MY TOP 10 MOVIES FOR 2019

I love compiling my Top 10 of the year because the process reminds me of why I enjoy movies so much.  Throughout the year I witnessed over a hundred features that each vied for a hallowed place on this chart.  The majority occupied the middle bulk of films I saw and they were just fine.  So if you’re wondering where Joker, Hustlers, Knives Out, Little Women, and Uncut Gems are, well I liked them too.

These titles, however, are the ones that truly affected me.   Here are 10 examples of when I left the theater in an emotional state – be it shock, joy, sadness or elation.

Click on any entry to open my more detailed review.

1. 1917
1917

Directed by Sam Mendes – Starring George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott.

1917 is an absolutely penetrating albeit manipulative achievement about courage. Our two heroes travel through a landscape that invokes anxiety and fear on a scale of biblical proportions. The chronicle is directed and produced by Sam Mendes with a screenplay he wrote withy Krysty Wilson-Cairns. It features stellar cinematography from the aforementioned Roger Deakins and a rousing score by Thomas Newman that already feels iconic. Together they combine to form this artistic success. It’s horrific and beautiful, mesmerizing and immediate. If cinema is an emotional experience — a portal that transports us to another time and place — then 1917 inspired the most visceral reaction of any picture I saw in 2019. The majesty of it all blew me away.

2. Jojo Rabbit
Jojo.jpg

Directed by Taika Waititi – Starring Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Stephen Merchant.

Truth be told, I was already predisposed to love this picture. I am a fan of director Taika Waititi. His off-kilter but thoughtful sensibilities agree with my own. Waititi has demonstrated a whimsical flair for humor with a filmography composed of fastidiously produced productions that are obsessively meticulous with visual details. These include What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Waititi has a point of view uniquely his own. His handling of this material deftly combines real genuine heartbreak with lighthearted glee in a film about Nazis. This is one of the most beautifully realized stories of the year.

3. Midsommar
midsommar

Directed by Ari Aster – Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren.

Midsommar is a chronicle about the way things unfold and evolve. It’s a psychological journey – a slow burn of a film. The viewer is transported to this pastoral community where we are incorporated into customs we don’t understand. This voyage down the rabbit hole is a disquieting descent. Several setpieces detail things that are extremely unsettling. There are moments where director Ari Aster presents something shocking. Conventional filmmaking dictates that you cut away but Aster lingers on the image. Then brutally doubles down on it. He condemns the sight but crosses the line in order to enforce a point of view. This is a movie that wallows in dark forces. It’s masterfully put together. Though I can’t say I technically “enjoyed” Midsommar, I truly admired it. It is an authentic presentation of evil in cinematic form.

4. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
blackman2

Directed by Joe Talbot – Starring Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Danny Glover, Tichina Arnold.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco doesn’t overtly promote an agenda. It’s far more subtle than that. This is a deeply felt contemplation that appeals on a purely sentimental level. The film’s lack of a narrative thrust may irk some. This feels like a funeral that honors the past with a profound love that pines for a bygone era. Cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra presents a languid tribute to a forgotten age. The images beautifully underscored by a majestic score by composer Emile Mosseri making his feature debut. It clearly comes from an emotional place. Anyone can appreciate the depth of the meditation. This is a movie that comes from the heart.

5. Waves
waves-trailer

Directed by Trey Edward Shults – Starring Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie

Waves is an ambitious tale.  The human experience is multilayered and deep. A split-second decision can have an effect on the rest of our existence. Here, an impulsive choice made in the heat of the moment is the impetus for a demoralizing change. A life filled with joy can transform into one filled with unendurable pain. Shults’ camera is like a voyeur lingering on the interactions of a family in places where we should not be. His unflinching gaze presents a snapshot that is both heartbreakingly beautiful and extremely ugly.  We may consider ourselves good people at heart. Yet we can behave in ways that are unforgivably grotesque. Director Schultz beautifully realized account details that idea in the extreme but in doing so he brilliantly ruminates over the idea of what it means to be human.

