[#2020oscardeathrace] Pain and Glory (2019)

Director: Pedro Almodovar

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas, Julieta Serrano, Penelope Cruz

Screenplay: Pedro Almodovar

113 mins. Rated R for drug use, some graphic nudity and language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor [Antonio Banderas] [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best International Feature Film [PENDING]

 

Someone posed an interesting question to me the other day: Are there any famous filmmakers that you have never seen a film of theirs? I would’ve put Pedro Almodovar (Talk to Her, Julieta) on that list, but I had just seen Pain and Glory. So I cannot give my list of the best Almodovar films because I’ve only seen one. Perhaps the best follow-up question is: After seeing Pain and Glory, would you want to see another Almodovar film? The answer, quite simply, is yes.

Salvador (Antonio Banderas, The Mask of Zorro, Life Itself) is an aging film director who has thought very little about returning to the public eye until elements and memories of his past begin to resurface in the form of old broken connections. Now, he has begun the difficult mental and emotional journey through the choices that have brought him here in order to, perhaps, move forward.

Much like Judy, this movie’s gravitational pull surrounds another incredible turn from Banderas, a performer who, I believe, we tend to forget even though he has consistently put his all into his work. His role here as Salvador is another subtle and nuanced one that holds the heart out ready and willing to be seen. This is such an introspective character, one that isn’t flashy but intimate, as if her were sitting in a kitchen with the viewer and having a conversation. It’s the film’s biggest win.

Almodovar has an interesting style here, one that is flashier than I would have expected, but one that is used to accept the mental state of his lead character. All the rest of the elements in the film are in servitude to Banderas. It’s all meant to make him and his character the star, which works well enough. For me, though, it was tough to reconcile some of the flashbacks with Salvador’s mother with where his present-day self. I would rather have taken some avenues to discover more about his previous romantic relationships, something I felt was presented in such a beautiful manner and then left untouched for the rest of the film.

I really enjoyed elements of Pain and Glory, and while the film as a whole was not as strong, to me, as the lead performance by Banderas, I still found it to be a beautiful and emotional experience, one that I will not forget very soon.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2020oscardeathrace] Judy (2019)

Director: Rupert Goold

Cast: Renee Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon

Screenplay: Tom Edge

118 mins. Rated PG-13 for substance abuse, thematic content, some strong language, and smoking.

Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress [Renee Zellweger] [PENDING]

Academy Award Nominee: Best Makeup and Hairstyling [PENDING]

 

I didn’t know much about Judy Garland outside of The Wizard of Oz, so I was very interested in a biopic about the actress and singer, and I was all the more excited to see Renee Zellweger (Chicago, TV’s What/If) in the lead role. Now, with all the awards talk for Zellweger, I think it’s the right time to discuss this film from director Rupert Goold (True Story, King Charles III).

Judy tells the story of Judy Garland (Zellweger) in 1968 as she performs a series of concerts in London. Judy is still struggling with memories of the past, her time working on The Wizard of Oz, her life being controlled and dictated for her. The pain of her past has led to a reliance on prescription pills and alcohol, and she searches to find a way to get a better financial situation for her and her kids.

Without the performance of Renee Zellweger, I don’t know that Judy, as a film, would work. It’s a perfectly fine narrative, and I especially love the flashbacks to her youth. The actress who plays younger Judy, Darci Shaw, is amazing. I think the rest of the principal cast is fine, but there are times when the pacing doesn’t work.

As I mentioned, the rest of the principal cast does quite well, but make no mistake, Renee Zellweger owns this film with her exemplary performance as Judy Garland. It’s been a while since we’ve seen great Zellweger, and this is probably the best performance of her her entire career. It’s impossible not to be absolutely blown away by her acting and singing in the movie. I can’t see any way that she doesn’t walk away with this Best Actress Oscar.

I think the biggest fault of the film’s marketing campaign is that it was sold as a fairly happy-looking movie, but the finished product is not happy at all. I would say the depressing-to-joyful ratio is 90/10. Those happy moments take some time, and they are isolated, but the wait for them was worth it. I particularly like the sequence where she meets a couple after her show and asks them for dinner. It’s a wonderful sequence and perhaps my favorite in the whole film.

