Best Films of 2019!
Am I Too Late?
I’m probably too late to the party for listing off a ‘Best Films of 2019’ article, but I had to play catchup and I like to be thorough… So here we are! About a month too late, who cares though? Film is timeless. Sort of. With that mindset, what the hell is “late” anyways?! In all seriousness, there are films from last year that I absolutely loved and feel they deserve some time to shine in the spotlight for a random individual’s list on the web. Why not mine?! Anyone reading, I hope you keep in mind that I have not seen every single title to come out of 2019. For instance; I have not seen A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Color Out of Space, Richard Jewell, Pain and Glory, and I’m sure plenty more that have gotten some great word of mouth yet I haven’t gotten around to checking out.
Spoiler Alert: For anyone else who is curious why films such as Joker, The Two Popes, Ford v Ferrari, Little Women, Parasite, The Irishman, Harriet, Bombshell, Judy, Toy Story 4, Midsommer, etc. aren’t on my list for the ‘best’ movies of the year… I liked them, some of them I even loved, but I couldn’t justify putting them on my personal list of what I find to be the true greats of 2019. Granted art is totally subjective, what I find to be great or masterful, others might perceive as atrocious. Luckily they’d be wrong because I’m always right, but we could at least tease the idea that there is a miniscule chance that I might be wrong at some point in my life. Alright, alright, now that I have gotten the pompous ass pretention out of the way. Let’s talk about my favorite movies of 2019!
10) Knives Out
The Plot: When the head of a wealthy family dies under mysterious circumstances, it’s up to Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to solve the case before things get out of hand with the disgruntled relatives.
My Thoughts: From the very vague description I supplied for good reason, Knives Out comes across about as standard of a “whodunnit” type thriller that one could find. In actuality, no. Knives Out is extremely smart in its pacing as it shifts gears on any audience who is familiar with the tropes of this specific genre. We are treated to revelations early on in the film that change the landscape of the screenplay entirely, making for a breath of fresh air as we are introduced to one unpredictable story beat after another. All because the script gives more information in the first act than one would have suspected, yet somehow that aides the narrative in misleading the viewer while they are being informed. It’s quite brilliant with its tactics honestly for a subgenre that most are probably familiar with at this point and twisting it in such a way to make us constantly curious as to who we should even be rooting for.
When it comes to the “whodunnit” genre, it’s fairly common to grow relatively bored with some stories because occasionally of how easy certain plot points are to guess with where things are leading and the characters are nothing all that special. This movie’s number one priority is to entertain even the most cynical moviegoer as the characters are what some may refer to as a “hoot.” They’re equal parts hilarious and distinct in their own ways. The actors obviously are having fun with the different territories they can sink their teeth into with the writing, especially that of Daniel Craig who maintains such a suave and genuine character that I’m admittedly excited to see future sequels/spin-offs with his Southern Gentleman Detective performance. Oh, and for the people who disregard this movie on the basis that director Rian Johnson “ruined” Star Wars… Just do us all a favor and go cry in your mother’s basement away from the adults trying to have a good time at the movies. Thank you very much and have a good day.
The Plot: A soldier gone rogue… A student must now become master in order to stop his fellow mentor from rebelling against the country he holds so dear… now the only thing standing in their way is about a hundred casualties and a few dance numbers for there is only… WAR!
My Thoughts: So… people might be wondering what in the hell is War or if this a Bollywood remake of the Jason Statham/Jet Li vehicle of the same name? I’m glad you asked this, fellow reader. War is in fact a Bollywood movie and it is one that changed my life forever. Prior to 2019, any Bollywood film I had seen really was not my cup of tea. Strangely enough, the reasons I disliked past Bollywood movies are all the reasons why I love War; a wacky tone, convoluted story, random dance sequences that come right out of nowhere, and they are always super long sits. Somehow War does everything that I just listed off yet does it so fantastically that I couldn’t stop smiling through its two and a half hour runtime. War is certainly wacky as it captures a tone that is simultaneously a tongue-in-cheek callback to the over-the-top ‘80s action flicks released by Cannon studios while also taking itself seriously (to an extent). The script is a needlessly complicated story that kept one-upping itself continuously to the point where it became hilarious. And the sporadic dance sequences added so much levity, as well as spectacle, to the entire experience and it’s amazing.
