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Sunday, January 5, 2020

2019 Recap - Favorite Films and Performances


2019 has been a very interesting year for the TwoOhSix having watched and reviewed more movies than ever before (210), going global with film festival coverage including virtual stops in Toronto and the UK, joining the prestigious ranks of the Seattle Film Critics Society, earning a press credential from Allied Global Marketing, and debuting the The TwoOhSix podcast that will be reloaded and relaunched in 2020.

Before we move into the new year, it's time to recap what we saw this year and create lists of our favorite films and performances. For those of you that know me or have followed my website over the years, you know that my favorite lists are usually quite different from the typical lists, nominees, and winners of awards season accolades so be prepared for a few unexpected films to either be included or excluded from my lists and of course, have fun exploring my perspective on a year's worth of cinema.


In the past, I have doled out this recap over several posts although this time around I have decided to cram it all together so you can scroll right on down and enjoy the whole thing all at once. You will find the following categories broken out and a list of favorites for each one.
  • Documentaries
  • Animation
  • Asian Cinema
  • Film Festivals
  • Horror
  • Performances
  • Movies

Apollo 11 directed by Todd Douglas Miller

DOCUMENTARIES:
This category is always an interesting one for me as I'm not a huge fan of the genre as a whole, yet I always seem to run across a few that I really, really enjoy. From space exploration to crazy one hit wonders, this year had a lot to offer and here are the ten documentaries that I enjoyed the most in 2019 listed in order from the top to my number one favorite at the bottom.

Le Chocolat de H - An inspiring portrait of a man who has mastered the art of creation by always looking to see what is possible and this documentary has also inspired me to eat all the chocolate.

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes - The story is truly inspirational as it sheds light on a topic and a time period where humanity really needed to learn how much of an impact it was having on the world.

Ulam: Main Dish - A visual buffet that will fill your senses with the wonders of Filipino foods. Seriously, you will run out of the theater looking for the nearest bowl of pancit or the biggest pile of lumpia you can get your hands on.

Kifaru - From start to finish, Kifaru is a well rounded documentary that will entertain, educate, and inspire anyone who is fortunate enough to watch it.

Desolation Center - 80's Punk rock was known for anarchy, drugs, and wild lifestyles but what Desolation Center shows is the passion, the artistry, and the peaceful connections people had over sharing their talents together in a positive way.

Lynch: A History - A wonderfully innovative journey through the life and mind of one of the NFL's greatest and most polarizing figures, a man who did everything he could to buck the system while also taking advantage of everything it had to offer.

Who Let the Dogs Out - Director and self proclaimed Who Let the Dogs Out expert Brent Hodge has invested more time into this topic than anyone probably ever should, but the resulting documentary is both informative and entertaining.

Kampai! Sake Sisters - An inspiration in film making as it shows just how much of an influence and impact women can have when they are allowed to fully express themselves in an industry they care so much about.

Blowin' Up - The sheer will, determination, and love on display in this movie is enough to make you want to get up and do your part, which is kind of the point, right?

2019 Favorite Documentary: Apollo 11
Even though this is a documentary that uses all archival footage, it plays out like a dramatic thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Apollo 11 is a must watch and should be considered essential viewing for anyone who has any interest in the history of our space program.

Weathering with You directed by Makoto Shinkai

ANIMATION:
I love animated movies, give me all of them! This was a great year for studio releases with just about everything put out there in the multiplexes being really good across the board. Animators are so good at what they do now, the visuals are unbelievably stunning as a standard so great story telling becomes the defining factor of what makes an animated film rise above the rest. Here are my favorite animated films from 2019 listed in order from the top to my number one favorite at the bottom.

On Happiness Road - Kids will love the playful nature of the characters and adults will enjoy the rich, generational story that digs deep into culture, family, and the inevitability of time.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World - If you are a fan of the previous films, you will definitely enjoy what the creative team has put together for a finale. It does what it sets out to do and wraps up one of the better trilogies we've seen in a while.

White Snake - Chinese folklore has never looked this good and, even f you have seen this story in all its other various forms, you won't want to miss out on this highly entertaining animated achievement.

