The 92nd Academy Awards will air live on ABC Sunday, February 9th at 8:00 PM EST. Get in on the action by filling out a prediction ballot right here. I will be updating results live on Oscar night, so fill out a ballot and check my results page Oscar night to see how you did!
Also, speaking of Oscar night, what Oscar party would be complete without The People’s Critic’s Official Oscar Menu for 2020. Enjoy the party with perfectly paired menu offerings for this year’s nominees.
Enjoy the show, and please share this post with all your favorite movie fans! Also, enjoy this free printable paper ballot for your party needs!
The year 2019 was a pretty good year at the movies, and as the end of a decade, it really feels like a culmination of something and hopefully a fresh step forward to something new. If you haven’t already, read my Top Ten Films of the Decade post to get a sense of what the last ten years in movies can tell us about where we’ve been and where we’re going. However, the issue at hand is 2019. A lot of movies were released in 2019 thanks to the proliferation of streaming services and their dedication to releasing incredible amounts of quality content on top of the traditional studio and independent releases. So let’s get on to it. 2019: The good, the bad, and the ugly.
10. Knives Out – This one wins the audience award for sure. Of all the films on my list, no film had the audience howling like this one. Billed as a Rian Johnson whodunit, an all-star cast is full of suspects after a wealthy mystery writer suddenly falls dead, and foul play is suspected. Queue two-hours of dark, maddening hijinks that keep the audience guessing but most of all amused. This is a modern-day Clue or Gosford Park full of suspense and laughs. This movie feels like a subtle “jab” at one of the films in my worst of the year list, as one of his previous films was somewhat “sliced and diced” by another with diminishing returns. Well played, Mr. Johnson.
9. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – I thought I knew what I was in for when I walked in to see this movie. After having seen the wonderful 2018 documentary about Fred Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, I expected a sentimental dramatization of the true events of Rogers’s life. That is not what this film is, and that is a good thing. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a perfect companion piece to the 2018 documentary rather than an adaptation of it by letting us see the power of people like Rogers and the impact a kind, contemplative person can have on all of us. Most will be surprised to find Tom Hanks’s portrayal of Rogers as more of a secondary role in this film. The main story follows Matthew Rhys as investigative journalist, Lloyd Vogel who reluctantly accepts a job to write a fluff piece on Rogers only to have his life changed immeasurably. A true heart-warmer, and an understated success for director Marielle Heller.
8. The Lighthouse– Two lighthouse keepers arrive for a four-week shift looking after a lighthouse. At night, there’s little to do but eat, drink, and talk and much of the film is dedicated to these activities, but that’s where we as the audience learn the most. These men have secrets. This actor’s journey of minimalist, psychological horror is one fascinating ride! Willem Dafoe puts out a vicious, raw, funny, and technical performance, and Robert Pattinson too gives a layered and impressive character. This is a challenging but amazingly engrossing film.
7. Parasite – Word of mouth has been non-stop for this South Korean comedic horror satire. Writer/Director Bong Joon Ho has been quietly dominating critical and box office success with films like Snowpiercer, The Host, and Okja just to name a few. With Parasite, it seems like he’s broken through completely by creating a universally relatable parable of class and culture that begins one way and takes a dramatically fascinating turn. Both halves of the film are tremendously compelling and enjoyable, but for entirely different reasons. This is Ho’s masterpiece in a catalog full of near-masterpieces.
6. Midsommar – This is the most beautifully shot film on my list this year. Ari Aster’s latest film is a slow burn with some of the most unsettling horror seen on screen in some years. A group of students arrive in a rural and secretive Swedish community with the hope of learning about their culture and studying their anthropological presence. The beauty of the film starkly contrasts some truly terrifying stuff, and the result is a highly effective and deeply effective.
The Top Five:
5. Avengers: Endgame – This movie is actually epic, and I use that term without hyperbole. The Russo brothers have assembled a true love letter that spans the entire run of the most successful film franchise in history. This is how a saga should end (a certain film in my worst of the year list should take notes). A strength of all four Avengers films is that even with such bloated cast of characters, every one of them gets a moment to shine. The heart, the humor, the excitement, and the impact of events is as strong as in any of the MCU films, and for my money this is the best Avengers film of the four, and it is also one of the best films of the year.
4. The Irishman – I had to sit with this movie for a while. I’m of the rare minority who when this 3-hour gangster volume ended, I wanted more. I knew I liked it, but I wasn’t sure if my nostalgia and good faith for what this film represented was why I liked it, or if it was truly good. Seeing Martin Scorsese revisit the mobster genre and direct Joe Pesci, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and a host of other notables is hard not to tickle the fancy of any fan of cinema. So, over a month has passed, and the jury is in; The Irishman is a great film (but only one peg higher than a superhero movie, Marty!).
3. Marriage Story – Noah Baumbach has been a powerful force in telling human stories about the fallouts of the fractured family dynamic. His films The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the wedding, While We’re Young, and The Meyerowitz Stories all predominately explore this central theme, so it’s fitting that his latest film is simply called Marriage Story. Here Baumbach is in familiar territory, but never has been so keyed in on the complexities of coupling and then uncoupling in modern America. Baumbach teams up with Adam Driver for the fourth time in this crushing yet beautiful human drama about how marriage and family can be very different things.
2. Joker – At its core, Joker is a character-driven story about Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a meager, struggling performer hoping to someday be a stand-up comedian. Phoenix is excellent in this film allowing Fleck’s struggles to feel very real and human. His decisions, as radical as they are, all come from a raw and authentic place within the character that Phoenix is able to capture and put on display in a very captivating way. Joker as a film also does an excellent job of pitting this dynamic individual against a society that is crumbling into chaos and compartmentalizing into a vastly unsettling class struggle, and what transpires is compelling and profoundly unsettling. Not because it is necessarily “shocking” but because of what it does to us as viewers who will no doubt be feeling a variety of conflicting emotions by the end – all worth examining.
1. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood – What we have here is a modern-day auteur at the top of his technical game taking chances and making movies that still make an audience appreciate the medium and the experience it can offer. There’s tremendous atmosphere populated with thrilling takes on movies, dreams, American culture, music and the divisive nature of society. Plus there’s a bitching soundtrack! Many will cite this as being the least “Tarantino” of all of his films, whatever that means; however, while the plot is perhaps more loose than his previous films, Tarantino captures the atmosphere of this dynamic time with great success. There’s a lot going on in this film. On one hand, we have Rick Dalton’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) quest for fame, attempting to leverage some television notoriety into a film career without aging out, becoming typecast, or losing his game all the while battling an internal conflict about whether he is worthy of fame in the first place. Then we have Cliff Booth’s (Brad Pitt) ambiguous, deliberate sojourn through the land of broken dreams. While the two main characters are on two very separate personal journeys, Tarantino craftily balances this film on the relationship between the two men allowing the film to move along nicely despite their uniquely different paths. There’s no arbitrary cliché-constructed conflict dropped on the audience for cheap drama. There’s a sense of history between them both, and this comes through mostly thanks to the exquisite performances given by Pitt and most notably DiCaprio. I have almost nothing bad to say about this movie other than it’s not Tarantino’s best, which is to say it’s still the best movie of 2019 by a long shot, just not the best movie of 1994.
…the Bad and the Ugly
3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Just writing these words under this heading fills me with great sorrow. Star Wars movies made my list of the best films of 2015 (The Force Awakens), 2016 (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), and 2017 (The Last Jedi). All that being said, it pains me to have to put Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on the list of the worst films of the year, but here it is. Just five short years after this critic touted J.J Abrams as the true geek-legend who will take the franchise light years beyond where it had been, he now ends it all by leaving me with a bad feeling about where the future of Star Wars once again sits. The film is action packed, but it is also, bloated, uneven, full of loose plotlines, and most of all it’s boring. The Rise of Skywalker did not just disappoint me as a film, but it actually made me like the previous two installments less knowing now where it all was heading.
2. Ford v. Ferrari – Speaking of boring movies, let me give you exhibit B; Ford v. Ferrari. To me, this films is another installment in a troubling cinematic trend. Every year, a handful of “Oscar darling” films are released that follow a virtual template of style and perceived wit. Essentially odd-ducks are paired up to navigate an unkind social climate full of architypes and caricatures that must be thwarted. Upon examining these films, what you really have is a film where everyone is uni-dimensional except the principal characters, and the film progresses with a style that broadly spoon feeds audiences hearty portions of quippy one-liners and unlikely conversations practically winking at the camera instead of being in the moment. The style of this film matches those precisely. These historic, character-driven dramas shot with this disingenuous style ring so false to me, and I wind up caring less and less. Ford v. Ferrari, unfortunately, has little gas in the tank and more or less feels like it’s just going in circles, taking too many pit stops before ultimately just being totaled (puns intended).
1. The Lion King – All in all, The Lion King is very rote, stale, and unimpressive (aside from the visual effects, which are stunning). The decision to play it so safe with this film is a real disappointment and the result is a clunky film with no personality. It boils down to a forgettable rehash that could have been a wonderful update on a classic. When these films do not bring something new to the table, it is hard to see them as anything but a shallow attempt to take our money with familiar branding. And that may have been their goal all along with these films, but if you want me to have a Hakuna Matata attitude about these things, at least make me feel the love. My statement with giving this film the unhallowed designation of being worst film of the year is simply to say to Disney…stop. You had a good year financially, so why not take that green and invest in the new. You hung up Star Wars and The Avengers as we knew them, so use this decade to give us what comes next, not a warmed over reminder of what once was.
Well that does it! What did you think about 2019 or about the decade as a whole in regards to movies? I’d say as a movie year, 2019 fits snugly in the middle of the 2010s decade. Nothing with the explosiveness of 2017 or 2014, but also not a mediocre year. Let me know what you think in the comments.
For some reason, 2019 does not feel like the culmination of a decade. It never really occurred to me that we had reached this milestone until some of these “Best of the Decade…” lists started rolling out. Looking back personally, I’ve gotten married, changed careers, had two children, and bought a house, sold a house, and bought another …so I guess that’s about 10 years of life. As a whole, the society reflected in the cinema of the 2010s is one of reflection, nostalgia, and innovation. Reboots, sequels, comic books, and throwbacks were aplenty, but the best films of the decade rarely fall into those categories. Political unrest, the proliferation of the Internet, Social Media, and streaming entertainment as well as incredible strides for minorities, feminism, and civil rights were also a sparked that will continue to define the 2020s. I’ll admit, personally, 2019 carried with it some of the highest highs in my life as well as some of the lowest lows, and the same can be said about the films released this decade. That being said, let’s focus on the positives as we optimistically embark on a new decade. Here are The People’s Critic’s Top Ten Films of the 2010s!
10. The Dark Knight Rises(2012) – Appropriately, the best director of the decade starts this list off with the final film of Christopher Nolan’s phenomenal Dark Knight trilogy. There is no understating the impact these films had on cinema, most notably 2008’s The Dark Knight. With The Dark Knight Rises, we have a fitting end to one of the strongest trilogies in cinema history. There is so much to appreciate in this film. The menacing tone that lies beneath the surface of Gotham City is felt for all of its 165 minutes. For my money, the plot of The Dark Knight Rises is the best of the three. I think, taken as a whole, what Christopher Nolan can be most proud of is that he has captured the attention of a massive audience and taught them that escapist entertainment can be thoughtful and precise. He may present some of this grandiose and complex content in a simplified and somewhat self-important/preachy way, but he achieves his grand design of getting us all thinking about our own morality, our limits, and our duties. This is miles beyond what any other so-called “comic book” movie has achieved or has even been capable of so far (PS, this will not be the last we hear of Christopher Nolan on this list).
