Every year, the Internet attempts to convince me via the social media sphere that it’s been a good year for movies. Every year, I push back against the Internet’s attempts to convince me. Partly, this is because I’m inclined toward oppositional behavior. If you tell me X, I’ll respond with Y. It’s in my blood! Don’t hate me because I’m argumentative. But partly I’m skeptical that it’s “a good year” for movies when every year is a good year for movies. Aren’t some years entitled to not be as good as others? If every year is good, then doesn’t it stand to reason that none of them actually are?
If I’m being honest – with myself with my readers, with the people I work with, with cinema as a medium – I genuinely don’t think 2019’s release slate is especially strong all around; the movies I see as “best” suggest otherwise, but they rest atop a viewing list that’s full of mediocrity. If I didn’t believe very strongly in discerning judgment in best-of lists, and if I felt like I could go to 25 without breaking my moral code, I’d probably only bring myself to go to 20; I doubt very much that even some of the movies I like beyond 20 will stick in my memory years from now, one year from now, a month from now, and if that’s the case, then can I really call them “best”?
What I will say about these movies is that they’re threaded together by the past. The best films of 2019 each concern themselves, to degrees and in very different ways, with the role history plays in the present, and the effect the passage of time has on our relationship the nations we live in. (Maybe the only movie here that doesn’t quite fit into this reading is Monos, but whatever, Monos whips ass regardless. I guess I’ll also point to Portrait of a Lady on Fire here, but I also have very little that I wish to say about this movie until February, which is when it actually opens in theaters. Awards qualifying runs are bullshit.) There are atrocities in the rearview of some of these movies, and in the headlights of others, and nostalgia for bygone times for others still, but taken together, they’re a fantastic bunch, and on their behalf I won’t waste another word hemming and hawing about 2019’s relative strength as a moviegoing year:
10) I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians
8) High Flying Bird
7) Little Women
6) Portrait of a Lady on Fire
5) In Fabric
4) The Irishman
3) The Souvenir
Honorable Mentions: Tigers Are Not Afraid ; Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood
Now, I don’t have any such throughline for my album picks, but I will say that I feel kinda like a dinosaur reading over best-of lists posted to reputable outlets, even the ones that I write for. There are crossover elements here for sure; there are also albums everyone digs by bands everyone digs, and I don’t hear what everyone else hears in them. (In some cases I do, but I have a grudge against the artist, so, y’know, fuck ’em.) Is it me? Or is it the children who are wrong? I expect that this feeling I have is natural for someone who has only really begun taking seriously his listening habits in the last couple years and who only started writing about them a year ago.
That said, my #1 is clearly rooted in the relationship I have with the record via my daughter; the songs at the top spot are the first I sang to my daughter. It’s a personal thing:
10) L’Orange & Jeremiah Jae, Complicate Your Life With Violence
9) Michaela Anne, Desert Dove
8) Purple Mountains, Purple Mountains
7) Ex Hex, It’s Real
6) Sharon Van Etten, Remind Me Tomorrow
5) Faye Webster, Atlanta Millionaires Club
4) Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride
3) Lillie Mae, Other Girls
2) FKA twigs, Magdalene
1) Kevin Morby, Oh My God
Honorable Mentions: Solange, When I Get Home ; Calexico and Iron & Wine, Years to Burn
Oh, and hey: The best horror movies of 2019? Why not? Someone has to record straight on what is and isn’t horror, and what is and isn’t good, and I swear to God if journalists who are not horror journalists continue to auto-include whatever Ari Aster farts onto celluloid from now until kingdom come, I’m going to scream. Have some vision. Also, watch more horror movies, good grief. Horror has always been ubiquitous; there are now more horror movies out there than ever. As always, many horror movies turn out to be trash, but there are in fact treasures among that trash, assuming you aren’t easily distracted by slick production coating empty uninspired hackwork, so, I dunno, try harder.
Anyways. Unsurprisingly, I don’t think 2019 was a particularly strong year for horror, either, but damn if that top 3 isn’t essential viewing. (Pretty sure we’ll also look at Us as Peele’s masterpiece years from now, but what do I know.) The rest, of course, is strong, too, or else I don’t think I’d have it on here at all, would I? But all told I found myself let down by the year’s genre offerings, which is maybe just a byproduct of its increased popularity and a sudden influx of too-much-Stephen-King-IP. Regardless:
Honorable Mentions: Sweetheart, I Trapped the Devil