Inject movies into my veins
I think I’ve spent more time this year thinking and talking about film than I ever have.
I began trying to wrap my head around the connections between the movies that I watch and my experiences with them and I’m also still trying to work out the best way to talk with others about the movies that are important to them.
It turns out, trying to process all of my thoughts made me watch way more movies than I ever expected to. By July I had already seen 163 new-to-me films, nearly one for every day of the year.
I started the year with Bad Times at the El Royale which for me hearkened back to watching random B-movies and seeing huge ensemble casts that seemed out of place. It didn’t capture me as much as I thought it would, but I didn’t want to overanalyze it; I liked it because…I like movies like that.
With all of the controversy and renewed interest in critic and audience scores this year, I just sort of tuned out all film criticism and instead took each film I got to see as a new story to absorb.
Well, without further ado, here‘s just a bunch of movies I saw this year that I wanted to talk about. You can take a look at all of the films I’ve watched this year over on Letterboxd, which I update between repeatedly praising Hurricane Heist on Twitter.
The recent ones.
With so many movies releasing nowadays I’ve been feeling lost at sea. While the blockbusters have all started to blur together, there are still new releases that take my breath away.
#51- The Man Who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot (2018)
Despite the title, Hitler/Bigfoot is a master-class in storytelling and Sam Elliott is a national treasure. This was the first movie that made me emotional this year.
While it does feature both Hitler and Bigfoot, what truly makes this movie so good are the choices and consequences Elliott’s Calvin faces and how he continues to move forward through it all.
As with a lot of movies that I really enjoy, I wish there were just a few minutes more so that the pacing could be slowed down a bit. It would add so much more weight to the story.
#244- Parasite (2019)
I don’t even know what I was expecting, but it doesn’t matter because Parasite fucking delivered.
Korean horror/thrillers always make me feel like I need to get a tank of oxygen before I go see them. Halfway through the movie I got so uncomfortable waiting for the turn, that I sat there with my hand in the air holding popcorn for like five minutes.
This movie was perfect. Easily the best movie of 2019, and it deserves every bit of the praise it’s gotten.
#31- Suspiria (2018)
I have a love-hate relationship with Dario Argento’s filmography. On one hand the plots sound amazing and the movies themselves are often beautifully shot but on the other hand Argento often sacrifices cohesive storytelling for the visuals. So when I heard that he disliked this reimagining it made total sense to me.
I thought it was brilliant. Tilda Swinton continues to mesmerize every time I see her on screen and Dakota Johnson was a goddamn vision.
Can we please give Phenomena this treatment next?
#165- Midsommar (2019)
I described Ari Aster’s visual style to a friend as Wes Anderson meets Stephen King with a dash of John Carpenter for flavor.
Midsommar was incredibly engrossing and just like the characters in the film I had no concept of time while watching it. All I know is I was sucked in, tossed around and spat back into the real world a short while later thanking whatever pagan diety was responsible for it.
While Hereditary (2018) scared the crap out of me, Midsommar did something to me I can’t really describe with words.
Shout out to A24 for killing the game and simultaneously destroying relationships.
#136- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
I’ve been watching Godzilla movies since I was a child, and I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I’d see this movie come to life. While the plot did get a little messy, I saw it in the theater three times.
I rarely, if ever, legitimately cry watching a movie but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion hearing Mothra’s theme swell during her big reveal.
This movie holds a special place in my heart for being like Infinity War: an experience that, if inter-dimensional travel ever becomes possible, Anthony’s from across the multi-verse would watch together until the heat-death of the universe.
*Owen Wilson wow*
These surprised me more than I ever expected them to, and while I wouldn’t recommend them to everyone I’d definitely say to check them out if you feel inspired to. At best you find a new movie to like, and at worst you waste a few hours on the couch.
#33- Body Snatchers (1993)
Most people probably didn’t know there was an indirect sequel to the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and until this year I was one of them. While I, and probably many others, initially dismissed it as a bad direct-to-video followup the movie was actually very competent and well-shot.
It asks a question I hadn’t thought of when watching the original film: what happens if we don’t get rid of them all?
#88- Funland (1987)
I went in expecting a psychotic, killer clown movie but what I got was a compelling and sad story about how we treat those with mental illness which explored what happens when you push someone to their breaking point.
By the end I wasn’t sure who I should really have been rooting for, and the film doesn’t do anything to make it clearer; but I think that’s what made it so good.
