2019 at the Movies: The Best and Worst Moments, Biggest Scene-Stealers and More
Grab your popcorn! It's time to look back on the year that was.
Over the past 365 days, moviegoers were treated to a seemingly never-ending lineup of films, big and small, in every genre, all competing to win the box office and streaming wars and eyeballs everywhere. And while the impending awards season will lay claim to the best of the best in film -- with February's Oscars crowning this year's top honors -- we have a few thoughts on what worked and what didn't work on the big screen in 2019.
Best Picture: The Cats trailer. No cinema was more thought-provoking, no film was more widely discussed, no motion picture was more upsetting, hilarious, brilliant, digital fur technology-fulled than the first trailer for director Tom Hooper's Cats. The mystery that that has. The Bombalurina that that has. The Jellicle implicates that it has.
Best Actress: Florence Pugh, who kicked some series tuchus in the underrated wrestling comedy, Fighting With My Family, went to truly WTF places in Midsommar and finally got justice for Amy March in Little Women. And, while it doesn't arrive until 2020, we also got our first look at her in full Marvel mode in the Black Widow trailer. The Pugh Crew ate well this year.
Best Actor: Adam Driver. Our favorite big boi delivered chef's kiss performances in everything from high-brow zombie comedies (The Dead Don't Die) to tentpole space operas (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) and so many awards season contenders in between, like The Report and Marriage Story. (The latter of which also birthed the year's best movie memes.)
Best Alien: Babu Frik from The Rise of Skywalker. While overall opinions on Episode IX may be split, there is one thing all Star Wars fans can agree on: Babu Frik is the best thing that's ever happened to any of us. The name-dropping droidsmith is our little boyfriend and we love him. (More than Baby Yoda? We're not trying to start flame wars here.)
Best Supporting Alien: Goose from Captain Marvel. At first, the Skrulls' mistrust of the adorable orange Air Force kitty leads you to believe that maybe they're just dog people. Turns out, Goose is not your everyday tabby, and she has the tentacles and interdimensional portals to prove it. She also claimed Nick Fury's eye, but c'mon, the patch is iconic.
Up-and-Comer of the Year: So many newcomers broke through this year -- Keith L. Williams from Good Boys! And Archie Yates from Jojo Rabbit! -- but hands down the best and brightest is Zhao Shuzhen, aka Nai Nai in The Farewell. (At 75, she's been a working actress in China since she was a teenager, but here in Hollywood, we've finally caught on.)
Best Dad: Ford v Ferrari may have raised us, put a roof over our head and food in our bellies and taught us how to drive, but Chris Cooper's dual performances in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and Little Women are the father figures we've been searching for. Especially in the latter, in which just thinking of Mr. Laurence's scenes with Beth brings a tear to our eye.
Best Daddy: If you don't know the difference between these two superlatives, what were you doing in 2019, the indisputable Year of the Daddy? Anyway, the daddy nominees include Jake Gyllenhaal and his beard in Spider-Man: Far From Home and Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers, but even in a not-so-great Hellboy reboot, David Harbour still proved more daddy than the rest.
Superhero Moment of the Year: Jennifer Lopez's pole dance in Hustlers. The introduction of Ramona is the stuff of cinema history, with J.Lo twirling, clapping, flipping and motor boating while money showers down upon her. If it wasn't already, Fiona Apple's "Criminal" is now a god-tier strip club anthem. This dance alone is worthy of an Academy Award; that Lopez turns out a career-best performance on top of it is why she is, in fact, the frontrunner for the Oscar.
Superhero Moment of the Year (Runner-up): "Avengers, assemble!" There was no bigger superhero movie in 2019 -- and ultimately, no bigger movie ever -- than Avengers: Endgame. And of all the big moments within it (snapping and time travel and Smart Hulk), hearing Chris Evans' Captain America finally speak those two words as every single one of our favorite heroes came together onscreen was worth the 22-film wait.
Best True Story: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. If you're looking for a biopic about Fred Rogers, might we suggest the excellent 2018 documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? Now, if you want to see how America's most beloved children's television host (as played by America's most beloved actor, Tom Hanks) touched one man's life, check out this adaptation of journalist Tom Junod's profile on Mister Rogers. It's the sort of true story that makes you believe in the power of people again.
Best Not-So-True Story: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. For Quentin Tarantino's ninth film, he revists a turning point in American culture -- the summer of '69 and the infamous Manson Family murders -- but with a quintessentially Tarantino twist on it. The entire film is a blend of history and the imaginary, but like Inglourious Basterds before it, OUATIH culminates with a final bit of revisionist history that changes everything we thought we knew, especially for Margot Robbie's Sharon Tate.
