2019 was a good year for film. Not that it was the best year by any means, but it was certainly beneficial for the film industry. You had movies like Avengers top box offices worldwide with $2.7B in profits, followed by Lion King at $1.6B and Spider Man: Far From Home at $1.1B. If you’re keeping track, that puts Avengers as the highest grossing film EVER, with Lion King taking 7th on the list. Pretty impressive for two films which were, in my opinion, good but not great. Lion King didn’t even do anything new. Avengers was at least unique.
But in terms of film quality and substance, there were a handful of movies this year that will stand the test of time. Here are my reviews for what I’ve seen, so far, in 2019:
- Top Tier: These films were unique, exciting, clever and engaging the whole way through
- Parasite (10/10); super cool film, excellent directing (Hoo was definitely deserving of the Oscar). The film is entirely in Korean, but you still feel incredibly engaged as to what will happen next, almost like you are in the situation with them. Allowed you to feel a wide range of emotion: angst, excitement, humor, fear – and it just flows well. There were long scenes where the camera would be stationary at the end of a room, or would pan with the characters while they walked. Different angles, but did an amazing job highlighting the whole scene and everyone in it (I think particularly of the bathroom scene during the flood). Deserved best picture IMO, most unique film of the year style-wise. Hope to write on this more soon.
- Us (9.5/10); I am a huge horror movie fan, and this hit on everything I could want. Genuine fear was brought out with excellent plot development and writing, combined with Peele’s film work, made you want to keep watching. Great plot, definitely unbelievable at the end, but it plays on this trope in a way that doesn’t feel weird. The family is so believable that you genuinely are WTF-ing with them the whole movie and genuinely want them to succeed. Excellent ending.
- Midsommar (10/10); Probably my most profound movie experience of the year. I was so hooked and anxious watching this the whole time, it created this sense of tension that NEVER let up and kept you guessing every minute. Hallucinogenics were a big piece of this film which was different and cool. I was left thinking about this for weeks afterwords. As good as Hereditary, but in a completely different way. Pugh shines in this and you really feel her emotions. A must-see for horror fans, but definitely unnerving for some viewers. You have been warned!
- 1917 (10/10); Just saw this last night. Truly incredible. Sam Mendes has outdone himself here, filming the whole movie as if it was done in one take. He uses two random actors as the main characters, and you genuinely love them without knowing their names. Sprinkled in also are excellent actors throughout the film which I loved, even if they were there for 2 minutes (won’t spoil it here). I’ll do a full review at some point but this had me hooked 30 seconds in. Could’ve won best picture.
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (9/10); Tarantino is so consistent it hurts. Not his most exciting film, but excellent writing nonetheless. Brad Pitt is the star here and deserving of the Oscar. Unbelievable he hasn’t won more, guy is an absolute stud and a fantastic actor in everything. Leo is also great. The movie is like a cacophony of randomness that keeps you engaged for some reason the whole time. Cool movie, fantastic last 20m that makes it all worth it.
- Middle Tier: These are high quality films, undoubtably. I enjoyed each one. To me a 7 and above is great. These are solid movies that didn’t quite leave a lasting impact on me, but definitely were made with care. More like – “Yes, liked it” than “Holy shit”
- Ford vs. Ferrari (8/10); Bale is excellent, Damon was pretty good too. The highlights were the racing scenes for me – exciting, sound mixing was top notch and Bale kept you engaged as the fearless Ken Miles. Definitely made me HATE Ford and their mentality; their corporate marketing is also evil apparently. Honestly I just love watching Bale work, and he definitely makes Damon look inferior here. But their friendship is fun as hell. Cool cars, fun flick.
- Ad Astra (7.5/10); Amazing first half, a let-down in the second. Cinematography was excellent, scene creation on point. It gave me the same Interstellar vibe, albeit with worse writing. The plot was definitely there, but it really didn’t deliver at the end like it promised to. Unfortunate, but still worth seeing. I’m a sucker for sci-fi, though.
- The Lighthouse (7.5/10); Can’t quite put my finger on this one. Definitely cool and different, filmed in black and white and VERY eerie. There was a lot of symbolism I still haven’t properly digested, and I think there is more to this film than first impressions. I was a tad bored, though. Acting was 10/10. Very dark, very creepy.
- Rocket Man (8.5/10); Very well done movie, and definitely made with a lot of care and thought. It’s a musical, so it brings in original EJ songs and adds a twist here and there which was fun. Elton won best original song, and Taron Egerton showcases his acting abilities in a far greater way than the Kingsman films.
- Marriage Story (8/10); Good acting, kind of boring plot. Love both Scarlet and Adam here, though. Excellent acting, both actors are so believable and heartwarming at times. The film explores divorce and the conflict in a working marriage (you could probably see that one coming), but it does it in a way that doesn’t pit you against one or another. It’s a hard look at American family life.
- The Joker (8/10); Incredible acting from Joaquin, no doubt. I thought the movie itself was pretty good, but this rating really comes from him. Definitely a little boring at parts, but a very good take on the evil persona of the Joker and why he came to be like he was. I was a huge fan of batman so this was fun, but nothing too special.
- Sub-Par: Movies I actually hated this year.
- The Irishman (4/10 – I’ll explain this in another post because I want to rant); Let me start off by saying Scorsese has produced at least two of my top ten films (Goodfellas and The Departed) and countless other masterpieces. The man is a blessing on this earth and top 3 directors for me living today. I think that’s why I was so thrown off by this piece. It was essentially old actors attempting to be young actors. Hint: it doesn’t work. Bored the hell out of me honestly and didn’t go anywhere. De Nero was particularly bad and the plot was a snoozefest. It felt so forced. Ouch.
- Knives Out (5/10); Boring “mystery”. Actors were there, but it lacked execution. Had its moments, and I particularly liked Chris Evans. But the main character was unlikeable, aided only by her interactions with Craig. There’s really nobody to “root” for, which made this hard to enjoy for me. And you never felt intrigued the whole time because it basically gives away the whole mystery 20m in. Missable.
- Toy Story 4 (5/10); They didn’t have to do another one. You have the best trilogy ever conceived with animation in TS 1-3, so why bother? One reason: greed. This had no business being made except money. It was not good, lacked creativity and any substantial difference from #3, and the side character was literally a fork. Still don’t get it but whatever.
Hoping to explore some of these in detail moving forward, but for now I wanted to make a list to empty my thoughts a little. Curious what others who have seen these think!