Six “nearly there” movies:
These are movies that were really close into making it on my 10 movies of the year list, but for some reason did not make the cut, but were good enough that I feel bad not mentioning them and so I created this list.
- El Camino: A Breaking Bad movie:
Breaking Bad is one of the best TV shows ever created. The rumor that a movie was going to be made has been circulating ever since that show ended, but once it was announced I was cautiously optimistic about it; I had the outmost faith in Vince Gilligan, that it was not going to be a cash-grab, and that it would not mess with the show’s strong ending. What El Camino turned out to be was one of the nicest nostalgia trips I’ve ever experienced; this is a methodically paced, modern western drama, that made me so nostalgic for the show, the characters, and the world of Breaking Bad, without doing anything risky or unnecessary with them. Beyond that, this is not a movie that relies on nostalgia; this is a movie that is beautiful, somber, and serves as an overdue epilogue to the ending, rather than an update or a change. I was not sure what I would want from a Breaking Bad movie, but now I know that El Camino is exactly what I wanted and fans of the show will be extremely satisfied; it doesn’t make the list, because the ones that do just meant more to me this year, but on any other year it would have certainly been included.
- Fast and Furious presents: Hobbs and Shaw:
There were so many good action blockbusters this year, that I could make a list just with blockbusters, and it would be very hard to narrow it down to 10, let alone pick a winner; from Marvel movies to adrenaline-fueled action movies, this was a great year in movies of all genres and sensibilities. It’s a shame then, that one of my favorite franchises has released its best installment so far, and its in the “nearly there” list; Hobbs and Shaw is “objectively” the best Fast and Furious movie made thus far. This is a movie that I enjoyed for the complete opposite reasons of why I enjoy Fast and Furious movies; I laughed because the chemistry between the characters worked and the writing was decent, not because of re-occurring, absurd themes and characters; I was entertained by properly directed and high-octane action set-pieces and sequences, not because what was happening was bat-shit insane. Beyond that, all the reasons I like the franchise are still there – in some capacity. The last action sequence is the most absurd thing that ever happened in this franchise, the villain is undeniably the silliest the franchise has ever had, and the entire movie is so over-the-top, it’s magic that they were able to make me take them slightly seriously. I’m always weary when a franchise starts spin-offs (*cough* Star Wars), but this is, in general, the most well-rounded and bonkers Fast and Furious movie, and while some people will find it off-putting, I loved every second of it.
- Ford Vs Ferrari:
After watching Ford Vs Ferrari on the big screen, with 4k visuals and Dolby Atmos sound, I had an idea of how to talk about this movie: It was going to be my “critical” mind Vs my “fan” mind, and how this movie’s lack of modern sensibilities (mainly, a bit more willingness to question and to show the more complicated truths of the subject) should have made me bored, but instead the spectacle and strong direction, performances, and set-pieces won me over. I’m glad I didn’t do that, because after a 2nd viewing and talking about the movie made me realize that this is a movie that just doesn’t get made anymore; a feel-good, grand spectacle, about people doing what they love regardless of the obstacles they face or the dangers and hardships they endure, nothing more, nothing less. James Mangold expertly helms this movie and creates a car movie that hasn’t been seen before, while Matt Damon and Christian Bale deliver stellar performances, and in combination with expert cinematography and unbelievable set-pieces shot in long wides, this is a movie experience made for the biggest and best screens, and the noisiest and clearest audios; I saw it in those conditions, which makes Ford Vs Ferrari one of the best cinematic experiences of the year. My concern is that it won’t hold up in regular TVs (hence why movies like this aren’t made all that often anymore) and I still wished for more depth in terms of the characters as humans, and not as friends or collegues.
- IT: Chapter Two:
When this movie released it got a somewhat ‘reserved’ reception; people who saw it said “it’s good, but not as good as the first one”. I’m glad I was in the minority on this one, because I think on most levels this movie is better than the first and easily one of the best in 2019. Although it has a bit of a slow start and some goofy moments that really don’t gel well with the rest of the movie, IT: Chapter Two is a thrilling continuation that elevates both horror and drama along the way – the 2nd act, in particular, was one of my favorites of the year, due to its relentless pace, bringing horror set-piece after horror set-piece. Beyond the more “direct” scares, I thought the movie did an excellent job of using its advantage of having already introduced a version of these characters previously, and uses the duration of this movie to further advance their arcs into something that’s more meaningful and special since its happening to people I felt like I knew. It may feel like the same movie to some, because of how similar both movies look and feel, but that is exactly what made it scarier for me; it was as if everything these characters were scared of as a kids and wrote it off as their imaginations, was revealed to be true and they were in honest danger back then as they are now, and that experience was portrayed excellently by the cast and imagined superbly by the direction. On repeat viewings however, the missteps of the out of place goofy moments, and some of the scares feeling more like boss fights in a video game do drag down the experience enough that it becomes harder and harder to go back to; even though the initial experience was very strong, subsequent viewings made me less passionate and less willing to look past some of the errors, which is why I did not include it in the final list.
