Before I get to my top 10 of the year list (which I guess you can just determine by the photo above), I’ve got a quick rant.
I went through the first nine or so months of this year thinking 2019 would be the worst year of movies this decade. I was petrified that when January 1, 2020 came rolling around, I would have to name Avengers: Endgame the best movie of the year.
Thankfully, I realized I was wrong when all of my favorite movies of the year came rolling out between October and December – but at what cost?
I get it – the end-of-year Awards season sprint is real, but I don’t think it’s ever come off as strong as it has this year. Let’s not forget 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road won five Oscars, despite an H1 release date. Get Out went on to win Best Screenplay in 2018, while Black Panther took home four trophies in 2019 – and both of these hits came out in February.
All I’m trying to say is that studios do not need to release all their best movies at the end of the year. It’s exhausting to be a film buff for the first part of the year and consistently see garbage, then have to wait multiple months to see something of merit.
So, in the off chance someone with decision making power in a movie studio is reading this, please distribute your films more evenly in the 2020’s.
Thanks for reading my rant, and enjoy the Top 10 list!
Every year, a few awesome movies slip through the cracks in the eyes of the public. This year, one of them was Luce. The movie follows a high schooler who was adopted by a white American couple after serving as an African child soldier in his youth. When a teacher perceives Luce’s behavior as questionable, things spiral out of control in one of the most fascinating did-he-or-didn’t-he movies I’ve ever seen.
9. Doctor Sleep
Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of this Shining sequel cements him as a filmmaker to watch in this new decade. It holds nothing back in its briskly paced and exciting exploration of what happens to Danny Torrence as an adult, and I didn’t realize how badly I needed this movie in my life until I experienced it first hand.
I admittedly went into Bombshell a bit skeptical, expecting an overtly political message movie. Instead, what I saw was a timely, brilliantly acted film, edited so well that it left me in awe.
7. Honey Boy
Honey Boy‘s exploration of the father-son relationship is uplifting, gut-wrenching, saddening, and painfully honest. While it’s at times too therapeutic for Shia – at the film’s expense – it doesn’t overshadow the power of the screenplay, the sincerity of the direction, or the performances of LaBeouf and Noah Jupe.
6. Avengers: Endgame
Gotta give credit where credit’s due. I still think Infinity War is the superior film, but Endgame stands for something greater – and executes well enough to leave Marvel’s millions of fans immensely satisfied thanks to a euphoric final battle, prefaced by an exhilarating adventure and followed by a beautiful sendoff to some of the most popular characters we’ve seen in the past eleven years.
5. Richard Jewell
Another under-seen and under-appreciated gem, Richard Jewell is written, directed, and edited to a T, taking us through the systematic unraveling of a man’s life. Interwoven with heart, humor, relevance, and standout performances from Sam Rockwell and Paul Walter Hauser, Richard Jewell silently demands your attention – and you should listen.
4. Marriage Story
I was fortunate enough to see Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story on the big screen, which made his heartbreaking tale even more immersive. I knew this movie was making my Top 10 when the apartment fight scene was playing out in front of me, where I had to take a moment and make myself aware of what I was watching. Also, Adam Driver is quite possibly career-best.
3. Jojo Rabbit
Jojo Rabbit handles its subject matter with a beautiful balance of humor and heart, and boasts star-making performances from young actors Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie. This is also the movie that made me an official Taika Waititi fan.
Sam Mendes, man. Holy crap. I kid you not – there was one scene in this movie that was so amazing that I almost cried during it. A masterpiece in every way, it’s the movie from this year that I’m most excited to rewatch. I toyed with making it my number one, but in my heart, I couldn’t take the spot away from…
Can you believe it? I can’t. A foreign film is my number one movie of the year. I was floored by its screenplay, production design, themes, direction, and acting. And…that’s all I can really say without giving too much away, since I strongly suggest going into this movie as blindly as possible.
So, let’s address the elephant in the room. This is almost a week late.
