2019 was an interesting year in film (both in the theater and streaming). There were some really great films I saw and some meh. But I wanted to highlight my favorite films of the year. So here they are (in no particular order):
This was actually a set of three short animated films from Studio Ponoc (the same studio that did Mary and the Witch’s Flower) but I would put it on my list. They each told their own story (one about two young siblings trying to survive without their parents, a kid with a food allergy trying to live a normal life, an seemingly invisible man trying to navigate the world) but had that theme woven throughout of being heroic in lives that on the surface don’t seem pretty heroic.
A documentary on the Apollo 11 mission leading up to, the actual mission and the return home. I saw this film in IMAX (which was the best way to see it) and it did not disappoint. I loved how the film needed no voice over narration. The footage spoke for itself and brought to life what the mission was all about and the impact it had and continues to have on us.
This animated film was so much fun (and pretty original too). It’s about a young girl named June who creates a theme park through imagination called Wonder Park and finds out it’s a real place but is in complete disrepair and it’s up to her and some of her imagined creations coming to life to help restore the park to its glory.
Based on a manga of the same name, Okko’s Inn is the story of a young girl named Okko who loses both her parents in a car accident and is sent to live with her grandmother at an old inn. While there she’s able to see spirits and interact with them. She also starts working at the inn and through this learns more about herself and her family. I loved the animation and the story.
The Sun is Also a Star
Based on a book of the same name, this story tells a love story between two unlikely people over the span of a day. I loved the story and the cinematography.
The Best of Enemies
Based on the true story of two people who were polar opposites living in Durham, North Carolina in the 1970s: C.P Ellis, a local KKK president and Ann Atwater, an organizer within the local black community. When the issue of school integration came to the forefront in Durham the two were put together on a committee to work through potential solutions. Through this, there developed a friendship and the film shows how their lives (and the lives of the people in Durham are changed). I feel like this film is getting overlooked for awards season but it is deserving of some recognition.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
The next film in the Legendary Monsterverse series, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was all that a kaiju fan like me could want. Godzilla taking care of business. The first appearance in American film of Mothra and King Ghidorah Lots of action and callbacks to old Toho films. If I had to say the film I was most hyped to see, this would be on the very short list and it didn’t disappoint for me.
Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw
A spinoff of the Fast and the Furious franchise, Hobbs and Shaw was definitely fun and entertaining with two characters who were polar opposites and who seemed to get paired up more often than not.
Blinded by the Light
Based on a true story, Blinded by the Light told the story of a young immigrant in Britain in the 80s who latches onto the music of Bruce Springsteen. I loved the integration of music into the story and loved how it was in essence a soundtrack throughout the film.
Also based on a true story, Brian Banks told the story of a young man wrongly accused of assault and who served time and after he got out fought to clear his name of the crime. I knew the story going in and it was portrayed very honestly and spoke to the heart of the true story.
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Based on the book of the same name, the story is about a dog named Enzo and his life with his human Denny and family. It had a lot of elements I love: sports (with racing), family, a dog, compelling story. I thoroughly good film.
After the Wedding
This film is a remake of a 2006 Danish film of the same name, After the Wedding tells the story of a young woman who is working in an orphanage in India who gets a call from New York to meet with a donor about money for the orphanage. When she gets to New York she is invited to a wedding and at that wedding encounters an old lover, who turns out to be married to the executive at the company who is giving the donation to the orphanage. To me, this is the underrated film of the year. The performances are tremendous particularly of Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore.
A fun animated film that tells the story of Yi, a young girl living in a big city in China who encounters Everest, a Yeti on the run from scientists and a collector and who wants to get home to Mt. Everest. Yi along with Jin and Peng, set off to help return Everest to his home while also taking in the sights of China. I loved the story and animation in this film. Such a great and heartwarming film.
A retelling of sorts of the origin story of one of the most well known super villains, Joker is in one word: intense. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is intense. The cinematography is intense. The score at times is intense. It is simply an intense film.
The Current War – The Director’s Cut
Based on the story of three men who helped changed America through their work in bringing electricity to the masses: Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. I loved the performances here with Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon and Nicholas Hoult. They were tremendous and the story was well told and compelling.
Based on the true story of the events leading up to and the actual Battle of Midway, Midway was an epic war film. Though I prefer the 1970s version better than this one. I did enjoy a lot of the performances and the visuals were very stunning.
Ford v Ferrari
Based on the true story of the big rivalry between Ford and Ferrari and the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, Ford v Ferrari to me is my film of the year. Matt Damon gave his best performance as Carroll Shelby. Christian Bale is tremendous as Ken Miles. The visuals are stunning The story is compelling. Overall, this is my film of the year.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
“Inspired” by a true story (weird but that’s what it says in the film) of a Esquire reporter and the interview and budding relationship that took place between him and Fred Rogers. Tim Hanks was tremendous as Mr. Rogers and the film was so emotional. There were moments throughout were I was welling up with tears because it was so moving.
The Aeronauts is the story of two people who in the late 1800s set about to break the world flying altitude record in a balloon. This was such a fun film. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones were great in their roles.
A new adaptation to the classic book, Little Women tells the story of the March family and the highs and lows they experience growing up together. I loved the film. I thought it did a great job of telling the story and making it its own while not losing sight of what makes the story real and compelling.