This is my Top 25 Movies of 2019 list (along with a second opinion from Liz and Eric Sweeney). Please keep in mind that this list is highly subjective and may have a few dumb movies on it. Even then, there are still a handful of movies that I haven’t gotten around to seeing yet (especially: Little Women, Ford vs Ferrari, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Honey Boy, 1917, Won’t You Be My Neighbor). Also, this year’s favorite movies are in video countdown form if that’s your preferred manner of taking in best of lists.
I love Bong Joon-ho. There are few working directors whose films I look forward to more than Bong’s weird, offbeat outings. Parasite, a culmination of talents he’s honed over two decades of work, is his best film to date. A sharp, biting class critique, that is equal parts funny, surprising, and jarringly violent at times. It’s also his most accessible film to date, brought about by timely subject material and a first act that is far more welcoming than its bleak back half. I could rant for hours about how great this movie is, but I’ll keep it simple. Parasite is an easy #1 for me this year. It lives up to the hype and then some. This is a genre master at his peak. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “All unemployed, Ki-taek’s family takes peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks for their livelihood until they get entangled in an unexpected incident.”
Best Scene: Peach Fight
Hot Take: Parasite will win Best Picture at the Oscars and is one of the best movies of the decade
Watch This If You Like: Us, Shoplifters, The Host, The Handmaiden
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
2. Jojo Rabbit
JoJo Rabbit is bound to be divisive. It’s a Hitler satire, which means it won’t please those who see no value in bufooning history’s monsters. Even so, I’m surprised at just how split critics are on Taika Waititi’s sixth directorial effort (its 58 metacritic score especially). It may not have world shattering insight into the atrocities of the Third Reich, but there are useful lessons of tolerance here. There’s nothing in its 108 minute runtime that feels particularly irresponsible or distasteful. And I don’t think it’s safe (can a Hitler satire even be safe?) or inconsequential as some have argued. Are there missteps? Sure, but you can’t really operate in half measures with a film like this. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s heartbreaking. It’s why we go to the movies. Don’t listen to the naysayers, Taika is still on a roll. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “A young boy in Hitler’s army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.”
Best Scene: Beatlemania
Hot Take: This movie is actively being marginalized because it makes Disney uncomfortable
Watch This If You Like: The Great Dictator, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Moone Boy, Life is Beautiful, Wes Anderson vibes
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
3. Avengers: Endgame
Endgame doesn’t supplant Infinity War as Marvel’s all-time best, but it does provide a satisfying conclusion to the company’s third phase, acquitting the two main staples of the franchise with relative care and consideration. In doing so, it addresses the lingering criticisms against Tony Stark and Steve Rogers (criticisms they fielded against each other), in that Tony is selfish and Steve is bottled beefcake. Sure, the movie sags a bit in the middle while it searches for an overarching tone, but to stick the landing after ten years of cinematic build up, now that’s something special. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to reverse Thanos’ actions and restore balance to the universe.”
Best Scene: Avengers Assemble
Hot Take: Black Widow deserved better
Watch This If You Like: Infinity War, Time Travel Heist Comedies
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
4. Marriage Story
I tend to hate Noah Baumbach movies. I often refer to him as Wes Anderson without the whimsy, but for whatever reason, Marriage Story works for me. It’s surprisingly humane considering the subject matter, has likable characters (something I think is lacking in his prior movies for any role not played by Greta Gerwig), and results in a bit of an acting clinic, with Driver and Johansson acting their asses off at every turn. Nice to see one time Aberdeen staple Lucas Neff pop up in the film too. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “Noah Baumbach’s incisive and compassionate look at a marriage breaking up and a family staying together.”
