Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My top 50 movies of the decade

Okay so I set a precedent back in 2009, so here we go again. Got a lot of guff last time after naming Hot Rod as movie of the decade, so it's up to you how serious you take this. Either I'm terrible or you're wrong or this doesn't matter or nothing matters or has ever mattered and humanity is just some dumb mistake. Take your pick.

Real quick I should mention that to make this interesting I tended to lean into movies that have had more of a hidden personal resonance over the years. There are lots of big blockbusters on here, but if I had a choice between something big and something weird, I chose the weird one, if nothing else to have something to talk about. I've ranked all these movies over the years, yet this list isn't just the top movies from every year. They're kind of plucked from all over the place depending on my mood this week. So not scientific, not definitive, but genuine in terms of looking back at a decade. Tell me what I got wrong. Tell me what I missed. But mostly tell me I'm great.

50. The Greasy Strangler (2016)
Let's get this over with and start things off with a WRONG pick. The story follows a confident father and his doofus son as they navigate their business and love lives while a greased-up murderer wreaks havoc on the community. The extreme icky content and quirky characters make this sort of an X-rated Napoleon Dynamite. It's easily described as lousy, but shoot if it doesn't stick with you. It's aggressively annoying and offensive, but it bludgeons the viewer so hard with its goofy tone that one must laugh as a result of either brain damage or Stockholm Syndrome. Do not watch this movie. You will hate it and you will hate me.

49. Empire Uncut (2014)
This one is purely self-indulgent. This isn't really a movie, but an interesting crowdsourcing project where participants pick a 15-second scene from The Empire Strikes Back, re-create that scene through their own original video, then send it in for the project creators to stitch all the tiny scenes together back into a completed movie. This was also done with the original Star Wars this decade, but Empire is the one I participated in. Watch closely for my scenes re-interpreted with Star Trek uniforms, a French biking couple, and an old elementary school filmstrip with those beeps that tell the teacher when to go to the next slide. As proud as I am to sort of take ownership of 45 seconds of one of my favorite movies, I still get immediately sucked in when I see all the other submissions stitched together. It's a crazy assortment of vision with wild bursts of humanity. Makes me smile.

48. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Here's my Marvel submission. The Marvel movies are great. I've seen them all, but I don't feel the need to fill like ten slots on this list with the best ones. Winter Soldier is a great example of what Marvel movies do best. They use the Marvel universe framework to jut out of the superhero genre and blend it with another. In this case, it's 70s paranoia thrillers. I really love how they use the ra-ra character of Captain America in a movie that forces him to re-evaluate the authority of his institutions. It tests the more difficult aspects of patriotism.

47. Moonlight (2016)
I mostly just remember faces from this movie. I can't tell you details or names, but I can say it speaks pain by gazing into eyes.

46. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)
If this pops up on cable or Sling or uTorrent or whatever you use nowadays for whim watching, don't watch more than ten seconds or you'll be sucked in. The first Neighbors is great, but the second one really embellished what the first one did well which is giving the girls more of a comedic spotlight. Apparently the original plan for the first movie was to have Rose Byrne act as Seth Rogen's disapproving wife because up until now in the history of storytelling, that's the tried and true template. They struck gold in deciding that the pair would work as a scheming comic duo rather than be separated in motivation. In the sequel we're treated to the opposing sorority house consisting of future decade breakouts like Beanie Feldstein and Awkwafina. This set of goofy girls are set up against the established goofy couple and the wild card of Zac Efron with an astounding bit of comic timing. Each party is inept but motivated. The girls get the spotlight, but they're not superpowered women, it's the hilarious humanity that gets shown.

45. Get Out (2017)
Okay I think Jordan Peele knows scary and he knows he has a lot to say about race relations in this country. That sequence at the beginning with LaKeith Stanfield wandering around the white neighborhood is actually legit creepy (and that's totally my neighborhood). Rather than lecturing, Peele does a great job of presenting the experience. All those white folks make a point of being well-meaning to take the fact that they're actually not well-meaning right off the table.

44. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
There's something about this story that feels more real than fiction. The book is quite lovely in that it has a sincere, natural narration that's somehow unburdened by the usual literary language that builds a barrier between character and reader. The movie is quite the same. Apparently the director of the movie and the author of the book knew each other growing up. How's that for a perk? The movie just feels like the oldest moments of younger times. Those times when you actually feel yourself growing up. It's also a great period piece. It may as well be in present-day, but then there's that scene where they hear a song on the radio and don't know what it is and they're forced to just not know because there's no Shazam. Olden days are more memorable because of moments like that.

43. Midsommar (2019)
Fortunately Ari Aster got to make his second movie. As a result, I'd call this one much more focused than Hereditary. Like Hereditary, there are still a bunch of random bits of mythology that may be unnecessary, but at least here I'm able to see a significant focus on the Florence Pugh's story and how her need for connection relates to the setting and the horror. I may be wildly misinterpreting the whole thing, but I look at it like the scariness that comes with certain expectations in a relationship. On one side the horror comes from the partner closing off when the desire is to share with them. On the other side the horror comes from the partner wanting to open up, causing unwanted vulnerability. Midsommar is a little bloated with events and weirdness, but I think it does a great job at sliding between these concepts. A sort of sliding scale from agoraphobia to claustrophobia, depending on the point-of-view.

42. The Raid (2012)
With the CGI boom and other cinematic technology, it's refreshing that there have also been leaps of progress for straight-up physical ability. The plot is purposeful and ludicrous as a guy stuck in a building needs to fight through an army of men floor-by-floor. It's the plot of 80s video game and it's perfect for what it is. This is more of a martial arts demo reel of what's possible in the decade. Special effects are great, but there's nothing like the real thing and every ten years we need something like this to keep humans on the screen.

41. Hanna (2011)
It's been a long while since I've seen this, and perhaps it's positively quaint by now. There's a long single-take of Eric Bana fighting off a bunch of thugs on a subway platform. I recall this scene not because of the impressive single-take, but because I got so wrapped up in the scene that nearly didn't notice that it was a single take. I can't explain the mechanics of it, but that's the sign of a movie made well. Something that uses tools to invest us in the action on the screen, but doesn't spotlight the tools themselves. There's weird music and weird characters too.

40. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
Way back in 2010 this "documentary" took some crazy liberties within the definition of documentary. It's apparently directed by Banksy, who makes an appearance, but I doubt even the modified voice and blurred face come from the literal Banksy. The doc begins straightforward enough with Banksy's street art scene as its subject. Eventually, the director and subject switch places and the movie becomes an examination of the showmanship within art or any other world. This decision is more likely a creative stunt rather than a depiction of the events as they naturally unfolded. Ultimately though, show or document, the truest truth is in the title. This decade I've been fascinated by the way documentaries have moved away from straightforwardness and more toward mindbending experimentation. All that rule-breaking got a big boost from the weirdness of this doc here.

39. Marriage Story (2019)
I expected a series of scenes where the couple would yell at each other and we as an audience would choose loyalties. Yeah that happens yeah. But I'm most surprised at how the scenes naturally flow. Like these two are getting divorced, yeah, but the rest of the world still carries on and they live in it. And yes, since I've seen it, I've been thinking of the loyalties and I've gone back and forth about who's right or wrong and about what. I could easily claim a "victor" in the divorce, but the movie itself compels me not to. For both parties, the antagonist isn't the other person, but the act of conflict itself -- that invisible burden they hope can be extinguished. Both make mistakes, but both are noble in trying to stay above the swamp of inevitable discord. The enemy is strong though, and makes its presence known in a way that feels beyond the control of even Kylo Ren and Black Widow.

38. Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
So if you remember, this is the one where Elizabeth Olsen joins a cult of sorts and then doesn't. The movie plays a lot with stitching together pieces of past events with different scenes. So like a sound made in one scene will reverberate into the next seen as if they're simultaneous. This clever editing really establishes the sort of present-ness of memory. The main character's life may as well exist in her memories as that's the reality of the film. At the same time, we have the advantage of witnessing Olsen's drastic changes in severely contrasting scenes. There's this pair of milkshake scenes, one giving and one receiving, that combine for a hand over agape mouth sense of terror. If you've seen it, you know how well two different scenes are able to combine their moving parts into a working, yet troubling machine. By the end we're as unsure as she is about what she values.

37. Knives Out (2019)
On my first viewing I was mostly impressed at how straightforward the mystery is. There are definite subversions, but the facts are presented in an orderly way with no drastic rugs being pulled from under us. Also, the whodunit concept is slightly subverted by relying on the side mystery that's less about murder, but more about motive. Add in a main character that must tell the truth and the balancing act is most impressive, without a hint of cheating. On my second viewing I saw much more of the class commentary at play. I think the whole movie may have been based around a tweet I saw a couple of years ago (yes, yes this is funny because at one point Toni Collette's character references "a tweet about a New Yorker article" referring to Daniel Craig's fame). Anyway, the tweet just mused something about removing the concept of family inheritances, and thus making the system more fair. This greedy family is well-represented in the expected, capitalist way, but I really love how the progressive liberals are just as greedy when they sense their potential finances slipping away. Prosperity is independent of deserving it. At least the virtuous are rewarded with movie magic.

36. Blue Ruin (2014)
Movies tend to romanticize revenge. I suppose revenge is one of those things where we can't take really take the pleasure of killing those who have wronged us, but we're able to watch movies of other people doing it and we at least get the pleasure of schadenfreude when some villain is justifiably punished by someone similar to us. Blue Ruin takes the romance away. The revenge-enacter is justified, but he's not granted the special revenge powers usually set aside for the main character. Rather, we're treated to a combination of rooting for this guy, but cringing when the job continues to spiral.

35. The Trip (2011)
Is The Trip a movie or is it just a camera left running in front of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon? Kind of like The Raid does in physical prowess, The Trip fully exploits the cinematic power of verbal prowess. It's oddly comforting that we'll always have a need to simply see the joys of two people interacting -- even two people that sort of dislike each other. Actually, maybe that's a plus. They wouldn't be so funny if they weren't so competitive. The big power play in this one is the Michael Caine impression-off. Head to the sequels for a lively fix of both Hugh Grant and Roger Moore, may he rest in peace.

34. Life Itself (2014)
Roger Ebert did two things in his life that I'm thankful for. First, he brought the concept of film criticism to the masses. This actually comes with its own set of issues. The fact that we're all critics now seems to somehow dissuede the allowance of individual thought. Even so, in the end it's a benefit that society has the vocabulary to actively discuss movies rather than just passively watch them. The other thing Ebert brought, and we don't talk about this as much, is how his movie views are so specifically based on how he personally connected with the film, rather than how he thinks the masses should connect with it. Now that we're all critics, many of us fall into that silly trap of gauging a film on how we think others should feel about it rather than how we feel about it. He showed us we ought to reckon with a film based on how it challenges and adjusts our own beliefs. Ebert's personal feelings would often make for some crazy opinions that I definitely don't agree with, but nonetheless I can't argue with his convictions.

