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The 100 Best Moments in Culture in 2019, Pt. 2

An exhaustive ranking of everything good that has happened in film, TV, celebrity news, and memedom this year

Welcome to The Ringer’s 100 Best Moments in Culture in 2019 So Far, an exhaustive ranking of everything good that has happened this year in film, TV, celebrity news, and memedom. This is a list that seeks to capture the tiny moments that made a giant impact—the things from the first half of this year that brought us immense joy, that made us feel alive, and that will live on in our hearts and minds for years to come. Over the next week we’ll unveil our favorite moments, putting them in context, reminiscing on their importance, all while counting down to the best moment of the year. The first six months of 2019 have been a long, content-filled journey; now that we’re on the other side of it, it’s time to celebrate. (Click here to check out Part 1 of the list.)

75. Alita’s giant eyes in Alita: Battle Angel (February 14)

Mose Bergmann: When the first trailer dropped, the world got a glimpse of what James Cameron had been cooking up over the near 20-year development process of the movie. The world saw that he and director Robert Rodriguez fully committed and got weird with it. With a reported budget of $170 million, my gut tells me they spent at least half on the mocap technology required to transform lead actress Rosa Salazar into a misproportioned, cartoony version of herself, more accurate to the original Gunnam manga character.

I love weird, and I love that the studio deemed it absolutely necessary to spend a stupid amount of money just to throw their lead into the deep end of the uncanny valley. Those eyes, man. The more I saw Alita, in trailers, on buses, on billboards, the more I became entranced by her big beautiful blinders. Alita stared, unblinking, right into my soul with her big eyes, and it was shocking. I didn’t know how to respond to all these new and exciting emotions I was feeling, so I made some memes about it.

View at your own risk.

74. The 20th anniversary of The Sopranos, and the rebirth of Sopranos discourse (January 10)

73. Leonard, the older single man, on Dating Around (February 14)

Donnie Kwak: The first season of Netflix’s glossy dating show featured six wildly different single people, but only one could be the consensus favorite: 70-something Leonard, a widowed private investigator who used to pop LSD, owns a 1,900-square-foot crib in Nolita, and tells baffling frog jokes. Comfortable in his own skin, direct in what he wants, and absent of ulterior motive, Leonard was a refreshingly new kind of reality dating contestant. As a dinner companion to his five prospects, he was exemplary: an attentive, patient listener; tactful yet lighthearted; and never once tempted by his phone. Septuagenarians, I guess they’re not just like us. Until the end, that is, because it sucks to reject someone who’s into you, no matter how old you are. Right, Leonard?

72. Carly Rae Jepsen interpolates Harry Nilsson’s Popeye song on “Everything He Needs” (May 17)

Lindsay Zoladz: Maybe “Call Me Maybe” was just Olive Oyl-Popeye fanfic all along?

71. Adam Driver in a convertible Smart car in The Dead Don’t Die (June 14)

70. Cliff Wife (May 23)

Kate Halliwell: Whether we like it or not, the era of the Wife Guy is upon us. Curvy Wife Guy may have made another play for relevance in 2019, but so far, this year belongs to Cliff Wife Guy. In late May, YouTuber Shaun McBride tweeted (and deleted), “i watched my wife fall off a cliff … you’re whole world can change in a matter of seconds. mine almost did. a good reminder to be grateful for every moment of it. the good and the bad. the happy and the sad. because you’re here.” With the tweet came a video; a timeless, instantly iconic record of the traumatic incident that befell McBride and his wife, Jenny. Skip to the 8-minute mark for The Fall:

With the utmost respect to Jenny, the internet immediately had some things to say. “My Wife Tumbled Off A Knoll,” replied one Twitter user. From there, it quickly spiraled slightly out of control.

Good news for Cliff Wife Guy: If he wants to go the Curvy Wife Guy route and release a song based on his brief infamy, there’s plenty of material here to work with.

