Published on January 14th, 2020 | by Craig Silliphant0
The Feedback Society’s Best and Worst Movies of 2019
It’s that time of year again — the best and worst movies of 2019. Some of our favourite film critics and movie lovers weigh in!
Every January we grab some of the film writers and cinephiles in our orbit to look at the best and worst movies of the year we just finished. It’s always a very interesting list, because tastes can be so diverse. It’s also fascinating to see which movies show up on a lot of lists. Most of all, it’s a great way to get recommendations for films you haven’t seen or may not have heard of.
It was actually a great year for film, both for big mainstream blockbusters and smaller movies that don’t get as much attention as they deserve. It’s also important to note that it sometimes takes time for better films to make their way to most of us. At least, the ones that don’t live in a major city. So keep that in mind when you wonder why Nathan hasn’t seen Uncut Gems yet, which will probably end up being his favourite of the year long after this list is published.
So we asked everyone for their favourite movie of the year, any honourable mentions (so they could barf out a bunch of titles they loved), and the worst movie they saw. Enjoy!
SaskExpo, My 92.1 Regina
Favourite Movie of 2019: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
My favourite was Quentin Tarantino’s fairytale version of Hollywood during the Manson family murders. I was so excited to see Tarantino’s storytelling mature a bit, finding ways to move us through the story without relying too much on graphic violence. Having a Tarantino movie fill me with hope was the best surprise I had at the multiplex this year. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt have great chemistry, and Pitt’s Cliff Booth was the best character I saw in 2019 (strange to say about someone who may or may not have murdered his wife). Quentin always gives the audience credit, and the more rare that becomes, the more I appreciate it.
Honourable Mention(s): 2019 was a great time at the theatre, and while there weren’t too many that changed the game, I still had a hard time choosing my favourites. Honourable mentions to Midsommar, Jojo Rabbit, Ford v Ferrari, Shazam!, Booksmart, The Art of Self Defence, John Wick 3, Knives Out, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, Fighting with my Family, Little Women and Ready or Not. I even got to watch the 1974 Black Christmas on the big screen, thanks to Dark Bridges and the Broadway theatre, which was so much fun. Disney rolled out the Star Wars and Marvel tentpoles, of course, but I find talking about those now is a bit like doing a food review for the Big Mac. They’re pretty good, but we all know what we’re getting at this point.
The Worst Movie of 2019: Glass
The worst of the year was easily Glass, from M. Night Shyamalan. I got my hopes up after being pleasantly surprised by Split in 2017, thinking we might get an inventive and satisfying conclusion to the Unbreakable story, but what we got was let down. Somehow all three main characters were underused (which is still a mystery to me), the story was a mess, and there wasn’t an ounce of tension to be found. We’ll always have Signs, M. Night, we’ll always have Signs.
The Feedback Society
Favourite Movie of 2019: It’s Complicated…
Is it bad form to choose a film I have yet to see? These iron-fisted deadlines of Craig’s, along with a burgeoning sense of guilt after every illegal download, sometimes make choosing a ‘best-of’ over here in Saskatchewan, in early January, feel somewhat premature.
So, in lieu of making a decision, and rather than just copying Armond White’s list every year, here’s a handful of nonsensical thoughts about films I liked this year: Parasite will probably be on top of most lists, and deservedly so. I have nothing to add, aside from the flooding scene (get to higher ground) being one of the most brilliant set-pieces I’ve seen since the oil-rig fire in There Will Be Blood. Kantemir Balagov, a 27-year-old Russian kid, made a film called Beanpole, which is as accomplished as second-films get. Felt a little like something between an early Tarkovsky and a Kieslowski film. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood made me proud that our collective cinema child, Quentin, has finally grown up. Young Ahmed was a reminder that the Dardenne Brothers are still among the best living filmmakers, and with all due respect to Midsommar (which I also loved), it gave me the most terrifying thing I’ve seen this year. Finally, The Irishman was great and I look forward to finishing it sometime before 2021.
Honourable Mentions: Pain and Glory, The Lighthouse, Bacurau, Marriage Story, Midsommar, Monos, Too Old to Die Young.
