By Gilberto Campa
As we end this incredible year of film that we’ve had in 2019, it’s time to reveal what movies had an impact on me. It was very difficult to narrow this down to ten films but that just shows the quality of film that was presented. Some movies that I left out may surprise you. But here we go!
Fighting With My Family – As a lifelong fan of professional wrestling seeing a movie that shows more than just the negative side of the business was a pleasant surprise. Produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it tells the amazing story of Paige and her upbringings into the industry. It is anchored by a breakout performance from Florence Pugh who went on to have an incredible 2019 on her own. This is a movie that is fit for general audiences and wrestling fans.
Us – The next feature from the complex mind of Jordan Peele was not as groundbreaking as his first film, but by no means was it horrible. The standout performance from Queen Lupita Nyong’o has been getting so much praise and it is rightfully earned. The writing, score and cinematography were all excellent. The story brings the thrills but also speaks to the human condition in an interesting way. If you didn’t think that Peele is a director to watch going into the next decade then you are poorly mistaken.
Shazam – Just one part of the great year that DC Comics had in 2019 with movies and television. For general audiences who are not familiar with the character it’s BIG but as a super hero story. Zachary Levi brings Shazam to life in the purest way possible (and pulls it off) but it’s Asher Angel who portrays Billy Batson that brings the heart to the movie.
Hustlers – Jennifer Lopez delivers one of the best performances of her career that no one expected. It was a story that is deeper than what you see in the trailers and was really emotional. But it also has some fun cameos, funny moments and beautiful visuals. And Cardi B.
Fyre Fraud – Yes, I know there was also a documentary on Netflix but the one that was released on Hulu goes deeper into the controversy while still having some funny (in an embarrassing way) moments. Billy McFarland represents the worst of what can happen in the age of social media, but instead of cat fishing he fooled and robbed so many influencers and younger people in the process. This is a must see for anyone as it is so ridiculous, but true. And why is Ja Rule still relevant?
Dolemite is My Name – 2019 may go down as the return of Eddie Murphy after a long hiatus raising his family and being out of the limelight. The crazy story of Rudy Ray Moore and his rise to fame in becoming Dolemite was such a fun story to watch. This movie and story represent never giving up and believing in yourself, especially when other people don’t. Eddie Murphy and the great supporting cast at hand deliver a hopeful story that brings the laughs and the drama when it needs to.
Avengers: Endgame –
*Cap Lifting Mjoinir* *On Your Left* *Fat Thor* *Whatever it Takes* *I am Iron Man*
This movie was so much more than just a wrap up to the MCU as it was an experience that I will never forget seeing for the first time. The writing and the character development in this whole series was done so well and treated with such respect. Every character no matter how big or small got a moment to shine. The third act alone is pure comic book goodness and has some truly incredible moments. There is a reason that this is the highest grossing movie of all time. Sorry James Cameron.
‘I used to think that my life was a tragedy. But now I realize, it’s a comedy.’
Joaquin Phoenix has a stake for being the best actor of this decade when things are set and done. This movie just reinstates that statement in a very unexpected and incredible way. I wasn’t too excited to see a Joker origin story but after this I am not mad that we got it. The score from Hildur Guonadottir is what really solidifies this story along with Joaquin’s groundbreaking performance and Todd Phillips direction. But it isn’t a movie that I see myself going back to as frequently as others. But hey, that’s life.
9. Queen & Slim
‘I ain’t going to bend the world. As long as my lady remembers me fondly, that’s all I need.’
When I heard about the premise of this film and who was behind it I could not wait to see it. Melina Matsoukas (who directed episodes of Insecure and music videos like Beyonce’s Lemonade) delivered something really special and impactful that moved me. The movie is a first date gone way out of proportion between Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, but the journey that these two young African Americans go through speaks volumes. This is not a “Bonnie & Clyde” story as it much deeper than that. It is a heartbreaking tale of love, growth and finding true happiness in another person.
8. Knives Out
‘The family is truly desperate. And when people get desperate, the knives come out.’