Best Scene: I don’t know how to start
Hot Take: Baumbach’s all-time best
Watch This If You Like: Heartbreak
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
5. Last Black Man in San Fransisco
This year’s best art house indie is a haunting meditation on gentrification, masculinity, and shared grief. The first ten minutes of this movie are just so transcendent. They hum with life and vibrancy in a way that most studio films could only hope to achieve with their bloated budgets and overstuffed plots. The film as a whole is a beautifully constructed surrealistic work, born of a successful kickstarter campaign and two friends’ (director Joe Talbot and star Jimmie Fails) semi-autobiographical experience growing up in an evolving and suddenly unfamiliar San Francisco. This one is special. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “A young man searches for home in the changing city that seems to have left him behind.”
Best Scene: This is our home
Hot Take: Best Cinematography of the year
Watch This If You Like: Terrance Malik, Bay Area stories, Art house lookers, Blindspotting
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
6. The Lighthouse
Part Promethean fable, part Melville farce, part chiaroscuro Lovecraftian horror, all mixed together with director Robert Eggers’ potent blend of moody fever dreams. Right out of the gate, this is not for everyone. This is a weird movie. Like very weird. But it’s also not the pretentious nonsense that some would fear from a 4:3 ratio’d black and white movie. It’s easily one of Willem Dafoe’s best roles as surly senior lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake, and it also quietly affirms the notion that Robert Pattison is a better actor than people give him credit for (see: Good Time). And like any provocative work of art, it also produces vastly different takes on what the movie is actually about. Again, it’s weird, but it’s my kind of weird. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “The hypnotic and hallucinatory tale of two lighthouse keepers on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.”
Best Scene: “You don’t like my cooking?”
Hot Take: A secret backdoor ‘Annihilation’ Prequel?
Watch This If You Like: The Witch, The Shining, Herzog movies
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
7. Wild Rose
How Jessie Buckley is this talented and still relatively unknown in Hollywood (she was also great this year in ‘Chernobyl’ as Lyudmilla Ignatenko, the firefighter’s wife) is beyond me. If you wanted a counterpart to Lady Gaga’s dual threat performance in last year’s ‘A Star is Born’, this is it. Buckley won’t be nominated for anything, but it’d be criminal if she wasn’t a bigger deal in a few years (she’ll be in Fargo Season 4 in 2020). Also, the film’s banger of a closing song was written by Mary Steenburgen (yes, that Mary Steenburgen), who after a routine operation years ago awoke with a new sonically trained mind and has been trying to make it as a songwriter herself. That in itself could be a movie, but instead we’re treated to this toe-tapping tale about a Scottish woman’s dream to make it big in Nashville. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “A troubled young Glaswegian woman dreams of becoming a Nashville country star.”
Best Scene: Road to Glasgow
Hot Take: More raw and humane than ‘A Star is Born’
Watch This If You Like: A Star is Born, Subtitling Scottish Accents, Nashville
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
8. The Farewell
The Farewell resists the desire to manufacture unnecessary drama in favor of earning genuine sentiment and moments of real human connection. As a result, the film might not wow you due to its lack of big dramatic swings, but Wang’s thoughtful script will stay with you long after the credits have rolled. I think the best description of the film I’ve heard is that it’s, “Culturally specific, but universally resonant.” Awkwafina also turns in a wonderfully subdued performance, proving she’s a legit star beyond her scene stealing support roles of the last few years. This is a hug your family special, through and through. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “A Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies.”
Best Scene: The Farewell
Hot Take: A quiet masterpiece
Watch This If You Like: Kore-eda movies, Yasujirô Ozu movies, Calling to check up on your parents
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
I’ve never been a huge fan of Superbad, so it goes without saying that I thought this was a better movie than Superbad. I truly believe Beanie Feldstein has dethroned her real life sibling Jonah Hill for the coming of age high school movie throne. Aside from that, it’s also a really promising directorial debut from Olivia Wilde, contains a pitch perfect soundtrack, a scene stealing turn by Billie Lourd and should finally propel Kaitlyn Dever into proper breakout status (something that has been long overdue for her work on Justified, Short Term 12, etc). And this film’s ending? Perfection. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night.”
Best Scene: “Want to get pancakes?”