To Your Last Death - The animation has that classic 2D look that plays like a comic book come to life which makes the excessive violence even more fun to watch because you're like, this is crazy but it's just a cartoon. Director Jason Axinn really pulled out all the stops to create a movie that is so over the top bat poop crazy and I loved all of it.

Missing Link - Missing Link is another triumph for Laika as they keep pushing the boundaries for what is possible in stop motion animated story telling. The visuals are stunning and the story is filled with fun and adventure for kids of all ages.

Toy Story 4 - Toy Story 4 is so good. It's everything a Toy Story movie should be and actually leaves you hoping for more but still satisfied and happy if this is the end.

Frozen II - Frozen II is a triumph in the world of animation that I'm sure will be a huge success with children of all ages as the holiday movie season gets under way. Breathtaking animation, captivating musical numbers, meaningful metaphors, positive messaging, and a story that is genuinely funny and filled with tons of emotion. This movie has it all.

2019 Favorite Animated Film: Weathering with You
Weathering with You is a wonderful addition to Makoto Shinkai's master class in what is possible with animated story telling. This movie was not made to sell toys or to cross promote with other brands or to be part of a corporate money making machine. This movie was made to entertain us, to teach us about ourselves and the world around us, and to inspire us to look at life just a little bit differently.

The Wandering Earth / 流浪地球 directed by Frant Gwo

ASIAN CINEMA:
China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia, among others, are constantly churning out some of the best cinematic experiences you will find, you just have to know where to look. Here are my favorite Asian Cinema films from 2019 listed in order from the top to my number one favorite at the bottom.

No Mercy is a relentless roller coaster of cinematic action filled with broken bones and shattered dreams as Lee Si-young leaves a trail of blood, destruction, and sweet satisfaction in her revenge fueled path.

Go Back to China is an important film when it comes to representation and inclusion within the Asian film community and the story covers a lot of important territory in a really fun way.

Chiwawa is an emotional roller coaster of youthful exuberance and a look into a social media driven culture that has changed how we communicate and how we see ourselves, each other, and the world we live in.

The Wandering Earth is an epic scale science fiction adventure that holds nothing back as it reaches for the stars and box office success. The whole thing is a big basket of eye candy that you won't be able to take your eyes off of and the story, while kind of ridiculous, is presented in a way that is just too much fun to resist.

Shadow is a beautiful movie filled with heartbreak, honor, intrigue, triumph, and tragedy. Director Zhang Yimou continues his dominance as one of the greatest visual story tellers of our time.

First Love is one of Takashi Miike's best movies. It's everything I wanted it to be and more. Much more. If Hollywood had the guts to make and market movies as bold and original as this, they wouldn't know what to do with all the money they'd be making. I'd be there for all of it.

Exit is one of the best and most entertaining action movies of the year. It has a great mix of tension and comedy and, after a bit of a slow start for character introduction, will keep you on the edge of your seat all the way to the very end.

House of Hummingbird - I really can't say enough about this movie and how it just penetrates your soul in a very cathartic way and leaves you emotionally exhausted but with a feeling of absolute satisfaction.

Weathering with You - Japanese animation is light years ahead of anything that the domestic studios are putting out and Weathering with You is a prime example of this disparity.

For Izzy is so good and so authentic and I felt all the emotions. Alex Chu, as both writer and director, tackles race, culture, mental health, addiction, love, family, friendship, and so much more and presents it all with a level of passion and creativity that is a pure joy to watch unfold.

Parasite is your chance to see a movie that is original, creative, inventive, different, funny, scary, thrilling, timely, dramatic, emotional and all of the things that make cinema the beautifully fulfilling art form that it is.

2019 Favorite Asian Cinema Film: The Farewell
Every once in a while a movie comes along that is so perfect in its execution that it leaves you stunned and emotionally wrecked. Lulu Wang's semi autobiographical movie is exactly that and rapper turned actress Awkwafina's stunning performance is a revelation.

Honorable Mention:
One Cut of the Dead was released in Japan in 2018 and eventually received a limited release in the U.S. this year so some would have it qualify for 2019 awards which is why I am including it here as an honorable mention.

