What a year for film 2019 has been; record breaking box-office successes, terrible Disney remakes, fist-pumping musicals, exciting action, emotional dramas, shocking plot-twists and whatever the hell ‘Men In Black: International’ tried to be. With that, let’s reminisce about 2019 in film (according to UK release dates).
Let’s start with the news headlines. Spider-Man was owned by Disney and Sony. Then he was just owned by Sony. And now he’s back with Disney and Sony sharing joint custody. Keanu Reeves had an absolutely stellar time and has been named man of the year by basically everyone on the internet, while Liam Neeson currently sits among the most hated after racist confessions. Olivia Wilde made her directorial debut with ‘Booksmart’ with many arguing Oscar potential is definitely within the realms of possibility.
CGI has had a crazy year, with ‘The Lion King’ remake showing the detail computers can now achieve, but the lack of emotion they still suffer from. Similarly, ‘Cats’, ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Sonic The Hedgehog’ all had their CGI mocked when their respective trailers were released. Sonic’s production team decided to delay their film’s release to 2020 in order to fix these problems; ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Cats’ simply doubled down on their monstrous creations.
The biggest box-office flops include ‘Godzilla: King of The Monsters‘, ‘Men In Black: International‘, ‘Cats‘ and surprisingly ‘Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker‘ which despite grossing over $500million in its first week, significantly underperformed in comparison to box-office speculation. And finally, Martin Scorsese announced that Marvel films “weren’t real cinema” but in fact “theme-park rides”, and yet he’s released his latest monumental flick…on Netflix? Up is down, left is right and cinema is whatever anyone decides it to be.
The quality of movies I watched this year has meandered from terrible to decade defining, and has spanned across basically every genre you could choose. Early success came from biopics, with the likes of ‘Stan and Ollie’, ‘Vice‘, ‘Green Book‘ and ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ all receiving Oscar praise. Similarly, drama has had a super strong year, with early releases ‘Beautiful Boy‘ and ‘If Beale Street Could Talk‘ both moving audiences. Noah Baumbach’s new film ‘Marriage Story‘ will be a major contender for the 2020 Oscar run, and ‘Eighth Grade‘ and ‘Little Women‘ have done wonders for expanding the coming-of-age genre. ‘Booksmart‘ also added to the coming-of-age genre while offering us the funniest comedy of the year, though flicks like ‘Instant Family‘, ‘Long Shot‘ and ‘Fighting With My Family‘ also provided a lot of laughs.
Big budget blockbusters have included the action romps ‘John Wick 3‘, ‘Hobbs and Shaw‘, ‘6 Underground’ and ‘Hellboy‘, with all four proving that no matter how lacking your story is, action can still be as over-the-top as you like (especially with Michael Bay at the helm). However, ‘Alita: Battle Angel‘ was an action film guilty of every modern cinematic sin. With an overuse of CGI, an underwritten story, and the decision to set up sequels rather than wrap up the current film, director Robert Rodriguez and producer James Cameron delivered one of 2019’s biggest stinkers.
In documentary, we got a groundbreaking 50th anniversary celebration of the moon landing with ‘Apollo 11‘. Gorgeously restoring archive footage from 1969, it looked more impressive than most CGI-fests this year and was a powerfully emotional tribute to that incredible feat of human achievement. Other major documentary films included ‘Leaving Neverland’, a dark exposure of the allegations against Michael Jackson, and ‘Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened’ recounting the events leading up to the failed 2017 festival.
Older films like ‘The Terminator’, ‘The Shining’ and ‘Unbreakable’ got long awaited sequels in ‘Dark Fate’, ‘Doctor Sleep’ and ‘Glass’ respectively, though all three received a mixed reception from critics and fans alike. And of course, comic book films happened. Marvel released ‘Captain Marvel‘, ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home‘ and ‘Avengers: Endgame‘, with the latter breaking all box office records and becoming the highest grossing film of all time. DC also had a good year, releasing the entertaining ‘Shazam!‘, and the deeply traumatic ‘Joker‘, a film which has become the first ‘R’ rated film to gross over $1Billion at the box office. ‘Joker’ also became one of the most controversial films of the year and, alongside ‘Blue Story’, became that rare modern film that was banned in some cinema’s following concerns of gang violence.
Veteran filmmakers Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese both made triumphant returns with ambitious thought pieces. Firstly Tarantino brought us ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood‘, a fairytale love letter to the golden age of Hollywood with lavish costume design and a devious ending. Scorsese then brought us his latest (three and a half hour long) crime epic ‘The Irishman‘, which featured guns and murder but ultimately became a story about ageing and the futility of mob violence (aided by some state-of-the-art de-ageing techniques).
In horror, we got Jordan Peele’s latest work ‘Us‘, a twisted and shocking political satire that was as well crafted, as funny and as darkly troubling as his previous work ‘Get Out’. Stephen King fans also got big screen adaptations of ‘It: Chapter 2’ and ‘Pet Cemetery’ as well as the aforementioned ‘Doctor Sleep’, while other creepy romps included ‘Escape Room‘, ‘Brightburn’, ‘Crawl’ and ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’.
In family entertainment, we got two hand-animated films with ‘Missing Link‘ from LIAKA Studios, and ‘A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon‘ from Aardman. In case you’ve forgotten (and it’s not like I haven’t moaned about it), Disney also shat on a lot of its back catalogue, sequel-ising the Sleeping Beauty origin story with ‘Maleficent 2’ and ruining memories of ‘The Lion King‘, ‘Dumbo‘, AND ‘Aladdin‘ ALL in one year (thankfully they still did justice to the Toy Story franchise).
Historical epics came from ‘Mary Queen of Scots‘, ‘Midway’ and ‘Horrible Histories: Rotten Romans‘, and exciting thrills ensued with the likes of ’21 Bridges’, ‘Hustlers’, ‘Knives Out‘, ‘Velvet Buzzsaw‘ and ‘The Good Liar‘. (Also, ‘The Mule‘ happened, where Clint Eastwood directed himself having TWO unnecessary threesomes with far younger models).
Music was a key part of many films this year (nobody mention ‘Cats’) with ‘Yesterday‘, ‘Rocketman‘ and ‘Blinded by The Light‘ all using the music of one artist, and ‘The Irishman’ and ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’ picking their jukebox favourites to underscore the action. There were also original musicals from the likes of ‘Wild Rose‘, ‘The Lego Movie 2‘ and ‘Frozen 2’. We got incredible scores from Alan Silvestri, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Max Richter, Nicholas Britell and Thomas Newman to name a few, and these scores ranged from atmospheric beauty to fist-pumping excitement and everything in between. As always, I’ve organised a little playlist of 25 tracks that defined my year of listening to film music, so feel free to give it a listen.
Well, that’s it for my summing up of the year. Come back tomorrow when I’ll be counting down my best and worst of 2019 in film! See you then!