Judy is a solid film with a career-best performance from Zellweger, and it’s the best lead performance from an actress of the entire year. The musical set pieces are wonderful and the cast is filled with solid work from just about everyone. It’s not an easy film to watch, and it definitely isn’t filled with happiness, but then again, it’s exactly the film that would have encompassed the tone of Garland’s final years. Her life was troubled, and it wasn’t filled with only happy moments. All the same, I was so blown away by the lead performance and I cannot recommend this character study enough.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2020oscardeathrace] The Nominees for the 92nd Academy Awards

Nominations are officially out for the 92nd Academy Awards, and the #2020oscardeathrace has officially begun. The nominees are listed below, which some notable snubs and surprises throughout. Every year, I take part in a challenge called the Oscar Death Race, in which one attempts to see every nominated film by the night of the Academy Awards. It isn’t easy, and there’s usually a couple remaining films each year, but I love it. Take a look, and let’s get started.

 

Best Picture:

 

Best Director:

 

Best Actor:

 

Best Actress:

 

Best Supporting Actor:

 

Best Supporting Actress:

 

Best Original Screenplay:

 

Best Adapted Screenplay:

 

Best Animated Feature Film:

 

Best International Feature Film:

  • Corpus Christi (Poland)
  • Honeyland (North Macedonia)
  • Les Miserables (France)
  • Pain and Glory (Spain)
  • Parasite (South Korea)

 

Best Documentary Feature:

  • American Factory
  • The Cave
  • The Edge of Democracy
  • For Sama
  • Honeyland

 

Best Documentary Short:

  • In the Absence
  • Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
  • Life Overtakes Me
  • St. Louis Superman
  • Walk Run Cha-Cha

 

Best Live Action Short Film:

  • Brotherhood
  • Nefta Football Club
  • The Neighbors’ Window
  • Saria
  • A Sister

 

Best Animated Short Film:

  • Dcera (Daughter)
  • Hair Love
  • Kitbull
  • Memorable
  • Sister

 

Best Original Score:

 

Best Original Song:

  • “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4
  • “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman
  • “I’m Standing With You” from Breakthrough
  • “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II
  • “Stand Up” from Harriet

 

Best Sound Editing:

 

Best Sound Mixing:

 

Best Production Design:

 

Best Cinematography:

 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

 

Best Costume Design:

 

Best Film Editing:

 

Best Visual Effects:

 

So there you have it. Lots of nominees and lots of interesting discussion on the way. Let the #2020oscardeathrace begin!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Bombshell (2019)

Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Malcolm McDowell, Allison Janney

Screenplay: Charles Randolph

109 mins. Rated R for sexual material and language throughout.

 

Bombshell is a movie I was very excited to see as soon as I caught the trailer. First of all, I didn’t realize it was Charlize Theron (Monster, Atomic Blonde) under all that makeup, and that shocked and excited me. Also, I was a big fan of Vice, which follows people I don’t much like doing bad things, and I felt like Bombshell had a lot in common with Vice tonally, so that made me all the more excited.

It’s 2016, and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly (Theron) has made an enemy of Donald Trump by asking him about his comments toward women. Meanwhile, Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!, TV’s Big Little Lies) has been removed from her place on Fox & Friends, and she is contemplating a lawsuit. At the same time, Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie, Suicide Squad, Peter Rabbit) has just been hired and she wants to get to the top. When she reaches out to the Head of Fox News, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow, Late Night, TV’s 3rd Rock from the Sun), she is put into an inappropriate situation by Ailes. Soon after, Gretchen begins a firestorm when she comes forward with sexual harassment claims against Ailes, and Fox News begins to implode in the process.

This movie was painful to watch, and that’s kind of the point. The film’s trailers presented a very chic and stylized film, and while the style is definitely there, the story made me really uncomfortable, and in that way, I really found it to be an effective drama. It’s hard to really explain the techniques, but I think mostly it came from the tremendous acting work across the board and the sharp writing from Charles Randolph (The Big Short, Exposed). Director Jay Roach (Trumbo, All the Way) also elected to focus his camerawork on the performances and the story, which I really respect. The film’s overall effect on me was powerful.

Our three female leads are all incredible, each one owning their screen time quite well. The fact that Margot Robbie is able to hold her own against Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman is astounding considering the latter two actresses have been around for awhile and are playing real-life humans, whereas Robbie is an amalgam of other people. Their interactions are fiery and full of so much humanity. It’s astoundingly-performed.