Hot Take: Better than Superbad
Watch This If You Like: Superbad, Bridesmaids, Edge of Seventeen
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
10. Knives Out
Knives Out continues Rian Johnson’s genre subversion trend, producing a pseudo murder mystery where the mystery is mostly solved within the first thirty minutes, leading to an almost tongue and cheek deconstruction of whodunnits over the final two acts. It also happens to be loads of fun, boasts a perfect ensemble cast, and has a surprising amount of social commentary sprinkled throughout. I would definitely watch more entries in the detective Benoit Blanc series if that’s what Daniel Craig favored for his post Bond career. May all his future cases be solved with donut hole metaphors. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family.”
Best Scene: Donut Hole within the Donut Hole
Hot Take: The Best Contemporary Murder Mystery?
Watch This If You Like: Clue, Murder on the Orient Express, Brick
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
11. Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker
I heard someone call Rise of the Skywalker “risk adverse”, which I think is fair. Every time they appear to make a gutsy decision, they roll it back seconds later, undercutting any punch the event might have once had. The story is undeniably a bit of a mess and the deeply troubling marginalization of Rose Tico’s character signals a sad concession to the toxic faction of Star Wars fandom. Despite all that, I still managed to enjoy the film. Abrams’ movies may only be as good as the scripts he’s working with, but he’s a skillful executioner of flash and verve, and that doesn’t change here. Driver and Ridley are standouts in the film, with Driver’s arc concluding in a particularly satisfying fashion. Star Wars will always be an important franchise to me, so it’s hard to not see the good in a deeply flawed film. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.”
Best Scene: “Hey, kid.”
Hot Take: Rose deserved better
Watch This If You Like: The Force Awakens, Hot messes
Rotten Tomatoes: 55%
12. Toy Story 4
Toy Story 3 is still a superior movie, but I would argue that the fourth entry generates the most laughs of the franchise, all while still providing some poignant moments and observant life lessons in tow. And I mean, Tony Hale as Forky is animation perfection. What more do you want? (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “When a new toy called “Forky” joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.”
Best Scene: Stealing the keys
Hot Take: The funniest movie of the year
Watch This If You Like: Toy Stories, Dook KaBoom, Canadian Daredevils
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
13. I Am Mother
This is the type of sci-fi movie that would have gotten better viewership if Netflix didn’t churn out so many shitty Netflix Sci-fi Originals. I Am Mother may not be ground breakingly original sci-fi, but it is well made low budget filmmaking with great practical effects and a tight story. Also, like Booksmart, I think it has a perfect ending. From that ice cold closing scene with Hillary Swank to its twisty final revelations, I Am Mother is top notch sci-fi. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “In the wake of humanity’s extinction, a teenage girl is raised by a robot designed to repopulate the earth. But their unique bond is threatened when an inexplicable stranger arrives with alarming news.”
Best Scene: “Did you think you survived all this time on your own?”
Hot Take: The best straight Sci-Fi movie of the year
Watch This If You Like: Oblivion, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Moon
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
14. Uncut Gems
Uncut Gems is basically Space Jam 2 as presented by Martin Scorsese, which is reason enough to watch it. The Safdie Brothers certainly have a style that is owed to the aforementioned Scorsese, but unlike Todd Phillips’ recent Joker movie, they have a defined stamp on the Scorsese style that doesn’t feel like pure imitation. I think I like Good Time slightly more in terms of Safdie grimeball masterpieces, but Uncut Gems is compelling, kinetic, edge of your seat filmmaking. And credit to the Sandman for an ego free performance as self-sabotaging diamond jeweler Howard Ratner. He’s as good as the hype suggests.
Synopsis (via imdb): “A charismatic New York City jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score, makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime. Howard must perform a precarious high-wire act, balancing business, family, and encroaching adversaries on all sides, in his relentless pursuit of the ultimate win.”
Best Scene: “This is how I win.”
