Monday, April 6, 2020

Top 10 best movies of 2019

yeah yeah, I'm super late. But, I've done this tradition for a long time, and I ain't about to break tradition. I figure, better late than never. Even if just a few people read this, if I can get even one pair of eyes on some of these movies, I think I'm good.

Unlike my best of the decade list, I'm going to aim to keep these thoughts super short, maybe with the exception of #1. Here we go:

Honorable mentions:
Brightburn, 1917, Parasite, The Two Popes, Alita: Battle Angel, Knives Out, Toy Story 4, Missing Link, Spiderman: Far From Home

 10. Fighting with my Family ****
Never thought I'd see the day a WWE film makes it on my list. Yeah I guess I'm biased being a huge wrestling fan, and yes its structure is cliched, but god damn it, I had a huge smile on my face from beginning to end, and with lots of laughs. Utterly delightful, Paige's family - holy fuck! I'd watch a reality show of them. And easily the funniest work from Vince Vaughan in ages. 

9. Paddleton (on Netflix) ****
This movie demands patience. It is very leisurely paced, but when the credits roll, this movie really sticks with you. It may be depressing as fuck as it's about coming to terms with death, but an absolutely beautiful male friendship at the centre of this, with quite a unique moral conundrum. I picture myself in the shoes of Ray Ramano's character...could I do that for a best friend? 


8. Polar ****
Many people loved John wick 3, but I think Polar takes the cake for the best brutally violent action movie of the year. Fuck the rottentomatoes critics. This movie was so much fucking fun, great action scenes, Mads Mikkelsen needs to be given more opportunities as an action star, and their meta joke referencing John Wick may be the funniest gag of any movie this year. Sequels please!! 

7. Marriage Story ****
Noah Baumbach directed a divorce dark comedy gem in The Squid in the Whale back in 2005, though if something stopped that movie from greatness, it's not a movie I connected with emotionally. Then he made a bunch of movies that never measured up to Squid and the Whale's sorta greatness; same flaw, couldn't connect emotionally, but often, couldn't give two fucks about the characters. Then there's Marriage Story, I think it's his best movie, and finally a Baumbach movie where I could feel the characters' pain even if they live very privileged lives, and maybe even shed a few tears with them. It's Baumbach's most Hollywood movie, and in this case, that's a good thing. 

6. The Irishman ****
I think it's Scorsese's best movie since Goodfellas. Is the 3.5 hour runtime justified? Yeah, kinda. Maybe could have been a tad bit shorter, but I was never bored. In fact, I would argue that Irishman ramps up the tension and suspense to a higher degree than any other Scorsese movie I can think of. While I originally thought Irishman suffered from Return of the King-itis, another review put it in perspective. The long ending is actually a fitting end to all Scorsese gangster movies, and this should be Scorsese's sendoff to gangster movies for good. 

5. Dolemite Is My Name ****1/2
So many people live such different lives, yet 90% of Hollywood biopics feel the need to follow the same formula of alcoholism, depression, strained relationship with parents and drug addiction. Dolemite is such a breath of fresh air. It's the most delightful, feel good, inspirational movie of the year; I love an inspirational story about a struggling comedian who finds his voice and just wants to spread his brand of fucked up humour, and super violent, organ ripping kung fu fighting to the silver screen. Eddie Murphy gives such a high energy, hilarious performance reminding us of just how fucking good he is when he isn't taking shitty PG rated roles. And what a character! 

I also think Da'Vine Joy Randolph deserved an Oscar nomination. While Eddie Murphy is the main star, she gets the single most touching moment of the movie. 


4. The Art of Self Defense ****1/2

A great martial arts dark comedy double bill would be The Foot Fist Way followed by The Art of Self Defense. I love how little the trailer gives away. This was a movie where when I started it, I had no clue fucking clue where the movie was going nor did I care to try to predict it. I just went along for the ride. While it's not as laugh out loud funny as Foot Fist Way, its plot and structure is sure as hell far more fucked up and unconventional than Foot Fist Way. 

