Tarantino. Scorsese (x2). Malik. Aster. Joon-Ho. Denis. Johnson. Safdies. Gerwig. Baumbach. Wang. Noé. Peele. Eggers. Scafaria. Diop. Fiennes. PTA. Waititi. Wilde. Soderbergh (x2). Heller. Lemmons. Varda. Endgame. Skywalker. Weird CGI Cats where the female ones have boobs but the males don’t have a genitalia. A CGI Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds. Special shoutout to Baby Yoda.
2019 is the best film decade of the 2010s. One could argue that the 5 best movies of this year could all retroactively make the all decade top 20 list. Not since 2007 have we seen a powerhouse of directors come in and knock it out of the park like we saw in 2019. Even one’s that were met with a mixed reception may be viewed as all time classics in 10 years. We saw the return of 3 masters: Scorsese, Tarantino and Joon-Ho. We witnessed a surprise one reeler from Paul Thomas Anderson (bless you Netflix). We got a great family drama that didn’t deal with a dysfunctional white family, but rather one that examined Chinese culture and the ethics of truth. 2019 was also the highest grossing year at the box office for female filmmakers(!!!). All this being said, the female filmmakers STILL are fighting to be respected by The Hollywood Foreign Press (ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THAT TODD PHILLIPS NOM?!??!). A travesty!
Last year I wanted to see 50 movies in theaters. I finished with 63. For 2019, I wanted to see 80. I saw 136. For brevity’s sake, I have ranked the top 10 movies below and kept a running list of my favorite movies all the way from #136 to #1 via my Letterboxd account (give me a follow please).
Before the list starts, I just want to say that movies are awesome. Keanu Reeves said it best: “I love movies”, and so do I. We got everything anyone could possibly have wanted: great original stories, diverse filmmaking, nostalgia overload (whether warranted or not) and a clown movie that we honestly deserved but DEFINITELY did not need.
*ALSO MAKING A “WORST OF” LIST IS DUMB!! WHY!!??*
10. Uncut Gems
Directed by The Safdie Brothers
Whereas Good Time is arguably the better movie, you still can’t deny the raw power and energy The Safdie Brothers bring to Uncut Gems.
A relentless, heart pounding, checking your pulse every so often to make sure you’re still alive thrill ride along the chaos shown through Adam Sandler’s terrific performance as Howard Ratner. A full blown panic attack for the duration of it’s runtime. A movie about letting one’s own addiction and ego get the best of them. I guess that’s what flying to close to the sun will get you.
The adrenaline rush we are chased throughout made me want to claw my eyes out. Complex themes of addiction, family, religion and so many different story lines woven together that (almost) all of them work.
I was listening to a podcast with The Safdie Brothers and they explained how their original idea was going to be centered (hehe) around Joel Embiid and not Kevin Garnett/The Celtics 2012 Eastern Conference SemiFinals run. It left me thinking about how much the story would have changed especially with having to jump forward in time 5–6 years rather than focusing in on 2012.
The “This is how I win” scene was mindblowingly(?) executed. Wow the dynamic between KG and Sandler was electric and KG really held his own against Sandler! Addiction is bad! Maybe uncut gems really are magical! And Howard’s ego is the true villain! Sisyphus!
9. The Last Blackman in San Francisco
Directed by Joe Talbot
Every frame of this movie is a painting. Joe Talbot and DP Adam Newport-Berra capture a deeply affecting film that tenderly humanizes the issue of gentrification of San Francisco and the direct impact it has on the community. A wonderful story about the impact of friendship while in the midst of such injustice.
The tension of being sold out to your city while displeased with the direction that it is taking, the tension of feeling like an outsider in your hometown, and the tension of feeling too hood for the gentrified neighborhood but too “white” for the inner city is something to absolutely adore. This film explores important themes while showing us the human tendency of believing a lie just to have something to believe in. It is an introspection into the mind of someone that wants to find significance over success.
A truly bleak look into the journey of obtaining a purpose, even if one does believe there is light at the end of the tunnel.
8. The Irishman
Directed by Martin Scorsese
My 1st of 2 filmbro submissions lol let’s go
Everything leading up to the release of this movie had me shaking in my boots. The trailers looked like someones best shot at mimicking a Scorsese movie. They almost looked like a good parody. I hate de-aging technology and oh boy this was no exception. However, what we got instead is Scorsese’s sway song.
There are so many things to marvel at in this masterclass of filmmaking. The first thing has to be the pacing. Did the movie need to be 3.5 hours long? Probably not but not a single minute was wasted, not a single line of dialogue and so on. At one point, I checked my phone to see just how long it had been. I thought to myself “It’s probably only been 90 minutes”. It was already over the 2 hour mark. The shortest 3.5 hours of my life.