John Lithgow is a disturbing presence as Roger Ailes. I never would have placed him in the role, but he is incredibly slimy and full of so much villainy. His makeup as well as that for Theron and Kidman is incredible, and their strong performances work all the better for the makeup. Having seen recent films like The Grudge, I can say that a poor makeup prosthetic can ruin a good performance and a good one can elevate it.

I also have to throw some love to Connie Britton (American Ultra, TV’s Dirty John) because she won’t get the attention she deserves for her work as Beth Ailes, Roger’s adoring wife. She doesn’t have a lot of scenes in the film, but with that time, she disappears in this role and showcases a woman who believes with all her heart that her husband couldn’t have done anything wrong (that, or she willing ignores it), and it’s shocking how long she is able to keep up with the scandal. In a lot of ways, we like to believe that our loved ones could never do anything to hurt us, and Britton exemplifies that.

Outside of the writing and acting work, there’s nothing too flashy in the film other than the strong production design, which recreates an environment like Fox News, and I think it creates a sense of realism in the film. Director Jay Roach also capably creates connections with people that I don’t really know and makes them realistic.

Bombshell is a strong performance-laden film with some shockingly-good acting work from pretty much the entire team, and its screenplay is incredibly well-constructed to connect with its audience on a cerebral level. It’s not an easy viewing experience but it is well worth it. Outside of those elements, there isn’t a lot of notable wins here, but I highly recommend the film to anyone, whether or not you like the people being portrayed.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jay Roach’s All the Way, click here.

Little Women (2019)

Director: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper

Screenplay: Greta Gerwig

135 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements and brief smoking.

 

I’m a major fan of Lady Bird, and though I disagreed with the decision made by its director, Greta Gerwig (Nights and Weekends), to adapt Little Women for her next project, I was interested enough in her as a filmmaker to see it. Truth be told, I do not care for the source material (I’ve read it two or three times throughout my schooling and it just never really got me), and I feel like the six other adaptations probably covered enough ground that making a new version really couldn’t do much to rise above. But, it’s Greta Gerwig, so I was going to support her as a filmmaker. With that, how did Little Women end up?

Little Women follows the March sisters as they navigate growing up and pursuing their dreams. Jo (Saoirse Ronan, Hanna, Mary Queen of Scots) wants to be a writer, and she doesn’t have any interest in love. Meg (Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Beauty and the Beast) falls in love and is perfectly happy raising a family. Amy (Florence Pugh, The Falling, Fighting with My Family) has talents with her painting, but she has trouble controlling her jealousy. Beth (Eliza Scanlen, Babyteeth, TV’s Sharp Objects) is a musician at heart, but health problems have stayed with her throughout her youth. Through it all, these women try to remain together, even as life attempts to drift them apart.

Like The Irishman, Little Women‘s best attribute is its performances. Across the board, everyone in the film is engaging and powerful and layered. I was primarily interested in Florence Pugh’s take on Amy, a character I am not alone in loathing. Amy is a very difficult character because she’s not a likable character, she makes some truly poor choices, and her growth is slow. With that, though, I cannot give enough credit to Pugh’s take on the character. Pugh is worth seeing even in films that I don’t like, as was the case with Midsommar earlier this year.

Saoirse Ronan is also quite spectacular, as expected. Ronan has a lot of Jo in her already, and she capably steals the screen in every scene. I connected with her mostly because of my career choices, and I understand the troubles she deals with. Jo’s got the most screen time in the film, and we see the scenes that Jo chooses to write about, and it elevates her narration quite well. I particularly like that Gerwig focused Jo’s character on being more work-driven as well.

I think Gerwig, between her screenwriting and directing, packs a lot into such a small run time, and she manages to make a book I didn’t care for into a film that I actually liked. I still didn’t love the film in the same way that I hoped to, having been such a huge fan of Lady Bird. I wanted to love it, but the story, for me, was still lacking. I don’t fault any of the elements for this reason. It’s more the source material that I didn’t care for.

Everything else in the film is so technically well-done also. I was very impressed with the film overall, and I wish that I had loved it in the same way as some of my colleagues, but I overall liked it just fine. It’s just not a film I feel like revisiting.