Self Defense has a pitch black dark sense of humour, and a great satire on toxic masculinity. Jesse Eisenberg was robbed of an Oscar nomination. I think this is his best work, that plays to his super awkward guy schtick better than any of his other roles, and his character transformation is fantastic. 


3. Shadow ****1/2

Zhang Yimou is known for giving film nerds metaphorical orgasms with some of the most beautiful colour palettes in the history of cinema (ie: House of Flying Daggers, Hero). When Shadow hit TIFF, a movie of muted colours, almost black and white I'm like...what the fuck? Why are you muting your greatest strength, motherfucker?! With that said, Shadow still manages to be one of the most stunningly beautifully shot movies of last year, with its Chinese ink-brush painting style. Shadow is full of mystery, with a very intriguing plot, plenty of twists, and while it may take a while to get to the epic battle scenes, when they come...HOLY FUCKING SHIT!! No Hollywood action movie of last year even came close. Flying Daggers is still my favorite of Zhang Yimou, but I think I'll place this 2nd. 


2. The Farewell ****1/2

...Based on a true story actual lie...that's refreshing.
This movie almost takes an opposite approach of Joy Luck Club, a movie that most critics loved, but I think was a completely over-rated emotionally manipulative, schmaltzy as fuck melodrama that had the subtly and tact of a soap opera. The Farewell takes on a very depressing subject matter; a grandmother dying of cancer, but her family in China chooses not to tell her, and make up a fake reason to go to China and see her one more time before she dies. 

You can see where most average filmmakers will turn this into an overly emotional manipulative drama, but credit to the screenwriter and director for taking a surprisingly light hearted, comedic, and uplifting approach to such a grim subject matter, while also exploring culture clashes between the east and the west, and the justification for lying to a cancer patient. I loved spending time with these families, and all their funny little idiosyncrasies and dynamics. They understand that you don't need to force feed tears to the audience. We just need to spend time with these characters and the tears will come naturally. More dramas need to study The Farewell. 


1. The Death of Dick Long *****
When it came to #1, it was really no contest. When I saw this movie, I knew it was going to get my #1 spot. This movie doesn't just win for the twist of the year, it's the twist of the fucking decade.
This is a movie barely anyone has seen, but the #1 movie I'm dying to see people's reactions for. I almost wish there were hidden cams for audience reactions. Nothing will prepare you for a dark comedy like this one.

When you watch the trailer, it looks like a FARGO type movie. A mysterious death, with his friends trying to cover it up. I know this formula, and I thought I knew the kind of crime thriller I was in for, and I'm glad to say I was completely wrong. Dick Long is such a refreshingly original film. For one, I think it may have the best ensemble cast of unknown actors. Every single performance is so fucking good. Its depiction of small town life in Alabama where everyone knows each other feels authentic. I have so much respect for this movie because it's fucking hilarious, yet the movie never once feels like it's trying to be funny. All the comedy feels like completely natural reactions to the shitstorm the characters find themselves in, and the hilarious stupid ways they try to cover up their crimes. But hey, I can laugh at these characters, but if I found myself in a situation where I had to cover up a crime, would I be any smarter? I don't know.

Especially if you're tired of the same old shit and want something different, watch this. It's one I'm so eager to discuss and know how you reacted to it and know just how much your jaw dropped.


My secondary awards:

Trippiest movie & best use of 3-D:
Spider-man: Far From Home

Best Ending:
The Farewell

Honorable mention: Little Women.
To credit Tom Bown for this observation, I love the way that Greta Gerwig pulls a Charlie Kaufman on the book's ending.

Best Ensemble cast:
The Death of Dick Long

Best Twist:
No brainer, Dick Long. I'm genuinely intrigued at how everyone will react to the twist.

Best Horror:

Best actor:
Jesse Eisenberg in Art of Self Defense

Best actress:
I was originally gonna go with Awkwafina in Farewell, or Saoirse Ronan in Little Women, but... no.

Virginia Newcomb - Death of Dick Long.

How do you prepare for a role like that?!