Best of 2019!

The very first full-length post on this blog was highlighting my favorite films of 2018, which included some great examples of many genres: horror, superhero, animation, sci-fi, suspense thriller, documentary, and comedy. I suppose the same would apply for my favorite films of this past year, and while I wouldn’t label 2019 “better” than it’s predecessor, I truly feel that the highs were definitely higher in cinematic quality and achievement. It was also much more difficult to narrow down my top films to just 10…there were many that didn’t make the cut, but were very close and could have been for one reason or another. Just for fun, I will add a few of them to the end of this post! I spoke about this in my previous post, Looking Forward To 2020!, but this year’s Oscars were my most anticipated in many years. With newer directors, rising stars, and returning legends, several of my favorite films of 2019 are ones that will likely continue to be some of my highest-regarded of all time. Unlike last year’s post, a few of these films will be repeats of ones I had a chance to write about in-length throughout the year. So if you read about one that you haven’t seen and want to know more about (or just care enough to read more of my thoughts on films, in which case: why?…and thank you), I will highlight the films I had a chance to write a review of with a hyperlink in the brief paragraph. That being said, let me build on this foundation and just get to it. The following are my favorite films (in order) of 2019:

1) Jojo Rabbit, A Best Picture nominee not widely considered to be in contention for taking home the award, I was surprised that Taika Waititi’s phenomenal film wasn’t as highly-regarded in Hollywood as it was in my book. This story was so well told and every main character had a story of their own lying under the surface that Taika (What We Do in the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok) wonderfully both excavated and also let be. And he took on the dual role of not only, once again, acting in his film but also portraying Jojo’s “Hitler conscience.” The tone of the movie heavily shifted from comedy to dramatic realism by it’s conclusion, but every second was one to bask in. If you haven’t yet seen this film, I cannot say enough about it. By a wide margin, my favorite film of 2019.

2) Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, One of the few that I had a chance to fully review earlier this year (Review: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood), this film was not only a top 10 of the year but also my new favorite Tarantino film (previously Inglorious Basterds). Tarantino is a director that if you like, you probably love. He has a very peculiar style and many similarities can be drawn between his films. I happen to really enjoy his work, and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood exceeded expectations for me. Considering the acting talent, it somehow missed my most anticipated films of the year but easily made my top 10. In a series of small payoffs, the plot builds to a suspenseful end in which Tarantino once again re-writes history in only a way he could.

3) Knives Out, Didn’t like Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi? Well good news, you will probably enjoy Knives Out. Same director…same style…except this one is less divisive (I think?). Rian Johnson brings back the “poor orphan who rises up” character and cinematographer Steve Yedlin to give us a similar, yet completely different film. This whodunnit has a big cast with big talent that he uses sparingly until the final 30 minutes, but is a “weird case from the start.” And it works. Most of the film focuses on Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) as he looks into the murdered rich patriarch with the help of the latter’s caretaker (Ana de Armas, Blade Runner 2049). It is comically and thoughtfully assembled with clues and deductions throughout that you would usually miss the first time through but rather are obnoxiously pointed out at every bend. A film worth it’s conclusion.

4) Joker, Surprisingly, one of only two films that made both my most anticipated and best list of 2019, I saw this one coming from a mile away. Joaquin Phoenix is one of the most talented actors working, and the Joker is one of the most iconic villains of all time. Sure, there was room for failure…but I’m glad it turned out as it did. Phoenix’s Joker was less of a nightmare and more of a “that guy could be living next door” than previous Jokers were. He was more broken than sadistic, and more vengeful than obnoxious. And that made him terrifying. The plot followed his dissent into madness rather well and director Todd Phillips took his usual comedic chops for a spin with the the Clown Prince of Crime and it was a thrill of a ride. Read a fuller review here – Review: The Joker.

5) Parasite, Are you catching a theme here? If not, go check out the Oscar nominations. Sorry, but they got one thing very right this year \_o_/ (it’s a man with his arms in the air). I really want to write a lengthier review of this film, but I might just relinquish duties to much better film bloggers and Hollywood critics…suffice it to say this was a great film. And I am very happy for Bong Joon Ho to make cinematic history with this one. Subtitles are easy to overlook when you craft a masterpiece. The main cast were very convincing as a family unit and their blatant deception made for a plot I was dying to finish. I can’t give much away here, it’s just one that you will have to see. Likely still in theatres thanks to it’s Oscar wins, go find this one while you still can.