This delay was fueled in part by an unusually busy week. It was also fueled by a surprisingly unsurprising list of Oscar nominations. Sure, my face was as agape as everyone’s when the first nominee announced was Kathy Bates, and I have plenty to say about the legendary pool of potential Best Actor nominees. But for the most part – nothing too crazy in my eyes.
So, let’s get started.
The nominees we didn’t hear, but thought that we would.
Lulu Wang’s drama about a Chinese-American girl and her family bidding adieu to their matriarch was on the bubble for multiple categories, but was mentioned zero times on Monday morning. Most notably absent were Awkwafina (in a Golden Globe-winning performance), Zhao Shuzhen’s supporting performance as Nai Nai, and Wang for Best Original Screenplay. Wang and the film itself were also considered dark horses for Best Director and Picture, respectively.
And the internet went wild. To be quite honest – I’m not livid over this one, though I understand and share the frustration over not seeing female representation in this category. I just think people are looking at this situation the wrong way.
My feelings aside, one would think the critical acclaim for Gerwig’s take on Little Women – and the societal pressures of having a female in the category – would have ensured her nomination. Instead, the spot went to Joker’s Todd Phillips.
Dolemite is My Name
Dolemite might be its name, but racking up Oscar nominations is certainly not its game. Ruth E. Carter, who won for last year’s Black Panther, was expected to score a nomination for her work here in the Best Costume Design category. Eddie Murphy was also in the Best Actor running, but I’ll save my comments on that for a bit later.
Taron Egerton & Rocketman
With only one nomination, Rocketman left its fans speechless. Its Sound Design, Costumes, and Hair & Makeup were shut out, while Taron Egerton did not get nominated, despite his nominations at the BAFTAs and the SAG Awards and an upset win at the Golden Globes.
I haven’t seen Hustlers, so I can’t comment on the quality of JLo’s performance here. That said, I was stunned when I didn’t see her name on the list of nominees. Some had even predicted Lopez would be an upset winner next month, but that won’t be happening now.
Once Upon a Time in Editing
I was elated when I found out Tarantino’s most bloated and unfocused film was not nominated in this category – particularly because Best Picture winners almost always have an Editing nomination. I’m a Tarantino fan – he’s my favorite filmmaker – but I’d be sad if this was the year he won big.
In other word, this snub means Once Upon a Time may not be the Best Picture frontrunner everyone sees it as.
The magnificent capstone to the Avengers saga walked away with one solitary nomination. While a nomination Best Picture was certainly a long shot, its chances in the technical categories like Sound Editing and Mixing were a lot more likely. Alan Silvestri’s and his now-legendary score were also ignored.
So I’ll be honest – part of me likes Frozen II more than the original. I know that it wasn’t as well received as its predecessor, but its Best Animated Feature nomination was supposed to be set in stone. As Olaf might say, it’s Oscar chances are dead…especially since it likely won’t win in its sole category of Best Original Song
The nominations we didn’t expect to hear – plus all around shockers.
Ford v Ferarri
Widely perceived to be #9 on the list of potential Best Picture nominees, Ford v Ferarri was still a surprise nomination in the category, as The Academy nominates anywhere from 5-10 films. This means there was enough support to get this film a coveted spot on the list. On top of that, it was the first Best Picture nominee to be announced, adding even more to the surprise.
Joker is Everywhere
Even after leading the BAFTA nominees, seeing Joker rack up eleven nominations was head-scratching. Of course Best Actor and Best Score were happening, and given the movie’s surge in recent weeks, its Best Picture nomination was also seen as a given. But Sound? Film Editing? Costumes? Really?
The Best Actor Category
Going into the nominations, I knew two things were for certain: Adam Driver was getting nominated, and Joaquin Phoenix was as well. The remaining three slots were being vied for by seven worthy competitors. In the end, DiCaprio, Banderas, and The Two Popes’ Jonathan Pryce (?) got the spots, keeping Taron Egerton, Robert De Niro, Christian Bale, Eddie Murphy, and Adam Sandler empty-handed. Most disappointing to me personally was Eddie Murphy, whose positivity in this comeback role was infectious.