9. Baby Driver (2017) – Is it uniquely original? On paper, maybe not so much, but it’s a different story on the screen. It is hard not to discuss Baby Driver in the context of other similar predecessors about getaway drivers and/or villainous lynchpins orchestrating a series of heists. But the execution of Baby Driver is unlike any of those films. On the surface this is a heist film about a getaway driver, but on a larger scale the driving is an instrument to explore music, or more accurately, the act of listening to music. It’s the music that helps push the narrative. Writer/Director Edgar Wright does a superb job using music, actually the act of listening to music, to drive an otherwise classical narrative structure. This film really invited me to analyze exactly what it is that makes movie narratives work, an analysis I further explored in my commentary piece, “It’s All About Choice.” Like so many classic narratives, we don’t learn much about Baby in the film, or about any of the other characters for that matter. Baby is a man of few words, denied the necessity of choice by Doc (a pre-self-destructed Kevin Spacy), and committed to no real set of values given his almost “island-like” existence. Like I mentioned in “It’s All About Choice,” knowing so very little about Baby actually drives the narrative because he is the ultimate individual who can form his own values and not be labeled or expected to act in any particular way. What a cool movie!
8. Blade Runner 2049(2017) – Blade Runner 2049 is a visual achievement, but it is also a triumph of science fiction and exploration into the flawed emotionality of the human being. Denis Villenueve and original screenwriter, Hampton Fancher deepen the themes and ideas introduced in the 1982 original, creating a superb overall film that demands repeat viewings. Villenueve is the runner-up to Nolan as director of the decade. Catching my attention in 2013 with the exquisite Prisoners, and then putting out one great film after another with Enemy, Sicario, Arrival and then Blade Runner 2049, we have seen the evolution of an auteur and true visionary of cinema whose next film, an updated adaptation of Dune should prove to be even better!
7. Inception(2010) – He’s back. Nolan’s second films on the list of the best of the decade actually kicked the decade off in 2010 with one of the most visually complex and narratively multifaceted films of all time. Leonardo DiCaprio takes on a journey through time and mind in a trippy, wild mind heist. Nolan’s imagination is on full display with a film that is inspired and outrageously original. It’s said Nolan spent 10 years on this script, and it shows! Theories abound about what unfolds in this twisted story, but in true Inception style, the means justify the end.
6. La La Land (2016) – I tried people. I tried not to toe the line. I tried not to be all “critic-y,” but goddamnit, my toes are still tap, tap, tapping to this beautiful, heartwarming, goosebump inducing, musical masterpiece. La La Land has the best first and last five minutes of any movie in the last 10 years! What puts it on this list is that between those amazing first five minutes and outstanding final five minutes are 118 exhilarating, beautifully crafted, musical minutes. La La Land is a simple story of Jazz musician meets struggling actor, Jazz musician loses struggling actress, etc., but that’s ok. If the plot were any more dynamic, it would take away from the sensory experience of this film. Gosling and Stone are captivating as the leads and while their voices may not be meant for Broadway, they are perfect for a film that “dances” between worlds. Half nostalgic and half prognostic, La La Land shows us that writer/director Damien Chazelle is more than the real deal. He’s the next big thing (next to Nolan and Villenueve)! La La Land puts a nice bow on 2016 as well as the decade as a whole.
5. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)– The film that started the renaissance for director, David O. Russell. His movies are traditionally about passion, and none have better successfully illustrated that theme than Silver Linings Playbook. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper play Pat and Tiffany, two people full of passion who have lost their way. Both turn out Oscar worthy performances, and while Lawrence won, Cooper was given the impossible task of facing a Daniel Day-Lewis performance. He would have won any other year for sure with this performance. This was the best acted film of the decade bar none. Furthermore, Russell’s screenplay is excellent as he also manages to give Robert DeNiro a role that could be indirectly related to his having such a prolific 2019 with Joker and The Irishman.
4. Django Unchained (2012) – Django Unchained is void of any superfluous substance. From the opening scene of dialogue where Django and Schultz are introduced all the way to the final “showdown,” Django Unchained has momentum and remains in stride. Tarantino won his second Original Screenplay Oscar for this because no other film that can be nominated for this category combines such compelling dialogue with such a spirited and ambitions story. The film unfolds in a series of distinct acts. Furthermore, Tarantino takes his flair for the irregular timeline to a more subtle place by interjecting small contextual flashbacks at key points to reveal critical or entertaining pieces of background that enhance an approaching scene. Christoph Waltz gives Tarantino another Oscar winning performance as the film’s moral compass, Dr. Schultz. Schultz’s character also works to deepen and broaden Foxx’s turn as Django. Django has a goal, but lacks direction and Schultz literally provides that for him, which gives Foxx some real dimension and power. However, the film’s crown jewel is found in the film’s closing acts when Leonardo DiCaprio appears as Calvin Candie, owner of the massive and legendary plantation known as Candyland. DiCaprio’s performance is a sneaky one, and while initially campy, it becomes very real all too quickly. His character shows a severe authenticity as a symbol for the evils of supposed “gentlemen” during a deeply deranged time in American history. As fun as Django Unchained is to watch, it is still a Quentin Tarantino movie, which implies vulgarity and violence. It delivers on both of those qualities to excess, which is a good thing in this case. As part of the Western genre, a lot of justice is sought out against a lot of bad people, and a six-shooter is basically the only tool. The balance between good acting, strong writing, unpredictable circumstances, and sudden bursts of violence creates a suspenseful tone that could not otherwise be achieved.
