Sunday, February 23, 2020

My Favorite Movies of 2019

It's that time again. Here are my favorite movies of 2019.




Anna and the Apocalypse 
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood* 
The Aeronauts 
Maiden (Documentary)
The Best of Enemies
Adopt A Highway!
Late Night
Honey Boy The Nightingale Us

TOP 20
20. El Camino 
For Breaking Bad fans, this gave us the ending that Jesse deserves, but not quite the movie we deserved. Aaron Paul was terrific and Jesse Plemons again proves he's one of the great actors of this generation with this chilling performance. Lacked a little Breaking Bad tension, but still certainly a fine, fine movie.

19. The Highwaymen
Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, hunting down Bonnie and Clyde. And it's on Netflix. This movie is fun. Very fun. And you can almost sense the fun that Harrelson and Costner had in making it. You can see they're having a great time. Harrelson has many funny quips. For the life of me, I have no idea why this movie is rated R. I counted zero swear words, zero sex and one fairly violent scene. I have no idea how they determine rankings anymore, but it's become a joke.

18. The Farewell
You are in for a heart-wrenching, layered and gripping ride if you have the patience to read the subtitles. Marvelous performances by Awkwafina and Zhao Shuzhen as their love for each other is palpable. This one is sure to get some nods when the Oscar noms roll around.

17. Hotel Mumbia
Seems that I have watched a stream of great films lately. Add this one to the list. Non-stop tension from beginning to end. You will be sitting on the edge of your seat, or couch, or whatever you sit and watch movies on. If you are not familiar with the story of the taking of Hotel Mumbia, you need to see this. If you are familiar with it, you also need to see this. I highly recommend this film for an evening full of sweaty palms.

16. Spider-Man: Far From Home
Maybe the most fun, funtastical and funny Spider-Man ever. Laughed through the entire thing. There's almost a joke a minute and most of them land. The teen romance was adorable, although with every girl aged 8-18 thinking Tom Holland is ultra-hot, it is beginning to become hard to believe his character is awkward, shy and homely. On a similar note, even at 52 Marisa Tomei is still too attractive to play Aunt May. Jake Gyllenhaal is more than decent in his role, except for one thing...
I would have given this movie 5 stars, if it weren't for one painfully bad and awkward part in the middle of the film. This is where Jake Gyllenhaal (Mysterio) in a bar, gives his "followers" the most blundering, cringe-worthy and ludicrous bad guy speech ever to be in a superhero film. I have not cringed that bad in Spider-Man since Tobey McGuire danced in emo in the streets.
Besides that 5 minutes of utter stupidity, I loved this movie.
15. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
When my middle son was five, I sat him down and showed him an episode of Mr. Rogers. My normally impatient, aggressive, easily ill-tempered, stubborn, too cool for school son sat memorized by his every move. Mr. Roger's kind, patient acceptance immediately connected with him. My son, who normally watched action packed superhero movies, sat and watched episode after episode of the ultra slow Mr. Rogers. There is just something about the man.
And thus it is for this movie. While Tom Hanks is not Mr. Rogers, finding someone to play this genuinely saintly human would be next to impossible. Mr. Rogers did not see himself as a hero, that fact is made clear. But, other than our war heroes, he's as close a thing as we may have ever had to a hero. Those of you with fond memories of the man from your childhood will be flooded with emotional reverence for him. Those with no memory connection will be blessed to learn of is goodness. Either way, a near perfect tribute to a near perfect man.
Kudos also go to the supporting cast, especially Matthew Rhys (from The Americans), who is just terrific. Also, don't forget to see last year's documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor? that chronicles Fred Rogers life. In fact, I'd recommend seeing it before seeing this one, as this focuses on about a 2 month window into his life. As for taking kids, I'd say 12+ would enjoy it, but under 12 would be totally bored. My 7-year-old kept asking when it was over. Although he did enjoy the parts portraying the actual Mr. Roger's show. There is really nothing offensive in it.

14. Waves
Not an easy film to watch, but its stunning nature does not allow you to keep your eyes off of it. A story about how drugs, an emotionally demanding father, bad luck and anxiety can be the perfect mix for destruction of a young boy and ultimately his family. Gripping, somber and horrific. And what a breakout performance from Taylor Russell! Her performance was stellar. The one trap this movie falls into is that it doesn't know when it should end. The last 30 minutes feel so unnecessary and it hurts the overall feel. Still, certainly an overlooked and underrated film of 2019.

13. The Two Popes
Led by two remarkable performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Price, The Two Popes rises above its seemingly boring source material into something much more. Interesting for us non-Catholics to see the process of selecting a Pope. But more than that, it is the story of two very different men, a unique friendship and a the cross they had to bare.

12. Ford v. Ferrari
When they first decided to make movies, this is the kind of movie that they wanted to make. Incredible cast from top to bottom. Both Bale and Damon are great. Little Noah Jupe continues to impress in both Honey Boy and this in 2019. Electrifying race scenes mixed with fervent drama make for a formidable movie. It's just too darn long.

11. Knives Out
For all you Rian Johnson haters out there, I love the guy. More over, I love his movies, not necessarily him as a person. (And, I may lose a few friends, but I still feel The Last Jedi was the best of the non-original Star Wars trilogy movies. Suck it, haters!)
Now, to Knives Out. A plot that is both complicated and easy to follow. Tense, unpredictable scenes. Amazing performances by Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas. A strong ending that leaves you wanting more. Superb filmmaking and one of 2019's best.

