2019 in Movies

These are reviews of movies that came out in 2019. I am not sure of the order of the Top 3, I’d have to watch them again to really decide.

1. Knives Out, directed by Rian Johnson (9/10)

A nearly flawless comedy mystery with a political edge. Read the review of Knives Out.

1. Workforce aka Mano de obra, directed by David Zonana (9/10)

This a very well-made, fascinating drama about manual labourers in Mexico City which threatens to become a thriller but consistently subverts your expectations and ends up having more in common with classical tragedy. It’s a debut, so I was very wary of choosing to see it, but this is a remarkably self-assured film. I strongly suggest you watch this fascinating, surprising and affecting film if you can find it. (I hope it gets a deal but, based upon the number of people in the audience, I’m not holding my breath.)

Read the review of Workforce.

3. Incitement, directed by Yaron Zilberman (9/10)

This is a nearly flawless dramatization of the radicalization of the man who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. It is apparently the first time a film has been made about the assassination, likely because of how raw the wound still is 25 years later. But I would say that this is absolutely the film to see about the event, as it is an excellent movie.

Read the review of Incitement.

4. Parasite, directed by Bong Joon Ho (9/10)

A wild black comedy thriller about class conflict. Read the review of Parasite.

5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire, directed by Celine Sciamma (8/10)

An excellent romance. Read the review of Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

6. 1917, directed by Sam Mendes (8/10)

An impressive film-making feat. Read the review of 1917.

7. Citizen K, directed by Alex Gibney (8/10)

A pretty great documentary about an oligarch who chose to cross Putin. Read the review of Citizen K.

8. Clemency, directed by Chinonye Chukwu (8/10)

A pretty good film about capital punishment. Read the review of Clemency.

9. Booksmart, directed by Olivia Wilder (8/10)

A great contemporary spin on the high school graduation party movie. Read the review of Booksmart.

10. El guardian de la memoria [The Guardian of Memory], directed by Marcela Arteaga (8/10)

A really pretty film about a depressing subject. Read the review of The Guardian of Memory.

11. 63 Up, directed by Michael Apted (8/10)

The most elegiac of the series, it sure feels like Apted had some idea he wouldn’t be able to make another. He asks the participants more directly about how they feel about the whole thing. And one of them points out a major flaw that somehow neither of us noticed.

Read my review of Up documentaries.

12. There Are No Fakes, directed by Jamie Kastner (7/10)

A really compelling story about art fraud that is weakened by some messy direction. Read the review of There Are No Fakes.

13. The Farewell, directed by Lulu Wang (7/10)

I enjoyed this despite it containing one of my least favourite plot tropes. Read my review of The Farewell.

14. The Domain aka A Herdade, directed by Tiago Guedes (7/10)

This absolutely gorgeous film is one of those epic films which attempts to tell the history of a place or country though the experiences of a family. It’s the kind of high concept we might associate with classic Hollywood. But it is not a classical film in terms of the content.

Read the review of The Domain.

15. Fyre, directed by Chris Smith (7/10)

This is a fascinating film about the disastrous Fyre Festival that we all heard about on social media. It’s a classic story of the problem with “fake it until you make it” mentality of entrepreneurship. If you’ve watched or read anything about fraud, you’ve probably heard this story before. But it’s also about the problems of social media and influencer marketing and the blurred lines between obvious advertising and supposedly real experiences. It’s worth watching.

Read the review of Fyre.

16. Kuesspian, directed by Myriam Verreault (7/10)

This is a fairly typical coming of age story set in unique place. Though I have (almost) been to this part of Quebec – I’ve driven from Baie-Comeau to Labrador – I don’t think I’ve seen a film set here. Or, at the very least, one set at a Reserve in this part of Quebec. And I think I’ve never seen a film set among the Innu. So, even if it hits some familiar beats, it’s a unique version.

There’s a great sense of place and the film doesn’t have to spend much time explaining the situation. There’s only a little dialogue spent on explaining the situation, that’s mostly shown not told. There’s a lot shooting on location can do for films like this and this film is no exception – it feels like rural Quebec.

The acting is pretty good. The cast are all French actors so I’ve never seen them before, but they all acquit themselves pretty well. The lead is new – I think this is her first role – and she is excellent. Because of the uniqueness of the setting it’s harder to imagine them being played by other people, but I still think the cast does a good job of making us think these are real people.

I have two minor quibbles. The first is the soundtrack, which is very much the kind of music that you normally hear scored for this kind of movie. It just feels pretty cliche. The other quibble is a spoiler but all I’ll say is that I think a certain pivotal moment is handled slightly oddly, both a little too obscure but then it gets into a weird space where it hints at but doesn’t quite get there. It’s weird.

But, on the whole, this is a fine coming of age drama and it feels fresh due to its setting.

17. El Camino, directed by Vince Gillian (7/10)

The Breaking Bad sequel is pretty decent. Read the review of El Camino.

18. Heroic Losers aka La odisea de los giles, directed by Sebastián Borensztein (7/10)

This is an enjoyable, albeit flawed, heist comedy about a group of townspeople whose dreams of resurrecting their town’s granary are devastated by the “Corralito,” a reaction to a run on the banks during the Argentine Great Depression. It hits the standard heist movie beats, but it is refreshing both because of how funny it is and because of how amateurish everyone involved is.

Read the review of Heroic Losers.

19. Shazam!, directed by David F. Sandberg (7/10)

A surprisingly entertaining D.C. film. Read the review of Shazam!

