And the Award Goes to... My Favorite Films of 2019
The 92nd Academy Awards have come and gone, and like always, there were winners and quite a few lavishly dressed losers following last night’s ceremony. There were moments that made film history and moments we’d soon rather forget, with plenty of snubs and surprises mixed in just to screw up your Oscar ballot.
For the past couple of years, viewership of the Academy Awards has been on the steady decline, in large part due to the over-politicization of those films that do score a nomination and the incessant virtue signaling of some of the most elite and out-of-touch-with-reality celebrities, who feel it's their duty to tell average movie-goers how to live, what to care about, and what to believe.
When it comes to the Oscars, you may be a die-hard movie fan who gets dressed every year for your annual Oscar party or just a person who’s perfectly content to scroll through your Twitter feed the next day to see who won.
You might be an obsessive cinephile who actually tries to see every film nominated or a casual moviegoer who’s more than happy to enjoy Avengers: Endgame and other films that are what movies are meant to be: entertaining.
You may not care at all.
So whether you adore the glitz and glamor of Hollywood’s biggest night or abhor the opulence and politics of a show that’s struggled to capture the attention and interest of many movie-goers, this year’s Oscars recognized several films while also leaving out many more that were just as enjoyable and worthy of your time and attention.
With that being said, I have a few awards of my own to hand out. So without further ado, here are my pics for 2019.
AWARD: Biggest Surprise
RUNNER UP: Rocketman
Remember that scene in Jurassic Park when Robert Muldoon thinks he has one of the raptor’s cornered but is suddenly and fatally caught off guard by the other raptor who’s gotten the jump on him? “Clever girl” That’s exactly the way I felt coming out of Brightburn, which both shocked and terrified this lifelong Superman fan. What if the boy from another planet (i.e. Clark Kent) didn’t turn out to be so good-natured after all? What if Superman didn’t become a hero but instead proved to be more sinister? What if a teenager with devastating super powers used them to rebel against his adopted parents and wreak havoc on anyone who stood in his way… or anyone he simply didn’t like? Brightburn makes the red Kryptonite episodes of Smallville look like minor tantrums, and the aftermath of Brightburn’s fury is truly horrifying to behold. And the award for the film I didn’t see coming goes to… Brightburn.
AWARD: Just Enjoy the Ride
RUNNER UP: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Danny Boyle’s Beatles-inspired fantasy barely maintains my suspension of disbelief in creating a modern world stripped of The Beatles influence, but it’s the kind of movie you don’t have to overanalyze or overthink. You can just enjoy the ride, sing along, and get lost in the wonder of The Beatles music and the charm of the film’s main characters. Ed Sheeran, we’ll forgive you for “Hey, DUDE.” And the award for the most entertaining, though imperfect, film of the year goes to… Yesterday.
AWARD: Close But Not Really
WINNER: Captain Marvel
RUNNER UP: Us
Let me be clear about something. Captain Marvel is not a horrible movie, and it’s not even a movie I hate. I know that's not a glowing endorsement, but it's also not a condemnation either. It's simply a mediocre film overshadowed by better movies in the series. I, like most fans, went in with sky high expectations for Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, and I, like most, was brought down to earth once the movie started. Brie Larson was "okay" in the role, but that’s kind of my issue with everything having to do with Captain Marvel. It was just okay. In the end, there were too many missed opportunities that could have made this film unique. From the generic and often bland production design of the Kree/Skrull wars to the lazy 90’s throwbacks, which the filmmakers couldn’t decide if they were really committed to or not, Captain Marvel could have been the next great chapter in the MCU and the kind of movie other superhero movies tried to copy for years to come. Instead, it landed with a bit of thud in a 90’s Blockbuster, and it wasn’t even kind enough to rewind. And the award for the film that was close but fell short goes to… Captain Marvel.
AWARD: Put Me in, Coach!
WINNER: The Aeronauts
RUNNER UP: Triple Frontier
This award goes to the film I’d love to rewrite if given the chance or one wish I had written myself. I have always been fascinated with hot air balloons, and The Aeronauts doesn’t disappoint with its GORGEOUS visuals. Sadly, most people probably watched The Aeronauts on Amazon Prime and not the big screen where it should have been viewed. In the end,, I would love a crack at this script 1). So I could write and play in the world of hot air balloons and aviation 2). So I could flesh out its two main characters, which had so much potential given the talent attached to them. And the award for the film I’d most like to rewrite goes to… The Aeronauts.
AWARD: Sad I Missed
WINNER: The Peanut Butter Falcon
RUNNER UP: The Lighthouse
2019 was arguably a big year for Shia Labeouf. Honey Boy was an incredibly transparent and self-reflective look at the pitfalls of childhood stardom, and The Peanut Butter Falcon turned out to be an interesting adaptation of Huckleberry Finn we weren't expecting. Sadly, I missed its limited theatrical run. Guess what’s on the top of my watch list for 2020? And the award for the movie I’m most likely watching tonight goes to… The Peanut Butter Falcon.
AWARD: Most Underrated
RUNNER UP: Ford vs. Ferrari
While I’m in no way surprised that Pixar’s surprisingly good Toy Story 4 took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, I was not-so-quietly cheering for Netflix’s Klaus. To my surprise, Klaus was more than just another Santa Claus movie. It was just a really good movie. Its warm, traditional style of animation has been sorely missed, and its story, while borrowing from traditional themes and narrative structures, took a new approach to a holiday story we’ve heard a thousand times before. More than its style, Klaus has something to say about the world we live in, and that simply acts of kindness and forgiveness are the best healing agents in divided times. I can’t say enough good things about Klaus! And the award for the film you should be adding to your watch list and Christmas movie list goes to… Klaus.
