• Joel Ryan

And the Award Goes to... My Favorite Films of 2019

Image via 20th Century Fox

The 92nd Academy Awards have come and gone, and like every year, there were a handful of winners and far more lavishly dressed losers.

For the past couple of years, viewership of the Academy Awards has been on the steady decline.

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 may not care at all.

But whether you adore the glitz and glamor of Hollywood’s biggest night or abhor the opulence and hypocrisy of a show that’s struggled to keep the attention of most movie-goers, I have a few awards of my own to hand out. So without further ado, here are my picks for some of my favorite films of 2019.

AWARD: Biggest Surprise

WINNER: Brightburn

RUNNER UP: Rocketman

Though not officially a Superman story, Brighburn plays with the haunting reality of what the man of steel story would look like if Superman didn’t become the hero we all know and love? Rather, what if the orphaned boy from another planet used his powers to rebel against his adopted parents, wreak havoc on a small town, and destroy anyone who stood in his way or he simply didn’t like? Brightburn makes the red Kryptonite episodes of Smallville look like minor tantrums. What would Superman look like as a horror movie? Brightburn answers that question with a surprisingly brutal and at times terrifying tale. And the award for biggest surprise goes to… Brightburn.

AWARD: Most Enjoyable

WINNER: Yesterday

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. And the award for the most entertaining, though imperfect, film of the year goes to… Yesterday.

AWARD: Biggest Disappointment

WINNER: Captain Marvel


Let me be clear. Captain Marvel is not a horrible movie, and it’s not even a movie I hate. It's just a mediocre entry in a series of much better stories. I, like most fans, went in with sky high expectations for Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, and I, like most, was brought down to earth in. Brie Larson was "okay" in the role, but that’s kind of my issue with everything with Captain Marvel. It was just okay. From the generic and often bland production design of the Kree/Skrull conflict to the lazy 90’s throwbacks, 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: Film I Wish I Wrote

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: Most Underrated


RUNNER UP: Ford vs. Ferrari

While I’m in no way surprised that Pixar’s 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 a divided world. 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


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. 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 like to know. Scorsese is a true master of his craft and deserves credit for his technical brilliance and contribution to the art. 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.” When it comes to The Irishman, once was enough.

AWARD: Most Cinematic

WINNER: 1917

RUNNER UP: Avengers: Endgame

In the past, attempting to shoot an entire film in one take would have been categorically impossible. Not only would the amount of in the canisters be limited to several minutes of actual shooting, trying to choreograph an hour or more of activity into one seamless take would be a massive undertaking. Using clever editing and camera tricks, Alfred Hitchcock tried it with Rope, and that turned out to be nothing more than a gimmicky experiment, not to be repeated. Joe Wright and Sam Mendes have also incorporated extended long shots into previous films like Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, and Spectre. For a single sequence, that’s fine. An entire film? That’s a different story. 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 pacing and ticking clock of 1917’s mission, the long shot technique works perfectly. So while 1917 may not have won Best Picture or many other big awards, recognizing Deakins’ work for Best Cinematography was spot on. And the award for the film we might still be talking about in twenty years goes to… 1917.

AWARD: Worth Studying

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: Best Written

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: Most Entertaining

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

WINNER: Parasite


This was one of the rare instances where I do think Parasite winning Best Picture was the right choice! 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. Political undertones aside, Parasite is great cinema in the vein of some of the classic suspense thrillers of old. Bong Jo Ho’s Parasite was deserving of his big win last night.


Anyway, these were just some of my favorites of 2019 that I enjoyed and found worthy of a mention. If you liked my awards and agree with any of my analysis, don’t forget to hit the heart below, share this post with a fellow movie fan, or subscribe for updates and new content.

Thanks again. Now get back to writing!