Kathy Bates & ScarJo
Similar to the Best Actor category, there were two spots (three, given JLo’s absence) up in the air here. Pundits had predicted Zhao Shuzhen would get a spot, with the fifth being a free for all. These two spots went to Globe nominee (and former Oscar winner) Kathy Bates, in addition to Scarlett Johansson – who quickly went from being never nominated to being a double nominee.
1917’s Screenplay Nod
The Farewell, Pain and Glory, and even Booksmart were in the running for that fifth and final slot, but it went to the limited dialogue of 1917. This speaks strongly to its chances of winning in other categories – particularly Best Picture.
Extra Love for Jojo Rabbit
We all knew Jojo would get the Best Picture and Screenplay nods, but Costume, Film Editing, Supporting Actress, and Production Design were all shockers to me. I’m not complaining, though – it was one of my favorites of the year.
The nominations I had hoped to hear, but knew I wouldn’t.
Uncut Gems isn’t even in my Top 10 of the year, but I wanted it to sneak in to the Best Film Editing category for inducing some major anxiety. Also, the kid in me who grew up on Mr. Deeds and Big Daddy would have loved an Adam Sandler nod.
Roman Griffin David & Thomasin McKenzie
I can’t stress enough how large the field of qualified contenders for Best Actor was this year. Regardless, Roman Griffin Davis was a delight in Jojo Rabbit, and I was championing for his nomination. I also think Thomasin McKenzie would have been a welcomed addition in the Best Supporting Actress field.
I was sad to see see Bombshell omitted in more major categories. I was taken aback by how much I loved that movie – particularly its editing, which left me gobsmacked (as did its absence from the Best Editing category).
People really slept on this movie (no pun intended). Not only was its screenplay worthy of more attention, but Rebecca Ferguson was seducing and gut-wrenching in her turn as Rose the Hat, and it’s a shame she hasn’t been giving more attention.
This underseen independent film was the first great movie I saw in 2019. There was a ton to love in it, but I want to highlight its daring original screenplay for its commentary on race and youth, and its deliberate and effective ambiguity.
Another movie I wasn’t the biggest fan of, but apparently, I was the biggest fan of Florence Pugh’s performance and the cinematography. Like for Astor’s Hereditary, the leading lady and its chilling visuals were ignored here. To say that both were beautiful is an understatement.
I left Honey Boy thinking it reminded me of both The Florida Project and mid90′s – both of which collectively received one nomination. Turns out it was more like those movies than I realized. Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, and Screenplay nominations should have been strongly considered (in my opinion).
Damn this movie was good. My political eye is thinking maybe The Academy didn’t like its commentary on the power of the media and the government. Or maybe they just didn’t like it.
In my eyes, it should have been a lock for Best Picture, Director, Editing, and Screenplay, with legitimate chances at Best Actor and Supporting Actor.
The original score for this movie became so instantly iconic that someone went viral after putting it over the Cats. Also, if we’re talking dream nominees, Lupita should be here for Best Actress. It wasn’t as good as Get Out, but some inclusion would have been nice here.
The Oscarsair on February 9, 2020. Stay tuned for my predictions post coming out on February 2, 2020.
This category is rife for a surprise on Oscar night, but to play it safe, I’ll predict Roma. Though we can’t ignore that fact that this film has a lot going against it. Despite its wins for Best Picture (or its equivalent) at the Critics’ Choice, DGA, and the BAFTAs, there are a few reasons to expect Roma will not win.
First off, it’s a foreign film, and no foreign film has ever won the top prize at the Oscars. It’s also a Netflix distribution, and the classical roots of the Academy haven’t smiled upon that before now. It was not nominated for Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards, and with the exception of last year’s The Shape of Water, no movie this century has won Best Picture without that crucial nomination. It also wasn’t nominated for Best Editing – an enormous hinderance for its chances of winning. Lastly, while the movie was both beautiful and sincere, it lacked a certain punch and, honestly, was a little boring at times.
