Film

I haven’t seen every movie released in 2019. Hell, I haven’t even seen most of the ones that I wanted to see, much less the majority of those up for awards. I live in a fairly small town, we’re lucky to get anything even mildly obscure, and when those films show up it’s usually for a week’s run with weird showtimes. So I’ve got some blind spots. Ideally, I’d be writing up my “Faves of 2019” list sometime in… July? Once I’ve had a chance to take most of it in. But here’s a few I caught that struck a chord.


Sound & Fury (Netflix)

It probably would have been easy for Sturgill Simpson to keep laying down modern country classics and stacking bank, but instead he’s taken his last couple of albums and done some truly amazing things that defy categorization and pigeonholing. As a long time fan of his music as well as his iconoclasm, I still couldn’t have possibly predicted that not only would he delve into deep-fried synth rock for this newest record, he’d also commission a brilliant multi-part anime film to accompany the entire album. While it’s occasionally a little loose in conveying its narrative, it’s mesmerizing in its intricacy and beauty. Enjoy a few cold ones, fire up the Netflix and take Stu’s advice: “lay back, let it happen, remember to breathe….”


The Lighthouse (A24)

Brilliantly unsettling meditation on masculinity, the Sisyphean drudgery of existence, and penises. You can practically smell the seamen. The Dickhouse. It’s fucking great. Watch it.


Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis in the film JOJO RABBIT. Photo by Kimberley French. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight)

I’ve seen a lot of people treating this film as though it were meant to be a twee Wes Anderson piece, a shallow but quirky meditation on father figures, first loves, and abandonment — a curio cabinet of elaborate costuming and set pieces, appalling for its flippant and lighthearted use of Naziism as the backdrop. I think that reading roundly misses the point and the broader context granted by our current political climate. Honestly, I found it had more in common thematically with Pasolini’s Salò than it does with any of Anderson’s oeuvre.


Knives Out (Lionsgate)

The most fun I’ve had at the theater in a long time. The “whodunit” may merely be a vehicle for some of the best character acting of the modern era, but I’m okay with that. It’s all smartly done, well-paced, and a joy to behold. It’s astounding what is possible when you give brilliant performers the room and material they need to flex their skills.


Shazam! (Warner Bros)

I’m certain that in the era of DC film we currently inhabit, Shazam! will be considered an outlier. It’s a shame, because in many ways it’s the only thing DC has done right with their live action films as of late. It’s the first to truly embrace the colorful and often goofy nature of the source material in a way that’s fun and entertaining without all the grimdark grit and muted palettes of its contemporaries. Hopefully somebody in the boardroom is paying attention, this is what we need to see more of.


Midsommar (A24)

A24 continues it’s hot streak of marketing introspective transgressive horror to cretins who just want to shit their pants at some jump scares. While I loved the film, I didn’t love sharing the theater experience with people who giggled at the more disturbing moments because they simply didn’t have any other way to process what they were seeing. But, that’s the rub of arthouse cinema being featured at the multiplex and I’m also happy just to have been able to see it on the big screen. I hate how snobby this take reads, but given this experience holds true to every A24 horror film I’ve seen in the theater, I’m standing by it.


The Babu Frik Movie (Lucasfilm/Bad Robot)

Apparently there’s a lot of controversy about how well or poorly this film wrapped up a nine episode saga, how it may have played to internet outrage in favor of telling a consistent and worthwhile story, how it might have delivered on fan service instead of meaningful character building, etc. I think all of this loses sight of what’s truly important: Babu Frik, the single most electrifying character to ever appear on-screen in Star Wars history, making his iconic debut. HeyHeeeeeyyy, baby!

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