Movies

Review: Best Movies of 2019

Yet another year-end list.

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I know there are people who resist acknowledging the fact that Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood was the best movie of 2019, but why? Quentin Tarantino's script is a gem of so many facets (virtuoso plotting and dialogue, resonant movie-biz nostalgia), and the film's charisma-bomb cast (Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie, plus step-up stars Julia Butters and Margaret Qualley) is so powerfully synched, that the picture's 161 minutes of buddy banter, hippie-bashing and sly foot worship simply breeze by. Could the film have been tightened up a little? Sure—but then you'd be left with less of the best movie of the year. (I await the four-hour version, myself.)

For many people, I gather, the best movie of 2019 was not Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, but instead The Irishman, or maybe Joker, Parasite, Marriage Story, 1917. These are all worthy films, and impossible to rank, really. The Irishman has several memorable Scorsese moments (some involving ice cream, some pajamas) and a masterfully controlled performance by Joe Pesci; but the movie's a little creaky, and with a three and a half hour runtime, it really is too long. 1917, meanwhile, is an admirable piece of work, but somewhat underwhelming. The technical conceit of presenting the movie as if it had been shot in one long take isn't much more than a gimmick—although closing off the possibility of narrative detours did enable director Sam Mendes to create a pure antiwar movie, focusing on one dismal thing after another. The lead actors, Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones) and George McKay, are fine as two soldiers assigned a crucial and very dangerous mission, but their renown as performers stops somewhat short of universal and you can imagine pressure being brought to bear on Mendes to inject some star power into this $100-million picture—thus the miniscule, tacked-on appearances by Colin Firth, Andrew Scott and Benedict Cumberbatch. This unwieldy casting has an air of commercial desperation about it, and as fascinating as it is to follow the great cinematographer Roger Deakins as he trails the two young soldiers through an endless landscape of bombed-out properties and scattered horse corpses, the message at the end—about the grim futility of war—is one you already know.

Joker, Parasite and Marriage Story are no-brainer flick picks. Joker really is a movie unlike any other—certainly any other comic-book movie. Credit to Todd Phillips for bold vision; to the Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir for her dark, tidal score; and to Joaquin Phoenix for a performance that's equal parts heartbreak and nightmare.

Parasite is one of Korean director Bong Joon-ho's sharpest and most entertaining films, an examination of a very poor family that devises a way to infiltrate the lifestyle of a very rich one. Bong's class-war political take is familiar, but the movie is smart and funny, and pretty much every turn in its twisty story is a surprise, sometimes a bloody one. (The movie is so solidly constructed that not a lot of people are likely to be defeated by its subtitles.)

Marriage Story might seem from its trailer like a bare-bones downer, but it has the excitement and the wonder of two deeply attuned actors (Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver) creating peak performances under the guidance of a gifted director (Noah Baumbach). (This should be an interesting Oscar season in the household Baumbach shares with writer, director and actor Greta Gerwig, who's having a major moment of her own with the new Little Women—another terrific 2019 film.)

Then there are New York's Safdie brothers, whose Uncut Gems is a blast of urban frenzy and a wonderfully scuzzy showcase for Adam Sandler, who plays a far-gone Diamond District hustler who's in hock to some very dangerous people. The picture is like being trapped in a speeding ambulance, and you'll never look at the Sandman the same way again.

Of the movies I liked more than loved last year, let me first salute Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe for their fearless work in Robert Eggers's squalid character study, The Lighthouse—a beautifully made black-and-white picture that I wish added up to a little bit more than nothing. Another visual coup, Ari Aster's Midsommar, gets points for its blazing look—it's a sunbaked folk-horror item with an unusual amount of bear-consciousness. Unfortunately, despite a really creepy scene in a sort of rural fire lodge, this film is nowhere near as terrifying as Aster's debut, Hereditary, which is a serious letdown.

An even bigger disappointment was the mopey Ad Astra, a deep-think space movie in which Brad Pitt looks as emptied-out as I felt watching it. I don't understand the hype about Lorene Scafaria's Hustlers—it doesn't seem like that big a deal. And despite the warm presence of Scarlett Johansson, I didn't much care for Jojo Rabbit. I just don't think Hitler is funny. I know, I know: The Producers. But Jojo suggests that we can beat back the power of evil by laughing at it. I believe Charlie Chaplin tried this. I don't recall it working.

