I make this list every year, for fun and as a reference. It only reflects things seen for the first time; “POLTERGEIST was on again” doesn’t make the list. There are plenty of 2019 releases I haven’t gotten to yet. Of the films I did see, here are some noteables:
THE LIGHTHOUSE brought the crazy. Dafoe, Pattinson and director David Eggers deliver absolutely everything one could ask for in a two-guys-go-nuts-in-a-lighthouse movie. Shot on vintage cameras in black-and-white in 1.55 AR Claustro-vision.
ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD was my favorite Tarantino in a long time. 2018’s THE FAVOURITE was another, uh… favorite. Ditto for THE FAREWELL. Awkwafina, so good. Lulu Wang, so good. Most of PARASITE is watching grifters build a Jenga tower of lies and wondering when and how it’s gonna fall, and that = a good time at the movies! Meanwhile, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER was an imperfect end to an imperfect saga. I cried anyway.
What’s on TV? Well, I finally saw KLUTE. TCM, thank you. Jane Fonda, holy shit. They don’t make movies like this anymore; do they? Watching films from the 70s you realize how sanitized and smug most mainstream movies are now. We’re backsliding.
Also caught FIRST REFORMED on video. Paul Schrader’s still got the goods, and brings ’em. AT ETERNITY’S GATE features Willem Dafoe again, this time as Van Gogh. Heartbreaking and beautiful. In its own way, so was RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET… and it feels like this one kinda got overlooked. It’s endlessly clever, has great visuals, and an emotionally affecting core all about friendships and how they can change.
Marvel recently announced they will do a superhero movie centered on a gay character. But, they already have CAPTAIN MARVEL! I mean, come on…
If you like docs, TICKLED dives into the weird world of “competitive endurance tickling.” You’ll want to shower after. Also finally caught up with Berlinger and Sinofsky‘s 1992 doc BROTHER’S KEEPER – riveting. Highly recommended.
On the series side of things, I liked HBO’s “Dead to Me.” Great performances, and the first episode delivered not one but two A+ OMG moments. Held up throughout the season, too. Season 3 of “The Crown” introduced an entirely new cast without a hiccup. If I ever write anything as perfect and delightful as the last two scenes of episode 5 (“Coup”) I can hang up my mouse and die happy.
Adult Swim’s “Primal” was an amazing, totally dialogue-free animated series about a caveman and his dinosaur. The season (series?) finale may be the goriest thing I’ve ever seen on TV. “Undone” (Amazon) was another fine adult animated show. Come for the mind-bending premise and trippy visuals, stay for the writing and performances.
MOVIES ON THE BIG SCREEN
Mary Poppins Returns
Welcome to Marwen
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The Kid Who Would Be King – Every boy in this movie has chapped lips. England’s cold.
Ralph Breaks The Internet
High Life – Infuriating “art movie.” Somebody explain to me why this wasn’t terrible.
Toy Story 4
Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood
Terminator: Dark Fate
Knives Out – My mom would have loved this movie. I loved it too.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
MOVIES ON THE SMALL SCREEN
Avengers: Infinity War
Ant-Man and The Wasp
The First Monday In May
At Eternity’s Gate
The Peanuts Movie
Victoria & Abdul
Lean On Pete
Where The Boys Are (1960)
Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Mary Queen of Scots (2018)
The Invitation (2015)
Clouds Of Sils Marias
The General (1926)
Brother’s Keeper (1992)
The Men Who Stare At Goats
Wendy And Lucy
Late Night – Needed a rewrite
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
I Lost My Body
Marriage Story – Alan Alda, MVP
Rocketman – Bohemian Rhapsody ain’t brilliant, but still better than this mopey pity party
Empire of Dreams
What We Do In The Shadows
Game of Thrones
Dead To Me
The Great British Baking Show
The Good Place
Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal
Bless This Mess
A Year In Space
Mike Birbiglia: The New One – Delivered to me my single biggest belly laugh of 2019
Rick and Morty
I make this list every year, for fun and as a reference. As always, it only reflects things seen for the first time. “POLTERGEIST on TV, 14th viewing” doesn’t make the list. Nor do films not viewed in their entirety, for example, Guy Ritchie’s THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E, which got ejected from the Blu-Ray player after 15 minutes. I’d never seen Henry Cavill in anything before but he seems to emit some kind of anti-charisma particle.