One Cut of the Dead took home the following awards from TwoOhSix.com in 2018.

Monos from the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival

FILM FESTIVALS:
This year, I covered several different film festivals, mostly from the comfort of my laptop at home, and added an international flavor with Fantasia Festival in Toronto and Frightfest in the UK. That being said, attending my home town Seattle International Film Festival is always a highlight of my year as it is over a month of non stop movies, parties, and interviews. Complete coverage for each festival is linked below along with my favorite movie from each festival.

Brooklyn Horror Film Festival
Girl on the Third Floor is exactly what I want a horror movie to be and it exceeded my expectations in just about every way.

Fantasia International Film Festival
Porno - It's funny, it's scary, it's excessive, it's indulgent, it's smart, and it is filled with non stop gore, nudity, blood, sex, demons, and mind blowing hilarity.

Frightfest
Here Comes Hell - The twists and turns are all quite entertaining and the timeless quality of the production could help it to become a staple of midnight genre screenings and horror festivals for years to come.

Hawaii International Film Festival
Yellow Rose is a beautiful movie that has a ton of heart, a timely message, and a knock out performance from Eva Noblezada. Please make more movies like this and put them in all the theaters.

North Bend Film Festival
Bliss is the drug induced vampire art project you've been waiting for. Highly stylized and filled with rage, this movie will take you on a heavy metal soundtracked highway to hell.

Seattle Asian American Film Festival
For Izzy - Alex Chu, as both writer and director, tackles race, culture, mental health, addiction, love, family, friendship, and so much more and presents it all with a level of passion and creativity that is a pure joy to watch unfold.

Seattle International Film Festival
Top End Wedding is one of the most fun and satisfying movie going experiences I have had in quite some time. It is enjoyable, it is likable, it is emotional, and it just makes you feel good about life. Yes, I had tears during the movie, but they were the happiest of happy tears and it was wonderful.

Slamdance Film Festival
This Teacher is an entertaining, emotionally powerful movie that will make you look at the world we live in just a little bit differently. Thanks in part to a stellar performance from Hafsia Herzi, I would say this is a must see film and a standout among movies currently in the film festival circuit.

Depraved - Directed by Larry Fessenden

HORROR:
My favorite genre never disappoints with innovative story telling and blood splattering good times. This year saw a lot of mainstream titles come out and a ton of indie films with each and every one of them, mostly, pushing the genre forward in different ways. Here are my favorite horror movies from 2019 listed in order from the top to my number one favorite at the bottom.

Girl on the Third Floor is exactly what I want a horror movie to be and it exceeded my expectations in just about every way. Travis Stevens has put together a fantastic first effort and Philip Brooks shows he is a budding superstar outside the wrestling world

Koko-di Koko-da - So, what the hell did I just watch? Seriously, this movie is so weird yet oddly captivating. There was a point where I almost turned it off, which I never do, but I just couldn't take my eyes off of it.

Bliss is the drug induced vampire art project you've been waiting for. Highly stylized and filled with rage, this movie will take you on a heavy metal soundtracked highway to hell.

In Fabric - Peter Strickland's latest sensory overload might just be his best yet as he stitches together a film filled with influences from and homages to a genre he clearly adores. There are so many WTF moments as the insanity builds to its explosive conclusion, you just have to see it for yourself.

Brightburn is definitely not your run of the mill super hero origin story and is not kid friendly in any way, shape, or form. While the story is fairly predictable, the film makers crush it when playing with the horror side of the genre mash up.

Harpoon is sick, twisted, and gratuitously violent. Oh and I loved every moment of it. Rob Grant has created a tale of youthful excess, exuberance, arrogance, and left any trace of empathy on the cutting room floor.

Here Comes Hell is a complete throwback to films of the 1930's in look, style, wardrobe, dialog, and special effects all with a comedic flair that makes this horror movie quite the entertaining thrill ride.

Porno is the indie horror comedy that fans have been waiting for. It's funny, it's scary, it's excessive, it's indulgent, it's smart, and it is filled with non stop gore, nudity, blood, sex, demons, and mind blowing hilarity.