Hot Take: Sandler’s best performance, trumping Punch Drunk and Meyerowitz Stories
Watch This If You Like: Good Time, Space Jam for adults, Kevin Garnett
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
15. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Brad Pitt’s troubled stuntman Cliff Booth is a fascinatingly problematic enigma. He’s magnetic, but toxic, with shades of Robert Wagner mixed in, leaving a character you don’t know what to do with. But I suppose that’s what Tarantino excels at, crafting compelling, but morally gray characters. Overall, the movie’s pacing mirrors that of Jackie Brown’s, which I actually like, resulting in a meandering revisionist retelling of the fateful Manson family attack on August 8, 1969.
Synopsis (via imdb): “A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.”
Best Scene: Home Invasion
Hot Take: Tarantino’s Best Movie since Jackie Brown?
Watch This If You Like: Jackie Brown, Flamethrowers
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
16. Deadwood: The Movie
The Deadwood movie is a perfect conclusion to HBO’s long limbo’d western series. Creator David Milch provides a fitting sendoff for most of the series favorites (Charlie Utter deserved better, but oh well), all while tackling his own his fears about declining health and a changing world. The result is an unnecessary, but skillfully executed epilogue for this cult favorite show. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “As the residents of Deadwood gather to commemorate Dakota’s statehood in 1889, saloon owner Al Swearengen and Marshal Seth Bullock clash with Senator George Hearst.”
Best Scene: “I’m Coming For You Marshall.”
Hot Take: One of HBO’s best endings/epilogues
Watch This If You Like: Cussing, Malaria, Old-Timey dancing in the thoroughfare
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
17. The Peanut Butter Falcon
I think it’s time to acknowledge that despite his controversial off-screen antics, Shia Lebouf is a magnetic screen presence. Shia is once again a force as Tyler, the film’s tortured soul and on the run crab fisherman, but it’s really newcomer Zack Gottsagen that steals the show with next level comic timing and a hugely endearing performance. If you need a pick me up, this movie will do just fine. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “Zak runs away from his care home to make his dream of becoming a wrestler come true.”
Best Scene: You’re not invited to my birthday party
Hot Take: The sweetest movie of the year
Watch This If You Like: Mark Twain, Mud, Wrestling
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
18. Dolemite Is My Name
Crass, vulgar, but also surprisingly sweet at times, Dolemite marks Eddie Murphy’s return to form. Part Ed Wood/Disaster Artist filmmaking farce and part blaxploitation homage, mark DIMN down as one of the year’s most pleasant surprises. Even Wesley Snipes seems to have discovered his groove, playing along with the film’s silly antics as actor/director D’Urville Martin. If you want some vintage Eddie Murphy in the modern era, this is it. Welcome back, Eddie. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “Eddie Murphy portrays real-life legend Rudy Ray Moore, a comedy and rap pioneer who proved naysayers wrong when his hilarious, obscene, kung-fu fighting alter ego, Dolemite, became a 1970s Blaxploitation phenomenon.”
Best Scene: Bringing Down the House
Hot Take: Eddie Murphy’s Best Role Since ‘Life’
Watch This If You Like: Black Dynamite, Ed Wood, Peak 80s Eddie Murphy
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
19. The Irishman
The Irishman feel like it would have made a thrilling three part HBO mini series, but instead stands as a rather indulgent movie at its three and a half hour length. Pacino steals every scene he’s in and it’s great to see Joe Pesci again in a surprisingly restrained role, but what is with the female roles in this film? What was the point of casting Anna Paquin to say one line? Explain. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa.”
Best Scene: “I don’t like it when people are late.”
Hot Take: Should have been a miniseries
Watch This If You Like: Goodfellas, Casino
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
20. Blinded By the Light
Blinded By the Light may be corny as hell and bluntly formulaic in its coming of age trappings, but it still functions as a cookie-cutter crowd-pleaser thanks to its sprightly cast and the transformative power of Bruce Springsteen. And I mean, it’s about a kid discovering Bruce Springsteen, so that’s going to play to my bias. I think as a whole it works better than its 2019 UK musical counterparts ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Rocketman’, which were both just fine for a slew of reasons. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “In England in 1987, a teenager from an Asian family learns to live his life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of American rock star Bruce Springsteen.”
