There are few things I enjoy more than seeing a new movie in the theater. Sure, watching movies from the comfort of your own home is great and all, but constant distractions and my undiagnosed ADD occasionally pull me out of what I'm watching.
2019 has been a great year for movies and I've been lucky enough to see a majority of the films I wanted to, mostly in theaters. This whole straight-to-Netflix thing has been interesting. As much as I love watching movies, I also love talking about them, not because I like hearing myself talk, but because they're meant to be a shared experience. Everyone views them through their own lens and takes away different things from each viewing, so might as well interject my opinion that nobody asked for.
The following "list" is in no particular order and will be updated as The Rise of Skywalker, 1917, and Uncut Gems are all unreleased at the time of writing.
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THE LIGHTHOUSE (dir. Robert Eggers)
What a batshit film. Coming from Robert Eggers, director of The VVitch, this was bound to be an over-the-top, absolutely insane ride as Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe portray lighthouse keepers trying "...to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s." (iMDB)
Everyone knows the lengths Willem Dafoe will go to in order to give a gripping performance and his turn as Thomas Wake, a veteran lighthouse keeper, is no different. His thick, timely New England dialect combined with his intricate mannerisms, constant pipe smoking, and booze chugging washes away any signs of Dafoe and presents the viewer with the embodiment of a man whose truly lost his mind to the sea.
Robert Pattinson, who has asserted himself as a formidable leading man post-Twilight, gives an equally riveting, Oscar-nomination worthy performance as a man down on his luck, turning to the lighthouse as a last resort. His descent into madness while stuck on an island with nothing but Dafoe, a mysterious lighthouse, SEABIRDS, and a (maybe, probably imaginary) mermaid is often perplexing to watch, but the constant madness maintains your attention throughout the entirety of the 109 minute runtime.
Shot in it's entirety in black and white film, the formatting of the screen and darkness of the picture lends itself to the paranoia crafted meticulously by Eggers. While it may not be a film I find myself returning to on a consistent basis, The Lighthouse was one of the most unique experiences I've ever had watching a movie in theaters, a testament to the consistency of A24, my favorite film distributor.
BOOKSMART (dir. Olivia Wilde)
Olivia Wilde not being nominated at the Golden Globes for her fantastic directorial debut is nothing short of a shame, as she did an incredible job bringing a script from Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman to the screen. Comedies are often some of the best reviewed movies in any given year and the lack of recognition they get from major award shows is baffling, another reason why they continue to lose eyes and general interest. Booksmart grossed $24 million when it should've pulled in a hell of a lot more. In a time where studios only seem to care about international market appeal and remakes and spinoffs, it's sad to watch truly extraordinary, original comedies fall to the wayside of many viewer's radars.
That being said, this was my favorite comedy of the year. It was paced perfectly and the entire cast carried their weight. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance, portray two best friends who spent their entire high school careers trying to get into good colleges, pushing the typical fun of those years to the side. When they realize the kids who partied the whole time got into the same schools they did, they decide "...to cram four years of fun into one night." (iMDB)
Some have labeled this the female Superbad, a film which helped propel Feldstein's older brother, Jonah Hill, to stardom. It's much more than that, however, showing a more personal journey for the two protagonists, as Amy (Dever) explores her sexuality and crush on Ryan, a skateboarding, fellow classmate who has caught her eye, and Molly (Feldstein) attempts to adjust to looming adulthood and life without her best friend, all as they try to make their last hoorah of high school as memorable as possible.
The rest of the cast features the likes of Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Skyler Gisondo, among others, who all play their parts perfectly, allowing for each scene to hit just the right note. It's well-written, well-directed, and well-acted, leaving a heartwarming, memorable film that should be considered one of the best comedies, and films, of the last few years.
The night I saw this I watched Lady Bird right after. I felt so angsty.
KNIVES OUT (dir. Rian Johnson)
While I'm still eagerly awaiting the release of Uncut Gems to name my favorite film of the year, Knives Out may be leading the pack of contenders.