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  1. The best movie of 2019 was the same best movie of each of the previous 20 years: Armageddon. Of course, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the undisputed best movie of all time, but it would be unfair to judge others against it.

    1. FIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSSSSSSTSTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!

    2. I tell you one thing really drives me nuts is people who think Jethro Tull is just a person in the band.

  2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was fucking epic. Probably my third or fourth favorite movie Tarantino has ever done. Other great films released this year Under the Silver Lake and Dragged Across Concrete. Haven’t seen Joker yet don’t know if I care too. Didn’t like Taxi Driver doubt I’ll like Taxi Driver with a clown.

    1. It’s arguably Tarantino’s best movie post-Pulp Fiction. The pacing was surprisingly good for such a long movie, the cinematography was incredible, and hippies get beat up.

      I fucking lost it when Leo’s character pulled out that flamethrower.

      1. The part where they break in while Pitt is completely out of his mind is pretty good as well. Also the entire sequence at the ranch was awesome.

        1. One of my favorite scenes is only about 30 seconds long — when Tarantino focuses on the neon lights of restaurants buzzing and turning on as day turns to dusk. There was something about that scene that was so incredible and beautiful.

    2. I tried to watch it and after about 15 minutes I went somewhere else. My opinion: it sucks. Was able to stomach Joker, but it wasn’t all that great either; wouldn’t recommend it. I’m glad I have a TV box so I don’t have to pay for these flicks; none of them are worth the price of a ticket.

  3. ugh I mad you didn’t like 1917 as I was eyeing to see it. I couldn’t get through The Irishman and I let my Netflix account expire.

  4. The list itself is not bad – but to say “Little Women—another terrific 2019 film” is either horribly myopic or narrative driven.
    The movie takes solid material and – because it’s the 20th or so “reimagining” – turns it into a confusing, poorly lit mush. By far the worst iteration. Watch the 2017 version and tell me I’m wrong.

    1. The 2017 version has too little representation, you misogynist.

      1. The title should have been changed to “Big Women” for a solid body positivity message.

  5. It’s a hilarious meta commentary on the state of the propaganda ministry entertainment industry that the best it can offer to its few remaining fuckwit patrons is a bunch of self-referential Boomer nostalgia.

  6. JoJo Rabbit was a WONDERFUL film that portrays Nazis as what they were and still are, mentally stunted adults operating at about the cognitive level of a ten year old.

    1. My favorite of the year, hands down.

    2. Which is sad because that’s not what they were. And, frankly, laughing at a group that organized murder *industrially* as ‘operating at about the cognitive level of a ten year old’ is dangerous – to us.

      We should take evils like this seriously and take seriously anyone on the ‘will to power’ track. Those are your Hitlers, your Maos, Your Stalins, your Pinochets. Those are the people running criminal organizations across the world. Those are the people who cause human misery on historical scales for their own aggrandizement.

    3. I agree. Loder is just objectively wrong about this.

      I agree that making a comedy about Nazis is a difficult thing to do well, but Jojo Rabbit did it VERY well. It made many great points in a powerful way, made the ridiculous look ridiculous, and included a sense of the tragic horror as well.

      It’s a movie that can be enjoyed and admired.

      A movie that makes the correct points but doesn’t do it in a way people want to see isn’t very useful or good. This one is both.

  7. In a world where people would rather watch Dr Pimple Popper and monkeys killing one anther on you tube. Base on what I’ve seen on how many time they show viewed and my mom rather watches that v.s watching any new movies. I thinks has show how much Hollywood has fallen. And notice that Star Wars has not even made the list. Will the fake Mouse ever learn that we do not want to watch propaganda in our movies. One last note, The academy awards are bought not won. see Adams ruins everything on that one.

    1. The Mouse has been pushing propaganda almost from the start. Its nothing new. You just don’t like the propaganda they’re pushing *now*.

      1. Yeah, but there’s something a little more elegant about Hollywood writers quietly subverting a script with communist themes than hammering a round female peg into a square male hole and screaming “progress!” in the Media at top volume.

