Best of 2019…So Far
by Dennis Campbell
Since it is July, I thought it would be good for us to once again unpack all the movies that have been released in these quick six months. This year has been different compared to most years as we have had a large swath of genres, as opposed to waiting for the Summer and Fall for most of the good Dramas to come out. With that in mind I believe you are sure to find at least one movie that can pique your interest. For a film to be eligible to make this list, it must have made a DVD release to the library in 2019. As such, an Academy Award winning film such as Roma cannot make the cut as it is not on DVD yet. Although this does take out a select few critically acclaimed films, we are still left with a plethora of great movies to choose from. So, without further delay, here are the five best movies released to the library in 2019…so far.
1. Us: When it comes to writing ‘Best Of’ lists, it is generally easiest to start with the films you know are going to be on the list, regardless of their ranking. For example, I knew Glass was going to be on here, as was Can You Ever Forgive Me? However, I did not know where they were going to place when my final draft was complete. From the very beginning what was clear though was that the best film to be released on DVD this year is the Jordan Peele production, Us. Too often I lose my faith in modern movies, and every few years though there comes a film that gives me hope for a brighter future. What Jordan Peele has done not just with this film, but his previous venture, Get Out, is astonishing. Us tells the story of a family of four, headlined by Lupita Nyong’o who plays Adelaide Wilson, Adelaide as we see in the beginning of the film had a very traumatic experience that acts as the catalyst for the rest of the movie. Alongside her is Winston Duke, Adelaide’s husband, Gabriel. Adelaide and Gabriel take their two children, Jason (Evan Alex) and Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) to a Summer retreat house. Once there, strange coincidences start happening, and Adelaide is the only one who picks up on them. After just a few days into their vacation, the Wilson’s are besieged by a family that is oddly resembles them. On the surface, Us, is a satisfying Horror film about a group of people trying to stay alive. However, when you start to look deeper into the subtext of the film, and understand what Jordan Peele was trying to portray, the film becomes transcendent. Us is not just a great Horror film, it is also a thought-provoking piece on class and privilege. At the core of the film is something we were at one point all taught to believe in, and how Peele delivers that message is proof that cinema is art.
2. Can You Ever Forgive Me? : Taking a break from her more over-the-top roles, Melissa McCarthy stars as Lee Israel in this true story about a writer who is just barely able to afford rent in 1990s New York. Coming off the heels of a failed Biography of Estée Lauder, Israel falls into a deadly combination of alcoholism and writers block. She is forced to sell all of her possessions, including an authentic Katharine Hepburn letter she personally received. While selling this, she comes into contact with Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), an openly gay drug dealer. His role does not come into play until later in the film, but in the meantime Israel realizes how much money she can make by creating forgeries of famous dead celebrities. She does this at first to makes ends meet, but soon finds that she enjoys forging the letters. It is very rare that I talk about the ratings associated with the films I review, however I do want to bring up what the MPAA said about Can You Ever Forgive Me? It was originally rated as an NC-17 for its strong language, use of alcohol and drugs along with mild sexual situations. The rating was bumped down to an ‘R’ for its theatrical release with very little cut from the movie. Despite this, after watching it, I can tell you that the film doesn’t contain anything you wouldn’t find in another major release. This movie really shows off McCarthy’s acting range and while I do not like her other work, if she continues to star in Dramas in the future, they will become essential viewing.
3. The Mule: Going into the film I did not read the article which it is based on, though after seeing the picture I highly recommend doing so beforehand, as it adds more depth to the story. The Mule is the story of Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood), a ninety year old horticulturist who becomes a drug runner for the Mexican Cartel. My initial reason for going to see this was not because I had any expectations that it would be good, but rather because I thought this might be the last Eastwood directed film ever released in his lifetime. At eighty-nine years old, Eastwood has had a storied career both in front of and behind the camera. Winning a total of four Academy Awards and being nominated for five others. Though I feel he is a far better director than actor. The movie portrays Stone at the beginning as someone who does not care about his family, he misses his daughter’s wedding and does nothing to reconcile with her over the years. The only person in his family that he has a decent relationship with is his granddaughter, Ginny, played by Taissa Farmiga. The flower business that Earl ran for several years closes and he needs a way to make money fast, so he turns to becoming a Mule, after the job is offered to him at his granddaughters wedding rehearsal. Though the movie makes it seem like he is unaware he is doing anything illegal at first. He quickly becomes the most successful Mule in the Cartel and has his own DEA Task Force after him. Through the seemingly endless flow of cash that comes to him through his new profession, Earl tries to make amends with everyone he has wronged in his life. Along with offering his money in charitable ways, such as repairing a VFW and throwing a party for the veterans. In a sense, the entire picture is just one long redemption arc. The question that is left lingering after the credit roll, is he worth the redemption? That’s something you’ll have to answer yourself. Certainty a movie you can watch at any time of the year, checkout the Mule when you have a weekend to spare.
4. Glass: Considering how much praise I gave this film earlier, https://we247.org/eastrail-177-trilogy/, I am surprised how far down the list. However, when stacked up against the rest of the first half of this year the only thing to do was knock it down a few pegs. This is the climatic conclusion to M. Night Shyamalan’s Eastrail 177 Trilogy. What starts off as a simple game of Cat and Mouse between David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and The Beast (James McAvoy), quickly turns into what most would expect to be a high octane action film. However, what unfolds is a slow character study. Breaking down the superhero genre piece by piece until there is nothing but the bare bones remaining. Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) tries to convince David, Kevin ‘The Beast’ and Elijah Price (Samuel L Jackson) that they simply have enhanced cognitive abilities and are not superheroes. There is very little action in the film and what action there is happens in spurts and only appears for thirty to forty-five minutes at a time. In a world where the market is oversaturated with Marvel and DC superhero films that use an abundance of CGI, this may not be the comic book movie we deserve, but it is the one we need right now. Due to how much time was spent in between sequels, I don’t feel it is entirely necessary to watch the first two films (Unbreakable and Split) but it would add extra context. More than anything, M. Night has managed to wrap up almost two decades of filmmaking into a very satisfying conclusion. It is a movie so grounded in reality that it will make you rethink the next time you see something extraordinary.
5. Halloween: I wrote about this movie previously for the WEPL website, https://we247.org/halloween-movie-review/, and while it does not hold a candle to the original 1978 classic. I feel that it does the best job it can and provides a solid Horror film. In recent years there has been a trend of going back in time and retrieving old concepts and retooling them for a new generation. Lack of originality? Yes, but if done correctly there is not a lack of creativity. While Blair Witch was one of the most unintentional funniest movies I saw in 2016, the idea behind the sequel was interesting enough. For Halloween we have a similar case, rather than rehashing the same tired storyline of Michael going on a crazy rampage with everyone trying to survive, there are new factors in play. There are documentarians who want to better understand why Michael committed the murders back in 78’. Lori is also back, played once again by Jamie Lee Curtis, but this time she is shown as someone with severe trauma from the first movie and has become obsessed with killing Michael. The film almost reminded me of the relationship between Hannibal Lecter and Clarence Starling in that Michael and Lori are the only two who actually understand each other, and understand the threat the other poses. I feel Curtis does a much better job in this film than she did in any of the other Halloween movies. Shown over the course of just a few days the tension in the film makes the minutes seem like hours. With countless callbacks to previous films that longtime fans are sure to recognize, this is a must see.
Until next time.
Dennis Campbell is a Circulation Clerk at the Willowick Library.