A modern day whodunnit, director Rian Johnson delivers with the perfect blend of suspense and laughs to make Knives Out an intriguing mystery that keeps you guessing until the big reveal of, well, whodunnit (unless you're an expert sleuth, or at least an aware viewer).
The film is centered around the mysterious death of Harlan Thrombey, an acclaimed murder mystery writer and patriarch of a successful family filled to the brim with assholes. Everything surrounding the death is peculiar and everyone is a suspect, even his children.
Aside from the excellent writing and direction, the film's strongest aspect is it's ensemble cast, starring Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jaime Lee Curtis, LaKeith Stanfield, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, and Christopher Plummer. There are a lot of heavy-hitters and they're all perfectly cast; Daniel Craig deserves an Oscar nom for his role as private investigator Benoit Blanc.
One of the highlights of the film is Ana de Armas' performance as Marta Cabrera, Harlan Thrombey's nurse who gets tied up in the investigation. I hadn't seen her in anything before but she did a great job and shared many memorable scenes with Daniel Craig and Chris Evans.
With the end of the holiday season approaching, people are going to be hitting the theater in droves so if you haven't had a chance to see Knives Out yet, definitely do.
US (dir. Jordan Peele)
Get Out, Jordan Peele's directorial debut, was my favorite movie of 2017. When horror is done well, it often lends to some of the best films of any given year. Get Out was incredibly well done, and it's overarching message about racism in America fully delivered as Peele provided social commentary in a way I'd never seen before.
When Peele's follow-up to his instant classic was announced as Us, starring Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o, the anticipation quickly rose. Peele placed himself at the forefront of a new style of horror and nobody was quite sure what he had in store.
Us, much like Get Out, is trying to get a point across, and while it may not be as obvious, the film's underlying message relates to xenophobia, American privilege (as said by Peele himself), and how the true monsters may be ourselves.
The film is centered on Adelaide Wilson (Nyong'o) and her family as they travel to a beach vacation in Santa Cruz, California, the exact spot where Adelaide had a traumatic childhood experience. Her husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), finally convinces her to put it behind her and enjoy the time with their kids and friends, Kitty and Josh Tyler (Elizabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker). During their first night, a group of four strangers appear on their driveway. After failing to thwart their break-in attempt, the Wilsons are faced with their doppelgängers, who proceed to terrorize them for the remainder of the film.
The true standouts of the film are the doppelgängers themselves, as they communicate through bone-chilling, non-verbal sounds. The doppelgängers are monsters but exactly what kind is unclear until the very end of the film, when the twist comes to fruition. It blew my mind.
As Peele has said, everything in the film is deliberate. Anything that appears to be a sign of what's to come is exactly that and once the film is finished, it all makes sense. Unless you're Hotto and somehow figure it out through the first trailer.
While I like Get Out a bit more, Us is still an excellent film that only made me more ecstatic for what Jordan Peele has in store as his already-illustrious filmmaking career continues to unfold.
DETECTIVE PIKACHU (dir. Rob Letterman)
I bet you weren't expecting this one. Yeah, I saw Detective Pikachu and it was awesome. Like millions around the world, Pokémon was an integral part of my childhood and seeing it on the big screen in live-action was incredibly nostalgic.
Ryan Reynolds did an excellent job providing the voice for Pikachu, turning him into a highly sarcastic, Deadpool-esque version of the adorable yellow sidekick we've all grown to know and love.
The CGI was some of the best I've ever seen. The visual effects team should probably get an Oscar nod for their work, as the environments and Pokémon blended perfectly together, making it feel as if the world of Pokémon could exist in some alternate (likely much better) dimension.
I'm aware that I could've thrown a Once Upon a Time... or Honey Boy in this spot but I wanted to switch it up for my last selection.
Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Marriage Story (dir. Noah Baumbach)
John Wick 3 (dir. Chad Stahelski)
Joker (dir. Todd Phillips)
Avengers: Endgame (Anthony and Joe Russo)
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (dir. Marielle Heller)
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (dir. Vince Gilligan)