criterion Channel launched earlier this year. A fascinating curated selection of incredible movies from all eras and areas of the globe, it’s the only essential streaming service I’ve experienced yet.
  2. Bong Joon Ho has been a favorite director of mine for about a decade, but he’s truly outdone himself here. Politically astute without sacrificing a single ounce of entertainment value, this twisty thriller is the movie of the year — and possibly the decade.
  3. Yes, she is indeed the queen. The first of two movie tie-in albums she released this year is a testament to black girl magic, the black college experience, and Beyonce’s own unwavering professionalism and performance standards.
  4. SuperM’s US Debut. Although the news of SM and Capitol Record’s Avengers of K-pop team was initially met with a lukewarm reception, the infectious chemistry of the members and stunning stages have won over even the most cynical of fans (like myself). I can’t say that I wouldn’t rather have a Taemin US debut or tour, but SuperM is a gift that keeps on giving.
  5. The Mandalorian. I’m not exactly the biggest fan of the Walt Disney Company. In my view, most of the brands that they’ve absorbed ultimately suffer for it as their unique and interesting voices are steamrolled into innocuous corporate shill. I’ve been especially disappointed with the (apparent lack of) direction the latest Star Wars films have taken, but the Mandalorian has won me back over. It’s been decades since I felt that quintessential space opera magic, but the Mandalorian is fresh and exciting while still feeling like the Star Wars that I grew up with.

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Jared Free