6. Ford v Ferrari
ford

Directed by James Mangold – Starring Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts.

Sometimes true life is stranger than fiction. The account details one development that had me consulting the history books. I had to verify that what I saw really happened. Along the way we are still presented with some of the best car racing car sequences ever put on film. They’re perfectly edited pieces of thrills bursting with loud and adrenaline-fueled excitement. Special mention to editors Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland who know how to edit an action sequence to maximum effect. The racing scenes are spectacular but in the end, it’s the performances that make this drama transcendent. This classic narrative beautifully highlights male camaraderie. It has all the qualities of a bygone era but it’s old fashioned in the best sense of the word. It’s the human element that provides the most sparks.

7. Booksmart
booksmart

Directed by Olivia Wilde – Starring Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow

What sends Booksmart into the stratosphere is the engaging chemistry of the supporting cast who populate the school. There’s a vibrant energy that infuses every scene. Like so many films of this ilk, it’s highlighted by a charismatic ensemble of up and comers. I suspect some will have success in the future. Time will tell. Molly and Amy are witty goofballs. Their central friendship is sweet and uplifting. The egalitarian nature of this fantasy is warm and appealing. The charisma of this cast is palpable and there are many laughs along the way.

8. The Peanut Butter Falcon
peanut

Directed by Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz – Starring Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes, Bruce Dern

At the heart of this simple tale is actor Zack Gottsagen who has Down syndrome. He gives a convincing performance that is both warm and natural. The chronicle entertains by appealing to the emotions. Far more jaded types will describe this as manipulative and sentimental. However as the old adage goes, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” This is a composition made up of human interactions and the way those people emotionally connect on an elemental level. There’s a purity to the setup that shares a commonality with Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Simply watching their rapport evolve is the account. It doesn’t get more complicated than that. Yet it is that very simplicity that makes this flick so poignant.

9. The Mustang
mustang

Directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre – Starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Jason Mitchell, Gideon Adlon, Connie Britton

There’s a poetic realism that underlies this depiction. The Wild Horse Inmate Program detailed here is a real thing. It provides an effective setting where violent criminals interact with barbaric creatures and the alliance can effectively tame them. Ah, but who is pacifying who? Part prison drama, part traditional western, director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre in her feature debut, deals with timeworn themes but reinterprets them in a way that feels fresh and invigorating. Humans and animals often share an implicit bond. Sometimes that association can be quite stirring. De Clermont-Tonnerre explores that connection with an unsentimental but deeply moving style.

10. The Farewell
farewell

Directed by Lulu Wang – Starring Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen

The Farewell contains moments of great insight and poignancy. At times the screenplay is quite subtle because it suggests things without overtly expressing them. As in life, ambiguity delicately informs this tale from beginning to end.  A movie about dying that shuns conventional rules where everyone must explicitly confess what they are thinking – what a refreshing take!  Every once in awhile an authentic reminiscence can capture our attention without requiring a complicated plot or melodramatic performances.  It’s the depth of emotion that charms our hearts.

_____________________________________________

Just Barely Missed the Top 10

11. The Irishman

12. Parasite

13. Us

14. Toy Story 4

15. Avengers: Endgame

16. Spider-Man: Far From Home

17. The Art of Self-Defense

18. Marriage Story

19. Blinded by the Light

20. Judy

_____________________________________________

Worst of the Year

I also suffered through a few that were simply awful.  I avoid bad movies. If I have any reason to think I won’t enjoy it, I’ll skip it. I don’t dwell on the negative which is why I only included 3 titles. Still, it’s interesting to see which films irritated me the most. These movies promised to entertain and completely failed in the process.

1. It: Chapter Two
2. Honey Boy
3. Dumbo

 

25 Responses to “MY TOP 10 MOVIES FOR 2019”

  1. Good stuff. We share a handful of films in our Top 20s. It’s been a year full of so much variety.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I saw your list. A few really unique choices (Artic, Clemency, The Vast of Night) that I haven’t seen on anyone else’s list. Really happy to see Jojo Rabbit make your Top 10.

