2019 was the year of the superhero/villain. And in this scenario Martin Scorsese is not the bad guy regardless of his comments against Marvel. JOKER surprised us while AVENGERS: ENDGAME broke countless box office records with a runtime so long it wrecked nerds bladders across the world.
But the real star this year was the resurgence of cinema being the director’s medium. Nine out of my top 10 capture one person’s vision. But with that said, no director captured that essence better than my number one pick this year, where she delivered a timeless classic that demands repeat viewings (I am on viewing number four).
Before I dive into the top 10, a few honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD: I would have rather seen this flick as a Netflix series than a feature.
THE TWO POPES: Just outside my top 10, right at number 11.
1917: Technically amazing and extremely immersive, yet lacking the emotional need for repeat viewings like “Saving Private Ryan” or “The Thin Red Line.”
THE IRISHMAN I didn’t get it. But that might be the point?
10. JOJO RABBIT
A SpoilerFreeReview rabbit hole captured in two viewings:
Viewing One: JOJO RABBIT is the most original film of the year and an instant hipster classic courtesy of Taika Waititi.
Viewing Two: JOJO RABBIT falls short of being a hipster classic that demands repeat viewings like Waititi’s true masterpiece, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE. Why? The Mel Brooks inspired farce with a touch of Wes Anderson gets too much screen time, muting the emotional impact that would have reached the emotional heights of LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.
Tl;dr viewing results, my wife cried a lot.
9. AVENGERS: ENDGAME is the LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING of the Marvel universe.
8. ROCKETMAN is a better broadway musical than it is a biopic and it’s easily one of the best movies of the year
7. A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is less of a movie about Fred Rogers and more of a character study about the broken journalist he inspired. By framing the movie just like the TV show, it turns simple, predictable and cliched Mr. Roger worthy lessons into profound cinematic greatness with several #IAmNotCryingYoureCrying moments.
6. DARK WATERS may be based on a chemical substance, but nothing is artificial in this true-life understated Atticus Finch like movie that is easily Todd Haynes best work to date.
5. FROZEN II
Do “the next right thing” and see FROZEN II this holiday season. It’s the sequel I didn’t know I needed that is darker, more mature, funnier and with an epic tear-inducing adventure that’s greater than the first.
Oh, and the songs…yes, you will be hearing them at a karaoke bar on repeat soon.
4. JOKER is beautiful / ugly cinema that is both reckless in its portrayal of violence in the world and inspiring. It emulates dark cinema like “Requiem for a Dream” and the brilliant Scorsese pictures it pays homage to.
It’s nothing short of a masterpiece.
3. MARRIAGE STORY is a brilliant narrative that somehow combines the business of divorce with the emotions of falling in love to epic comedic/dramatic levels.
2. UNCUT GEMS
Adam Sandler’s performance is the real gem in UNCUT GEMS, a messy masterpiece that is an inside fictional look at the life of a neurotic Jewish New Yorker. It’s a two-hour plus climax of a movie that had my ❤️beat up 10BPM throughout the entire experience.
Oh, and two extra points for not only having the most stressful finding afikomen scene in cinema history but also getting a great performance out of NBA legend, KG.
1. BOOKSMART brilliantly takes two Diane Court SAY ANYTHING) like lead characters and frees them of the standard high school boy meets girl setup. By doing this, it creates a funny, moving, coming of age classic that has something new to say while feeling comfortably familiar.
I can’t wait to see it again.