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The 2019 Review: My Top 10 Film Picks of the Year

In a year that saw our beloved Avengers wrap up nearly two dozen films worth of narratives in one of the biggest spectacles seen in cinema, I saw a total of 75 movies at the theater. And throughout the past 365 days, these are the 10 that stood out, resonated, and moved me beyond words.

Well, actually, I do have some words...


1. PARASITE (99% RT Score) - Bong Joon-ho's pitch-perfect, meticulously detailed descent into nightmarish domesticity is more than a timely story satirizing class warfare. It's an absolutely absorbing and timeless tale that defies genre and demonstrates the writer-director's uncompromising clarity and vision.


2. US (93% RT Score) - Exponentially more ambitious than 2017's Get Out, Jordan Peele's big-themed, Easter-egg-filled horror show gleefully embraces its madness, sending us into a spiral that slyly comments on America's dark history while ingeniously servicing fans of 80s pop culture. Lupita Nyong'o (New York Film Critics Circle Aw…

The 2019 Review: My Top 10 TV Picks of the Year

Much like Marie Kondo's decluttering philosophy, I didn't want to let go of the following shows because they sparked so much joy (and other feelings) within me throughout 2019. These are the stories and characters I couldn't get enough of...


1. THE OTHER TWO (Comedy Central) - Easily the year's best new comedy, The Other Two is a wicked satire on social media-driven celeb culture, sharply crafted by executive producers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider and starring the wonderfully cast Drew Tarver and Helene York as struggling artists who must grapple with their 13-year-old brother's sudden rise to superstardom thanks to a viral music video. The delicious humor lies within the specificity of gags focused on targets like "Instagays" and Justin Theroux.


2. FLEABAG (Amazon Prime) - Emmy winner, creator, and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge topped herself with an encore round of her British comedy that no one thought was possible. Turning what was once a narrative gimm…

GLIMMER: The 2020 Winter Playlist

No one knows what the new decade will bring, but at least we can indulge in some new music to help us ease into what will hopefully be another Roaring Twenties.

Kicking off the new year is Dua Lipa with the neo-disco groove of "Don't Start Now," The Weeknd with his pulsating "Blinding Lights," an Ibiza-ready Celine Dion (see: "Flying On My Own"), and Harry Styles ("Watermelon Sugar") and Alanis Morissette ("Reasons I Drink") bringing us back down to Earth with some surprisingly good singles.

So once you've gotten over your champagne hangover, press play on these tracks while you focus on those resolutions you know you'll be breaking by February.

Enjoy:
@TheFirstEcho

25 Great Movies of the 2010s

This end-of-decade list was inevitable.

Out of the 712 films I've watched in theaters over the past ten years, here are the 25 that left an impact on me as well as most of the culture. I laughed, I cried, I felt my heart leap out of my chest. Since 2010, I had one helluva time at the movies.


1. Get Out (2017) - Jordan Peele's socially-conscious thriller is an instant classic, delivering frightful fan-service to genre aficionados while also crafting a resonating, philosophically rich story. The film is a definitive piece of Trump-era terror, arriving at a time when American culture started to question the status of its race relations and tapping into the primal fears of African-Americans, something rarely explored in mainstream entertainment. Star Daniel Kaluuya shines in one of the biggest breakout performances of the decade. Welcome to woke horror.


2. Weekend (2011) - One of the most heartbreaking and honest portrayals of modern romance, writer-director Andrew Haigh's inte…

Watch Me Compete with Celebrities on a Game Show!

FYI...

Before you stuff yourselves on Thanksgiving...you can watch me attempt to charm Meredith Vieira while competing for $10,000 with a few celebrities on 25 Words or Less!

That is, if you have a DVR...or live TV...

#TBT: Working on an TV Show Hated by The Right Wing

My series of throwback blogs continues, excavated from my personal archives. These were originally sent as e-mails to friends and family back home. Life updates from Los Angeles filled with humble brags made by an insufferable twentysomething...

Subject: Paradise Wasteland
Sent: July 27, 2005

"Los Angeles is a paradise wasteland." - Me.

The least photogenic city, yet the most photographed. A city that is full of both hope and hunger. Gorgeous palms frame boulevards of rundown mini-marts and hollowed buildings a decade long dead. Pretentious pretty people hardly mix with the indie-inclined artsies, but there is a shade of gray one may discover during a late night in Silver Lake where martinis and Miller Lites stand side by side on the same bar while Gucci and Target color-coordinate in a non-discriminatory display of fashion.

When you're up, you can't help but think of the possibilities and good fortune that may come your way. When you're down, you question your pot…

Song of the Month: October 2019

This month, I'm wondering who the hell is David Hodges because he is providing the vocals on "Waking Up With You," Armin van Buuren's latest single from his upcoming album, Balance.

But that's what Google is for... Turns out Hodges is a former band member of Evanescence (among other bands) and a pretty prolific songwriter from Arkansas, which would explain the slight country twang in his voice.

Anyway, I'm digging the song, which is a sonic departure from the EDM maestro. The lyrics are hitting a little too close to home for me...and I can't get enough of it.

@TheFirstEcho

Impeachment Souvenirs

I wonder how many of these I'd sell in a week... (Available in all sizes!)

Other copy includes: "Team Pelosi," "Proud Presidential Harrasser," and "Donald Dump."

@TheFirstEcho

There's A Town Named After Me That I Need To Visit

The full article, about Area 51 raiders filling up a small Nevada town, can be found here.

I mean, imagine all the Instagrams I could take there!

@TheFirstEcho

#TBT: Parties, Porn Stars, and Pilot Season

My series of throwback blogs continues, excavated from my personal archives. These were originally sent as e-mails to friends and family back home, life updates from Los Angeles filled with humble brags made by an insufferable twentysomething...

Subject: Diary of the Funemployed
Sent: June 8, 2005


"Don't you know the finest things in the world  are written on a empty stomach?" - Sunset Boulevard
May 2, 2005...

The Young Hollywood Awards. Again. Why oh why?

Someone should tell Lindsay Lohan that coke whore chic is so 2001.

On the other hand, Marcia Cross looked stunning. Eva Longoria is teeny (girl is a size 0). Jesse Metcalfe was a walking, talking Hollywood cliché (blazer, jeans, smirk and all). Ann Margaret looked...old (receiving a Trailblazer award). Dennis Quaid brushed against my shoulder. Chris Evans brought his posse from Boston. Gwen Stefani showed up without Gavin. Aisha Tyler was our host for a third time, but it wasn't the charm; her witty retorts while intro…

SAVOIR FAIRE: The 2019 Fall Playlist

From the looks of the above cover I quickly designed, you'd think this was a country album. Far from it.
My latest seasonal playlist has a few surprises up its cardigan sleeves: a new track from Alessia Cara that's unlike anything she's ever put out ("October"), the latest from my favorite 2000s band, Keane ("Love Too Much"), a jam from Armin Van Buuren that resonates more than it should ("Waking Up With You"), and plenty of retro synth pop to keep you pining for the 80s.
Grab your maple scones and turn up the volume, kids.
@TheFirstEcho

Song of the Month: September 2019

For the first time ever, my Song of the Month isn't some hot, new track from an up-and-coming artist. It isn't even a track featured on my playlist for the 2019 fall season.

I'm going back to 2006 and revisiting one of my favorite bands of all-time, Keane.

"A Bad Dream" is taken from the group's fantastic sophomore album, Under The Iron Sea, and 13 years later, it holds up beautifully. The melancholy tune is lifted by frontman Tom Chaplin's dreamy vocals, accompanied by distorted pianos and soothing synths.

It's the perfect song to keep on rotation while we transition into autumn. It's also capturing my current mood, thanks to some recent semi-heartache. Simply put: le sigh.

@TheFirstEcho

60 Great Songs of the 2010s

Where did this decade go?

Seriously, I'd like to know. Because it seems like yesterday I was looking forward to turning (gulp) 30, blaring Katy Perry's "California Gurls" in my Prius, and planning to take my first-ever cross-country road trip that would spark my side hustle as a travel writer.

How did we get here? Well, I have one theory: we survived the 2010s by listening to great music. And below is a playlist of my top picks -- in chronological order of release from 2010 to 2019 -- of the outstanding tracks that personally helped shape the last ten years. Some are well-known no-brainers, while others are less familiar songs that you should know and love.

@TheFirstEcho

The Sounds (and Silence) of Horror: A Discussion with the Genre's Top Film Composers

Last month at Comic-Con, I slightly geeked out having had the pleasure of chatting with some of the hardest-working film composers in horror: Michael Abels (Get OutUs), Chris Young (Pet SemataryThe Grudge), Carl Thiel (Machete KillsFrom Dusk Til Dawn: The Series), and Nick Soole (The Head Hunter). They sat down with me before taking to the stage for a panel to discuss the scores from some of the biggest horror movies of the past two decades.

Together we pulled back the curtain and revealed how they create some of the world’s most frightening film music. Check it out here.

@TheFirstEcho

Martinis, 'Metroid,' and Matthew Lillard

My series of throwback blogs continues, excavated from my personal archives. These were originally sent as e-mails to friends and family back home, #humblebrag-filled life updates from Los Angeles. And looking back, I think I want to slap my 22-year-old self...

Sent: Saturday, November 23, 2002

Hola amigos,

Long time, no e-mail, yes? Well, my L.A. journey continues...

WHERE I'M AT: Starbucks. (Also temping through the Friedman Agency; did at gig at New Regency on the Fox lot.) The Starbucks crew is really cool and friendly. My managers are taking me out to a comedy show on Sunset tomorrow night.

WHAT'S BEEN UP: I interviewed to be an assistant on a new UPN reality show called Supermodel. Tyra Banks is one of the producers. I was in the running to be a production assistant and then an executive assistant to the producers, but then I never got a call back. Meanwhile My Big Loud Greek Family doesn't start production until next month...that is, if I get chosen to be a PA on the…

That Time I Worked With Shirtless Werewolves (and a Future Bravolebrity)

In the fall of 2010 I had the insane (and exhausting) pleasure of working with my friend, Michael Medico, on a project for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Our sixth collaboration involved producing a flash mob-like experience and an accompanying digital video that promoted the DVD/Blu-ray release of Vampires Suck, the comedy spoofing the Twilight franchise as well as other pop culture trends at the time.

The project involved a day of rehearsal at a studio in the sketchy warehouse district of Los Angeles, followed by a day of shooting these performances at five locations throughout the city. The dance number was a recreation of one of the movie's scenes in which a group of shirtless werewolves (in human form) break out into a choreographed routine set to "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls (naturally).

The first performance took place on a Sunday morning at San Marino's Colonial Kitchen, a quaint suburban diner where we gave the post-church crowd a servi…

Song of the Month: August 2019

That bass drop. That chorus! And that simple yet effective choreo...

My song of the month is Sam Smith's "How Do You Sleep?", and its accompanying music video is my current obsession (So far, I've contributed to 15 of its current 52 million views). My only complaint is that the tune ends too abruptly. And according to several reactions on YouTube, I'm not alone in this. IMHO (In My Hiko Opinion), an additional thirty seconds would've produced a more satisfying experience. But still...

Directed by Grant Singer, the video is a surprisingly sexy and stylish collection of subtle visuals in which our crooner has fully embraced his sensual side. He's the most comfortable he's ever been in his own skin, and it shows in these mesmerizing three-and-a-half minutes.


For a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of this video, go here.

@TheFirstEcho

#TBT: Romancing the Silverstone

I'm kicking off a series of throwback blogs that I've dug up from my personal archives. These were originally sent as e-mails to friends and family back home, life updates from Los Angeles filled with an insane amount of humble brags only a naive twentysomething could be capable of...


Sent: Tuesday, May 4, 2004

"We're going to see Super-Size Me this weekend," Alicia told me. "You should come."

Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the movie. "I'll be in San Francisco," I told her, trying to suppress my migraine. "But we should do something else with Molly soon."

Did I just turn down an invite from the star of 1995's Clueless and 1993's The Crush?? You betcha.

I had congratulated Ms. Silverstone on receiving the Young Veteran Award as we mingled among the hotness that was the Young Hollywood Awards afterparty at Spider Club. I soon made my way to the bar for a Coconut Bay Breezer after chatting with Alicia's boyfrien…