Honestly, I ate up every solitary second of screen time of War. The action is joyful in its bombastic nature, as every fist fight or shootout amped everything up to eleven and only went up from there. The acting is played straight and totally serious yet in a way that benefits the absurdity, akin to the acting that can be seen in 1980’s Airplane where the performers displayed an intensely dramatic belief in their almost cartoonish surroundings. Every single detail about War is pure joy, through and through. When the ending credits rolled I was immediately excited to watch it all over again because I gained that much delight from the movie. If you haven’t seen WAR, which is fairly likely, do yourselves a favor by seeking out WAR! Although please try to contain your excitement after viewing so you don’t accidentally kill someone.
The Plot: Set during World War I, a young soldier is given the near impossible task to deliver a message through enemy territory to his brother’s unit in order to prevent 1,600 men from raiding into a mortal trap. Alongside the young man is his best friend and they must work together to stay alive and reach the endangered team before it is too late.
My Thoughts: Going from one of the most delightful to one of the more stressful movies to come out of 2019. There is no denying the significant onslaught of war pictures we have received over the years, even recently. Some of which are tremendously suspenseful epics and others maybe not so much, obviously if 1917 is making my ‘Best of the Year’ list then it is probably the former. If you don’t want to know literally anything about the film and go in completely cold, I advise that you cease reading from here and know that I highly recommend the ever-living hell out of 1917 to anyone who enjoys a solid war flick. I apologize for giving a little secret about the film away here, but the movie is shot and edited in such a way where it appears as one single continuous take that never cuts. Clearly there had to have been trick editing, crafty camera work, and the use of CGI somewhere throughout the film; however because it is so seamlessly crafted, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where some of those cuts actually were. Because the editing is so seamless to present a real-time narrative inside of a war zone, the pacing and tone is absolutely nail biting the whole way through.
Every second feels like life or death because the clock always seems to be ticking and the danger is never too distant, even when it is not seen. This hectic journey for our leads is never a straight line as going through an entire war zone is no walk in the park. There is death and mayhem every which way if they aren’t careful, sometimes it’s unclear if a location they land themselves in is perfectly safe or yet another trap set by the enemy that’ll be their demise. At no point was I ever certain that our heroes would even make it to their destination alive, let alone in time to save the men from the ambush they were soon to face. Scene after scene would play out and regardless on if things ended up uneventful or full on intense, I was always terrified of what was to come. The buildup of suspense throughout it’s entire runtime, thanks largely to the “one-shot” editing style, is almost unbearable. We are practically standing side-by-side next to these poor soldiers trudging through hell itself to hopefully make it to the other side in one piece. 1917 is going to haunt my dreams forever, care to join in on that fun?
7) Gloria Bell
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The Plot: A middle-aged mother of two grown children, Gloria (Julianne Moore), is finding herself to be more of a free spirit as she simply enjoys going out to the Los Angeles dance clubs and having a good time. Until one day she discovers a romantic flame in that of a quirky divorcee (John Turturro), and they attempt to fit together the messy pieces of their lives as a couple.
