Top Ten of 2019 films I saw in 2019!
The phrase ‘gut wrenching’ could have been coined for this film. It’s Baumbach’s best, and not even by a small margin. It begins light and hopeful, moves through a love story into comedy beats, then descends into a crippling drama that makes you physically flinch from the screen. That Baumbach can acknowledge his limits (his proxy - Adam Driver - notes and recognises his privilege) and its narrow focus, avoid both nihilism and sentimentality, then still punch you in the tum with extraordinary power, means this is an instant classic.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
The key to being entertained by Taratino’s latest is in the title: this is a nigh-on plotless fantasy film. It subverts reality at every step; considers it to be trash, really. It posits that the past as viewed through the lens is an entertaining lie.
So, if it’s all lies, why not make it pleasant? Why not avert disaster and have the good guys win? Why not rescue a sub-genre of film that was shallow but entertaining? Why not spend some time dream-travelling around the perfect ideal of a city, knowing that the people you care for have your back, and you’ll always have that flamethrower stashed in the pool house (for dire emergencies)?
For a film featuring some brutal violence and death, it has one of the kindest pieces of historical revisionism (Tate’s survival) of any movie.
Egger’s gibberish classic! Sitting comfy in the same universe as The VVitch (‘The Vivitch’, as Mrs. Treb likes to call it), Eggers is back with a tale of folklore, fable and how superstition becomes reality when people are isolated.
Easily the best looking film I saw this year, the chilly black & white photography renders the mundane fantastical and vice versa, letting reality leak out gradually whilst the noxious gas of paranoia and fear seeps in. Again, not for people who want a meaty plot, but a satisfying meal of samphire and psychosis for them land lubbers who can stand it, arrrrr!
For your consideration: Best Screenplay. A coming of age comedy-drama that nails both of those things is rare; to have one that satisfies you on both levels is freakishly rare. The two leads are magnificent, it’s generous to its cast (all of whom are cast perfectly) and legitimately feels like a modern film, unshackled from John Hughes and even - dare I say it - Mean Girls.
Deserves much love, and destined to be a cult classic.
Am I saying this is Rian Johnson’s best film? I think I am. Ironic, as it’s arguably his most puffball, flimsy release yet - a modern(ish) take on the Agatha Christie mystery - but one that’s elevated by a fabulous cast who are all reading from the same script, firing on all cylinders, and a director dedicated to pleasing his audience without belittling them. A good egg of a movie.
Both lightweight comedies and dark documentaries tend to get lost in these kinds of lists, so I wanted to shout out LN as the best released this year, and possibly the most brutal, shocking and difficult doc to reach such a massive audience.
It is not entertaining in any way; there is no prurience here and no character assassination. It picks a side, but then is played as straight as possible along that track. Although the claims can’t be proven or disproven, I’ve listened to victims for thousands of hours during my lifetime, and the experiences recounted - and HOW they were recounted - rang 100% true to me.
A daring, bleak and important film.
The layers start with the title (Us / U.S.) and strike through several different ones during its runtime. Not the critical darling ‘Get Out’ was, possibly because it tackles a less emotive subject than race (and then in a more oblique way) ‘Us’ is nonetheless a shocking, chilling slasher movie with a message. It talks about displacement, class, privilege, white guilt, militarism and all sorts of other stuff under the guise of horror and, whilst you can’t say it nails every single one of its targets, the richness of its universe and sense of imminent annihilation strikes a sombre cord in me that I can’t quite articulate, but know happened.
Throw off your fears let your heart beat freely at the sign that a new time is born…
Whatever you think about superhero movies, Marvel in particular (and there are some vocal buggers about, mind. *COUGH*Scorcese*COUGH*) you can’t deny that rounding-out a 20+ film series on this note was a stunning achievement.
Bombastic and crazed, yep, but still rooted in character development, it even took time to develop Nebula in-between the rich club sandwich of Hemsworth’s increasingly important comedy asides, Evans’s crucial ethical core, and Downey Jr’s Galactus-sized ego.
Put this up against any sci-fi fantasy final act film you care to name, and it’s more coherent, more emotive and more satisfying than any of them. A remarkable achievement and, for me, great adventure fun.
Robert Pattinson is stealthing his way to becoming my favourite Millennial actor. Which I seriously didn’t see coming. English actors are often chosen by Hollywood for their ability to go big without going too camp, but Robert is one of those rare breed who manages to be subtle and honest, yet also comfortable and chameleon-like. He puts me in mind of a male Tilda Swinton, to be honest.
