Thoughts on the year
Wow well it’s nice to see this as an actual recurring trend. What do I mean by that? Well for some reason the end of the decade somehow always tends to bring out the best in filmmakers; like they want to get whatever is out of their system or make a statement before the new decade starts. In 1999 we got films like The Matrix, Fight Club and Eyes Wide Shut. 2009 brought us Inglourious Basterds, District 9 and The Hurt Locker. This year has been one of the best of the decade, after a pretty lousy year of 2018. I reflect back on the decade and look at the friends I’ve gained, the ones we lost along the way and the hard lessons I’ve learned. This year I saw in total 76 films, 37 of those being new releases.
Honorable mentions (lowest to highest):
14. Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood
13. The Lighthouse
12. Ready or Not
11. The Farewell
Best of 2019
10. Midsommar (Directors Cut)
“There you are! Listen: You can’t speak. You can’t move. All right? Good.”
There are a few things in life I really miss now that im older: the wonder of the world, having a decent amount of money in my bank account and being scared or disturbed at horror movies. Midsommar accomplished the latter and completely ruined my day after viewing it. The story of Dani and Christian is an apocalyptic break up story that i’m not quite sure I was completely prepared for. It’s an extremely slow burn horror (171min) that pays off in several ways with almost all of the horror being shot in bright sunny daylight. Any film that has me consider possibly walking out till a scene passes deserves to be on my list. If you’ve seen the movie, you know the scene I’m talking about. (83% RT, 72 Metacritic)
9. The Nightingale
“You can’t kill something once its dead.”
So back in 2014 I was lucky enough to see The Babadook in the first audience in the southeast. Outside of it being an effective horror film it was a well shot and directed first time film from Jennifer Kent. So when I heard she was coming out with another film, and it came with several warnings, i’m in. What I truly didn’t expect was a harrowing tale of revenge that was brutal its depiction of a harsh reality not seen in cinema in quite a long while. If you can stomach it, seek this one out, you’ll be rewarded in its bleak story and atmosphere. (87% RT, 77 Metacritic)
8. Hail Satan?
“-You’re gonna go to hell!
I Believe it and im very excited about it.”
So full disclosure: I don’t really care about religion, it’s a thing that works for some people and not for others, and that’s perfectly fine. So here comes along this hilarious documentary that is about The Satanic Temple, how it got started and the people that run it. Nearly the entire time of watching watching this film I had a big smile on my face of watching people having to eat what they dish, in terms of equality, and watching people get trolled. Two things that are extremely satisfying. Do yourself a favor and watch this one with an open mind and bask in the hypocrisy. (96% RT, 76 Metacritic)
“I’ll tell you what you get: you get what you fucking deserve.”
Controversial pick here, but even if it does rip off films such as The King of Comedy or Taxi Driver, there’s something so purely mesmerizing about Joker. It’s finally good to see DC actually taking chances again and making something that won’t be immediately put in the Wal-Mart bargain bin in two months time with, arguably, the best performance of the year in Joaquin Phoenix. While there are some negatives with the film, its stuck with me months after seeing it. I’m not really sure what to say but dammit I liked it. Sue me. (69% RT, 59 Metacritic)
6. Uncut Gems
“I think you are the most annoying person I have ever met. I hate being with you, I hate looking at you…and if I had my way I would never see you again.”
If I had to describe Uncut Gems in a single sentence it would probably be: Two hours of pure anxiety with the best acting from Adam Sandler’s career. Its both infuriating and astonishing to see Sandler here giving everything he has as the role of Howard, a shady jewel salesman in deep with the debt sharks. The director pair, The Safdie Brothers, have really impressed me with this film that is somehow able to have three people talking at the same time, have it work and have it feel extremely natural. I haven’t seen their previous work Good Time, but I’m definitely gonna check it out now. (92% RT, 90 Metacritic)
5. They Shall Not Grow Old
“So I shot him. I had to, I had to shoot him. He’d have died in any case and it put him out of his misery. It hurt me.”
Peter Jackson, I forgive you for The Hobbit trilogy. This is a documentary about World War I told by the people who were in it, with footage that has been completely restored, colored and brought up to 24fps making old scratchy, shaky footage come to life like never before. The first third being about what led up to the war/training and then the war switching to this restoration was, putting it lightly, jaw dropping. I hate to say ive never really been able to relate to the old war footage and seeing it now, is harrowing. Suddenly the viewers don’t see men moving quickly, they see boys, afraid and seeing a camera for the first time. Jackson also restored over 600 hours of audio, and 100 hours of footage for free. Its sobering like nothing else. (100% RT, 91 Metacritic)
4. Apollo 11
“I promise to let you know if I stop breathing.”