I didn’t bother making a numbered best-of list this year. But if I had, LOGAN would be at the top. It’s perfect. Damn you James Mangold, for making me cry at your Wolverine movie.
Some of my other favorite releases of 2017 include THE BEGUILED, COCO, ATOMIC BLONDE, THOR: RAGANOK, and THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES. Of course, DUNKIRK was impressive – but cold, as is Christopher Nolan’s way. MOTHER! is a movie, alright. Darren Aronofsky swings for the fences. And whatever you think of the film, Jennifer Lawrence and Michelle Pfieffer were very good. The BLADE RUNNER sequel was amazing, and very nearly great: only Jared Leto’s messianic super-villain seemed out of place, like a character from a different, dumber movie. THE LAST JEDI: wonderful, about 50% of the time. The compelling Rey/Kylo/Luke storyline almost makes up for how they couldn’t find anything interesting for Poe, Finn, or Rose to do. (Yeah I get that the casino plot is a critique of capitalism and arms dealers and yes intellectually that’s interesting for a Star Wars movie but dramatically it was a big bag of nothing and visually it looked cheap & reminded me of the prequels and like this sentence that movie is too long.)
Linked titles take you to my review, or more info on the film.
MOVIES ON THE BIG SCREEN
Manchester by the Sea
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (live from the Old Vic)*
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Dave Made A Maze
Dawson City: Frozen Time
The Big Sick
Blade Runner 2049
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Coco (saw it January ’18)
MOVIES ON THE SMALL SCREEN
The Jungle Book (2016)
The Nice Guys
Shadow of a Doubt
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
The Trip (Steve Coogan, not Dennis Hopper)
Back To The Future III
Eat Pray Love
The Meyerowitz Stories
The Godfather (pretty good! why didn’t anyone tell me about this flick sooner?)
The Good Place
Game of Thrones
I Love Dick
Odd Mom Out
Star Trek: Discovery
POV: What Tomorrow Brings
Big Little Lies
Abstract: The Art of Design
BOOKS and OTHER READING
Other People’s Trades – Primo Levi
Broken Frontier (graphic novel) – Various
Lightspeed Magazine – Various
A whole bunch of screenplays
*I am calling this a movie. I saw it at a movie theater. Harry Potter guy was in it. It counts.
HOLLYWOOD – April 11, 2013 – In the final weeks before the release of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, producer/director J.J. Abrams has revealed that the TREK sequel will be his last traditional feature film. In January of this year, Abrams was contracted to direct the first Disney/Lucasfilm STAR WARS sequel, scheduled for a 2015 release. The future of that project now appears in question.
Abrams departs from the STAR WARS franchise to focus solely on pre-production for his new project, FLARE: INTERNAL LIGHT REFLECTION AND SCATTERING VIA MATERIAL INHOMOGENEITIES. This 6-hour immersive IMAX project will eschew characters and traditional story structure in favor of extended takes of bright point-sources of light.
“I’m through with narrative,” Abrams announced in a press conference held Thursday morning. “I’ve finally admitted to myself that it’s the lens flares that truly interest me. Storytelling? That was always just a means to an end, and if you examine my work you can see I never really had the knack for it anyway.”
Following the release of FLARE, Abrams’ muse will take him even further afield, into the the realms of conceptual art.
“FLARE, while non-narrative, was still intended for public consumption, as a communal viewing experience,” Abrams explained. “This next piece will be solely about my personal experience.”
In SQUINT, a performance art piece, a rotating team of gaffers will follow Abrams around 24 hours a day, pointing high-intensity halogen lights right in his face. During the press conference Abrams modeled the specially-designed spectacles he will wear, constructed of multiple layers of cheap glass. These lenses will scatter the incoming light and maximize the amount of glare he’ll see.
A brief Q&A period followed in which Abrams seemed distracted by the chandeliers in the conference room.
“I’ll take some… uh, questions,” he began. “You in the back, enveloped in the heavenly glow?”
When asked about traditional artistic considerations, such as sharing his experience with others, he was dismissive.
“Fuck the audience,” Abrams quipped.
Abrams left the podium with the assistance of his service dog, Bokeh.
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John Harden is a screenwriter, director, and graphic designer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He maintains that J. J. Abrams is the new Irwin Allen. He also believes it may still be possible to make a science fiction movie a semi-intelligent grownup could enjoy. You can see him try to make one here.