Nate’s Favorite Movies of 2019

2019 is days from being over and I’ve reached a point where I’m fairly certain I’m not going to see any more new movies before 11:59 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. For this list, that means I have to admit I have not yet seen 1917 and Just Mercy, two critically acclaimed films technically released this year but not going wide until next month. I’m looking forward to seeing both films and reviewing them in the new year, but due to the timing of their platform release schedules, seeing them for this list just isn’t possible.

2019 was a very strong year for film, particularly due to releases between July and December. Even though I will be including some honorable mentions, there are a lot of films from this year that I loved that just didn’t make the cut. In a bad year, it’s a struggle to find enough movies for these lists. In a strong year such as this, the struggle is narrowing it down. I finally have settled on a list I feel good about. These are the films that have stayed on my mind, shocked me, made me happy, made me want to make a difference or just provided me with a great two hour escape. In alphabetical order, here are my favorite films from 2019.

Booksmart

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Every second of this film brought me joy. The chemistry between Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein is nothing short of magic. Olivia Wilde’s direction compliments every joke with impressive visuals and surreal touches. Teen comedies are rarely this beautifully rendered.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

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It’s a film where Tom Hanks plays Mister Rogers, but it avoids being a tried and true biopic by making Rogers a well-rounded supporting character and weaving him into an arc about a troubled journalist. It packs an emotional wallop exactly because it never goes for easy sentiment, but instead looks deeper.

Dark Waters

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One of several films that succeeded in their goal of making me angry this year, Dark Waters didn’t catch on in a crowded season of adult oriented dramas, but here’s hoping that in months and years to come it finds an audience on streaming and home video. The revelations that result from the investigation at the film’s core impact everyone on the planet, and director Todd Haynes keeps the proceedings from becoming too dry with the help of some gut wrenching visuals, a taut script and a great cast.

The Farewell

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Lulu Wang’s dramedy masterpiece about a real lie her family told her ailing grandmother is funny, moving and loaded with thought provoking moments. It’s a delightfully unique film that unfolds at its own pace and allows the characters to shine. No matter where you live or who you call family, you will be able to relate.

Ford v Ferrari

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The 2010s could also be thought of Howard V Mangold. Both directors, Ron Howard and James Mangold, revved new life into the racing film genre. Howard’s Rush will always be special to me, and is better in a few aspects (score, production design, Daniel Bruhl’s bravura supporting work) but Ford v Ferrari tells a better story. The visuals don’t hurt either. The racing sequences are among the best ever filmed.

Knives Out

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Rian Johnson got the last laugh at toxic fanboys who hated The Last Jedi and somehow ignored his past achievements (Brick, Looper, Breaking Bad episodes “Fly” and “Ozymandias”) to laughably call him the worst director ever (paraphrasing the endless Twitter put downs he endured). Rather than wasting his time angrily tweeting back, Johnson went back to work and delivered this masterful, blockbuster whodunnit. The plot twists are great, but the cast is even better. I want a Benoit Blanc franchise, and I don’t ask for franchises often.

Marriage Story 

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Don’t judge the film by any single scene you see memes about on Twitter. Watch the whole damn thing. I was blown away by the performances and insightful script. This is the ensemble of the year in my opinion as Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver are joined by top notch supporting work from Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta and Merritt Wever. If the last five minutes don’t get to you, I’m not sure what will.

Parasite

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I always do unranked lists, because I don’t think I  can honestly say how long a specific order I put films in will hold up. Usually, when I look back five to ten years later at a top ten list I made, I still agree with the my picks, but the order often changes, so I don’t try ranking movies anymore. That said, I am certain that Parasite is the film from 2019 I enjoyed the most. The first two times I saw this film in theaters will be etched in my memory forever. This is an incredible experience and one that managed to successfully offer a little bit of everything. Seriously, I’ve seen this movie twice already and I still lit up earlier today when I found a screener copy in my mailbox.

Rocketman

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My feelings on this film before it came out went from excitement, to cautious optimism, to pessimism. Once I saw it, most of my worst fears were proven unfounded. Bohemian Rhapsody 2.0 this is not and thank god. Taron Egerton acts and, wait for it, actually sings, in this musical fantasy that does take a lot of creative license with actual events to tell a highly entertaining fictionalized version of Elton John’s rise to fame. Where it beats Bohenian Rhapsody is in daring to go full on musical and having a willingness to deal with all sides of the protagonist, not just the ones that will boost his legacy and sell more rock albums. There’s a compelling drama here about addiction and excess. Rocketman is fun, occasionally dark and very re-watchable.

Uncut Gems

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Alex and I just saw this yesterday, and coming off a big week full of holiday get togethers and road trips, we decided we had too much waiting for us when we got home to write a full review. So take this as my mini-review.

The hype about Adam Sandler’s performance is real. This is career best material from him, but that’s probably not giving this acting showcase enough credit. Sandler plays a gambling addict who has to make a series of complicated deals to pay off loansharks. Most of these deals involve an expensive gem he purchased, and he spends a lot of time trying to pit potential buyers off of each other in order to get the highest price.

The Safdie Brothers nailed it with this one. Everything comes together perfectly. It’s Sandler’s show, but he has a lot of support from a cast that includes Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox and Judd Hirsch. The score is appropriately jarring and every element of this film is designed to make you feel anxious. This is not a film everyone will enjoy. The Safdie Brothers go for a real and hectic dialogue style where characters almost always yell or talk over each other. Sandler plays a guy who is less than likable, and some viewers will have a difficult time remaining invested in his story. I found every moment riveting and I really like this Adam Sandler. More please.

Honorable Mentions:

Bombshell, Dolemite is My Name, Good Boys, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, The Peanut Butter Falcon, Queen & Slim, The Report, Us

 

 

 

 

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