3. Blue Jasmine (2013) – While 2019 has been a tough year for arguably my favorite filmmaker and entertainer of all time, Woody Allen was still churning out classics in the 2010s. First in 2011, he had his greatest box office achievement of his career with Midnight in Paris, and then just two years later, he puts out one of his greatest films of all time, Blue Jasmine. Allen’s film may be contextually set within the confines of financial crisis; however, the film is actually about trust and fate. The strength of the story rests on the complex and fractured relationship between two adopted sisters, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) and Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Jasmine and Ginger were separately adopted, raised together, but fate sent them on wildly different paths. Allen explores this element throughout the film while also examining Jasmine’s sense of entitlement regardless of the fact that she has no skills and simply fell into wealth. Furthermore, trust is a dynamic issue presented in the film. While mostly known for his impeccable ability to create fascinating female characters (and Blue Jasmine is no exception), Allen also presents the damage of deception through his uncharacteristically diverse set of male characters. Bobby Cannavale is especially indicative of this as Ginger’s current boyfriend, Chili. Michael Stuhlbarg, Louis C.K., and Peter Sarsgaard join Cannavale and Andrew Dice Clay in developing the vital effect of trust, or lack thereof, on the human condition.
2. Life of Pi (2012) – First of all, if you like to enjoy a film in its purest and unanticipated sense, just know Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is a spectacular cinematic experience. Now stop reading and go see it. From the moment the map of the Mariana Trench appears on the screen, hold on to your seats! No film, including Avatar, has achieved this level of visual grandeur with 3D technology. What is more, Life of Pi exists right here on our own planet. Lee’s careful precision as a director, takes full advantage of every opportunity to amaze the audience with wonder. Many films have explored the survivor element of what the limits of human endurance are. What allows Pi to rise above those is the spiritual depth that is created from the film’s opening act and the awe-inspiring visual effects that are second to none. Life of Pi is a low-key masterpiece. It sneaks up on you and while not complicated, welcomes multiple viewings. The opening credits depicting animals happily living in captivity holds new meaning after experiencing the film for the first time. Lee presents a very enjoyable and thought-provoking version of Martel’s widely admired source material. It was said that Life of Pi was one of those unfilmable stories- that it can exist in the mind of the reader and nowhere else. Lee has proven those skeptics incorrect; however, this film is more than a companion or adaptation of the novel. It has surpassed that into something much more special and distinctive.
1. Interstellar(2014) – This is it; the big one! For six years, I’ve been waiting to see if anyone can take this film down as best film of the decade. No one came close. Interstellar is a phenomenal film. It is the most immersive film of the decade. Nolan does not treat the audience with kid gloves and allows us to observe and appreciate the film without needless exposition or over-explanation. Clocking in at 3 hours in running time, the film actually moves with a deliberate and intrepid pace. Like successful cinematic space operas of the past such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or even Star Wars, Interstellar is enriched with thoughtfulness, theoretical rhetoric, and intensity! The film is also quite beautiful and awe-inspiring. Nolan, one of the last filmmakers still shooting on 35mm film, uses the technique to his stunning advantage. Darkness, color, perspective, and beauty are all heightened by Nolan’s camera work, and the film resonates with a voracity that feels appropriate for a quality depiction of interplanetary space travel. Like Steven Price’s Oscar winning score from Gravity, the score in this film, composed by Has Zimmer, plays an equally pivotal role. Swells and crescendos of synthesizers and pipe organs counter-balance equally ominous moments of complete silence, all of which emphasize the overall mood. Like most Christopher Nolan films, the true strength of Interstellar is not in its cast but in its atmosphere and ambition. For a science-fiction film, Interstellar feels very authentic and while the film’s final act may challenge some viewers, everything works. It’s a masterpiece.
Well that’s it. 2019 is not yet finished, and some great films are slated to release at the end of the year, so if somehow something blows me away, I will update this list post-haste. That being said, it is just about time to start looking forward to what a new decade of film will bring, and I for one am encouraged and excited to find out!
The decisive right of
passage for any adult male is the inevitable construction of the “man-cave.”
Though its name suggests prehistoric connotations of Neanderthal-like quality
wherein a man might exhibit all of his stereotypical gruffness, the truth of
the matter is that a man-cave is a place in the home devoid of any and all
purpose other than comfort. It is not for cooking, not for showing, not for
entertaining, not even necessarily just for a man. The man-cave, conceptually,
should be nothing more than an immersion of interests without the pressure of
“fitting in” with the rest of the home’s décor.
I have recently begun
the formidable undertaking of transforming my basement into a lair worthy of
The People’s Critic’s name. Obviously, its design is based on gloriously accentuating
a single focal point that is as large a projected movie image as possible.
Comfy seats, a big screen, carpet, popcorn machine, mini-bar – everything was
in place for the laziest and most epic screening room I could imagine (and
afford). Once that task was accomplished, however, a funny thing happened. The
lonely treadmill that was the previous, albeit ignored, focal point in the
basement suddenly yearned for a new purpose and I guiltily sitting on my comfy
leather couch watching The Dark Knight Rises for the fifth and
time climbed aboard with a zeal for exercise previously unknown to me. My heart
pumped as Batman and Bane battled it out; my adrenaline kicked in to high gear
as Bruce Wayne fought to escape The Pit…and then there’s Catwoman! The next thing
I knew, exercise and movies were deeply intertwined; free-weights, a jump rope,
and a rowing machine suddenly joined the once lonely treadmill as the man-cave
evolved into a theatrical gym with no membership costs.
In the past seven
months, I’ve worked out to 35 complete movies. While many are action/adventure
films, others are dramas, comedies, westerns, and sci-fi/fantasies. I don’t say
all of this to be pretentious or to brag. Rather, I want to establish some
element of credibility before providing a list of the top 10 movies to work out
to, since I am not a person who is known for or claims to know much about
A note before I begin.
All of the films on my list I had seen prior to watching them while exercising.
