Hello everyone. Welcome to my end of the year wrap up. It will include a Top 10 List (obviously) and then some Oscar-y awards that I like to give out just for fun. I know that it’s a bit late for a 2019 wrap up but I like to make sure that I have seen everything in contention and get it out before the Oscars. This was an amazing year for movies. As a result, my list was super difficult to make. There are quite a few also-rans as you will see. There were also a TON of fantastic performances. Even though I think the Oscars got it mostly right this year, our lists are still very different. That being said, I want to remind everyone that this is my own personal list of FAVORITE movies out of the over 80 I saw. I’m not saying the movies on this list are necessarily better made than those that aren’t. They just happened to hit me harder. They’re the ones I have the fondest memories of, the ones I’ll always want to revisit, the ones that found a spot in my heart. Anywho, enough preamble, let’s jump into it.
Best Supporting Actress
In a movie full of well established superstars, Ana de Armas very often stole the spotlight in Knives Out by being the most sympathetic and, therefore, most human character. Dakota Johnson brushed off any of that 50 Shades hate by showing her supportive, caring side in The Peanut Butter Falcon. Jennifer Lopez again proved she’s a super star in more ways than one by playing the confident, mother-like leader to the group in Hustlers. Although ScarJo was great, I think the real heart of Jojo Rabbit was Thomasin McKenzie as the Jewish girl with a sharp sense of humor befriending the Nazi boy. Her heartbreaking interview scene in Bombshell would be enough to get Margot Robbie a spot in my Top 5, but the rest of the most sealed it.
Winner: Thomasin McKenzie, Jojo Rabbit
I really do think her performance was super underrated. Jojo Rabbit is a difficult premise to sell and I think it mostly works on account of her performance. The fact that she wants to start off by teasing and scaring him a little makes you root for her right away. She’s not afraid of him, because she knows there is nothing to fear. He’s just a brainwashed youth. Then, watching a friendship develop, as she teaches him that maybe he’s on the wrong side, is very heartwarming. Like I said before, Scarlett Johansson is great in Jojo Rabbit, but I think that Thomasin McKenzie is the under valued super star here.
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale is always fantastic, so it’s no surprise that his performance as a racer who life keeps throwing under the bus in Ford v Ferrari was amazing. Listen, I didn’t mean for Timothee Chalamet to be the only one nominated from the fantastic cast of Little Women, but the other categories were tougher and his performance is so real, human and heartbreaking that it kind of just worked out that way. Willem Dafoe played *Fart* an amazingly cranky, old villain in The Lighthouse, even if I couldn’t always *Fart* understand what he was saying. Like I said about Johnson before, Shia LaBeouf showed his softer side as a criminal who becomes friends with a intellectually disabled man just by treating him like an actual person in The Peanut Butter Falcon. And, Taika Waititi turned in one of the best comedic performances as imaginary Adolf Hitler in Jojo Rabbit.
Winner: Timothee Chalamet, Little Women
Again. I feel like I have to apologize to the rest of the cast of Little Women. I love you all. I think you all did a fantastic job. As you’ll see later, this was one of my favorite movies of the year and it’s very performance based. I think everyone did a fantastic job. I don’t even know if Timothee Chalamet necessarily had the best performance in the movie, but he definitely had one of my favorites of the year. I’ve never read or seen another adaptation of Little Women. This was all new to me. So, Chalamet’s character transfixed me. I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to love this guy or hate him. One second, he was Prince Charming coming in to save the day while the next he was tearing our protagonists down with his bitter words. It wasn’t until almost the end of the movie that I realized. He’s both… or neither (however you want to phrase it). He is a human being. Real ones don’t fit into those categories so easily. As someone who struggles with stuff like that in my life, seeing it so flawlessly portrayed on the big screen really hit home. And, in a movie full of fantastic performances, I feel like Chalamet’s is being slightly overlooked.
I wasn’t on the Awkwafina hype train until I saw her terrific performance in The Farewell as a granddaughter hiding that fact that she’s heartbroken while visiting her grandmother for the last time. Scarlett Johansson gives maybe the strongest performance in her super solid career as a wife who has fallen out of love in Marriage Story. Florence Pugh‘s character in Midsommar discovers her own strength and her boyfriend’s shortcomings in one of the best acted horror films of the decade. I swear Charlize Theron became Megyn Kelly for Bombshell. And Renee Zellweger broke my heart by showing me the tragic final months of the legendary Judy Garland’s life in Judy.