Best Scene: Bruce is the truth
Hot Take: A so-so movie with an infectious spirit
Watch This If You Like: Sing Street, Bend it Like Beckham
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
21. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
El Camino, like Deadwood, is a wholly unnecessary, but excellent postscript for one of TV’s all-time best shows. It also provided a fitting chance to see the late great Robert Forster flex his unique brand of charm one last time before his unfortunate passing earlier this year. On top of that, it allowed us to revisit two of my favorite Breaking Bad characters, Skinny Pete and Badger, whose unflappable loyalty to Jessie provided some of the film’s best moments. Those two are some of my all-time favorite dopes. Bless them. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “A sequel, of sorts, to Breaking Bad following Jesse Pinkman after the events captured in the finale of Breaking Bad. Jesse is now on the run, as a massive police manhunt for him is in operation.”
Best Scene: Skinny’s goodbye
Hot Take: The Misadventures of Skinny and Badger is the spinoff I really wanted
Watch This If You Like: Breaking Bad, Running Errands with Todd, Sad Aaron Paul Memes
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
22. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Despite John Wick 3’s baffling ending, it still stands as a strong, if not slightly numbing entry in the Keanu revival tour. There is a certain sense of fatigue setting in the series, but new blood like Halle Berry’s hound caller Sofia and Raid standouts Yayan Ruhain and Cecep Arif Rahman provide a much needed infusion of life to the series. I’ll keep watching John Wicks if they keep making them, but again, what was with this ending? (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “Super-assassin John Wick is on the run after killing a member of the international assassin’s guild, and with a $14 million price tag on his head – he is the target of hit men and women everywhere.”
Best Scene: Raid Fight
Hot Take: John Wick 1 is still the best Wick out there
Watch This If You Like: John Wicks, Keanu’s Second Coming, Globetrotting
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
23. Spider-Man: Far From Home
While Spider-Man: Far From Home may not conjure the same magic of its predecessor and suffers inconsequential feelings from being an epilogue of sorts to Endgame, I still think it works well enough as a palette cleanser to Marvel’s third phase. There may be nothing surprising about his turn and betrayal, but Jake Gyllenhaal still produces a higher tier Marvel villain, while Tom Holland remains live action Spider-Man perfection (Zendaya is an MVP MJ too). Long live the Peter tingle. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “Following the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever.”
Best Scene: These days, people will believe anything
Hot Take: Better than you remember it
Watch This If You Like: John Hughes Movies, European Vacations
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
In the realm of slightly disappointing sophomore efforts we have Swedish Wicker Man aka Midsommar. The biggest problem with the film is that there were really no surprises in Midsommar. I expected the Wicker Man brought to you by the director of Hereditary and that’s what I got. Almost beat for beat. Still, Midsommar remains a beautifully photographed conceit about excising toxic relationships, which in a way, is admirable. But it’s not a movie I plan on revisiting anytime soon. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown’s fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.”
Best Scene: Shared grieving
Hot Take: A pedestrian followup to a Hereditary, which was one of this decade’s horror benchmarks
Watch This If You Like: Wicker Man, Hereditary
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Mads Mikkelsen surviving a crash in the Arctic is all you need to sell me on this movie. Like ‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’, Arctic was born of a successful kickstarter campaign and really takes advantage of stark landscapes and a magnetic Mads performance. And polar bear attacks. Can’t forget the polar bear attacks. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “A man stranded in the Arctic after a plane crash must decide whether to remain in the relative safety of his makeshift camp or to embark on a deadly trek through the unknown.”