Ready or Not is a crowd pleasing thriller that revels in its devilry and delights in its depravity. The movie turned out to be exactly what I was hoping for and I can't wait to watch it at least a few more times.

2019 Favorite Horror Film: Climax
Climax is the type of movie that you are going to love or hate or maybe you will love and hate it equally depending on how you choose to absorb it. From a film making perspective, the movie is a brilliantly crafted and disturbingly visceral work of art that will stick with you for a long time.

Scarlett Johannson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story

PERFORMANCES:
This category is where my aversion to Best This and Best That really comes in to play. The people listed below moved me, affected me, thrilled me, and/or shocked me, essentially giving me a strong reaction of some type.  Male, female, cat, dog, I don't care. These are my favorite performances of 2019 listed in order from the top to my number one favorite at the bottom with a couple fun categories thrown in to get things started.

Ensemble Cast - The Farewell
I don't know if the casting for this movie could have been done any better as every single person seems to have been tailor made to the play their character. From beginning to end, we are treated to some standout performances from Awkwafina of course as Billi,  Diana Lin as Billi's mom Jian, Tzi Ma as Billi's dad Haiyan, and Shuzhen Zhao who is absolutely brilliant as Billi's grandmother or Nai Nai as she is called.

Cinematic Tag Team Champions: Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson - The Lighthouse
Both Defoe and Pattinson have moments of absolute brilliance mostly while delivering deranged and demented diatribes steeped in the speech and syntax of the time. Defoe has never been better and will deserve some consideration come awards time.

Film Festival Performance: Park Ji-hu / House of Hummingbird
This young woman absolutely killed it playing a middle school aged girl who is dealing with all the difficulties of being that age and then some. Her strength is in the subtleties she is able to project during the quieter and more introspective moments of the film.

Honorable Mention:
Florence Pugh - Fighting with My Family: Florence Pugh is impressive and this movie could raise her up to superstar status just like the woman she was asked to portray. I don't know how much of the stunt work or wrestling she did but her acting was top notch and she has more than enough personality to fill a main event match.

Emilia Clarke - Last Christmas: Clarke's performance in this movie lights up the screen and sends her star power soaring into the stratosphere.

Edward Norton - Motherless Brooklyn: The way Norton brings Lionel Essrog to life is absolutely brilliant and he fits the character perfectly within the classic noir style, crime story he adapted from Jonathan Lethem's award winning novel.

Isabela Moner - Dora and the Lost City of Gold: Isabela Moner is a revelation in the title role as she plays Dora with a perky personality and an endless stream of optimism that no manner of colonized civilization could ever knock down.

Rebecca Ferguson - Doctor Sleep: She absolutely crushes every moment of screen time she gets as she plays her villainous Rose with such a wonderful energy and a dark side that is always waiting to burst out onto the screen at any moment.

Saoirse Ronan - Little Women: Ronan is always amazing and, with this movie, adds to one of the most impressive resumes of the last decade.

Song Kang-ho - Parasite - Song Kang-ho, who plays Kim Ki-taek the patriarch of a family of con artists, is becoming one of my all time favorite actors partly thanks to this movie and also for his work in other Bong Joon-ho films like Snowpiercer and The Host.

Keanu Reeves - John Wick 3 - Parabellum: Do I really need to explain this selection?

Samara Weaving - Ready or Not: While Tarantino has given us Uma Thurman as the most bad ass and iconic bride in cinema history, Samara Weaving definitely holds her own and creates one of the most likable and unexpectedly deadly women in a wedding gown I have ever seen.

Miranda Tapsell - Top End Wedding: Miranda Tapsell is an absolute delight to watch on screen. Her personality jumps off the screen and lights up every moment with a performance that is so incredibly likable and so much fun, everyone in the audience will want to be the one her character is walking down the aisle to marry.


TwoOhSix.com Favorite Performances of 2019

Eva Noblezada - Yellow Rose: At the core of this movie is a star making performance from Eva Noblezada who has the star power and charisma that Hollywood casting directors would die for.

Christian Bale - Ford v Ferrari: Thanks to the deep dive into the character that Bale chooses to take, we really get to see the passion and desire that drove the man sometimes past the point of civility because he knew exactly what was needed to get the job done right.