Worst of the Year: It: Chapter II
Did Wes Anderson come out with anything this year? If so, that. If not, It: Chapter 2
The Feedback Society
Favourite Movie of 2019: Parasite
Bong Joon Ho is the ultimate genre-defier, and one of my favourite active directors. His comic mystery/thriller keeps the audience entertained while not-so-subtly commenting on the modern class struggle. While other writers and directors try to make their marks by conforming to one style of film, Bong Joon Ho changes it up each time. In 2019, he made us forget why we even bother with film-style labels. Kang-ho Song is the glue in this excellent cast, once again playing a lead character that’s easy to love despite having very few redeeming qualities. Look back to The Host and Memories of Murder to see this excellent director/actor pairing bringing out the best in each other.
Honorable Mention: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Midsommar, The Lighthouse
Worst Movie of 2019: Avengers Endgame
I really don’t get why people tread all the way through this crap and throw billions of dollars at these franchise donkeys. I gave it an honest try and regretted every moment.
The Feedback Society (Toronto), Masters Program – Cinema Studies, University of Toronto
Favourite Movie of 2019: A Hidden Life
Malick returns to form here, crafting an extremely moving and assured portrait of an Austrian conscientious objector during WWII. The film feels almost documentary-like in its narrative simplicity; Malick is more than happy to chart the devastating course of Franz and his family’s hardships as Nazism sweeps through their homeland. But that’s what makes it so appropriate for Malick as an auteur. The history comes to life in such an intimate and moving way through his lyrical style. I found it remarkable just how much momentum it accrued as it went on, the poetic, sweeping montage never feeling frustratingly obtuse like some other his other recent work. His style brings to life an emotional experience of the world in ways history books can never capture. To me, that is an unconventional but truly moving way to capture a historical moment. Theirs is a hidden life, indeed, but one whose beauty is done such justice.
Honorable Mention: Parasite
Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite is the talk of the town among cinephiles this year, and rightfully so. He marries his unique concoction of genre elements with a razor sharp social satire that somehow manages to be culturally specific and universally relatable at the same time. I’m still enamored with Ari Aster’s Midsommar for its dark satire and gigantic, multi-dimensional vision. We need more experiential tour-de-forces like that. I also want to shout out Gerwig’s Little Women, Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and The Safdies’ Uncut Gems.
Worst Movie of 2019: Yesterday
I haven’t had a chance to get properly drunk and sit through Cats, yet. So, I guess I’ll go with a movie that was actually generally liked by critics and audiences: Yesterday. Just about the most soulless selling out of not only a great band but an entire generation. Everything about it is rushed, hackneyed, and downright offensive to anyone who truly appreciates what made the band great. It insists that you can regurgitate any great song in any era and have it retain all of its cultural significance. I disagree; I think what makes the Beatles great is specifically the ever so timely way that rock music, the youth movement, and counter culture coalesced. It also just beats its protagonists’ one flaw like a dead horse in such a lazy way.
I also found Bombshell to be a downright repugnant vindication of a woman who willfully participated in all the lies and ideological manipulations of FOX NEWS. All so she can pivot the brand of Megan Kelly into a one-dimensional caricature of feminism. Bleh.
Punch TV (Shaw Spotlight), Punch Radio (CFCR), @HankandKelso
Favourite Movie of 2019: Portrait of a Lady on Fire
My selection for the best film of 2019 is Portrait of a Lady on Fire starring Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel. Directed by Céline Sciamma, this eighteenth century love story is both breathtaking and heartbreaking. Marianne is a young French painter who is commissioned to create a portrait of soon-to-be-married Héloïse without her knowledge, painting her likeness by candlelight. At the start of the film Héloïse began experiencing her first taste of freedom after leaving a convent. After meeting Marianne, Héloïse began experiencing her first taste of romantic love as well. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a powerful period piece featuring a glimpse into a world where freedom is hard to come by for the two main characters, who make the most of the short time they have together.
Honourable Mentions: Booksmart, Jojo Rabbit, Midsommar, Once Upon a time in Hollywood, Uncut Gems, and the first 61% of Yesterday.