Best Scene: SOS
Hot Take: Mads continues to be one of the most underrated actors in film
Watch This If You Like: The Revenant, Survival Stories, surprise polar bear attacks
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
The last slot of this list is always reserved for the best shark movie of the year, and this year, the best shark movie of the year is an alligator movie, which is essentially the same thing. Crawl’s only real competition this year was 47 Meters Down Uncaged, which is about the same as running unopposed I suppose (although I guess Sweetheart could technically occupy this slot too, but it has its own problems). Crawl does unfortunately fall into that limbo of being not bad enough to be enjoyable and not good enough to be compelling, but it’s still highly watchable. But it’s more watch while you fold laundry territory. (Trailer)
Synopsis (via imdb): “A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators.”
Best Scene: Alligator Roll
Hot Take: That’s not how arteries work. All these characters should be dead.
Watch This If You Like: Rogue, Lake Placid, Bait
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Honorable Mentions: The Nightingale, Us, The King, Doctor Sleep, Yesterday, Hustlers, Always Be My Maybe, Ad Astra, Hobbes and Shaw, Shadow, Joker, Togo, Abominable, Sweetheart, Rocketman, Shazam, Alita: Battle Angel, Fighting With My Family, Captain Marvel, Long Shot, Little Monsters, Late Night, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Fast Color, Detective Pikachu, Fyre, Ready or Not
Still Haven’t Seen: High Life, Lego Movie 2, The Kid Who Would Be King, How to Train Your Dragon 3, Apollo 11, Knock Down the House, The Dead Don’t Die, Honey Boy, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Bombshell, Linda Ronstandt, A Portrait of A Woman on Fire, Amazing Grace, Little Women, Queen and Slim, Waves, Ford v Ferrari, Love Antosha, One Cut of the Dead
Best Performances: Willem Dafoe in the Lighthouse, Jessie Buckley in Wild Rose, Aisling Franciosi in The Nightingale, Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story, Awkwafina in The Farewell, Lupita N’yongo in Us, Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers, Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems, Kang-ho Song in Parasite, Al Pacino in the Irishman, Daniel Craig in Knives Out, Jimmie Fails and Johnathan Majors in Last Blackman in San Francisco, Mads Mikkelsen in Arctic, Tony Hale in Toy Story 4, Samara Weaving in Ready or Not, Jake Gyllenhaal in Spider-man: Far From Home, Billie Lourd in Booksmart
Biggest Disappointment: The most disappointing movie is a two horse race between Glass and It: Part 2. They’re both sequels to movies that I liked well enough, but whose successors were huge misfires in my opinion. Glass’ attempt to subvert superhero tropes at every opportunity left it an unsatisfying gargle of Shyamalanisms and aborted threads. There’s a secret society of Sarah Paulsens that hold their secret meetings in random public restaurants where they scheme to kill superheroes to protect the status quo? Okay. Bruce Willis drowns in a puddle? Why? Shaymalayn’s attempt to craft a cinematic Watchmen successor fails hard. Real hard. It: Part 2 on the other hand, doubled down on everything that didn’t work in the first movie, while somehow managing to pervert that which did work well. In the end, I think I give it to Glass. It’s a more frustrating watch, whereas It Part 2 is more a victim of bloat and execution.
Breakout Star: (Tie) Let’s give it to Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, Chernobyl), Thomasin Mckenzie (JoJo Rabbit, The King), Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart, Unbelievable) and Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Fighting with my Family, Little Women).
Best Supporting Characters (Or Friends You Want to Have): Yorkie in JoJo, Forkie in Toy Story 4, Gigi in Booksmart and Skinny Pete in El Camino
Most Anticipated 2020: Tenet, Last Night in Soho, Dune, Fast and Furious 9, No Time to Die, Wonder Woman 1984, Weathering With You, Bill and Ted Face the Music, Death on the Nile, The Eternals, A Quiet Place 2, The King’s Man, Black Widow, In the Heights, Mulan, Top Gun 2, Halloween Kills, Underwater, Free Guy, Chaos Walking, The Way Back, The Last Duel, I’m Thinking About Ending Things
Liz’s Top Movies of 2019
I didn’t get around to watching all the movies I wanted to this year, but here are my Top 5 and Honorable Mentions from the ones I did manage to watch. -Liz
You are going to see this movie at the top of so many lists, so much so that you are not going to want to believe the hype. But go ahead and believe it. Bong Joon-ho isn’t exactly a new-to-the-scene crasher this year, as he has already had other films bring him international success outside of Korea. But this may the first one that pierces (sans snow) into everyone’s deepest and darkest societal fears.