Winner: Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Let’s start off by recognizing how amazing of a year Johansson had. She’s nominated for two Oscars and had a prominent role in the highest grossing movie of all time. Yes, there were some hiccups with her saying a few controversial things, but I think overall Scarlett proved that she is THE actress right now. It’s her time and she’s definitely taking advantage of it. Anyways, Marriage Story. This movie made me cry. A lot. The believability of these characters is what makes it really hurt. The way that Johansson plays a woman who still cares for her husband despite having fallen out of love with him is truly masterful. And, if you need any reminder of how great she was in this, there’s plenty of clips of their climatic fight on Youtube. It’s honestly one of the most painful things I’ve ever watched (in a good way) thanks in big part to Scarlett Johansson’s performance.
Adam Driver did a fantastic job playing a heartbroken, blind-sided husband in Marriage Story. Honestly, I’m baffled that Taron Egerton‘s wonderful portrayal of Elton John in Rocketman isn’t getting the same love as Malek’s Bohemian Rhapsody performance last year. I thought Shia LaBeouf’s tragic childhood was perfectly portrayed by Noah Jupe in Honey Boy. Watching Robert Pattinson slip into madness was fascinating in The Lighthouse. And, Joaquin Phoenix brought real tragedy and gravitas to the comic book genre in Joker.
Winner: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
The Joker is one of my favorite characters of all time. There have been some truly iconic portrayals of this character. So, for me to say that acting wise this is probably the best, that means something. From the moment he was cast, I knew Joaquin Phoenix would give us something special. What I didn’t expect was such a raw, honest, realistic performance. This is a Joker that could exist in the real world. He has a tragic backstory that feels all too real. With a lesser actor, I think it would be easy to either hate this character or pitty him too much, taking away his villainous intentions. However, I think Phoenix did a very good job at walking that thin line. You feel bad for Arthur Fleck, but not bad enough that you excuse his actions. You can both be heartbroken by his ignored attempts to seek help while also cowering as he commits some of the most brutal crimes you’ll see this year. It’s truly one of the best performances to ever grace the silver screen.
Ari Aster continued to prove that he is a master of balancing horror and emotional weight with Midsommar. Knives Out was a return to form for Rian Johnson with it’s wicked sense of humor and beautiful cinematography. Sam Mendes elevated what could’ve been just another WWI movie with his wonderful directing of 1917. My MCU loving heart goes out to Joe and Anthony Russo who’ve been turning out hit after hit for Marvel for years and finally wrapped it all up brilliantly in Avengers: Endgame. And, of course, you have to give it up for the love Quentin Tarantino showed old timey Los Angeles in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.
Winner: Sam Mendes, 1917
I mean… just watch 1917 and try to disagree. Sam Mendes’s decision to film his war epic as if it were shot in one take elevates the movie to a different level. It makes us feel like we are actually with these characters as they suffer through the horrors of battle. The battle scenes feel more intense. The tragic scenes are more heartbreaking. Not to mention that it’s finale involves one of the most technologically brilliant shots I’ve ever seen. It’s genuinely a masterpiece. Mendes is definitely one of my favorite directors working today and this might be the best he’s done yet.
And now… it’s time for the list of my favorite movies of 2019. As I said, I saw a lot of good movies this year. It was super difficult to narrow it down. Somehow, I managed though and I’m pretty happy with my list. So, let’s get to it and wrap this year up.
My Favorite Movies of 2019
Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical Order)
As I stated before, I loved all of the performances in Little Women. I think it was a super strong telling of growing into the person you were meant to be. Marriage Story was a truly heartbreaking movie about lost love and how difficult and dirty the process of divorce is. I found Ready or Not to be hilarious and disturbing with an ending that knocked my socks off. Flaws and all, I thought Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was a fun time in a galaxy far, far away and a fitting conclusion to the saga. And, Uncut Gems was such a chaotic film that it was almost a relief when it ended, but I loved the ride.