Unless it stars Jason Statham (which several of them do), I find the experience
is much richer if you’re familiar with the film ahead of time.
10. The Transporter, The Transporter 2, and The Transporter 3– 3 movies? I know, I’m cheating right out of the gate, but they do star Jason Statham. Still, these movies are made for this kind of list and while not necessarily “good,” (especially in the acting category – That’s right Transporter 3, I’m talking to you) they are the perfect series to show your treadmill who’s boss.
9. Cloud Atlas – What? That’s right, this nearly three hour Wachowski sibling brain scramble of a film is one of two films on this list that if seen REQUIRE at least a second viewing, so why not set the treadmill to “Walk in the Park” and hit those free weights every time Tom Hanks shows up as another character.
8. The Departed – One of the best films you can watch anywhere, but it’s the great use of music that earns it a place on this list.
7. Rambo First Blood: Part II – I resisted the urge to cheat again and include First Blood, but really this is the Rambo movie to see, but avoid Rambo 3 in all circumstances.
6. Death Race – Jason Statham returns to the list in a remake of the 1975 camp classic, Death Race 2000. This one is worse than the original and yet much better for the purposes of this list! Lots of heavy metal, explosions, cars racing, and Ian McShane.
5. The Dark Knight Rises – This is the one that started it all for me. So you want to be Batman? This movie is the Rocky III of the Dark Knight series. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, just know Batman ain’t in fighting shape; he’s a little worse for ware, which of course leads to several training montages that allow YOU to train with Batman himself!
4. The Wolf of Wall Street– This is probably where I lose my woman audience. Like The Departed, Scorsese fills this movie with great music choices, which I think is key to a good work out movie. It’s also a party on film and a bit of a man’s movie, but with a 3 hour running time, it’s not easy to find time to watch it.
3. Mulholland Drive – When I listed Cloud Atlas, I mentioned there are two films on this list that REQUIRE at least a second viewing; this is the second one. Certainly one of David Lynch’s finest achievements, this bizarre Hollywood mystery offers so much to interpret, it is easy to get caught up in it and lose all track of time. Beware, Lynch originally planned Mulholland Drive to be a television show, but when that deal fell through, he rewrote it as a film. He used some footage already shot, thus he has specifications for aspect ratio and volume. If you can’t meet the volume requirements, the movie might be too quiet to watch while using any noisy equipment.
2. No Country for Old Men – Certainly one of the finest films ever made. This dark, intense allegory for violence is beautifully filmed by the Coen Brothers and presents a film virtually devoid of score and music yet absolutely hypnotizing.
1. Minority Report – Throw Minority Report on the screen and as the intensity builds, so will your muscle. This one was made in 2002, 5 years B.iP (Before iPhone), but watch how realistically Spielberg imagined some of the futuristic advances.
So there it is, a fun list to help make exercise less of a chore and more of an event. I included the full list of all 35 movies I’ve watched so far in the order that I watched them below. PLEASE consider adding to this list here or on my Facebook page!
Screenwriters: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Brie Larson, Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, and Josh Brolin
What is left to say about Avengers: Endgame that has not already been said? The film is already speedily on its way to overtake Avatar as the highest grossing film of all time, and it shows no evidence of slowing down as the summer movie season starts to heat up!
Still of the 21 Marvel Cinematic Universe films that lead up to Endgame, I reviewed 11 of them, and cinematic saturation aside, I will make it an even dozen with this one!
Avengers: Endgame is the sweet story of a young artist looking for love in Northern France. Of course it’s not; it’s the story of a superhuman, a guy in a metal suit, a persuasive lady, a Norse god, a bow and arrow guy, and a monster – seeking revenge on a purple megalomaniac for obliterating half of the galaxy’s population. As preposterous as it sounds in those terms, this film delivers. The plot is quite simplistic, although it can be argued that it is not as simplistic as it could have been. The spoiler ban has lifted, so I am not speaking out of turn when I say that the heroes you saw “dusted” in Infinity War are perhaps not gone forever. The mechanics that screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely implement to get them back are gleefully “bananas,” making for a tremendously entertaining and nostalgic second act that is as perfect as any segment of a film the Marvel Cinematic Universe has given us.
The film picks up post-snap, and instantly defies expectations. I’ll leave it at that. The first act unfolds as a psychological drama examining how life goes on Leftovers-style after half of the people on Earth just suddenly disappeared. The answer: grief, guilt, desperation, and pessimism. The evolution of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is particularly noteworthy. This nuanced approach to the film’s opening act is a welcomed and fascinating change of stride from what we’ve come to expect from these films. It grounds the actions, consequences, and motivations in a way that feels earned and appropriate rather than just getting on with the action. The first scene of this film is damn near heartbreaking!
This is not to say the film is flawless. The introduction of Captain Marvel last March provided the MCU with a captivating new hero; however she is also somewhat problematic in terms of her involvement within Endgame. She allows for the laziest plot resolutions punching as many holes in the narrative as she does in the ships of Thanos’s army. On the other hand, this movie attempts to utilize time-travel, which opens it up to so much convolution, it’s best to just go along for the ride anyway.
You should also be warned, this was not marketed as a “part 2” to Infinity War, and in many ways it is not; however, it very much is a part 22 to the MCU, and if you are not up on these films, your enjoyment of this film will be impacted immensely. That being said, thank you Endgame for giving me even more evidence to use in conversations about why Iron Man 3 is the best Iron Man movie and a top five MCU film!
All of that being said, this movie is actually epic, and I use that term without hyperbole. The Russo brothers have assembled a true love letter that spans the entire run of the most successful film franchise in history. A strength of all four Avengers films is that even with such bloated cast of characters, every one of them gets a moment to shine. The heart, the humor, the excitement, and the impact of events is as strong as in any of the MCU films, and for my money this is the best Avengers film of the four with the caveat that it does not stand alone and without the tremendous setup of the previous films, this one would not work.