33. Atomic Blonde (2017)
This may still be recency bias talking, but this is one of those that's sort of made for me. You got your 80s vibe, you got your European spy stuff, you got your stellar fight scenes. It's just great craft. So great, that in the middle of the movie there's a long fight sequence without the slick sheen of the 80s soundtrack. It's just a straightforward long sequence to prove the exhilaration of great choreography without the need for other pleasurable distractions.

32. Only God Forgives (2013)
Nicolas Winding Refn had a pretty good decade. I nearly put Drive on this list, but the darkest part of me gravitates toward this bit of fluorescent misery. I checked my records just now and I hilariously put this as number 21 on my 2013 list. There are at least 15 movies from that year I guess I liked more at the time that I'm completely skipping over on this big list. This is not something I can explain, but I can say the overhead images of Ryan Gosling getting pummeled in a Bangkok, the sudden way Kristin Scott Thomas loses her confidence in the face of the law, the way the machine gun fire sprays eye level on neon-soaked dining tables are all images that continue to stick with me over the last six years. I think the movie is about the reckoning of the most abhorrent spilling over onto more innocent lives. Maybe these types live with similar visions that have been embedded in my brain since I've seen this.

31. The Death of Stalin (2017)
Armando Iannucci has been huge over the past decade. Veep has been a major antidote to the fable idealism of The West Wing as well as the deeply cynical villainy of House of Cards. I'm betting media historians will actually consider Iannucci's interpretation of politics as the daily lives of the pettiest as the most accurate of the three. The Death of Stalin is a bit different in that it straight on takes place in a historically established governmental regime. The movie disarms the audience with all the players tripping over each other while keeping their native accents rather than adopting Russian ones. Still, after the disarming it's unnerving to see characters so similar to people so familiar to us living and feeling so comfortable in a totalitarian world.

30. John Wick (2014)
Action movies got off the couch this decade. The point is no shortcuts. Put literal actors doing the literal action within a medium shot with no cuts so we actually see what's going on rather than a jumbled, edited mess. I probably shouldn't see as many violent things as I do, but this might be the closest I get to appreciating ballet. Who wouldn't fight over their loving dog though?

29. Boyhood (2014)
I have more respect for this than anything else. The noble experiment took what, 12 years or something? It's completely fictional, but due to its nature of using real-life actor aging it's practically more documentary than other documentaries on this list. The thing strangely feels a bit uneven with some of the more dramatic stuff at the beginning and uneventful stuff toward the end. Perhaps it works as a symbol of adolescence itself. The beginning tends to be more dramatic than the end, even though the answers aren't all there. The choices of what to include over the years is initially confounding, but make sense in a nature of memory kind of way. Often they're everyday conversations rather than what would seem to be a movie event, such as a high school graduation ceremony. And that fits. There's one image of the boy's friend biking behind the car as the boy is riding away from the neighborhood for the last time. What a perfect memory.

28. Two Days, One Night (2014)
I did not want to see this. I was stressed out about work, and I think there had been recent layoffs or something. Then I walked into this movie about Marion Cotillard trying to convince her co-workers to allow her to not get fired even though it means less pay for everyone. I didn't even want to deal with it. Obviously her character is just as apprehensive on the subject. Amazingly though, there is so much hope in this bleak at first picture. It's so crafty to take something so inherently depressing and let the characters find the goodness. Now that's art. Let the miserable stuff be the inanimate. Use humanity to go beyond that.

27. mother! (2017)
There's so much symbolism here, but if you just take it on its surface, a bunch of guests come into the house and an exasperated Jennifer Lawrence tries in vain to usher them out, it's horrifying in a very vivid "been there" kind of way. Throw the symbolism in and it's another story. Hilariously many people found this movie's meanings and themes very obvious, but nearly everybody came to a different conclusion about what they were. I was convinced the movie is actually about the relationship between having children and creating art and the consequences of both. Maybe that's true, but the more overt meaning I didn't even get is a straight up Biblical interpretation starting with Adam and Eve. More hilariously, many people see the movie as a representation of Jennifer Lawrence's and Darren Aronofsky's volatile relationship. JLaw and Aronofsky really didn't appreciate that interpretation. When they broke up everyone on the internet was like "oh I guess she finally saw mother!" The thing is, I'm not even sure if it's what makes it great, but this BEYOND textbook definition of "Death of the Author" makes it interesting. Maybe because none of us even knew we'd see it differently until we all did.

26. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
It's like The Odyssey told in living pictograms. The dialogue isn't so much an afterthought, but it's more like background noise in an already-existent universe. It's the best of oldschool filmmaking. You wanna make a movie about a bunch of post-apocalyptic punks racing through the desert blowing up each others' cars? Then go to the desert with a bunch of punks and blow up a bunch of cars, but do it with precision and completely committed to the world. George Miller realizes that especially in this day and age our eyes are open. We can still tell the real from the fake. The day is not here where we can be deceived to completion. It's actually interesting that there is actually a ton of CGI in this thing, but it's not in the cars or the guns or the sand. It's in the tiny stitches between the practical effects. Until real physical truth has no meaning, this is the way to make movies.

25. Parasite (2019)
This was a big hit this last year, so I'm still ruminating on it just a little bit. Bong Joon Ho has this crazy subtle method of making straightforward tales complicated. Usually these kind of society fables have this patronizing sense of what's right so they show the doofus rich people or the morons in power get their comeuppance while we in the audience cheer at the obviousness of it all. With his movies, the problem isn't one-dimensional characters, but rather the system we've allowed ourselves to be placed. Undoing it isn't as easy as merely dispatching a human villain. I'm not sure if anything was lost in translation, but I think the title is supposed to be singular on purpose. The leech is our own system and everyone provides the blood.

24. Anna Karenina (2013)
I only saw this once, but its method of interweaving scenes cinematically like the the adjustment of backdrops in a playhouse has always stayed with me. Actually, it's even more literal than that. Apparently Anna Karenina is a long book, so I'm told and also I don't read, but the whole movie compresses times and locales within a literal playhouse. The events are the same, but the intimacy is ratcheted. It's a bizarre experiment that I don't recall much discussion of when it was released. I suppose I don't recall anybody else I know seeing it at the time, so I've been alone with my curiosity about it. Also, this movie introduced Alicia Vikander to my world, so I'll always remember it.

23. The Neon Demon (2016)
Sweet music. Sweet seizure-inducing strobes. Sweet dreams on the edge crossing into nightmares. Nicolas Winding Refn made a lot of testosteroney movies this past decade, but he jumped into the estrogen pool with a set of fangs and a stack of vivid color filters. This movie uses the L.A. model scene as its backdrop, but the model participants are closer to tigers than anything else. There's some symbolism involving some kind of of wild feline getting into Elle Fanning's motel room. I think the idea is once you get to the big city, you gotta close yourself up because either you're gonna be eaten or your own instinct to consume will awake in you. Weird symbolism turns into "wow they went there" literalism. If I recall, Victoria's Secret model Abbey Lee does a pretty great job as one of the fellow savage models.

22. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
If you haven't seen this movie, go ahead and see it. It's got its basis in scary movies, it follows the template, but it's not scary. It uses horror movie tropes to become a visual essay on our relationship with the entertainment mass media and questions why we make the demands we do year after year in what shows we consume. The horror aspect of the story is intercut with sequences involving a few boring accountants and monster scientists with a few discussions regarding our need to perpetuate our primal visions of nightmares into product. The surprisingly thoughtful essay does all this in a spectacularly entertaining way. So much so, that maybe it's easy for the point to be lost. So see this movie. Enjoy the exciting twists. Decide for yourself what that giant hand represents at the end.

21. Bridesmaids (2011)
Melissa McCarthy has this line where she introduces herself as "someone who recently fell off a cruise ship and hit all the railings like a pinball" and I will never stop thinking about that. Good job to Kristen Wiig for presenting a character who actually is rather abhorrent in some ways, yet I completely relate to her frustration at the situation. There's lots of gross stuff in this, sure. Honestly, you could take or leave that. The real beauty is the tenseness between Wiig and Rose Byrne that's constantly on the verge of blowing over.

20. Room 237 (2012)
Okay here's another one that didn't rank super well with me in the actual year I saw it, but has been one on my mind for years. This unorthodox documentary isn't a study of the movie The Shining, it's a study of the fans of The Shining who study The Shining. These people are weird, but like everyone who watched mother!, they're weird in vastly different ways from each other. It goes to show the unsuspecting power of an artistic piece of work. Stanley Kubrick threw in a few bizarre bits of set design to his original movie and the result is a catapulting of ideas in different directions. I've noticed that when some people have these far out theories on the meaning of a movie or another piece of art, a lot of other people jump on it saying "oh whatever you can BS interpret anything you want!" This is true and this is a problem. But there is a significant difference in the way art speaks to us and the stuff we make up to sound smart. Obviously I'm guilty of the latter, but you gotta trust me, sometimes stuff just speaks out. Those are the truly interesting films. The ones where you sense a meaning beyond your cultural assignment to find meaning. And so often that meaning is not the same as your friends. I wish I understood the science for that, but that's where it gets really fun.

19. Sorry to Bother You (2018)
Here's another one of those allegory movies. The musician Boots Riley made this and I'd love to see more filmmaking from him in the future. There's a great vision here of an off-kilter society similar to our own with just a few extreme cases amped up. In this world, rather than worrying about debt, people have the convenient option to volunteer to live and work forever within the same building and free jumpsuits are provided! There are also some clever filmmaking visual touches like the main character telemarketing and his desk literally falls into the living room of the family he's calling. It's all a bit Brazil, but it continues a warped path right to the last frame. Lets just say Riley didn't have anyone on his team to tell him horse-men would go to far. I'm very glad nobody reigned him back because this movie's bonkers and I'm glad we get it in full bonkerness.

18. The Lobster (2016)
This movie is easy to hate if you feel a need to line up every symbol. It's a lot easier to let it go and put yourself in Colin Farrell's shoes as he faces eternal loneliness (this isn't hard for me to do). In another wacky concept, this world forces every inhabitant to couple up or be turned into an animal (the lobster is the main character's choice). Premise aside, this movie stays strong in my memory because of the hard lines of two factions. One group finds a severe importance in finding essential similarities within relationships with no patience for flexibility or the opportunity to grow in different directions. The other group is militaristic in its adherence to individuality to the point of a complete breakaway from other individuals. Maybe it's too easy to point out the obvious things relationships shouldn't have, but also so many of these things maybe are heralded as virtues too much.

17. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
This was our introduction to Taika Waititi and he did not disappoint. I actually don't have a lot to say about this one. Its premise is actually a bit stale. We get the documentary formatted comedy which is pretty stale by now. We also get the unusual subject matter in vampires. This is so delightfully successful though because it's simply so very funny. It probably comes from the full commitment of the team. The set-up is standard, but the execution is just about as sincere as it can get. Maybe it was, but this movie certainly doesn't feel like it was produced in a boardroom because "mockumentaries are hot and vampires are hot so we'll monetize by combining!" No. Even if that's the story of how this came to be, the laughs come from the sincerity of the characters.

16. Tower (2016)
I've implied in other entries that there are some documentaries that don't even skirt the line, but full on jump over the line into something else. Tower is specifically what's on my mind as far as breaking documentary rules, but is otherwise uncategorizable. The movie covers that one day when a guy climbed a belltower in Texas and started shooting people. It was way back in the 60s I think and is one of the first mass shootings. Okay with that out of the way, I know that puts you off from seeing it. Trust me on this, you're gonna want to see the movie. First of all, the shooter is glamorized or really not even featured. This is a movie about a community of strangers. It's about the courage that rises up in crisis. Okay and also, the details are presented to us in a very unorthodox way. One could say such re-enactments are a step away from the truth, but quite uniquely, Tower provides a depth and emotion I've never seen in another documentary, despite moving closer to a narrative method of storytelling.

15. Raw (2017)
A young vegetarian comes of age and finds herself with more than the usual set of uncontrollable appetites. The coming of age concept may be a tired theme, but it's executed with precision and power here. The movie swings from sheltered shame to the exhilaration of giving into the basest of nature. There's good humor too. Every cannibalism tale has that.

14. Us (2019)
I just wrote about this in my other post, so I'll attempt (but fail) to elaborate out something different here. There's a story tool here that Jordan Peele uses that I'm sure has a name, but I'm too literary-inept to know what it's called. If it doesn't have a name, then I think Peele will have a long legacy because of its invention. I'll be vague if you haven't seen it (I'll also be vague because I don't have the skills to properly hammer the concept down). So anyway the movie is off and running and we get a bunch of antagonists. They're dressed in red and they seem very annoyed at the seemingly liberal elite protagonists. The movie seems to say that these people are society's antagonists. Later in the movie, it's revealed that one individual is not what he or she is. This subverts the initial judgment the movie makes, but rather than making it about an entire society, the judgment is more on the individual. So in the end, we're left with broad external sentiments going against opposite individual internal sentiments. Regardless of how you relate outwardly to society, Peele found a way to question our motives on the inside. I'd sure love the Cliff's Notes to the paper about this that must exist somewhere.

13. The Duke of Burgundy (2015)
I've only seen this once. It's weird. The story takes place in a world that looks like 60s Europe, but no men exist. Women are in relationships with each other based on some S&M role-playing. Yes, it's a little bit kinky, but not explicit. Anyway, as we're exposed to the master and servant dynamics, there are slight cracks in the structure. Desire and vulnerability are found in unlikely places. Throughout this decade I've never gotten the image out of my head of some unforseen tears from a character in this movie. Consider listening to the soundtrack. It's by a band called Cat's Eyes and it completely commits to something out of another time to the point that it feels like time travel.

12. Never Let Me Go (2010)
I liked this fine when I saw it, but it became a part of me watching it twice since then. If reading, rather than movies are your thing (and if you've read this far, that's likely the case), consider picking up the book. I was actually brought to a sobbing mess that one night when I read the book and then watched the movie immediately after. There is sort of a speculative concept, that I won't discuss. The movie does a great job of slowly ushering us into the world of the three teenage main characters and their predicament. Really though, it's the oldest story. It's about love first. But most of all it's about regret. Despite the bizarre situation of the characters, it's strangely even more relatable.

11. Ex Machina (2015)
I'm not even really sure what life is. I know I can think and struggle, but when a machine tells me she's alive, how is that any different in my universe than another living person I don't communicate with? My beloved Alicia Vikander handles quite a job here as acting as a machine pretending to be alive. There's never a question though. I mean she's alive, right? She's alive enough to form a connection with, right? She'll save me if I'm trapped or dying, right? What is humanity? What is thinking? Are either of these more important that whatever overthrows us? Ex Machina is the kind of science fiction Greek myths invented.

10. Snowpiercer (2014)
My intro to Bong Joon Ho! I love this. Humankind lives on a perpetually moving train and the poorest (the ones in the caboose) fight through the train to the most well-off (the engine) in order to change society for the better. It's like the most dismal children's book ever. Every train car is like its own little short film as our heroes navigate through each level of society. The real-world parallels are obvious, but in the end, it's not as easy as killing the bad guy. Like in Parasite, the real enemy is a system that can't merely be killed.

9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
When I saw this movie two years ago I never dreamed it would be as controversial as it's become. I might be considered a fair weather Star Wars fan. In the early 80s Star Wars was my life, my dreams, my joy, etc., but since then the new movies and other media have mostly been cultural homework assignments rather than the sort of religious experiences they were when I was a kid. The Last Jedi affects me though. This movie contains a few weird choices regarding minor side plots I suppose I'm not a fan of, but if nothing else, I'll always love this movie because for seven other movies we've dealt with a evil as a product of manipulation. Here, the antagonist is the product of complete freedom. Like all moral struggles, the right path must be re-evaluated for the present rather than just rehashed from the past. It's a vibe that feels familiar to those murky emotional journeys of Star Wars past, but it's twisted with a fresh moral perspective. In the past two years I've heard so many people gripe about so many miniscule things about this movie I either like fine or don't even care anything about. But I haven't seen anything like the troubled conversation between Rey and Kylo after they've dispatched the trite placeholder character in a gorgeous throne room. With a nearly sexual afterglow, the characters realize that even though they fought alongside one another, they still bear the heartbreak of seeing the universe differently. I thought highly of this two years ago, but I find it more powerful now considering how it matches so fittingly with the current Star Wars fan war. Hey also this movie does what so many fantasy stories fail to do in that it teaches you don't need to have a famous name to save the day, but whatever maybe that's not true after all.

8. Whiplash (2014)
"NOT MY TEMPO!" J.K. Simmons' character from Whiplash is like this decade's Darth Vader. The supreme chancellor of music schools imbibes this movie with more horror than most Friday the 13ths. I saw this movie at Sundance and thought to myself if J.K. Simmons got on the same elevator I'd instantly collapse in a heap and huddle into a ball. I've found some intriguing similarities in Damien Chazelle's two big works this decade in that they're both about what you're willing to sacrifice to follow your dreams. I've thought about this a lot over the last five years and I've decided that this movie isn't about needing an antagonist to become great, but it's about casting out the antagonist that's holding you back. Strangely, the results of the intense Miles Teller/J.K. Simmons face-off is more empowering than the melancholic ending to the sunny happy La La Land.

7. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Everybody's in this. Captain America, Captain Marvel, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the cups lady, that Succession guy, Anne from Arrested Development. Everybody! As I watched this originally, I recognized that I might be a little too swayed by the frenetic Edgar Wright visual and editing techniques. It may have been a minus on first viewing. He's so good at what he does though, that all that crazy special effect stuff that's so over the top only gets way more fun with age. It's like beating Contra the first time was way fun, but beating Contra without losing any lives is what living is all about.

6. MacGruber (2010)
At one point in this movie MacGruber tells a story so seemingly innocent to him, but it reveals to everyone else in the room that he's actually the monster of his own story. This movie hilariously failed miserably at the box office, which I suppose is understandable. It's based on not just a Saturday Night Live sketch, but a sketch already known for being a 30-second single-joke. The extra mile was taken though. As mentioned in the opening sentence, this character is someone usually unseen in comedy, but we all know him. Every once in a while you meet that guy who actually worsens as you get to know him. It's a rare trait. Here's a guy who not only uses his teammate as a human shield, he spins the guy backward because one half of the human shield is too riddled with bullets. Despite leaning into the despicable character, the filmmakers actually lean into a pretty great look for the film. This may be my favorite 80s action movie.

5. Before Midnight (2013)
The Before trilogy is more real to me than many of my family members. If you're unfamiliar, the three movies came out in 1995, 2004, and 2013. Each takes place with the same two characters over the course of a single day. As far as I'm concerned, this all happened. I think this last one may actually be my favorite of the three too, and as the third in a trilogy, I'm not even sure of another example where that's the case. Jesse and Celine's loose improvisation yields something so natural I actually feel the weight of it in my seat. At the same time, it's so frightening to see their world turn on a dime so quickly. This movie is a triumphant crown to the other two, but the crown is made of the thinnest glass.

4. La La Land (2016)
There's strangely so much against this movie, so let's get a few things out of the way. First, Ryan Gosling's character doesn't "save" jazz. Like most white men, he has a weakness for the past and prefers living there. Second, there's no reason the singing and dancing needs to be to the level of oldschool MGM musicals to have a place in the story being told here. This isn't a showy Broadway production, but rather a rougher and more internal tale of minor nobodies trying to become professional. Beyond the rousing opening number, the style is more an intimate documentary-style of what it would look like if these talented, but not perfect people decided to dance in public. But whatever, those are the minorest of minor things in this movie. Like Whiplash, it's a movie about following your dreams, but this one has some added complexities that aren't obvious until later. Despite the array of sunny songs, there's a beautiful bittersweetness to La La Land with its conclusion that a passion for craft and a passion for romance are often at odds with each other. Such passions can't simply be multi-tasked in the same way singing and dancing can. In the end, Chazelle pulls it together by showing a beautiful love through these characters helping each other with their artistic passions at the sacrifice of romance.

3. It Follows (2015)
Dreamy in its blue hue and nightmarish in its clanging Disasterpeace soundtrack, It Follows poured out from the screen and into my very warped heart. The rules for this horror movie make little sense, but somehow the film has enough conviction that we're forced to just accept the illogic and run with it. Death comes no matter the rules. Either run or put it off with pleasure.

2. Eighth Grade (2018)
I'm exhausted because this list has been long and eighth grade is still forever. The point of view of Eighth Grade is horrifyingly drastic and familiar. Weird how Kayla only seems to see everyone else in her life adjusting so well, but I'm pretty sure (and I sort of hope) that we were all screwed up back then. As dismally true as this movie will always be, the speech Kayla's dad gives her about how honored he is to be the dad of someone so smart and so cool, is something I'm choosing to rob Kayla of for myself.

