27 December 2019

2019 FINISHED! Top 10 Movies

It is finally the end of the year. And so, after a long series of posts about movies this year here is the only one that really matters. The FINAL definitive Top Ten for the films of 2019. Now, as usual, we were totally wrong last year. Let's give an updated BEST of 2018!

Revised 2018 List:

American Animals
Assassination Nation
Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Death of Stalin
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Sorry to Bother You

Now it's time to get into 2019!

#10: JoJo Rabbit

It's scary to think about Taikia Waititi can do totally unchained and with full confidence behind him after making a huge game-changing major studio blockbuster. Yeah, that result was JoJo Rabbit. It's hilarious, painful, gruesome, and full of commentary. It's the kind of original film that sticks with you for a while but also completely bonkers. I don't know where Taika goes from here, but he joins a long list of great Hitler parodies.

#9: Dolemite is My Name

This movie gives credibility to one of the most niche artists of all time, Rudy Ray Moore. Who better to play the iconic black star than the biggest black star of all time, Eddie Murphy. Eddie does a fantastic job here, and the film works both within its context and with what's going on in the margins. On it's face it's an Ed Wood (1994) - style insider look at a famously bad movie and terrible filmmaker. In reality it's a statement about both what culture appeals to American Black Community and how mainstream purveyors of pop culture tend to totally ignore that.

#8: Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Alright, I know, I know. No one else is going to have this on their list. This is just another ridiculous smash 'em up Hollywood blockbuster that revels in excess, sacrifices character for spectacle, and is a hollow cash grab. I loved every second. It's world-ending mayhem, globe-trotting wackiness, and a total lean-in to the ridiculousness of these Kaiju, all while actually giving quite a bit of deference and fan service to the totally pulp source material. This stuff was never meant to be given the multi-hundred million dollar tentpole treatment. It's dudes in bad rubber suits. I don't know why this exists, but I love that it does.

#7: The Irishman

I mostly can't believe that this movie even exists. There a lot of problems with the CGI de-aging, not so much that it looks crappy (it largely doesn't), but that it doesn't give newer younger actors a chance to break out (the common refrain is that Bob De Niro got his major break playing a younger version of Marlon Brando in The Godfather: Part II [1974]. With Scorsese in 2019 he would have just de-aged Brando...). Still, this is what Goodfellas (1990) should have been. The glamour of the mob world is stripped and we instead have a lonely, sad old man who kills without compassion until he just sort of dies alone. It's definitely too long but still a director near the top of his game.

#6: Booksmart

This at first just seems like a female Superbad (2007). I mean, down to literally starring the female Jonah Hill (his sister, Beanie Feldstein). But what happens when it's like...BETTER than Superbad? Booksmart takes the genre into a fun directions, especially as it explores the simple fact that everyone who seemed to party and not care in High School are actually also as successful as the nerds. I was among the nerds. That sucks. It's fun and positive as hell.

#5: Us

There wasn't a film that made me think more this year, and even if the entire core conceit doesn't actually make all that much sense, that's not really the point of this movie. It blends itself more truly in that fantasy fairy tale world and as you think more about who is switching with who and how the Tethered mirror and amplify the personality aspects of their corresponding characters the depth of this movie reveals itself. That doesn't even say enough about the political ramifications, the spiritual ramifications, even the title - U.S. It's us! There is more to this than we can get into here, but in an age where these original films are so rare, this was a treat.

#4: Knives Out

We might as well cite the other big original film this year. Knives Out was constantly surprising and a somehow fresh take on the murder mystery genre, fueled by the greatest cast of any movie this year. It's exceptionally well made and rewards multiple viewings despite blowing its secret far too early. BUT DOES IT?! Reveals aren't reveals, except they kind of are, and Daniel Craig is Alabaman. It's great.

#3: The Lighthouse

This might be #1. It's a good candidate. Robert Eggers follows up The Witch (2015) with another bizarre period piece in what's getting to be a good genre for him. Black and White and in a boxy 1.19:1 aspect ratio, it's also the best looking film here, in large part because these conscious choices inform the story being told. That story is Robert Pattinson and a mostly farting Willem Dafoe hanging in a lighthouse, which are two people we need in 2019.

#2: Uncut Gems

This is the film I watched most recently and the hype is real. Adam Sandler delivers an amazing performance by actually just being really Adam Sandler-y, and the film is a frenetic, stress-inducing two hours of mayhem and bad deals gone worse. Its unpredictable until its final moments, which I'm still digesting as to whether it's earned, but for a brief moment it does feel really good. Then reality, but it's all good. Ultimately a sad story of a degenerate insane gambler.

#1: Midsommar

This may sound weird, but I saw Midsommar last week and didn't really think it was the greatest film of the year, but going through this list today it just worked out. Don't ignore that as a less-than-ringing endorsement, this is fantastic. Like Robert Eggers, this is the highly anticipated follow-up from a quasi-arthouse freshman debut (in this case, Ari Astra's follow-up to Hereditary (2018). This is one of the best films I've seen to deal with the heavy emotional baggage that comes with loss, particularly suicide, which then blends into a pagan horror film, although it remains slight and subtle. Well, mostly. It's not a film I would rush out to watch again, but it sure did stick with me.

Honorable Mentions:

There are quite a few. The Beach Bum was so pointless but ultimately amazing. I was close to including The Perfection because its twists, plotting, set-up and pay-off, and the sway allegiance to protagonists shift is just so amazing. Finally, I never got a chance to see Hustlers1917, Midway, or Parasite, all of which might creep back in when we reevaluate in December 2020!!

What do you think? What are your picks for the film of the year?

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