List

The Best Films of 2019

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Robert De Niro, Woody, Iron Man, Adam Sandler, evil clones, and WWI vets all struck gold.

Onward to 2020, 2019 was another terrific year at the movies with hits and misses. At this point, I’d like to dish on the hits-the ones that entertained me the most.

It’s often difficult for keeping the roster to just ten movies, because many compete for the crown, and 2019 was no exception.

Let the countdown begin!

11.) Avengers: Endgame”

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The finale to the Thanos (Josh Brolin) battle lasted for 3 hours, thus allowing the MCU characters (Robert Downey, Jr’s Iron Man, Chris Evans’ Captain America, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, among others) to get their basis, pay-offs, and decisions. This is a sequel about life before and after, and the humor, emotions, and challenges makes it the best superhero movie of 2019

I know you’re probably (more or less) upset that I thought it was better than “Joker,” but to be honest with you, I loved “Avengers Endgame” 3000. I still must stick to my guns about how good Phoenix was in that movie. 

Let’s agree to disagree.

10.) “Parasite”

Director Bong Joon Ho has delivered his tour-du-force masterpiece from South Korea. It’s about a poor family who con their way into a rich family’s life, and eventually learn the consequences that emerge within.

This movie is a black comedy with an ingenious plot, and it’s not without its challenges and faults. This was arguably the best international film of the year.

9.) “Knives Out”

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Rian Johnson’s latest whodunit breaks the Agatha Christie cliches by delivering us a mystery with cracks we don’t anticipate. We meet Daniel Craig as the Southern Hercule Poirot, Christopher Plummer as the deceased patriarch, and Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, and Jamie Lee Curtis, among others as his family. But we must also single out Ana De Armas as the housekeeper, who, too, becomes implicated in the case.

It was a honor meeting Johnson at the Chicago Film Festival, and commending him for his work, because he balances “Knives Out” with comedy, drama, thrills and twists.

8.) “1917”

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Sam Mendes’ WWI epic prioritizes its British soldiers similar to Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk.” Their mission is to deliver a message about a German ambush, and time is of the essence. Inside the star-studded cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, and Richard Madden), the best actors are Dean-Charles Chapman and Schofield, and George MacKay, who portray the main soldiers.

And the movie is also beautifully photographed-with long shots edited to give us the illusion that it was filmed in one reel. Think of this like a staring contest. 

This will be playing in New York and Los Angeles on Christmas Day, and expands nationwide January 10. Don’t miss it. 

7.) “Us”

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Jordan Peele’s follow up to his Oscar-winning film “Get Out” resonates with “The Shining,” because of its twisted story-line, 80s nostalgia, and excellent performances from the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Evan Alex-all in double roles. “Double roles,” because the real versions have sinister clones to deal with.

Sometimes when I drive home in a dark area, I imagine the final scene in this movie, which ranks with some of the cinema’s most memorable twists. Even with the likes of “The Lighthouse,” “Ready or Not,” “Midsommar,” and “Doctor Sleep” all in the rear view window, “Us” is the best horror movie I’ve seen this year. 

Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock would both love this tour de force.

6.) “Little Women” & “Booksmart”

This is a tie vote between the year’s two best chick flicks, both directed by wonderful actresses.

“Little Women,” Greta Gerwig’s follow up to “Ladybird,” is a radiant and remarkable take on Louisa May Alcott’s novel. It’s about four sisters and their poetic views on life-about their respective opinions of love, wealth, and art-and Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen are all equally wonderful. Greta shows more independence and intelligence these women than Elizabeth Banks’ “Charlie’s Angels,” and it looks and feels like I’m watching a 1940s movie, even if it set in the 19th century.

And “Booksmart” is Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, which plays like a feminine version of “Superbad.” It stars Kaitlyn Deaver and Beanie Feldstein as two straight A students, who decide to cram one last night of fun before they head off to college.

Both Gerwig and Wilde treat their female characters as intelligent human beings, and not pieces of meat. And both these movies have their hearts in the right places.

5.) “Toy Story 4”

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Many of us fans were skeptical about this sequel, because of how “Toy Story 3” had a powerful story; but this 4th entry surprised us with how Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) reunites with the now independent Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts), and how an arts-and-crafts spork like Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) was delightful. Each movie allows the toy characters to break form, revealing themselves, and expanding their horizons. That’s why “Toy Story” is the best animated movie franchise of all time.

While I was deeply moved with “Frozen 2” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” I still think “Toy Story 4” is the best animated film of 2019.

4.) “Uncut Gems”

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Adam Sandler delivers his most talked about performance since “Punch Drunk Love” in crime dramedy that keeps you laughing, guessing, and at the edge of your seat. It sees him as a gambling jeweler with people up his tail, and time running out.

The Safdie Brothers have both guided him on the path of redemption, along with brilliant supporting work from Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel, Eric Bogosian, and Kevin Garnett. This explodes in ways you need to see to believe. 

3.) “Marriage Story”

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This happens to be Noah Baumbach’s best work of the decade. Filled with comical moments as well as powerful performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, this plays like an autobiography to Baumbach’s own divorce with Jennifer Jason Leigh-how complicated it has been. We might even think it pays homage to “Kramer vs. Kramer,” and we’re probably right.

2.) “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

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Quentin Tarantino, a virtuoso filmmaker, shares his love for 1960s Hollywood leading up to the Manson Family Murders, spiked by his own visions. If he wants to alter history, it’s his movie. And leave him to guide Leonardo Di Caprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Kurt Russell, Al Pacino, and the late Luke Perry in such bold roles.

I also adore how cinematographer Robert Richardson was able to convince us some of the movies Di Caprio’s Rick Dalton made were from 1969, especially when he’s spliced into “The Great Escape.” Throughout Tarantino’s latest, you’re easily reminded of “Pulp Fiction,” “Bullet,” and many other classics. This is a love letter to the movies, shows, nostalgia, and events of the past. 

1.) “The Irishman”

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Martin Scorsese continues his movie legacy with a drama that loves organized crime and politics. It also gives Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino roles they’re meant to be given. 3 hours and 30 minutes tells us the story of how American labor union official Frank Sheeran was involved with the Bufalino crime family. In the tradition of “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” and “Mean Streets,” this dangerous filmmaking on all accounts.

Netflix has made the right decision to distribute “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story.” That means it can reach to a vast audience without worrying about financial problems. If Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” could be the most distinguished movie I saw last year, so can Martin Scorsese’s epic.

Honorable Mentions

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“Joker,” “The Farewell,” “Amazing Grace,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Rocketman,” Honey Boy,” “Ford v Ferrari,” “Ready or Not,” “Frozen 2,” “Queen & Slim,” “Richard Jewell,” “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” “The Lighthouse,” “Ad Astra,” “Doctor Sleep,” “Hustlers,” “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” “Maiden,” “John Wick: Chapter 3-Parabellum.” “The Mustang,” “Gloria Bell,” “Captain Marvel,” “Isn’t it Romantic,” “Shazam,” “Blinded by the Light,” “Dolemite is My Name,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part,” “Downton Abbey,” “Midsommar”

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