1. Sing Street (2016)
So let's warp back to Ireland in 1985. The eighties are half over and it's up to us to provide the soundtrack for the rest of the decade. I'm in. I'm so in. But that's just the setting. The movie begins pretty dismally with young Conor adjusting to bullies at a new school. About ten minutes in, the camera rolls out of the school, across the street, and right into Lucy Boynton's eyes as her smile changes Conor's entire universe. At that exact moment we feel him come of age. Sing Street doesn't just tap into the type of music I've never let go, it taps into those adolescent moments I still live with. Although the girl is the catalyst, the movie isn't just about impressing her. It's about the creative joy that comes with making a piece of art come alive and live in the world.

There you are. You didn't ask for it, but I forced it upon you. Get prepped for this again in ten years.

Movies: 2019

Here's the movie lists for this year. If you're actually reading this, please stay tuned for my NEXT post about the movie list of the decade. It's something I'm only doing because it's something I did ten years ago, so it's a sad sense of self-obligation.

Anyway, this post is just for THIS year. Please follow me on letterboxd (username: rexbasior) if you're inclined to have one more social media application even though social media is obviously messing us all up. Letterboxd is great though!

Here's the usual disclaim. I've separated out this year's movie viewings into several sections: 2019 movies, 2018 movies that I didn't catch until 2019, older movies seen for the first time, and movies I've already seen. You will disagree with me, which is awesome. Don't be too silly about it though. The actual rankings are sort of meaningless or practically arbitrary in the least. When one sorts through like 100 movies some weird decisions get made in putting one movie in front of another movie. As I say every year, this is a list of letters rather than numbers. Consider the words I wrote rather than the numbers, cuz numbers are boring.

Top 68 movies of 2019!

Alrighty, all of these have a technical 2019 release date. We had a lot more streaming this year rather than cinema, which makes me sad, but these days my agoraphobia often prevents me from getting to the movie house anyway.

68. The Amazing Johnathan Documentary
"We still need a stooge." This Sundance documentary takes a twist by turning toward a different subject because of the weird behavior of the original subject. Normally I don't hate meta, but after calling the redirection out with a laugh, the movie flounders in finding something interesting to say in either direction. I've never sought out the work of The Amazing Johnathan (based solely on his ATROCIOUS name spelling). I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised by the character, but am instead surprised that he's just about the least charismatic magician I've ever seen. Unfortunately, while the director seems a bit eager to step in front of the camera, his method seems to be burdened by his acting over his naturalism. On top of all this, the strange events only amount to dull confusion. It's a failed magic trick with both participants improvising in different directions.

67. Untouchable
Surprisingly straightforward but stagnant Sundance stuff. The documentary about Harvey Weinstein is really just talking heads going over the same oppressive and tawdry bits we all caught on the news. The most effective bits seriously lean into this device, keeping the camera on the victims through all sorts of heavy silences. The movie's focus is primarily on the monster and his lair, but we get only glimpses of the adjacent corners of culture that somehow empowered said monster. At one point, the movie plays the clip of Courtney Love semi-jokingly warning women to not be alone with Weinstein. The whole movie would have been more interesting investigating this phenomenon. How does common knowledge of terrible behavior become a common joke before justice is even considered? What's the line between fact and rumor? Are methods available to help sort this in the future? One of the questions in our Q&A pointed out that Weinstein is often portrayed in the movie audio-only, as if to somehow de-power him. Yes, true to an extent, but with no further insight than the facts we already know, I'm not sure how this movie does anything more than just perpetuate and deepen perpetrator/victim roles.

66. Dark Phoenix
Hey you know what? 45 minutes in and I'm like hey this isn’t lame like they say! Theeeennn it gets to the bulletproof aliens that aren't punchproof. Also, I hate when people get annoyed when a movie strays from the source material, BUT filmmakers certainly gotta realize the variations that really really don't work are inevitably compared to the original material that definitely does work.

65. Falling Inn Love
Easygoing Netflix movie! Real weird how the exceptionally trite trailer actually has more depth than the movie itself. She's too aware she's in a rom-com which results in her premature hatred of the obvious hunkterest for no reason. Stay for all the NZ references though (kumera, L&P, hokey pokey ice cream).

64. Tall Girl
Another easygoing Netflix movie! This is a super excellent example of the plot needs dictating characters' actions rather than some really fun characters being allowed to exist in their own spaces. The weird side girl in this is a fun parcel.

63. The Peanut Butter Falcon
Sort of like an after school special about believing in yourself with just a lot more wet underwear. Also, bless Dakota Johnson because she's so stress-free and seems so grateful to be kissed.

62. The Mustang
So the opening title card explains that due to overpopulation, many wild horses are sent to prisons. Within those first few seconds I was super excited to see a bunch of horses in correctional orange hanging out in horse gangs and lifting horse weights. Apparently, I misunderstood and it's HUMAN prisons and the human inmates there attempt to tame the horses. Anyway, this movie is roughly as exciting as you may imagine horse training to be. We're treated to the smiley, wise, but doomed black inmate who not only befriends our troubled, quiet, white main character, but says lines like, "Before you can control your horse, you need to control yourself." Lately I've been really sensitive to those kind of lines that sound like they could be uttered by The Sphinx from Mystery Men. There's also some harrowing prison stuff that I feel was necessarily inserted to take away some pressure from the horses carrying the whole thing. Matthias Schoenaerts is the main white guy. He mostly grunts for the first hour and I swear the grunts are actually in Dutch. Anyway, the horses are super great.

61. The Perfect Date
Okay I don't actually know how smart the actress who plays Veronica from Riverdale is IRL, but here's the thing: she's got a face that looks smart—or at least smart enough to grasp obvious deception right in front of her smart face. Netflix's rom-com assembly line worker Noah Centineo is fine enough, but obviously a bigger strength when he's a supporting character channeling Jake Ryan.

60. This Is Not Berlin
One of those Sundance movies where the director remembers formative years from a time and place somewhere not in present-day Utah. If I remember right, this one's in Latin America in the midst of a few gothic bohemians. I'm all for weird 80s music not the uzhe (like early industrial) and we get a couple of great sequences. BUT I don't latch onto much besides the common motto of these memoir movies which is always just "be yourself, dude." Oh and also this movie has lots of wang. Like a ton.

59. Joker
"Hey Arthur, did you hear some clown shot three prickheads on the subway? Oh, and completely unrelated, did you get fired for bringing a gun to the hospital?" Lots of baggage once I finally got into this movie which is unfair to it. I try to be fair and aware to consider what movies try to communicate and I think I did so here. I watched and was like is this pure satire that will be misinterpreted? Or is it a rally cry to reach out to the disenfranchised? Or is it really the privileged that are misunderstood, or whatever? But about halfway through I realized the movie sets itself in a harsh uncaring world and then simply wallows in it. No action or character or joke even varies from anything built up in the first shot. There's no hope in being taken for a ride with ups and downs or even lefts or rights. The point is meaninglessness. Perhaps the movie's elements of focused direction, visceral production design, sick violence, and funny jokes make the point well-made. But in my opinion it's hardly a point worth making.

58. Paradise Hills
My most expensive Sundance showing by far (considering I needed to pay full parking for this single film). I knew going in that Awkwafina's in this and since Sundance refused to get me into The Farewell, I may as well get my Awkwafix. About 15 minutes in there's the realization that this thing is super YSA science fictionish. Seems like I wander into one every year. Was Before I Fall last year? Anyway, Emma Roberts is like at a rehab facility to be less bitchy I think. Milla Jovavich is her Suspiria-like superintendent of sorts. The look is a pleasing sort of speculative glamour, however the dialogue sure feels like it was translated from another language. Actually, the really interesting sci-fi concept only comes into play with about ten minutes remaining. Not to say what that concept is, but if it were introduced earlier it would involve a different and more welcome perspective. At least it's not a movie about cloning (as the director explicitly explained to a less-informed audience member). It's a bit more about faulty impersonation than faulty duplication.

57. High Flying Bird
Soderebergh's Traffic, but about sports agents. Turns out I can follow conversations about the drug trade a lot better than conversations about basketball. And to be clear, it's gorgeous iPhone-filmed footage of CONVERSATIONS about basketball. No dunks.

56. Velvet Buzzsaw
A weird non-scary horror or maybe non-funny satire about art critics and art business. Or maybe a non-deep allegory? Shoot I saw this back in March, so it could be anything. Gyllenhall is a bizarre nerdy art critic and maybe the art itself is what kills. But what if I just want an art PRINT? Do I just get bruised?

55. The Dirt
The Motley Crue Behind The Music re-enactment on Netflix. Grossly equally debauched and sentimental, but I like it a little because their first album has a cutting sound and Mick Mars is sorta cool.

54. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
We got the Star Wars originals and everyone loved them. We got the Star Wars prequels and everyone hated them. But it's not until these postquels that the real wars finally started.

I'm too tired to say everything, but let me start with a few lovely things. As much as I hate that the seemingly dispatched big baddie is back, I do like that he's filmed like some sort of space dracula. Maybe a crucifix formed by light sabers was a little much though. Also, maybe the character took too much from Voldemort and c'mon the HP stuff is what's supposed to borrow from the SW stuff. Okay wait, but back to the good. The beginning has treasure hunts reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark, trading in on the charm of early Lucas/Ford collaborations contemporary of the original SW trilogy. Of course those treasure hunts also force the movie to have like 40 scenes at a minute a piece. The movie takes risks! Major characters are dispatched. Well, not before the movie chickens out and JKs us, making any emotional heft from such sacrifices meaningless. Okay seriously though, I really do dig the crazy thing where Rey and Kylo do their space communication that teleports physical items from wherever one of them is over to the other person. This is crazy stuff, but kinda cool and a new thing that's delightfully more cinematic than the space battles. Apart from that, this simply isn't the characters' movie. It's the movie of the characters dressed up in the theater watching and demanding that Chewbacca not just live, but he actually receives an onscreen medal. Finn only learned smugness this trilogy. "I felt it" he says hostily to another character after witnessing a Jedi miracle. He's not a Jedi, but he wants us to know the magic is just for a special few and he's privileged enough to grasp at the hem of the magic garment. After the treasure hunting and false sacrifices, the final act is not the triumphant finale of a 40-year saga. It's more of a silly bumpy sequence that feels as though it was transcribed from a 6-year-old playing with Star Wars toys: "Pawpawteen SUCKS wyfe from dem and then shoots WIGHTENING in the sky at AWW da ships, but den TWO wight sabows stop wightening." My child impersonation is childish, I know. This movie wasn't what I wanted so maybe I'm just lashing out. I liked the last Star Wars movie, but it wasn't what other people wanted. I guess we're even. Let's look at it in ten years though. I'm betting by then you'll also think that following through with the new threads set up in the last movie would have been more intriguing than non-imaginative fan service and the proclamation that the whole series is not so much about heroes, but the giggling machinations of a gross old guy with electric hands.

