2019 Movie Awards

Favorite Films of 2019

We conclude this recap of 2019 movies with a traditional top 10 list, only a month and a half (or so) late! This marks the fourteenth year in a row that I’ve posted a top 10, which is a pretty respectable streak. For reference, previous top 10s are here: [2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006]

I always try to find some sort of themes for the year in movies, which is a total fool’s errand, but I guess I’m a fool because I enjoy trying it out. This year’s biggest theme seems to be an “Eat The Rich” sort of thing. I would list some examples, but it appears that the grand majority of the below films actually comment on wealth and inequality, directly or indirectly (alright, fine, some of the more notable examples include Parasite, Knives Out, Hustlers, Ready or Not, Us, and many more). I would normally say that this isn’t my favorite theme or anything, but then, these are some pretty fantastic movies, so what do I know? Another theme worth mentioning is the continued influence and growth of streaming. One film in my top 10 and three more in the honorable mentions are streaming exclusives, which is a pretty solid showing… We’ll see if the Oscars will get over the hump and recognize some streaming stuff tonight, but it’s clear that there’s some interesting stuff happening on streaming services.

As of this writing, I’ve seen 98 films that could be considered a 2019 release. While this represents an increase over the past few years and is certainly significantly higher than your average moviegoer, it’s still a much smaller number than your typical critic, so take this all with the appropriate boulder of salt. Standard disclaimers apply, and it’s especially worth noting that due to regional release strategies, some of these would be considered a 2018 movie, but not available until 2019. Eagle eyed readers may notice one particular entry reappearing on this year’s list from last year (which had to do with unofficial release shenanigans last year), but I love the movie so much and most people haven’t seen it, so in it goes! Anywho, I think that’s enough caveats for the moment, let’s get to the list:

Top 10 Movies of 2019

* In roughly reverse order

  • Us – Jordan Peele’s sophomore directing effort isn’t as lean or focused as Get Out was, but it is jam-packed with interesting ideas, visual flare, amazing dual performances, and yet it remains entertaining and rewatchable. It’s bold and exciting filmmaking, and I’m intrigued to see what Peele does next.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

  • Dolemite Is My Name – Eddie Murphy’s triumphant return to comedic greatness comes in what is clearly a labor of love. For some unknown reason, Rudy Ray Moore movies were a staple of my teen years, and this bio-pic of Moore is supremely entertaining and funny; an excellent example of the “I’m pretty sure it didn’t happen this way, but who cares because this is really fun!” style of movie. Murphy’s performance alone makes this worth the watch, but the whole thing is just so much fun.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Netflix] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner] [Capsule Review]

  • Parasite – Bong Joon Ho’s films don’t often work for me, but this one really opened my eyes. It’s a fantastic con movie with lots of thematic heft bubbling under the surface. It’s one of those movies where I never really knew where we were going, but once we got there, it felt inevitable. Impeccably crafted with great performances all around, I’m glad this one is garnering lots of attention.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Shadow – Zhang Yimou’s tale of palace intrigue sometimes approaches Shakespeare-esque grand historical drama while also featuring excellent wu xia action sequences and a muted but somehow still visually striking visual palette. Zhang handles the intricate plot and action with a clarity and fluidity that is impressive (and beyond most other directors).

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Apollo 11 – This documentary is an astonishing document of one of humanity’s greatest achievements.

    Apollo 11

    It winds up being more informative, exciting, and emotionally potent than any “dramatization” of the same events can manage, and the restored 65mm footage looks astounding.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Knives Out – Rian Johnson’s whodunit perfectly captures the Agatha Christie ouvre; tons of red herrings, mysteries within mysteries, an old creaky house, a will reading, cozy sweaters, and so on, all expertly crafted and knitted into an airtight narrative. While some of its surface politics might initially feel ham-handed, the real lesson at the heart of the movie is that it doesn’t matter what ideological position you take, it’s your actions that matter.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

  • The Standoff at Sparrow Creek – Taut single-location thriller about a militia member trying to ferret out a killer in their midst, this movie is gravely underseen and underrated. Smart, sharp writing anchors the film and manages to ratchet a lot of tension out of what are essentially a bunch of conversations.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • One Cut of the Dead – Longtime readers may recognize this as my favorite movie of last year, but due to various release date snafus, it’s probably more apt to put it in this year’s list. It obviously has traction among genre fans, but it deserves wider recognition so I’m including it near the top of this year’s list too.

