It’s time to bring 2019 to a close with a look back at the best movies of the year.
There were a lot of the usual mind-numbing blockbusters and sequels that always bring in the box-office coin, but very few of those stay with you for long.
Thankfully, there were also powerful works that stretched our imagination, kept us on the edge of our seats, or just filled us with joy. And we can’t get those out of our heads.
Here are the 11 movies (and a couple honorable mentions) that I absolutely loved this year:
11. “Dolemite Is My Name”
Craig Brewer’s look at how Rudy Ray Moore transformed himself into an alter ego named Dolemite and turned it into a national phenomenon was one of the most fun experiences watching a movie I had this year.
Using the underdog-story blueprint he implemented in “Hustle & Flow” and combining it with the talents of Eddie Murphy, Brewer takes you on a ride that you never want to end.
10. “Knives Out”
Rian Johnson’s skillfully executed whodunit is filled with wonderful acting, production design, costuming (I ran out and bought three sweaters after watching it), but the biggest thing is the writing. Johnson’s skills as a writer have always been strong, but he really shows off here.
9. “Honey Boy”
This is without a doubt the most honest movie I’ve seen all year. Shia LaBeouf channels the years of anger and disappointment he has toward his dad and puts it all into a script that the director Alma Har’el beautifully brings to life.
As much pain and sadness as there is in this movie, there’s also a lot of hope. And the performances by LaBeouf as his father and Noah Jupe as young Shia (named Otis in the movie) stayed with me for days.
8. “The Lighthouse”
Robert Eggers delves into the dark soul of man in his follow-up to “The Witch,” and I couldn’t be happier he did. This movie is a twisted delight with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson going completely off the rails. And the movie is one of the most beautifully photographed of the year with its black-and-white look.
7. “Jojo Rabbit”
For the first 15 minutes or so of this movie, I had no idea why it was made, let alone getting Oscar buzz. But there’s a point when the story kicks into a gear I didn’t think it had, and I became fully immersed in it. It’s when Scarlett Johansson’s Rosie character is introduced. She brings a playfulness to the madness going around her and her son that I instantly connected to. She’s in a lot of great stuff this year, but this is my favourite Johansson performance in 2019.
6. “Ford v Ferrari”
This is really one of those movies that don’t get made anymore, and thank God it was before Disney bought Fox because who knows if it ever would have. James Mangold delivers a thrilling story with beautiful cinematography.
Olivia Wilde’s feature directing debut is a powerful work that is generation defining in how it sheds a light on today’s youth. Though on the outside it looks to be just another teen movie, at its core, it examines what it is to be young in today’s world – more than anything I’ve seen in a long time. (For those asking, “What about ‘Euphoria’?” Yeah, I was too scared to watch that, so…)
Lorene Scafaria’s gangster movie is such a pleasant surprise. The layers this movie has are what makes it so great. And then there’s Jennifer Lopez’s performance, which is the glue that keeps the movie together.
3. “The Irishman”
This is a movie that has been on the minds of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro for many years, and to see it finally made is quite special. With it being done at Netflix, it’s arguably being seen in a way that perhaps would not have been possible at a traditional studio. And I’m not just referring the movie’s length but also the pacing and the story being told. A lot of that could get muffled with more voices involved. This really feels like the purest Scorsese work we’ve ever seen.
2. “Uncut Gems”
Josh and Benny Safdie’s latest movie is an incredible anxiety-filled ride that I never wanted to end. Adam Sandler’s performance as a degenerate gambler is something I will never get out of my head because for as many shady things as he does, you can’t help but root for the guy. And then there are the colourful characters in the movie (including Kevin Garnett and Mike Francesa) who show just how unique the Safdies are in their casting. But the biggest thing is the movie’s score, which amps everything up and, like the story itself, never lets you off the hook. There was no better melding of music with picture this year.
1. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
For his ninth movie, Quentin Tarantino really did make an instant classic. Set in late 1960s Hollywood, everything is changing. And not just in the business but also in the world, and Tarantino hitches his wagon to Rick Dalton, a guy who is not ready for change at all. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers one of his best performances ever as a guy struggling with his own demons who, once that camera starts rolling, can push it all away and deliver (maybe not always on the first try).
Along with Brad Pitt as Dalton’s stunt double, Cliff Booth, and Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, we are given a stirring story of the haves and have-nots that fuel the city.
Jordan Peele’s “Us” is a trippy tale that proves “Get Out” was in no way a fluke. With its single-shot (well, two shots) storytelling, you have to respect “1917” for its hugely ambitious feel. Greta Gerwig dusts off a classic and makes it feel fresh with “Little Women.” You have to see “Parasite” (I know I’m going to get hell for not putting this in my top 11 list). It is a work crafted by a master filmmaker in Bong Joon-ho.
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