6) Avengers: Endgame, There it is. Of course the epic “conclusion” to an 11-year process had to make the list. I rather enjoyed this film for it’s cinematic achievements as well as it’s pinnacle of plot, like how can you not cheer for Cap wielding Mjolnir whilst giving the iconic line, “Avengers, assemble”?!? The MCU cast has stepped up in a big way the past few years, and they have a level of combined talent that is definitively unprecedented in film. I was sad to see beloved characters go, but also happy to say goodbye in order to make space for newer characters to receive their well-deserved attention moving forward. Thanos was a villain that I think could have been more involved throughout the stretch, but he definitely made an impact in his two films. The superhero industry is bursting to the seems with film, streaming, and comics still going strong, but as the continuity of Marvel heroes moves forward, so I will follow. As my other dual-role review (best of and most anticipated), read my full length review here: Review: Avengers, Endgame.

7) Marriage Story, This film hurt to watch. As a kid who grew up in a divorce, I’m glad that I had parents who cared about me as much as each of the parents in this film did for their little boy. But divorce is an ugly thing, and Noah Baumbach (a relatively unknown director to me) does a great job of teasing out the mess. Both Adam Driver and Scarlett Johannson totally shine in this “marriage” story…and neither won the Oscar, because the year was that good. From love to war, you better have a box of tissues nearby while watching this film because it really tugs at those heartstrings. Released on Netflix, it’s still there for viewing (I just checked).

8) Us, As I recently made my way through Hunters on Amazon Prime (review soon to follow), and although Jordan Peele is only credited as an executive producer in the series, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed his second film: Us. I’m a sucker for movies with a twist, and this one qualified. It was creepy and filled with a combination of incisive action and dialogue. I went back and watched this a second time and although I knew the turn in plot, I still was left with many of the same questions in how and why. It was a really thoughtful twist. I was quite surprised to see that the audience tomato meter wasn’t higher for this one, but maybe everyone else needs a second viewing too? If you like horror and suspense films and haven’t seen Us, go check it out. Then go read my previous thoughts here: Review: Us.

9) The Irishman, This was a tough choice for me to add to my top 10 list, not because it wasn’t a great crime epic but because IT IS SO FREAKING LONG! But then I’m like, ‘What would readers think of me if I actually let that be an excuse to not rank it as high?’ Actually, I don’t really care what you think, but still I felt convicted. Martin Scorsese is one of the great filmmakers of our era…and The Irishman walked away from the Academy Awards with a total of 0 wins. Yup. Crazy, but true, and if this heartache is what pushes him into retirement so help me I will boycott next year’s awards (it won’t, he’s already working on like 3 other projects). Anyway, the film follows the drama behind Jimmy Hoffa in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s as he supposedly relates to the mob and a whole bunch of crime happenings. Starring Pacino, De Niro, and Pesci (1 of only 3 films this century!) among many other talented actors, the cast is fantastic and the plot does a fine job of engaging the viewer despite it’s run time. This was also a Netflix release so if it’s still sitting in your queue, press play and let me know what you think.

10) 1917, Last but not least, let me explain why the film that was at one time legitimately thought to basically sweep the Oscars just barely squeaked into my top 10: It gave me a massive 2 hour headache. Ugh, I’m not a wimp for cinematic achievements and war stories, I promise! I was seriously excited to see this film and knowing ahead of time that it was basically edited into one long continuous shot of the daring heroism of one soldier gave me no reservations. So believe me when I say that I had to use every ounce of strength to stay in the theatre with my eyes open (for like 97% of the time, I had to take a few short breaks). It just really messed with my head, and I wasn’t expecting that at all. The cinematography was beautiful and the sounds and acting were superb. Something that I don’t look forward to is attempting a second viewing to see if I feel any different, because it really is a great film. If you’ve seen it, did you feel the same way? Probably not, I’m just broken. Whatever, I’m also counting this one as a 2019 film despite the wide release being early January, 2020 here in the United States. Because I can.

Those are my favorite movies of this past year, and yes there are 8 of the 9 Best Picture nominees listed up there (sorry Ford v. Ferrari), I honestly didn’t think about it ahead of time but when I was compiling my list it quickly became apparent to me that it would look like I was just poaching from the Oscars list. I wasn’t, it just so happened that I also enjoyed these films (anyone reading who is also involved with any professional nominating-for-awards process, feel free to hit me up). And to prove my point, here are my 8 runners-up that are close behind the top 10 and weren’t included in almost any awards consideration: Toy Story 4, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Shazam!, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Glass, Peanut Butter Falcon, Midsommar, and Uncut Gems (only because it was basically 2 hours of anxiety, a huge swing for the Safdie Brothers who also directed 2017’s Good Time). All great films, honestly too many for my top 10 to feel truly special. But there it is and onward we go! What were your favorites of 2019? Thanks for reading, follow my page or find me on Facebook @redbeardmoviereviews. I’ll have some more recent reviews coming soon, including theatrical and streaming releases. Cheers!

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