10. Toy Story 4
I am a big fan of the Toy Story franchise. Two of the original trilogy rank among my favorite movies of all time. I especially appreciated the way that Toy Story 3 seemingly wrapped up the series. So, like many others, I was nervous when 4 was announced. Why would they reopen a book that’s already been so perfectly closed out? The answer is surprisingly simple. Toy Story 3 was the end of Andy’s story. Not Woody’s. Toy Story 4 feels like the final chapter for our favorite character. The ending made me sob in a theater full of 8-year-olds. It’s honestly just as meaningful as Toy Story 3. It’s really freaking good. But, it’s not just the ending that makes this one stand out. The new characters that are introduced are all memorable and fun. Ducky and Bunny, two hyper violent stuffed animals voiced by Key and Peele, are my two favorites. The new villain has a tragic backstory that is believable. And, it’s also a fantastic story with the usual existential crises that Pixar is known to bring out. What does it mean to be a toy? What does it mean to be alive? When should we put our happiness over our responsibilities? It gets deep, but never stops being fun. You know, the Pixar way.
9. Spider-Man: Far From Home
When I asked you to remember that this is my own personal favorites list and not necessarily the movies I think are the best, this is the movie I was mostly talking about. Spider-Man is my favorite fictional character. Tom Holland is my personal favorite portrayal of that character. It’s got all the awkward teen humor I’m always on board for. As we’ll get into, I loved Endgame, which this is very much a prologue of. And, lastly, there are scenes in this movie which feel like they are straight up pulled from a Steve Ditko-Stan Lee Amazing Spider-Man comic from the 60’s. So, yes, of course I loved this movie. Is it art? Probably not. Is it one of my favorite movies of the year? Absolutely.
8. Frozen II
I. Love. Frozen. I don’t care what anyone thinks. It’s one of my favorite things to come out of Disney in the last decade. I think every bit of acclaim that it gets in justified. These characters were instantly iconic and will always be ranked up there among the best Disney has ever created. So, I had high hopes for Frozen II. In my opinion, it delivered. I think it took the lore from the first one and expanded upon it nicely. I think the characters all went in directions that made sense. I think the intensity was bumped up. The animation was gorgeous. And, the songs are almost as good as the original. What more could you ask for in a sequel?
As I’ve stated before, I will forever be confused by the fact that Bohemian Rhapsody got a ton of love while Rocketman got almost none. Let’s ignore the fact that the Queen biopic was directed by an accused pedophile and instead concentrate on the work itself. While Bohemian Rhapsody felt like a straight forward, boring biopic with no real artistic value, Rocketman was a piece of art. From making it a musical to throwing in a couple fantasy-esque sequences, Rocketman felt special. It didn’t feel like someone else telling us a famous musician’s story. This felt like a part of Elton John’s soul being exposed. It’s funny what a little spice will add to a dish. Likewise, Taron Egerton benefited by not having to lip sync the songs through ridiculous prosthetic teeth. Finally, having one director throughout the whole process just helped it feel less clunky. I hate to praise this movie by tearing down another. It’s just hard for me to comprehend. Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman will forever be tied together in my mind. And I definitely prefer the later.
I’ve kind of already sung the praises of this movie in the best director category, but I’m always down to worship this movie more. This might be one of the best war movies I’ve ever seen. The technological aspects that went into making this movie appear as if it were one shot are jaw-dropping. And it never feels like a cheap trick. By shooting it that way, Mendes and Deakins make you feel like you’re there. It’s harrowing. It’s intense. It’s truly a masterclass in film making. It’s seeming more and more like this movie is going to clean up at the Oscars next week and I would not complain one bit if that were the case.
I think Ari Aster is my current favorite horror director. Between this and Hereditary, he has proven to be a master of balancing horror and drama. In many ways, this is only technically a horror because horrific things happen. This could very much take place in out reality. And, the emotions feel 100% authentic too. We get to see a girl who has been through one of the most truly awful things you can imagine grow as a person while dealing with another terrible sequence of events. Meanwhile, really weird shit is going down. Like, there are several extremely creepy and messed up sequences that I will never forget in the movie, right alongside some genuinely beautiful emotional moments. It’s kind of masterful how well it’s balanced.
