20) DOLEMITE IS MY NAMEThe film itself is a crowd-pleasing hoot but Eddie Murphy’s is operating on another level, playing homage to the real life shlockiness of Rudy Ray Moore while understanding the deep seated desperation at his core, an inclusive desperation. Also Snipes ALMOST steals the show with his… fingers?
19) THE LAUNDROMATNo one seemed like they knew what to do with this genre flipping, caper adjacent… financial horror movie? Step 1) watch it pretending you know the ins and outs of the Panama Papers scandal, Step 2) get terribly frustrated at the convoluted labyrinth of glitzy shell company lingo and nefarious bureaucracy that would give Terry Gilliam warm fuzzies and omg thats the point.
18) WOUNDSThe film plays out like a sexy Creepypasta, a sweaty bartender finds a cellphone left after hours that contains files of eldritch horrors. Some criticized the shallowness of Armie Hammer’s character but that’s precisely the point, he’s hollowed himself out to a depressed shell of a man making him a prime puppet, just waiting for the right hand…claw… tentacle… you get it. 27,760,329 cgi cockroaches were harmed in the filming of this movie.
17) IN FABRIC
“The hesitation in your voice, soon to be an echo in the recess in the spheres of retail.”
“Did the transaction validate your paradigm of consumerism?”
All I can say for this one is come for the 70’s horny department store aliens, stay for the murderous silk dress, and then stick around for some mannequin pubic hair. Never ever change Peter Strickland.
16) HIGH LIFEGoing FULL existential is usually a death sentence for most films, but for Clare Denis its practically old hat. There’s a plot, sorta but Denis is far more interested in scrapping the bottom of humanity’s shitter into a house-sized cube and slingshotting it into space towards gravitational and erotic annihilation. Oh yeah and bodily fluids, so much bodily fluids.
15) JOKERI passed out watching this the first time (long work week) and finally got around to seeing it days ago. I’m still conflicted. Does it lean too heavily on Scorsese’s work? (it does) Is it high low art or low high art? Do those terms even have meaning? I found the concept of the Joker being a distorted reflection of Batman to be smart, both born from violence. (The pullback shot of Arthur in the alley curled up) I have a “but unfortunately” for every “I found this inspired” and I love a film that can keep me contradicting myself. It’s not as smart as it thinks it is and far better than it should have been.
14) THE FAREWELLEvery moment is so filled with nuance and heartbreak, Lulu Wang masterfully tightens and loosens the film’s central tension. Pitch perfect tone holds this delicate work and keeps it from slipping into sappy melodrama. Just a beautiful film.
13) DOCTOR SLEEPI was lucky enough to see an early test screening of this with some friends and even in its unfinished form I could feel myself gravitating towards it. I mean The Shining has always been my favorite movie, and I was high-key obsessed with Mike Flanagan’s Haunting of Hill House last year. Some of the actor switches and over-reliance of Kubrick’s imagery bothered me in the last act, but when it takes on its own psychic battle identity it really shi… nes.
12) CLIMAXMy favorite Gaspar Noe film, and he’s not even doing anything really differently this time around. (god save the epileptics who stumble into this one) He will stretch scenes so long that at first you get frustrated but then you realize he doesn’t give a shit. Just think of it as the Jonestown Massacre but with booty shorts and a sick beat. And super French.
11) TRANSITChristian Petzold’s previous work Phoenix devastated me, and his latest makes for a compelling companion piece. Equal parts Casablanca and Vertigo, Transit transports a 1944 novel of mistaken identity during France’s Nazi occupation to an uncomfortable alternate modern environment. Hurried steps and silenced voices haunt the cheery sun-soaked vistas as the film builds to a more bitter than sweet conclusion.
10) PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN ON FIREHow Celine Sciamma manages to construct such a precise, finely tuned wire act of a film and still imbue it with overwhelming wind-swept romanticism and impressionistic spontaneity is a jawdropping feat. This film is a 100m dash through bold unsubtle passion and sports one of the best final shots of the year (though to be fair this year had some spectacular final shots).