    One Cut of the Dead

    What starts as a somewhat rote zombie story (albeit one that is made more interesting due to the filmmaking), eventually morphs into something that is so much more. Highly recommended Japanese flick, very entertaining and surprisingly resonant.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino’s latest love letter to 60s Hollywood and the power of cinema continues some of his more indulgent tendencies and at first glance feels a bit disjointed, but after watching a couple times, any reservations have been obliterated. Tarantino is still at the height of his craft, he’s able to harness star power while getting great performances, and he managed to redefine Sharon Tate as a real person while he was at it. A supreme hangout movie, I have a feeling this will age very well.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

The Quantum Jury Prize:

Awarded to films that exist only in a quantum superposition of two or more states. If you’re not sure what that means, but that’s kinda the point, and I’m going to confuse matters even more because while I’ve had this section in the last few years’s Top 10 lists, I’m using it in a completely different way this year. In the past, the quantum state had to do with my respect for films that I didn’t particularly love watching, or things that I went back and forth on.

This year, it’s more about which film would end up in the tenth slot (astute readers may have noticed that there’s only nine films listed above). Like Shcrodinger’s Cat, the actual #10 film exists in a superposition that will only experience a waveform collapse once we observe it. But every time I observe it, I get one of four answers. Or something like that. I guess I could have just done a four way tie for #10, but it’s my list and I’m doing this instead.

  • 1917 – The single take conceit dominates the conversation around this affecting WWI drama, but I found it effective at emphasizing the tension and claustrophobia of the young soldier’s mission. The story is perhaps a tad simplistic, but the execution is so spectacular that it deserves some recognition. This is the sort of film that I do tend to gravitate toward, so it could easily have taken that #10 slot.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Dragged Across Concrete – S. Craig Zahler’s latest crime thriller is a real doozy. It gets off to a bit of a rocky start, but once the unconventional bank robbery at its core gets going, it sinks its teeth in and never lets go. This movie occupies a similar space as several others on my top 10, but that’s because it’s sorta in my wheelhouse.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Little Women – Greta Gerwig’s impeccably appointed adaptation of the famous Louisa May Alcott novel hits on all cylinders, but the performances of a large ensemble are what really shine for me. As I understand it, Gerwig’s spin on the story was to introduce some chronology tinkering, and I have questions about one bit in particular, but I ultimately loved the movie. This film would make my top 10 a more rounded list.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum – Just in terms of pure action, this film is worthy. In particular, the knife fight is one of the most spectacular sequences I saw on film all year. The only thing holding this film back is the plot, which is starting to feel a bit creaky and strained at this point. That said, it’s still supremely entertaining to watch, and that’s the sort of thing I like in my top 10.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

Honorable Mention

* In an order I dare you to discern

  • Uncut Gems – The Safdie brothers pull an exceptional performance out of Adam Sandler and the last hour or so of the film is almost unbearably tense, but I can’t help but thinking that I’d enjoy this movie a lot more if I cared at all about pretty much any of the characters. The artistry is evident and the film is very well made, but it’s far from a crowdpleaser. I liked it, but it’s a far cry from the top 10.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Prospect – This indie science fiction flick about a doomed prospector and his daughter’s fight for survival on an alien planet has some setup issues, but is ultimately a very well done thriller with good performances and worldbuilding (I particularly like the decision to make wearing the space suit with helmet at almost all times a necessity; it’s one of those things that seems like a limitation but is actually an opportunity and actually makes for a good aesthetic choice.)