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe complete at least in the form that it has existed these past 10 years, it will be interesting to see what the future brings. Many questions left unanswered in this film will likely supply plot direction for future films involving these characters, but how they will evolve and progress as a franchise is unclear. All I can say is that this is a fitting end to a joyous cinematic ride. A-
The Avengers: Endgame is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 3 hours and 2 minutes. There is no post-credits sequence, but there is a post-credits sound that is explained here if you are not interested in hanging around.
My Official MCU 22-film Ranking from Best to Worst:
For those of you eagerly awaiting my annual predictions, your wait is over.
Like I do every year, my 2019 Oscar Predictions include all 24 categories and their nominees along with my humble (yet educated) opinion and commentary on who will bring home the gold at this year’s ceremony, held Sunday February 24th, hosted by… NO ONE!?
I will say that having no host under the pretext that there were no quality choices is just, plain lazy! I present to you, exhibit A:
That’s right, The People’s Critic tossed his hat into the ring a full two months ago, and nary a jingle has he heard from the Academy. So there it is: laziness. So on we go, hostless, but the show must go on!
We may not have a host, but we do have nominations. I will of course have my overly analyzed, long-winded predictions shortly, but for now I will let the nominations speak for themselves. The Oscars will air live February 24th on ABC.
A Star is Born
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali, Green Book Adam Driver, BlackKKLansman Sam Elliot, A Star is Born Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me Sam Rockwell, Vice
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Adam McKay, Vice
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs BlacKkKlansman Can You Ever Forgive Me? If Beale Street Could Talk A Star Is Born
Best Original Screenplay
First Reformed Green Book Roma The Favourite Vice
Best Foreign Language Films
Capernaum Cold War Never Look Away Roma Shoplifters
Best Documentary Feature
Free Solo Hale County This Morning, This Evening Minding the Gap Of Fathers and Sons RBG
Best Animated Feature Film
Incredibles 2 Isle of Dogs Mirai Ralph Breaks the Internet Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Live Action Short Film
Best Documentary (Short)
“A Night at the Garden”
“Period. End of Sentence.”
Best Animated Short Film
“One Small Step”
Best Original Song
“All The Stars” – Black Panther
“I’ll Fight” – RBG
“Shallow” – A Star Is Born
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” – Mary Poppins Returns
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Best Original Score
Black Panther BlacKkKlansman If Beale Street Could Talk Isle of Dogs Mary Poppins Returns
Best Film Editing
BlacKkKlansman Bohemian Rhapsody Green Book The Favourite Vice
Best Production Design
Black Panther The Favourite First Man Mary Poppins Returns Roma
Cold War The Favourite Never Look Away Roma A Star Is Born
Best Costume Design
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Black Panther The Favourite Mary Poppins Returns Mary Queen of Scots
Best Sound Editing
A Quiet Place Black Panther Bohemian Rhapsody First Man Roma
Best Sound Mixing
Black Panther Bohemian Rhapsody First Man Roma A Star Is Born
Best Visual Effects
Avengers: Infinity War Christopher Robin First Man Ready Player One Solo: A Star Wars Story
2018 was a weird year for movies. Overall, while the box office was huge with major earning tentpole films, the quality on average was not so great. The good news is, when you boil everything down to just ten films, what you are left with is actually very strong. In fact, in the five years that I’ve been putting out this list, the movies that make up my best list for 2018 make the strongest statement for where the future of great movies is going. Read on to see what I mean.
10. Eighth Grade – Eighth Grade is one of the most surprising films of the year for me. This little film cost $2 million to make, and made 7 times that at the box office. It was also released way back in July. This is an important detail because like last year’s Get Out and several other films later on this list, producers are realizing that people are smart enough to like a good movie and remember it all year. Gone perhaps are the days of dumping ground months and crowded December releases to just qualify for awards consideration. Good movies can come out all year! Eighth Grade was directed by comic-musician Bo Burnham who has been on my radar for the last ten years, but certainly not as a filmmaker. However, Burnham’s wit and lyrical precision is on full display in his directorial debut, Eighth Grade. The film follows Kayla, an eighth grade student, during her final week of middle school. It is simple in its design, but cutting, heartfelt, and most of all relatable. I sat down to watch this with my wife who within five minutes promptly stood back up and walked out as she said, “I don’t need to watch this; I lived it.” Now that may sound like a criticism, but it’s actually the highest of complements in that the film nails the anxiety, nerves, and pitfalls of adolescence in such a way that it is too real to bear.
9. BlacKKKlansman – BlacKKKlansman is another visionary and ambitious film from veteran filmmaker, Spike Lee. BlacKKKlansman, like Eighth Grade, was also released in the dog days of summer to great word of mouth and a box office just south of the $100 million mark worldwide, making it one of the biggest financial hits of his career. That being said, BlacKKKlansman is a movie with a message, and not just a simple heroic tale. It follows a Black detective named Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) as he sets out to infiltrate a local and violent chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. As a Black man, he recruits his white coworker Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to assist him in any face to face interactions that are needed, the two of them acting as one: Stallworth corresponding by phone and written word, Zimmerman (a Jew by the way) appearing in person. This is an enjoyable film and funny at times. It is also a thought provoking and frightening one. Some criticisms have been made about its accuracy, but none of those take away from some of the uncomfortable truths it exposes about racial tensions.
8. Incredibles 2 – Don’t sleep on Incredibles 2. The sequel to the 2004 original is bigger, better, and brighter than its predecessor in every way. Supers are still disdained by the public, but a tech billionaire wants to change this. Using Elastigirl to spearhead a publicity campaign to regain public support, a new adventure emerges as does a new villain by the name of Screenslaver. There’s far more to this film that a simple redemption story, and the animation and story are top notch. This is another brilliant addition to the illustrious series of Pixar films, also a summer release.
