The Best Films of 2019
Updated: Dec 28, 2019
Yep, following on from the, Best Shows of 2019, blog post, we now move onto the consistently hard, The Best Films of 2019, post.
It's actually been a really good year for films in my opinion. I've been convinced to go to the cinema on many more occasions than most years, which is a true show of the quality.
For those that don't know, I struggle with the cinema "Experience".
Now I love watching movies, and I love watching them on the silver screen. It's just all the other people around me that does my head in.
The folk not able to go a couple of hours without eating. The noisy and smelly food. The people that want you to know they are Cine-buffs by laughing really loud at parts that are "meant" to be funny. Those cats that come to watch a film, but are so addicted to Instagram that they can't stop checking their phones, leaving the rest of us (perhaps just me) seeing this bright glow light up every 4 seconds.
I could go on.
But I won't.
However, it is safe to say that I only go to the cinema when I am pretty certain it will be worth my while. I like to think I have enough skills to detect what will be great and what won't.
I do still, however, only go to one particular cinema at a particular time of day (where I know I pretty much always get the cinema to myself or at the most amongst three other people) just in case I choose wrongly.
Anyhoo, here are my personal favourite films of the year.
Todd Douglas Miller's documentary about the Apollo 11 space mission to the moon is nothing but awe-inspiring. Using a HUGE amount of old 65mm footage that caught every part of the mission from the preparation, take off, landing on the moon and then bringing those boys safely back home. It puts the viewer in the front seat letting us experience the magnitude and incredible feat that this journey was. With no voice-over to take you by the hand and tell you what's happening, the audience is given an up-close look at all the hundreds, possibly thousands of men and women who worked to make this feat of the twentieth century a success. An incredible work of non-fiction...you hear that conspiracy theorists?! NON-fiction!
The Dead Don't Die
Jim Jarmusch's dark satire, The Dead Don't Die, was a surprise deadpan comedy that made a Zombie film, quite palatable for me. Generally, I find this genre pretty boring but with Bill Murray and Adam Driver playing the small-town cops that have to deal with a Zombie outbreak, there was an awareness of itself that made it reasonably engaging and silly enough for me to like it. I particularly enjoyed the self-referentiality of Adam Drivers' character exclaiming he knew how things would end ("badly") because he had read the script! These little nuances gave the film a few more layers to this, arguably, tired story of the "Un-Dead". It's got an absolutely stellar cast too, that includes (amongst others) Steve Buscemi, Tom Waites, RZA, Iggy Pop and Selena Gomez!
FYI: There was a toss-up between The Dead Don't Die and Eddie Murphey's, Dolemite is my Name, for the inclusion of a comedy/feel-good film I saw this year...Eddie didn't make it in the end (obvs) but I'm still not convinced I made the right choice!...let me know if you agree or disagree!
The boys were back in town this year, with Martin Scorsese's newest Gangster flick, The Irishman. Was there really a need to make this film, when we already have the likes of Goodfellas and Casino? Possibly not. Does the de-aging CGI they use actually really work? Maybe not all of the time, especially when a seventy-year-old man (Robert De Nero) is made to have a street fight as if he was forty years younger - That scene probably wins for accidental comedy scenes of all time! However, this flashback-gangster-drama, with the old familiar gang back together, was an enjoyably comfortable and familiar film of American Corruption and Mob influenced drama, that was able to keep attention and excitement throughout the 8 days it takes to watch the entire thing! Al Pacino was stand out for me, playing the charismatic and corrupt, Jimmy Hoffa, but every one of the cast delivers a great performance...accept again for the fight scene! Oh how I LOL'd!
Noah Baumbach’s, Marriage Story, is an authentic, insightful, and often extremely painful, look at the end of a Marriage and the un-stitching of a life between two people - in this case, Chalie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson). The audience watch as the split begins with intentions of staying amicable, but through some unscrupulous lawyers, quickly descends into a heart-wrenchingly, messy, affair with their young son, Henry, often in the middle of it all. There are some superb visuals and writing from Baumbach that put the viewer front and centre of the fury and anguish that both Driver and Johansson succumb to, but it is these two performances that make it so enthralling and true to life. An absolute master class in acting from both sides and deserving of anything they are likely to win for it in the future.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Todd Phillips, Joker, when I first learned of it being made because super-hero/comic book films are not my thing. However, the trailers that were drip-fed for quite some time really worked on me as the film seemed to completely sidestep the stuff I don't enjoy in these comic book universes. In actual fact, the gritty, sleazy, seventies, New-York vibe reminded me of my youth watching things like Taxi Driver and Mean Streets, so I was intrigued. I would soon come to find that Joker, was, in fact, the bastard son of Taxi Driver and King of Comedy...with a comic book character popped into the recipe for good measure. Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) struggles in a cruel and harsh unaccepting world that slowly pushes him further out to the fringes of society, which is where he begins to wreak his revenge and become the Joker. It's a cautionary tale of modern times, or perhaps even a mirror held up to how we are currently dealing with mental illness and the decline of a compassionate society. Both Phillips and Phoenix have created a stunningly beautiful monster of a film that casts questions as much as it provides answers.
