We always refer to him as “NASA” because well, before someone else copped the name after he did, NASA was the producer/engineer everyone knew or knew of in underground circles. He is noted for his work on a number of Def Jux releases back in the early 2000s, before he eventually founded his own label Uncommon Records in 2004. With a complete DIY aesthetic, NASA has done things his own way, booking his own tours, recording/producing his albums, allowing a natural and progressive growth. The past few years have seen album releases like Halfway (prod. Black Tokyo), Autonomy Music, Written At Night, and this year’s astonishing City As School (prod. Kount Fif). Also known as a connoisseur of fine IPAs, he’s settled in with home entertainment (i.e. movies, series, etc.) NASA gives us his own Best of 2019 for the small screen. – Diego Flores
2019 was my first full year as a “chord cutter”. I finally won the debate with my wife and convinced her that Roku was the way to go after being abused by Verizon for too many years. It’s pretty amazing the amount of content you can get from that tiny box, a lot of it being free. I’m all about content creators getting paid for what they do, but I’m also not about the content and pricing that gets jammed down our throats sometimes. So I made this list of 10 pieces of content I got from my little Roku box, most of which I think has some artistic merit for the film snob inside all of us.
10 – Unicorn Store (Netflix)
Netflix was smart with the casting and timing of this movie. It stars Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson and came out right after the two starred in Captain Marvel together. Captain Marvel is among 5 or 6 Marvel films that I actually stand behind as good movies, so I was ready to see them again over the Spring. This movie is really trippy, it makes you think about art and how it intersects with happiness, mental health, and imagination. Great job from Mamoudou Athie as well, apparently all three of those stars met in that horrible looking King Kong movie from a few years back. Brie Larson is really talented and apparently Directed and Co-Produced this as well. I went in with medium to low expectations and was really impressed. Definitely worth checking.
9 – It’s Bruno! (Netflix)
Another Netflix deep dive here, It’s Bruno! is a New York City-based comedy series about a man and his dog. I don’t even like dogs, but the stories central character Malcolm loves him in an overtly comedic obsessive way. He and his puggle are just trying to get on, but neighborhood rivals and crazed ex-girlfriends keep trying to sabotage and/or steal his dog away. The series is composed of 8 pretty short episodes that can be binged in one sitting. It’s one of the more creative comedies I’ve seen in a while, even for dog haters like me.
8 – Mayans M.C. [Season 2] (FX via Sling)
The follow up to the iconic, Sons of Anarchy series. Mayans M.C. finds writer Kurt Sutter working with a far more diverse cast and crew including co-writer Elgin James. Sure, there’s a little bit of a guilty pleasure aspect to watching this show, but it’s certainly more socially relevant than SOA was and also far less overtly misogynistic as well. Season 1 was more of a “happy to get some more continuity on the SOA timeline” introduction, but Season 2 really stepped into its own. The evolution of Emilio Rivera’s on-going Alvarez character (who began in SOA) is great to see. There are some other standouts as well, like Richard Cabral as Coco, but all around I’m really starting to think Mayans M.C. is already a better show in 2 seasons than Sons of Anarchy was in 7.
7 – Kumiko the Treasure Hunter (Kanopy)
Kanopy is a great service if you can get it. It’s a free streaming service made available via membership in a public library. The service carries highly acclaimed films and documentaries, it was actually the first service where I was able to see Moonlight for example. Unfortunately, the New York Public Library ceased participation with the service during the Summer, which is absolute BS. But before they did I managed to see a few indie films, one of them being Kumiko the Treasure Hunter. This movie is about a Japanese office worker who becomes obsessed with the ending of the American film, Fargo. She convinces herself that the buried treasure in the movie’s ending is real and that sets her off on a very strange journey. What more do I have to say about it than that? It’s the best feature is the interaction between her (speaking only in Japanese) interacting with English speakers that do not understand her words, but think they understand her actions. I’ve never seen a film where large portions are being translated in subtitles and then you also have people speaking in English in other sections of the same film as much as this one does. It’s a trip for you as the viewer.
6 – Yardie (Amazon Prime)
Idris Elba directed this film about a young man from Jamaica during the height of the reggae boom in the late 70’s and early 80’s and the journey that lead him to the UK during that same time period. Obviously a journey like that takes him down the road of sound system culture, but also a crime-ridden path as well. If you love reggae and coming of age stories the way I do, then you’ll love Yardie. Characters like Sticks (played by Calvin Demba who was also strong in the highly suggested Nico 1988), King Fox (played by Sheldon Shepherd) and Rico (played by Stephen Graham) are incredibly memorable along with the star Aml Ameen’s portrayal of D. It’s a dope movie, sit down and watch it in spite of Rotten Tomatoes.
