With my list of my favorite movies of 2019 comes the last chance, before the worst-of list, to look at this year in film in a positive light. Unlike last year, in which I was hard pushed to even think of ten movies that I really liked, never mind loved, 2019 gives me the great problem of having to many that deserve a spot on this list.
10. IT Chapter 2
I can accept that IT Chapter 2 isn’t is good as Chapter 1, mainly because Chapter 1 had the easiest part to adapt from Stephen King’s huge novel (it’s bigger than The Stand’s expanded edition, for fuck’s sake), so there was so much left for Chapter 2 to tackle. I loved every single messy second of it, even if my review reads like someone who has went mad after watching it.
9. Avengers: Endgame
I realized this year that I only give one spot to blockbusters. The reason for this should be fairly simple: most of them suck, and even the good ones have big problems. I was going to put Rise of the Skywalker here, mainly because I really enjoyed it, massive flaws and all, but Endgame pips it to the post mainly because I’ve now watched it a second time and am completely in awe of how everyone involved pulled it off. It’s the two things Marty doesn’t want it to be: it’s a great ride, and feels like a great mini-series.
8. Ready or Not
Endgame was good, Star Wars was a hoot, but Ready or Not is still the most fun I’ve had in the cinema this past year. I gave it a glowing review and I only love it more and more. It’s a tight little horror that tells a big story in a small and terrifically tense manner. Samara Weaving is probably going to get a call from either Marvel or DC after her star-making performance.
7. Knives Out
This is what I want Rian Johnson to be doing. Quit Star Wars, quit the constant criticism and death threats from shitheads who stain what is supposed to be great about being a fan, and make movies like Knives Out(only if you want to, I realize I might be sounding a bit entitled myself). Write brilliant mystery plots with brilliant actors and keep deconstructing genres with as much flair and skill as the inimitable Benoit Blanc. If you want to. No pressure. Well, a little.
6. The Favorite
Olivia Colman has always been great, it’s just taken America a lot longer than us Brits to notice. How else can you explain her Best Actress Oscar when she had less screen time than both of her co-stars? Fuck it, that Oscar was well earned, and The Favorite is such a great film that Colman is only one of its many delights. A costume drama as if it was written by Evelyn Waugh at his most drunkenly vile, The Favorite is yet another jewel in the proverbial and non-proverbial crown for director Yorgos Lanthimos.
5. Deadwood/El Camino
It’s a mark of how great television has become in that last 20 year that two of my favorite films this year are conclusions to shows that I absolutely adore. I’m cheating with Deadwood’s inclusion, but who cares it’s my list and I’ll take any chance I can to recommend the show that makes John Ford’s greatest work look like Blazing Saddles in comparison.
I’m on firmer ground with El Camino since it’s a Netflix film, a neo-western that answers the only lingering question left by Breaking Bad :how did Jesse get away? Not cleanly, not easily, and not without some blood spilled. It’s up there with the best that Breaking Bad had to offer and serves as a brilliant ending and epilogue of a character who was always just as important as Walt.
4. Doctor Sleep
Dammit, people, I told you not to think about The Shining! Doctor Sleep flopped, and it’s easy to see why. It’s connection to Kubrik’s masterpiece did it no favors and it’s comparison overshadowed what, in my humble opinion, was a great horror about addiction, redemption, and the effect of hereditary trauma. Doctor Sleep’s reputation may grow over time, but once again I urge you to watch it for its own merits and maybe you’ll see a different type of shine.
3. John Wick 3: Parabellum
Ah, it’s nice to take a break from lecturing our poor readers about the films I think are important to talk about something I think we can all agree on. John Wick 3 is not the best in the series in terms of character development, stirring story, or heightened mythology.It’s the best in the series when you consider everything else. Look at Parabellum through the same lens as The Raid: both movies are survival based actioners, both keep plot and characterization to a minimum yet still gets across what they need to. Oh, and the action is fucking unreal. I’ve had a pretty hard year, a year in which I’ve found it harder to be cynical about movies and more engaged with trying to enjoy myself. John Wick 3 didn’t make me work very hard for that enjoyment. As usual, superhero films please take notice, John Wick is the future. Roll on Chapter 4: So Very Pissed.
2 .Motherless Brooklyn
This was so nearly my number one pick. It ticks so many of my boxes: written, directed, and starring Edward Norton, based on a brilliant novel and morphed into a 50s noir detective story, and a soundtrack that includes Thom Yorke. Check, check, and check. You know I love this film, but the only reason that it’s not number one is because my number one pick has been the same for the full year. Not even the perfect movie for my tastes could displace it.
1. If Beale Street Could Talk
Can Barry Jenkins do all the films please?
OK, not all, but can he do all the dramas, all the romances, he could make a beautiful thrillers if he wanted to. While no one in their right mind thought that Best Picture Winner Moonlight was a fluke, If Beale Street Could Talk solidified Jenkins’ credentials as one of our greatest filmmakers. Everything about Beale Street is beautiful, the performances are amazing, Regina King topped her Watchmen performance before it even aired in this film, the cinematography is sumptuous, and, like Moonlight, he puts you into the headspace of his characters, even if your own experiences don’t match. That’s what great art can do, it makes you feel what these characters feel, and if you aren’t devastated and thoroughly moved by Brian Tyree Henry’s cameo there is no hope for you.
Check out part one of our list here!
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via Digital Spy)