Take one part 2001: A Space Odyssey and one part Apocalypse Now, mix them together and leave to bake for over thirty years. Once done sprinkle them with the vision of James Gray and you've got yourself, Ad-Astra, an absolutely mesmerising and often claustrophobic journey into the deepest reaches of our solar system. Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) goes on a mission to find his missing, yet highly regarded astronaut Father (Tommy Lee-Jones) to stop intergalactic, energetic pulses that are coming from beyond the planet Mercury and which are threatening life on Earth. The journey that James Gray takes us on hits the balance perfectly between deep, introspective, inner space reflections, with vast, infinite outer-space action and I for one, was completely hypnotised by it all. One of Pitts's finest performances, infused with poignancy, yearning and pain and is yet another exhibit that proves Brad Pitt to be truly one of the greats of a generation. A huge film, as beautiful and complex as the Universe itself.
Once Upon a time in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino. Where do we begin? A man who helped play a part in me majoring in film at University. A man who made one of my favourite films of all time (Pulp Fiction, somewhat obviously!) and a man...who for the past fifteen years I've been disgusted with! Now, although I could write reams of why I dislike Tarantino's films since Jackie Brown (I loved Jackie Brown BTW, just everything afterwards...yep, Kill Bill is shit. Don't @ me!) this blog is not about that...so I shan't rant.
Just for context I never go into a Tarantino film expecting anything. I do, however, always watch them. Eventually.
I can actually draw direct similarities between him and Oasis - After the first two albums, I always bought and listened to whatever they released, (still do) but they were often never really any good, generally disappointing and always pastiches of themselves.
Anyway, I took a long, long time to get round to watching, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, because I figured it would be around three hours of me not only disliking the film and Tarringtino but also the sheep and fools around me who had been sucked in by what everyone feels they have to say is "cool" and "great".
As per the opening of this blog - I don't like cinemas.
I watched it.
It was good.
It was great.
OK! It was the best fucking film I've seen all year...possibly of the decade!
Seriously, I am overjoyed that he is back to form. I am ecstatic at this film being an absolute masterpiece of film making with every nuance, colour, shade, line of dialogue and style mattering and being essential for the entire piece. Even the length of the film, which is pretty long and usually comes down to the Director wanking off to his own shit instead of making something "right" for the art, was bang on. There is not a second that could have been shaved off, in fact, more could have possibly been scooped onto this delicious movie Sundae!
One of the things that began to rile me with Tarantino in his stuff post, Jackie Brown, was his lifting of shots and styles from other films. Obviously this happens all the time with films and I am not against that, but where Tarantino was a master of doing this at first he soon began losing the subtlety, intelligence and most importantly the POINT to intertextulising with other films/media/styles.
Anyone can rip off/copy/borrow from someone else. Just watch adverts these days, that's ALL THEY DO! But what makes things magnificent is when it is done for the right reasons and has the right subtlety so as not to take you out of the moment - it has a point other than a, Stranger Things, schtick of cheaply making people confuse memory with something that is any good.
And sadly, Tarantino (for me) became watered down and drifted into somewhat pointless territory. He was more concerned about wanking himself off to the films he loves than actual point to them.
Once Upon a time... goes back to the good old days of everything mattering, though! He rips off, he steals, he gives a wink to various past styles...but it is needed and it is beautiful and it is absolutely integral to the story's forward momentum. For example take the classic sixties shot that he borrows, where the the audience if placed in the back seat of the car watching the driver as they drive. I mean, a sixties troupe if ever I saw one (Think of the Michelangelo Antonioni film "Blow-Up" that I'm sure, if memory serves me right, uses that throughout the film), but one that instantly puts you in the decade and amongst the characters of the story.
And of course, there is Tarantino's obsession with the Spaghetti Westerns (I seriously think we would have a lot to talk about if we were to meet him!) which have been lifted and used (in recent years often clumsily and without a point) in pretty much every film he has ever done. But, much like Reservoir dogs, (Oh, Michael Madsen also pops up BTW!) it is essential and needed for the plot and the universe he places us in. Even the title gives a nod to Sergio Leone's, Once Upon a Time in the West...and I'm cool with that because it again, makes sense! This, Manson family story was a lot like the wild west!
Leonardo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt are oozing with chemistry as the actor Rick Dalton (Dicaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) and much like Ad-Astra, this really is another stunning performance from Pitt.
The man is untouchable at the moment.
The music, as with every Tarantino film, is sublime and so meticulously thought out that I almost cried when I heard Vanilla Fudge's stonker of a track, 'You Keep Me Hanging On'. Absolute genius! God, just thinking of it makes me excited! I'd almost forgotten of that song before I watched this!
That was less a review/comment on the film and more a stream, nay a gush, of loving consciousness about it! Sorry about that. But that's what I was like with Pulp Fiction - Animated, excited and hard to get the words out about how fucking incredible that film was!
And I have the same feeling about this flick!
That is it! It's back! Tarantino's back, baby! God love him!
FILM. OF. THE. YEAR!
So, that's films and TV done...now comes the hardest part.
Time to really start thinking how to sift through this years tunes and albums as there have been a hell of a lot! It's been a tremendous year for music...so this is going to be hard!
Until next time!
Hey, do you know one of the best things you could do for me and my music is to follow me on Spotify?! Click HERE and give me a lovely follow and if you fancy adding some of my tracks to a playlist of yours, even better! xxxx