53. Glass
The big lunge to a twist results in a spectacular presentation of indifference. Like The Incredibles, the moral is to allow for the extraordinary, but when the dust settles, it's only the dull characters saying the lessons and we're expected to take their word. A late stage theme presents the powers that be as a combination of government and possibly religious tradition, which stays interesting though lack of reveal, but hardly interesting enough to continue wondering about.

52. Brightburn
If you don't know what this is, its that clever premise movie that wonders what it would be like if Superman grew to be evil. The title is a necessity to point out that this isn't the slow burn we were anticipating when we first heard the concept. Not what I was expecting (which is nice), but I expected better (which is bad). I thought maybe just a few bad parenting decisions would be the bits to lead to tragedy. Then all of us in the real world would rethink the stupendous miracle that is the Superman myth. We'd wonder about the nature of deity and/or the horrors of power in the absence of deity. Perhaps it's good this movie exists the way it does because my movie was already in my head anyway and we may as well have two.

51. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Okay this is a somewhat unique telling of Ted Bundy through an unreliable point of view. I think the desired effect is to make the betrayal somewhat more palpable. I agree with the chance-taking, but it ultimately makes the actual truth seem false.

50. Fyre
The Netflix one. More talking head detail. A bit more employee anguish. Surprisingly little overlap with the other one. Somebody should do a four-hour super cut that integrates both movies. They could show it on a private island. I'd buy a ticket.

49. Judy & Punch
Has all the extra baby-throwing missing from Precious. Serious female justice/revenge stuff buoyed by a whimsical musical score. The tone is lighter than the story, which is a relief. Alcoholism, infanticide, physical abuse, and unjustified systemic witch hunts can use all the levity they can get. The movie implies an intriguing parallel to violence in the media and the Trump America distrust of anything or anyone different (especially a more intelligent type of different). The setting here is a 16th century helltown populated by dirty uncouth degenerates. The kind and thoughtful are subject to witch hunts and the town's entertainers are held in more respect than the literal authority. The more violent the entertainment, the more entitled the purveyor of entertainment becomes. A self-important man, Punch, has a talented and better-hearted wife, Judy. Punch falls far short of decency and must be dispatched. In 2019 it's impossible to not equate this plot to the shortcomings of the patriarchy and the need to overthrow it. I only wish I'd see just one of these movies where the solution isn't to ultimately praise the same level of violence it initially critiques.

48. Murder Mystery
Great job getting Aniston onboard this time to help Sandler with under the breath jokes rather than him just yelling jokes.

47. Cold Case Hammarskjöld
This is the second documentary I saw at Sundance that relies a lot on the director as a subject. Unlike Untitled Amazing Johnathan Documentary, at least this time both the director and subject are more engaging. Since I'm an idiot, though, I sure would like a few infographics or at least a bulletin board with red yarn to help me keep all the characters straight. Anyway this doc is pretty big news. If what is purported is actually true, then we're talkin' serious war criminal stuff here. One strategy is showing the confusion of the movie makers themselves. This gives the audience permission to be confused as well, which is really great considering all the wacky James Bond villain-esque hanging threads.

46. The Highwaymen
I heard there's this other movie made in like the 60s that's actually about Bonnie and Clyde so maybe I should watch that because this movie is kind of like Driving Miss Daisy. Hey did they get Woody Harrelson to perfectly collide the elements of Natural Born Killers and True Detective? Another Netflix movie. I broke records this year for Netflix movies. I need sunlight.

45. Ready or Not
Okay the weird thing about Samara Weaving is that she starts out like really cute and spontaneous and natural but after 45 minutes that same acting comes across as phony and loud and irritating. It's like a superpower that's no fault of her own. Well maybe it is a little. She goes out of her way to loudly give off this down-to-earth vibe and the mechanism and the desired effect are sort of on opposite poles.

So anyway my favorite is how all the people want to hold onto the worldly wealth: the people born into it, the people who marry into it, the people who aspire to it and even the hiding maid who just learned about it that night. Oh at what cost wealth in this country? Our very souls!

44. Long Shot
Funny in moments, but my two problems: 1) lives up to its title (loooong) and 2) I just have a hard time believing the people in control of the world have secret slacker personalities — anyone with a trace of fun would be outta there so fast.

43. The Art of Self-Defense
Here's a weird mixture of The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Wolf of Wall Street. I agree with the pointing out of a few of the more banal aspects of toxic masculinity, but the message is just left stagnant through repetition. It's one of those where the characters speak in overt stilted dialogue that sounds like it's pulled out of that one web comic that's so hot right now with the aliens that speak about weird Earth things all literally. That method really boxes the characters in. The whole thing presents almost like a sarcastic children's book. I think that's actually the intention (and a novel idea), but it's still grating.

42. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Hey this sucker's long enough and burdened by lots of things it could let go. Hey movie, just because the other Fast & Furious films constantly cram in stuff about family doesn't mean you gotta cram it in for both title characters. Also, yeah we get that you bicker. Maybe vary that a bit. Loosen it up. Also. The Rock is so big he doesn't fit on a movie screen.

41. The Inventor: Out for Blood in Slicon Valley
This documentary details that Theranos company dealie that claimied to check blood, but didn't really. Love that there's so much weird footage available of Elizabeth Holmes with her Romy voice and malfunctioning android stare. Would have liked a bit more of a connection to other corrupt startups, but I suppose that would technically just be supposition. Maybe the scariest thing is health-related stuff is easier to fake than say, a user-friendly app. Also, maybe every solution simply can't be solved by such petty things as belief and hard work.

40. Dolemite is My Name
I need Eddie to be having this much fun always. I really wish the exuberance of Rudy Ray Moore's act is nearly as interesting as this movie just presents hanging out and being chill and cool in the 70s in some way fly outfits.

39. Downton Abbey
The theater luxury loungers are nice, but it's real rough to watch these next two PBS episodes without a couch and blanket.

38. Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Blanchett is great as the opposite of my own mother but still charming enough for me to wonder if that's something that would have worked for me. Maybe there's just too much civility in everyone's dissatisfaction. Also the daughter comes across as naively stubborn rather than loving. Crudup whines a lot like the Modern Family dad. Whatever, I'm in a bad mood.

37. American Factory
Was this the Netflix documentaray produced by the Obamas? A Chinese factory comes to America and wackiness ensues as two alien societies try to understand one another. Bottom line: other people are better at producing stuff.

36. Blinded by the Light
It's a Springsteen infomercial. So we start off with a Pet Shop Boys song and then an A-Ha song and then a Level 42 song and then after that a whole lotta Springsteen that kinda isn't my thing as much. Also, I don't think the director of this movie is a Springsteen fan because the enthusiasm seems forced. Still, anything that takes place in 1987 is always a good time. The music tries to do nearly all the work, leaving the main character whiplashing through different insincere iterations of fellow fan friends. On the other hand, the movie may age well because it not only expresses the exuberance of discovering new art, but it also touches on the annoyance of too much devotion to a single good thing.

35. Spider-Man: Far from Home
Ultimately I'm gonna probably forget this or mix it up with all the other Marvel movies, but as of this moment the thing that sticks with me are the gorgeous Mysterio sequences where the visuals perpetually change. Obviously we've seen illusions before, but this time it's especially point-of-view. Also, still loving that they're sticking to high school levels of stress rather than world ones.

Update: the previous sentences were written when I actually saw the movie, but now that it's the end of the year, yes indeedy I'm presently getting this one mixed up with the other Marvel movies.

34. Always Be My Maybe
So the funniest parts are Ali Wong's subtle expressions and passive-aggressive actions when she meets someone new — that is, until THE SCENE, which is SO hilarious if you don't see it coming (and surprisingly good acting too). Hopefully you don't see it coming, but you probably do, because it's a big part of the promotional material. I further commend this Netflix rom-com for taking the final third further exploring the people problems rather than just the external forces keeping our main characters together. I've also realized that the best thing about this Asian-aissance of rom-coms is that we all get to see some great food.

33. Captain Marvel
With as crowded as MCU is getting, I'm starting to think the new locales are more exciting than the new personnel. My weirdly favorite part here is just a few seconds of sequence of a Kree subway train complete with Kree randos rather than just the important alien soldiers or whatever (despite the movie making a point of saying the culture has even more of a basis in heroism than ours). Brie Larsen is the right one to play the character, but she's directed to overkill the whole sarcastic and sassy elements. Surely it's impossible to thread the needle of characterization suited for everyone, but for this particular Marvel movie-goer, I'd appreciate more vulnerability and restraint. As for the rest of the plot and character, I appreciate Captain Marvel's non-linear perspective, but the number of other characters' switched allegiances veers significantly away from the "gotcha" double agent type and more into the "random crap" triple and quadruple agent type.

32. Late Night
The first half seems a bit overwritten. Lines are literally too long — almost like Mindy Kaling needed to pad the time. The script specifically upends a couple of seeming stereotypes, but in doing so, actually calls attention to the unreality of it all. For example, Kaling's character is young and scrappy, but not necessarily a genius at humor. Strangely, she's so much of a non-genius, she's actually naively taken by surprise when she gets pushback for not writing any jokes. Emma Thompson's character is pure delight, though. Pure delight despite (perhaps especially because of) her cruel streak. Would that we all had the chance to be abused by Katherine Newbury.

31. Yesterday
"Help!" In its raw version is pretty cool but could have used more intimacy and urgency. "Let it Be" is exposed as actually kinda boring. A wordless montage of "Norwegian Wood" with Lily James just staring ahead with her mouth open is what's really really missing though. It's not reeeeeally about the Beatles though, innut? The movie's best illustration is the frustration that comes with losing the joy of the shared experience. Without that communal thing, the music is just the sound of a tree falling when nobody's around. But then again we're treated to witnessing the joy that only comes with hearing classics for the first time. Ultimately the movie puts more importance on the love story than the love songs. I think it would have been more resonant if we were treated to a music theme rather than the love lives of two people who aren't me. Here's one case where changing the ending a bit could have sharply shifted that focus to something more universal. Also, it's weird seeing Boyle so basic in his direction. Maybe a bit of Iggy Pop and/or heroin is in order. I like the music. Did I mention that?