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Capsule Review]

  • High Flying Bird – Steven Soderbergh shot this film on an iPhone, and it’s true that the film mostly consists of simple conversations, but there’s a nifty plot baked in, with sharp dialogue and plenty of unexpected twists and turns. This is one of those things that got kinda dumped on Netflix early in the year, but is worth seeking out (also of note: I hate basketball, but I still enjoyed it!)

    More Info: [IMDB] [Netflix]

  • The Irishman – Martin Scorsese’s epic gangster flick is an unwieldy 3.5 hours long, but it’s also an interesting character study about a man who (very) slowly hollows out his soul over the course of decades of working for the mob. By the time you get towards that last hour, it becomes utterly devastating. De Niro and Pacino put in their best performances in years (decades?), but Joe Pesci is the real standout, and that’s saying something. It’s not a “fun” film, but it has grown on me, and is well worth checking out.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Netflix] [Capsule Review]

  • The Kid Who Would Be King – Joe Cornish’s modern-day take on Arthurian legend is probably more entertaining than you expect. This seems like one of the more chronically underseen films of the year, with great performances from a young cast and properly archetypal characters. Maybe it’s a little silly, but it’s actually a lot of fun.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Avengers: Endgame – The culmination of more than a decade’s worth of films somehow manages to mostly stick the landing. It doesn’t break the mold of your typical Marvel movie, but that sort of thinking doesn’t work for the MCU. The real strength is not the individual films, but rather the way they underline and reinforce one another. This may or may not be your thing, but it is still a pretty amazing achievement. (Oh, and this particular film is, in itself, pretty damn entertaining.)

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • The Farewell – Lulu Wang wrote and directed this drama about cultural differences between China and America (as illustrated by a family crisis precipitated by the matriarch’s cancer diagnosis). Wang manages a fine balancing act between the specific and the universal. We all have families and events (ranging from happy to sad and everywhere inbetween) like those highlighted in the story, but the movie also portrays a very specific family and a very specific culture clash with oodles of keenly observed details. I liked this a lot more than I thought I would (it’s one of those films I probably wouldn’t have caught up with if I didn’t go out of my way for posts like this).

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Little Monsters – Lupita Nyong’o leads this goofy Australian zombie flick about a down-on-his-luck musician and a teacher protecting a field trip from a zombie outbreak. Well worth checking out.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Klaus – Animated Christmas movie that plays with the origins of the Santa Claus (er, Klaus) myth, this is a gorgeous movie with a clever script and fun story. I’m not sure if it’s destined to become an annual tradition, but you could do a lot worse in that respect…

    More Info: [IMDB] [Netflix]

  • Marriage Story – I’m not a big fan of Noah Baumbach’s general obsession with dysfunction, but there seems to be a bit of balance here that helps this story about bitter divorce proceedings. There’s a somewhat even hand between the two aggrieved parties, but the real insight of the film is just how shitty lawyers are and how the legal system can intensify an already brutal and vicious event into something even more severe. Exceptional performances abound, and even a touch of hope in the end.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Netflix]

  • Ready or Not – A new bride becomes enmeshed in her new family’s gaming tradition, which sometimes involves a hunt to the death. One of the most fun times at the movies of the year, with an eye opening and unexpected ending which I’m probably ruining for you just by talking about it, sorry. Worth checking out for you horror bloodhounds out there.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Good Boys – Surprisingly affecting story about a group of tweens going on an epic quest to fix a drone (or something, that part isn’t important). I thought this would be a rote, one-joke affair (tweens cursing!), so when it turns out that this movie had some pretty sharp insights into the nature of growing up and friends who come together or drift apart, I was quite surprised, and you might be too.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

  • Hustlers – A group of strippers band together to scam a bunch of Wall Street clients, this sorta has the feel of a Scorsese gangster epic; the rise and fall of a brash criminal enterprise, anchored by Jennifer Lopez’s magnetic performance and her relationship with costar Constance Wu.

