The Year in Film: 2019

In 2019, Martin Scorsese stated that Marvel superhero movies aren’t cinema, compared them to an amusement parks and lamented the kind of films young audiences have now, in contrast to the kind of films he grew up with. Well, everyone lost their minds over this, particularly those on the internet who were furious that Scorsese would go after the most popular genre of film being made right now. 

The filmmakers and actors of the Marvel Cinematic Universe even spoke out, giving unconvincing, weak-wristed defenses of their work. To dig into Mr. Scorsese just a bit- he’s generalizing, as he admitted he hasn’t been able to sit through an entire Marvel movie. However, as much as Scorsese may seem to the younger generation as a grumpy old man, he’s actually hip, radical and well attuned to the zeitgeist (he is, after all the man who made “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “The Departed”). Scorsese famously has taken on projects that are character-driven (hence, his out-of-nowhere helming of the out-of-character “The Age of Innocence,” which is still thematically consistent with his other work). I suspect that, were Scorsese to try watching the character-oriented and cleverly directed “Black Panther,” “Iron Man” parts 1 and 3 and both “Guardians of the Galaxy,” he’d probably like them. However, outside of the few Marvel movies that bear genuine filmmaker identity and have a semblance of personality, Scorsese has a point.

Of course, it’s the safest argument to make. Scorsese isn’t going after “Parasite” or “Motherless Brooklyn,” after all. He’s criticizing the most popular brand of movie at the moment, brought to you by a company that, this year alone, made a record amount of money recycling, remaking and rehashing prior movies and pre-existing franchises. It’s like saying that cotton candy isn’t good for you. We know. 

Yet, when the man who is regularly addressed as our Greatest Living Filmmaker has a point to make, particularly about the state of what we define as “cinema” and whether what we love is actually any good for us (or, you know, just cotton candy), we should consider what he has to say…and that he’s probably right (spoiler: he is). 

Despite all the cinematic cotton candy being annually spooled out, some of our greatest filmmakers, old and new (Mr. Scorsese included), gave us a year of cinema worth remembering.

The Best-

  1. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood– Quentin Tarantino’s films are many things-, brazenly ultra-violent, absurdly quotable, fiendishly hilarious, distinctly personal and an amalgam of 20th century pop culture. Most importantly, they’re explorations of our relationship with cinema, how movies shape our personal history and how our memories over time resemble the movies we love. Tarantino’s depiction of a brotherly pact is contrasted with a vision of lost Hollywood and a revenge fantasy against the Manson family. It’s a fearless work and one of the filmmaker’s greatest achievements. 
  2. A Hidden Life– Terrence Malick’s most harrowing work since “The Thin Red Line.”
  3. The Irishman– Martin Scorsese’s master class on late 20th century gangsterism.
  4. Midsommar– The Horror genre at its most unsettling, intimate and immersive.
  5. Ad Astra– Among the year’s most adventurous studio films, pure and complex sci-fi.
  6. The Lighthouse– A work of art that deserves the giant cult following it will inspire.
  7. Parasite– Gloriously turns on its characters (and audience), a savage modern-day satire.
  8. The Farewell– Lulu Wang’s gorgeous family tribute and exploration of cultural identity.
  9. The Last Black Man in San Francisco- A staggering debut and a haunting work.
  10. Glass– Absurdly underestimated, a stylish plea for individualism in a sea of conformity.

Runner-Ups: Apollo 11UsIT: Chapter TwoThe Nightingale and Dolemite is My Name.

The Worst

  1. Cats– Not so-bad-its-good, just painful. A bad concept gone awry from the first scene.
  2. The Dead Don’t Die- Great cast, no laughs, a waste of time for all involved.
  3. Rocketman– Wildly self-congratulatory and insufferable. Love Elton John, not this movie.
  4. The Hustle- Distressing to watch Anne Hathaway in such a terrible movie
  5. Serenity- Distressing to watch Anne Hathaway in such a terrible movie, again.
  6. What Men Want- Will someone please get Taraji P. Henson a movie that deserves her?
  7. Dumbo- Hollow, devoid of magic, we didn’t need this story from the human POV.
  8. Godzilla: King of the Monsters- Charmless and brainless, an insult to the legacy.
  9. Aladdin– The worst of Disney’s crushing year of artistic mediocrity. 
  10. Isn’t It Romantic– A 4-minute “SNL” sketch made into an awful, high concept flop.

Runner-Ups: Good BoysHappy Death Day 2 UPokemon: Detective PikachuThe Public and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

Flawed but Occasionally Brilliant

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Richard Jewell

Solid Fun

Annabelle Comes Home

Avengers Endgame

Dolemite is My Name

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

John Wick: Chapter 3

Long Shot

Yesterday

Insanely Overrated

Joker

Vastly Underappreciated

Alita: Battle angel

American Woman

Charlie Says

Dark Phoenix

Dark Waters

Doctor Sleep

Pet Sematary

Nice Surprise

Jojo Rabbit

Shazam!

Terminator: Dark Fate

The Upside

Guilty Pleasures

Anna

The Beach Bum

Rambo: Last Blood

Replicas

Shaft

Big Disappointments

Captain Marvel

Charlie’s Angels

Gemini Man

Judy

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

MIB: International

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Toy Story 4

Zombieland 2: Double Tap

Almost, But Not Quite

Booksmart

Child’s Play 

Cold Pursuit

Frozen II

Hellboy 

Knives Out

Motherless Brooklyn

The Prodigy

Them That Follow

I Still Can’t Tell the Difference Between

A Dog’s Journey

A Dog’s Way Home

I Still Can’t Tell the Difference, Part II

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

Playmobil: The Movie

Why Do These Movies Even Exist?

The Haunting of Sharon Tate

Loqueesha

The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson

Strong Start, Bad Movie

The Curse of La Llorona

Great Middle, Bad Movie

Escape Room

Best Surprise Performances

Sienna Miller, American Woman

Martin Lawrence, The Beach Bum

Rebecca Ferguson, Doctor Sleep

Wesley Snipes, Dolemite is My Name

Great Sequels

Doctor Sleep

IT: Chapter Two

John Wick: Chapter 3

Don’t Stop- Keep Pushing it Back

My Spy

The New Mutants

Best Movie Poster

Dark Phoenix

Thank You, Netflix!

Dolemite is my Name

The Irishman

Marriage Story

The Two Popes

Best Star Wars Movie

Season One of The Mandalorian

Most Disappointing Star Wars Movie

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Best Animal Performance

Church, Pet Sematary

Worst Animal Performance

The Cast of Cats

Really Sorry I Missed 

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot


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