Skip to main content
Move the World.
Freethink Staff Picks: Best of 2019

Lead images by Route55, Sema_Srinouljan, Mlke, Tarasov_vl / Adobe Stock, Stefan Erhard / Netflix, Rich Polk / Getty Images.

Well, it's finally near: those precious few moments or hours or even days wherein the holiday season finally offers up a chance to breathe — and to gorge yourself on your media of choice (beyond us, of course).

Your Freethink team not only consists of media producers; we're consumers as well. We're well-read (mostly), have musical instincts worthy of the most discerning teen, watch movies 'til our blood becomes popcorn "butter," are as comfortable streaming as water itself, and will hop on the sticks to play anyone: any game, any console.

Here's a few of the things we enjoyed in 2019. If you haven't checked these out, now's the time to play catch-up on all the fantastic movies, shows, books, and games of the past year.

A Guide on Moving the World

Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration

Dan Bier, Senior Editor
Image via (link: https://www.amazon.com/Open-Borders-Science-Ethics-Immigration/dp/1250316960 text: Amazon).

Image via Amazon.

Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration is tour de force about — literally — moving the world. The book by Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith gives a scientifically, philosophically, factually rigorous argument about the most contentious topic in global politics right now, through the unique medium of a nonfiction graphic novel. Whether you agree with the political argument or not, the format itself is an amazing accomplishment. It's funny and readable, even though it's explaining incredibly complex ideas. It is a landmark achievement in the normally dull world of educational books and political commentary.


Your Private Award Season Screening

Parasite

Vicky Chao, Multimedia Designer & Editor
Image via (link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6751668/ text: IMDb).

Image via IMDb.

Bong Joon-ho's Parasite tells the story of a basement-dwelling lower-class family of grifters that manages to infiltrate the home of a much wealthier family by replacing their employees one by one. The film is a classic Bong subversion of genres — it's part comedy, part thriller, part horror, part drama. And similar to some of his other films, Parasite masterfully works in criticisms of larger relevant social issues like class inequality, climate change, and cultural appropriation, all while maintaining a sense of humor against a beautifully and meticulously shot metropolitan South Korean backdrop. Parasite ends with a series of explosive twists that sets into motion some of the most unexpectedly thoughtful storytelling I've seen this year. It's a true flex of Bong's skills to be able to so carefully cushion his social criticism with his distinct dark humor so the film still feels digestible, but this ultimately cautionary tale will still give you mental fodder to chew on for months after.


Seeking a Thrill?

Dark

Alex Rubenstein, Video Editor
Image via (link: https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Cycle-Original-Music-Netflix/dp/B07T6C5DLP text: Amazon).

Image via Amazon.

"Dark" Season 2 is an original series on Netflix. It is the platform's first ever German-language show which makes it clear that intriguing writing coupled with great cinematography, music, and sound design can make a second season even harder to stop watching than the first.

"Dark" is about a small rural town confronted with a series of mysterious disappearance that unravels into an unpredictable, shockingly mind-blowing, and, dare I say it, dark series of events that takes its characters on a strange journey to unknown places. And also it will make you question the very perception of time and space and the cyclical nature of the universe...you know, some light viewing material. I cannot recommend it enough.



A Show Fit For a Queen

The Crown

Teresa Carey, Senior Writer
Image via (link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4786824/ text: IMDb).

Image via IMDb.

With a new baby in my life, 2019 didn't provide much opportunity for soaking in pop culture. I'll admit, aside from books like Mrs. Mustard's Baby Faces, and So Many Feet by Nichole Mara, I didn't read a single book from beginning to end. But, as toddlers love repetition, I did get to take a deep dive into our favorite kid's books. And it is the deep dives that I love.

This year, I did discover The Crown. I'm now up to the beginning of Season 3. Don't tell me what happens!

The Crown shows the intimate life of Queen Elizabeth and the challenges she faces and she rules over a troubled family and complex nation. Aside from the entertaining history lesson, what I like most about The Crown is its refreshingly slow pace. It's the pace of real life. There are no cliffhangers designed to compel you to watch the next episode immediately — cliffhangers that promise an amazing reveal, but most often fail to deliver. Binge-watching fatigue is real. It stifles the opportunity to really get into the character's head. You need time between episodes to avoid information overload and process what you just saw.

But, with The Crown, I'm perfectly satisfied with one episode and don't feel tempted to watch more. My evening isn't wasted sitting on the couch and I continue to enjoy the story as I mull it over for the next few days or weeks before I sit down to enjoy it again. The pace is perfect for watching slowly. Plus, as a journalist with a science beat, I need to brush up on history.


Don't Call It A Game

F1 2019

B. David Zarley, Senior Writer
Image via (link: http://www.codemasters.com/game/f1-2019/ text: Codemasters).

Image via Codemasters.