My Thoughts: Gloria was a movie I admittedly was not expecting at all as it seemingly came out of nowhere. Julianne Moore completely infects the audience’s soul with her warmhearted character that is trying to figure out who she truly is deep down after living a life for everyone else except herself. She undoubtedly loves her kids, loves her mother, and to an extent loves her ex-husband, but now in her later years realizes that she wants to at least be someone who isn’t always doing everything under the sun to appease everyone else. She enjoys dancing and doesn’t want to be held back by certain responsibilities anymore that aren’t her own. At first it seems that maybe she can find her purpose and place in life through this new blossoming relationship with Tuturro’s character, but not all is as it seems when revelations of his own messy life come to light. Can they figure their sh*t out together? Only one way to find out. Check it out! The performances are charming and sincere, the soundtrack is filled to the brim with terrific ‘70s disco, and the film itself is stylish. If this sounds like one’s cup of tea, take no longer in seeing it very soon.
6) Jojo Rabbit
The Plot: Young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is living the typical life of any boy in 1940s Germany; enlisting in Hitler’s army and even befriends an imaginary depiction of Hitler (Taika Waititi) as he tries to prove himself worthy of the Fuhrer. All seems fine and dandy, until Jojo discovers a terrible secret that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl in their house. It’s up to this little Nazi in training and his imaginary Hitler to figure out how to solve this conundrum before things get really out of hand!
My Thoughts: Taika Waititi is a director that appears as though the entire world fell in love with when his 2017 directorial effort under Marvel Studios was released, Thor: Ragnarok. Sadly, I was not one of those people. Not to say I hated Ragnarok, I just didn’t like it nearly as much as the rest of the world as I found it perfectly adequate… I guess? With that said, when word was spreading about Waititi’s next cinematic venture being highly praised, I became relatively cynical. Immediately recalling back in 2017 when every person who spoke of Ragnarok claimed it to be one of the best Marvel movies ever and one of the best pictures of that year… It wasn’t. It was okay. It was not greatness or even all that funny, it was fine. And it’s fine to be fine, but I’m not going to praise simply “fine.” Jojo Rabbit on the other hand is legitimately great. This is more or less of what I was expecting from Thor: Ragnarok; sharp witted humor, biting sense of satire, a moment or two of gut wrenching emotion, and a lot of heart.
To create a “funny” story that touches on some really heavy material, such as the Holocaust, there really needs to be a smart approach that will balance the humor alongside the dramatic nature of this event or else the whole picture can fall apart. Thankfully, Waititi channeled the spirit of Mel Brooks and Woody Allen on this particular production. Several parallels can probably be made with something along the lines of Blazing Saddles where the writing sheds a humorous light on a touchy and very serious topic. Blazing Saddles of course was centered on racism and the mentality of the old west, Jojo Rabbit is about… well… Hitler’s reign on the Jewish public and how a little boy idolizes him. Not exactly a cheery subject, but because the comedy is smart and the characters are so likable that it’s difficult not to become sucked in by the film’s charm. Especially from Scarlett Johansson’s role as Jojo’s mother, who gives a performance that is easily the heart of this entire movie. Give this one a shot if you haven’t already!
5) The Lighthouse
The Plot: Two lighthouse keepers (Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe) try to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
My Thoughts: The Lighthouse is one of those films I can tell will eventually be regarded by fans of the genre as one of the closest examples of horror as one can get to greatness. The setting of two men completely isolated from the world in a place that feels as though no human being has ever belonged in, the tone blurs the line of what is real and what might be hallucination, the two lead characters are eerily authentic to the time period of the 1890s in amusing and curious dialog, the cinematography is some of the most ambitiously surreal that I have seen in years as it fits so much beauty within the 4:3 aspect ratio, and the tension cuts through the audience like steal through butter. Eliminating all color only strengthens the depth of each and every camera shot in the picture. There truly isn’t enough great things I can say about The Lighthouse, it needs to be seen to be believed in its strange monstrous power. Not to mention that both Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe knock their duo out of the park as they display hilarious and terrifying chemistry. All I’ll say is that Willem Dafoe was definitely snubbed for a Best Supporting Actor nomination and I fear for the lives who made that terrible mistake… Dafoe is f*cking crazy! And awesome!