69. Sharon Van Etten’s music video for “Seventeen” (January 8)

Lindsay Zoladz: Though Van Etten is no stranger to airing private feelings in public, the knowledge that “Seventeen” was finally out in the world had, just before we met up, brought her to tears. The video serves as a kind of scrapbook of the places from Van Etten’s past, some of it set in the house she grew up in, the state park where she worked as a teenager, and, after a turbulent early adulthood and an eventual move to New York, the rock clubs she’d haunt on the Lower East Side. All the while, an actress playing a younger version of herself follows Van Etten around like a sneering but sympathetic shadow. “I found while revisiting these places how they’ve changed, how they haven’t changed, how some are built up, some are run down,” she says. [Originally published January 15]

68. The New York Times’s savage obituary of Lee Radziwill (February 16)

67. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle introduce Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor (May 6)

Katie Baker: Being part of the royal family is kind of like having the whole world as your mother-in-law, parsing every word, decision, and empire waist for hidden meaning. So when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex introduced baby Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor on May 8, two days after his birth, it was repeatedly framed as a “break from tradition.” For one thing, the baby was not promptly presented from England’s version of Pride Rock: the steps of the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital. (After Duchess Kate delivered baby Louis in 2018, she was out there smiling in a sleek red dress in a brisk 7 hours.) Instead Harry delivered a charming solo announcement that was complete with head-asplode hands, the assurance that “this is definitely my first birth,” and the obligatory Everyparent pronouncement of being “over the moon.”

A couple of days later, it was Harry holding the baby for photographers, another break from tradition, as Meghan stood by, looking beautiful and exhausted. (See? What a mother-in-law thing to say.) The new mom was lauded for choosing a dress that sought to celebrate, rather than hide, the realities of her postpartum figure—or as the British tabs like to call it, “mummy tummy”—though many seemed to forget that three babies ago, Kate did pretty much the same thing.

But there was one break from tradition that soared above all the others: a truly lovely photo of Young Archie, one of the only multiracial royal babies in British history, meeting his beaming great-grandmum Her Royal Highness the Queen (oh, and Philip too) as Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, looked on. It was a calming, tender antidote to all the usual takes and clucks from royal observers, this image featuring some actual in-laws.

66. Maren Morris’s “Girl” (January 18)

Rob Harvilla: Girl’s title track and lead single, a guitar-driven slow burn that dodges simplistic self-empowerment bromides and chases something a little sharper and more personal, is partially about her desire to avoid copying or even competing with anyone else: “Draw your comparisons / Tryin’ to find who’s lesser-than / I don’t wanna wear your crown / There’s enough to go around.”

“It did scare me for a second,” Morris says of the song, “because the guitars on it are so rock and a little aggressive that, even to me, emotional as that song is, I second-guessed myself for the tiniest second, because I stupidly thought, ‘Does this sound like anything else?’ And then I realized, ‘No, idiot, you don’t want it to.’ So, yeah, I definitely have those moments, but if it scares me, I feel like it’s probably worth doing.” [March 6]

65. The return of Jai Paul (June 1)

Lindsay Zoladz: In April 2013, a collection of songs leaked that seemed to be the highly anticipated debut album by the enigmatic London R&B artist Jai Paul. Up until that point, Paul had officially released only two songs—the glitchy, menacing “BTSTU” and the hiccuping slow jam “Jasmine”—but they were unique and hypnotic enough to make plenty of listeners psyched for whatever he was cooking up next. The leak, then, was an embarrassment of riches: Sixteen melodic, sample-heavy, itchily-internet-brained songs that made good on the promise of his first two releases and announced him as a kind of chopped-and-screwed Frank Ocean. The only problem? They weren’t actually done yet, and having his creations leaked into the world before they had his blessing made the already press-shy Paul recede even farther from the glare of the music industry’s spotlight. After six long years of silence, though, Jai Paul finally reemerged with a lengthy note to fans explaining the emotional toll this all had taken on him and—even better—two worth-the-wait new tracks, “He” and “Do You Love Her Now.” It was a promising return, and perhaps a tease of even more music to come. Paul is such a forward-thinking artist that even after more than half a decade away, his songs still sound like the future.