Scarlett Johansson - Marriage Story: She kills this role. I mean, when she agreed to take on a character who is going through a divorce, she was actually going through a divorce in real life. Mad respect for taking on the role and then knocking it out of the park.

Michelle Ang - For Izzy: Her character Dede is the focal point of the story and the movie is told primarily from her perspective through vlog posts where emotions often coming spilling out in tidal waves of creative energy and untapped emotion. Dede is also a recovering addict and the performance is one of the most honest portrayals of addiction I have seen put on film.

Adam Sandler - Uncut Gems: If there was an award for most exhausting performance, Sandler would win, no contest. Easily the best performance of his career.

Elizabeth Moss - Her Smell: What she does with this character should be dissected and studied by anyone and everyone who might even have the thought that they want to become an actor.

Lupita Nyong'o - Us: A performance that is stunningly good, executed to perfection, and impossible to take your eyes off of.

Leonardo DiCaprio - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Seeing DiCaprio as aging TV star Rick Dalton was an absolute treat and he once again proves why he is one of the most respected and talented actors working today. His performance alone makes this a great movie and a must watch, even with all of its faults, for any fan of the profession.

Nora Lum aka Awkwafina - The Farewell: For someone who, going into this year, had more experience in the music industry than within the acting community, I was very impressed with a performance that was filled with so much natural and honest emotion. If this is what we can expect from Awkwafina as an actress then she is going to have a spectacular career ahead of her.

2019 Favorite Performance: Adam Driver - Marriage Story
There's a scene in this movie that is a conversation between Driver and Johannson's characters where all the emotions were laid out, ran through the ringer, and left everyone an emotional mess. When I say everyone, I mean me. The moment Driver has at the climax of this conversation is soul crushing and horrifying yet somehow inspirational and an absolute release of all the tensions and emotions that had built up over the course of the movie. There are very few people who could pull off this moment the way Driver does and the entire performance is something truly special.

Avengers: Endgame - Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

MOVIES:
2019 featured so many great movies and I watched more of them than any other year, my final tally topping out at 2010 feature films and probably about a dozen short films. From film festivals to summer blockbusters, my tastes flow freely through all categories and genres because you never know when some random documentary or indie horror film will knock your socks off, I'm open to all of it. It's important to note that my lists are not graded on technical merit as much as how effective they are at hitting my emotional buttons.

This was a very difficult task to complete and, if I didn't make the decision to finalize the process, there would be endless maneuvering of the rankings based on my mood or perspective in that moment. After narrowing down all 2010 films to just 30, I couldn't eliminate any more from consideration so I am giving you my top ten and two groups of ten honorable mentions all listed top to bottom from the first group of mentions all the way down to my number one favorite movie of 2019.

Flash's Favorite Movie:
The Island of Cats 『ねことじいちゃん』 - Flash, the official cat of The TwoOhSix, always picks one movie as his favorite of the year and it's usually pretty obvious why he makes the selections he does. The Island of Cats is the type of feel good movie that helps you to appreciate the simple things in life that bring happiness like friends, food, companionship, and cats.

Honorable Mention:
Little Women
Fighting with My Family
Toy Story 4
Porno
Alita: Battle Angel
Apollo 11
Uncut Gems
Marriage Story
Exit / 엑시트
Here Comes Hell

Honorable Honorable Mention:
Yellow Rose - A beautiful movie that has a ton of heart, a timely message, and a knock out performance from Eva Noblezada.

Ford v Ferrari - A custom built, turbo charged ride through one of the biggest moments in American automotive history.

Motherless Brooklyn - The way Norton brings Lionel Essrog to life is absolutely brilliant and he fits the character perfectly.

Queen & Slim - A slick and stylish look at one of the more troubling topics of our time.

Frozen II - Breathtaking animation, captivating musical numbers, meaningful metaphors, positive messaging, and a story that is genuinely funny and filled with tons of emotion.

Spider-Man: Far From Home - Delivers the goods as a stand alone movie but also goes a long way to completing the MCU's Phase 4 story arc.

House of Hummingbird - Penetrates your soul in a very cathartic way and leaves you emotionally exhausted but with a feeling of absolute satisfaction.