Worst Movie of 2019: The Fanatic
Obviously, the worst film of 2019 is The Fanatic, starring John Travolta. This film is written and directed by the one and only Fred Durst who wrote, “I can’t talk too long. I gotta poo,” but I really want to call out all those involved in two other films. John needed the money and Fred didn’t expect anyone to see the film but shame should fall upon everyone who worked on The Kitchen and Hellboy. You know who you are. Those films should have been far superior. I’m not angry but I’m very disappointed.
The Feedback Society (Regina)
Favourite Movie of 2019: Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood
With a plant and a payoff as good as anything since Indy opened up the Well of Souls 35 years ago, one could argue that Hollywood was a punchline set-up as long as Norm MacDonald’s famous moth joke. But the in-between is filled with tension, Tarantino’s meticulously hand-picked bric-a-brac, a predictably killer soundtrack, and surrealism that burns slowly, much like Cliff Booth’s LSD laced cigarette. It’s a love letter to a Hollywood fading in the past that shows us (again) how masterfully QT can define the best of modern script writing and filmmaking while simultaneously spurning the corporate traps of Tinsel Town that would reject this movie from any other filmmaker. A big movie for all the little movies out there that deserve this amount of attention.
Honourable Mentions: Booksmart, Dolemite is My Name, Knives Out, Uncut Gems, Us, Parasite. The Lighthouse – come for the eerie foghorn, stay for the isolation and hysterical trauma. Jojo Rabbit – How good does a movie have to be to make the phrase Heil Hitler funny, to let us laugh at things we were never supposed to laugh about? The Irishman – this was the hardest one of the year for me – one of the best and one of the worst. I know it was a delicious slow-burn of top drama acting (Joe Pesci was an ice blue flame), but the de-aging process didn’t work for shit and it made me confused. How old is he supposed to be here? Forty-five? Because that looks exactly like an 80-year-old Robert DeNiro beating up a store clerk. It doesn’t look chilling, it looks like you should have made this movie twenty years ago. A swan song for Scorsese and his crew, but not necessarily for the audience it was meant to fulfill. We wanted his last one to be Abbey Road but we got Let It Be.
Worst movie of 2019: Primal
I don’t know what the worst part of this movie was for sure — maybe the lazy story, perhaps the senseless, helpless characters, possibly that weird kid watching his dad die and taking it so well. But something happened to Famke Janssen’s face that makes me think they had to do re-shoots that involved a body double in a Famke Janssen mask and then made it worse by trying to fix it with some Dollarama CGI. That’s how bad this script, originally optioned in 1995, was to work with. Not the good kind of terrible Nic Cage movie, just the terrible kind of terrible Nic Cage movie. You can find more tension and character development on an episode of Paint That House. Straight to VHS, this pile of nonsense.
Filmmaker, The Feedback Society (Vancouver), CFOX Radio Vancouver
Favourite movie of 2019: Parasite
My pick for best film of the year is one title that has not been lacking in the kudos or praise departments, and for good reason; Parasite is the most pitch-perfect piece of pure entertainment this year that also digs its claws in with a timely message. Director Bong Joon-Ho has exploded thanks to the control, creativity, and sense of focus exhibited in each frame. This is an immaculately constructed film where every shot feels dialed in to perfection. Funny, sad, heartbreaking and humbling — nothing else infested my mind and soul in 2019 quite like Parasite.
Honorable Mentions: Two intimate portraits of men holding tight and staying true to their inner selves while society around them cracks and crumbles in different ways: Terrence Malick’s masterpiece A Hidden Life tells the tale of real-life conscientious objector Franz Jagerstatter (August Diehl), who defied Nazi orders with mortal consequences. Joe Talbot directed his breakout feature The Last Black Man in San Francisco with sensitivity and a finely-tuned celebration of how and why the things we obsess over matter to us as much more than just surface materialism. Also: The Lighthouse, The Irishman, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Rocketman, Hustlers, Uncut Gems, and Doctor Sleep.
Worst movie of the year: Cats
It’s not like Cats needs one more guy on the internet expressing his distaste with it, but oh my god – what the hell happened here? It’s hard to even contemplate the film on a deeper level when every shot just hurts your eyes and ears so damn much. The music is terrible and the visuals are stomach-churning. The much-maligned VFX aimed high but failed miserably, leaving us with character faces totally detached from the rest of their bodies. It’s a plotless waste of resources and I’d rather spend two hours cleaning a litter box than watching this again.