20. I Am Not Alone, directed by Garin Hovannisian (6/10)

An inspiring film about the power of people to change things. But I have reservations. Read the review of I Am Not Alone.

21. Ford v Ferrari, directed by James Mangold (6/10)

A decent racing docudrama. Read my review of Ford v Ferrari.

22. Long Shot, directed by Jonathan Levine (6/10)

This is a pretty funny movie based on an absurd premise that gets even less believable as it goes. Like any of these politician romance/romantic comedy films, you have to suspend your disbelief. This film at least is funny.

I laughed a lot. More than I expected I would. The script has enough jokes to mostly let us not think about how silly the whole thing.

And it is pretty silly. Somehow Rogen’s character ends up at an event where the Secretary of State is also there, and they knew each other in childhood. The latter is obviously more believable than the former but it gets sillier from there. Rogen’s character spends way too much time around Theron’s character from the get-go, it’s just hard to believe that a punch-up writer would spend anywhere near this much time around the Secretary, especially without other people. And then the unbelievability escalates from there, leading the inevitable thing where somehow this kooky romance doesn’t affect the politician’s career negatively. If there’s one thing we know about American voters, they are super forgiving and open-minded when it comes to their politicians.

The cast is excellent. Rogen and Theron have good chemistry and everyone else acquits themselves well. (You somehow believe that Theron would be interested in Rogen, even though, you know…)

And, like I said, I laughed much more than I thought.

23. Spider-Man: Far from Home, directed by Jon Watts (6/10)

Not as good as Homecoming but still better than most MCU movies. Read the review of Spider-Man from Home.

24. Deadwood The Movie, directed by Daniel Minahan (6/10)

I love Deadwood. For much of the last fifteen years, I’d have insisted that Deadwood was the Second Greatest (dramatic, fictional) TV series of All Time. I regard it as sort of the Last Word in westerns. I have acted as an evangelist for the show, telling everyone I know about it and actually convincing some of those people to watch it (some of whom liked it almost as much as I did). To me, it was far too under-known for how good it was and I tried to do my part to change that.

Because of the way the show ended, I was always interested in the idea of the follow up TV movies, though I was also skeptical given the nature of the show and the nature of the fan-demanded TV sequels. But I was very hopeful once the movie was finally announced, perhaps because, as I get older, I am more and more receptive to fan service and nostalgia.

Read the review of Deadwood The Movie.

25. Hustlers, directed by Lorene Scafaria (6/10)

More style than substance. Read the review of Hustlers.

26. Zana, directed Antoneta Kastrati (6/10)

Yet another “woman loses a child and goes batshit crazy” film. But this film is a Kosovar film so, um, that means it’s fantastic. Or something. Read the review of Zana.

27. Captain Marvel, directed by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck (6/10)

A necessary corrective but still an MCU movie. Read the review of Captain Marvel.

28. Ready or Not, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (6/10)

Good premise, not so great execution. Read the review of Ready or Not.

29. Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, directed by Stanley Nelson (6/10)

A totally fine documentary that I wish gave more context. Read my review of Birth of the Cool.

30. The Gentlemen, directed by Guy Ritchie (5/10)

Guy Ritchie tries to recapture the magic of his early movies and it sure feels like that’s what he’s trying to do. Read the review of The Gentlemen.

31. The Coldest Game, directed by Lukasz Komicki (5/10)

A confused spy film which is almost saved by its ending. Read the review of The Coldest Game.

32. The Dead Don’t Die, directed by Jim Jarmusch (5/10)

Jarmusch’s zombie movie is far, far less successful than his vampire film. Read the review of The Dead Don’t Die.

33. Avengers: Endgame, directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo (5/10)

How you feel about the conclusion to the MCU – sorry, this phase of the MCU – likely depends upon how you feel about the series as a whole, but also how you felt about Infinity War. If, like me, you felt like Infinity War was the first time the MCU movies really felt like they had actual stakes, then this movie might really piss you off. On the other hand, if you felt like Infinity War‘s death toll was some kind of great tragedy, you will probably like this movie. (Though, in that case, you likely saw this movie already.)

Read the review of Endgame. With hindsight, this feels kind.

34. The Report, directed by Scott Z. Burns (5/10)

A story that needs to be told, but this isn’t well told. Read the review of The Report.

35. The Rise of Skywalker, directed by JJ Abrams (4/10)

The weakest of the final trilogy. Read the review of The Rise of Skywalker.

36. The Laundromat, directed by Steven Soderbergh (4/10)

A mess. Read the review of The Laundromat.

37. Lyrebird, directed by Dan Friedkin (4/10)

Do you ever watch a film with high production values and, from the opening scenes, you’re thinking, ‘this is is not going to be good’? Well, Lyrebird is such a movie. It’s the kind of movie you spend wondering if it’s the director’s first film (it is) because nothing works like it’s supposed to.

Read the review of Lyrebird.

38. Fast & Furious Present: Hobbs & Shaw, directed by David Leitch (3/10)

Not the worst Fast & Furious movie. Read the review of Hobbs & Shaw.

39. 6 Underground, directed by Michael Bay (3/10)

Perhaps the most incoherent Michael Bay movie I’ve ever seen. I laughed a few times, though. Read the review of 6 Underground.


“I Think She Likes You,” directed by Bridey Elliott (5/10)

I think I am just not the audience of this, like at all.