Bong is particularly clever at crafting scenes that slowly build up to what no one wants to say out loud about how people can be so cruel to each other in moments of desperation or selfishness.
The main focus may be Kang-ho Song’s family trying to reap the benefits of Sun-kyun Lee’s family, but if you watch it a second time, it is particularly brutal to see both how patriarchs make decisions for their respective families, that in the end define how they truly see each other. The stark contrast of each family’s lives will inevitably bring them face to face with their deepest and darkest selves. That is when the film makes you feel afraid of trusting anyone ever again.
When Conor first pitched going to watch this movie before I had seen anything about it, I tried to explain it to a friend. I explained that I knew there were Nazis, a New Zealand director was playing Hitler and was under the impression that it was going to be animated.
Ok, so it wasn’t animated. But this movie is beautifully colored with warm-hearted characters and pure-intentioned humans all living in a very real world of oppression and war. This is probably the first role that I’ve really like Scarlett Johansson in as JoJo’s mother.
Watching Taika Waititi play the main character’s imaginary friend, who also happened to be Hitler, made me laugh a little too loud in the theater. Both Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie brought huge emotions to the screen like seasoned pros. Being able to joke about Nazis and Hilter in the way this movie did would probably put a lot of people off, but Taika’s directing skills really shine in how the story was told, focusing on how true heroism is in the form of people caring for each other as humans instead of what they believe (or not) believe in.
Movies about cultural family dynamics that are often hidden from society always hits my heart hard. Watching Awkafina navigate what it meant to be a granddaughter and daughter living in America who only truly felt that she was home in China was perfect in so many ways.
In America, there was a certain way she had to live and carry expectations. When she returns to China to spend time with her ailing grandmother, her guilt grips her as must listen to her family’s wishes not to deliver the solemn news everyone has chosen to withhold, a practice common with Chinese families.
Even deeper within her family, there are other expectations that come to light that might not seem so obvious to Western eyes–like the incredible sense of pride elders have when it comes to upholding status if something were to look cheap, or being forced to be married in order to give the rest of the family a sense of togetherness, or even simple language barriers that are used to shame or celebrate our own culture.
The amah in the film is so special. Her vibrancy with all her hard and soft edges made me think of my own nanay. How I missed so many of these little moments with her before she passed as a grandchild who lived apart from an entire family back home. Overall, the film had a quiet force that really made it bloom, its celebration of family as they are instead of how they should be.
I’m embarrassed to say I slept on this movie almost all year until someone demanded I watch it. Everything about senior year shenanigans is done on another level, propelled by its two leading ladies Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. Two hardworking nerdy feminists find out they nearly wasted high school solely on booksmarts when everyone else lived it up and still gained the same academic accomplishments.
This discovery sends them into one party crashing night of enlightenment, a grand finale that your teenage self could only dream of fulfilling. When I was their age I too lived it up on my last night as a senior by going to a bonfire at one of the skater kid’s house, except I didn’t have a wingwoman and I didn’t drink or smoke and I was promptly home before 9p like the total Plain Jane that I was.
I deeply appreciated the pokes at the two main characters when other classmates pointed out their flaws to them. To watch their little bubbles burst was tormenting in a good way, because seriously, why work so hard to experience no joy in life? This little film was a humble reminder for us all. Also, bonus points to Olivia Wilde in her directorial debut.
Full Disclosure. All about that Marvel life. Been all about that Marvel life since Iron Man. Team Robert Downey Jr, NOT Team Edward. (Fun fact, Twilight did indeed come out the same year.)