#108- Detective Pikachu (2019)
If you think about Detective Pikachu as nothing more than a live-action Pokemon movie then it hits all the marks. I was really surprised at how good it was.
My only complaint is that for an entire world that’s supposedly inhabited by Pokemon, there was a distinct lack of them on screen a lot of the time.
I’m also subtracting points for lack of Beedrill.
Between this and Alita: Battle Angel we actually got some pretty good anime/manga adaptations this year, which is always a surprise.
#151- Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)
I always feel conflicted when I watch a movie that centers around small town justice; for some reason they just strike me in a weird way. If you combine that with well placed supernatural revenge you get Dark Night of the Scarecrow.
It was similar to Funland in that it explored how the world treats people who are different than the masses, but it isn’t grounded in a level of comedy like Funland so it just gets really bleak, really fast.
#224- The Velocipastor
I haven’t had this much fun watching a movie in a LONG time! I died laughing at the very first scene. From the trailer it looks like you’re getting a SyFy Original, but it’s honestly more funny, sincere and well done than it puts on.
I sincerely recommend this if you’re a fan of extremely low budget movies, or at can at least appreciate them for what they are.
This is this year’s Hurricane Heist. I demand sequels.
Call me Ishmael.
I keep a list of movie “white whales” that for some reason or another I just haven’t been able to watch. In some instances a movie hasn’t been released in the United States, like Lady Battle Cop, or I’m just downright not sure if it exists at all, like Public Enemy 2031.
#63- Strange Days (1995)
Ralph Fiennes and Angela Basset in a movie together? Sign me the fuck up.
While it’s a decidedly 90’s vision of a cyberpunk future, it’s shockingly close to what our society is like today and the message that runs through it is clear and timely: In a world where everything we do is under surveillance can we hold the people who watch us accountable? And if not, what are we willing to give up for the price of perceived safety?
As we enter 2020 it still serves as a reminder of what can happen if we let technology go too far.
#111- I Love Maria (1988)
Yes, it’s basically a rip-off of Robocop but that doesn’t detract from the style and charm of the film at all.
It’s a straight to the point, goofy 90’s kung-fu action flick from China that gets a little muddled towards the middle but pulls through in the end.
It took me 15 months to track a physical copy of this down, since it’s basically non-existent online anywhere, but it was well worth it in my opinion.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Robotrix (1991) here as it has a similar premise, and rockin’ soundtrack, but there’s something about I Love Maria that sets it apart.
#106- Murder By Phone/Bells (1982)
I almost bought a VCR and ordered a tape of this on eBay before finding it on YouTube under its international title “Bells.”
For a movie about high frequency noises that kill people by blowing their heads up when they answer the telephone…it was actually pretty damn good.
It isn’t super schlocky and while I wish they dropped the whole environmental activism is bad plot point, it was a fun ride.
#218- The Taking of Deborah Logan
Holy hell, I didn’t expect it to be so hard to find a relatively recent film. I would’ve watched it sooner but every time I rented it on digital something was wrong with it…the digital copy; think about that.
All praises to the wonderful people over at Shudder, who added it to their catalog for October and I put it at the top of my watchlist. It’s such an interesting take on the possession trope that I was surprised it hadn’t been done before, and for my money it hasn’t been done better.
Well that’s scary.
Horror films definitely dominated what I’ve watched this year by a huge margin. It continues to be my favorite genre because whether it’s a movie about a deranged serial killer, or a killer king-sized bed, the stories are inventive and fun to watch.
#129- The Haunted (1991)
This one is made-for-TV like Dark Night of the Scarecrow, and like that film it’s far better than it should be. The acting and general reactions to goings on are believable, the effects are well done and you can tell the filmmakers put some thought into it.
That said, it doesn’t transcend it’s original medium and you can tell they had to work within constraints.
I was able to catch it while it was briefly on Shudder, but if you can track it down this one is well worth your time.
#32- Psycho II
Hitchcock’s original Psycho is a masterpiece, and honestly Psycho II isn’t that far behind it. It really makes you think about the factors that made Norman Bates into who he was when we met him in the first movie, and how easy it is for other people to become psychos themselves.
While I’m sure the recent TV series does a good job of giving him a detailed backstory, this movie shows you that the only thing needed to turn out like him is blind obsession.
#222- Crawl (2019)
Crawl is so much better than it has any right to be. The movie is exactly what it appears to be but the production and care put into it elevate the film to another level. It’s claustrophobic, it’s brutal and it’s effective.