There were so many good comic book movies released in 2019, but none hit the highs of Joker – in terms of cultural relevance at least. I would rather focus on Avengers: End game, the impossible task it had and how it achieved it, or Shazam! and how it forced me to have fun with characters I didn’t know or cared about. However, I talked, thought, and analyzed Joker more than all of those movies (whether it was warranted or not); it’s a really good movie elevated by an award-worthy performance by Joaquin Phoenix and strong direction/cinematography for film buffs, thrust into mainstream relevance by off-screen bs (like the director’s comments and people threatening to shoot up theaters), and idolized by people who don’t have equivalent (and better) cinematic experiences, but watched this because of the popularity of the character. Hopefully they will see more movies like Scorsese’s Taxi and The Kings of Comedy, but regardless of that, Joker is a very good movie and I enjoyed it very much, just not as much to be in the main 10.
- Ready or Not:
There were so many good horror movies this year and Ready or Not can stand head and shoulders amongst any of them; I haven’t even had the chance of seeing most of the horror I was excited to see that released in 2019, due to their limited release not including my location and having to wait on digital release/ find time to watch them. What I’m getting to is that Ready or Not was really unfortunate to release in 2019, because I believe as a horror/comedy it was one of the best surprises of the year; it has an interesting hook, it’s well shot and acted, it’s surprisingly deep as well as funny. It has “cult” status written all over it and it definitely deserves that.
Top Movies of 2019:
This year has been a remarkable year for movies; I’ve spent more time puzzling out which movies are in this list, which ones are in the “nearly there” list, and which ones (unfortunately) I have to cut and I haven’t even seen all the movies I was looking forward to this year, than thinking about or writing the “movies I wished I liked more in 2019”, which is the hope for every year. Without further ado, here is my list of “top movies of 2019”.
1917 is simply put one of the best war movies of the past decade; it’s a war movie that has a compelling gimmick, but goes the extra mile with that to create a story and an experience that can only work because of that gimmick. The gimmick is that this movie is edited to look like one, continuous, long shot and the technical, design, and technological difficulties the crew had to work through is simply mind-blowing (and I strongly suggest that you Google the process and techniques used to shoot this film, as it makes for a fascinating read); this movie is also the latest from acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins, so it also looks amazing with a few standout sequences that are easily some of the most memorable in movies this year. That gimmick is why I love this movie, however that gimmick is what drives every decision and the creators made a movie that can only work if portrayed as a “one-shot” movie; even though there is little to none character work, the emotional gravitas of every situation and every thing going wrong is incredibly strong, so much so that I genuinely couldn’t stop my eyes from watering during the final scenes; there’s little action in comparison to other war movies, yet this is the most tense and nerve-wrecking movie of the year, because of this constant sense of unease of the vast open fields and battle spots where snipers could be hiding and reading their shots. Long story short, this is a war movie about stopping a battle from happening, which even if does happen nothing will change in the grand perspective, and it follows two unknown actors for most of the movie as they make their way through supposedly abandoned enemy lines, and its already one of my favorite war movies ever; stellar writing and directing from Sam Mendes, unrivalled cinematography from Deakins, excellent performances from Dean-Charles Chapman and George Mackay, and some of the best set and production design of the decade, make 1917 one of the most essential experiences of the year for moviegoers.
- Detective Pikachu:
Movie adaptations of video games have a pretty bad reputation, because they usually come to middling critical reception and lukewarm fan response (besides the obvious exception: DOOM). Fortunately, Detective Pikachu is simply one of the best movies in 2019 (!); it’s surprisingly funny and creative when it comes to gags and set-pieces, it’s entertaining and well-paced, hides some welcomed depth in its story, and its depiction of Pokémon is nightmare-fuel that you can’t look away from because they are that good. Ryan Reynolds worked very well as the voice of Pikachu, and it was honestly one of the best feel-good, cinematic experiences of the year; obviously, I am a fan of Pokémon, which helped with my enjoyment, but that could very easily backfire (*cough* Star Wars) and the fact that this is one of the only movies on this list that I only saw once (in March as well) yet hold that experience so near and dear to me, should tell you a lot. I struggle to think of family-oriented movies that I loved so much in recent years, but its because most of them are just average to someone who doesn’t have any kids or young siblings; however, Detective Pikachu is proof that family-oriented does not have to equate to dumbed down or average.
