Wow! Another year... and decade... over! These last two years have been very unpredictable for film, even if my personal life has been rather uneventful in contrast. There's been some surprises and expected flops from this year in film, and this decade as a whole has provided some major turning points in the way movies are approached and analyzed. It's also be a huge decade for me, as 2013 was when I wrote my first movie review on Gravity, and first started this blog in 2014. My, how it's grown! So looking at this year in film in particular, what stood out to me? Well, to get the negatives out of the way first, here's my 10 most miserable movie-going experiences of 2019:
#10) Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Yawn. This was exactly what I expected it to be: a very predictable, very boring, very badly made sequel that never needed to exist, one that also came too late for a movie that everyone had already stopped caring about. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil didn't actually annoy me per se, but it did leave me very unamused and unemotional, I really would have preferred to be anywhere other than sitting through something with no effort put in.
#9) Avengers: Endgame
One part of my disdain for Avengers: Endgame is in its real lack of cinematic quality; the whole narrative is just pure Marvel porn with ugly visuals and a messy narrative; not to mention that whole "girl power" shot is probably the most cringe-worthy thing I've ever seen in a movie. The other part of my disdain is in what it's become: the highest-grossing movie of all time, because everyone acts like is the greatest thing ever just because it satisfies their inner geek. Meanwhile, artistic films made with genuine passion are ignored by the general public.
Wow, I almost forgot all about this one. Greta did work in keeping my attention to the thrills, but in all the wrong ways. This was mostly just very unpleasant to watch; I didn't enjoy the whole premise of a young woman getting stalked by an older woman, and that stalking later turning to a kidnapping and holding of hostage. It doesn't help either that it has some horrifically annoying acting and a complete lack of any common sense.
#7) Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
I get that most people liked this one for its delivery of frightening visuals for a teen crowd, and I get it. Those moments with the monsters really were well directed, but everything else that happens around those brief scenes are just excruciating to watch. The terrible kid actors, painful dialogue, horrible special effects, and messy attempt to bring these short stories into one narrative ultimately destroyed Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
#6) Jojo Rabbit
I really don't understand why so many people and critics groups love this movie so much. Jojo Rabbit was just a pain to watch, the main kid actor can't act to save his life, and the fake German accents by most of the cast are like a bonesaw to the ears. If it was going for a comedy, it failed real bad at that, because the tone was all over the place, leading more into sheer disrespect for Germans and Jews alike.
Oh gosh, just... why??? From these awful live-action Disney remakes, I thus didn't even bother with The Lion King, because I just had it with Aladdin. The original animated film is still a favorite of mine, but this attempt to recapture the magic is so unforgivable. Every single actor is just the worst, and the attempts to recreate the original film's iconic moments just make this one look so much worse. Also, that "A Whole New World" scene is the best example I can think of when explaining why these live-action remakes are so heartless and empty.
#4) Knives Out
Another movie that I'll never understand the near-unanimous love for, Knives Out was just an absurdly stupid attempt at a whodunnit, something it couldn't even do right. A quarter of the way in, it essentially tells you what happened then gives up on the whodunnit genre, until it suddenly becomes one again in the last fifteen minutes. It thinks it earned this big reveal when it really didn't. Most of the actors are good though, but Ana de Armas was just painful to watch, she acted like she was confused the whole time, even in parts when she wasn't supposed to.
#3) Downton Abbey
If only I watched the TV show first... Downton Abbey could definitely appeal to those familiar with the series, I think, but as for me, I was just so confused the whole time; there were way too many characters who all look and act similar, and I couldn't care about a single one of them. I ended up being horribly bored for almost the whole thing as I eventually gave up trying to figure out what on earth was going on.
#2) Ad Astra
But believe me, Ad Astra was still way more boring than Downton Abbey. While the above film at least had one performance I liked (Maggie Smith), this mandatory "sci-fi/space arthouse film released in the fall" film was just the last straw for me in this Hollywood fad. The characters were all so wooden and bland, and the scenes were all so drawn out with some instantly forgettable dialogue, I was disgusted by the self-indulgence of this art-wannabee that kept trying to answer philosophical questions even the director himself could not answer.
#1) Toy Story 4
All the movies on this list were here because they either bored disgusted me. Toy Story 4 takes the number one spot because it directly offended me. The third movie was already the perfect place to end the series, yet this cash-grab not only had no real passion put in, but directly contradicted all the messages of the past movies. Remember when Woody said the purpose of a toy is to be loved by a kid? Now, he's just like, "Nah, I'll leave my family behind to go hang out with my ex-girlfriend." I also hated how the once loyal Buzz Lightyear is now demeaned to a bumbling buffoon whose entire shtick is a painfully unfunny running gag, completely out of character for him. As for the new characters, every last one of them were either annoying, completely useless to the plot, or both. As you can see, I clearly had strong feelings against this attack on my childhood. >:(
Okay now, with that out of the way, here's my top 10 FAVORITE movies of 2019!