Apollo 11 may sound like something you’ve already seen before: NASA sends a manned rocket to the moon and back for the first time. I guarantee this is unlike any documentary ive ever seen. For starters this IS a big screen movie, so if you missed out on this one when it was in IMAX or in 4k, I feel so sorry for you. It’s a documentary solely comprised of footage and audio from the time the events were happening. There is no voice over, narrator and very few on screen titles. Newly found 70mm footage of the event has been restored and honestly it’s staggering in beauty looking like it was filmed yesterday and shocking as to how it hasn’t been released prior. Seeing people watching the liftoff as the fire from the rocket is reflected in their sunglasses is one of the most incredible images from 2019 as a whole. (99% RT, 88 Metacritic)
“ǝɔuǝᴉɹǝdxǝ ʎɹɐuᴉpɹoɐɹʇxǝ uɐ sᴉ ɥʇɐǝp”
This is an experience first and foremost but no other film has nearly made me feel the way this film does. Climax isn’t a film, its ninety-seven minutes of a trip to hell punctuated by the most impressive and head-spinning cinematography. The film is simply, a professional dance group is celebrating their pre-tour days when someone spikes the punch bowl with LSD. Simple enough but it really is Gaspar Noe’s direction, the groups acting and being subjected to the events that take place all the more impactful. This is a film that deserves to be played on the biggest screen you can find with the audio cranked up loud. If its a trip you wanna take, bring a barf bag, just in case. (70% RT, 67 Metacritic)
2. One Cut of the Dead
Ok so this is gonna be a hard one to explain as to why it’s good without talking about the film whatsoever because the main point is this: Stop reading this right now and watch this film. Go. It’s on Shudder just pay for one month, and watch it. No other film I think ive ever seen has been able to completely change my thoughts on it, while the film is running. I was skipping a screening of Ghost in the Shell, I had people on phones and talking during the film, and it was so good that it was able to outshine the awful. Something like this is damn near impossible to accomplish. (100% RT, 86 Metacritic)
“It all gets ironed out. Money is an iron. Those creases all get smoothed out by money.”
I think my favorite review for this film that I’ve read was “Our expectations were high, but holy fuck.” For most film goers, when they go to see a movie they get fully enveloped into the film as the real world melts away and they just, and in this case I don’t mean this as a negative, turn their brains off and enjoy the film. For me, I’ve seen too many films, made a fair share so the whole time I watch a film my brain is constantly going and watching how things are constructed (cinematography, editing, direction, ect). Sometimes there’s only maybe one film per year that im able to fully give myself over and get lost in the world of cinema, this is that one film. I was sitting in the theatre around the thirty minute mark and just had to sit back in my chair and smile wondering “where in the hell is this going? I have no clue but this is incredible”. Bong Joon Ho’s film about a family slowly working their way into a rich family’s house is a mind blowing experience full of political commentary and satire. Its something for the library, something that will be remembered, shared and have a place on my shelf. (99% RT, 96 Metacritic)
Worst of 2019 (in no particular order)
Knife + Heart
A pretentious arthouse film that tries to be so edgy that it cut its own dick off. Ever wondered what would happen if the main antagonist was killed off by some rando and the main character just did nothing? Yeah it sucks.
Godzilla King of the Monsters
Ok yeah, I understand some people claim this to be an incredible film for the fans, but for anyone who isn’t a fan it’s a bungled insult of a monster film that literally gets on a soapbox and tries to convince the audience that mass extinction of humans is preferable to climate change. For real.
The Dead Don’t Die
Now I’ve never seen a Jim Jarmush film, so I might just be out of touch here, but this was just a slog of a film that had no idea what it wanted to be. “We assembled the biggest most popular cast in a zombie film ever!” yeah and you did absolutely nothing with them. Then the film decides to be meta out of nowhere just to wink at the audience and say “well I read the script” Yeah go fuck yourself.
Rambo: Last Blood
Sure I enjoy Rambo films, meaning the first and the fourth. What if we completely ruined the ending of the 4th film and made it incredibly boring and just a painful experience? During the credits they showed clips from throughout the series and I couldn’t help but wonder why I wasn’t watching those better films.
Zachs Meaningless Awards!
Best Sound Mixing – Climax – felt like a Dolby Atmos mix when it was only 5.1.
Best Sound Design – 1917 – Both Stephen and I said “Jesus!” during the rifle shots in terms of volume and design.
Best Test of Technology – Aquarela – 96FPS or high frame rate has potential to be a great tool when used in a documentary.
Best Film that I didn’t care for – Little Women – It’s just not my thing, but was extremely well made.
Biggest Waste of Time – The Sender – Shown at the 12 Hours of Terror, originally released in 1982, this film was the endurance test of the year. Afterwards we jokingly refer to the film as “Return to Sender”.