When thinking about the movies of each year, I always like to think about what happened throughout the cinematic year. I take a look back at all the movies that I saw over the year, as well as think about major news headlines and stories that broke during the year, and I reflect. What did we learn? What did we see? Is there a new trend brewing? What shook cinema this year? Here are the things I learned and took away from the movie year that was 2019.
5 – JORDAN PEELE AND ARI ASTER SOLIDIFY THEIR GREATNESS
- Two of the most impressive debut films this decade, and maybe this century, belong to Jordan Peele and Ari Aster. Peele, known mostly for his sketch-comedy show Key & Peele, shook the cinematic landscape with 2017’s Get Out, a social-horror-satire that went on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and winning one award for Best Original Screenplay. Aster made his debut in 2018 with Hereditary, my personal favorite movie of 2018 and one of the best horror movies of the decade. It’s always difficult for any director to follow-up masterpieces like these, especially newer directors like Peele and Aster, but the two proved they are legitimate talents in 2019, with Peele giving us Us and Aster giving us Midsommar. Both films are very different from their debuts, with Us looking at classism and how our worst enemy is ourselves, and Midsommar being a breakup story hidden beneath the depths of pagan horror, but they show that Peele and Aster are true masters behind the camera. Both have a keen visual eye and make movies that are rich in themes and great performances. These are two of the most exciting directors to watch going in to the new decade.
4 – SUPERSTAR RETURNS
- 2019 was a great year for comebacks. There were a number of actors over the last few years who many had written off as once-great actors who were now stuck in a permanent rut of trash movies. These actors were ones who we loved and who gave great, awards-worthy performances, but ones who hit some tough times. I’m talking about actors like Will Smith, Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, and even Shia LaBeouf. Smith had a monster year, starring three movies, all of which very different, such as the box office smash Aladdin, where Smith played Genie, Gemini Man, where he got back to his action roots in a true cinematic experience, and Spies in Disguise, where Smith uses his voice talents to play a spy who gets turned into a bird. Murphy starred in Dolemite is My Name, Sandler Uncut Gems, and LaBeouf wrote and starred in Honey Boy, all three performances are winning awards across critics groups around the world and all of which could make some noise come Oscar season. It’s great so see these actors back to giving great performances we had seen from them before and only makes me more excited for what they have in-store going forward.
3 – ANG LEE AND 120 FRAMES-PER-SECOND
- Gemini Man was the most ambitious movie of 2019 and the definition of a game-changer. Oscar-winning director Ang Lee took a screenplay that had been floating throughout Hollywood since the 90’s and decided to use it as a vessel for his latest experiment. Lee’s last film, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, was shot at 120 frames-per-second, five times more than the standard 24 frames-per-second. This was something that had never been tried before on a feature length film, but the world wasn’t ready for it and the film made almost zero impact. Lee, as determined as ever, gave the 120 fps another try with Gemini Man and the result was much better and really a giant leap in this technology. With a better script, better acting, and figuring out the mistakes that were made in Billy Lynn, Lee made a jaw-dropping action film that showed us what this technology is capable of. The reviews for the film were rough and the box office was a little low, but with such a big breakthrough in this technology, I really hope Lee and other filmmakers take the risk and try to perfect it. Gemini Man is a game-changing film that will be remembered for trying to change cinema.
2 – ANOTHER WIDE OPEN OSCAR RACE
- After the expansion to ten nominees in 2009, the Oscar raced seemed relatively the same. There were usually Best Picture frontrunners and those frontrunners ended up with the win at the end of day, despite some stiff competition (see The King’s Speech, The Artist, Argo). But since 2015, when Spotlight prevailed over heavyweights like The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Big Short, the Oscar race has been a toss up between a few films every year. 2019 is no different, and personally, I see this as a three horse race between Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, and Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, with Greta Gerwig’s Little Women and James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari being dark horses. The big question going into this year’s Oscar race is going to be if this is the year the Academy embraces Netflix or a foreign film. If they do, it’s a true toss-up, and with preferential balloting, anyone could take it. But if not and they stick to their old ways, it looks like it could be a good Oscar season for Mr. Tarantino.
1 – BIG DISNEY FINALES AND THE FUTURE
- As we reach the end of the decade, we also reached the end of two cinematic stories. 2019 saw the finale of the Avengers saga with Avengers: Endgame and the latest Star Wars trilogy with Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. Undoubtedly two of the biggest and most anticipated movies of the year, both films finished off these stories in grand style. Though I personally like one more than the other (Endgame did it right, Rise of Skywalker missed the mark), the more intriguing storyline beyond the box office totals and critic ratings is what is going to happen to these franchises beyond this. Both properties are owned by Disney, a company that banks on sure-things, and yet neither property has a lot of sure things going for it. For Marvel, I guess Black Panther II is a sure-thing, but beyond that, there are a lot of questionable movies on the docket, like The Eternals, a Doctor Strange Sequel, the fourth Thor, and a number of shows. Where will this universe go and what is the next big storyline they are going to try and tell? Will the X-Men and Fantastic Four come into play at any time? Where and when will Blade come into to play? As for Star Wars, the saga is over, what are they going to do next? Expand the universe? What would that look like? With the recent success of the Disney+ show The Mandalorian, is the franchise bound for more of a television run? Even with these question marks next to two beloved franchises, this is an exciting time for them, as these films are no longer guarantees and must rely on strong stories and filmmaking to succeed.
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