Top Twenty Films of 2019: Part 1, Honorable Mentions and Missed Films

A screen capture from "The Dead Don't Die." (Source: YouTube/Focus Features)

If I had to sum up the year of films in 2019 I would say just this: overstuffed. From the operatic three and a half hour long run-times of big franchise finales and small cinema via the stream-screen, to the creative seams bursting in some of the year’s best, to the wealth of great films released in a 365 day period, 2019 was overstuffed.

It’s not a bad thing though. For the first time in as many years as I can remember, I missed a lot of movies that I REALLY wanted to see and I thoroughly enjoyed more movies than I could include on any list.

So, without further ado, I will give a short rundown of some of the films that I saw that JUST missed my top twenty list, and include something about the films that I just didn’t get the chance to see yet.

Toy Story 4:

The possible finale of a three decade long saga. (Source: YouTube/Pixar)

I’ll be honest with you, I LOVED this movie when it first came out. Not just because it was more of Buzz, Woody and the rest of the gang, but because it was the first movie in the series that addressed the somewhat sad nature of their lives: they’re immortal beings whose sole purpose is to serve the whims of a child. It’s a pretty messed up existence, right?

So, by the film’s end, allowing Woody to take control over his life, offering him an option beyond the circuital tragic nature of his existence was maybe the most satisfying send-off to a film series that grew up alongside my generation.

Ad Astra

Instead of the film’s trailer, here is an edit by a YouTuber of the film’s beautiful cinematography. (Source: YouTube/The Beauty Of)

Based on the trailer, this looks like this year’s “Inception” or “Gravity,” both of which are great and enjoyable movies in their own right. But in actuality, “Ad Astra,” directed by James Gray; who’s made a career out of making well-made movies that somehow get ignored by everybody, myself included sometimes; is a slow, contemplative space film, more in the vein of “2001: A Space Odyssey” than those other films.

In a less packed year, “Ad Astra” could’ve made my top ten, but given its slow pace and possibly my lethargy upon viewing it, it slipped off my list. That being said, find a nice quiet night to rent this because it’s worth it.

Shazam:

The story of a kid who turns into a superhero, like “Big” with a cape. (Source: YouTube/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Man, it is a real shame that the second best DCEU movie didn’t make this year’s top twenty list because it is possibly one of the most enjoyable DC films EVER made.

“Shazam,” directed by David F. Sanberg, a filmmaker who got his start making the short that inspired “Lights Out,” made a different kind of superhero movie that was half heart-warming, coming-of-age comedy and half schlocky superhero movie.

By the film’s end, staring at a caterpillar on the wall of a prison cell, I found myself very excited for the film’s inevitable sequel.

Uncut Gems:

Adam Sandler tries his hand at a dramatic role again, nearly two decades after “Punch Drunk Love.” (Source: YouTube/A24)

Another movie that barely got cut from the list, “Uncut Gems,” directed by the Safdie Brothers, whose 2017 film “Good Time” converted me to Robert Pattinson SERIOUSLY GOOD actor, is a capital T tense film.

I mean, it was so tense, especially in parts, I almost didn’t enjoy the experience. Almost. That being said, I did hear a great deal of people in the theater grumbling about Adam Sandler’s character’s frustrating nature.

Also, as a P.T. Anderson fan, who loves Adam Sandler’s performance in “Punch Drunk Love,” I was intensely waiting for somebody to mine Adam Sandler’s raw, angry and overwhelmed shtick for a dramatic turn again.

Glass:

The final film in M. Night Shyamalan’s trilogy that began with “Unbreakable.” (Source: YouTube/Universal Pictures)

I can’t say that “Glass,” directed by the frustrating and often brilliant M. Night Shyamalan, who jump started his career as the “new Spielberg” in the early aughts with “Sixth Sense,” “Signs,” and “Unbreakable,” this film’s prequel, before imploding into schlock, is a mixed bag of a film.

I enjoy many aspects of the film and I think I enjoy them more than most of the public, but it’s not as satisfying a conclusion to this trilogy Shyamalan’s apparently been building since the genesis of his career.

The Art of Self-Defense:

The dark, dark comedy “The Art of Self-Defense’s” trailer. (Source: YouTube/Bleeker Street)

I only happened upon this movie because I wanted to go see a movie and had seen all of the other movies showing at the cinema that I’d wanted to see at that point in time.

That being said, “The Art of Self-Defense” stayed in my top twenty for a long, long time.

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, it is a dark, dark, dark comedy on why you probably shouldn’t want to be an alpha male and why striving to be one is not only bad for you but possibly bad for society. It is also incredibly fun, despite it also being incredibly dark.

Beach Bum:

Matthew McConaughey plays a poetic pothead in Harmony Korine’s “Beach Bum.” (Source: YouTube/Neon)

Harmony Korine is a polarizing filmmaker. I myself find his movies infuriatingly almost great, except for a handful of things that just bug me.

“Beach Bum” starring Matthew McConaguey in a role it seems his entire career was designed for – a prophetic stoner poet who wiles away his days in south Florida – is basically a Cheech & Chong movie, written by a first year philosophy student.

That being said, it’s an enjoyable, bizarre, occasionally beautiful film about accepting the entropic nature of the universe.

John Wick III:

The John Wick films feature a bevy of heavily choreographed fight scenes, filmed from afar, so that the viewer can see the fight unfold in real time. (Source: YouTube/Movieclips)

I’m not really into action movies. Perhaps it’s because I shared a room with my two brothers as a little kid, and my oldest brother was obsessed with action movies, often forcing us to watch “Days of Thunder” many nights before bed.

That being said, the John Wick series has been, cinematically pleasing to a snob like myself, punctuating the action with brilliant cinematography, choreography, and set design.

It helps that apparently Keanu Reeves is a brilliant stoic samurai-esque hero.

