- Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Leonardo Di Caprio and Brad Pitt are at their best with wonderful characters from the mind of Quentin Tarantino. The music of the late 60’s with audio clips from the KHJ boss jocks is infused throughout this story of a washed-up actor and his loyal stuntman and sidekick. QT’s best since Pulp Fiction.
- Parasite. What a story! And such terrific acting! This tale of modern day class structure and envy is set in Seoul but could be told in any large city in the U.S. Writer/Director Bong Joon-ho keeps the surprises coming from start to finish in this comedy/drama/horror/suspense film.
- The Lighthouse. This looks like some Bergman film I might’ve seen in film class in college 50 years ago. It’s in black-and-white with an almost 1:1 aspect ratio. Two men working together in a remote, isolated lighthouse in the late 1800’s. Willem Dafoe should be up for acting awards. Robert Pattinson is good, too.
- The Irishman. Martin Scorcese’s epic seems familiar but also fresh at the same time. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino are top notch, as usual. But Joe Pesci steals the show by low keying it.
- Toy Story 4. How many times can Disney/Pixar go to the well with this setup? As long as they deliver new stories and new characters, there’s no limit, really. Number 4 is a delight.
- Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice. Not just another biographical documentary. Yes, it employs the standard pattern of clips and talking heads but this film has more music than most similar films. And it does a good job of showing us how Linda is living life now.
- Us. In addition to being one of the funniest men alive, Jordan Peele is an immensely talented filmmaker. Us is a horror movie that is imaginative and outrageous but also relatable to our modern lives. Peele wrote and directed Us, which lends itself to multiple interpretations.
- A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood. Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers in a feel-good film. Can he really be this nice? This film shows the positive effect Mr. Rogers had on one specific adult. Which jibes perfectly with what we’ve seen of the real Fred Rogers on TV.
- Marriage Story. It’s not exactly Kramer Vs Kramer redux, but Marriage Story follows a similar path 40 years later. The script by director Noah Baumbach and the performances by Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver and Laura Dern are all awards worthy.
- Richard Jewell. This film is embroiled in controversy over its depiction of a newspaper reporter. But the real reason this film soars is the performance by relative unknown Paul Walter Hauser in the title role. He’s great. The always dependable Kathy Bates and Sam Rockwell are strong in their supporting roles.
Some other movies I liked this year:
Stuber. It was funny! The fight scene in the sporting goods store is classic stuff.
Yesterday. Fantasy rom-com with Beatles music. Nostalgic fun.
1917. This WWI movie’s gimmick (subjective camera with long takes a la Birdman) is impressive but sometimes distracting. (Opens in STL in January.)
Judy. Renee Zellweger is excellent as a strung-out Judy Garland.
The Current War. Edison versus Westinghouse. Well-told with several nice directorial flourishes.
The Mustang. Prisoners in Nevada find value in breaking wild horses.
Penguins. My favorite animals. Beautiful footage of their lives in Antarctica.
The Addams Family. Silly fun with all the familiar characters.
Long Shot. Ridiculous romcom with Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron. Nice to see Andy “Gollum” Serkis in his natural human form!
Captain Marvel. Yes, a woman can be the main star of a Marvel movie. Brie Larson was more than up to the task. And the 90’s nostalgia was cool.