Filmmaker, Roxy Theatre
It was a great year for art films, with a lot of them getting proper recognition and even good box office. But I’d like to highlight a number of deserving films that passed under the radar, in some cases not getting theatrical releases at all.
Favourite Movies of 2019: Vox Lux & Her Smell
Stylistically divergent variations on a theme, these films each follow a female pop star in a moment of drug and trauma-fueled crisis. Both feature exceptional lead performances (Raffey Cassidy/Natalie Portman and Elisabeth Moss respectively) as well as stellar supporting turns, and each allow musical performance to play out in real time rather than merely being a pretext for the drama (Moss’ cover of ‘Heaven’ by Bryan Adams, performed in its entirety as a single shot, is especially notable).
Cinematically, though they each effectively forge a unique vision, Vox Lux takes a more restrained and aloof approach highlighting director Brady Corbet’s ken for the Euro art house, complete with bold choices in editing and a droll voice over by Willem Dafoe, while Her Smell goes for a more spontaneous, visceral approach with immersive camera work and Altmanesque ensemble set pieces. As well, Vox Lux places the singer’s story within a decades-spanning cultural sphere, touching on terrorism, school shootings, and the vapidity of pop culture; Her Smell is just as adept and stirring while simply plumbing the depths of the personal. It’s also striking how esteemed curmudgeon Alex Ross Perry’s relentless dive into the depths of a particular darkness can result in his least nihilistic film.
Honorable mentions: Burning, The Souvenir, Ash Is The Purest White, Long Day’s Journey into Night, Monos, In Fabric, High Life, Support the Girls, The Day After, Motherless Brooklyn, Izzie Gets the Fuck Across Town, Hold the Dark, Birds of Passage, The Happy Prince, Columbus, The Art of Self Defense, Western…
Rawlco Radio, Punch TV (Shaw Spotlight), Punch Radio (CFCR), The Feedback Society (Saskatoon), CTV, Global Television, The Saskatoon Star Phoenix, CBC
Favourite Movie of 2019: Parasite
I don’t know that I can say much more about this movie than everyone already has, but it was a brilliant look at class and family, with hilarious dark humour throughout, and several twists and turns that are a lot of fun. I had slight issues with the movie and I’m definitely torn between the order of my Top 5 (more on that in a moment), but overall, I think Parasite was the right mix of fun with the kind of serious fillum-making that drove the artform forward this year.
Honourable Mentions: Wow, there was a lot this year. The rest of my top five in order were: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (some big flaws, but even bigger fun), Midsommar (not for everyone, but visceral filmmaking at its best), Jojo Rabbit (thrilled to see it get a best picture nomination), The Vast of Night (with a stronger ending, this might have been higher up in my Top 5). And the rest of my top 10 in order were: Uncut Gems, Extra Ordinary, The Irishmen, The Art of Self-Defense, and to throw one in for the big multiplexers, Spider-man: Far From Home.
The rest weren’t in order, but every time I saw something smart or really fun, I put it a note in my phone. They were as follows: Lords of Chaos, High Life, Happy Death Day 2 U (these movies are better than they have any right to be), Butt Boy, Marriage Story, Ready or Not, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Knives Out, John Wick 3, The Oath, and The Lighthouse.
Worst Movie of 2019: It: Chapter 2
This was a Sophie’s Choice between Wine Country and It: Chapter 2. Wine Country has an amazing cast of hilarious women, but it’s like the movie was written on a napkin while they were drunk. It’s probably a worse movie than It: Chapter 2, which does have some redeemable moments. However, there’s so much wrong with Shit: Chapter Poo, and it’s so fucking long, that its sewer stink overpowers Wine Country. So overall, I spent more time having a bad time at the movies with It than I did with Wine Country. Here’s my review of Shit: Chapter Poo if you want more insight into what I hated about it. I didn’t see Fanatic or Cats but I almost want to watch them to see if it’s worse than these two uncut turds.
Thanks to everyone for taking the time to share their picks with us! We hope you’ve found something cool to watch!