So this leaves a few options – Green Book, BlacKkKlansman, A Star is Born, or maybe even Black Panther – none of which scream “front runner” to me (which is why I defaulted to Roma). Green Book is riddled in minor controversies, ASIB didn’t get a Best Director nod, Black Panther is likely to rank low on the preferential ballots of older voters, and BlacKkKlansman is helmed by a divisive and notoriously under-recognized filmmaker.
With those options, I’d have to say A Star is Born or Green Book would have the best chance against Roma. But again, anything could happen – with the exception of Vice or The Favourite winning. I think we can also count Bohemian out, thanks to a few controversies of its own.
If I could vote for Best Picture, my #1 spot would go to BlacKkKlansman, followed very closely by Green Book. Check out my full ranked list below.
AJ’s Rankings (aka my preferences):
A Star is Born
Should Have Been Nominated: Annihilation, Searching, A Simple Favor
Predicted Winner: Cuarón, Roma
While Roma’s Best Picture win isn’t guaranteed, its Best Director win pretty much is. Cuarón’s passion project was realized with Oscar-worthy efforts like working with inexperienced performers and releasing in black and white. His biggest opponent was supposed to be Cooper, but given his absence from this category, a Cuarón win is a sure thing.
1. Cuarón, Roma 2. Lee, BlacKkKlansman 3. Pawlikowski, Cold War 4. McKay, Vice 5. Lanthimos, The Favourite
Should Have Been Nominated: Cooper, A Star is Born; Farrelly, Green Book
Predicted Winner: Glenn Close, The Wife
Admittedly, I only watched The Wife because of the Oscar hype surrounding Close’s performance, and for the first hour or so of the movie, I was wondering if that hype was justified.
And in one moment, everything changed with a simple facial expression. Close’s character’s restrained rage in a scene where her husband is giving a speech was enough, in my opinion, to secure her the nomination. The subsequent scenes should solidify her win.
If not for Glenn’s overdue recognition this year, I’d be rooting for Yalitza Aparicio for her performance in Roma. The subtle and reserved portrayal from this former schoolteacher was wonderful, moving, and heartbreaking.
1. Glenn Close, The Wife 2. Yalitza Aparicio, Roma 3. Olivia Colman, The Favourite 4. Lady Gaga, A Star is Born 5. Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Should Have Been Nominated: Constance Wu, Crazy Rich Asians
Predicted Winner: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Malek has virtually swept the awards circuit for his performance as Freddie Mercury, and immersive would be an understatement when describing the results of his work. So, it seems he will in fact be the champion on Oscar night.
That said, let’s not forget a couple of hurdles he has to get over, including the controversy surrounding the film and the pool of voters he has to sway. All of the other awards he has won were at ceremonies where both film and TV actors voted – and Malek was a well-regarded television actor before helming this blockbuster. That’s not the case for the Oscars, where veteran film voters may be more inclined to reward the work of a film star…like Christian Bale (who snagged a Globe and two Critics’ Choice Awards for his work in Vice) or early frontrunner Bradley Cooper.
I really, really, really want Bradley Cooper to win this. I truly think it’s the best leading performance of the year and one of his absolute best. Plus, he’s been nominated three times before for acting, and so I think it’s fair to say his time has come. Because of that, I wouldn’t count him out just yet. But maybe I’m dreaming.
1. Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born 2.Christian Bale, Vice 3. Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody 4. Viggo Mortensen, Green Book Also Nominated: Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Should Have Been Nominated: John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman
Best Supporting Actress
Predicted Winner: Amy Adams, Vice
Hot take, I know. But let me explain.
Speaking of overdue Oscars, isn’t it fair to throw Amy Adams into the conversation? She’s been nominated five times before, and the Academy may just want to finally award her.
