Life Of Navin

Random Musings, Random Bullshit.


Movies of 2019

Well, another year, another set of amazing movies. 2019 was a great year for movie lovers, and brought a lot of great stories to the forefront, both from indie filmmakers as well as massive studio-led productions. Sure, there still exist the Housefull4s and the Pagalpantis, but between the influx of OTT platforms (Netflix/Prime Video/Hotstar/Mubi) and the ongoing globalization of cinema, which makes even the most esoteric movies accessible at the click of a button, it's a great time to be a movie buff!

Without further ado, here's the movies I absolutely loved from the last year:

13. Always Be My Maybe (trailer)
I think the romantic comedy genre has been badgered to death over the last decade with the same formulaic recipe being dished out over and over and over. Always Be My Maybe plays to the formula, but there's so many small things that they get perfectly right that you can't help but end with a smile on your face. Maybe it's just the vibe of San Francisco that they get perfectly right (One of two problem-ridden cities I love), or maybe it's just the Keanu Reeves extended cameo (which is by far my fave cameo in any movie this year), but just take my word on this one, and enjoy the ride.

12. Jojo Rabbit (trailer)
There's always one movie in my list which I struggle to find a decent synopsis of. This year it's Jojo Rabbit. So let's see: A Taika Waititi movie about a pre-teen German youth nazi in WWII Germany who has an imaginary friend who is the F├╝hrer himself (played by Waititi himself). Yes yes, it's true, but barely does justice to what is by far the craziest story you'll see on screen this year. It's funny, it's tragic, it's wild, and basically just everything that you'd expect from a Waititi flick.

If you like Jojo Rabbit, and are looking for more wackiness, you'll probably also enjoy The Art of Self-Defense

11. Ash is Purest White (trailer)
Jia Zhangke is another director who has rarely disappointed with his storytelling. His depictions of the intermingling between Modern Day and Traditional China, and the fallouts, the despair, the changes in relationships (for good or bad) that follow, have such a nuanced take on a culture that I've been fascinated by for the last couple of years.

Another movie which explores similar domains and is just as elaborate (with a sad real-life incident that grounds the movie) is An Elephant Sitting Still.

10. Shadow (trailer)
Another Chinese movie in the list! But truly a well deserved entrant. There's probably a handful of movies that can build out a movie from a minimalistic color-palette the way that Shadow has. Chinese period fantasy-based movies usually tend to be very similar to Indian period fantasy-based movies: Pointlessly cringey CGI, over the top acting, and very meh story lines. But like Tumbbad last year, which did it for Indian period fantasy, Shadow builds from the ground up (rather than borrowing from what came before) to build an amazing story.

I know I just said this 2 sentences back, but what an amazing color-palette! Kudos to the set designers, cinematographer, make up and visual artists who came together to speak the same visual language.

9. Us (trailer)
Jordan Peele (of Key and Peele fame) came into the limelight last year with the surprisingly dark Get Out, But I personally feel his latest film Us is what cements him more firmly into the "directors who get horror" group. Us, like Get Out, starts off normal, but just keeps building up into something darker and darker.

Big ups to the entire primary cast of Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex (and especially the latter two), for performances that made my skin crawl multiple times.

8. Ready or Not (trailer)
Every once in a while, you want to just sit back and watch some shit go down. And for that mood, Ready or Not is oh-so-satisfying! A simple concept: A newly-wed bride is made to play a game of  hide and seek with her new family, which she soon realizes is not a game but a hunt.

It's funny, it's wacky, it's gory, it's everything you'd want in a dark comedy horror thriller. Samara Weaving (aka "Sasta Margot Robbie") does a great job of holding the movie together, but the other characters of the family are what bring this movie to life.

If you liked this, you'll probably also enjoy Knives Out and Polar (the latter even more so)

7. Mard ko Dard Nahi Hota (trailer)
Some of the most fulfilling movie-going experiences are films made by film lovers for film lovers, and Mard ko Dard Nahi Hota is a perfect pick for that title this year. Vasan Bala grew up watching a tonne of movies and that shows in the lovely trope-filled, fun ride which redefines the superhero movie genre with a refreshing twist. Abhimanyu Dassani does a great job as leading man, but the show stealer is Gulshan Devaiah (who plays two characters in the movie, but shines as Jimmy). The child actor who plays a young version of the protagonist is great, and a quirky soundtrack rounds up the lovely package!

A similar take on the superhero genre this year was Shazam!

6. Jallikattu (trailer)

I watched Jallikattu after hearing rave reviews about it from friends, and I'm so glad that I did.

Malayalam cinema is truly leading the way when it comes to experimental cinema and Jallikattu is a masterclass in it. Director Lijo Jose Pellissery (and his cinematographer Girish Gangadharan who deserves special mention) takes us on a journey over a couple of hours exploring mob mentality and devolution to primality in the simplest of settings. The last 30 minutes, with the background track, the denial of rationality, and the visceral ending is something that's hard to forget.

