Hey everybody, it’s that time again! I had another fun year at the movies and went to great pains using overly complicated methods (shout out to tabroom.com) to arrive at my annual list of favorite movies this year. I sat down and watched 84 new films over the past 12 months. Below are my top ten (16 if you count the honorable mentions).
Quick notes up front: I did my best to see most of the major 2019 releases but some did fall through the cracks. The only major awards contender that I have not caught yet is 1917 (which has only been in limited release since Christmas day). More importantly THESE ARE MY OPINIONS! There were many other movies that I enjoyed this year. The ones on this list hit me in the feels.
So here it is. First, Honorable Mentions:
Dolemite is My Name (Netflix)
The Amazing Johnathan Documentary (Hulu)
The Farewell (A24)
Ford v. Ferrari (20th Century Fox)
Screwball (Greenwich Entertainment)
And now the Top Ten:
10. Little Women (Columbia Pictures)
Writer/Director Greta Gerwig does a superb job of telling a classic story in a fresh and modern way. Fans of the Louisa May Alcott novel (like my mother and sister) get treated to the same story but rather than telling it chronologically, Gerwig toggles back and forth between the girls’ childhood and young adulthood. This changed my perspective on some characters and helped me appreciate the gravity of their choices in life. Plus this film looks gorgeous and Timothée Chalamet is so natural it is infuriating.
9. Parasite (Neon)
Do not try and guess where this film is going. You will risk giving yourself a concussion. This film from South Korea has much to say about class and trust but also superbly employs elements of horror and con-men stories that make it a very fun ride. In the end my real takeaway was “Close your windows.”
8. Knives Out (Lionsgate)
There really is nothing like a great “Whodunnit.” Knives Out breathes life into an old, tired genre. Writer/Director Rian Johnson acknowledges that the key to these types of movies is not the story but the characters. Each member of this fully-loaded cast is funnier and crazier than the last. Ana de Armas really grounds the movie playing a home nurse who finds herself out of her depth. Also, Daniel Craig is hanging up his Licence to Kill in 2020, but I hope this is not the last that we have seen of him as detective Benoit Blanc.
7. The Lighthouse (A24)
Look no further for a descent into madness. There is a moment when Willem Defoe’s old sea hag tells Robert Pattinson’s character “If I tells ye to yank out every single nail from every moulderin’ nail-hole and suck off every spec of rust till all them nails sparkle like a sperm whale’s pecker, and then carpenter the whole light station back together from scrap -- and then -- do it all over again -- you’ll do it!” Need I really say more?
6. Avengers: Endgame (Marvel Studios)
Coincidentally, Infinity War also took the number 6 slot on my list last year. Ending a franchise is challenging, but this film is trying to be the culmination of about a half-dozen franchises at once. This is an admirable feat of storytelling and can arguably be seen as the absolute Apex of Hollywood filmmaking.
5. The Biggest Little Farm (Neon)
This is probably the most surprising entry on the list. I had no idea how enchanted I would be by this documentary, which can currently be streamed on Hulu. It follows this couple with a crazy idea to start their own farm and their seven year journey is beautifully captured with some of the best cinematography I have seen in years. If you are feeling a lack of hope and inspiration in your life, give this a whirl and you will not be disappointed.
4. Uncut Gems (A24)
Just when you think you have seen every possible New York story that cinema has to offer, this movie shows up. Adam Sandler’s performance as a crooked diamond merchant with a dangerous gambling problem is horrifying. Yet somehow I found myself rooting for this truly bold idiot.
3. SHAZAM! (DC Entertainment)
Alright, you got me. There is definitely personal bias in this choice. SHAZAM! or the original Captain Marvel is my favorite superhero and I have been pining for this movie since I was 4 years old. This movie contains all of the heart, humor and spectacle that I enjoy in DC TV every week. I also think it is worth noting that this is a kids movie that does not talk down to the viewer, has real stakes and even a couple of scary moments. I sincerely hope DC Movies use this as their bellwether going forward
2. Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood (Columbia Pictures)
We got to see a true master at work this year. I have heard Quentin Tarantino talk in interviews before about how he used to go back to movies all the time to hang out with the characters again. This movie is nothing if it is not a great hang. We get to take our time and get to know these characters as if they were old friends. There is a banging action sequence at the end and we get all the fun stuff we expect from Tarantino but the extra sentimental touches really make this film stand out.
1. Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
A ten year old boy in 1940s Germany, who loves being a Hitler youth so much that Adolf Hitler is his imaginary friend, discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their house. How is that for a premise? This film stopped me in my tracks to the point where I feel that everyone should be required to view it in order to participate in society. It teaches us how easily people can be influenced by the status quo but when push comes to shove, good people can always do the right thing.