      2. We all know your favorite movie of 2019 was Troy, like it is every year.

    2. Adams ruins everything

      Have you ever noticed how 50% of the “citations” in that show come from Vox.com? Then, when you look them up, you realize they don’t even support what he’s saying. Or, if you try to dig deeper into where Vox.com got the info, they link to some other article written by an intern you’ve never heard of, which links to another article written on a website with no verifiable primary sources, which links to a twitter thread…

      Adam ruins everything is for stupid people. If you watch one of his episodes, start looking up what they use for sources and you’ll see what I mean.

      The host went on Joe Rogan’s podcast, which exposed just how much of a showman he is – he’s just an actor, not an expert on anything at all. He’s not even well-spoken and composed, especially when asked to give proof for what he asserts as fact. Joe Rogan did an excellent job forcing Adam to prove his assertions. Adam did not do a good job of defending his positions.

  8. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is the best film of the year, followed by JoJo Rabbit. Midsommer is the worst film of this, or any, year. That is all.

    1. Hated hereditary as well. Was not anything but shocking at one part. But yes Once Upon a Time was fucking awesome.

      1. I felt the same way as you about Hereditary. Totally overrated. My favorite horror genre film is The Shining. It creeps me out every time I see it.

    2. Is Midsommer worse than The Laundromat? I have a hard imagining a worse film than that.

  9. I didn’t much care for Jojo Rabbit. I just don’t think Hitler is funny.

    This guy never reads the comments, does he?

  10. but instead The Irishman

    I started watching the Irishman, but it didn’t immediately grab me the way previous Scorsese films have.

    Also, it’s factually incorrect according to people in the know, Frank Sheeran didn’t kill Jimmy Hoffa.

    1. I liked The Irishman, but the ages of the actors are all over the place in that film.

      Robert De Niro moves around like the old man that he is the entire time (doesn’t matter if you make his “20 year old” face look like its 40, he still moves around like 80 year old man and its very noticeable) and somehow quickly catches up to look like he’s as old as Joe Pesci’s character half way through the movie. Honestly, I think this would have been a better film if they went for a younger actor because I found the age stuff to be distracting the entire time I watched it.

      Also, that movie didn’t need to be 3.5 hours long. It wasn’t that good and really didn’t have that much to say. But it was fun.

      1. I couldn’t get past “young” DeNiro looking so much like John Wayne.

  11. The technical conceit of presenting the movie as if it had been shot in one long take isn’t much more than a gimmick

    It was interesting the first… four times I saw this technique. The problem is, it can create a ‘good’ movie that’s not re-watchable.

    As one person said of Birdman, it’s an excellent movie I never need to watch again.

  12. Marriage Story might seem from its trailer like a bare-bones downer

    I lived Marriage Story in real life, trust me, it is a bare-bones downer.

    1. I hate movies that depict the breakup of marriages, even if it is a ‘comedy’, like War of the Roses. I have NO desire to see Marriage Story. Looks too bleak. Plus I think the writer/director is way overrated. I thought Squid and the Whale was pretentious garbage with awful dialogue.

  13. Wow, I haven’t even heard of most of these movies let alone seen them.

    I did see Hereditary, Joker and The Irishman. All three were good movies, with Joker being the best.

  14. The Lighthouse my favorite movie
    i recommend it
    big like

  15. I don’t get the buzz about Marriage Story. It was like an unfunny Woody Allen movie, the dialogue was incredibly unrealistic and the acting was terrible. I only continued to watch it to see how bad it would get and I wasn’t disappointed in its awfullness.

  16. Re: the Irishman, sorry to allthe fans but I see it as Hollywood’s current version of the Emporer’s New Clothes. It was primarily the phoned-in performances by DeNiro and Pesci et al doing the same old Goodfellas tough-guy schtick, and the slow pacing starting out, that turned me off. I count myself as a Scorsese fan; Goodfellas and Gangs of New York are two of my favorites of all time. That said, I only made it to the 29-minute mark, before exiting. *Which points out a primary difference between streaming at home and the theater experience: I might have stuck around longer if I had paid for a seat in a theater. I can’t remember the last theater I walked out of!

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