Little Women is very well-done, and it’s a film that deserves to be seen by fans of the novel or people who haven’t even read it. I don’t think it will win over those who didn’t like the source material, but I would say that I think this is an adaptation that is better than the novel it is based on. Fight me.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, click here.

 

The Irishman (2019)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci

Screenplay: Steven Zaillian

209 mins. Rated R for pervasive language and strong violence.

IMDb Top 250: #221 (as of 1/2/2020)

 

It took a long time to make, and it took a long time to watch, but The Irishman has arrived. It’s a weighty tome of a crime epic, and it’s a crazy mixture of classic Scorsese gangster films and more contemplative, thoughtful filmmaking. It’s also, according to Scorsese himself, Cinema. Now let’s just see if it’s as good as I hoped.

Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, Joker) stars as Frank Sheeran, a mob hitman who climbs the ranks of organized crime, making friends but working for himself. Frank gets involved with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci, Goodfellas, Love Ranch) of the Bufalino crime family and befriends Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino, Serpico, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood), a teamster with connections to illegal activity. Now, Frank, as an old man, reflects on the countless acts that raised him higher in the world of organized crime and, perhaps, why he’s so alone now.

The first and most notable strength of The Irishman is in its performances. There’s not a single squeaky wheel in the whole production, but specifically the three leads are giving truly strong, as expected, performances. There’s a level of restraint to each of them, specifically De Niro’s quiet, contemplative Frank. Frank consistently makes the decision to put his responsibilities to his work above most of his friends and all of his family, and De Niro capably performs each of these periods of Frank’s life with ease.

Al Pacino’s take on Jimmy Hoffa is more restrained than the usual Pacino performances (with all due respect), but he plays Hoffa’s arrogance with precision. Pacino does a whole lot with a smaller amount of screen time. Jimmy Hoffa has been played by several major actors, and Pacino provides another unique and worthwhile take on the teamster.

The most surprising turn of the lead actors is Joe Pesci’s triumphant return to the screen with Russell Bufalino. Pesci has been off the acting tree for the last decade, and I don’t recall seeing him in a movie since The Good Shepherd. Does Pesci seem like he’s been missing from acting? No, not at all! He’s incredible, and he’s so subdued. I think that’s why he’s so good here as well. In so many appearances, Joe Pesci is the loud one, the violent one, but here, he’s quiet, he’s thoughtful, and he’s engaging.

This is Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story) at his most contemplative. He’s using new themes like mortality and blending them with his mobster morality to create something we haven’t seen within the shell of something familiar. This is why we keep seeing characters popping up with their date and cause of death. We begin to see that, like with most people, his circle of friends, family, and confidantes gets smaller, but that becomes more accelerated due to his choice of work. It’s a sadder film, and it’s a film that Scorsese couldn’t have made even ten years ago.

The Irishman is not perfect, though, and its cardinal problem is its pacing. It doesn’t bother me that the film is long, but there are pacing issues that plague that lengthy run time. It didn’t sustain a speed to match the length. It sustained my interest, but not in the way that Scorsese’s have done before.

I also believe that the film does not showcase its aging technology as perfectly as I had hoped. There are moments that look incredible, and then certain shots and sequences in the film do not work at all. I don’t mind that Frank seems to move like he’s an older gentleman throughout his entire life, but some of it looked like plastic. Not enough to ruin the film, but it is noticeable enough to remind you that it’s there.

The Irishman isn’t a traditional epic in every sense, but it mostly works. It’s a view of an aging mobster seen through the eyes of an aging filmmaker, and it’s reflective and quiet and contemplative. It’s an incredible story and film, one worth its run time, one that I cannot wait to watch again.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Listen to Kyle on St. Paul Filmcast Talking Favorite Films of the Year and Decade

I recently appeared on St. Paul Filmcast again where Nick Palodichuk and I talked our Top 15 Films of the year and Top 10 of the decade. I’ve embedded the tweet below, so give it a listen and look for St. Paul Filmcast on Podbean or wherever podcasts can be found.

-Kyle A. Goethe

New Episode of Kyle & Nick on Film Discusses Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Hey everyone! There’s another new episode of my web series, Kyle & Nick on Film, where Nick Palodichuk and I discuss the merits of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in an exclusively non-spoiler review.