10. Parisite
I literally watched this movie as it was winning best picture. Whether it deserved to win still remains to be seen, but I found it to be at times funny, at times super fun, at times thoughtful. I had no idea what to expect at first, but was pleasantly surprised to be mesmerized by the insane plot twists. This movie tries to be EVERYTHING at once and finds success in almost everything it tries to be. One of 2019's best for sure, and I'm sorry, but yes, you have to read the subtitles.

9. Rocketman
I rarely give movies 5 stars, let alone imperfect movies. And this is definitely an imperfect movie. Some elements of Elton's long and strange story were skipped over with a simple moment or two. Thus was the case in the movie for his odd marriage with a woman in the middle of his life.
What takes this movie over the top to greatness are the musical numbers. Rocketman takes a different path than the Queen biopic. It integrates the music into the story, like a musical. Several times during these numbers I got the chills. The number "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" may be the best musical performance captured on film in decades. During "Crocodile Rock" I wanted to stand up and sing along. And "Your Song" is such a powerful moment.
Rocketman gets right what Bohemian Rhapsody got wrong.

8. The Art of Self Defense
Jesse Eisenberg is his perfect self in this dry, super-dark comedy/drama. If you were to combine Fight Club, the karate scenes in Napoleon Dynamite, and Office Space, you would end with The Art of Self-Defense... and the results are hilarious, droll, dark, violent and fantastic.

7. Greener Grass Wonderfully bizzarre, uniquely bonkers, this movie had me laughing out loud for almost 110 minutes straight. This ironically dreadful farce is as much a statement on modern society and suburbia living as it is a paradoxical comedy. The only issue is that it is slightly too long. But brilliance resounds in a world that every adult has braces and drives a golf cart and children magically get turned into dogs. Standing ovation!
6. The Mustang
I can't remember a prison drama being so captivating, moving and well done since Shawshank. Incredible filmmaking. The relationship between man and horse has never meant so much. This is a beautiful film. I hope it is remembered when the Academy Awards come around. Superb directing by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, going against the urge to make this a Disney-esque movie. Powerful acting performance by Matthias Schoenaerts. The first truly great movie of 2019.

5. A Marriage Story
I have never been through a divorce, but this is exactly how I would imagine it to be. Such real moments, such incredible acting. I was thoroughly enthralled for all 2+ hours. Full of powerful emotion and proof that sometimes the best drama happens in everyday life. Definitely one of the year's best films and will likely clean up at the Oscars.

4. Richard Jewell What a shocking and pleasant surprise this film was! What if a real life (based on the true story) Paul Blart goofball, overzealous security guard actually saved hundreds of lives? And what if that dopey, former cop, security guard was then blamed by the FBI for a horrible bombing? Both bitterly heartbreaking, while being somberly funny, this is one powerful film. I was captivated by every twist and turn. Bravo, Clint Eastwood for another terrific film!

3. 1917 I finally saw one of the great movies of 2019 (I would rank it #3 on my list) and it did not disappoint. Beautifully and interestingly shot in what appears to be (but not actually) one incredible take. Of those films nominated for Best Picture, I would have have voted for 1917, if I was cool enough to have a vote, which I am not.
2. Peanut Butter Falcon
I know you've never heard of this movie and you are wondering what the heck it could be about. Well, I am telling you to run, not walk, run to see this movie. Actually, if you have a car, driving is okay too, but drive a least 5 miles over the speed limit to get there.
This movie is hilarious. Hilarious, I dare say. I don't recall laughing so hard in a movie theater in a long time.
This movie is sweet. I can't imagine a more sweet and lively flick. It will definitely make you feel feel.
This movie has elements of odd plot holes, but those are easily overlooked by how downright likable this movie is.
Speaking of holes, this movie has Shia LaBeouf and it is exactly what his career SHOULD have become after Holes instead running off the rails like it did. He is terrific in this.
This movie may make you tear up a little. If it does, I warned you.
This movie is the best movie I have seen in 2019 and I highly recommend it.

1. JoJo Rabbit
The humor will make you laugh, even in the dark times, even when it's painful. And there are scenes: despairing, indignant scenes, that will stay with you long after it is over. But throughout, the humor and the optimistic look on life by its child actors fill you with hope. It's unique perspective and bright direction set it apart from other World War II movies. In my opinion, the very best movie of 2019.

10. Upgrade 9. What They Had 8. Leave No Trace 7. Three Identical Strangers 6. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs 5. Free Solo 4. A Quiet Place 3. Green Book 2. Won't You Be My Neighbor 1. Eighth Grade

10. Dunkirk
9. Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
8. The Shape of Water
7. Get Out
6. The Big Sick
5. Logan Lucky
4. Lady Bird
3. It
2. Brigsby Bear
1. Only the Brave

2016: 10. 10 Cloverfield Lane 9. Sully
8. Eye In The Sky
7. La La Land
6. Life, Animated
5. Pete's Dragon
4. Hidden Figures
3. Hacksaw Ridge
2. Arrival
1. Lion 2015
10. Spotlight
9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
8. The Martian
7. The Revenant
6. Ex Machina
5. Ant Man
4. Inside Out
3. The Walk
2. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
1. Room

10. The Hobbit
9. Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
8. The Theory of Everything
7. Joe
6. Big Hero 6
5. Boyhood
4. The Imitation Game
3. Big Eyes
2. Whiplash
1. St. Vincent

10. The Heat
9. Mud
8. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
7. Despicable Me 2
6. Gravity
5. Short Term 12
4. Nebraska
3. 12 Years a Slave
2. Philomena
1. The Kings of Summer

10. Premium Rush
9. Moonrise Kingdom
8. The Amazing Spiderman
7. Looper
6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
5. Argo
4. Frankenweenie
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
2. Sleepwalk With Me
1. Safety Not Guaranteed