Like Tarantino’s OUATIH, The Irishman feels like a movie in which Scorsese is reflecting upon his career as a whole. As per De Niro’s narration, he’s reflecting on his life choices and how it got him to where he is today, which is sort of in a way what Scorsese was trying to convey with this movie.
The sound design though…whoa. The phone call with De Niro talking to Hoffa’s wife is almost ASMR like. We can hear so clearly the saliva and wetness of De Niro’s voice as he trembles to talk to her. The sound of the guns plummeting into the river, even the shoes taping on marble floor is so authentic.
Before I go onto the next one, the one thing I truly noticed in this years films is just how different and special these seasoned directors are than from some of the hot newcomers. After seeing movies like The Lighthouse and Midsommar, I truly was in shock and awe at a lot of the directing choices and camera movements but then I compare those same things to movies this year from Scorsese or Tarantino or Grey, you jus realize how special these guys are at their craft and how much control they have over everything.
7. Ad Astra
Directed by James Gray
Like if Tree of Life was less pretentious.
This truly hit me hard. Ad Astra is a deeply intimate look at loneliness, man’s fear, repression, emotionality, vulnerability, legacies left by our fathers, and masculinity issues, and more.
At the age of 22, I still don’t know where my path is leading me to. My father is a very successful GM of Country Clubs, a renowned human being respected by all of his colleagues, which leaves rather big shoes to fill. I believe it’s ok to call your dad your hero because yes he is mine, but Ad Astra made me question whether wanting to be a model of my dad was something worthwhile, or if I should continue down my own path.
I can see why this movie was tough to relate to. Somewhat in the vein of Ford v. Ferrari, this is a dad movie, a dad movie in the sense that it’s important to realize the legacies left behind for us to understand.
Once Pitt was reunited with his father, everything became crystalized: Everything the film had been building to came into focus in a single moment of transcendent, raw humanity. Everything that had passed became worthwhile, and everything after was rich emotional payoff.
This movie did cause me to have an existential crisis during and after the movie so props to James Grey for the high blood pressure.
6. Little Women
Directed by Greta Gerwig
Directed by Ari Aster
Is Ari Aster…..ok?
I hate these types of movies. The types of movies that are so tough to watch and so gut wrenching and unbearable that I walk out halfway through because I am so exhausted of seeing these on a daily basis.
However, Midsommar is not like the rest. A horror movie disguised as a breakup movie that you should bring your worst ex to? Sign me the fuck up.
This is a very psychedelic movie! Shrooms seem weird! Especially in Sweden with a cult! But at the core, this movie is about ridding yourself of unwanted baggage, conquering pain and sorrow and lost and obtaining a sense of closure one needs (even if it means paralyzing your boyfriend, placing him in a bear carcass and burning him alive).
This movie made me so uncomfortable and I almost DID walk out during a few scenes because I could barely sit still. Aster controls the tempo and your overall level of comfort and turns it up to extreme levels. I think I almost fainted when we saw eyebrow kids face cut off.
That final shot…..the best final shot of the decade. It perfectly incapsulates the movie and the build up and it’s a payoff like none other. The score just builds and builds as Florence Pugh’s Dani slowly smiles, finally accepting of her life and the loose ends she needed to cut off. The final scene as a whole is reflected with harrowing clarity as the scene toggles between Dani and Christian’s separate perspectives, the camera pushing away from Reynor and toward Pugh as she’s asked to choose whether he lives or dies.
As soon as everything cut to black, I turned to Emilie with a huge smile on my face, mirroring Dani’s and asked “Well?” and she replied with the best possible response: “You’re never allowed to pick the movie again”.
4. Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood
Directed By Quintin Tarantino
My 2nd and last filmbro submission lol let’s goooooooo.
First things first: Brad Pitt is incredibly handsome and Margot Robbie can step on my throat or take me to a nice seafood dinner, it’s honestly up to her.
This is Tarantino’s most subtle and reflexive film. There are aspects of Felini’s 8 1/2 present throughout, but I believe *takes a massive deep breath* Tarantino did it better.
We get two movie stars who are on their way out. The times are changing, and it’s hard to grasp for our protagonists Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth to come to terms that their stars are fading. Dalton is having an existential crisis while he attempts to come to terms that he may be becoming a has-been, someone who has to sell out and do spaghetti westerns in order to stay relevant.
This is also probably a commentary on what’s happening with modern filmmaking and the modern movie star. In 2019, we truly don’t have people like a Rick Dalton or a Cliff Booth anymore (which yes they both are respectively played by DiCaprio and Pitt, two of the all time greats), but a thing that makes the movie star so special is how rare we would see them on the screen. And the movies they would do would be prestigious pieces of art that they would emerge out of hiding to do. Nowadays, everyone wants to cash those sweet Marvel checks every few years.