9) MIDSOMMARA perverts wizard of oz? Gruesome Swedish splatterflick drawn in glowing pastels? Midsommar is not without its flaws as I found it frustratingly straightforward in its goals and characterizations, but Aster’s OCD attention to detail and setup results in glorious catharsis as our grieving Dani finds comfort in a cult that communicates by sharing emotions. The ritualistic monstrosities throughout the film are there to support the underlying themes of healing and emotional support, and the film grows in visual connectivity the more you watch it. If there’s one main takeaway it’s that Ari Aster has a fetish for head trauma.
8) THE NIGHTINGALEI was able to see this film with a Q&A with director Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) after, and the whole theater had a sort of hushed reverence during it. What seems like a brutal female revenge story morphs into something far more nuanced as Kent explores the systematic and historic brutalities perpetrated against aboriginal Australians. Many films are labeled “grueling” but The Nightingale earns it, dragging its characters through endless miles of mud and night terrors, its a tough watch but still one of the most adult and haunting films of the year.
7) ONCE UPON A TIME IN… HOLLYWOODI remember when you couldn’t drive anywhere in LA without running into blocked off streets and walled off parking lots when Tarantino was filming this. It’s a welcomed return of the hangout film genre, its also incredibly re-watchable. I have a strong feeling that given time this film will be much farther down this list.
6) USI enjoyed Us far more than Get Out, Lupita’s duel role is one for the horror history books and the overall Twilight Zone wackiness won me over. Peele puts so much craft and thought into every element (why the gloves? that particular shirt? that car company?) and comes out the other side with these Jenga-esque narratives that only work if every piece fits from a certain angle. Also I would have loved THIS scene to have been included, maybe too similar to certain Suspiria scene?
5) MARRIAGE STORYThe opening montage alone is enough to place this film at this spot. It’s a film that knows exactly when to burst out laughing or howl in rage, all human and confusing and it’s kinda perfect. (and yes all my gifs will be of Adam Driver)
4) THE IRISHMANI am dying to watch this again, the skill on display was overwhelming on first viewing. Pesci’s Skeletor stare was terrifying and the “of course i’m wearing a suit” scene is already a Scorsese classic for the future film kids. I also thought it was smart to make their younger versions be alternate versions of what they would have looked like 30 years ago. I’ll take 283 crappy original Netflix programming for 1 The Irishman a decade.
3) THE LIGHTHOUSETwas 2019, the greatest year for sophomore horror films. Midsommar, Us, and now The Lighthouse, a film that shouldn’t exist by all accounts but does and art isn’t dead I guess. The joys of this film are endless, its super gay and Robert Pattinson hates Willem Dafoe’s lobster and the lighthouse is totally a boner and are they they same person?! Its a salty sea shanty of myth and farts and can Eggers please just make his Nosferatu now?
2) KNIVES OUTIt just checks all my boxes. Campy, whip-smart, bad accents, creamy cable-knit sweaters… I’ve seen it twice now and the second time around it works just as well, everyone involved just seems to be having FUN. I love that Rian Johnson is resurrecting the whodunit in such glorious, global fashion and I’m begging that this film be a fuse for more. Also Daniel Craig’s donut hole monologue is my favorite dialogue this year. This film is my cinematic snuggie of 2019.
1) PARASITEParasite was my Enemy of this year, that film that I wouldn’t shut up about. People are beginning to refer to Bong Joon Ho as his own subgenre and I’m inclined to concur, every film his style sharpening to a finer point. So many endless details to savor, the duel windows in their respective houses and what they illuminate, the fact that a flickering light can become a gut-punch of class commentary. I love it’s visual connection to his earlier film Mother and the part where renowned actor Kang-Ho Song cant remember his lines. Gloriously unpredictable and impeccably designed, Parasite shatters preconceptions of what’s possible in genre filmmaking.
Almost made the list– It Chapter 2, Triple Frontier
Disappointing/overrated films– Ad Astra, Alita, Crawl, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Toy Story 4
Not great except for 1 fight scene– Dark Phoenix, John Wick 3
Best horror– Ready or Not
Love/Hate films– Glass, Hellboy, Velvet Buzzsaw, Pet Cemetary, Rocketman
Plain bad– Gemini Man, The Curse of La Llorona
Plain fun– Escape Room, Shazam, Child’s Play
Lazy Films– The Hustle, Brightburn