But let’s address the heat of my take – me not naming Regina King frontrunner. Listen, I’m a huge Regina King fan, and am thrilled she’s been getting recognized at the Globes, Emmys, and now the Oscars in recent years. But let’s be honest. In Beale Street, she had about four seconds of screen time, and she really wasn’t that memorable. She may be (rightfully) overlooked in favor of someone like Adams, or even Rachel Weisz, who pulled out the BAFTA win in this category last week.
King also was not even nominated at the SAG Awards or the BAFTAs, which are peer awards for the film industry. She did, however, win the Critics’ Choice and the Globe. Sounds a lot like the Stallone loss back in ’16.
Personally, my vote would’ve gone to Emma Stone. Her performance wasn’t as subtle as Weisz’s in The Favourite, but she still gets my support for being my favorite part of that movie.
1. Emma Stone, The Favourite 2. Amy Adams, Vice 3. Rachel Weisz, The Favourite 4. Marina de Tavira, Roma 5. Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Should Have Been Nominated: Blake Lively, A Simple Favor; Nicole Kidman, Boy Erased
Best Supporting Actor
Predicted Winner: Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Ali’s win in this same category two years ago angered me, but this year, the anger has shifted to indifference. He’s clearly the best and most-deserving of this nominated bunch, but the field is so weak this year that I don’t think that’s saying much.
In my ideal world, we’d have seen Daniel Kaluuya nominated (and winning) for his performance in Widows. Oh well.
1. Mahershala Ali, Green Book 2. Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman 3. Sam Rockwell, Vice 4. Sam Elliott, A Star is Born 5. Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Should have been nominated: Daniel Kaluuya, Widows; Na-kel Smith, mid90s; Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy; Jesse Plemons, Game Night
Best Adapted Screenplay
Predicted Winner: BlacKkKlansman
I don’t see anything beating BlacKkKlansman in this category. It’s timely, it’s funny, and most importantly, it is the best of these nominees. On top of that, Spike Lee’s Oscar is long overdue in the eyes of many. It checks all the boxes for a win.
The only spoiler in my eyes would be Beale Street – penned by Academy beloved Barry Jenkins. And since Lee hasn’t won to date, there’s as much reason to think they’ll snub him again as there is to think they’ll finally award him.
1. BlacKkKlansman 2. A Star is Born 3. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs 4. If Beale Street Could Talk 5. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Should Have Been Nominated: A Simple Favor, Widows
Best Original Screenplay
Predicted Winner: Green Book
This is a close one. As much as I want to say Green Book will drive away with this one, the controversy surrounding one of the writers might tip the scale in the favor of The Favourite. While I would hate to see this happen, I wouldn’t be able to say I didn’t see it coming. Still, the Green Book win at the Globes and PGA show that its reputation isn’t entirely tarnished.
1. Green Book 2. Roma 3. Vice 4. The Favourite 5. First Reformed
Should Have Been Nominated: Eighth Grade, Searching
And now, the rest of the nominees for feature film…
Best Cinematography Prediction: Roma Preference: Roma
Best Costume Design Prediction: Black Panther Preference: The Favourite
Best Film Editing Prediction: Bohemian Rhapsody Preference: BlacKkKlansman
Best Production Design Prediction: The Favourite Preference: The Favourite
Best Original Score Prediction: If Beale Street Could Talk Preference: If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Sound Editing Prediction: A Quiet Place Preference: First Man
Best Sound Mixing Prediction: A Star is Born Preference: A Star is Born
Best Visual Effects Prediction: First Man Preference: Avengers: Infinity War
Best Animated Feature Prediction: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Preference: Incredibles 2
Best Makeup & Hairstyling Prediction: Vice Preference: Vice
Best Original Song Prediction: Shallow (A Star is Born) Preference: Shallow (A Star is Born)
Tallied Win Projections
Roma: 3 Bohemian Rhapsody: 2 Green Book: 2 A Star is Born: 2 Vice: 2 Black Panther: 1 BlacKkKlansman: 1 The Favourite: 1 First Man: 1 If Beale Street Could Talk: 1 A Quiet Place: 1 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: 1 The Wife: 1