7. RBG – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or “The Notorious RBG” as she’s come to be known, is just the documentary subject we need right now. The documentary is quite linear, and nicely arranges the details of Ginsburg’s life beginning with her childhood and spanning her legal career to the present. Of course, much time is spent exploring Ginsburg’s cases and her ascension to the Court (and her love for opera), but the high points of the film for me are the scenes with her first love and husband, Martin. Their relationship is one for the history books, not that there’s anything about Ruth Bader Ginsburg that is not for the history books. Political leanings aside, this is an inspirational film that champions ambition, hard work, and love, and a summer release.
6. Searching – Here’s a movie that may have benefited from low expectations. Once in a while I stumble across one of these first-person narrative films where the action is through the eyes of one character. Searching represents the finest accomplishment in the genre. It is also apparently the first mainstream Hollywood thriller with an Asian in the title role, which is surprising and welcomed. When a father’s (John Cho) daughter goes missing, he begins investigating her disappearance mostly via her online presence. The film is told entirely through a unique visual presentation of the father’s interactions with various computer devices. We only see and hear him through web cams, computer screens, and other audio and video gadgets. The gimmick of the film’s direction would be enough to make it worth watching, but the story is thrilling and twisted in some outstanding ways, making it one of the year’s best films (and a summer release).
5. A Star is Born – Released in October, A Star is Born stars Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine, a massively popular musical act who is over the peak of his fame. His fans are fervent, but his shows are routine, his hearing is going, and let’s just say he has a bit of a drinking problem. Inspired by a singer he hears in a bar, he invites her to perform with him, catapulting her from an unknown club songstress to a mainstream sensation. A Star is Born is a good movie with an excellent first-directional effort by Cooper, and an exceptional use of talent. There is a lot to appreciate about the film, and with the added layer of the music, the film rises above the rest.
4. First Man – First Man is a moody film full of emotion and grit. Ryan Gosling gives another brooding yet powerful performance worthy of the man he plays: Neil Armstrong. Additionally, Claire Foy is the source of most of the film’s real impact. Her scenes transcend the “poor astronaut’s wife” tropes aspiring to something far more revealing. While this is a film that profiles the man who eventually becomes the first man to walk on the moon, it is not the traditional biopic that one may expect. Once one understands that this film will not hit the notes you most likely were expecting, First Man works very well. Its disarming use of camera to focus on the human element of the action, and not the detached traditional view of things that we are used to is both uncomfortable and powerful. Overall, a poignant and dramatic exploration of a major historic event without the all too common escapist quality generally associated with this type of entertainment (October release).
3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout – One of the rare film sequels that is better than any of its previous installments. Mission: Impossible – Fallout is both an excellent film and a true sequel. It is one of the finest action films I have ever seen and respectfully builds from its predecessors with selective and critical details that weave the film nicely into the mythology that has developed over six films. In this big summer blockbuster, Ethan Hunt once again finds himself in a race against time to save the world from the clutches of a new terrorist group known as the Apostles, who are planning to create a new world order through a series of catastrophic terrorist events. Two key thematic elements within Mission: Impossible – Fallout are time and destruction for the sake of improvement. The film seems to use these themes to meta-style reference itself in that Fallout, while representing the culmination of a trilogy, feels like the beginning of something else.
2. Roma – Roma is the most beautiful film of the year. It captures everything I love about film by capturing a beautiful and personal story with stunning detail and told well through visually immersive camera work. Alfonso Cuaron’s memoir of his boyhood in Mexico City is a breathtaking, personal, and sentimental masterpiece. Not a frame of film is wasted, and Cuaron appropriately assumes not only the role of director and writer, but also director of photography as his trusted cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki was unavailable. The result is a deeply emotive drama about the importance of family in all senses of the word as even the most shattering human experiences can be mended by family. Cuaron accomplishes what only the best filmmakers are able to do: show the majesty and beauty of the typical, and he does so masterfully. Theatrically released in November, Roma is a triumph and a gift to film fans in both its greatness and its availability, being the first great film nearly immediately available to all audiences via streaming on Netflix by early December. I hope Roma blazes a new trail for art films and prestige pictures in that they do not need to waste time and effort on limited releases when they can just instantly open in every home in the world.
1. Avengers: Infinity War/Black Panther – Is this cheating? I don’t think so. If so, then Avengers: Infinity War is my official pick for best film of the year. That being said, these two films, released only two months apart (February and April) combine to form the best cinematic experience of the year. Black Panther serves as the model for how these stand alone superhero films can work. Vibrant new characters branching off of a known entity, widening the scope of the universe without cheap references to previous installments, oh and a kick-ass soundtrack. The character Black Panther is the least interesting thing about the movie Black Panther, and that’s saying something. It also effectively serves as a nice palate cleanse before jumping right back into the fight with Infinity War. Avengers: Infinity War is the best of the three Avengers films, just barely edging out the original. The immenseness of the stakes in this film are only rivaled by the vastness of its scope. Everything you loved about TheAvengers is here in this third film along with the vast epic nature of a Star Wars film. The Russos and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely flawlessly balance the top-heavy cast by somehow giving us more than we expected of our favorite characters and still leaving us wanting more. Here we are 10 years into this MCU thing, and not only has it not lost any steam, for the first time, one (or two) of these films has actually topped my list as the best of the year!
So there you have it. And if you did not catch on to the ongoing trend in my countdown of listing the release dates for these films, go back and take a look. Most of them were released during the summer months or before. Those released in the fall/winter were either released early fall or available for streaming at home. One of my major criticisms this time of year is the onslaught of limited releases trying to vie for awards consideration only to release wide after the new year. This year, that list is much smaller, the main culprit being The Favourite. It is great to see production companies realizing that great movies can make money all year round and still be remembered come awards time. In fact, as of the release of this post, eight of the films I have listed in my top ten are up for at least one Golden Globe nomination. We’ll see if Oscar recognizes this trend as well when nominations are announced January 14th.
