This is a live list where I rank the movies of 2019. If something isn’t on the list, it will be, eventually. Leave your comments and we’ll talk. I give a lot of weight to scope, scale, and depth. If a movie is higher than you expect, it probably did one or all of those things very well. If it’s lower, well, it probably frustrated me.
Rankings: updated 2/11/23
This was first time watching Midsommar since seeing it in theaters when it came out. I definitely liked it more the second time. I think after the initial viewing, I’d have put it in the Positives category. But this bumped it up to Really Good. I know, I know. You probably think that’s too low. People really love Midsommar. I get it. Visually striking. Great performances. Weird as hell. Personally, I get a little bored by cult movies going through the same narrative progression of starting friendly then revealing the flaws and cracks before doing some crazy cult thing. So as interesting and weird as Midsommar is, it’s also pretty predictable.
What stood out to me on the second watch was how much emphasis Midsommar put on Dani’s journey through grief. She starts in a place of being completely alone, with Christian providing inadequate support. But ends in a place where she’s seen and heard. Where her pain becomes the group’s pain. The way in which Midsommar explores the idea of support is pretty amazing. And it creates a nice counterpoint to Hereditary. Hereditary was what happens when all support fails and grief takes over. While Midsommar is what does it look like to come out on the other side? The answer seems messed up when you look at Midsommar literally. But when taken symbolically, it’s far more practical. Excise the people in your life who bring negative energy. Find those who support you. Travel can help.
Despite how much I love that part of the story, there was still something missing for me. There were a lot of moments where I thought, “That’s interesting.” But none that had me speechless or enraptured. Not like Hereditary. The bear outfit was the closest one. I didn’t like how quickly that went down though. Especially because Ari Aster spends SO MUCH TIME drawing out all these other scenes. In comparison, Christian in the bear suit feels rushed. We first see the bear on the operating table at 2:16:28. Christian’s placed on the table at 2:17:07. He’s in the outfit at 2:17:16. The speech about his wicked ways is at 2:17:36. Then the fire starts at 2:18:40, after we spend some time with Ingemar and Ulf. So the whole bear thing, while cool, is 2 minutes of a 148 minute film. Great concept, could have been cooler.
That’s where I’m at with Midsommar. Great, but I wish it did more. Maybe the director’s cut is what I need to watch need? There’s one 7 minute scene on YouTube that I did not enjoy. It rehashes the drama of the old people who jumped off the rock but is with a kid about to be thrown into a river, but is weaker in almost every way (visually, narratively, acting). So that’s probably not the answer. Honestly, I kind of like the 2018 Suspiria more than Midsommar. Suspiria probably has more weaknesses and pain points, but I think the highs are a lot higher and the payoff is better. I need to re-watch that thought and see if I stand by that thought or not.Watch on:
This was my first time seeing Parasite since theaters. It held up. Obviously some of the excitement was lost since I knew what would happen. The twists and turns weren’t as shocking. But Parasite was so much funnier than I remembered. I’ve always thought of it as having dark comedy elements but the first half is just so fun and funny. Cho Yeo-jeong plays such a hilarious airhead. And Park So-dam kind of steals every scene she’s in. Of course, Song Kang-ho is just masterful. His body language. Delivery. The whole aura of the character he exudes. Man, I want to praise everyone because they all did such a wonderful job.
Obviously the socio-economic commentary is the primary thing Parasite comments on. The dynamic between those who have and those who don’t. The Parks and Kims represent two sides of the same coin. And we see how lax the Parks can be while the Kims have to hustle and hustle and hustle. This comes to a head in the aftermath of the storm. For the Parks, it was nothing. A rainy day. The Kims lost everything.