Meanwhile, his stunt man Cliff Booth is a toxic male who screws his own reality in order to keep himself going. There is a huge sense (according to me) that the flashback with Bruce Lee did not happen as how we saw it. Cliff is trying to convince himself that he was almost exiled from Hollywood due to his pure baddassery, and not because of his own ego and arrogance. Also, Brad Pitt’s line delivery is stellar. The way he said “And awwwwwway we go” and “…you were on a horsey!” is top tier line reading.
There has been plenty of talk about the handling of Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate. In my humble opinion, the way Tarantino handled Tate is a masterclass in character. Everyone knows Sharon Tate as “Sharon Tate the Victim” and not “Sharon Tate the Human”. We see Tate be a normal person, walking around Hollywood, watching herself be in a movie and having fun. We get to see how much of a joy Tate was and how much she loved living in the moment.
This all can’t go without saying how much the ending is goddamn bonkers and thrilling and hilarious.
This is as close to a perfect movie experience there ever will be. As Marvin Schwartz said to Rick Dalton “What a picture.”
3. Knives Out
Directed by Rian Johnson
This movie is so smart, so expertly written, so well directed and I love Rian Johnson so much and I’m just going to post my Letterboxd (follow me) review of it because of how much this movie and director means to me:
Having ones week ruined is one of the worse feelings imaginable. Having that week ruined the NIGHT before Thanksgiving?? Ya’ll mind if I hit that fat “lmaooooooooo”
It’s no surprise to anyone when I say I suffer from severe clinical depression. As each day goes by, I just have no idea what will set it off. Whether it be my alarms going off in the morning, my cats not greeting me, heart breaking news, etc. All of these seem to me feel like a semi truck ramming into me going 100000 mph and there is no way in preventing it.
Well, on Thanksgiving Eve, 100 semi trucks collided with me all at once, leaving me in a pool of an irrational emotional state. The worse part are when these instances are out of my control and there is no way to change it. Once the news broke, I packed up all my things, left my family and drove back to Winston-Salem to be with Emilie because yes I was scared and felt alone. Whenever these feelings come about, I turn to the only medium that I know that can act like an instant cure: movies.
However, this was an instance where movies couldn’t fix it and I was afraid they just would never do the trick since the heartbreaking news was movie related. I sat alone by myself on Thanksgiving day in my bedroom, not knowing what to do. All of my life decisions and 3 colleges seem to be blown up in my face and could one say I was just overreacting? Possibly but when you’re on different medications that all affect your psyche, then your thinking may take a change for the worse. The following days I never left my room, contemplating really anything and everything.
Then today, I wanted to take action. A week ago, I saw Knives Out and I fell in love. The script is so rich and dense without distracting the viewer, and the direction is compelling. I checked my local AMC movie times and saw there was one for a 4:15 showing and I used my handy-dandy AMC Stubs A List for the ticket. I went into a packed theater, seated in my normal seat (middle row, middle seat), surrounded by adventurous movie goers who all (Im assuming) are seeing this modern day masterpiece themselves. Just a few hours before this, I was questioning whether film school (I shutter because there isn’t a phrase I hate more than “film school”) has been worth it and whether a change of scenario is something i desperately needed again.
Rian Johnson and Knives Out helped pull me out of that whole and reinforced in myself exactly who the fuck I am and why cinema is so important to me. Seeing Rian untwist the webs he spun, connecting the dots and developing each character is if I knew them my entire life was so damn pleasing and so well done.
I remember my first Rian Johnson flick. It was Looper, a Blue-Ray copy I bought from Vintage Stock in Shawnee, KS for $5. I was preparing myself for The Last Jedi by freshening up on his directorial duties. Safe to say, I loved Looper and I then looked up more of his credits. Did you guys know he directed the 3 best Breaking Bad episodes, along with the greatest episodic hour in television history with Ozymandias? I didn’t until the interest was sparked in me.
I always say David Fincher is my favorite filmmaker. He did direct my favorite movie (The Social Network), and there would be no successful Netflix original if he didn’t craft the first season and a half of House of Cards.
However, now the more I think about it, I do believe Rian Johnson is taking that top spot.
I am getting off on a lot of different tangents because I am emotionally vulnerable right now and all of my thoughts are scattered across my entire brain but I’ll leave this review with one more thing: Rian Johnson is the fucking shit. I loved everything he has ever made (including Brick and The Brothers Bloom), and Knives Out will forever hold a special place in my heart for picking me up when I felt the most down. I never really knew why I felt so compelled to defend Rian and TLJ from the worse corners of the internet but it might be because how he came into my life at such an important time, when I was compromised the most and his films have always been there for me, either intentionally or not but Rian seems like a Teddy Bear that I just wanna give a big hug to and say “thank you”.