5 – The Twilight Zone [New Series, Season 1] (CBS All Access)
To be real about it, I only paid for CBS All Access while this series was running and have no interest in anything else on the service. People that know me or my music know how much the work of Rod Serling and his series The Twilight Zone, inspire and influence me. What I appreciated most about this new series is Jordan Peele and crew all seemed to really give that deference to Rod and his work with deep respect every step of the way, unlike the 80’s and 00’s revivals which thought they could actually improve upon his genius. All in all, it was appointment television for me week after week, but there were certainly some big swings and big misses in this mix of 10 episodes. My personal favorites were the debut, The Comedian, and Six Degrees of Freedom, although I continue to have moments from Point of Origin live inside my brain more and more. I think these are coming out on Bluray if you don’t want to pay for the service just to watch them.
4 – mid90’s (Kanopy)
Say what you want about Jonah Hill, he knows how to tell a coming of age story about youth growing up in the mid90’s that connects with grown men that were youths growing up in the mid90’s. This is more of a skating film then it is a hip-hop film, but hip-hop plays a large role in the lives of the kids and the soundtrack of the film itself. The dialog and interactions were extremely authentic to the time period and I respect the fact that a bunch of millennial kids (some of which were acting in their first or second film) were able to put in the work to make it so. Since it was shot on SD, I was truly transported back to the mid90’s and when the movie ended, the time warp caught up with me. I was pretty blown away by the fact that the movie was released in 2019 and starred a lot of guys that weren’t even born yet. I guess that’s part of what happens when you get older as a viewer, haha.
3 – Mr. Robot [Season 4] (USA Networks via Sling)
Mr. Robot is one of my favorite shows of all time. It’s probably my favorite on-going series to come on in the last 2 decades. Season 4 is the final season, as writer Sam Esmail has long been talking about it winding down here. It all worked out as Rami Malek is now an international superstar and Oscar winner (ironically for a pretty awful movie in my opinion). As I write this, the season is still taking place. I’d be lying if I said that thus far it was the series’ best work, it’s not. But even when Mr. Robot isn’t at it’s peak it’s better then 90% of everything else and for it’s first 3 seasons it gets a high placement on this countdown. If you haven’t seen it, ask no one about it, because each season is packed full of spoilers, just start binging it in anyway available to you from Season 1.
2 – Mr. Inbetween [Season 2] (FX via Sling)
Mr. Inbetween is a series produced in Australia that somehow gets played on FX in the States. It’s created and co-produced by its lead actor, Scott Ryan who plays Ray Shoesmith. A professional hitman who is also helping co-raise his pre-teen daughter post-divorce. It’s a dark comedy, that has high moments of laughter paired with very high moments of intense violence. Season 1 was a bit artsy, composed of very quick vignettes that were largely unconnected in any sort of deep continuity. Season 2 stepped it up into a full-fledged tv series with continuity from episode 1 to the end of it. The season finale is about as sad, but well acted as television can get. I can’t speak highly enough about it, I’d suggest trying to catch it in FX re-runs, but to try and watch them in order for the best context. You can also catch Damon Herriman in this series who plays a shady club owner and Ray’s boss, he played American redneck, Dewey Crowe in FX’ Justified back in the day, a drastically different character.
1 – Russian Doll [Season 1] (Netflix)
Russian Doll is pure genius, this is the kind of show that if you don’t like it, we can’t truly be friends. Or if we are friends, we just want talk about film or tv ever. It’s one of the most creative ideas I’ve ever seen executed. This fits a line on my list that I didn’t realize when I began, of actor created projects, as it was co-created by Natasha Lyonne who also starred, co-directed, co-produced as well. Like “It’s Bruno!”, it’s a New York City-centric Netflix series, this time taking place in my stomping grounds of the East Village. I connected with this show on many levels, from the dialogue, outlook, and vibes of the characters. Natasha Lyonne as Nadia Vulvokov is one of the simply coolest characters I’ve seen. This show also taught me about how great an album, Nillsson Schmillsson is, as it’s “Gotta Get Up” is a bit of a theme to this film, I eventually used it as my phone’s alarm clock sound for about 6 months. This show took over my brain for about that amount of time, it’s probably the only continuous series that I want to go back to and watch again that Netflix has ever produced. I’m cautiously optimistic about Season 2, but Season 1 is so tidy it gives me some pause. That’s to the shows credit though, so check this out, it was the best thing you could stream in 2019.
Listen to the Uncommon Nasa release produced by Kount Fif City As School (Man Bites Dog Records) here: