2019 Review

28 Jan

2019 Review

By Tanner Smith

I realize I haven’t done a lot of writing since concluding my Looking Back at 2010s Films series. (I guess you could say it took a lot out of me–I haven’t even reviewed any new movies in two months.) But now it’s that time…the time that should’ve come for me weeks ago: looking back at my favorite films of 2019!

Better late than never.

Some critics have said that 2019 was a particularly weak year for movies, and I would agree…if the cinematic year overall depended on your enjoyment of Glass, It: Chapter Two, Star Wars Episode IX, The Lion King, Super Size Me 2, and Where’d You Go Bernadette.

But first, my least favorite films of 2019 (in alphabetical order)–Annabelle Comes Home, Brightburn, In the Tall Grass, The Laundromat, The Lion King, Tall Girl, and Where’d You Go Bernadette. (“Bernadatte” was the most disappointing film of the year for me because until this year, I never saw a film from Richard Linklater I didn’t like. Not even his “Bad News Bears” remake.)

And what about TV seasons? Were there some I saw, let alone enjoyed? Yes, there were five (remember, I’m a movie guy)–5) Easy: Season 3 (Netflix), 4) The Chef Show (Netflix), 3) Stranger Things 3 (Netflix), 2) Mr. Mercedes: Season 3 (Audience Channel), and 1) The Mandalorian (Disney Plus).

Why is it that “Mr. Mercedes” always ends up at #2 on these year-end reviews?? I love this series–why isn’t a new season ever #1 for me?

Oh, did I forget something? No, I didn’t–Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne is an honorable mention for my favorite *films* rather than *series* this year………….*I* liked it!!

And, before I talk about all the films I liked this year, I have to mention some 2019 films I missed that I’ll most likely catch up with in the following year: Jojo Rabbit, Ford v. Ferrari, Fighting With My Family, Ad Astra, Hustlers, John Wick Chapter 3, Waves, Apollo 11, The Two Popes, and Judy.

And now, we come to my most personal favorite films of 2019. But first, I’ll mention my honorable mentions, of which there are quite a few: Honey Boy, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Untouchable, The Souvenir, Velvet Buzzsaw, The Mustang, Happy Death Day 2U, Brittany Runs a Marathon, Blinded By the Light, I Lost My Body, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Fast Color, Antiquities, Frozen II, and The Peanut Butter Falcon.

But of course I can’t stop there. So here are some more films from this year that I enjoyed: Arctic, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, El Camino, It: Chapter Two, Midsommar, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Rocketman, Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, Harriet, Always Be My Maybe, I am Mother, The Man in the Trunk, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken, Yesterday, Paddleton, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, High Flying Bird, Glass, Long Shot, Gloria Bell, Teen Spirit, Klaus, Captain Marvel, Isn’t It Romantic, and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.

Oh, but there’s also The King, Aladdin, Greener Grass, Beats, Family, Pet Sematary, Child’s Play, Dumbo, Sweetheart, Let It Snow, Wine Country, I’m Just F*cking With You, The Perfect Date, and Someone Great.

Now which 20 (or 21–there’s a tie in here) films did I enjoy more than those? Here we go–these are my Top 20 Favorite Films of 2019!

20. The Lighthouse–Funny, when I first saw this film, I “admired” it more than I “liked it.” There was something very alienating about it in execution and performance…but in hindsight, that’s what I love about it.

19. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World–This was the year I came around to fully appreciating DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise. If the beautifully animated, emotionally powerful The Hidden World is the end of a trilogy, it’s definitely a strong swansong.

18. Shazam!–This one’s just a whole lotta fun! I had a big smile on my face throughout most of this highly enjoyable romp from DC.

17. Dolemite is My Name–Eddie Murphy is BACK! Welcome home, Eddie, I’ve missed you so. This is a hilarious, raunchy, even heartfelt film about the making of the blaxploitation-era classic “Dolemite” and the rising star of Rudy Ray Moore, the comedian who made it happen. And it’s a fun, heartfelt biopic with a highly charismatic lead. Available on Netflix.

16. Luce–Whoa. I’m glad I knew very little about this one going in, because it surprised the hell out of me. To say this film is “powerful” and “effective” doesn’t describe my feelings towards it–I was terrified.

15. Knives Out–Boy, was I glad this wasn’t a traditional (read: predictable) murder mystery. Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” is fresh, new, and pure entertainment–and I loved that I didn’t know how it was going to play out. And as a plus, seeing it a second time made the film even more enjoyable. I will happily see a spin-off film with Daniel Craig’s private eye Benoit Blanc!

14. Booksmart–Sometimes, all I need is raunchy fun. And it all comes down to the writing, which puts a fresh take on the last-day-of-high-school-movie subgenre. It’s funny and clever and just my cup of coffee. 

13. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood–What I liked most about Tarantino’s latest is its laid-back tone. This film is about nothing and yet about something at the same time, not unlike the Coen Bros’ “The Big Lebowski.” Will this film have as much staying cultural power? Time will tell. But “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” is one of my favorite films of the year.

12. Love, Antosha–This documentary about the late young actor Anton Yelchin sort of broke me. Everything I learned about this talent was a lot to take in. But at the same time, I was delighted to know him a little better this way. Because of that, this was one of the most emotionally affecting films of the year for me.

11. The Irishman–Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is a VERY long movie, and yes, I think a lot of it could have been trimmed. But perhaps if it was, some of its power brought on by its atmosphere, environment, and characterization that was brilliantly set up might have been taken away…but MAN I’m glad this was available on Netflix where I could pause, rewind, and take a break every now and again!

10. The Farewell–This represents the kind of film I love to watch again and again–a “dramedy” (comedy-drama) that is appealing, emotionally honest, witty, and compelling all at the same time. If there’s anything more important than a comedy that can make you laugh, it’s a comedy that can make you feel. Lulu Wang’s semi-autobiographical “The Farewell” is a beautiful film that handles both the comedy and the drama flawlessly.

9. A tie between Joker and Uncut Gems–Cheating, you say? Well, it’s my list, and I’ll do what I want with it. Both character-based dramatic thrillers are as effective as they are brilliantly acted. And while I’m happy for “Joker” getting so much Oscar recognition, I agree with (almost) everyone else that “Uncut Gems” was badly snubbed.

8. Us–A very clever commentary on the haves and the have-nots (one of two–the other’s coming up on this list), with a very intriguing premise and beautiful execution from writer/director Jordan Peele, who proves yet again that he’s one of the most talented filmmakers working today. A satisfying horror film.

7. 1917–One of the best cinematic experiences I had [last] year comes from one of the best World War I films ever made. (I think both DP Roger Deakins and director Sam Mendes have outdone themselves with this one!)

6. Little Women–I saw Greta Gerwig’s beautiful adaptation of the popular Louisa May Alcott novel twice, and I’ll definitely be seeing it many more times in the near future. There have been many different adaptations of this book–I think I like this one even more than the wonderful ’94 version!

5. Doctor Sleep–Mike Flanagan, the best director working in the horror film genre today, had a major challenge with this sequel to “The Shining”: respect and appeal to the legacy of not only filmmaker Stanley Kubrick but also novelist Stephen King. He pulled it off big-time.

4. Toy Story 4–Nine years after a satisfying conclusion with “Toy Story 3,” I get a “Toy Story” sequel I didn’t know I wanted. And it was as moving as reuniting with old friends (in the best possible way).

3. Marriage Story–Yes! Another Netflix film! (God bless Netflix!) Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” contains some of the best acting (from Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, and Laura Dern–all of whom are currently nominated for Oscars for this) and writing (from Baumbach, also nominated) of 2019. Emotionally powerful and true, this is a film I won’t forget anytime soon.

2. Avengers: Endgame–It’s amazing when I think of how far the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come since its origin over 11 years ago. Once it was going, we knew it was building up to something huge, and thankfully, it didn’t disappoint. For a long while, this was my favorite film of 2019. But there’s one better. Which is it…?

My absolute personal favorite film of 2019 is…

  1. Parasite–I went into this crushing commentary of the haves and the have-nots almost completely cold … I came out of it excited to tell everyone about it. Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” was one of the best films of the decade.

I love this time of year! Let’s see what the start of the new decade has for us…

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