Top End Wedding - It is enjoyable, it is likable, it is emotional, and it just makes you feel good about life.

Booksmart - Genuinely funny and emotionally authentic all while providing one of the wildest rides through pre graduation night you will ever see.

Weathering with You 『天気の子』 - This movie was made to entertain us, to teach us about ourselves and the world around us, and to inspire us to look at life just a little bit differently.


TwoOhSix.com Favorite Movies of 2019

10) Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - Directed by Quentin Tarantino
As confusing as it is entertaining. Quentin Tarantino continues to put on a master class on how to make movies but gets a little too much into his own feelings and ends up with a story that I still can't quite wrap my head around. Is it his best work? Absolutely not. Is it a movie that I will keep thinking about and want to watch again and again? Absolutely yes.

9) Ready or Not - Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
A crowd pleasing thriller that revels in its devilry and delights in its depravity. The movie turned out to be exactly what I was hoping for and I can't wait to watch it at least a few more times. Genre buffs and horror fans this is without question a must see film although I feel like even casual movie goers will get a kick out of it so get out there, grab some popcorn, and get ready to have a great time.at the movies.

8) For Izzy - Directed by Alex Chu
So good and so authentic and I felt all the emotions. Alex Chu, as both writer and director, tackles race, culture, mental health, addiction, love, family, friendship, and so much more and presents it all with a level of passion and creativity that is a pure joy to watch unfold.

7) Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - Directed by J.J. Abrams
This is the Star Wars movie I was hoping for and is a very satisfying conclusion to a story that has spanned nearly my entire lifetime. Unlearn what you have learned and go in with no expectation, just sit back with a big bucket of popcorn and prepare to enjoy. Oh, and you might want to bring some tissue as well because emotions and stuff.

6) Climax - Directed by Gaspar Noé
Climax is the type of movie that you are going to love or hate or maybe you will love and hate it equally depending on how you choose to absorb it. From a film making perspective, the movie is a brilliantly crafted and disturbingly visceral work of art that will stick with you for a long time.

5) 1917 - Directed by Sam Mendes
1917 is an achievement in film making and a milestone for Sam Mendes' career. This is a movie that should be on everyone's year end best of lists.

4) Parasite (기생충) - Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Parasite defies any sort of genre labeling. The story works beautifully on so many different levels and just when you think it's going one direction, it spirals out of control into another. The story works perfectly within every genre that it tackles and comes out being better than any one of them.

3) Avengers: Endgame - Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
The movie is fun, it's funny, it's sad, it's dramatic, it's exciting, it's intense, it's moving, and I could go on and on. The number one emotion that capped everything off for me was satisfaction. Even with all of it's faults, I still enjoyed this movie immensely because nothing is left unraveled, there are no loose ends, and yet a very clear path is laid out for the future.

2) John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum - Directed by Chad Stahelski
This movie is a breathtaking non-stop action festival that barely allows you to get comfortable in your seat before taking you on a jaw dropping journey you won't soon forget. Strap in, buckle up, hold tight to that bucket of popcorn and make sure you don't have to take any bathroom breaks, this freight train has no stops and, thanks to a wide open ending, has no final destination.


The Farewell is a beautifully crafted and inspiring work of art. It is everything I wanted it to be and so much more. The movie had me emotionally shook and I mean that in the best way possible. In a year filled with some truly amazing movies, this one stuck with me more than any other. The performances are all deeply engaging, the direction is beautifully crafted, and the story is emotionally authentic all coming together to create an unparalleled movie going experience. - Full Review

I love the fact that this year's favorite films list is filled with so much diversity and then topped off with a movie that is an independent foreign language film written and directed by a Chinese American woman. I always hope that my reviews will open up new possibilities for people to see movies they never would have heard of otherwise or maybe to give a different perspective on the more mainstream titles that are shoved into our collective consciousness.

Thank you for reading through this extensive list of movies and performances, it's always a labor of love to complete this year end recap and I hope you enjoy taking it all in. Want to check out my favorite films and performances through the years. Check out all my year end recaps at the links below and have fun going to the movies!

Annual Favorite Film Recaps:

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