30. Spirits in the Forest
Okay so Depeche Mode is my other religion, so of course I'm gonna give this a positive review. The music's great of course, although I'm guessing the band probably wanted to do a 101-esque fan-based doc to draw attention away from their gothzombie-like aging. The fan segments are warm and personable. It's legit lovely to hear these fans and their life stories. Especially lovely is the divorced dad that has his limited-custody children join him in a quirky Depeche Mode cover band. The thing is, Anton Corbijn is a world-famous photographer more than a world-famous storyteller. These are great stories, but they don't intertwine these people's one big commonality. Near the beginning, the young Mongolian girl mentions hearing a song at eight years old that changed her life. I assume it's a Depeche Mode song, but it's never specifically mentioned. Later, the woman with cancer pulls out her Music for the Masses record and begins to discuss the reasoning for "Never Let Me Down Again" as the opening track, but never fully completes the thought. All of the six fans are shown dancing at the Berlin Depeche Mode concert together, but they're still just talking heads throughout the film. We're not treated to their discussion with each other about their common love. Perhaps the point is that cancer, divorce, amnesia (really!), etc. are more important issues than music. Obviously this is true, but there's nothing quite as exhilarating as a passionate music discussion to pass the time in the midst of harrowing life. If you need me though, I'll be watching a bunch of DMK on YouTube.

29. The Irishman
This has got to be Anna Paquin's easiest job she's ever had.

Okay so I'm not quite sure I'm a Scorsese guy. Before this movie I did a quick mental inventory and realized I don't hate his movies, but I couldn't think of one I actually need in my life. I see goodness here, just not to the pious level it perhaps deserves. I watched The Irishman in chunks like a heathen, but I can't imagine watching it in one sitting in this day and age. It's long long long, but somehow isn't really conducive to multiple sittings. I think maybe that's a positive, cinematic sort of thing that its threads intertwine into a whole so well that it doesn't make sense to separate it into episodes. Still, long is long and it's a burden regardless. BUT, its length really benefits those last 45 minutes or so. Without a lifetime of runtime, the weight of regret might not actually be so palpable by the end. The romance of crime is so sucked dry, that it puts a wistful perspective on all of Scorsese's other crime films. It's so crazy that this is the first time Scorsese worked with Pacino. It also makes perfect sense that the loud Scorsese outsider is separated in-movie from the Scorsese insiders. It's a wall that's felt nearly imperceptibly by the actors just living in an accustomed shorthand while the HOO-HA guy does his thing (although far more professionally than just impersonating himself).

Oh wait I remember the thing I was gonna cram into that second paragraph. I was really troubled when I couldn't keep track of all the "business" the characters keep going on and on about. There's stuff about who's allowed to make loans and who wants this and that and who's allowed to have power and all that. I found myself so very annoyed that Scorsese didn't make the motivations a lot more obvious and spell out the crime structure a little better. We're never even treated to a primer of the union itself, which is something I was hoping to learn. Instead, we're just thrown in, with union talk just whizzing by. As the movie was ending, though, I think I realize the reason for this is to further emphasize the real non-importance of all those details. These weirdoes get up in arms about meaningless bureaucracy on the way to death, and then can't do a thing to connect to their shy daughters.

28. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Pretty good set of Breaking Bad eps, but I don't think I heard a single "bitch!" Jesse Plemons is a welcome different type of scary. The dullness of character adds its own forboding edge.

27. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
A young black man and his artist friend does what he can to reclaim the San Francisco house built by his grandfather. Noble, but $4 million is unfortunately impossible. This one's unique, but I weirdly can't latch onto anything to talk about with it. It's critically very favored. I think it's also on Amazon Prime. Hey I've talked a ton about other movies to you, so now I need you to see this one so you can tell me about it.

26. Doctor Sleep
The theater is a great place for The Shining stuff, but it's the stuff that's mostly separated from it that's the most compelling. I'm particularly thinking about Rebecca Ferguson's twilight glide into the astral projection of a little girl's room. It's a smooth sequence that stands as eerie as little Danny's bigwheel hallway ride. There's a deep edge removed when shifting the perspective to the evil parties though. Where the random nightmarishness of The Shining best utilized the horror of the unknown, that nervousness is softened with a near sympathy when we get to personally know the antagonists. Kind of a catch-22 since Ms. Ferguson is quite fun in her role as the evilest hippie. The unfortunate thing is these kinds of sequels to mindbenders (2010, Blade Runner 2049, etc.) are forced into following some sort of logic to explain the inexplicableness of the first movie. Usually it's the nonsense of that ground-breaking first film that leads people to talk about it still decades later. Too much explanation of this universe leads to a narrowing of the ideas into midichlorian territory. Also, the entrappings can lead to really embarrassing logic leaps such as "hey these evil things will kill these other evil things and will definitely not give us two big giant evil things things to worry about."

25. Between Two Ferns: The Movie
Haha it funny

24. The Lighthouse
Robert Pattinson and Willem Defoe are completely enmeshed in their 19th century lighthouse operators that are going insane in the least subtle way possible. It's filmed in an old-timey black and white along with square aspect ratio that's practically Instagram square.This story is immensely immersive like an Edgar Allan Poe story being yelled and farted at you while that square perspective also claustrophobically traps and confines. It's transcendantly well done, but not really what I need right now at this moment in my life.

23. John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
It's in my top five of movies about people kicking each other. But what is it about? Snobs will merely say it has no substance. But is it a true allegory for society? Is society just a more organized way for us to consume each other like the true animals we are? Probably isn't Keanu's best acting, but we gotta give some award to the stunt guys who play his hundred or so victims. Man, the last two seconds of all their lives, you really feel the pathos on their faces.

22. The Two Popes
I relate to Pope 1's tenacious clutch of trying to find meaning in order. Pope 2's backstory of entering the priesthood made me cry. I don't think popes are allowed to make their own travel arrangements though.

21. Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
A part of me loves that Tarantino has enough restraint to pretty much bypass his two calling cards: violence and dialogue. Obviously they're not completely missing, but when the violence FINALLY comes, it's silly and unwelcome by that point. Probably would have made the film more provocative to leave out what little there is. I have no problems with the few words spoken. It's actually nice that the words don't draw attention to Tarantino like his other movies blatantly do. The best thing I can say is that he's exercising his ability to offer characterizations outside of his usual chattiness. The scene with Margot Robbie in the theater watching her own performance (or more accurately, watching the audience watch her) is probably the most memorable scene with this in mind. Besides pettiness and insecurity of the actors of this world (Robbie name-dropping her character's name in order to save 75 cents, DiCaprio's constant breakdowns) and the glorious machismo of the below-the-line real heroes (stuntpeople), I'm just not quite sure what the movie is saying. If it's just that times were better in the past... I'm just not sure that's enough. Perhaps I'm being unfair because it wasn't what was expected. It's closer to American Graffiti than Reservoir Dogs, so I imagine repeated viewings and more dwelling on it will do some good. That's definitely been the case in past experiences with his catalog—but also I feel this film wasn't super fair to Bruce Lee, so it's got a bit to overcome.

20. Honeyland
Torn. Toooooorn. Torn. Do I praise the film for creating a vivid narrative from real and tactile footage or do I criticize the film for inserting itself and exploiting the pain? This apparent documentary plays out like a narrative as a traditional honey keeper attempts to impart her skill on a family led by a man far more concerned with a quick buck than an honest craft. I'm not sure how much of it is true or engineered. My instincts tell me it's more engineered than not, but my instincts can't even tell the truth in my own life. I think we're gonna get to the point soon where these vivid documentaries will need their own documentaries for us to really get a handle on the truth.

19. Honey Boy
The boy is so great. Shia is a bit over the top and I still bristle that he indulged himself so much to play his weird and abusive father, but hey man, whatever therapy you need.

18. Fyre Fraud
The Hulu one. I like. Perhaps a bit too gleeful in the editing of vapid influencer interviews in some places, but surprisingly restrained in actual schadenfreude Fyre footage. The best parts actually have to do with a broader analysis of the influencer and investment culture as a whole.

17. Avengers: Endgame
Each hour deserves a star ranking I suppose. I respect this movie tons, but I don't think I have the emotional attachment the movie deserves. Considering the character scope of it all, this may be the best possible version of this movie. It's just that I'm incapable of shifting attention between such an ensemble. A very funny thing I wasn't expecting is the whole "clip show" aspect. I should have seen it coming though. The franchise literally has enough episodes to warrant a clip show.

So like a big part of me really loves that Captain Marvel is slightly misdirected as the super solution and instead that duty switches to Ant-Man. I realize in this day and age it may be considered problematic to give such an honor to the white dude over the specifically awesomely progressive woman. I consider it a fine step. Now by this point the physically powerful woman is a totally normal thing, yet the saving device is something far more subtle than physically powerful brute force. Even though the plot device is brought about by a white man, there's a tremendous dual-meaning by de-powering in the other direction by making the savior a shrinking man. Sorry, but I'm less enthused by the male directors' pandering femme phalanx moment. Don't trust a man who who tries so very hard to be so overtly feminist. What do I always say? They're likely just trying to earn points rather than expressing true feelings.

16. Them That Follow
Hey wow Olivia Colman! Hey there's Walton Goggins! JIM GAFFIGAN! This movie's gonna be hilarious! Oh no. Nononono. No. Oh no. This snake handling movie is not a comedy. I'm not sure if nuance is the right word, but as weird a subject matter as it is, the film finds reason in all the actions. In a single line, "He's not like us," the heroine successfully navigates and overcomes every obstacle through both faith and reason.

15. Ad Astra
The lesson is, never try. More bleak and shoegazing than I thought it would be. I could be wrong, but it seems like the lesson is that we shouldn't reach for the stars. I'm a bit thrown by that. This is a movie, after all. Reaching for the stars is the tagline of every movie. Instead let's just stay here and be psychoanalyzed by the robots.

14. Hustlers
So like, this is definitely a chick flick. But it's a grimy, skeezy, crazy chick flick and I mean that in a good way. J. Lo is a freakish scary and mothery force of nature you can't help but fear and love. Constance Wu is the most relatable person even when she's just staring ahead and I haven't even been an Asian woman in a long long time. Lili Reinhart, well, she doesn't need to be there at all, but the camera strangely gravitates to her once she shows up and I'm pretty fine with that.