4) The Peanut Butter Falcon
The Plot: Zak (Zack Gottsagen) is a kid with down syndrome who decides to break free from his care home to make his dream of becoming a wrestler a reality. Along the way Zak comes across a drifter who is also on the run (Shia LaBeouf) and Zak’s caretaker (Dakota Johnson) work together in order to voyage to meet Zak’s wrestling hero.
My Thoughts: In the grand spectrum of film there are some that are high class pieces of art, there are the mindless action spectacle blockbusters, there are those that boggle the mind, those that are made to excite or frighten, and others are made to enlighten or provoke challenging themes. The Peanut Butter Falcon was made to delight the soul. This is film filled with optimism and cheer, to simply bring a smile to any lucky viewer to come its way. Shia LaBeouf completely owns every scene with his extremely empathetic yet flawed character, although the entire cast is filled with so much heart that I end up adoring practically everyone on screen. Peanut Butter Falcon is a joyful voyage that just feels good to experience and watch this makeshift family form between the three leads. The beauty of this picture resides in the lighthearted layers without ever resorting to anything overly dramatic, only injecting drama and even tension when absolutely necessary, but still providing a payoff that is utterly positive in spirit. If anyone reading my article needs something to really lift the spirits, please seek this treasure out as The Peanut Butter Falcon will undoubtedly bring glee to everyone’s gloomy day.
3) Uncut Gems
The Plot: New York City jeweler, Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), finds himself in a major pickle when his gambling addiction begins burying him in debt with criminals. In a matter of days Ratner has to balance his family life, his high-maintenance girlfriend, a famous basketball player that refuses to return a precious gem, New York gangsters, and numerous bets in an attempt to win his next big score only to set himself back even further in the hole.
My Thoughts: For many years I’ve been utterly infuriated with Adam Sandler and his cinematic blunders that some would refer to as comedies. As a kid, truth be told, I found the comedian amusing. Then I grew up to find his shenanigans growing stale and annoying. When it comes to Sandler’s comedies such as Little Nicky, The Waterboy, Grown Ups, Jack and Jill, and ESPECIALLY That’s My Boy; I am fully enraged for approximately two whole hours of his obnoxious antics and ear gratingly “silly” voice. What makes the egg shape headed man’s comedies infinitely more frustrating is the fact that we all know he can do better and provide far more developed performances; Punch-Drunk Love, Funny People, and Reign Over Me are dramatic works that he does phenomenal acting in while also mustering genuine laughs when appropriate. Now it’s time to add Uncut Gems to the list of Sandler’s true potential.
Uncut Gems is directed by the Safdie brothers, who also were behind 2017’s Good Time, showing once again that these two understand how to implement a gritty tone within a time-bomb paced story. Every second feels crucial in Sandler’s character of either making his next move work or blowing right back up in his own face. This is an intense as hell masterpiece that never let’s up on just how stressful this poor guy’s life is in a matter of a few days, much of it by his own doing. Because the dialog is so natural, the editing is constantly running ramped, and the performance by Sandler is so subtly cracking in under pressure while battling his gambling addictions that only make things worse for him; all of this adds up to a tense filled rollercoaster ride that I couldn’t look away from. I seriously hope that Uncut Gems is the true turn in Sandler’s career that I have been waiting for. Let this be the start of a new and completely versatile filmography for him. If he still wants to do comedies, that’s fine, but hopefully they will at the very least be more well crafted or interesting or mature or if remotely possible… filled with less sh*t jokes. Fingers crossed.
2) Marriage Story
The Plot: The story of a marriage coming to an end, but both partners (Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson) approach the divorce with the best of intentions to keep matters as civil and simple as possible. Unfortunately once the inclusion of lawyers, friends and family opinions come into play, nothing is as easy as the couple had originally hoped. Leading to a rather toxic and uneasy relationship between the soon to be ex-husband and wife as the tension only builds up more between the two as they try their hardest to remain a cohesive family with their son.