    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Just Missed the Cut:

But still worthwhile, in their own way. Presented without comment and in no particular order:

Should Have Seen:

Despite having seen around 90 of this year’s releases (and listing out 30+ of my favorites in this post), there are a few that got away. Or never made themselves available here. Or that I probably need to watch, but don’t wanna because reasons. Regardless, there are several movies here that I probably should have caught up with:

Normally, I’d do a whole post of Oscars predictions, but since they pushed the ceremony up this year, I basically ran out of time and in the end, who cares about my predictions? I’ll be on Twitter during the show, so feel free to hit up @mciocco for incisive commentary (or, more likely, retweets of people funnier/more insightful than me). For the record, my guesses are for Best Picture: 1917, Director: Mendes (maybe Bong Joon Ho), Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, Actress: Renée Zellweger, Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt, Supporting Actress: Laura Dern, Original Screenplay: Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood (though maybe Parasite), Adapted Screenplay: Little Women (though maybe Jojo Rabbit). So there.

2019 Kaedrin Movie Awards: The Arbitrary Awards

The 2019 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners were announced last week. The premise of those awards is to recognize aspects of films that aren’t reflected in more traditional awards or praise like a Top 10 list or whatever. However, any awards system will fail to capture all the nuances and complexity available, so we come to the Arbitrary Awards, an opportunity to commend movies that are weird or flawed in ways that don’t conform to normal standards. A few of these “awards” have become an annual tradition, but most are just, well, arbitrary. Previous Arbitrary Awards: [2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006]

  • The “You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else” Award for Worst Dialogue: Serenity. Sometimes this award goes to bad movies, other times it goes to movies that are so bad they’re good. This utterly bonkers movie straddles the line, and is almost worth watching for the absurd twist at its core, but the dialogue is also quite impressively bad (A favorite line read: “Baker Dill, you’re no more than a hooker“, funny just because of his name, but then the struggling fisherman responds: “A hooker who can’t afford hooks”).
  • The Proximity to Jason Vorhees Award for Heroic Stupidity: Glass. Overall, I like a lot about this movie, but boy, are those hospital employees stupid!
  • Award for Achievement in Seagull Violence: Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse. I was mixed on the film overall, but the, er, seagull scene was pretty eye opening, and it’s worth noting that Willem Dafoe probably deserves more recognition somewhere too.
  • Best Stripper Who Doesn’t Really Strip That Much: Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers. There’s this thing in Hollywood movies were really famous people play strippers but they don’t actually take their close off but in this case, who cares, J Lo is magnetic and super charismatic in this film that definitely warrants more recognition than it’s got.
  • Give This Person Their Own Action Franchise, Dammit: Mackenzie Davis was really fantastic in the middling Terminator: Dark Fate, it really just made me want to see her in an original action movie that isn’t saddled with all the baggage of the Terminator sequels.
  • Most Explosive Ending: Ready or Not. I will not spoil the ending, but I admire that they went there.
  • Best Entrance to Graduation: Booksmart. This movie is fun, if not quite the revelatory experience some have proclaimed it as, but I kinda loved their entrance to their graduation, so here we are.
  • Best Documentary About a Complete Fraud: The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley. The story of multi-billion dollar medical-testing startup Theranos is fascinating and the fraud at its heart is completely bonkers. Strong runners up in the the Fyre Festival documentaries, but there were two of them and they split the vote and besides, Theranos’ fraud is much more egregious than a poorly run music fest.
  • Best Long Take/Tracking Shot: 1917. Duh. Due to release date weirdness, I’m not sure if One Cut of the Dead qualifies, but it would be a strong contender.
  • Should Host the Oscars: Babu Frik from Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. Look, he won’t be better than my dream host for last year’s Oscars (that would be Cheddar Goblin, who should host every year), but Babu Frik would work…
  • Best Hero/Disembodied Body Part: I Lost My Body. This is an interesting animated French movie that I’m not sure adds up to much, but approximately half of the screen time portrays the quest of a disembodied hand making its way back to its body, and it’s something else, let me tell ya.
  • Most Egregious Use of Bullet-Time Technology: T-34. Tank battles galore. Some of the effects aren’t perfect, but it’s a really fun action movie with great tank battles.
  • The “Weiner” Award for Unparalleled Access to Documentary Subjects: American Factory. It’s perhaps not as distinguished as the award’s namesake, but the access the filmmakers managed in this Chinese run American Factory is admirable and enlightening.
  • Best Drinking Game: Whatever it was they were playing at the wedding in The Farewell. I don’t know what the game was, but the visual comedy of it all was perfectly calibrated.
  • Achievement in Sandwich Eating: Vince Vaughn in Dragged Across Concrete. Dude just plows through a breakfast sandwich after a long stakeout night. This is one of those scenes that immediately made me think “This needs to be an arbitrary award”, but since that was like 9 months ago, I totally forgot about it until now (I’m adding this after the fact), but it 100% warrants recognition.

