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Top Five for 2019


Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood

Pain and Glory


The Two Popes


Honorable Mention: Us, Star Wars Episode IX


It's not fair to compare this movie to *Bohemian Rhapsody,* but who ever said I was going to be fair?  Plus I think the filmmakers of *Rocketman* would be fine with the comparison, because I'm saying it was so much BETTER.  On the one hand it was more imaginative, more fanciful, but on the other end it felt more true to the real story.  Taron Egerton was so fantastic as Elton John, he totally won me over.  Plus he really owned those off-the-hook costumes, he was wearing them, they were never for a moment wearing him.  And it made a big difference that he did his own singing.


The most hotly awaited movie of the year, and such a joy.  Oh how I loved that movie, and loved it even more the second and third time.  Tarantino really packs in the moments in his movies - - often, when I watched it the third time, a scene would start and I'd say, "Oh I love this part!"  It felt like that happened about every ten minutes.


The latest Almodóvar movie.  It didn't have the oomph of his best movies, but his recent films have had more depth and grace than his earlier films.  It was so meaningful to see Antonio Banderas playing a version of Almodóvar himself, and it was so meaningful to see a love story between two middle-aged men, done with tenderness and passion.


The best movie of the year, by far, head and shoulders above everything else.  So original, so surprising, so unexpected.  I love the feeling of being in the presence of a master, and this movie had that in the biggest way.


Such a sweet little movie, with a stellar performance by Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis and a career-capping performance by Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict.  It had a gentle, wry tone, and the moments of drama had a huge impact.

Honorable Mention


Wow, that movie knocked me out.  It didn't have the social criticism element of *Get Out* but instead it had a creepy fairy tale quality.  I'm a little disappointed to see that my Top Five is made up of five generally male-driven movies, so I'm pleased that *Us* had incredible performances by the two lead female actors: Lupita Nyong'o gave the performance of her career and Elisabeth Moss had my favorite moment at the movies in the whole year, in her little scene when she's looking in the mirror and putting on lipstick.


I really loved it, I felt like it was a fitting ending to the triple trilogy, I felt like it checked off all the boxes in a smooth, satisfying way.


Sharon Tate herself in *Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood.*  Margot Robbie plays Tate in the movie and in one scene she goes to see *The Wrecking Crew,* her movie that was currently in movie theaters.  So we see Robbie as Sharon Tate sitting in a movie theater and watching herself on the screen - - but it's the REAL Sharon Tate we see on the screen.  That made me a little teary the first time I saw it, it was such a sweet tribute to her.


Luke Perry in *Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood.*  Of course Tarantino didn't know that Perry was going to be dead when the movie was released, but it added a special poignancy to his performance.  Tarantino really is the master of writing a great five-minute scene for a middle-aged actor.


Our friends Nick and Tony told me and Richard that the Brooklyn Academy of Music was doing a screening of *Gentlemen Prefer Blondes* this summer and we all got tickets.  Of course I'd seen the movie many times, but what a delight to see it on the big screen in a room full of people.


Clearly the producers of the Oceans franchise chose *Ocean's Eight* for the female-driven reboot because they want to do *Ocean's Nine* and *Ocean's Ten.*  Maybe they'll go all Star Wars on your ass and do *Ocean's Eight Point Four.*  I say this because *Rogue One: A Star Wars Story* was basically *Star Wars Episode Three Point Nine: Rogue One.*


*Macbeth.*  An adaptation of the Shakespeare play directed by the Coen Brothers!  Starring Denzel Washington as Macbeth and Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth.


*The Boys in the Band.*  The cast of the 2018 Broadway production (Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, etc), directed by the Broadway director, Joe Mantello.


*The Prom.*  Based on the campy 2018-19 Broadway musical about washed-up Broadway musical stars going to Middle America to support a lesbian teen who wasn’t allowed to go to the prom.  Starring Meryl Streep, James Corden, Andrew Rannells (again with the Rannells), Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington.  Directed by Ryan Murphy.


*Sunset Boulevard.*  I’ll believe it when I see it - - a movie of the musical, starring Glenn Close.


*Wonder Woman 1984.*  The preview looks so fabulous!


Are we ready for a return of Lindsay Lohan?  Is she ready?  Is she deserving?


Isabelle Huppert in *Greta.*  I saw the preview and went coo coo nutty - - a horror movie with Chloe Grace Moretz being terrorized by Isabelle Huppert, directed by Neil Jordan?  Oh yes, thank you!  At times it felt a bit too much like *Carrie,* especially since Moretz had played Carrie in the 2013 remake, but clearly everyone was having a good time making this movie.  There were plenty of high horror moments, but Huppert showed us that perhaps the most terrifying situation on earth is a middle-aged woman in an upscale restaurant wearing a Chanel suit and losing her sh-t.


