Liz and Eric’s Top Movies of 2019

Liz’s Top Five

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

Parasite

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.

JoJo Rabbit

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. 


The Farewell

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.

Booksmart

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.

Avengers Endgame

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.

Honorable Mentions

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.

4. Parasite

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.

6. Us

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.

9. Booksmart

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.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  • Deadwood
  • The Report
  • Marriage Story
  • The Irishman
  • Ready Or Not
  • Midsommar
  • How To Train Your Dragon 3
  • Captain Marvel
  • Spiderman Far From Home
  • Arctic
  • 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
  • 1917
  • Richard Jewell
  • Rocketman
  • Uncut Gems
  • A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
  • Ford v Ferrari

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