AWARD: Most Overrated
WINNER: The Irishman
RUNNER UP: Joker
Yes, I might be committing cinematic blasphemy here, but I can’t be the only one who found The Irishman to be long, repetitive, self-indulgent, and even a little boring at times. A lot of people turned to Netflix to watch the over-three-hour Scorsese “masterpiece”, but how many of them actually finished it? That’s the kind of data I’d be interested in tracking. Scorsese is a true auteur and deserves all the credit in the world for the movies he's made. However, if it were anyone other than Scorsese, Pacino, DeNiro, and Pesce involved with this movie, would The Irishman have received as much hype and attention? I don’t know. People praised The Irishman’s groundbreaking de-aging technology. Personally, I wasn’t convinced, and as one anonymous member of the Academy wrote in the Hollywood Reporter, “you can take the wrinkles out of DeNiro’s face, but if he still walks and talks like an old man, you can’t convince me he’s sixty years younger.” And the award for the movie I’m okay to never see again goes to… The Irishman. Joker is not far behind.
AWARD: Favorite Score
WINNER: The Rise of Skywalker (John Williams)
RUNNER UP: Little Women (Alexandre Desplat)
This isn’t up for much debate as far as I’m concerned. John Williams’ work across the nine films of the Skywalker Saga is legendary, and he saved some of his best for last. I may not love a lot about The Rise of Skywalker or even the new trilogy as a whole. But whether it’s the imperfect prequels or lackluster sequels, John Williams music will always remind me that I am a Star Wars fan true and through! And the award for the music I listen to while writing goes to… The Rise of Skywalker.
AWARD: Honorable Mention
RUNNER UP: Avengers: Endgame
In the past, attempting to shoot an entire film in one shot, or at least making it feel like it was done in one shot, would have come across as gimmicky at best. Heck, even Hitchcock tried it with Rope, and that turned out to be nothing more than a fun experiment that shouldn’t be repeated. Joe Wright and Sam Mendes both have turned to single-take long shots in previous films like Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, and Spectre, but that alone wouldn’t provide justification to try it for an entire film. In the words of Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcolm, “just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.” However, with 1917, Sam Mendes and his brilliant Director of Photography, Roger Deakins, chose the right vehicle for this story. Should it be done in future films? Probably not, unless the story warrants it, but given the tone, emotions, themes of 1917, the long shot works perfectly. So while 1917 may not have won Best Picture or many other big awards, recognizing Deakins’ work for Best Cinematography was the right choice. And the award for the film we’ll still be talking about in twenty years goes to… 1917 shared with Avengers: Endgame.
AWARD: I’ll Be Seeing You Again
WINNER: Ford vs. Ferrari
RUNNER UP: JoJo Rabbit
There are a handful films I re-watch and analyze every year, and Ford vs. Ferrari and JoJo Rabbit take that honor for this year and years to come. Ford vs. Ferrari didn’t get as much love as other films, but it was just as entertaining as anything I saw last year. For a movie that clocks in at nearly two and a half hours, Ford vs. Ferrari is a captivating, perfectly paced ride from start to finish. While it is more than deserving of winning the major sound awards, I will be using Ford vs. Ferrari in my writing classes to discuss why story structure matters and how it contributes to the pace and energy of an overall film. And the award for the film I’ll probably be watching again night goes to… Ford vs. Ferrari.
AWARD: Writer’s Delight
WINNER: The Two Popes
RUNNER UP: Knives Out
The Two Popes gets a lot of recognition for the acting of its two male leads, Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, but this was also one of my favorite scripts for its honest conversations about faith and the way it handles some of the recent scandals of the Catholic church. Yes, JoJo Rabbit and Parasite deserve the best writing awards, but The Two Popes is also high on my list for its themes and character writing. And the award for the screenplay I’m probably reading right now goes to… The Two Popes.
AWARD: I’m In Love
WINNER: Knives Out
RUNNER UP: Spider-Man: Far from Home
Knives Out was simply the most fun I had at the movies last year. Enough said! Knives Out was pure gold. Thankfully, a sequel is already in the works, which I am more than okay with. More please. And the award for the movie I love because I just do, all right, goes to… Knives Out.
AWARD: Best Picture
RUNNER UP: 1917
Yeah, they got this one right! Any movie that can take its audience from a comedy, into a thriller, and end in horror in a way that feels natural, properly set up, and inevitable deserve a ton of credit. Parasite is great storytelling in the vein of classic suspense thrillers. Bong Jo Ho’s Parasite was deserving of his big win last night, and I'll be curious to see if Parasite is a movie we're still studying years from now. And the award for best picture goes to (not La La Land)… Parasite.
AWARD: Most Anticipated for 2020
RUNNER UP: Black Widow
While we've been given MANY Peter Pan adaptations over the years, Wendy looks and feels quite different, even more grounded than the more fantastical iterations of the character and world J.M. Barrie first introduced so long ago. And while I feel Black Widow’s movie is coming just one or two phases in the MCU too late, I’m nonetheless curious to see where Scarlett Johansen and Marvel Studios go with Natasha Romanoff’s story. Flashback, alternate universe, or resurrected hero? We'll find out... eventually.
Anyway, these were just some of my favorites of 2019 that I enjoyed. I’d love to hear yours about yours.
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Until Today, Moviegoers