Stay tuned, the top 10 comes next week (just in time for the Oscars, which I probably won’t be posting about because they pushed the broadcast up a few weeks)…

Update: Added the last category, which I can’t believe I forgot to add. I had the flu this weekend, so I wasn’t thinking straight…

2019 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners

The nominations for the 2019 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. Since then the Vegas odds-makers and Howard Ratners of the world have been going bonkers, so it’s time to announce the winners so that the criminals trapped in that weird vestibule thing can be buzzed out (get it? I’m being topical! For the approximately zero of you who have seen Uncut Gems, at least.) Next week, I’ll announce the winners of some more goofy, freeform categories that we call the Arbitrary Awards, and not long after that, I’ll post my top 10 of 2019 (the Oscars are much earlier this year, so I may post some commentary, time permitting, or more likely not). Alrightly then, enough preamble, let’s get to the winners. And the KMA goes to:

  • Best Villain/Badass: Red, played by Lupita Nyong’o in Us. And it’s not even particularly close. Lupita Nyong’o’s performance as Red is full of menace and barely suppressed rage, but it’s a dual role, and she puts forth a distinct performance has Red’s doppleganger too (and without spoiling the movie, the villainy is not diminished by such machinations).
    Red in Us

    The other nominees aren’t so much bad as they are simply perfunctory. It’s a superhero film or a Star Wars film and so a villain is dutifully trotted out. For the most part, they get the job done, but few leave a lasting imprint. Thanos works less because of himself than because he’s the villain in the culmination of a ten year run of movies (this is Marvel’s superpower – the individual films matter less than the whole). Jake Gyllenhaal makes Mysterio work better than he does on paper, but is ultimately a little silly in Spider-Man: Far from Home. Mark Dacascos is interesting in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, but it’s hard not to see him as the Chairman from Iron Chef America, which adds its own surreality to the proceedings, I guess, but perhaps not intentional. Plenty of fine villains, but nothing stands out as much as Red…

  • Best Hero/Badass: Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. An altogether better year for heroism, even for a more atypical, perhaps even ambiguous character like Cliff Booth. Tarantino doesn’t explicitly tell us what happened with Booth’s wife, but what we do see in the film proper is certainly badass and heroic. It’s one of those things where your interpretation of the character in the film probably says more about you than the film itself.
    Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    Lots of other strong contenders in this category too. I don’t know how John Wick keeps losing this award, but it appears he’ll have another chance soon enough, and we’ll certainly be talking more about this film below (this is perhaps why I don’t feel compelled to give him this category – it gets recognized elsewhere). Scott Adkins puts in a fun, badass performance in Avengement, pouring himself a pint after beating the hell out of every gangster in a bar with a cricket bat. Even bit parts like Tilda Swinton in The Dead Don’t Die warrant some mention, though that character has a distinct lack of heroism (which is not to say that she’s a villain either). Samara Weaving in Ready or Not also does well, though she suffers in comparison to Sharni Vinson’s Kaedrin Movie Award Winning Hero/Badass performance in You’re Next. Actually, the grand majority of nominees are pretty close, with only a couple standouts. It’s a pity that most of them were not opposed by proper villainy.