Does it sometimes feel like just a collage of Martin Scorsese’s greatest hits? Sure. It borrows rather openly from Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. But, I think this is so much more than the sum of it’s parts. I love Joker. To me, it’s a harrowing tale of what happens when society ignores the mentally unstable. It feels like an all too real tale. He realizes he has issues. He tries to get them taken care of. He’s mostly just pushed out of the way. Then, he snaps. However, I don’t think this movie ever really glorifies the Joker either. He’s still a bad guy. He’s just a more sympathetic villain than he’s ever been portrayed as before. And as I stated before, Joaquin Phoenix gives one of the best performances I’ve seen. I don’t see how anyone can just write off the comic book genre anymore. Joker proves that these movies don’t just have to be punch-em-ups. Stories featuring comic characters can actually be art.
3. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
To me, this is a movie unlike anything Quentin Tarantino has done before it. It feels more grown up. More character based. Slower. Dialogue heavy. A little less violence (until the end that is). And, I loved it. My favorite part of Tarantino’s movies have always been the characters and the dialogue, so I’m completely fine with a film from him where “nothing really happens.” I enjoyed getting to know Leo’s aging, past his prime character as he struggled to remember his lines in a cheesy 70s western (which we see whole scenes from). I liked just going to the movies with Margot Robbie’s Shron Tate. And, I really, really loved watching Brad Pitt deal with a cult in one of the most tense scenes of the year. Plus, the Tarantino style violence at the end is always welcome. I always say that I’m a character based person. Give me some fun, well rounded, realistic characters and I’m set. And Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood gave me some of my favorite new characters of the year.
2. Knives Out
Knives Out is hilarious. The cinematography is top notch. The acting is wonderful. The characters are each unique and memorable. The sets and costumes are all gorgeous. And I love a good who done it. So, already this would probably be one of my favorite movies of the year. But, do you know what my favorite part of Knives Out is? That they seemingly give you the answer to the mystery about half way through, but that doesn’t kill any of the suspense or stop any of the twists and turns. It’s truly some of the best writing I’ve ever seen. I haven’t revisited this one yet but I’m 100% looking forward to doing that at some point in the future. This is one of the few movies on this list that I can openly recommend to everyone. (Unless you’re super sensitive to seeing vomit.)
1. Avengers: Endgame
Die you see this one coming? If you know me at all, you should have. But, having anything else in this spot would simply be a lie. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is easily one of my favorite movie franchises. I was an early adapter too, ranting and raving about each of the Phase 1 movies. Then, I was extremely happy to watch the universe expand and just keep getting better and more popular with each additional movie. But, all good things must come to an end. (Or at least kind of an end.) And what an epic ending Endgame is. Sure. We don’t get to see a complete character arc for each and every character introduced over the last 11 years, but that’s not what this movie is about. Infinity War was bringing the whole universe together. Endgame was to say goodbye to the original six Avengers. The ones who started it all. And, in my opinion, if you track each of the six back to their very beginning, it’s a truly epic story. Watching these characters grow and evolve has been a pleasure and I’m truly happy where everyone’s story ended. I think this movie wrapped up the saga very nicely. There were emotional goodbyes. There were laughs. And, as a comic book fan, there were about a dozen moments that made me cheer out loud. I’m excited to see where the MCU goes from here, but I don’t think they’ll ever reach this peak again. This is a once in a series thing. Heck. It’s probably a once in a lifetime thing. We’ve seen other studios try to do this and fail. No one else is Marvel. It’s just facts. I’m glad I was with them till the end of the line.
Well, that’s a wrap on 2019. It was quite the year. There were a lot of good movies. Everything I’ve mentioned here is at least worth checking out. To be honest, there’s probably another 20 or so movies that I also have a strong connection to but there just wasn’t room. Expand you’re horizons, because you never know which flick is going to capture your heart. And, if you want to go on your cinematic journey with me, keep following this blog. I’m already 10 movies deep into 2020 and can’t wait to see what this list will look like next year.
Until my next review, thanks for following along on my quest. Thanks for making 2019 great. And keep watching movies.