64. Jake Gyllenhaal makes a correction on pronunciation: “It’s melancholy, Dan” (January 29)

63. SpongeBob SquarePants actually makes an appearance at the Super Bowl (February 3)

Micah Peters: The show seemed to follow a kind of order and logic up until Travis Scott was grafted onto it, with a SpongeBob meme. The tribute to the late Stephen Hillenburg was a Twitter joke and then a petition, and finally a small clip from “Sweet Victory” beckoned an asteroid to center stage. Out popped Travis Scott from a ball of fire, performing his half of “Sicko Mode,” without the help of Auto-Tune. The entrance was undeniably cool. Adam Levine dancing all up in the close shot was not.

[February 3]

62. The triumphant return of Jenny Lewis (March 22)

Lindsay Zoladz: On the Line is classic Jenny, but set in the sort of gilded, antique frame you might find in a West Coast thrift shop. These songs have a they-sure-don’t-make-’em-like-this-anymore quality, even when they’re referencing such modern inventions as Paxil, chemtrails, and Candy Crush. All throughout, there are the elegant flourishes of a seasoned and confident songwriter. “You think you’re going to heaven, and I am going to hell,” she sings during the first pre-chorus of “Heads Gonna Roll”; by the third verse, she’s filled in the scene enough to convincingly reverse the order of their destinations. One of the best songs, “Wasted Youth,” has a Carly Simon swagger about it, though a few more notches toward acidic on the pH scale. “I wasted my youth, on a poppy, just for fun, and everybody knows,” she croons, channeling both her mother’s negligence and her own pursuit of a good time, tacking on a few eerie do-do-do-do-dos just for fun. You thought “You’re So Vain” was juicy because it’s about a celebrity? Imagine if Carly Simon wrote it about her mother! [March 28]

61. The Lonely Island inexplicably releases an extended visual poem about José Canseco and Mark McGwire (May 23)

Miles Surrey: What is The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience actually like? Presumably it’s what Buster Olney’s mind would look like after ingesting ayahuasca. The primary influences are Beyoncé’s Lemonade—like Bey’s own “visual album,” the actual songs from the Lonely Island are available to stream online—and Terrence Malick. You don’t know you need Samberg-as-Canseco saying, “Where do the animals go when the soil has run dry? Where will we hide from the sun when all the trees are dead?” interwoven with meditative shots of a forest until you see it. [May 23]

60. The engagement of Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez (March 9)

Katie Baker: “She said yes,” the former major league shortstop wrote as a caption to an image of a disembodied hand ostensibly belonging to Lopez. (She shared the same image on her own feed, with a string of red heart emoji.) It was a ring meant to turn its broad face toward the light, a gemological seven-bladed-razor arms race of a bauble, with a size and shape usually more at home in the part of a museum where a former murderous tsarina’s treasures are featured. Mike Francesa, the local New York sports radio host sometimes described in papal terms, blessed the ring on Twitter. It was a ring befitting not just one Leo, but two.

View this post on Instagram

Locking it down. #futuremrsrodriguez

A post shared by Alex Rodriguez (@arod) on

[March 12]

59. Long Shot’s little moments (May 3)

Michael Baumann: Even contemporary escapism is depressing—Game of Thrones ended in regicide and a pile of ash, Chernobyl showed us a teenager shooting irradiated puppies, and even Avengers: Endgame grappled with the aftermath of cosmic annihilation and killed off some of our most beloved superheroes.

Long Shot, by contrast, was so delightful and sweet as to be entirely restorative, but also laced with enough ejaculate jokes and Andy Serkis–as-Crypto–Rupert Murdoch to keep it from being saccharine. Its strength was in the little moments that caused its leads to grow closer, from Flarsky (Seth Rogen) and Charlotte’s (Charlize Theron) frenzied flirtation in the basement of a besieged hotel to their slow dance in a room next door to a major diplomatic function to Seth Rogen being conned into showing up for a state dinner dressed like Rumpelstiltskin.

Some of the best little moments—i.e., Theron’s secretary of state defanging the neo–Gary Powers Incident while off her face on Molly—didn’t, strictly speaking, have anything to do with the love story, but Long Shot understood that falling in love isn’t really about hot people making grand gestures. It’s about the weird little moments that reveal the truth about a person, and draw two people closer together.