Rocketman:

Taron Egerton recently won a Golden Globe for his role in the film. (Source: YouTube/Paramount Pictures)

I likewise, am not a big fan of rock star bio-pics. They’re all almost the same, plotwise. Act 1: nobody believes in their dream. Act 2: Success. Act 3: drugs and demons. Act 4: Getting over the demons and drugs for one last big hurrah.

It’s a tired old routine and at this point, for the most part, I can’t be bothered in my busy schedule to hear a fictionalized re-telling of what success looks like via drugs and guitar solos.

“Rocketman” though felt different. Taron Egerton’s performance as Elton John was, I don’t know, rather unassuming, much like the bio-pic’s subject, despite the flair. Likewise, the film itself is rather unassuming, focusing more on the man and his personal life, rather than how capital I Important his music was/is.

The Dead Don’t Die:

Jim Jarmusch, the film’s director, breaks down a scene for The New York Times. (Source: YouTube/The New York Times)

When the star-studded trailer for this debuted I predicted that nobody would enjoy it as much as they assumed they would enjoy it. The trailer painted it as “Zombieland” but with Bill Murray in a starring role.

And, much to my un-surprise, it was released to little fanfare, probably much to the director, Jim Jarmusch’s desire.

I originally predicted that because Jim Jarmusch, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, has spent the better part of his career making weird, quirky, laid-back indie films that almost seem to intend to not find a big audience.

“The Dead Don’t Die,” one of the most subversive zombie films ever, does exactly that, to a degree that it’s almost an infuriating watch, while simultaneously being a commentary about how we react and then ignore tragedy.

Ready or Not:

Directors, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett got their start on the anthology horror series, “V/H/S.” (Source: YouTube/Fox Searchlight)

I don’t have a lot to say about this film beyond that it is just utterly enjoyable. It’s funny, it’s crude, it mocks the worst of the upper crust of society and their drive towards the most extreme of capitalist cannibalism, that drive towards profit at all costs, casualties of the poor be damned.

The Movies I Missed:

1917:

“1917” features “one long shot,” a trick that is intended to make the film look as if there are not cuts. (Source: YouTube/Universal Pictures)

Directed by Sam Mendes, who’s had a nearly perfect career from start to finish,“1917” just didn’t come out around here soon enough for me to watch it. And yes, it’s technically a 2019 release, despite it being released wide late last week.

For an added bonus, now legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins one-upped Emmanuel Lubezki’s “one shot” movie “Birdman” by doing the whole “one shot” approach outside, in a war film for “1917.” If only we could have these two brilliant cinematographers try to one-up each other till the end of time, we’d all be the better for it.

Little Women:

Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern & the film’s director, Greta Gerwig break down a scene for Vanity Fair. (Source: YouTube/Vanity Fair)

I cannot stress enough how sad I am that I didn’t see Greta Gerwig’s sophomore effort YET. And yes, it is yet, because I am definitely gonna see it as soon as I can. Sadly, not before this goes to print.

The Nightingale:

From the director of “The Babadook,” “The Nightingale” is currently streaming on Hulu. (Source: YouTube/IFC Films)

“The Babadook” director, Jennifer Kent’s follow-up is currently streaming on Hulu, and I would’ve watched it over Christmas break but I didn’t have enough time. That being said, I have heard it is a brutal, unforgiving film, and one I will hopefully see sometime early in 2020.

Dolemite is My Name:

Former SNL alum, Eddie Murphy, plays Rudy Ray Moore, comedian, singer, actor, film producer and creator of ’70s indie film character Dolemite. (Source: YouTube/Netflix)

Despite this being on Netflix for awhile now, I still haven’t had the chance to see it. I have heard that Eddie Murphy is great in it and that it is a very well-made, enjoyable film on the whole.

Monos:

While “monos,” the title as well as the code name of the main squad in the film, superficially means “monkeys” in Spanish, it signifies the prefix mono- of Greek origin meaning “alone” or “one” according to Landes, the film’s director. (Source: YouTube/Neon)

Produced by Guillermo Del Toro, but NOT directed by him (directed by Alejandro Landes), I watched the trailer because of the former part of that sentence. That being said, I’m glad I did, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to see it.

Go watch the trailer, it looks great.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire:

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” was nominated alongside “Parasite,” “The Farewell” and “Pain and Glory” at the Golden Globes for Best Foreign Language Film and a favorite to be nominated for The Academy’s foreign language category. (Source: YouTube/Neon)

I really JUST heard about this movie from France. That being said, it’s been nominated for a ton of awards and has been heaped with praise and it looks absolutely gorgeous.

Pain and Glory:

Antonio Banderas played the film’s director, famed Spanish director, Pedro Amodóvar.(Source: YouTube/Variety)

Again, this is another foreign language film that I just haven’t had the chance to see. I don’t know much about it other than that it is apparently autobiographical. That being said, I have also heard nothing but good things about it.

I intend to see it eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Beyond that, there’s a handful of other movies I would’ve liked to see but just couldn’t, like Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell,” Jay Roach’s “Bombshell,” Trey Edward Shults’ “Waves,” among others.

There were also many movies that I saw that didn’t quite live up to my expectations, like J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” Dan Gilroy’s “Velvet Buzzsaw,” and Terrance Malick’s 3-hour-long montage, “A Hidden Life.”

There were also a handful of movies I just didn’t have the chance to write about like “Apollo 11,” which deserves way more praise for its hypnotic retelling of man’s first moon landing, and “They Shall Not Grow Old,” “Lord of the Rings” director, Peter Jackson’s documentary about World War I.

All in all, as I said at the start of this now gargantuan trek of an article, this year was “overstuffed,” and that is probably not a bad thing.

Richard Foltz
Executive Editor

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