December 2019 Movie Roundup

Hello friends!! Per usual, my December roundup is VERY delayed, thanks to all the chaos and craziness that surrounds the new year. Which makes this post even harder cause not only did I watch eight movies this month, but there’s also nominations and Globes to talk about and Oscar noms and SAG right around the corner.

SO let’s jump right in, shall we?!

“Hope is a dangerous thing.”

I was lucky enough to catch a super early screening of this one (and in IMAX no less!) and I was floored. Normally, I don’t like war movies as I feel they all tend to follow more or less the same storyline and beats and I’ve never been one for gore and all that. But I was surprised to find that I thoroughly enjoyed myself with this one. Truly the technical achievement of the year. The film is made to look entirely like one shot (though of course it isn’t, the effect is still stunning), making it an absolutely impressive feat of filmmaking. Without giving anything away, as it’s better to go in cold, it provides such a unique snapshot take on a war movie, deeply bringing you in to the emotional journey of the characters, not to mention the interesting premise of the characters having to stop a war, not win it. Richard Madden gives the best five-minute performance of the year, and it’s a shame it’s not enough for an Oscar campaign. If Roger Deakins doesn’t win for cinematography, I will wage war on the Academy. If I have one criticism, it’s that the one-shot gimmick felt at times like watching a video game but I didn’t necessarily hate that as much as I thought I would. With Best Drama and Best Director wins at the Globes, this will definitely be one to beat come Oscar night.

Knives Out
“But the donut hole is not a hole. It’s a smaller donut with its own hole!”

This is easily the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year. And also the biggest surprise because it wasn’t on my radar at all!! It’s thrilling to see Daniel Craig doing comedy (genius move Rian Johnson). No one was having as much fun as him and that says a lot. I feel like I say this a lot, but really it’s better to go in cold. I watched the trailer and had a vague idea that it was a comedic murder mystery, and that is truly all you need to know. It’s similar to Parasite in its incisive social commentary but told in the most opposite way possible, which makes it even more fascinating. I should also note that none of this works without Ana de Armas — she’s the beating heart and soul of the film and elevates it to a truly incredible moviegoing experience.

Last Christmas
“We’re going to eat the lesbian pudding.”

I’m not going to sugarcoat it — this movie is objectively bad. But I didn’t not like it. In fact, I actually very much enjoyed myself even though I had to stop and say “What even is this movie?????” at least three times to my friend. It’s a fuzzy, silly, cute Christmas romcom with a plot that makes zero sense the deeper you get and that’s all you should expect from it. Also Patti Lupone cradling two baby Jesuses gave me life. Should it have been a Netflix movie? Yeah probably. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I didn’t have to deal with the L and A trains on a weekend just to get to a movie theater in the middle of Satan’s butthole I mean Times Square. Also it should have come out in December. An early November release is a disservice. If the plot twist hasn’t been spoiled yet for you, then it’s worth watching for the jaw drop alone.

The Irishman
“It is what it is.”

I still maintain that unless you are adapting Harry Potter page by page, no movie needs to be three and a half hours long. It could have easily been shorter, and I can’t shake the pretentiousness of it being so long just for the sake of it. My initial thought after finishing it was more ambivalent than anything — sometimes I lost the thread from scene to scene but the larger overall story, while a lot to digest, was excellent nevertheless. And the performances are terrific. After a night of reflecting, I began to see and appreciate more what Scorsese was going for. How acts of violence are stripped down and portrayed as the character (usually De Niro’s Frank) just going through the motions, following orders in a detached way, which actually puts the stark brutality even more in focus. There’s no pleasure or pride in Frank’s life, which is usually the tone in these types of movies. And in fact, it isn’t until you’ve sat with the movie for a bit that you realize it’s about the desensitized unfeelingness of his character. It’s slow-paced and contemplative — truly a departure from Scorsese’s usual style (and yes, pun always intended).

Marriage Story
“…even though it doesn’t make sense anymore.”

As heart wrenching and excruciatingly emotional as everyone says it is. That said, I didn’t love it as much as I loved other movies this year nor did it impact me half as much as others either. But there’s no denying the movie is exquisitely crafted, and the characters feel so lived in and deeply developed. Adam Driver and Scarlet Johansson are phenomenal and the entire supporting cast is also stellar. But I hate how that one fight scene is the one that blew up online as a showcase of their acting. It was the scene that felt most disconnected to me, most rehearsed. Not to mention the glaring abuse that Driver’s characters shouts during it (he literally gives her a death threat — as someone who’s been there, I hate that some people see that as a normal couple fight and not as completely toxic and abusive). So all in all, while I certainly understand where all the praise is coming from, it didn’t necessarily break into my year favorites. However. I would get married just so Laura Dern could rep me in the divorce.

Honey Boy
“I’m gonna make a movie about you.”

A deeply personal and therapeutic film. It has incredible performances all around but Shia LaBeouf is the one who really shines here, both in front of the camera and in the script. In every scene, you can tell how much making this film meant to him. There is raw emotion behind every shot. It’s not an easy watch. However, I did feel as if it left something to be desired in substance, as the film is so focused on pain and on such a personal level, but in a way that also excuses it. Not sure if that makes sense unless you’ve seen the film. Basically, the movie operates on such a deeply personal and cathartic level that in a way, substance is substituted for emotion. Which works for those who can relate and perhaps works less for those who can’t. Not necessarily a bad thing, and still makes it worth watching if you’re in the mood to be emotionally walloped.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
“I have a bad feeling about this.”

Okay maybe another reason this post took me over a week is because I really did not want to write this review. Because the more I think about it, the more I really hated this movie. At first, I was just disappointed. Now I’m properly fuming. I should say upfront I really enjoyed The Last Jedi and I think JJ Abrams took a big smelly shit all over it with this movie. Not only does is it a complete disservice to the character growth and development that Rian Johnson laid out (which maybe in time I might have come to terms with), but it is accompanied by a completely nonsensical storyline and absolutely wasted characters. It went for a bang with no regard for feeling or depth, relying on MacGuffin after MacGuffin in a series of action scenes with no consideration for the human moments that make Star Wars truly special. I could cite so many examples of where the story went wrong and where it could have been better but I would be here for ages so I’ll just leave you with some links to tweets and threads that sum it all up and you can make your opinion from there:

Little Women
“Perhaps writing will make them more important.”

I absolutely, positively, unequivocally loved this movie. It’s one of my favorite books and I finished a reread a couple of days before watching it, which made it hit even harder. A truly incredible directing follow-up from Greta Gerwig (no surprise, Lady Bird was one of my faves from 2017). It’s an unabashed and old-fashioned drama with so much heart and laughter and care crafted into it. Incredible costume and set design and beautiful score by Alexandre Desplat (because of course). It’s the most faithful version to what I believe Louisa May Alcott would have wanted to see, particularly with the ambiguous Jo ending. This film will undoubtedly be added to my repertoire for rainy, sick days, alongside all my favorite cozy feel-goods. Florence Pugh completely redeems Amy (though my one criticism is that she looks nowhere near 13 years old in the flashback scenes). I hope this story never stops meaning something to the women of the world.

And that wraps up the decade! I’m bummed to have missed Harriet and Motherless Brooklyn, both out of theaters already. Here’s hoping they come out on streaming some time over the next few weeks. January watchlist is as follows:

  • The Report
  • The Two Popes
  • Uncut Gems
  • Bombshell
  • Just Mercy

Since the Globes are rarely a predictor for The Academy, I’ll leave the Oscars speculation for the next post once nominations are out and SAG Awards are over.

Final stretch everyone!!!! Until then, happy watching!


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