13. The Souvenir
All hail Honor Swinton-Byrne for bringing such realness and understanding to a character involved with a very wrong man. The sympathy is there for her and most viewers would probably give up on a character like that played by someone else by minute 20. There are 100 more minutes in this and she certainly earns her paycheck keeping things afloat during that time. The events are really a feature-length set of red flags. Each scene is interesting in its own sort of purposefully unstructured way. Rather than having an obvious setup with entrances, addressing of names, or obvious expositions, we're treated with the opportunity to eavesdrop. I think this compels us to fill in the blanks a bit on any pieces of the relationship we may be missing. I haven't decided if this is a brilliant filmmaking idea or just a great excuse to skip a few pulses. I'm gonna see how I feel about this in a few months. Like the movie itself, I think appreciation may be better suited to a simmer rather than a deep-fry.

NOTE: It's been a few months (like 11 of 'em) and I was correct that this movie is better in memory. Honestly it's kind of dull in the moment, but there's something about it that makes it more honest when remembered. More honest and more sad. Like an actual memory.

12. Hail Satan?
This is definitely the most fun I've had with a Satanic documentary. Penny Lane has a tremendous sense of rhythm within her structure. Each step of the movie brings up further questions, but miraculously, in my experience each question tends to be answered in the following scene. My experience may be exclusive, but I feel strongly that although Lane got very close to her subjects, she still has an uncanny feel for the necessary audience relationship. That said, my wishlist for the movie may possibly unravel the charm of what Lane establishes. The movie is very specific subject-wise. This is a movie about The Satanic Temple and no other group. All the interviews are either members or allies of the group. Obviously, there COULD have been interviews with dissenting Christian opinions, but Penny Lane herself stated in the Sundance Q&A that she didn't want to spend the time there. After all, typical religious thought dominates the thinking in the country, so its voice is heard outside this movie. Still, within the film's context, the political strategy of TST is to provide a balance to community through helpful adversarial thinking (and the movie tangentially represents the other side with the doofiest of doofuses). Also, some representation from the other extreme could be interesting (i.e. believing Satanists of the anti-divine, rather than straightforward atheists). Perhaps there's room for a sequel rather than a complaint about the current product. After all, the thing really putts along with the limitations it already has. As implied above, this particular church, The Satanic Temple, is actually an atheist organization, with no belief in a literal devil. This movie is far more about taking the hypotheticals of law and expression and making them literal in order to prove some very significant points on justice. Even as a religious person I get the rally cry of what they're going for, but I'm certainly not enrolling my kid in an after-school Satanic program. I mean, c'mon. Co-opting Satan as a symbolic political tool is pretty genius — but it does present a problem of peaceful coexistence by choosing the adversary label right at the beginning.

11. Atlantics
There's a swift sort of genre-change about a third of the way through this beautifully weird ditty about a doomed young Ivory Coast couple. I feel like at the end of every year I suddenly catch one of these that starts straightforward and then shifts into something bizarre all while maintaining the same tone it initially establishes. There's a beauty to this that feels mythical, like a love story from a Grecian urn. If this type of storytelling is a trend, it's a trend that should stay. Characters aren't told what type of story they're in, so why should we? It certainly helps the world fold in around us.

10. Uncut Gems
I haven’t read the trivia yet, so not sure this is true, but I like to think the Safdies based this entire movie on the Kevin Garnett interview where he casually mentions his connection to "the rock," thinking of the double meaning of a basketball and a mineral. Also the whole Garnett/garnet thing. 

As with Good Time, I’m impressed with the neon sludge look. Poor lighting never looked so good.

It’s funny, Sandler is loathsomer and annoyinger than just about any other character he’s ever played, but he strangely is more a human than a troll. For one brief instant we’re brought into his fantasyland and we believe the world bends enough to cater to his warped logic. It's an uncomfortable laughter, but I may have laughed more in this than any other Sandler movie. "This is me. This is how I win." -- I can see myself saying this multiple times in the coming decade whenever I decide to do something dumb.

9. Booksmart
Okay besides Beanie Feldstein's face having the ability to power a city, I think my overall appreciation is in the characterizations of all the other kids. High school movies tend to give every background character a single trait that defines them, but here, the weird point is that the single-minded protagonists Molly and Amy are the most one-dimensional. As absolutely absurd as the events are, the not so much development, but discovery that co-classmates are nuanced real people that waver between friends and enemies is like the massivest high school truth I recognize in real life, but haven't really seen in movies before until now.

8. Jojo Rabbit
I didn't think I'd like it so much. I had known about the imaginary Hitler gimmick for a few months and the concept had gotten old by the time I walked into the theater. Fortunately, the movie prioritizes all the other real-life relationships much more. The kid joins a number of modern child actors who are more talented than merely stepping over the line of intolerable precociousness. Anyway, even more heart to latch onto than other Taika Waititi movies. Plus we get the hope that bigotry isn't necessarily something to overcome, but rather to outgrow.

7. Little Women
I must admit I spent so much of my energy at the beginning trying to remember all four names at once. For the first hour I could only retain three. That may be symbolically fitting. This is one of the very last movies I'll see this decade and one of the themes I've noticed is the cumbersome nature of multiple passions. Each sister has not just her individual artistic craft preference, but her personal ideals as well. I've noticed over the past ten years that the stories I've personally latched onto have toyed with this dilemma of passions of different sorts bumping into each other. Everything—art, romance, family, success—is available, just not all at once. Also, the heart chooses, not our wills. I guess there's more room and time for the collaboration of everything in youth.

This end of decade also marks a dignified exit of Emma Watson and a dynamic entrance of Florence Pugh as the one encapsulating how I personally feel as a woman today when I feel like a woman. I especially believe Amy's speech regarding the universal woman dilemma punctured hard by her quick and salty love confession a few minutes later. I also believe Laurie's confession to Jo very much even though they have few such moments together. I could maybe use more Jo/Laurie attraction in a Catherine/Heathcliff kind of way. When it all sorts out, I can't help but feel sadness for the emotions of the past. Still, at least one lobotimized heart seems happier than when it felt too much.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a more sarcastic ending.

6. Greener Grass
This Sundance find is another absurd nearly plotless surreal deadpan thing one might find on Adult Swim. Why am I giving it a high rating? It's FUNNY. It doesn't rely on a weird tone or weird acting or weird set design or weird story elements. It certainly has all those things, but it's not burdened by them. It does slog on just a bit, but considering how little happens, I'm amazed it kept my attention as much as it did at noon on a Tuesday (rather than 3 AM on a Saturday, which would be most ideal for this kind of thing). Much respect to Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Lieberman for starring, writing and directing. They're aloof Stepford wives of a sort and DeBoer has a slightly bigger role. Fortunately she doesn't hold back in her sincerity in portraying a warped character in a warped world. There's not a hint of winking anywhere. DeBoer's tiny young son is played by Julian Hilliard. Mark my words, Julian Hilliard will become a comedy legend very shortly. I'm certain once the filmmakers started shooting, they regretted a script that unfortunately sidelines the kid for so long.

5. Midsommar
I saw Dragon Tattoo but wasn't afraid of the Swedes until now.

Smashing credit to Ari Aster for even attempting horror shot in the brightest daylight after he made something as literally dark as Hereditary. Where most scary stories are told in darkness where things can hide, this one uses brightness to display the unease of full and constant revelation. The more I think about it the more I like how it turns out overall. BUT, like Hereditary, it feels just a bit stuffed with unnecessary scare elements. I'm so burdened with the wonder of them all I forget to be frightened by any one individual thing. Normally I'm a big fan of several little nudges in different directions because I like the sense of building a bigger world around more than the story I'm viewing. It doesn't work for me with Aster's stuff and I think I can almost explain why now. Where many times loose threads imply a larger universe, it seems like all of Aster's threads are trying to occupy the same point in the universe and that's why I feel so jumbled.

This one feels so much less jumbled than Hereditary though. There's something about Midsommar that falls into place after a slow thought digestion. Ultimately the horror lies in different perceptions. I think the story brilliantly slowly shifts the scale of horror and hurt between the two main characters over the course of the long runtime. Honesty and empathy taken too far eventually become unnerving when we're expecting our usual formal deceptions. Perhaps just like the mid-day sun when one just wants to sleep.

4. Marriage Story
It's not so much about a balance of antagonism between two combatants. It's about two good people knowing and dealing with their mutual enemy -- discord. They have that awareness of the common monster about to turn on them at any moment. Yet life flows on simply and purely, but with no rules and no tether. I'm really amazed at really how light and humorous the majority of this is. It's not a slog, but has a gentle natural pace. That spectre of divorce easily cuts through the naturalness like paper. Both parties deserve their anguish, but they can only win by giving in to the anguish a bit more.

3. Knives Out
This came at me a lot simpler than I expected, but sort of complicated in its own way. Rian Johnson sure loves genre movies and his own take often rocks the boat just enough for a refreshing splash rather than a drench all the way to the underwear. The cleverness lies in a murder mystery where the real mystery isn't the murder or even the murder motive, but the decision to make it a murder mystery at all. So much is delightfully left out in the open, but so much of that is an effective misdirect. Like most endings, I didn't see it coming. As I've implied, it's not terrifically complicated, so I assume SOMEONE figured it out. I would think the slight side-stepping of the structure still makes this enjoyable fun for that person.

2. Parasite
24 hours later and I'm suddenly thinking three things. 1. Just how bad is the Kim family con? They kind of consider themselves clever criminals, but they merely con themselves into jobs they're already quite qualified for. Jobs that already exist. 2. Just how bad is the Park family? They acknowledge that they're more well off and they're smell snobs, but they just provide the employment. They're not into exploiting anybody. 3. Just how bad is the, uh, other family? They're prisoners literally against the wall. Bong has this way of presenting seemingly simple and straightforward allegories of sorts, but unlike most other allegories, the lesson is the most elusive of all. Here he presents with obviousness the problems of class disparity, with any attempt of a solution yielding only a multiplication of those problems. Yes it's depressing to see the hopelessness of the world's problems onscreen, but at least there's no silly storybook solution smugness.

1. Us
So like there are SO MANY things here that can be taken as 1:1 overt symbolism regarding the current cultural strife in the U.S. (*cough - title), but what really has my head swimming now is the weird choice regarding Lupita Nyong'o's individual story. My immediate reaction was annoyance because the twisted universal fairy tale just doesn't have the symbolic room to cram in an individual personal plot wrench. Right at this moment though I'm in awe of the brilliance of creating a dystopic world allegory the audience can relate to, while simultaneously reckoning with their individual place within this world through a murky main character's point of view. Both the universally and individually-minded aspects are straightforward enough in large clumps, but piled on top of each other, we're treated with a confusion that feels just right and maybe just a bit familiar. I've got to be careful. Ever since high school English I've been pretty bad at getting symbolism right. As mentioned above, there's lots here that might be obvious. However, I'm learning that a definite 1:1 symbolic match for every element doesn't necessarily make intriguing storytelling. The elements need to be open to various meanings in order to even justify the conversation. With this in mind, and knowing this is from Jordan Peele, I think it's important to take this more as a man trying to make sense of his perception of the world rather than someone just using movie objects to spew politics. The marketing in general has totally downplayed the movie's themes, which are, in my mind, very much about the terror that comes to the country with the rise of far right politics. They couldn't tell us that before opening day, because then half the country wouldn't want to see it. Can't believe this idea was a wide release. At the same time, Nyong'o's individual character arc still combats that overall idea. Brilliant.