#10) The Lighthouse
It's the only movie I reviewed from this year that received an A rating, and it of course meant I got a lot of enjoyment out of it as well! I loved the chilling black-and-white cinematography and the haunting imagery. The way these two lighthouse workers always got on each other's nerves reminded me a lot of past roommate situations I've had, which made the film a lot funnier and more amusing as well.
#9) The Farewell
The Farewell really was a delight to watch, yes it talks about a very sad issue, but balances it out with so many funny moments that come straight out of regular family gatherings! I didn't need to be Chinese to relate to the situations presented in this film, but this at the same time helped me understand and appreciate their culture a little bit more. Definitely one of the most beautifully directed films I've seen this year!
#8) A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
I was certainly afraid going into A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, it looked so Oscar-baity, and seeing Tom Hanks trying to be Mister Rogers was pretty off-putting. But upon seeing it, I was blown away by how faithfully Hanks matched the real Mister Rogers' speech and sitting patterns. Plus, this biopic gave a thoughtful message about the power of forgiveness, and does it in a format that feels like an extra-long episode of Mister Roger's Neighborhood.
Definitely the biggest surprise of the year for me, Booksmart was a very crass teen comedy as I expected. I'm not usually a fan of vulgar humor, but this utilized it well to give a surprisingly smart testament of what graduating high school really means for someone who's sexually confused. Almost all the acting was absolutely perfect, especially by the two leads, and there were moments where I actually did laugh quite a bit, and was amazed by Olivia Wilde's *ahem* wild directing decisions!
#6) The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
Yes, I admit, I'm a big sucker for those LEGO movies (except for Ninjago though)! While I didn't enjoy this as much as the first one, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part was still a very funny and creative sequel that really understands its audience and subject matter. I particularly appreciated its message about how boys and girls can play together and share their toys with each other, which is a far more mature theme than the first movie that really expands on what the LEGO brand has been all about.
#5) The Peanut Butter Falcon
I've never seen a movie that had a main character with Down Syndrome, in which the actor playing that role had Down Syndrome in real life too, so that made The Peanut Butter Falcon feel very special to me. Not only was this a massive step forward in public acceptance of those with developmental disorders, but it was just a generally well-told story with some wonderful directorial decisions. I really could tell that everyone cared so much about the project the were working on!
#4) Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Now look, I know this movie is bad, but I'll happily call Pokémon Detective Pikachu a new guilty pleasure movie of mine. The Pokémon franchise has been very near and dear to me since about fourth grade, and I since then have taken time to draw my own Pokémon and lately have even posted some on Instagram! I for the longest time have wanted a live-action Pokémon movie, and now we finally got one! I of course didn't care for the plot or the actors, because they are admittedly horrible, but seeing these Pokémon realized in the flesh was such a delight!
#3) John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum
Another movie I can admit isn't really any good, but John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum was another big surprise for me this year, simply in how much fun I had with it. I went into it not having seen the other two John Wick movies, but I don't think it's necessary in this case, because clearly the priority is on the action, not the story. And wow! Does it ever deliver on action! It's just two hours and ten minutes of pure uncensored mayhem, with some of the classiest violence I've ever seen, with some absolutely stunning sound design, cinematography, and set pieces. I'm honestly happy to say that this is one of the most fun times I've had in a theater this year.
#2) Blinded by the Light
After the disappointment of what I saw at last year's Seattle International Film Festival, the one I saw this year, Blinded by the Light, was such a breath of fresh air. Not only is it a genuinely good movie, but it does the cheesy feel-good approach the right way. It had plenty of entertaining, and at times hilarious, ways of staging the songs of Bruce Springsteen, which of course would have meant nothing without its very moving true story that gives a hard look at the life of a Pakistani family. It's one of the few movies I've seen recently that made me just say, "Wow."
I didn't expect to love this movie so much, as I didn't particularly care for Get Out, but Us had literally everything I ideally look for in a movie: nonstop thrills, hilarious family comedy, lots of symbolic imagery, deeper political themes, and something I can simply shut my brain off to enjoy without worrying about it not having any artistic merit. While I do admit it's got plot holes and gets carried away with the jokes, this was THE most fun time I've had in a movie theater this year, and am happy to say that this is the one movie from this year I currently own on Blu-ray!
Okay, just one more quick list and then I'm done:
Top 10 favorite movies of the decade:
For the record, I would put a list together of my most anticipated releases of 2020, but there really isn't anything I'm genuinely looking forward to. Just like this last year and the year before (and the year before), the movies I enjoyed the most were the ones I didn't know about at the start of the year. I'm sure it'll be the case this year too. So upon looking onward to 2020, with each movie that does manage to touch your soul and mine, I look forward to see what's in store with this start to the new decade.