The *Downton Abbey* movie was such a profound disappointment.  I was a huge fan of the TV show, so my hopes were high, but the movie was so much of the movie was ill-advised.  The major plot element of the first half of the movie (I don't do spoilers) was completely against the spirit of the TV show, it was shocking to me that no one, in pre-production, said, "Um, I don't think that's a good idea."  But honestly, I will see the next *Downton Abbey* movie.  I'll see the next five *Downton Abbey* movies.


*3 From Hell* was the end of the trilogy that Rob Zombie started with *House of 1,000 Corpses* and *The Devil’s Rejects.*  It was good, but not as good as it should have been.  It didn’t have the transcendent quality that I look for in a truly superior horror movie.  Zombie did work in some of his signature visual beauty, and Sheri Moon Zombie was fantastic as Baby Firefly.


*Booksmart* was so adorable.  I had every intention of seeing it in the theater, since it was starring Beanie Feldstein and I adore her, but I never got around to it.  It was a darling movie, so confident in what it was doing, it totally nailed the coming-of-age genre.


Julia Butters in *Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood.*  One of the greatest child actor performances ever.  Clearly Tarantino knew how to write the role, and how to direct her, but wow, she really delivered.  So cute, so touching, so funny.  I hope she becomes the Jodie Foster of the new millennium.


I really don't want writer/director Bong Joon Ho to get sucked into some random junky Hollywood project, but I would be very happy for Kang-ho Song (who played the father/chauffeur) to get a juicy supporting role in a Hollywood movie.  My friend Katherine told me that Song was in nearly all of Ho's previous movies, so you can bet I'll be making my way through that list.


I loved that Tarantino skipped the opening credits to *Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood* and did such a gentle, graceful job with the closing credits.


Best cameos:

  1. Truman Capote in *Murder By Death.*

  2. Jack Nicholson in *Broadcast News.*

  3. Diane Keaton in *Radio Days.*

  4. Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis in *The Player.*

  5. Brad Pitt and Matt Damon in *Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.*


Sorry Marty, but *The Irishman* was not good.  Either a movie is under three hours long and it's a movie, or it's over three hours long and it's a miniseries.  It was too long, too bloated, too indulgent, too much.  The special effects making the actors look young, that was laughably bad.


*Yesterday.*  A touching love letter to The Beatles, and a treat to hear those so familiar songs done in a new and fresh way.

*Harriet.*  So powerful.  Not particularly original, it felt like a standard issue Hollywood biopic, but the performances made it very special.

*Judy.*  Same criticism as *Harriet,* and the same observation about the performances making it worth seeing.  Zellweger was incredible.

*A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.*  Now this was a movie that took chances and did something a little different, it was way more imaginative and experimental than it needed to be, but never odd for the sake of being odd.  A must-see for anyone who loves Mister Rogers (and who doesn't).

*Little Women.*  So glad I saw it in the theater, such a lovely movie.  I can't remember the last time the cinematography was so central to the storytelling, that was fascinating to watch.  And all the performances were delightful.

*Marriage Story.*  I liked it more than I thought I would.  Fantastic performances by everyone, and the central fight scene between the two leads was one for the ages.

*Joker.*  Again, I liked it more than I thought I would - - a profoundly disturbing, cynical, and nihilistic movie.  Stayed with me for a while.

*1917.*  I guess I'm glad I saw it in the theater, but even on the big screen it felt like I was watching a video game.  A young man running towards the camera, dodging bombs, weaving around obstacles trying not to get killed - - it felt like *Call Of Duty: 1917.*


I love *Death on the Nile.*  I'm sure it's not a very good movie but it hit me in the right spot at the right time (in my teens) and it continues to hit that spot when I watch it again, every few years.


Richard and I decided we needed to see *My Beautiful Laundrette* again, we had fond memories of it, we hadn't seen it in many years.  We were both surprised at how boring it was!  Maybe in 1985 it was thrilling to see two men kissing onscreen?  Could that really carry a whole movie?  Perhaps.


I was going to give it to the whole soundtrack of *Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood,* so much about that movie was about driving around in your car listening to the radio.  Koo koo ca choo, Mrs. Robinson.  But I'm giving this award to Nina Simone's recording of "Sinnerman" in *Harriet.*  Wow, that set me on FIRE.


*Maiden,* about the all-female crew for the Whitfield Round the World Race in 1989.  So inspiring, such an incredible story.


I'm watching all of the Bruce Lee movies in order.  The dude only made FIVE movies, so you wouldn't think it would take me a year, but maybe I'm just not so into it?


The line between movies and TV used to be ten feet tall, but so many directors, writers, and actors are doing both, it's not such a big deal anymore to go from one to the other.  The writing for television, it's maybe the best storytelling anywhere.  My favorite TV show right now (and for the past couple of years) is *The Crown.*  Incredible, everything about it is incredible.  I've said for years that the best TV series I've seen are *The Twilight Zone,* *Six Feet Under,* and *Buffy the Vampire Slayer.*  The thing that's notable about those three shows is that they were all off the air by the time I discovered them - - it's a special thrill to watch a show when it's fresh.

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