Codemaster's F1 2019 is my absolute favorite thing this year. The cars feel nothing like the rides in any other racing game. They cling to corners as sinew does bone, accelerate as if smashing particles, and rend time and space on the straights. Inside that digital monocoque, I feel it all. Anger, frustration, elation, the laughably cruel realities of racing; F1 2019 is the most immersive experience I've ever had playing a game. When played in first person, the impression of speed is lung-flattening. The fear of fatal mistakes is sublime, palpable and razor-close to real. It. Is. The. Best.

Up Next

Memory
Reminiscence Therapy Is Helping Seniors at “Dementia Villages”
Reminiscence Therapy
Memory
Reminiscence Therapy Is Helping Seniors at “Dementia Villages”
At a growing number of “dementia villages,” staff members use reminiscence therapy to help seniors return to a time when they felt happy and safe.

At a growing number of “dementia villages,” staff members use reminiscence therapy to help seniors return to a time when they felt happy and safe.

Music
Chance the Rapper is Bringing Music Back to Chicago Schools
Chance the Rapper is Bringing Music Back to Chicago Schools
Music
Chance the Rapper is Bringing Music Back to Chicago Schools
On the far South Side of Chicago, as far south as you can get — a traffic light away from neighboring Riverdale —...

On the far South Side of Chicago, as far south as you can get — a traffic light away from neighboring Riverdale — the Ira F. Aldridge Elementary School is offering its students something rare in the forever-strapped Chicago public school system: opportunity. With a grant from Chance the Rapper's charity SocialWorks, the school can now offer a more robust music program, ensuring an instrument in every student's hands. "I...

Catalysts
This Urban Farm in Dallas Grows Financial and Social Opportunities for Residents
This Urban Farm in Dallas Grows Financial and Social Opportunities for Residents
Catalysts
This Urban Farm in Dallas Grows Financial and Social Opportunities for Residents
A once impoverished and isolated neighborhood in South Dallas is now flourishing thanks to Bonton Farms.

A once impoverished and isolated neighborhood in South Dallas is now flourishing thanks to Bonton Farms.

Catalysts
A School Made for Homeless Children
A School Made for Homeless Children
Watch Now
Catalysts
A School Made for Homeless Children
When a child faces chaos at home, it's impossible to learn. This school is doing whatever it takes to help homeless students and their families create better lives.
Watch Now

When you think of homelessness, you typically don't picture homeless children. However, every year, approximately 2.5 million children experience homelessness. Homeless children can't learn when they don't know where their next meal is coming from, or what is waiting for them at home. They often struggle in public schools where they feel out of place, or unable to keep up because they've missed schooling in the past....

The Sound of Science
This Musician Transforms Scientific Data Into Elaborate Melodies
This Musician Transforms Scientific Data Into Elaborate Melodies
The Sound of Science
This Musician Transforms Scientific Data Into Elaborate Melodies
When we convert complex data into sound and listen to it, quite often what emerges is something we can understand through sound, even though we could never understand it visually.

If you think staring at rows of numbers and graphs seems humdrum, these musicians agree. They are on a mission to expose new scientific information through sound, by turning flat datasets into musical scores --- creating the soundtrack for science: Listen to Mark Ballora’s sonification of singularity with flutes and electronics: Jenni Evans first met Mark Ballora at a Penn State social gathering. Both were professors at...

Social Change
Should We Legalize Gangs?
Should We Legalize Gangs?
Social Change
Should We Legalize Gangs?
Gangs are a major cause of violence and organized crime. Here’s why countries should think twice before trying to...

Gangs are a major cause of violence and organized crime. Here’s why countries should think twice before trying to smash them.

Wrong
Did the Food Pyramid Make Us Fat?
Did the Food Pyramid Make Us Fat?
Watch Now
Wrong
Did the Food Pyramid Make Us Fat?
To address rising health problems in the 1980s, scientists and policymakers developed the US Food Pyramid to...
Watch Now

To address rising health problems in the 1980s, scientists and policymakers developed the US Food Pyramid to encourage healthy eating. But despite a massive public education campaign, obesity and diabetes continued to rise. What happened? How did we get it so… wrong?

Crossing the Divide
Americans Are Divided. These People Are Doing Something About It.
Americans Are Divided. These People Are Doing Something About It.
Crossing the Divide
Americans Are Divided. These People Are Doing Something About It.
Amidst our most intense religious, political, and cultural conflicts, there are people around the country who are...
By Dan Hayes

Amidst our most intense religious, political, and cultural conflicts, there are people around the country who are working tirelessly to forge connections

Rise
The Untold Story of Rio’s Largest Favela
The Untold Story of Rio’s Largest Favela
Rise
The Untold Story of Rio’s Largest Favela
Meet the proud, hopeful, ambitious people determined to build the life they’ve dreamed of.
By Michael O'Shea

Meet the proud, hopeful, ambitious people determined to build the life they’ve dreamed of.