Oh yeah, the Knives certainly came out with this Rian Johnson whodunit. The film has now grossed over 200 million dollars which says a lot as this was an original story. The cast is what brings you into the movie (and Chris Evans being a love-able prick) but it’s the way that Johnson weaves the story together that keeps you guessing until the end. This movie always gives you something new on a repeat viewing that still impacts you.
7. The Peanut Butter Falcon
‘What’s rule number one? Party!’
This was such a heartwarming story that caused me to tear up so many times. The writing team of Tyler Nelson & Michael Schwartz are some of the most genuine people I have seen do a movie like this in quite a while. I was fortunate to learn about this movie after seeing an interview with them and just how much it took for them to get this made. Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson deliver some incredible performances, but the real star of the movie is Zack Gotttsagen (the actor with Down syndrome who stole the movie). If you can find a way to watch this then please do, it is a beautifully shot and well written story about achieving your dreams and not letting your circumstances define your life.
‘This isn’t possible. You guys don’t even care about school.’
Next on my list is the directorial debut from Olivia Wilde that I got to see recently on streaming. It is a story that we have seen before in a way but not to the extent and with the perspective that Olivia Wilde presents. The two main actresses in the film are the reason to see this as Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever light up the screen with some of the funniest one-liners and jokes I have heard in a while. The chemistry they achieve is incredible. It is a movie about true friendship in the craziest time of someone’s life as they are about to graduate High School. And anyone can relate to that.
5. Uncut Gems
‘This is me. This is how I win.’
The Safdie Brothers delivered another frantic and heart stopping thriller that keeps you completely glued to the screen. Adam Sandler isn’t a love-able buffoon like we are used to seeing him, he is a shaker and mover Jewelry store owner in the Diamond District of New York City that will do anything for the next big win. Just when you think it can’t get worse, it does. But because of Sandler’s career performance you will not look away.
4. The Irishman
‘Sooner or later, everybody put here has a date when he’s going to go. That’s just the way it is.’
Where do I start with this Scorsese crime epic? Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino give some legendary performances in this lifelong story of Frank Sheeran. Yeah it is similar to the movies of Scorsese’s past but it does more than that. It is a revealing look at life when you are old and past your prime and seeing how things could have been. It is a story about family and the sacrifices we make for the family that we choose, and most importantly it is a story about friendship and being loyal through thick and thin.
‘I hoped today might be a good day. Hope is a dangerous thing.’
Sam Mendes brings a new perspective to the War Genre which I never knew I needed to see. Add Roger Deakins and his legendary Cinematography that truly encapsulates the mindset of the soldiers in the movie and the result is truly inspiring. The movie was a lot to take in and does not slow down, but the climax in the third act ties everything together in a beautiful way.
2. Jojo Rabbit
‘Love is the strongest thing in the world’
At this point Taika Waititi can do no wrong. Every project that he is involved whether he is writing, directing or acting has some sort of energy to it that only he could bring. So does a movie about a German boy who idolizes Adolf Hitler during the height of WW2 sound like a movie that can work on paper? If you are Taika Waititi then yes. This is one of the most emotional movies that I have seen in a while that left me floored. Who knew that shoe tying could leave me in a puddle of tears but that is all due to the wacky and wonderful mind of Taika Waititi. And IMO Scarlet Johansson gives a career performance.
1. Ford V. Ferrari
‘There’s a point, seven thousand RPM, where everything fades. The machine becomes weightless, it just disappears. And all that’s left is a body moving through space and time. Seven thousand RPM, that’s where you meet it, it creeps up near you, and it asks you a question. The only question that really matters. Who are you?
What else can I say about this great movie? This was the most thrilling and fun time I had at the theater this year. The true life story of the Ford Motor Company and the quest they went on to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and beat Ferrari is my number one movie of 2019. Christian Bale, Matt Damon and Jon Bernthal give incredible performances in a movie that isn’t about anything else but about being the best and winning at all cost. If you love cars or even if you don’t this movie will change that. Much of the movie is people in cars driving cars really fast, but you care about those people so much that it just increases the emotion tenfold. The score from Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders perfectly caps off the emotional beats in the story. I have seen this movie three times and each time it ends I want to immediately see it again. It is a classic underdog story that does not really get made anymore. See you in 2020!