Whether Sam Raimi did this intentionally or not, the movie definitely reminded me of other films like Burning Bright (2010) and even the criminally underrated Hard Rain (1998).
I highly recommend this, and both of the others I mentioned above.
#186- The Amityville Horror (1979)
I’m not entirely sure how I managed to watch a bunch of bad sequels to this before I saw the original but god damn. There is a reason this is one of the most iconic horror movies of all time.
It legitimately feels like there’s something heavy weighing down on the characters, and even the camera, when they enter the house that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Amityville goes right next to the Exorcist in my list of favorite horror movies of all time.
At the theater.
I went to movies less than I thought I would this year, not because I didn’t want to but because I think blockbusters are starting to lose their affect on me. Smaller films are really drawing me in and next year I doubt I’ll see any major movies on the big screen at all.
#260- Knives Out
I got to see this a week early and for two hours live my dreams of becoming a bumbling detective.
The whole cast was amazing and Ana De Armas is cementing herself as one of my favorite contemporary actors. As a person whose seen Clue probably 25 times, I thought I was ready for all the little twists and turns but Rian Johnson kept me guessing.
Even if you’re not a huge fan of whodunnits this is a great movie. If I were to rank everything I’ve watched this year, Knives Out would definitely be near the top.
I’m still waiting on a Murder She Wrote, Perry Mason or Matlock movie.
#32- Dragon Ball Super: Broly
The first movie I saw in theaters this year, and it didn’t disappoint. Dragon Ball has this amazing quality that brings together both anime nerds and black people in a way nothing else does.
There was a good ten minutes where I think I forgot to breathe while watching it…it was incredible.
#181- Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
The amount of care Tarantino puts into his films feels magical sometimes. While this movie does have its issues I’m glad it wasn’t just a retelling of the real-life events that inspired it.
I had so much fun being dropped into this slice of history and living in it for just a moment. Rick Dalton is a character that everyone can relate to on some level, and when you step away from the larger story and focus on DiCaprio’s performance the movie gets even better.
I love love.
The moment I always come back to when I think about romance on film is so weird. In Digimon: The Movie (2000) where after they defeat the first villain the song The Impression That I Get by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones starts playing and one of the characters reads an email that says “you say you love thunder-showers so what’s a few raindrops between friends?”
#170- L’appartement (1996)
I fell in love with this movie after about 10 minutes. It was gorgeous, frustrating and completely messy in the best way but also reached near Hitchockian heights of suspense when it wanted to.
The chemistry between Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel is palpable on screen; and when I later found that they were married for more than a decade, then it all made so much sense.
The entire runtime you can see not only their characters but Bellucci and Cassel themselves living through the fleeting moments they intersected.
#210- Exotica (1994)
This was the first film in a long time to make me actually say “wow” aloud when the credits rolled.
It falls into a weird category of films that are about love but have an even stronger thread about the loneliness that comes once it’s gone and the lengths people go to avoid dealing with that feeling of emptiness.
Here’s a fantastic list of films that captures that feeling.
#248 Bound (1996)
Bring back erotic thrillers.
What the Wachowski sisters managed with Bound is an amazing balance between sexual and environmental tension that dances on the edge of a knifepoint.
From the minute Corky and Violet locked eyes in the elevator at the beginning of the film I knew it wasn’t going to end well, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t on the edge of my seat the entire time.
Also it’s still weird to see Christopher Meloni not in Law and Order.
#145- Blue My Mind (2017)
When I watched the Lure last year I wondered why we hadn’t gotten more movies that really took a look at mermaids in a non-Disney way.
Combine the uncertainty and confusion of being a teenager, trying to fit into a new school, and massive Lovecraftian body changes together and you get Blue My Mind.
I found this movie to be equal parts fascinating and uncomfortable, and I think that’s what made it so good. I’m becoming slightly obsessed with movies that show how weird and vulnerable it can be to just exist.
#204- Cashback (2006)
I think I’m watching movies like this lately because it’s sort of hard to put those weird, in-between emotions into words; but knowing that somebody else also felt the same way, and managed to translate it into a beautiful film means so much to me.
None of the conversations or interactions between characters feel forced or unnatural, and it combines hopelessness, optimism and apathy so masterfully that it’s kind of a crime. Not to mention, it’s a treat to look at.
Don’t let the cover art sway you away from this one.
Still on my mind.
The films I find myself coming back to a lot when thinking about what I’ve watched this year. They’ve definitely made an impact on me.