I refuse to rank these because there’s not real quantifiable way to determine which is truly worse than the next. Just call it a tie.
Venom – The lobster scene is the one where I scratched my head and then realized, I’m watching a terrible movie.
50 Shades Freed – Congratulations! The third (and hopefully final) installment of this mess of a series makes it a perfect sweep. All three of these films have made my “Worst of the year” list for their respective years. Not one could scrape by as just passable or forgettable. They all are equally terrible.
Red Sparrow – I still don’t know what happened in this movie. Mindlessly silly and needlessly complicated, Red Sparrow takes the “girl on fire” and douses her flame in a boring, confusing espionage thriller with cardboard performances and lazy production value.
Screenwriters: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Cast: Not Ant Man, not Hawkeye…everybody else is in there somewhere, and Josh Brolin
Is it the biggest movie ever? As of “press time,” the box office for Avengers: Infinity War is about to cross the $1 B mark, making it potentially the fastest movie to $1 B ever. But the real question is, is it the best Marvel movie ever? The short answer is no, but it’s in the top 5!
Avengers: Infinity War is the mega-anticipated culmination of 10 years of Marvel Studio films. It was originally billed as simply a part 1 of a 2 part third installment to the Avengers franchise; however last summer, Marvel backed away from that idea, simply naming this film Avengers: Infinity War. A wise move, as Infinity War is a complete film, and while we know an untitled fourth Avengers film will be released next May, calling this a “part 1,” would do nothing but add a stigma to what it accomplishes independently in the genre.
“Infinity War” refers to a conflict that has been brewing since the first Avengers film opened back in 2012. Essentially, when the universe was created, 6 powerful gems were scattered throughout the universe, and if one were to possess all six, that he or she would essentially be an all knowing overlord to the entire universe. Each of the stones has been referenced one way or another in various Marvel films, and the being who seeks to obtain them all has also had his story woven throughout these films (mostly in post credit sequences). His name is Thanos (Josh Brolin), and when Avengers: Infinity War opens, he has acquired a magic gauntlet that has been forged precisely to be adorned by all six stones. So, why does he want them? Assuming that Thanos’s reputation does not precede him, he believes that there has to be balance between life and death and currently “life” is in excess, so in order bring balance into to universe he plans to essentially kill half of the universe. Now for such a huge task Thanos needs god like power, and the one who holds the infinity gauntlet with 6 gems embedded in it will have god like powers. Hence he needs all the 6 infinity stones.
This sounds like a job for the Avengers, and it would be except, if you remember last time we saw them, they were not getting along so great. The “Civil War” has effectively disbanded the Avengers, and while they are all doing their best to protect Earth from interplanetary attacks, no one was expecting one of this magnitude to happen anytime soon. Thanos is coming, and has band of cronies are searching the universe high and low for each infinity stone, two of which happen to be currently located on Earth.
That’s the conflict in a nutshell, but the film is epically bigger than this simple explanation leads you to believe. Like all of Marvel’s best films, Infinity War is a careful mix of action, adventure, humor, and style. Wisely, producer Kevin Feige tapped the director duo responsible for the best Marvel film ever, Captain America: The Winter Soldier to direct Avengers: Infinity War. Anthony and Joe Russo also directed the excellent Captain America: Civil War, so they were more than ready to tackle a true Avengers film. Now the news on this film was all over the place from, “there are too many characters,” to, “they’re all going to die,” to “this is all a ploy to get our money,” and the reality is that, none of this is true. Remember back in 2012 when Marvel’s Avengers came out, and everyone was saying, “how in the world will they balance a film with all six Avengers in it?” Look how that turned out. Now here we are six years later, 13 films further, and predictably with twice as many main characters, but no damage is done. In fact, I wager Avengers: Infinity War is the best of the three Avengers films, just barely edging out the original. The immenseness of the stakes in this film are only rivaled by the vastness of its scope. Everything you loved about The Avengers is here in this third film along with the vast epic nature of a Star Wars film. The Russos and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely flawlessly balance the top-heavy cast by somehow giving us more than we expected of our favorite characters and still leaving us wanting more. Furthermore, with a running time of 2 hours and 29 minutes, this film lines right up with the running times of each of the previous Avengers films. Additionally, in a film about hidden gems, Avengers: Infinity War is full of hidden little Easter Eggs for the film franchise lover, the comic book reader, and even the Arrested Development watcher that give the film a heavily re-watchable appeal.
Still the fact that I just wrote a movie review without mentioning any of the central characters specifically, save for Thanos, shows you that this is no kind of character study. And while a film with this much going on can not match up to the strength of the more genre-bending, cinematic, and inspired entries in the franchise, Infinity War does offer some emotional punch that few Marvel films have managed to provide, allowing it to just barely outshine its predecessors. Yet another feather in the MCU cap, and another crowd-pleasing and laudable summer blockbuster. A-
Avengers: Infinity War is rated PG-13 with a running time of 2 hours and 29 minutes. Stay until the end for one post-credits sequence that sets up at least 2 upcoming 2019 MCU films.
The Rundown – An Updated List of the People’s Critic’s Rankings of the MCU Films
It’s Oscars Week! That’s right, this Sunday, March 4th at 8:00 PM EST, Jimmy Kimmel will host the 90th Academy Awards. This is always an exciting time for The People’s Critic, and as always, I welcome you to join in on the fun by filling out an official People’s Critic Oscar Predictions ballot (use this link if on mobile). I have made my predictions, so now it’s your turn.
The ballot below contains the nominees for all 24 categories! On Oscar night, feel free to review the Summary of responses page for live updates on how your picks are doing, as well as view the live analytics (available only after you’ve submitted a response) for each category throughout the week!