Surprises Ahead: My Rants, Raves, and Not-Only Top-10 Movie List of 2019
An honest writer-producer bites the hand that feeds him and rants about the good, the bad and the ugly …
This is the time of year when entertainment industry Guild members vote on awards. Known as “awards season,” many of us receive screeners of the films submitted to the various awards entities for consideration, as well as invitations to public screenings, numerous parties and receptions, and so on.
I’m a Writers Guild member. I’m honored to be a Writer’s Guild member, though with that status comes certain responsibilities. Notably, members must see all of the submitted films before we vote.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So … I’ve seen a bunch of films this year.
I can speak on all this.
I’m an opinionated former Brooklynite, so don’t bother giving me shit.
I’ve heard it already.
Film professionals everywhere lambasted “Cats.” We’re supposed to be more professional than that.
But I’m taking a cue. My professionalism is out the window for this article.
I’ve been called a “contrarian” but I enjoyed the film immensely. It was exactly what I thought it would be from the trailers, which I loved. The world looked magical to me and I loved the music.
What I’ve heard over and over about the horrific reception for the film: “I hated the look of the cats.”
Yeah, that would be a problem.
“Cats” aside, some of the year’s most acclaimed films I just didn’t get. Though I love Tarantino and most of his oeuvre, I found “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” to be little more than nearly three hours of onscreen indulgence, courtesy of a legendary filmmaker who took great pains recreating the time period of the late 60s-70s, and little time constructing a coherent narrative. Getting by on the charms of Pitt and DiCaprio was not enough for this viewer, and the film went nowhere for me as a result.
“Bombshell” to me was tonally uncertain. This was its largest issue, but I’ll say this much: Charlize Theron’s portrayal of former FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly is my favorite female performance of the year. So good it was eerie. Though Renee Zelwegger will likely take the prize for “Judy,” underdog Charlize’s chameleon-like transformation was something to see. If only the writing and editing of this important story, about Roger Aisles and his sexual misconduct while running FOX, was more consistent in tone, “Bombshell” would have notched higher in my book.
In a similar vein, I admired “Marriage Story” but left with mixed feelings. It was tightly written and fiercely well-acted — the performances of Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson were particularly noteworthy — but the film was, in my opinion, overtly histrionic. His scandals aside and focusing here only on his art, I found Woody Allen’s “Husbands and Wives,” about a disintegrating marriage, considerably more resonant.
Finally, “Avengers Endgame.” It cannot possibly be anything less than immensely difficult to effectively showcase all of the MCU heroes in one film. As this was the third “Avengers” movie, the logistics accomplished here were most impressive. But, though I am a big comics fan and was even a dealer for a period, I could not buy into either the emotion of it, or that of its immediate predecessor. These are long-established comic books, and not a one of our heroes was going to truly die without ever being featured again. Tony Stark and Iron Man will one day return for adventures elsewhere, as he’s far too valuable a Marvel commodity. For the record, I am not echoing Martin Scorsese saying these films are a waste of time. Not at all, as several of them were among my favorites year-to-year (“Captain America: Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War,” Logan” and others). Also, I’m a huge fan of HBO’s “Watchmen.” But I just could not get emotionally involved here.
“The Rise of Skywalker?” Now that’s another story. Curse me out later.
The 2019 Oscar nominations. Yeah, I can go on … but I already did. Three omissions I did not include in the below article: Jennifer Lopez in “Hustlers” as Best Actress, and the astounding Roman Griffin, 12, for Best Actor in “Jojo Rabbit,” which has become my favorite role by a child actor ever. He was that good, and he may have even been my choice for the win. Also, Christian Bale deserved a nod for “Ford v Ferrari,” but there are only so many slots to go around. Ditto: De Niro, Robert for “The Irishman.”
FINALLY, I can do this, now that I’ve seen all the nominated films. But … I’m going to do it differently. I will not incorporate any plots here, in the hopes that you google the films yourselves and make it your point to seek them out.
Your loss, if you don’t.
To my Top Ten of 2019, an amazing year in movies …
- Parasite: Not only my favorite film of 2019, but one of the finest films I’ve ever seen. Period. Full-stop.
- 1917: I didn’t think anything could approach this one-take wonder (well, it was edited to appear that way) for me this year. I was wrong, which just goes to show the quality of this year’s work.
- Jojo Rabbit: To a point, you’re watching “Blazing Saddles” with Nazis. And then … turns happen.
- The Rise of Skywalker (yup): Look, I’m an unabashed and unapologetic “Star Wars” fan. I’ve invested over 40 years of my life into these films. This was an effective “goodbye” to Skywalker and crew, as far as I’m concerned.
- Joker: Cesar Romero, who I knew towards the latter part of his life, would be turning in his grave as he believed the character to be solely a campy comic book villain. He loathed Jack Nicholson’s portrayal in Tim Burton’s 1989 film for being “dark.” “Joker” was “Taxi Driver” on steroids.
- Little Women: A film I had no desire to see, that I fell in love with. Writer-director Greta Gerwig’s work in re-presenting this oft-told tale is astounding.
- The Irishman: Three-plus hours and I was never bored. Not Scorsese’s finest in my opinion, and some of the motion-capture de-aging effects were iffy, but this was a marvelous film.
- Ford v Ferrari: Speaking of films that were not high on my list of “must-sees,” this was a knockout. Great acting, directing and writing throughout, in a fast-paced story that doesn’t stop.
- Knives Out: I absolutely love that Rian Johnson returned with this surprise smash after “The Last Jedi” (my favorite “Star Wars” film since “The Empire Strikes Back” and I’m sticking to it) tore SW fandom apart like Tom Savini’s zombies in the original “Dawn of the Dead.” Success is the best revenge.
- Booksmart: I haven’t laughed so hard in a movie theater in ages (and then I saw “Jojo Rabbit” and I laughed harder, but still). See it if only to lighten your mood. It’s pretty damn hilarious.
Honorable Mentions: “Richard Jewell,” “The Two Popes,” “Toy Story 4” … and “Cats.”
Is what it is.
A great year, but I must reiterate … Up until 4PM 24 hours ago, Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 masterwork, “There Will Be Blood,” was my favorite movie of the millenium. “Parasite” supplanted that placement, and I cannot recommend Bong Joon-ho’s masterpiece enough.
I believe it’s going to score a huge upset and become 2019’s Oscar-winning Best Picture.
Anyone want to take that bet?
Thank you for reading.
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