- Doctor Sleep:
This year has been brutal; it simply pains me to see Doctor Sleep without a number next to it, but this is how good 2019 has been! Mike Flanagan is one of the best directors working today, and hands down the best in horror, and this movie is a prime example of why he has earned those accolades. Doctor Sleep had the impossible task of pleasing Stephen King fans, as well as fans of Stanley Kubrick, yet he somehow delivers something that will delight both sets of fans and still feel like a Flanagan movie. It’s an unsettling, visually gorgeous and terrifying, tremendously directed and acted, horror epic that will leave you scared of what you see, but terrified of what is implied and of the themes; it’s not afraid to pay fan service, because it is one of those movies that is undeniably confident in its vision and quality, that will make most fans happy with the homage, but excited and satisfied with the uniqueness of what is presented. The whole cast is unbelievably good (even the child actors give performances that are amazing), and even though the run-time is quite long, it never feels unwarranted or patting for duration. This movie made me so happy and so terrified, I simply cannot wait for Flanagan’s next outing.
- John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum:
When John Wick the 3rd was released, I was expecting something completely different from what I got; I wanted a definitive end to the trilogy, something that would take the high-octane ending of the 2nd and keep the intensity rising until it would come to an astonishing and appropriate end. What we got was a movie that is one of the best action movies I’ve ever seen, but only in relation to the fantastic set-pieces, choreography, stunt work, and just sheer creativity on how to make John Wick in his 3rd movie feel even more badass than before. Story-wise, Parabellum left me kind of disappointed due to it feeling like they had a few good ideas, threw all of them in, but never fully explored or settled on the few main ones, which led me to dislike the overall story; however, as a mood setter and as an excuse for the stunt people to do some bonkers stuff on camera, it worked well enough to the point that, despite the major flaws of this movie, it is still one of the best in 2019. I’m only apprehensive about calling it the best action movie I’ve ever seen because of the story missteps and it’s too early to make a statement like that, but had the writing team put together something more consistent and satisfying, I would be talking about one of my favorite movies of all time, let alone in 2019.
- Knives Out:
The most recent contestant for this list, Knives Out was the perfect movie to end 2019 with; witty, creative, hilarious, and a genuinely good “whodunit” mystery with some exciting new elements added, all the while creating an actually good story. This is one of those movies where as soon as I walked out of the theater, I would have happily walked back in for a 2nd viewing; there are so many messages and themes to digest and analyze, but above and beyond that there are few movies that are more fun and more well-suited for repeat viewings. Similar to Ford Vs Ferrari, Knives Out is a movie that doesn’t get made anymore (or to be honest, they do get made but not to this quality); it’s an all-star cast featuring the standout performance by Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Christopher Plummer, Jamie Lee Curtis, and many more, as well as that trademark quirkiness and sheer genius of Rian Johnson who is quickly becoming one of the most prolific and dependable directors working today.
- Once upon a time in Hollywood:
In art, there’s always this obsession and fascination with the past; trends are almost cyclical and stuff that used to be popular became not so popular, until they go full circle and become popular again – in most cases at least. Quentin Tarantino’s obsession with 60s Hollywood is as well known and discussed as his foot fetish, but Once upon a time in Hollywood is another example of a great creator, taking inspiration from something he adores, adds his own story, take, and style, to create something completely unique and familiar. It is a story about two individuals who used to be the biggest duo in the industry, but have now reached a point where their time is rapidly approaching its end; it’s also a trip down memory lane to an era of Hollywood that is very different to how it is now, while in the background we also follow the story of how the infamous Charles Manson killings happened (but not really a film about that). It is by far, the most mature and “straight-forward” movie in Tarantino’s filmography and it’s one of his best so far; it’s almost 3 hours long, but its paced expertly and continuously moves forward; its got less action or “plot” points than most of his movies, yet its somehow more exciting and rewarding because the stuff that does happen require more energy and thought to process and dig up all the depth he adds to them. It’s a beautifully shot movie that uses modern technology to trick you into thinking its old technology, but what I absolutely love the most about this movie is that it’s not a nostalgia trip that relies on nostalgia for entertainment; you don’t have to love the era to love the movie. Tarantino’s brilliance for this movie is that he created a story that can only be told by him, in this setting, with these characters against these real world events, and once again he succeeds in making a fascinating and unique movie jump out of the screen and come to life, sticking in your memory for the rest of time.