  • Best Comedic Performance: Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name. This movie was clearly a labor of love for Murphy, and his passion for the material really shines through. This is an award that is often muddled due to the prevalence of comedic ensembles (and a glance through the nominees shows some of that), but Murphy’s performance really does stand out in a way that most others do not. A bunch of the nominees are smaller, side characters who manage to steal scenes from the larger narrative (Keanu Reeves in Always Be My Maybe, Zoey Deutch in Zombieland: Double Tap, and perhaps most impressive due to the young age, Archie Yates in Jojo Rabbit). Other nominees are more conventional, or perhaps less conventional but not defined so much as comedic roles. In the end, Murphy’s performance is why this award exists.
  • Breakthrough Performance: Florence Pugh in Midsommar and Little Women. For whatever reason, I had a tougher time populating this category this year, but Florence Pugh was my first thought and the obvious winner due to a strong lead performance in Midsommar and her thankless ensemble work in Little Women (“thankless” might not be the right word for this, but the character of Amy is fraught with some baggage for sure). The woman can frown like no other, but she has a nice smile too (there’s a scene in Little Women where the sisters are doing one of Jo’s plays and she clinks her pipe with her sister and for some reason that moment is very memorable for me.) Anyway, Jessica Rothe in Happy Death Day 2U is here as a sorta “sorry, I forgot to nominate you last time”, but she genuinely seems up for anything in this sequel (the glee with which she kills herself to reset the day, jumping out of the airplane or headfirst into a woodchipper, really does stand out). Samara Weaving in Ready or Not again gets a nod here and I’m expecting good things from her going forward. Did I say it was hard populating this category? Huh, because all the nominees are pretty great, actually.
  • Most Visually Stunning: Shadow. It’s an odd choice, because the color palette of this movie is quite muted, to the point where it almost feels like a black and white film at times, and yet that only makes the visuals in the film stronger and more memorable.

    Strong runner up in the form of 1917, whose single take shenanigans are impressive to say the least. The rest of the nominees range from the gorgeos spectacle to the more sober but very well photographed that usually populate the category…

  • Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: Us. Jordan Peele’s sophmore directing effort isn’t as lean or focused as his first effort, but it’s still good and interesting stuff. The rest of the nominees are a pretty fun bunch and well worth checking out. They skew towards horror, as I wasn’t taken with a lot of this year’s high-profile artistic SF (like Ad Astra or High Life), but the lone SF nominee, Prospect, is quite good and it feels underrated (or at least underseen) too.
  • Best Sequel/Reboot/Remake: Avengers: Endgame. As mentioned above, this movie’s strength is not just that it’s a fun movie with lots of good stuff, but rather that it’s the conclusion to more than a decade’s worth of films, and the achievement as a whole seems worhty of recognizing (and what better place than the best sequel category). Given my usual distaste for sequels, this category is often difficult to populate and it’s hard to believe that I never had “Remake” as part of the category before (though I’m sure I had some nominees that were remakes in the past? Maybe?), but two decent remakes this year in Little Women and Cold Pursuit) persuaded me to add that to this category. The other nominees are just fine and well worth checking out if you liked their respective previous films…
  • Biggest Disappointment: The Laundromat. Remember when Steven Soderbergh quit directing films? Well, he made two in 2019, one of which was pretty great (High Flying Bird), and the other just fell completely flat. So many of the elements of The Laundromat should work, but it just continually fails to inform or entertain, culminating in a bizarre non-sequitur of a 4th wall break that’s just plain boorish. This is not a category I like to dwell on, but I will say that I generally enjoyed the other nominees, but for whatever reason, I had higher expectations that I probably should have going in, which makes them disappointing. But the Laundromat takes the cake here.
  • Best Action Sequences: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Hey may not have won the best Hero/Badass, but this film certainly had the best action sequences of the year. With each new installment, these movies one-up the action, and this one contains a few amazing setpieces, most notably the knife fight and the one with the good doggies. This marks the year in which I discovered Jesse V. Johnson’s direct to video/streaming offerings, so a couple nominees show up here that are worth watching for action fans (Avengement and Triple Threat). I didn’t love Ad Astra, but what’s not to like about the moon rover battle? Also of note, S. Craig Zahler’s more measured, deliberate action setpieces are tense and unpredictable, punctuated by gruesome violence. Oh, and not nominated but should be: T-34, a Russian tank movie with great, propulsive action sequences and extensive bullet-time-esque shots (the one on Amazon Prime is dubbed, but who cares, you’re not watching this for the dialog). A decent crop of action this year, for sure.
  • Best Plot Twist/Surprise: Knives Out. “It is not a doughnut hole, but a smaller doughnut with its own hole, and our doughnut is not holed at all!” I won’t go into details here due to spoilers (and I suppose the fact that there’s a twist/surprise is spoiler all on its own, but in the case of a whodunit, what else would you expect?) Some other good nominees here, but again, I’ll refrain from details due to spoilers…
  • Best High Concept Film: 1917. The idea of a “high concept” is a bit of a nebulous one and maybe the “stringing together shots so it looks like one continuous take” isn’t enough of a high concept for you, but it really worked in 1917, so here we are. Much has been made of whether this is a gimmick for gimmick’s sake or otherwise effective, but it worked well for me, building tension and claustrophobic dread over the course of the film (with little in the way of release). Other nominees had some neat ideas for sure, and most are worthy, even when the high concept doesn’t quite work out in a way I loved (i.e. Cold Case Hammarskjöld is a bizarre documentary and I’m not entirely sure it works but it’s interesting nonetheless…)
  • 2019’s 2018 Movie of the Year: A Simple Favor. It’s a nice, twisty little thriller. Once I get past a given year, I don’t usually catch up with stuff from that year, especially when it comes to more challenging films. This year wasn’t really an exception to that, but I did catch up with a lot of fun things. Perhaps another benefit of the streaming era… One notable nominee would be Suspiria, which felt a little overlong and overindulgent, but which I ultimately liked a lot. Most of the other nominees are worth a watch here or there too, though none are really lighting the world on fire.

So there you have it. Congrats to all the winners. Stay tuned for the Arbitrary Awards, coming next week!

2019 Kaedrin Movie Awards

Welcome to the fourteenth annual Kaedrin Movie Awards! The idea is to recognize films for various achievements that don’t always reflect well on top 10 lists or traditional awards. There are lots of formal award categories and nominees listed below, but once those are announced, we’ll also leave some room for Arbitrary Awards that are more goofy and freeform. Finally, we’ll post a traditional top 10 list (usually sometime in early/mid-February). But first up is the awards! [Previous Installments here: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018]

Standard disclaimers apply: It must be a 2019 movie (with the one caveat that some 2018 films were not accessible until 2019 and are thus eligible under fiat) and I obviously have to have seen the movie. As of this writing, I’ve seen 92 movies that would be considered a 2019 release. Significantly less than your typical critic, but more than your average moviegoer and enough to populate these awards. Obviously this is a personal exercise that is entirely subjective in nature, but the world would be a boring place indeed if we all loved the same things for the same reasons, right? Right. Without further ado:

Best Villain/Badass

It seems like the last few years have been mired in mediocre villainy and while this year is not exactly breaking the mold, the winner is very clear and could hold their own with most of the previous winners in this category. In accordance with tradition, my picks in this category are limited to individuals, not groups (i.e. no vampires or zombies as a general menace, etc…) or ideas.