      Like

  2. Eric Robert Wilkinson Says:

    Of course hits PDX in January but I was still somewhat surprised at your love and adoration for 1917 somehow….had Jojo Rabbit pegged as your number 1 unless you saw another great movie by years end…

    Like

    • 1917 blew me away. It was such an emotional experience. I didn’t expect that. It was such a last-minute viewing. I really wish they had released it during the summer in the same way that Dunkirk
      and Saving Private Ryan were promoted. We shall see how it does.

      Like

  3. Nice list. I’ve only seen #4 and #9 on your top ten, but am really looking forward to seeing the rest. As for The Last Black Man in San Francisco, i thought it lacked pacing (or perhaps direction) in the first half but gave it a chance and finished it. It’s a good movie and can understand why it made your top ten.

    Like

  4. Three in common. We agree on number one, that movie is amazing and moving. War is awful, courage is beautiful.

    Like

    • I wish they had released 1917 during the summer in the same way that similarly themed films like Saving Private Ryan and Dunkirk were promoted. 1917 deserves to be a huge hit. I really hope it connects with a lot of people.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A good list sir. I agree that writing an end of year list is fun. For me, it is always a a challenge to see if I can recall thoughts I have had about films that I have watched earlier in the year. I find it focuses my mind and refines my opinions. Sometimes entire scenes pop back into my head. It’s nice to see some love for The Peanut Butter Falcon. For me, that film is this generation’s One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. I thought Parasite was one of the most original films of the year and Blinded by the Light, with a story about a young guy wanting to break out of his working class town and be a writer, moved me to actual tears. Here is my top 10. I also did an earlier blog counting from 25-11, which has some crossover with some of your choices. Check it out – if you have time. https://darrenmoverley81.wordpress.com/2020/01/01/the-top-10-films-of-2019/?fbclid=IwAR2b4wyDADNik-jf1GeqhL-vAtDcqfgNEDQJ4qhvX_KgJj-ViF8lpgXn0qc

    Liked by 1 person

  6. GaryGreg828 Says:

    Geez, “1917” is making #1 on a lot of lists! I still haven’t been able to see it. I need to check it out when I can. I doubt it will be as good as “It”. lol.

    So, where does “1917” rank on your top 20 of the 2010 decade? Oh, you’re not sure b/c you haven’t made a list? Well, get on it! 🙂 Would be interesting to see your list. I made a top 25 and my #1 was “The Hidden Face”. 🙂

    By the way, did you the spanish thriller “The Invisible Guest”? If not, it’s on netflix, and you need to watch ASAP; it was my #4 of the decade and has the best twist at the end you will never see coming. I highly recommend for you. (i may have already said this to you. lol. I just started thinking about it b/c I was talking best of the decade.)

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    • 1917 has only been in limited release. It goes wide this Friday, January 10.

      I haven’t compiled a Best of the Decade yet but I may at some point. I had a hard enough time with just my Top 10 of 2019. I do have Top 10s for every year however so if you want to create a pseudo list, just take my #1 choice on each list.

      I remember how much you loved The Hidden Face and I saw it based on your endorsement. Thanks for the new recommendation! Happy 2020!

      Liked by 1 person

      • GaryGreg828 Says:

        Yes, and one other recommendation for you I’d love to read your review on would be another small film on netflix “The Kindergarten Teacher” w/ Maggie Gyllenhaal; the movie is so creepy, but not in a “in your face” way, but very subtle. The director isn’t afraid to make the viewer uncomfortable. I just kept thinking nearly half the movie “What is she doing!!??” over and over. Maggie was phenomenal in this role. Definitely check it out; so that and “The Invisible Guest” my two “must see” recommendations for you; and hopefully you will write a review for them. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’ve piqued my interest. I had not heard of The Kindergarten Teacher. Not sure how it escaped my radar, but I will check it out. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

      • GaryGreg828 Says:

        yes! Would be great to see a review on it from you, though you typically do box office releases, but i think you’ll agree after watching, it deserves some recognition. 🙂

        Like

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