Best Worst Movie Twist: Serenity saw Last Christmas' twist ending and said, "Hold my beer." This wackadoodle psychological thriller -- which begins as a gritty noir about a fisherman with a dark past (Matthew McConaughey) and an enigmatic femme fatale (Anne Hathaway) -- delivers the sort of twist you could never see coming, on account of it being simultaneously so incredible and so dumb that how would anyone ever think of it? (We won't out-and-out spoil it here, because if you haven't seen it yet, you must.)
The "Big Lebowski" Award for Scene on Drugs: Booksmart. All sorts of characters were tripping b*lls on the big screen this year -- among them, a Hollywood stuntman, rock legend Elton John and the Secretary of State -- but no trip was trippier than the Booksmart gals' plastic fantastic journey on "Asian-huasca." At a hoity-toity party hosted by the theater kids, Beanie Feldstein's Molly and Kaitlyn Dever's Amy eat some laced strawberries and wake up as 12-inch sexified versions of themselves. The phrase "put your heel in my hole" is uttered more than once.
Boldest Accent Choice: In a year that saw Scarlett Johansson speak German-ish in Jojo Rabbit and Robert Pattinson try his hand at French for The King, the Southern drawl that the very British Daniel Craig chose for his Knives Out sleuth, Benoit Blanc, takes the cake. Here's hoping writer-director Rian Johnson follows through on sequels centered on Craig's scenery-chewing detective, if only to hear that dripping Southern twang again.
Best Supporting Hair: Timothée Chalamet in Little Women. Timmy T was truly the Theodore Laurence we needed in 2019, and no scene from Greta Gerwig's adaptation makes that more apparent than the windswept, hillside moment where he and Saoirse Ronan's Jo finally "have it out" about their will-they-won't-they dynamic. As Laurie pleads his case, his hair is doing some incredible acting of its own, sticking out in all directions as an outward reflection of his inner heartbreak.
Boldest Wig Choice: It's a tie! Nicole Kidman in Bombshell and Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch, with an honorable mention for her television wig work in season two of Big Little Lies. For the fourth year running, the follicly-audacious actress has ventured into the synthetic unknown for character wigs -- a blonde bob for Gretchen Carlson, a graying number for Mrs. Barbour -- and earned her place as 2019's top wig wearer.
Best Use of Keanu Reeves: Always Be My Maybe. This year saw the fruits of the Keanussance, but nothing put Reeves back on the map quite like his cameo role in Ali Wong and Randall Park's Netflix rom-com playing a heightened (we think?) version of himself. (As far as Reeves cameos go, we also loved his performance as a zen tumbleweed in the trailer for The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run.)
Worst Use of Keanu Reeves: Replicas. Keanu Reeves checked so many boxes for us this year -- doing his hitman thing in John Wick: Chapter 3, doing his Canadian thing in Toy Story 4, doing his Keanu thing in Always Be My Maybe -- but when it came to doing perhaps the thing he is most noted for, his sci-fi thing? Let's just say we're relieved there is another Matrix movie on the horizon, because Replicas wasn't it.
Biggest Disney Plus: Disney+ may be the house that Baby Yoda built, but amidst The Mandalorian and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, forget about all the movies, you must not. We expected to spend all our time rewatching MCU movies and old DCOMs (and, yes, Smart House holds up), but the true surprise of Disney+ has been their original films: Togo is well worth the watch (and ensuing cry) and we were delighted by how cute we found the Anna Kendrick-starring Christmas movie, Noelle.
Biggest Disney Minus: The House of Mouse has also made some -- how should we put this? -- questionable choices this year, especially with its live-action (or "live action") remakes. Like how Beyoncé voiced Nala and recorded a new song for The Lion King, but didn't sing an original song as Nala? Or how Michael Keaton's Dumbo villain was basically an evil Walt Disney? But perhaps head-scratchiest of all was that the true star of Aladdin was... Will Smith's Genie? Who is horny this time?
Best Animated Movie: Robert De Niro's face in The Irishman. 2019 was the year of de-aging, starting with Samuel L. Jackson's youthful turn in Captain Marvel and capping off with Martin Scorsese's technologically-impressive digital restorations of the very-recognizable faces of De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino. (Meanwhile, the award for Best Irishman goes to Saoirse Ronan.)
The "HOW HAVE YOU NOT SEEN IT YET?!" Movie of 2019: Parasite. Few movies in recent years have had audiences buzzing like director Bong Joon Ho's darkly comedic parable of wealth, class and scamming. If you haven't seen Parasite yet, get thee to a theater, because this won't be the last you hear of it. A Korean film has yet to be nominated for the Academy's Best International Feature Film Film, let alone Best Picture. That is set to change this year.
Movie Quote of the Year: The films recounted on this list have made indelible additions to the pantheon of oft-quoted movie lines -- "You're Rick f**king Dalton" from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and "And I'm Iron Man" from Avengers: Endgame -- but the quote of the year simply must go to Jennifer Lopez, for this perfectly scripted and delivered line from Hustlers: "Doesn't money make you horny?"
Love end-of-year reads? Be sure to check out more of our Best of 2019 content.
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