I’ve embedded the video below, so take the time to give it a view if you can, and help support independent content creators by liking, commenting with your thoughts on the film, and subscribing so you don’t miss the next episode!

-Kyle A. Goethe

Kyle’s Top Ten Worst Films of 2019

2019 has ended. It has, and we have to deal with it. There were amazing movies, and there were stinky movies. We can’t hide that. I was blessed in that there were fewer awful films and quite a few just disappointing films, so the year didn’t hurt me like I have been before.

Just a few notes while we get things going here:

  • I didn’t see every film in 2019. That means I didn’t see all the bad movies in 2019. This is just a list of the lowest ranking movies I saw.
  • This is my personal list. You may have liked some of these. I just didn’t. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
  • I still have not seen The Emoji Movie from 2017. Sticking it out.

Alright, let’s just get it going…

 

10. Cats

To be honest, I didn’t hate Cats. It actually hurt me quite badly to put in on the list because I didn’t want to get on the hate bandwagon, but there’s one thing that forced my hand. The reason Cats is on this list is because the studio felt it was “okay” to release this movie with unfinished visual effects. Sure, they decided to “fix” them by sending out an updated version only two days later, but by this point, they had basically screwed over the fans that showed up opening night. So not a great move. I caught the film with the unfinished visual effects and it kept taking me out of the movie, spoiling the insanity that I was mildly enjoying.

 

9. The Secret Life of Pets 2

This sequel just should not have happened. The first film wasn’t all that great, but this sequel ended up completely ruining their characters, making none of the pets nor humans very enjoyable to watch. If the worst sin is being boring, The Secret Life of Pets 2 is guilty as well. It was nice to see Harrison Ford show up, but I’m certain that someone just put a mic on him and recorded, and he was likely not even aware that he was voicing the dog. The worst part of it all is that this was supposed to be about the Secret Life of Pets, and neither this film nor its predecessor utilize this idea.

 

8. Jexi

I just wish this film wasn’t marketed as a comedy. I hate when a marketing campaign doesn’t understand the film its marketing. Oh wait, this was supposed to be a comedy? Seriously? Well, I must have missed something because I don’t remember laughing at all. Jexi was a terribly unfunny movie filled with really poor attempts at jokes. Her was a better and funnier version of this story and Jexi just seems both lazy and a little too late to work at all. Now that I know it was a comedy, I’m even more broken up by the experience.

 

7. Child’s Play

I hate that this movie exists. Don’t get me wrong, I actually was fairly won over by the marketing campaign, which was brilliant at poking fun at the release date they shared with Toy Story 4. Yeah, I was actually pretty excited to see it after all that, but I hate the disrespect that MGM was showing to the creators of the franchise. The whole backstory is rather convoluted, but suffice it to say that the main franchise is still going on and has new installments on the way. Still, I went to see it, and it was bad. Outside of Mark Hamill, nothing worked in this poorly constructed film.

 

6. Rent Live

Rent Live aired earlier this year, and I’ll be honest in saying that I don’t really care for Rent as a musical. But I really didn’t like this version of Rent, done live as a sort-of concert experience on a square stage visible from all sides. None of it really worked, I was with Rent fans that seemed disappointed, and overall, I was just incredibly bored throughout the whole affair. I just wanted it to end. It’s one of the worst versions of this musical I’ve yet to see, and I hope I never have to sit through that one again.

 

5. Overcomer

You all know that I don’t try to hate on religious cinema. There are religious movies that I love and adore, but some of these movies are so schmaltzy and without any reality. Overcomer is one of those movies. I just don’t find any of these characters interesting or layered enough to maintain energy for 90-some minutes. Overcomer was just kind of boring, and I didn’t connect to the narrative or really anything.

 

4. The Dirt

You know, I was very excited for this Motley Crue biopic coming off Bohemian Rhapsody and with the excitement of the incoming Rocketman. This film, from the director of the Jackass films, was just not good at all. The focus was placed on the debauchery of the band and not on creating realistic characters or anything worth watching. It’s exactly what you would expect the director of the Jackass films would do with a Motley Crue biopic. There were two small elements/scenes that worked, but it was too much ugh and not enough good.

 

3. Five Feet Apart

I was given the book for Five Feet Apart upon entering the press screening, and I decided to read it after seeing the incredibly disappointing film. The book wasn’t all that good either. I just felt like this movie didn’t offer anything worthwhile on its premise, which I initially found intriguing. The film could’ve put something interesting into its premise and before long it devolved into a typical cliche teen romance flick. Once it got there, I was over it and I never got back in.

 

2. Playmobil: The Movie

I heard terrible things about Playmobil, but I had no idea what I was getting into. I now know, but this movie hurt real bad. This was a bad ripoff of The Lego Movie and just like so many of the other ripoffs, this one doesn’t work because it isn’t about anything. When your movie begins with a musical number followed by the awkward death of parents, it just isn’t going to maintain much else. Playmobil was real dumb and real forgettable.

 

1. Walk. Ride. Rodeo.

This supposedly true story of a rodeo rider who gets paralyzed and continues to fight for her ability to ride once again is the stuff of Lifetime Movies nightmares. It’s on Netflix right now, and it’s not good. There just isn’t a single part of this movie that works. I just don’t even want to talk about it anymore. It’s my least-favorite film of 2019.

 

So there it is. These are my least-favorite films of the year.

Glad that’s over. Is there something I missed here? What did you think was the worst movie of the year? Let me know/Drop a comment down below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Kyle’s Top Ten Films of 2019

Hello once again!

2019 was crazy. The end of another decade! Another year where everything in my personal and professional life. Now, as we awkwardly segue into a new decade, let’s take a look back at the year that was in film. If you enjoy reading my list, give a listen to St. Paul Filmcast, where Nick Palodichuk counted down the best of 2019, the best of the decade, and more!

Now for our obligatory stipulations and notes:

-I did not see every film that was released in 2019. That would be an impossibility, but I did see quite a few. Of course, as always, life happens and some films were missed. So if you don’t see something on this list, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong. It just means I may have missed something it…or it doesn’t belong.

-These are my personal selections of films from the year. These are not predictions for Best Picture at the Oscars or films that are undeniably the 10 best films of the year, hands down, full stop. Some films have different placements at the end of the year than they would have based on their initial scoring, and even though some of them had major flaws, enjoyment can go a long way.

 

Alright, no more fluff. Let’s just do this thing…

 

Honorable Mentions:

Alita: Battle Angel, Ready or Not, Knives Out, Shazam!, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

 

10. Us

I said in my initial review for Us that, while I think Get Out is an overall better film for Jordan Peele, Us is the one I find myself going back to more often. Peele takes a classic story of doppelgangers and turns it into a story of classes and the versions of ourselves that we hide away. Us is a great example that it’s not the story you tell but how you tell it that creates a truly great film. It’s the best horror film of 2019, a year where the gems were tougher to find. It’s genuinely one of the more enjoyable experiences of the year as well, mining everything from its premise.

 

9. Jojo Rabbit

Director Taika Waititi had a nearly impossible task of creating a film about Nazi Germany starring a Nazi child who has an imaginary friend who happens to be Adolf Hitler that pokes fun and also creates a worthy narrative. He succeeded in ways I never would have thought with Jojo Rabbit. It isn’t as funny as other Waititi films but it certainly has heart in all the right places. The film takes a story that starts celebrating hate and turns it into a story that celebrates love. It’s truly a cinematic achievement that proves Waititi can do just about anything.

 

8. Toy Story 4

I can’t believe how much I loved Toy Story 4. I’ve never been a giant Toy Story fan but I found myself being won over by Toy Story 3, and while I felt it was a great film with a serviceable ending to the series, I now realize how much better Toy Story 4 is at ending the story. What Toy Story 4 does better is that it understands that Andy’s never been the character we’ve been following. It’s always been Woody. The focus of this fourth installment is paying off the character beats that the first three films set up for Woody. It’s a heartfelt, emotional, and very funny new film in a franchise that has continued to impress audiences.

