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Movies of the Year 2019

A great year for Damon Herriman with two entries and Netflix, also two entries. Neither of which were the The Irishman which managed to be both overlong and yet shallow at the same time.

Usual disclaimers: The Farewell and Joker passed me by and neither Parasite nor Atlantics, which are getting a lot of love online, were released where I live.

In order of viewing,

Long Shot

Long Shot
Charlize Theron plays the US Secretary of State, making a run for President. Seth Rogan is her pot-smoking, layabout speechwriter who harbours a decades long crush. This could have been paint-by-numbers and usually any appearance by Seth Rogan is enough for me to tune out but this just…worked.

The story beats chime consistently well and the growing romance is handled without mawkishness. Bonus points for casting Ice Cube’s kid as a sympathetic Republican.

Ash is Purest White

Ash is Purest White
Is this the story of China’s last three decades told as allegory? Ash follows the rise, fall and rise of a confident, super capable female protagonist whose single flaw is a starry-eyed attachment to her gangster boyfriend, a man with no ambition beyond his hick town.

Tao Zhao plays the character from her early twenties through to late forties and kills it in every scene.

Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Tarantino returns to territory he first explored in Inglorious Basterds, wherein he bends history to deliver both a better world and furious vengeance towards evil men (and women).

Leo DiCaprio is great as a one-time Hollywood star, now on the brink of obsolescence. His desperate need to reinvent himself for a new era leads to one of the most satisfying film endings this year.


Come and join my family in Scandinavia, he said. They live in a commune in the deep country, he said. It’s peaceful and every Summer solstice they perform a unique ceremony.

We live life in four seasons, the last is winter from age 56 to 72, he said.

Oh, I replied, what happens after the age of 72?

That, dear viewer, has to be seen to be believed.

Dolemite is my Name

Dolemite is my Name
I’m not sure where Eddie Murphy’s mind has been these last two decades. It always seemed he disliked working alongside other adults, preferring work with kids (Daddy Day Care), animals (Dr Doolittle), multiple versions of himself (Nutty Professor, Klumps, Norbit) or voicing animated characters (Shrek).

In this biopic of Rudy Ray Moore he has an ensemble cast around him and he positively glows. The story, of a wannabe comic / singer who has never quite made it, finally achieving his dreams through force of will alone, is captivating. This had more heart than any other movie this year.

Imagine there is a society that lives in a subterranean world beyond our sight. Each resident is an ersatz facsimile of someone in the world above, mirroring our every move.

Now imagine they’ve had enough of living underground and not only want to emerge but also to kill us and supplant us.

Jordan Peele’s follow up to 2017’s superb Get Out, this is just as gripping.

Has it really been fur years since Jennifer Kent brought us The Babadook?

This was as terrifying and grim but for totally different reasons. An Irish convict, exiled to 1820’s Tasmania, is repeatedly abused by an army officer and finally snaps, intent on wreaking revenge after the man commits the ultimate sin against her family.

Adapted from the book of 1944, this tells of German Jews fleeing the Nazis as they sweep through France. The constant cat & mouse is chilling; rendered even more disconcerting by the setting, but not the story, being updated to present day.

High Flying Bird
High Flying Bird
Steven Soderbergh, who threatened retirement a few years back, is having a great run. Logan Lucky was one of my favourites of 2017. High Flying Bird is shot exclusively on an iPhone and looks like a million dollars.

The subject matter, an agent handling a basketball prodigy during an NBA lock-out, had the potential to bore me stupid but I was riveted throughout.

Knives Out
Knives Out
Probably the most fun I had at the movies this year (barring those jaw-dropping final 15 minutes of Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood) this is an old school whodunnit, given extra zing by Rian Johnson.

With Knives Out, Johnson shows is adept at two things: ruining Star Wars and delivering clever thrillers.

Not sure what all the fuss was about

  • High Life
  • The Irishman
  • Marriage Story
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Great fun

  • Avengers: End Game
  • Yesterday
  • Crawl Superb high concept thriller (help, I’m trapped in a flooded basement with two crocodiles)
  • The Beach Bum
  • Ready or Not
  • The Souvenir