2019 Retrospective – top movies

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It’s almost the end of the year and so traditionally this is where I provide you, my constant reader, with some reheated retrospective rambles picking out the diamonds from the slurry of films (around 110 – same as last year), hours of TV and gaming, and the 45 books I have read.

In this post (which contains some spoilers) I talk around some of the best movies I’ve seen in 2019. Every movie comes highly recommended and I’ve provided some links below to older posts where I talked about them in more detail.

My top 5 films that I’ve seen this year are:

  1. Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
  2. Joker
  3. Avengers Endgame
  4. The Lobster
  5. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood is a Tarantino fairytale of Los Angeles in the late Sixties. The soundtrack is great, the attention to period detail brilliant, Pitt and DiCaprio’s performances are excellent, and the film deals with the Sharon Tate murders and Manson family in a way that is both reverent and shocking. I would expect nothing less from Tarantino.

The film primarily follows Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) an alcoholic TV actor at the end of his prime and his stunt double (Brad Pitt). Rick strives for movie success in 1969 Los Angeles and finds some limited success in Spaghetti Westerns. Rick lives next door to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and throughout the film we see short episodes of her life with new husband Roman Polanski, ex-boyfriend, and various Hollywood faces such as Bruce Lee played by a great cast.

The Joker has always been a plum part for character actors to make their own. When I heard that Joaquin Phoenix was starring in this movie dedicated to telling the back story of every Batman fan’s favourite villain, I must confess a little bit of fanboy-wee came out. Such is my respect for Phoenix. I can’t think of bad film he’s been in.

While some may accuse me of choosing to forget how slow this film was at times by putting it in second place, there’s no doubt that this is character-acting at its best. The Joker’s Tourettes-like laughing affliction – which for me had just the right elements of creepiness, humour and lack of control – is something Phoenix probably spent months perfecting while he was wasting away for the role. The film is moving, tragic and shocking.

Avengers Endgame saw the culmination of years of work by Marvel Studios, hours of great movies and some great moments that comic fanboys like me will treasure forever. The Russo brothers had their work cut out and some following the triumph that was Infinity War.

They did not disappoint. However, like the Star Wars film I’m not putting this higher as it most certainly relies on all the previous films for its emotional impact and storytelling. That said, the storyline about the demise of Iron Man, Black Widow and indeed Thanos are genuinely touching and the underlying theme about loss of family is difficult to ignore. This, like Star Wars, is a Disney film and so family is everything.

The Lobster is perhaps the odd one out of in my top five films this year being such a small film in comparison to the others. It is a bizarre film by Yorgos Lanthimos, who directed The Favourite, in which single people have to stay at a hotel for 45 days to find a partner. If these socially inept child-like people don’t manage to pair up with someone in that time then they are transformed into animals. The title refers to the choice of David (Colin Farrell) makes when asked by the hotel manager (Olivia Colman) what animal he chooses.

David escapes into the woods that surround the hotel and joins the rebels who live there. No sexual relationships are allowed among them, but David falls in love with Rachel Weisz’s character who suffers from the same short-sightedness he has. It is important in this strange society that people pair up with people with similar distinguishing characteristics. When the rebel leader learns of their clandestine affair, she fixes the problem by blinding the woman. This leaves David with a frustratingly unresolved choice to make.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is everything you would expect from the ninth instalment of what the marketeers have dubbed the Skywalker Saga (i.e. episodes 1 through to 9 – encompassing the original trilogy, the mostly woeful prequels and the new ‘Force Awakens’ trilogy). There’s lots of lightsaber battles, explosions, aliens and spaceships. There’s less in terms of character development beyond the two main protagonists Rey and Kylo Ren who have a bond between them based on their force powers. It’s a bond which is tested to the limits by the phantom Emperor Palpatine.

I enjoyed it, perhaps more than I expected to. It was less original than the four other films in my top five for the year and I guess I am still trying to process what I saw (I only saw it yesterday). However please take a look at my, spoiler free, review in my previous post for more of my twisted opinions on the movie.

In the absence of an Honest Trailer for the film here’s Screen Junkies’ Honest Teaser:

 

Honourable mentions

Some movies that were great but didn’t quite make it into my top five for 2019 include the story of Neil Armstrong First Man, Joaquin Phoenix’s precursor to the Joker, You Were Never Really Here, Sergio Leone’s epic Once Upon a Time in America, and Oscar favourites A Star is Born and the aforementioned The Favourite.

 

 

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