Now that we have finished watching, and reviewing, the 37 movies nominated for major-category Oscars in 2019, I only have a few days to get ready for the 2020 season (the nominees are due out on 1/13/20). I thought I’d try to summarize what the best (and the worst) of these movies were to help fill in your movie rental or streaming queues. So, being the data freak that I am, I engaged in a quantification exercise to rank each of the movies on three different scales – my ratings, the Critic MetaScore, and the audience rating from IMDB. I thought it would be fun to see where the ratings aligned and where they might be different.
Here are some of my conclusions:
- All three scales rate the exact same movie at the top – Roma. And, of course, that is the movie that won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. So, if there is some reason you haven’t seen this one yet, then stop everything and watch it. This truly represents much of the best that the motion picture industry can deliver in both story and technical skill.
- Next on the list should be two very different movies. Although audiences didn’t like If Beale Street Could Talk as much as the critics and I did, it still rated well across the board and is a beautiful romance with terrific music. I didn’t like Minding the Gap as much as the audience and critics did, but it is an intriguing documentary about young people in a blue-collar industrial town.
- After these three must-sees, there are a fourteen movies that you really should see, if you watch more than a movie a month. They are (in alphabetical order- with my favorites *):
- *Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Coen Brothers film – laughter and violence)
- *BlackkKlansman (Based on a true story in Colorado Springs)
- Black Panther (My favorite ‘comic book’ movie of the year.)
- *Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddie Mercury biopic with great music)
- Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Melissa McCarthy is an unethical writer)
- Capernaum (Lebanese film where a child sues his parents)
- Cold War (Polish romance set in post-war Eastern Europe.)
- Free Solo (Riveting documentary about Hannock’s climb of El Capitan)
- *Green Book (Trip through the South by two very different men. Won Best Picture)
- Isle of Dogs (Intriguing animated flick with science-fiction elements.)
- Ralph Breaks the Internet (Animated flick with terrific portrayal of the Internet and a wonderful scene with the Disney princesses.)
- Shoplifters (Japanese film about a desperate family.)
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Animated superhero action)
- A Star is Born (Yes, another remake, but Lady Gaga is terrific)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a Coen Brothers movie, so you’re either going to love it or hate it. BlacKkKlansman tells an interesting story about race in America and Adam Driver is terrific. Critics didn’t like Green Book or Bohemian Rhapsody nearly as much as the rest of us did and I guess I don’t understand why. I’m willing to admit that maybe I got Shoplifters, Spider-man, and Cold War wrong – everybody liked the the first two better than I did, while critics really loved Cold War where I found it kind of ‘cold’ and difficult to follow.
- If you want to dive a bit deeper for some not great, but definitely interesting films, then you might want to look at these ten movies:
- Avengers: Infinity War (Over-the-top comic book action)
- *Border (Swedish film that really turns the tables – it is weird.)
- The Favourite (Melodramatic sex-comedy)
- *First Reformed (Thriller involving a small town reverend)
- Hale County:… (Documentary about small town Mississippi)
- Incredibles 2 (Animated sequel that is really dated. Unless you’re a kid.)
- *Never Look Away (Engaging German biography surviving WWII)
- A Quiet Place (Sci-Fi thriller where sound is the key)
- *Ready Player One (Best special effects movie with a good story line)
- *The Wife (Glenn Close in one of her best performances, in a so-so film)
I thought Never Look Away, though long, was engaging and dramatic and Ready Player One had the best usage of special effects of any movie in telling an interesting story. Critics disagreed with me on both of them. I kind of liked the strangeness of Border, but it isn’t for everyone. And, although the movie isn’t great, Glenn Close’s performance in The Wife is nearly perfect. First Reformed has enough twists in it to keep your interest.
- If you really are a movie fanatic, then there are some interesting parts to these six, generally, not-terrific films:
- At Eternity’s Gate (Dafoe’s role as Vincent Van Gogh – good for him)
- First Man (Armstrong’s stroll on the moon – nothing new here.)
- Mirai (Disappointing Japanese animation that can’t find an audience.)
- RBG (Overly flattering documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
- *Solo: A Star Wars Story (Fun, if you’re into Star Wars)
- *Vice (Entertaining if you don’t like Dick Cheney)
I enjoyed the Star Wars story, but then I’m sort of a sucker for the series and have been since the 70s. I though Christian Bale did a wonderful job portraying a difficult character, but this movie isn’t for conservatives.
- Finally, you have to be a glutton-for-punishment if you have to see any of these four films. A couple of them may be good for families with small children, but otherwise – you’ve been warned:
- Christopher Robin (Live-action Winnie the Pooh with creepy animals.)
- Fathers and Sons (Documentary about how terrorism is passed on)
- Mary Poppins Returns (Who asked her to?)
- Mary Queen of Scots (Poorly executed battle between two female cousins)
That’s it for the 2019 movies. It was a great year – mostly good films with terrific story lines and artistic delivery. Next year’s list comes out on January 13 and we can only expect another year of good movie watching.