Endgame is an action packed blockbuster that makes you feel all the feels. It is the culmination of 11 years of Marvel movies and a solid B+ in my book. Lots of stories that needed to end felt like they came to a justified closed. The bromances had their tender moments. We saw a demigod go through a very real bout of depression. The fights were so epic I felt I had to watch them 10 times just to catch all the tiny details.
But as I mentioned to Conor, it was a shame how forced and out of place the women felt in this last Avengers movie. As cool as the girl gang looked in the final battle, why did they only have one major scene after ScarJo exited stage right? Also, no love for ScarJo (like I said, she’s grown on me this year) after all the work she put in for the Avengers, being one of the only women in the original “Assemble!”? Saying she gets her credit in her very own movie next year doesn’t quite cut it.
I might have cried several times during this. I also knew the Cap could wield Mjölnir, because he’s goddamn Cap.
Always Be My Maybe: All about two Asian American Leads, but their chemistry fell short. Probably because they are besties in real life and making out was real weird. But also, this.
Hustlers: Constance Wu stepping outside a typical role for herself, Jennifer Lopez being a total boss, an Usher appearance just to slap JLo’s ass.
Homecoming: Beyoncé needs no explanation.
John Wick 3: Keanu Reeves riding a horse like Legolas, Halle Berry, Halle Berry’s dogs.
Marriage Story: ScarJo is on my list 3 times, how about that. I guess that means I forgive her for Match Point after all these years. No doubt she acted the hell out of this one, along with Adam Driver, who in all his intensity has a very comedic scene involving a very small keychain.
Eric’s Top 10 of 2019
1. Knives Out
The most fun I’ve had at a movie in a long time. Great mystery, with memorable characters and lots of laughs, Rian Johnson shows he can continue to make a great genre movie while subverting the genre at the same time.
2. Jojo Rabbit
Taika Watiti is still batting 1.000 in my book as he puts together a funny, sincere, and honest coming-of-age story with a good message and great acting by ScarJo and a young cast.
3. Avengers Endgame
What a thought – a franchise that sticks the landing. Emotionally charged, this epic conclusion to the MCU exceeded expectations and brought a close to some memorable characters.
This was a wild ride. The movie changes tones a couple of times, but each part is a delight and masterfully done. I think this may go down as one of the best movies of the decade.
5. Toy Story 4
While I don’t think this movie was ultimately needed, I still loved it. The story is solid as always, and so is message, and it seems like a good sendoff for the franchise, but so did the last one, so who knows if they’ll make more. But I’m glad we get one more entry here.
While I think I enjoy Get Out more, this is another well-done pseudo-horror film by Jordan Peele. This one is a bit weirder and has a lot more subtext going on, but I like the social commentary that Peele layers throughout.
7. The Standoff At Sparrow Creek
This one surprised me. Really well-done thriller, boosted by the fact that it was done on a low budget. The ending may be a bit divisive so your mileage may vary on how you enjoy it.
8. El Camino
Another follow-up that I didn’t think was needed but I’m glad we got it. Aaron Paul returns and is great again as Jesse Pinkman. I loved how this continued his story but also enhanced some parts of Breaking Bad as well. And it has one of the best standoff scenes in recent memory to boot.
It is indeed Superbad with female leads, but it’s still hilarious and Billie Lourd steals the show in outrageous fashion.
10. Doctor Sleep
A sort-of sequel to The Shining, director Mike Flanagan stays red-hot with this eerie horror film. Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson are amazing, and it does a great job of riding the line between honoring the 1980 film and creating an original and compelling horror/thriller.
- The Report
- Marriage Story
- The Irishman
- Ready Or Not
- How To Train Your Dragon 3
- Captain Marvel
- Spiderman Far From Home
- Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood
WANT TO SEE
- Apollo 11
- The Farewell
- Fighting With My Family
- The Last Black Man in San Francisco
- The Lighthouse
- Little Women
- Richard Jewell
- Uncut Gems
- A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
- Ford v Ferrari