5. Avengers: Endgame (trailer)
Ah, this just had to be in my list for the year. The end of an era. Truly the end of an era. I vividly remember watching the first Iron Man movie with friends and being amazed at what we saw on screen. Since then, a decade has passed and I've literally grown up with many of these characters (I  think everyone from my generation has been in a Whatsapp group called The Avengers at some point).

I'll miss you 3000
Sure there are plot holes and logical inconsistencies. But who cares? This was truly the end-of-an-era summer blockbuster we deserved. This was not just a movie, it was an experience. I laughed my ass off, I cried my tearducts dry, I cheered till my throat was hoarse, I recognized and appreciated the callbacks to previous movies, all alongside a hundred other people who shared the same emotions with me. It really feels like a decade long arc for Marvel has ended, and even if I don't ever watch another movie from the universe, I know I take back a tonne of great memories. God damn you Russos, I love you 3000.

4. Marriage Story (trailer)
Another movie that's close to my heart from 2019 is Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story, which was succinctly described as "a movie about love told through the lens of divorce". Relationships can be hard, but at the same time can be the most fulfilling experiences you'll ever be in. What I love about this movie is that though it centers around divorce, there's barely any fighting in the movie. There's one (yes, one) fight in the whole movie between the protagonists, but the way the scene plays out makes it one of my favorite scenes from the entire year. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson is what is (by far) their finest roles.

On a related note: Not a movie recco, but the music video for Prateek Kuhad's Cold/Mess explores similar themes: How every relationship changes you in some small and not-so-small ways (brownie points for whoever had the idea to have the couple separated but eating Lemon Tarts at the end of the video)

3. Joker (trailer)
I told someone that the reason I loved Joker was because my expectations from it were so sky high that even if the movie was A-, it'd feel like a letdown. But damn, I didn't expect to be punched in the stomach so hard by the movie as it did. Todd Philips (who I admit I was skeptical about directing a Joker movie) builds a world so grim and so vivid, that you truly immerse yourself in the journey Arthur Fleck takes.

And damn, that performance by Joaquin Phoenix, just give this man every acting award there is. The last time a role of the power-insanity duopoly was played this well was probably Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. I still have so many unanswered questions about the movie and the way in which Arthur is used as an unreliable narrator throughout the movie means that the origins of Joker (if this is even supposed to be the same Joker as in the comics) continue to remain shrouded, just as it should be.

2. Gully Boy (trailer)
This is probably a divisive opinion, but Gully Boy was a masterpiece for me. I watched the movie 4 times with different groups of people, and each time I was pulled into the world of Murad. Zoya Akhtar really knows how to write great characters, and build a world around them. Gully Boy is as much about the world of Dharavi as it is about the characters.

Excellent performances across the table (Sid Chaturvedi and Ranveer Singh especially, but also a lot of the minor characters), the best movie soundtrack of 2019, and that brilliant ending scene with the closeup of protagonist, who has more than he ever hoped for, yet has a look that screams insecurity (Imposter syndrome? Life?).

1. Parasite (trailer)
Just like Thoroughbreds last year, I think the moment I knew Parasite is going to be in my top 3 favorite films of the year was the moment the end credits started rolling. And I've been thinking of the movie so much since then (and have become the annoying guy who recommends the same thing over and over again until you watch it), that it goes without saying that Parasite is my favorite movie of the year. Every single scene in this is perfection. For every movie in the list, I can find something I didn't like, but no matter how hard I try, I come up short for this. I genuinely feel that decades down the line, we'll look back at this movie as an exemplary example of moviemaking.

There's people who've dissected bits of the movie to try to explain why Parasite is brilliant (Accented Cinema & NerdWriter have some great videos on this), but I think it's a perfect combination of the class conflict, visually driven cinema, focussed character development and just the right amount of environmental events. And damn, that house is a central character in itself (and given me serious #HouseGoals). Take a fucking bow Bong Joon-ho!

Honorable Mentions you should watch even though they aren't mentioned above: Stan and Ollie (drama based on the later years of the comedic duo), Fighting with My Family (wrestling family kid gets to try out for the WWE), Aladdin (a fun Will Smith movie which has a prince and princess), Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino's homage to the late 1960s), Peanut Butter Falcon (Adventures of an autistic person and his nomadic friend), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Historic drama with forbidden love), Super Deluxe (which would be in the list above if not for one story arc), Chhichhore (3 Idiots-like college camaraderie tale), Guava Island (for showing glimpses of paradise), John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (Just the right amount of ridiculous Baba Yaga-ness) and The Wandering Earth (Liu Cixin's short story built into a CGI-loaded blockbuster)

Overall, 2019 brought lot of great stories to the big screen, gave a lot of reasons to cheer along  with and was an excellent high note to end this decade of movie making on. I look forward to see where cinema takes us over the next year and decade.


Finally after all these years, here's to the beginning of what was there, what is there and hopefully what will remain!! So here are my thoughts & words -Online!!

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