Oh and one thing I forgot to mention: Lupita Nyong'o's eyes were created to be filled brimming with tears. Sorry, Lupita. I'm sure it's not pleasant to bring us that image.

Leftover top 8 movies from 2018!

Hey here's that weird section of movies technically from 2018, but I didn't see them until 2019. This is usually a mix of December releases, prestige movies that didn't arrive in Salt Lake until later, and rando movies that never got a cinema release. Their annoying inability to be caught in the proper year puts them in their own annoying category.

8. Aquaman
Okay well I didn't know Dolph Lundgren is in THIS movie until I saw his face, so the joy of being spoiled of his presence before seeing Creed II had to be commuted over to this movie but also I fell asleep.

7. Green Book
Scene 1
 Bunch of Italians: "Eyyy! Ohhh!"

Scene 2
Mahershala Ali: "Unlike you, I'm open-minded and well-rounded. That's why I've never had fried chicken or heard Aretha Franklin."

Scene 3
Viggo Mortensen: "Hey I'm good gambling with you black folks, just as long as you don't drink from glasses, because that's my only racist kryptonite for some reason!"

Scene 4
 Linda Cardellini: "Hey I got a letta from him!"

 Bunch of Italians: "Eyyy! Ohhh!"

Scene 5
Important white guy in southern city: "I'm very sorry, but this is just the way it's done and my hands are tied, haha JK we all just LOVE being racist haha!"

Scene 6
Bunch of Italians: "It's Christmas! Eyyy! Ohhh!"

6. Vice
Last Oscar 2019 movie seen. The vibe I had from others who had seen it already was that it contains a lot of childish and unnecessary anger. I have had a beef with Adam McKay for some time (check out the Jim Breuer WTF ep for the story there). So obviously the movie had a lot stacked against it when I met up with it. Don't like it, of course, but strangely not for the reasons I was expecting. The Cheney makeup is the true achievement here, but any semblance to an actual person is just lost to latex and a whole lot of repetitive grunts. This is imbalanced by Amy Adams' representation of Lynne that's a hardness struggling to emerge from an unintimidating soft shell. I'm no fan of political conservatism, but this movie does little to persuade me to its thesis that Mr. Cheney is the anti-Christ. He's a real bad guy, sure, but this feels like it's told by an obsessive who doesn't even know his subject. The bad news then is that I'm left caring even less about the anti-Christ than I perhaps should.

5. Behind the Curve
The credits roll before the flat earthers finish getting their experiment disproved.

4. The Perfection
Fun twists! But my co-watcher definitely was not in a good mood afterward.

3. Fahrenheit 11/9
Pretty nice that it's a much wider swath than just Trump. Slight spoiler: more critical of Democrats than anything else.

2. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Looking forward to being in my 50s with so much attitude and also finally gay.

1. Under the Silver Lake
Okay I watched it over three nights so I'm not sure if the the meandering nothingness would get boring all at once. Nevertheless I think Sam's gumshoe adventure is charmingly riveting. Yes, he's a totally perverted fiend, but somehow I relate to his unemployed, near homelessness psychosis that only comes with too much free time. I've definitely been there where observations of the real world from the outside lead to a weird desire to make sense of reality (especially when most of the pieces are just made up to curb boredom). Congrats to the musical score for never letting up for a minute, yet also not annoying me. I guess incessant music works when it's so hilariously obvious (but also completely at home in like a 50s gumshoe type thing). I suppose it takes a few steps back from Brick in the subversion of the noir film, but it lands in such warm strangely recognizable feel of nostalgia. You know what it really reminds me of? Those Sierra or Lucasfilm adventure video games from the 80s (The Secret of Monkey Island or Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders), but with some objectively gorgeous shots.

A ranking of all the old movies I watched in 2019 that I'd never seen before!

Alrighty, the movie year is in parentheses. Again, been watching a lot more of these because of my obligations to the Yours, Mine, & Theirs podcast. Blurbs usually not as heavy here.

31. Topper (1937)
Two a-holes annoy from beyond.

30. Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N. (1966)
Girls have rights too... but they don't get their men.

29. Cool World (1992)
So if you're a cartoon, bad. If you're a woman, yikes. And if you're a cartoon woman? No way.

28. Out of Africa (1985)
Honestly syphilis doesn't really seem like that big a deal.

27. Detroit Rock City (1999)
I meant to watch this for 20 years but then I forgot I watched it.

26. Terms of Endearment (1983)
Like an entire season of This is Us or something.

25. Support Your Local Sheriff (1969)
Harry Morgan's in this one.

24. DragonHeart (1996)
Not fair because I was at work and confused.

23. Four Christmases (2008)
The family of wrestlers needs some tranquilizers.

22. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Kind of the opposite of My Best Friend's Wedding.

21. Magnum Force (1973)
Wait, so Harry's whole plan was to impersonate a pilot, apply the plane brakes, and hope the terrorists would just fall over?

20. Son of Frankenstein (1939)
Frankenstein created life. Son of Frankenstein just stuck a cattle prod in life.

19. Bright (2017)
I was expecting a fairy tale allegory about present-day race relations, but what I got instead is a straight-up chastisement of race relations in Lord of the Rings time.

18. Unicorn Store (2017)
Brie, give me the black sheep store.

17. The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964)
The real curse... was love. Just kidding, it's actually kind of twisty and ZZzzZZzZZzzzzXzzzz

16. Abducted in Plain Sight (2017)
The Aristocrats!

15. Horror of Dracula (1958)
This Chris Lee guy seems a bit angry.

14. The Wolf Man (1941)
Okay yeah we get it, once a man starts growing hair in unusual places he's uncontrollable and deadly and no longer just flirting.

13. Voodoo Man (1944)
This time Torgo plays bongos!

12. Life of Brian (1979)
Not blasphemous enough to be truly engrossing.

11. Cabaret (1972)
Germany could have turned out pretty fun.

10. Twilight of the Cockroaches (1987)
Either cockroach or human, with a bit of healthy immunity, women will change the world.

9. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)
Hey that white lady was totally writing a blank check on this mission so they could have ALL had pistols.

8. That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
TWICE the manic pixie dream girl!

7. Chopping Mall (1986)
Their lasers do nothing and their arms only surrender! Give them axes like the title implies!

6. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Okay this like NEVER got played on those old TBS Bond marathons, so this was my first time. Hey, it's GREAT! Dare I say Lazenby is in the top five of Bonds?

5. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)
She lives her life in the key of D minor. She's the saddest of all girls.

4. Pinocchio (1940)
So gorgeous and made 80 freaking years ago (although if released today would be R-rated for smoking alone).

3. Sugar Hill (1974)
Kinda ballsy to force the voodoo king into doing your yard work, Sugar.

2. Dracula's Daughter (1936)
Janet is just annoying enough to fire for blatant prank callism, but definitely cuddly enough to travel to Transylvania to save.

1. Horse Feathers (1932)
Hmm. Maybe the humor of Airplane! isn't so new after all.

A ranking of all the movies I watched in 2019 that I'd already seen!

Hey so these are repeat viewings. Again, not as blurby. Usually these are pretty good flicks or I wouldn't watch them again.

19. Ladyhawke (1985)
"Hey if I'm somehow unsuccessful at murdering a defenseless holy man, I'm gonna need you to murder my defenseless bird girlfriend."

18. WarGames (1983)
Broderick really scored with Sheedy.

17. To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018)
Josh lost TWO girls with ONE plane ticket!

16. Office Space (1999)
There's no way Aniston's character loves Kung Fu.

15. Caddyshack (1980)
We often forget the true miracle is how Danny Noonen and Tony D'Annunzio are like totally best friends by the end.

14. Defending Your Life (1991)
I'm afraid this hits a bit close to home because yeah my life is based entirely on fear.

13. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
According to film code he should be punished for being so blatantly careless about not being seen rather than taking the day off.

12. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)
Beanie Feldstein gets hit by a car and it only gives her more power.

11. The Terminator (1984)
Calm down Reece! You're gonna blow your cover!

10. Ex Machina (2014)
The true Turing test is getting the human behind the glass.

9. The Lost Boys (1987)
Corey Haim extremely gay and heroic.

8. Trainspotting (1996)
Heroin seems so much less stressful than walking away with the money.

7. Star Wars (1977)
It's inspired by Flash Gordon serials, but rather than fawning like an old era damsel, Leia says "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?" and I love that.

6. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
My Captain Marvel will always be the one singing "Black Sheep."

5. Eighth Grade (2018)
Eighth grade is forever.

4. ¡Three Amigos! (1986)
A plethora of infamous veranda kisses.

3. Amadeus (1984)
There are only so many notes one can hear in an evening and this is the exact right amount.

2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
That scene when his son gets away and Darth Vader is so depressed he doesn't even force choke anybody.

1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
A scary prediction of an economy based on GoFundme.

Silly facts and stats only I care about!

Total number of movies seen: 159 (lower than last year (195)!)
Total number of 2019 movies seen: 68 (70 last year)
Total number of non-2019 movies seen: 86 (125 last year)
Year of oldest movie: 1932 (Horse Feathers)
Total number of movies seen more than once within 2018: 4 (Knives Out, Us, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, It's a Wonderful Life)
Biggest movie-watching month: January (21)
Smallest movie-watching month: April (8)
Movies seen at the cinema (excluding Sundance showings): 41
Most popular theater: (tie) Century 16 on 33rd and Century 16 at Union Heights with 12 showings apiece (strangely there were no non-Sundance showings at last year's winner in this category: Tower)
Movies seen on Netflix: 32
2019 movies streamed rather than cinema'd: 22 (nearly all Netflix titles)
Movies seen on DVD/Blu-ray: 30
Movies seen at Sundance: 13
Movies seen at the annual 24-hour movie marathon: 0
Movies seen on an airplane: 0
Movies seen as part of a special screening/special event: 1
Movies seen on Amazon Prime: 15
Movies seen on Hulu: 5
Movies seen on YouTube: 1
Movies seen on YouTube TV: 1
Movies seen on Shudder: 1
Movies seen on HBOGo: 3
Average Rotten Tomatoes score: I didn't have time to check! But two years ago it was 79.77%

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