Films of 2019

1. Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino's glorious ode to 1960's Hollywood and culture. Three hours of meandering, driving and nonsense, according to detractors, but I loved it. Could have been a six hour movie, and none the worse.

2. Creed II
2015's Creed was an unexpected delight, showcasing Ryan Coogler in full command of his craft, able to whip up an unabashed, well-made, and even at times emotional crowdpleaser. He didn't return to the director's chair for part II (as he was busy with Black Panther), but stayed on board as a producer. Taking his place is Steven Caple Jr., who proves himself to be quite Cap(ab)le of the task. Creed II is not as good as the first part, but remains an immensely enjoyable viewing experience. Highlight of the movie is Dolph Lundgren, who has a reputation as a wooden, limited actor. Here, he shows range and hidden acting depths as a broken man who attempts one final shot at a return to glory via his offspring. Great stuff.

3. Toy Story 4
No one needed Toy Story 4 (save for the top Pixar brass aiming for a cushy Christmas bonus), but here we are. And lo and behold, it's a very worthy sequel to Toy Story 3 - Pixar's finest motion picture so far in my book. A continuation of the emotional high-stakes rollercoaster that is part 3, with enough fresh ideas, clever jokes and lovely new characters to justify its existence. Even if the ending can't duplicate part 3's triumphant last scene, part 4's bold, rash ending will still bring on the waterworks. Will we ever see a Toy Story 5? Who knows. I never needed a 4th part, but I'm glad it exists. It didn't tarnish or taint the excellent track record of the franchise.

4. Hollywood aan de Schelde
The late Robbe De Hert's final motion picture, a documentary on the history of Belgian cinema and, more specifically, Antwerp as a creative cinematic center. Lighthearted and accessible to everyone - you don't have to be a film buff to appreciate the deep cuts - and made with care and love. Recommended. It took more than the better part of two decades to get this movie off the ground, and in the end, a crowdfunding campaign brought in the final dollaridoos. A fitting farewell present from one of the giants of the industry.

5. Knives Out
Rian Johnson - the Star Wars fandom's most hated director because he had the audacity to make a good movie - returns with a whodunnit murder Clue mystery, full of great gags, familiar genre tropes, and an all-star cast. Chauvinistic patriot yours truly was excited to see a shout-out to the delicious Biscoff/Speculoos cookies. Knives Out is no masterpiece, but it's very, very good. Can't wait for the sequels - quite the shame they're headed to streaming-only, because cinema always wins.

6. Green Book
Controversial after its release: both families of the men portrayed objected to the finer details, and the movie as a whole was dismissed as a copy of Driving Miss Daisy (which I haven't seen). In order to assess correct judgement, let's just call this a work of fiction. As a work of fiction, Green Book works. Hilarious KFC and calzone scenes.

7. Dolor y Gloria
Quite possibly the first Spanish movie I ever saw in a theater, although my memory could be faulty or hazy. Dolor y Gloria is Pedro Almodóvar's semi-fictional, semi-autobiographical exploration of an artist in crisis. Antonio Banderas is amazing as Almodóvar's avatar, and should have won the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance.

8. Spider-Man: Far From Home
A mostly fine sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, and one of the best showcases for 3D Blu-ray. Check out Mysterio's 'Illusion Battle' sequence for proof. Special appreciative mention to Dutch characters being played by actual Dutch actors - take note, Wonder Woman.

9. Downton Abbey
Or 'Maggie Smith - The Movie' to quote Jeroen Van Zwol. More of the same vis-à-vis the television series, and we wouldn't have it any other way. A charming movie, like drinking a cup of your favourite tea under a comforting blanket.

10. Captain Marvel
Yours truly isn't the biggest MCU connoisseur (having seen more or less half of the available movies), so the bigger picture is lost on me. Still, a perfectly fine movie with some great laughs. Brie Larson is excellent in the leading role.

11. Ad Astra
Visually stunning movie (see it on the biggest screen possible), if a little distant and cold. File under 'interesting' and 'revisit-worthy, eventually'.

12. The Lion King
Not a bad movie per se, but a very unnecessary one. It's almost a shot-for-shot remake, which begs the questions: why? 'Money', probably.

13. Bohemian Rhapsody
The weird: editing, make-up/hairstyling, casting choices (would have loved to see Baron Cohen's take) and the factual inaccuracies.
The good: indestructible music, and Joseph Mazzello. The world needs more Joseph Mazzello.
The verdict: an underwhelming movie that could have been so much better.

14. Joker
A thoroughly unpleasant movie, but Joaquin Phoenix pulls a great performance out of his clown of chaos hat. Full review here.

15. The Rise of Skywalker
Somehow, Palpatine returned. Yikes.

Julian De Backer, 19 July 2022