Dan’s 10 Best Films of 2019


by Daniel M. Kimmel

If you look at the ratings at Rotten Tomatoes, which includes the reviews here, it is near impossible for even the most popular film to score 100% and even the worst reviewed to get 0%. There are almost always minority views that are just as valid because these are opinions, not pronouncements. 2019 was a middling year at the movies and so my 10 Best are the ones that stayed in the memory at year’s end.

YESTERDAY – Richard Curtis, who wrote “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Love Actually,” came up with this endlessly inventive comedy of an aspiring musician who emerges from a coma to discover he’s in a world that has never known the Beatles. Instead of taking the easy way out (“It’s all a dream!”), the movie follows that premise in surprising ways.

MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN – Edward Norton, wrote and directed, took film noir into 1950s New York as a detective with Tourette’s Syndrome trying to solve the murder of his boss. Harking back to movies like “Chinatown” and “L.A. Confidential,” it delves into the sins that created the modern city all the while evoking the era with stunning visuals and an evocative score by Daniel Pemberton.

THE IRISHMAN – Martin Scorsese presided over this gangster film reunion with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino, with the actors doing some of their best work in years. This is a genre piece by people who helped define that genre over the past few decades and is as impressive in its way as what Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” did for the western.

LITTLE WOMEN – Did we really need yet another version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel? Writer/director Greta Gerwig showed that we did in this beautifully mounted and acted adaptation. Amidst the bombast of other holiday season offerings, this film quietly showed itself to be the class of the field.

JOJO RABBIT – Filmmaker Taika Waititi brings a unique comic sensibility to this story of a young German boy trying to make sense of Nazi Germany while his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish woman. It’s a delicate balancing act that won’t work for everyone but manages to evoke both laughter and horror in the right places, with the director playing the boy’s imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler.

KNIVES OUT – The late film critic John Simon acerbically noted that movies ought to be art or else great entertainment. This comedy/mystery is very much in the latter category with a great ensemble cast involved in solving the murder of a wealthy writer (Christopher Plummer) tired of supporting his adult children. Oh, and Daniel Craig sings.

THE ART OF SELF DEFENSE – One of the year’s quirkiest films came and went quickly and isripe for discovery. Jesse Eisenberg plays a meek man who is viciously mugged and resolves to learn how to defend himself, falling under the sway of a charismatic martial arts teacher. As he progresses, he learns that not everything is as it seems. Like “JoJo Rabbit,” it’s not for every taste.

TOY STORY 4 – Pixar Animation has had some misfires, but they’re still in the forefront of American animation. After the perfection of the third film in the series, there was no reason to return to these characters, and yet they cleverly pulled it off with wit and the occasional tear along with Forky, easily the most unexpected animated hero of the year.

MIDSOMMAR – I was not taken by writer/director Ari Aster’s 2018 “Hereditary,” but his latest offering – while overlong and owing much to “The Wicker Man” – slowly draws the viewer into a world that is increasingly nightmarish, demonstrating that horror can take place in broad daylight. The cinematography by Pawel Pogorzelski is dreamlike, beautiful to look at even while things spin out of control.

AVENGERS: ENDGAME – All right, there are too many superhero movies. There’s no gainsaying the achievement of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however, in building its storyline over 16 years and multiple films, before finally bringing everything and everyone together in an exciting and satisfying conclusion. Not every entry was a success, but this one – featuring a final cameo by the late comic book legend Stan Lee – was a fitting capstone.

Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His new latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.






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