High Life isn’t an amazing film, but it is a strange and powerful one. Not afraid to shy away from the dark, animalistic core of humanity, it’s a film about claustrophobia, desire, rape and procreation, against the backdrop of a space ‘mission’ and the unfortunates trapped therein. A film about the void inside and out, it’s no crowd pleaser but is a stark reminder of where we came from, and where we might be going
Dolemite is My Name
A reminder of why Murphy used to be the biggest comedian on the planet, Dolemite’s tale (as recounted by Eddie) is sort of parallel to his own early career story but, more importantly, is about self-confidence and determination in the face of an industry that considers you a bracketed commodity. Hugely fun, hugely funny; great stuff.
Worst of the Year!
The Dead Don’t Die
Fails to do anything at all. It’s the filmic equivalent of an inert gas, or a rusted truck in a field.
I went in prepared to forgive a lot of failings. There were too many failings.
It Chapter 2
Oi vey, it’s just so bad I don’t know where to start. Worst crime: not scary. Most persistent crime: BOoooOOOoooRRRING!
Stephen King had a baaad year
In the Tall Grass
Joe Hill (Stephen King mk.ii) had a baaad year
An exercise in how not to make a film.
Blinded by the Light
Terminator: Dark Fate
I dislike it the more I think about it
The Hole in the Ground
Hole lotta nothin’
Most Disappointing of 2019
(Not bad films, just failed to live up to expectations)
The Rise of Skywalker
I like it cos it’s pretty (before you call me shallow, I like lots of films just because they are pretty... The Lighthouse for one!) but I’d never argue it was anything more than a dumpster fire.
Dragged Across Concrete
A little too nasty for my tastes, plus if it was trying to make a point that was anti-fascist (possibly by stunt casting Gibson as well?) I think it failed, and just comes over as celebrating vengeance and individualism.
Toy Story 4
Have you ever read Misery? The protagonist is forced to write another book in a bodice-ripper series he’d freed himself from and, under duress, creates something great. TS4 is a bit like this, but can’t help but still feel unnecessary - remove Forky and it’d drop several stars. He’s the Baby Yoda of the franchise.
The film can’t reconcile the fact these are old men de-aged to look young: they can be given youthful faces but can’t act unencumbered by pain, by wisdom, by regret. They can’t physically act spry. This irrevocably harms what is otherwise a decent movie about age.
The press had me believing this was a tour de force. It’s not, and even re-treads a lot of ground the recent Molly’s Game covered. It’s fine, but superfluous.
Ready or Not
Maybe it suffered because I’d recently seen Knives Out, but other than Samara Weaving’s performance and the very, very end, I just found this to be merely ‘ok’.
Mary Queen of Scots
I’m not sure anyone even knows this exists. It looked amazing, Saoirse Ronan is predictably great, but everything else about it is tedious and overlong.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Pleasant and sweet, but too meandering for its own good. A pudgy follow up to the lithe ‘Moonlight’
Again with the ‘not on the same page as everyone else’ schtick. I was really let down by this, as it left behind the relationships and characters, leaving them as distant as the vibe the film was putting out. Miles behind the best folk horror, in my book, but a stunning-looking production
Before you go bonkers yes, it’s a good film. I just felt a bit let down, especially as we had a Korean film about power dynamics and class recently, in the form of The Handmaiden, which I found a lot more interesting. Ah well.
Most Pleasant Surprise
Happy Death Day 2U
Had no right to be as entertaining as it was, so close after the first film, but it is very good fun
Alita: Battle Angel
A complete jumble, but decent escapism
One Cut of the Dead
I wasn’t as enamored as most, but I thought this was charming and witty
I’ve felt no need to revisit it, but Shazam! Was a ‘good sit’.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
‘Far from Necessary’, really, but in the wake of Endgame and following Spider-Verse I had very low expectations. And it exceeded them as it’s solid, funny in places and with a very good character in Mysterio
Can you Ever Forgive Me?
Doesn’t break any barriers or owt, but tells an interesting tale as a solid dramatic piece.
I’d put her here for Booksmart alone, but as she played a completely different character (brilliantly) in TV’s Unbelievable, she’s a complete shoo-in.
Doesn’t matter how he got here, just what he’s doing now. All of which is awesome
...and that’s it. Until next year’s list… peace out, bitches!