#200- Under the Silver Lake
Under the Silver Lake reminds me of my favorite piece of writing of all time, this brief exchange from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
Perhaps I’m old and tired, but I think that the chances of finding out what’s actually going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say, “Hang the sense of it,” and keep yourself busy. I’d much rather be happy than right any day.
And are you?
Ah, no. Well, that’s where it all falls down, of course.
That quote, and this movie, are reminders that you can’t spend your life trying to work out why the world works the way it does; and when Andrew Garfield finally figures that out the film comes together masterfully.
#234- Starfish (2018)
I watched this in October as part of an attempt at watching a movie a day for the entire month.
There’s this dream-like, otherworldly quality to the film and the story told within that makes all of the story beats, and one scene in particular, incredibly impactful.
Virginia Gardner does an amazing job at really making you feel the weight on her character’s shoulders as she tries to unravel a deeply personal mystery.
I think out of all of the movies I loved this year I’d recommend this one the most.
#62- Us (2019)
The episode of the Twilight Zone that Jordan Peele drew inspiration from to create Us is one of my absolute favorites because it falls into that select group of episodes where there isn’t a lesson to learn about the nature of humanity; we simply get a brief glimpse into the strange machinations of this other universe.
That’s probably why I liked it more than Get Out. I don’t need to know why it is, just that it is. It begs the question about what else could possibly be “off” in the world that Peele drops us into, and I wish I had more time to explore it.
#142- Out of Sight (1998)
Steven Soderbergh is like, the king of heist films. Three years before he directed Oceans Eleven, he worked with George Clooney on Out of Sight.
There’s an insane chemistry between Clooney and J-Lo that’s put front and center through an intricate game of cat and mouse that, while slightly formulaic, lays the groundwork for everything that was absolutely perfect in the Oceans trilogy.
It’s so cool to see director’s try out these really big ideas in one film and go on to master them later with such great success.
The disappointments room (ha.)
They aren’t bad, they’re just worst than most.
#52- Greta (2019)
The premise of Greta is interesting and while it had some very strong moments, the people behind the movie had to make some major character compromises in order to push the plot forward and it weakened the story to the point where it completely failed in my opinion.
It’s 2019. None of the social media shenanigans the Greta pulled would work unless your friends and family are complete idiots.
Thinking about this movie frustrates me.
#84- Avengers: Endgame
I don’t know how to feel about Endgame. When Infinity War came out I was blown away because when I was a kid reading the comic for the first time I could’ve never imagined a movie like that existing.
After the credits rolled and the build-up to Endgame started I was still incredibly excited. Even as I sat and watched the movie, twice, I just couldn’t believe it was happening.
It was honestly a really well done film, but I just don’t know if I liked it and I can’t quite put my finger on why. It was all I hoped it would be and more but it feels kind of hollow; and maybe that’s the reason why I’m so torn on it.
It’s a perfect product, but…it’s still a product.
#147- The Prodigy
I love evil kid movies. So between this, Hole in the Ground and Brightburn I thought we were in for a real resurgence but man it was just so boring and formulaic. It felt like entire sequences were lifted from other movies.
Think of any complaint you have for other evil children movies, it probably applies here.
#230- Zombieland: Double Tap
Double Tap has a lot of interesting ideas, but at the end of the day all of them felt half-baked and thrown away by the time the credits rolled.
It has an excellent opening sequence, that unfortunately became a retread of the first film as the minutes rolled on. While that’s not terrible, if we had to wait a decade for this I expected something more imaginative.
#103- The Possession of Hannah Grace
Even though I knew exactly what this movie was going to be, I still couldn’t help but feel disappointed. I can’t stand when director’s make movies set in hospitals extremely dark for no reason other than plot.
It’s a hospital, I don’t think they need to save on electricity by cutting off all the lights.
Otherwise, it was watchable.
#281- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
I don’t think I ever need to watch another Star Wars movie, and that makes me sad.
All the emotional weight of every decision made disappears minutes later. It’s basically two movies stuck together crudely and half of the characters of just there to fill the screen and give a forced feeling of nostalgia.
A decade from now ROS will just be a footnote in the massive franchise that Disney will continue to explode Star Wars into and I’m completely okay with that.
Will I ever watch this many movies in a year again? Probably not.
That said, I’m still exploring and finding little pockets of film that intrigue me and lead on to even stranger places.
I can’t wait to look back on 2020, but until then…