 

7. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Can You Ever Forgive Me? surprised the hell out of me when it came out last year. Not only was it the best performance of Melissa McCarthy’s career, but it was also a great showcase for director Marielle Heller, who crafted a film that, on the outset, sounds kind of boring. When she decided to tackle a Mr. Rogers biopic, I was unsure, but the inspired choice to cast Tom Hanks as the legendary television personality worked incredibly well. Hanks elected to play the essence of Mr. Rogers and not do an impression, and that decision also paid off nicely. There’s one specific scene in the film that pushed it past mere biographical film and into a life-changing experience, and if you’ve seen it, I think you’ll know which one: the diner scene. I won’t get any further into it so you can enjoy it for yourself, but A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, like the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, was a life-changing experience.

 

6. Rocketman

Rocketman was the first film this year that I felt could have been my favorite of the year, and it outlasted quite a few as the year went on. This Elton John biopic is really more a musical based on John’s work than a 100% true-to-life biopic. Again, it gets more of the essence of Elton than a certifiable account, and for that, it’s all the more magical. Dexter Fletcher showcases his unique voice once again with his second collaboration with Taron Egerton, who may miss out on the awards love this year, but he’s on the path to being a true superstar performer. If the film has any one problem, it’s that its framing device, a very Dewey Cox-inspired look back at his whole life, is a bit simple, but it works. Check out Rocketman. Absolutely.

 

5. Parasite

Just like a parasite itself, this movie stayed with me, feeding off me. I simply cannot stop thinking about it. Bong Joon Ho creates a strange amalgam of comedy, horror, suspense, and drama in this unique and singular experience that needs to be seen to be believed. Parasite is better when you don’t know as much, so I’ll leave the details out of it, but this movie, like Us, is a film about many things, most notably and powerfully class, the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-notes, and its title is evocative of so many element in the film. Parasite deserves to be on everyone’s Top Ten of the year.

 

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4. Avengers: Endgame

I mean, c’mon! Avengers: Endgame is absolutely incredible. Sure, you can make the argument that it only works as well as it does because of the previous twenty-some films that came before, but it’s an accomplishment that Kevin Feige and the Russo brothers stuck the landing. It’s a big-budget television series and this is the series finale that works especially well. The snappy and quick editing help to gloss over some of the sillier and nonsensical things in the films, and it’s just damn fun. That means a lot. It’s a three-hour movie that rushes by, and even though it’s the twenty-second film, it never feels like a slog or a rehash. A pitch-perfect ending that makes me only more curious for what’s next.

 

3. 1917

I was blessed to see 1917 in 2019 (the film doesn’t open wide until later this month), and it’s a powerhouse World War I film, and one of the best war films ever made. Director Sam Mendes clearly learned a lot from his time with the James Bond franchise, and working with Director of Photography Roger Deakins, he was able to plan out a war epic that’s made to look like a single shot. The amount of work that goes into a movie like 1917 is staggering. I couldn’t make a movie like this. There are few who can. It’s a surprisingly-touching film about wartime brothers and the cost of something as simple as delivering a message. 1917 is an epic experience.

 

2. The Farewell

The Farewell is quite different from 1917 in terms of its overall style, choosing to go small instead of big, but that doesn’t change its overall impact. Lulu Wang takes an interesting story and populates it with layered and warm characters who deal with a problem that there really is no right solution to. The film follows Awkwafina’s Billi as she learns that her grandmother is dying and her family has chosen not to tell her, instead fabricating a family wedding in order to see her one last time. It’s a film about culture clash and ethical questions that is surprisingly funny at the same time, and the ending absolutely broke me. Seriously, Kleenex should have invested in this film. The Farewell flew under some radars in 2019, but it shouldn’t fly under yours. Seek it out immediately.

 

1. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Here we are. My favorite film of the year. I cannot deny how many times I have watched Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. It keeps drawing me back in, and each time I see it, I discover something else I like about it. Quentin Tarantino has crafted the ultimate hangout film that feels like it was pulled right out of the 60s, and some of my earlier criticisms have softened each time I’ve watched it. I get why some out there won’t like this movie. My wife wasn’t big on it, but for me, this movie is built on a central relationship between Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth, a relationship stronger than just about any other in 2019. It’s an awesomely fun time at the movies, and it’s my favorite film of 2019.

 

So there you have it. These are my favorite films of the year. I’m looking forward to the #2020oscardeathrace to begin, and the list may change a bit once that happens. No one sees everything. So what is your Top Ten Films of 2019? I’d love to hear it. Thanks again for a great 2019 and we will see you in 2020 (which is, of course, right now).

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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