- The Irishman:
Legendary directors are often distinguished by one single trait: If they can make a movie that undeniably looks and feels like a movie they would make, but still seems novel and worthwhile. Martin Scorsese has done this very thing throughout his career, but The Irishman might be his most “complete” return to genre he left his mark on (gangster movies) with classics such as Goodfellas and Casino, yet here he is with another gangster movie well in his 70s, and it feels just as fresh and energetic as any of his movies. This is especially notable given that, this is a movie that infamously is 3 hours and 25 minutes long, and most people will not even go to a cinema to watch it, because it’s a Netflix original. Like Scorsese’s previous work, The Irishman explores the life of a real gangster while he makes his way through the ranks of the Mafia, until the inevitable moment where everything goes wrong for them; unlike his other movies, The Irishman is much more interested in the main characters’ lives outside of the Mafia, their friendship and loyalty towards each other, as well as taking a much more deliberate look at the consequences of their actions, the isolation and loneliness it brings them, the horrible moments they go through because of their actions and their regrets. Obviously, on some level, every gangster movie is about these themes, but Scorsese’s work with The Irishman is more meaningful and exploratory of certain themes, that it manages to feel new and “mature” in a surprising way. Scorsese had done similar-minded work before, and the reason this feels so refreshing and amazing has to do with the work that always stood out about Scorsese; he pulls together living legends of the cinema (De Niro, Pacino, and the long-awaited return of Joe Pesci who delivers an award-worthy performance), gets the best performance out of them, shoots the incredible scenes with his trademark passion and energy (as well as groundbreaking use of CGI technology that allowed the actors to be de-aged while still being on location, in-costume, with minimal objects on their face), as well as edit and pace a movie that’s 3 ½ hours long, yet strolls by like an hour-long stand up special. Scorsese is one of the best that ever lived and The Irishman is one of his best movies.
- The perfection:
What a good year it has been for Netflix original movies; by the time 2019 had started, I was scared shitless whenever I saw a Netflix original movie, I thought was interesting because it usually equaled to good potential frustratingly squandered. But, now 2019 is over and I’m ready to take a lot more chances with Netflix original movies because so many good movies released in that service that restored my faith in them uncovering and promoting hidden gems or less financially exploitable stuff – The perfection is exactly that type of movie. It’s a movie about Allison Williams’ character dropping out of her ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to attend a prestigious musical school, and finding out she’s replaced by an equally talented musical prodigy (Logan Browning); right off the bat, you can tell that this is a horror movie that can’t be marketed or sold as a scare fest, or will become a hit with mainstream audiences, because it’s sole focus is on its metaphors and messages instead of its thrills and scares. It’s the kind of movie that you can only enjoy if you accept to watch it at its own terms; you have to be willing to see it as a metaphor, otherwise its going to seem like a silly, boring movie, which is to say that you’re either going to love or hate this movie. Obviously, I loved it; the performances are extremely good, the direction can get a bit over-the-top but I absolutely adored the way this film was shot, paced, and edited, and the score was pretty good. I don’t want to get into all the details or reveal anything about the nature of the movie, but it spoke to me in a way that few movies did this year and I was taken aback from the quality present; it delves into some dark themes and does not shy away from sensitive subject matter, but deals with them in a nuanced and poignant way.
I watched Us in the worst conditions you could watch a movie in: It was a small theater with sub-par audiovisual equipment, surrounded by loud drunks and a snoring dude right next to me. Despite all that, I was transfixed by the movie and even though I saw it in late March, I remember this movie as if I had seen it last week. I still remember the following day of watching that movie, sitting in front of my laptop with an open Word doc, trying to figure out how to talk about this movie (déjà vu); this was a special movie, so I didn’t just want to review it. At first, I though about praising the performances but focusing on Lupita Lyong’o’s award-worthy specifically, because it was (and still is) the best performance of the year, but then I thought that it would be unfair to single out the performances when the directing and the writing is what enables them to be meaningful and special, which is again unfair to the exceptional cinematography and eerie score; in the end, I just got lost in trying to find the right words and subject to properly convey how much I enjoyed this movie, that I ended up not doing anything with it. Moreover, I think because Get Out is a more well-rounded offer, Us may be overlooked by critics and fans (or at least not discussed enough), but it’s those risks that Us takes and that focus it has on serving a more niche itch that make it my favorite in the plethora of horror offerings this year; it may not hit for everyone, but for those that does hit, it hits hard and will quickly scare its way to the top of your list.
I was surprised that Parasite found its way to my local theaters; by the end of it I was thankful that I got to experience this masterpiece in a cinema. I can’t stop thinking about Parasite ever since I watched it in early November, and I’m dying to watch it again and again. Directed by Bong Joon Ho, Parasite tells the story of a struggling family infiltrating the life of a very rich family in Korea, and that’s all I’m going to tell you because you should watch this movie; there are no caveats, I’m not going to tell you that you should watch it only if you like certain things or you don’t mind other stuff. This is one of the most impressive movies I have ever seen, and I have no doubt in my mind that this is a movie that will inspire people to want to make movies, open up horizons for people who may think movies as a simple pastime hobby; from the awe-inspiring set and costume design, to the breath-taking cinematography that elevates the movie to a league of its own, Parasite has some of the best writing, directing, and acting I have ever seen in a movie. I usually try to not over-hype movies, but Parasite is just that good; I was reminded of the experience I had with 2001: A Space Odyssey, where I not only realized that movies are art, but that they can deliver a unique and meaningful experience that I was hooked on and wanted to experience again and again.