Best Hero/Badass

Probably a step up from villainy, and a more broad coalition of heroism to boot. A few standouts, might be difficult to pick the winner here. Again limited to individuals and not groups.

Best Comedic Performance

This is sometimes a difficult category to populate due to the prevalence of ensembles in comedy movies (this year being no exception). I also noticed a distinct bias towards smaller side roles or cameos this year, which is neat, but makes it hard to pick those roles as a winner. That being said, this year has a clear lead performance that exemplifies why this award exists…

Breakthrough Performance

This used to be a category more centered around my personal evaluation of a given actor (rather than a more general industry breakthrough), but it’s trended more towards the youngsters breaking through as time has gone on. This year is certainly more along those lines, with plenty of decent options. For whatever reason, I had a more difficult time populating this list this year, though I think I’ll be able to narrow it down easily enough…

Most Visually Stunning

Sometimes even bad movies can look really great… and yet most of these are pretty great. A middling year for this sort of thing, perhaps leaning towards more sober, well-photographed beauty than flashy spectacle, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film

It’s always nice to throw some love to genres that don’t normally get a lot of recognition in end-of-the-year lists. As an avid SF fan, it’s sad that the genre has to be combined with Horror in order to come up with a well rounded set of nominees. There was a time in the past decade or so where that seemed like it was changing, but that moment seems to have passed. At least, for the types of SF that I love (there were a few high profile SF films that I didn’t love this year, so the industry is still trying, at least).

Best Sequel/Reboot/Remake

Always an awkward category to populate, especially given my normal feeling on this sort of thing. After an unusually fertile year for this category last year, this year isn’t quite that great, but still pretty good.

Biggest Disappointment

A category often dominated by sequels and reboots, and lo, this year is a bit of a return to form, though there’s still some original films that were quite disappointing as well. This category is definitely weird in that sometimes I actually enjoy these movies… but my expectations were just too high when I saw them. Related reading: Joe Posnanski’s Plus-Minus Scale (these movies scored especially poor on that scale).

Best Action Sequence

This award isn’t for individual action sequences, but rather an overall estimation of each film, and there’s actually a pretty good range this year. I think there’s a pretty clear standout, but there’s not a lot of filler in this category, so it’s been a pretty solid year for action…

Best Plot Twist/Surprise

I suppose even listing that there is a twist is a bit of a spoiler, so I guess we’ll just have to risk it. A pretty strong lineup this year, and I think there will be a strong standout…

Best High Concept Film

A bit of a nebulous concept for this one, but I think the category fills out nicely, with a couple of standouts. Pretty wide open for the winner though.

2019’s 2018 Movie of the Year

This is a weird category. Once I get past my top 10, I rarely tackle challenging material from the previous year, though I do sometimes find a few diamonds in the rough. This category emerged from one frustrating year in which I saw two movies far too late for the top 10, so I created this award to recognize them. Since then, the nominees are pretty lackluster (and indeed, the amount of films I watch that qualify are usually pretty low to start with). This year, for whatever reason, I’ve seen a ton of decent things from 2018. None that I think would override my top 10 from that year, but I’m sure we can find a winner worthy of recognition.

So there you have it. 51 different films nominated (2018 films and disappointments not counted), so really spreading the love here. Surprisingly, Ready or Not leads the way with 5 nominations, which is an honor all by itself (because, um, I don’t think it’ll be winning many of those awards, even if I really enjoyed it). Us, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, and Happy Death Day 2U clock in at a respectable 4 nominations a piece (with at least a good chance of winning some awards). Five movies snagged 3 nominations, and the grand majority have 2 noms or a lone nomination. Winners to be announced next week, followed by Arbitrary Awards, a traditional Top 10 of the year, and maybe some Oscars commentary (the ceremony is much earlier this year, so maybe not?) Stay tuned!