One last thing: “nazi child masturbating on the toilet” might possibly be the best line of the decade.
Any who, stan Rian Johnson for clear skin.
Directed by Bong Joon-Ho
Eat the rich. Bong Joon-Ho is a master at the top of his game. For the duration of Parasite, Joon-Ho creates a sense of tension and anxiety that I haven’t felt in a movie theater my entire life. So much of this movie is expertly crafted to keep you on the edge of your seat. The cinematography? Stunning. The score? Amazing. The set design? Jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Stair cases? I can’t believe Bong Joon-Ho made an inanimate object have more metaphorical sense of wealth than Todd Phillips did in all of Joker. It centers its focus on class struggle, a sort of precursor or a prequel to the warfare of Bong’s 2013 thriller Snowpiercer. The staircase throughout the film can help represent divisions of class and power. The main family, the Kims, wonder upon wandering upstairs whether they would also belong among the rich, so far above ground; upon descending to their flooded apartment in a storm that merely throws off the Parks’ camping trip, the Kims are reminded of the disparities between the two families.
The montage at the end of the first act is *chefs kiss*. The linear slow motion camera movement, the foreshadowing of evens with the minimalistic cuts at the beginning, frankesteining cuts to help the momentum and pacing of the scenes? Masterful. The plan, like the sequence is perfect but for every action…there is a reaction and in this case, it’s negative.
Is this a genre movie? Or a genre all on it’s own? We got comedy, drama, thriller, and a heist movie all woven together????? Another Bong hit in my opinion.
One last thought: I can’t believe we live in a time where we as human beings have to say, in the same breath, “Bong Joon-Ho and Todd Phillips are nominated for the same Golden Globe”.
1. Marriage Story
Directed by Noah Baumbach
I understand that I have had a privileged life. I wake up every day not having to worry about if I’m going to have a meal, if I have clean clothes, and so on. My life at home is stable, my parents love each other and I have two siblings that I can rely on for everything. Unlike some of my friends, I have never had to see my parents go through an ugly divorce.
Before this movie, I never fully understood the nuances of what going through a divorce can entail. I always had this preconceived notion that it’s ugly all over and that the parents try and shield their kid away from it all but that ugliness spills into their every day lives with the child and the child becomes traumatized. This is such a painfully honest portrait of a dying marriage/relationship but what completely won me over was how the film begins and ends with compassion and love.
Parents can fall in and out of love, but that doesn’t mean they have to lose love for one another. At the end, I never once thought Charlie or Nicole no longer loved each other. Instead, they share this mutual understanding of caring for one another and their child. It’s just an absolute stunner. Every line was written with care to seamlessly blend comedy and tragedy together. it sometimes comes off as almost too polished but grounds itself once again in the realism of how fast things can go from bad to worse. The most gut wrenching part of it all? Charlie and Nicole can find such deep feelings in other people’s words, but can’t communicate with each other.
There were three specific scenes that made me: tear up, cry to the point where my whole body was shaking but wasn’t making a single sound, and let me have a nice steady stream of water coming from my eyes. The first came during Nicole’s monologue to Laura Dern during their first meeting. The second of course came during the fight. Everything was building up to that climax and I wasn’t ready. With Emilie, even though we can’t relate to all the things Nicole and Charlie were going through, seeing two lovers fight like that hit so close to home. Shouting and pointing fingers, blaming one another was something worst than death. The last came when Charlie was reading Nicole’s note. In my relationship with Emilie, whenever we use to fight, we found solace in writing notes to one another about special memories we had with each other, what we loved about one another, some little quirks we notice, and why we continue to fight for this relationship. Luckily, we don’t have to do that anymore since we reached a point in our relationship that we don’t have to have shouting matches anymore but rather just talk. A tremendous piece of emotional filmmaking.
Adam Driver for everything.
ONE LAST THING: before I get to the honorable mentions, I would just like to repeat again, Justice for Rose and Justice for Ben Solo.
Honorable mentions: Hail Satan?, Anima, Villains, The Farewell, White Crow, Ready or Not, Hustlers, Climax, Stockholm, Leaving Neverland, At the Heart of Gold, Rocketman, High Life
Best TV I watched this year: MindHunter (S2), Chernobyl, Watchmen, Euphoria
Movies I didn’t get to see but might’ve made the list: The Death of Dick Long, Luce, 1917, The Nightingle, The Souvenir