One thing that jumped out to me a bit more this time was some geo-political commentary. When the Kims have their confrontation with Moon-gwang and her husband, there’s a moment where Moon-gwang pretends to be a news anchor from North Korea. Which could just be a brief moment of humor and not have any deeper meaning. But when you zoom out, these two families are battling over one space (the Park family home) and the confrontation between them goes from civil to violent back to kind of a Cold War then a final fight. At one point, Kim Ki-jung (Jessica) even asks her mom if they shouldn’t at least “talk to them. Reach an understanding?” On top of this, Mrs. Park had just made a reference to a military conflict, the Battle of Hansan Island. A reference to the Japanese invasion of Korea that happened back in 1592. Right after that, we have Mr. Park and Mr. Kim dressed as Native Americans. I don’t think I really have a big point about all of this. I just thought it was interesting. Maybe it’s coincidence, but I do wonder if there’s a larger conversation that people kind of haven’t had yet.
Anyway, a masterpiece by Bong Joon-ho.Watch on:
This was my third or fourth time watching Knives Out. I’ve been a fan since the opening weekend and was one of the people telling everyone I knew that they should see this movie. But it’s been a few years since my last watch. I was really curious how I’d feel at this point? It wouldn’t be the first film I liked only to lose interest in after gaining some distance. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Knives Out still hit for me. What made this re-watch fascinating was it being the first one post-Glass-Onion.
For those who don’t know, Glass Onion is the Knives Out sequel. And I hated Glass Onion. It felt like such a tremendous drop in quality. Most of my complaints focused on the writing quality. Frustration with the mystery elements. Anger at plot contrivances. A recoil at the overall cartoonishness. I wrote this big long article called “Glass Onion: Bad Writing“. Despite my conviction in the lower quality, it had me kind of gaslighting myself. Maybe Knives Out hadn’t been that good and Glass Onion was closer in quality than I remembered?
So that was really on my mind as Knives Out started. And pretty much immediately, I felt vindicated. And it wasn’t even the writing. It was the visuals and editing. The filmmaking quality is, I think, massively better in Knives Out. It’s patient and atmospheric rather than bright and efficient. There’s a sense of control and mastery I get from Knives Out, where Glass Onion looked like a made-for-TV movie by The CW.
Compare the opening sequences. Knives Out is a brief flourish that shows the house, some aesthetic within the house, then culminates with the discovery of Harlan Thrombey’s body. Then we cut to a week later and settle into Marta as our POV character. Following her, we gradually dive into the Thrombey family and the drama of the Harlan’s demise.
In Glass Onion, it’s this sprawling, multi-character sequence that follows the solving of a puzzle box. And that’s fine. There’s nothing inherently wrong there. You could even argue that it’s a great way to juxtapose the second film from the first. My issue is with the execution. The dialogue. The absurdity of how the solutions present themselves, like when a Yo-Yo Ma randomly overhears a song no one else knows and explains it’s Bach’s Little Fugue in G Minor. Some people won’t mind that, or will even like it. To me, it’s too cute. Each person in the group has one bit of information they happen to stumble upon that makes progress toward the solution. It’s so neat and stylized. I hate it. The payoff with Helen breaking the box wide open is nice though, as contrast. It’s not like Glass Onion is without positive moments or elements. It’s just such an overall quality downgrade.
There was a care and craftsmanship to Knives Out that just absolutely stands out to me. Like the introduction of Blanc as this mysterious background character who flips a coin while other people give interview answers to the local police. When he finally comes forward and takes over the movie, it’s wonderful. Alas, I felt no such wonder in Glass Onion.
But, yes, I still enjoy Knives Out.Watch on:
This was my first rewatch since seeing it in theaters. And I had a similar feeling. I love the personal story of Addy and her family and the conflict with Red and what happened to them as kids. There’s beauty and tragedy to that. The filmmaking is awesome. The mix of comedy and tension is great. But once again I’m left really frustrated by the larger story being told. It’s not just what happened to Addy. She’s a small part of what is this insane government project that’s entirely glossed over. There are so many insane things to accept that it becomes hard to suspend disbelief. If it had really landed the larger story, it would be much higher. As is, it’s a good story within an absurd one.Watch on: