in Top Ten

2019 was a great year for mainstream cinema. Which means it’s a boring year for lists. Maybe it’s me but I feel like in lesser years cinephiles go more out of their way to unearth those under-appreciated documentaries and hidden art house gems. I’m not talking about Uncut Gems either.

The second more likely scenario is that I was lazy. I found a group of films I liked and I called it a day. The true answer is likely somewhere in-between. That being said I had a lot of fun at the movies in 2019 and will try to make this list my own.

Honorable Mention
The Farewell
Knives Out

10. Toy Story 4

This didn’t need to be made. The trilogy was complete. Yet those wizards at Pixar conjured up another enchanting entry into this series. “What is a toy? Does it need an owner?” TS4 is dealing with big ideas for little pieces of plastic.

There’s no reason a movie with a Mr. Potato Head hanging out with a piggy bank should be this deep. But it is. Deal with it. Of course, the film is heightened by the most spectacular animation in a Pixar film yet. Also, Forky fucks.

9. Midsommar

I remember walking out of Midsommar and saying “I don’t think I need to see that ever again.” The film is that emotionally draining… But I can’t shake it. I can’t stop thinking about this surreal Scandinavian village with all its bizarre inhabitants and customs. It might as well be another planet. That’s part of it.

The other part of it is I can’t shake how sadistic this film is to its characters. It’s borderline torture porn. Why can’t I look away? I don’t usually like this kind of masochistic arthouse filmmaking. I hate Lars Von Trier. Writer/Director Ari Aster, on the other hand, at least has some kind of heart. He’s just got a lot of pain and it’s all on display here.

I also just realized Midsommar wasn’t nominated for a Best Costume Oscar. C’mon Oscars! Look at that flower dress!!!

8. I Lost My Body

This animated French film snuck onto Netflix awhile back and I didn’t even notice. Then it started getting award nominations. Then I read it was about a sentient disembodied hand looking for its owner. Then I took notice.

Why can’t we get more animation for adults? It’s a beautiful medium that can be used for more than twerking and Minions. I Lost My Body is a melancholy story about a young man named Naoufel still traumatized by the death of his parents as a child, now working a shitty job as a pizza delivery boy. He’s also hopelessly in love with a woman who barely knows he exists.

Intercut with Naoufel’s story is the misadventures of a sentient hand that has escaped from a lab looking for its owner. Along the way the hand must fend off rats, dogs, a subway, and everything else the world throws at it to be reunited with the rest of its body. It’s a sad, exciting, and beautiful journey.

Go watch this on Netflix right now. You will not regret it.

7. Us

Every time I watch this film I feel so unclean afterwards. It’s a creepy thought. Another version of you living underground with a crooked smile and a pair of scissors? shudder. Aside from being a total creepfest this film is so detailed I’m still noticing things.

Jordan Peele loves film with nods to cult classics like C.H.U.D. and The Lost Boys. But he’s a very contemporary filmmaker as well with a lot to say about everything we’re fucking up as a society. How we ignore those in need who are essentially like us. Let’s not forget this film is living in the shadow of Get Out, probably the best horror movie of the decade and it’s still great. Jordan Peele is the most exciting voice in horror today. Period.

6. Marriage Story

This film could not have come at a worse time for me personally or emotionally. That aside, I like that Noah Baumbach can find the humor in a bad situation. The sequence where Charlie (Adam Driver) has to demonstrate his abilities as a parent to the social worker comes to mind. It’s a painful sequence of events that concludes with him accidentally slicing open his arm and yet it feels so real and in a morbid way, it’s funny.

But Marriage Story is more than dark comedy. It’s a film about love and how that stays strong even when it’s beaten down by the drudgery of work, lawyers, and money. Love is complicated and it’s rare that you see such a genuine depiction of that on film. It’s given me a lot to think about. In particular, my favorite line when Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) writes about Charlie and says: “And I’ll never stop loving him, even though it doesn’t make sense anymore.”

5. The Lighthouse

I have to spill my beans on this one. I loved this film! Old-timey cameras? Black and white? Willem Dafoe talking about Poseidon? Those are my three favorite things! Only a filmmaker like Robert Eggers could make a film so defiantly non-commercial.

Eggers is a true auteur. With all the research and attention to detail, he includes I bet this film will be studied in pretentious film classes for years. The only problem is Willem Dafoe didn’t get an Oscar nom. I guess the Academy didn’t like his lobster.

4. Parasite

No one does family dysfunction like Bong Joon-Ho. Whether it’s the clan of dimwits from The Host or the difficult relationship between a weary mother and her exhausting son in Mother, Bong Joon-Ho understands there’s no better drama than the drama between family members. Parasite is his strongest display of that yet.

The lengths this family goes to survive. It’s a tragedy and a comedy. Sometimes it’s a horror movie. There are dark revelations in this film that result in a climax that only a master of tone like Bong Joon-Ho could handle. We did a whole podcast on it. I’d link to it but that wasn’t part of the plan.

3. Avengers Endgame

I feel so dumb for putting this on here. This is basically a movie where all my favorite action figures team up to fight the bigger action figure and also time travel. But damn it, I love these action figures. Kevin Feige and everyone at Marvel built an amazing universe of characters I care about. The fact that this film has like fifty people in it that I all like is such an accomplishment.

It’s easy to rag on Marvel for the cookie-cutter formula it’s developed for these superhero flicks but it’s a damn good formula. These are continually the best action, sci-fi, and comedy films released each year. I mean come on dude, FAT THOR! That alone should earn this film the Nobel Prize.

2. Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler deserves an Academy Award. That is a sentence I never thought I would ever have to utter in my lifetime. But it’s true.

Why did I have to write my list the same day the Oscar nominations came out? I feel like this whole list has been me complaining about films getting screwed over by the Academy. Well, no one was screwed over more than Uncut Gems. This film should have been nominated for like ten Oscars. This film at least deserves nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Score, Best Supporting Actress (Julia Fox) and of course what should have been a slam dunk win for the Sandman.

It’s a perfect film from the Safdie Brothers. It reminds me of a classic 70s Scorsese or Sidney Lumet flick. A movie about a weird guy with an interesting profession surrounded by grittiness in a story that’s always one step forward and two steps back for its “protagonist.”

This film MOVES. There’s no breathing room here. Nothing ever goes right for the Sandman and I can’t look away. It’s like being trapped in a Furby factory where none of the Furby’s will shut up and also the building is on fire. It’s so close to being my favorite film of the year. Of course, then there’s…

1. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Earlier this year I said that if this film isn’t my favorite of the year it would be a disappointment. Turns out it wasn’t a disappointment. I have so much faith in Tarantino at this point I am willing to follow him into any mess of cinephile porn madness.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is Tarantino with full control. Likable characters in a carefully curated world chocked full of references and homages. Structure and style come and go as Q.T. pleases. “Maybe we should have a five-minute sequence narrated by Kurt Russell ninety minutes into the film.” Okay. “Maybe we should digitally put Leonardo DiCaprio into The Great Escape.” sounds good to me.

The cap on this was the experience I had watching this movie with my friends. We all went to see it projected on 35 mm in an old school movie theater. Watching all those flickers and scratches was a thing of beauty. It’s the cinema at its finest. Rick Fucking Dalton.