My Thoughts: Who would have thought that one of the most suspenseful films of 2019 was a story about divorce? Silly as that may sound, the tension between the two leads played by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson is unbelievably heart pounding, as well as heart breaking in many scenes. Every moment it was damn near impossible not to hold my breath in fear of where a relatively mundane scenario would go. For instance, the scene when Johansson’s character has to figure out an easy and less painful way in order to serve her husband divorce papers as they still care for each other a great deal. Or when custody of their child comes into play and Driver must appease a social worker yet prove a normal day with his son is not just for show. At any point, a lesser writer or director would scrap a majority of this content or amp the scenes up to cringeworthy levels of melodrama. Not in Marriage Story though.
This is a smart and extremely grounded look at divorce with all that entails under the territory. Yes, the end of any relationship is a very sad subject, but as any couple coming to an end would know that they also have to juggle the rest of their lives on top of a breakup/divorce. Sometimes those outside sources only make things more complicated than they have to be. Neither side of husband and wife are painted as wrong or totally at fault for the divorce and the dominos that fall after, but neither side is totally innocent either. Both Driver and Johansson give the pinnacle performances of their career as we can really gain a sense of who these people are, flaws and all. We understand what makes each tick, what features may charm whoever they meet and the difficulties they contribute when an overwhelming situation presents itself. Even though generally speaking the topic of Marriage Story is obviously a downer, the prospect of family overcoming dire obstacles that could break all that they love is very strong in the film’s spirit. Every second there is a glimmer of hope, but always a shadow of doubt too. Marriage Story is on Netflix, there’s no excuse not to watch this great movie. Please see it, even if this doesn’t sound like one’s cup of tea. There’s a chance that one will discover more than a simple sad story.
1) Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood!
The Plot: The year is 1969, a time where the Hollywood platform is changing. Resulting in television star, Rick F*cking Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double/best friend/chauffeur Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) realizing that their careers are on a quick path of fading into obscurity. Striving to figure out where their new place is in the world as Hollywood’s Golden Age comes to a close and they begin to enter what was known as the New Hollywood Era. During that duo’s struggle, up-and-coming new actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) begins a promising career with a delightful, yet eccentrically exciting lifestyle as she lives right next door to Rick Dalton with her beloved husband Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and close friend Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch).
My Thoughts: Quentin Tarantino is one of the greatest film directors working today. There is no debate, no argument, no denying the claim to be any less than true. Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Reservoir Dogs, Django Unchained, and plenty others under his belt are considered modern masterpieces of the last thirty years. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood might just be his crowning achievement on top of all else he has crafted. Tarantino’s New Hollywood era styled love letter to the days of old Hollywood, a time now long lost that once was so potent and vibrant in the 1960s. Shedding an incredible light on the ending of the Golden Age of Hollywood while creating a “what-if” scenario that is bittersweet and heartfelt for Sharon Tate’s final days before the Manson murders took place. Could this film have taken the more grounded in our own reality approach on the dark matter? Of course, but I believe Once Upon A Time’s signature Tarantino writing is what makes this a truly special experience. This is the type of epic that would have come out in the 1970s, not that of action and fictional vistas in outer space, but a spectacle to marvel at bringing a forgotten time period back to life in remarkably painstaking detail. We live and breathe this world of the 1960s as the big screen propels us straight there. There is not a doubt in my mind that Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is the absolute best film I saw all year from 2019. If anyone cares to hear more on my general analysis, my review for the movie can be found here. Please do yourselves a huge favor and see Tarantino’s magnum opus immediately.
For Anyone Curious Enough...
Down below I will leave a link down to my 'Worst Films of 2019' list if anyone cares to see the other side of the spectrum.
- Worst Films of 2019
We already looked at the best... Care to take a look at the rest?
That’s All Folks!
Those were my ten best films of 2019, what about yours? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Have a list entirely of your own? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my list then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a great day!
© 2020 John Plocar