58. Mr. Ratburn’s wedding on Arthur (May 13)

57. Tierra Whack launches Whack History Month (February 19)

Tyler Tynes: How are we only a year removed from our planet’s initial expedition to Whack World? Soon after landing there it became clear that it’d be naive to assume there was a limit to Tierra Whack’s talent. It is inherent in her being, after all. North Philly is known to create conquerors. After she made one of 2018’s standout projects, the first half of 2019 found Whack moving at an immeasurable pace. She is an indefatigable defender of her own right to pummel us over the head with unique flows and freestyles atop classic beats and quirky sounds. She croons on “Only Child,” elongating each consonant into its own special harmony. She bounces between piano strikes at a frenetic pace on “Unemployed.” She points out her imitators on “Clones” in whimsical fashion, while burying her former self, the younger “Dizzle Dizz” who infatuated Philadelphians years ago with the same type of lyrical flurries.

Our mutual pride in the city that created us is not the only reason Whack has ascended to a favorite on every playlist I create. Her bars pierce with the vigor of a cornrowed Meek Mill. Her lyrical versatility brings the joy of Eve on a Ruff Ryder beat in 1999. Her singsong moments remind of Jazmine Sullivan bops and Musiq Soulchild hymns. She is the embodiment of so many generations of Philadelphia soul, forced into a cocoon and reborn as a non-conforming virtuoso while clad in animal prints and big bamboos.

56. Kathryn Hahn looks at Rachel Weisz (January 28)

55. The satisfying, full-circle ending of Veep (May 12)

Alison Herman: As much as Veep altered itself over the years, however, its core messaging remained consistent. Selina’s bedrock was never ideology, but the unshakable conviction that she deserved to be president, and that any failure to accomplish her goals necessarily fell to someone else. The most haunting moment of the finale comes after Selina has already sold her soul several times over. From her new perch of power, she echoes one of the show’s most iconic lines: “The level of incompetence in this office is st…” She trails off, realizing that the office she’s referring to is the Oval she’s spent decades fighting her way into. In its clear-eyed portrait of an oblivious elite, Veep maintained the kind of principled stance Selina Meyer never could. [May 13]

54. The emergence of Tilda Swinton’s daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne, in The Souvenir (May 17)

Adam Nayman: Obviously, Byrne matches up well in scenes with her real-life mother, but she also gives a major performance that makes Julie’s almost grateful sense of paralysis in Anthony’s presence lucid. The very particular contradiction between intelligence and instinct, between knowing better and not acting on it, exists at the center of Julie’s character, and the fine-grained gradations in Byrne’s acting, as in a wonderfully pitched scene where the pair first share a bed, trading chaste put-ons, are what make the material work. [June 10]

53. The rise of Lizzo (January 4)

Rob Harvilla: Listen, we all have our own personal favorite moment from the singer/rapper/flutist Lizzo’s bonkers performance of her breakout single “Juice” on Ellen back in January. This is a given. You are entitled, certainly, to your own opinion.

Maybe you revel in the delirious middle-school pageantry of it all. (Lizzo starts off backstage, singing, “Mirror, mirror on the wall / Don’t say it ’cause I know I’m cute” and gazing into two sparkly, purple handheld mirrors other people are holding.) Perhaps you are a connoisseur of stupendously awkward interactions between Ellen’s reliably brash musical guests and Ellen’s reliably stiff studio audience. (“The juice ain’t worth the squeeze if the juice don’t look like this,” Lizzo declares, twerking her way down the third row.) Most likely it’s just the thrill of hearing that supernova chorus—“Juice” is the best pure pop song of 2019 to date, with a wedding-funk exuberance worthy of Bruno Mars—electrify so many unsuspecting and stiffly delighted humans. (The chorus’s most important line, which I just noticed on my 300th listen, is “I’m the pudding in the proof.”)

Or, if you’re like me, you just really love the flute solo.

[April 19]

52. The Dothraki flames are extinguished at the onset of the Battle of Winterfell (April 28)

51. Desus and Mero ascend—and mention Taylor Swift’s “long back” (April 30)


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