CoramDeo's Best of 2019

SPOILERS: Very broad and general discussion of the character arcs in The IrishmanMarriage StoryA Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Knives Out. Significant spoilers that you definitely already know about from Spider-Man: Far From Home. Substantial spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery, Season Two and the nearly two hundred years old Victor Hugo novel Les Misérables.

What a year. I don't get to see quite as much television as I do movies, because of the time commitment, so I've whittled my television viewing down to a few shows I really like (or really want to like, in some cases), with a few surprises I didn't expect sprinkled in. That excludes most prestige TV from my viewing habits. Nevertheless, the film scene this year has been magnificent, and I did see some good television this year, so let's get to it.


Television:

First, we'll cover my top ten favorite episodes of television this year.

1. If Memory Serves (Star Trek: Discovery)
2. Part Six (Les Misérables)
3. Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 3 (The Flash)
4. Starling City (Arrow)
5. A.K.A. A Lotta Worms (Jessica Jones)
6. Inescapable (Agents of SHIELD)
7. A Flash of the Lightning (The Flash)
8. Ask Not (Star Trek: Short Treks)
9. Emerald Archer (Arrow)
10. Through the Valley of Shadows (Star Trek: Discovery)

Nothing makes me happier than being able to bookend my list with two excellent episodes of Star Trek. 'If Memory Serves' was a masterpiece, and 'Through the Valley of Shadows' gets a nod for the great character journey of Captain Pike. The Flash has delivered some heavy hits this year, many of which were at one point or another on this list. I've cut it down to the excellent Crisis episode and the most touching episode this season, 'A Flash of the Lightning.' Rounding out the list is one from Jessica Jones, one from Agents of SHIELD, and two from the fairly consistent Arrow. My biggest surprise of the year came in the form of a miniseries adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables (non-musical), which blew me away for many reasons. 'Part Six' is its crushing finale.

And before we go to the movies, we need to discuss performers and their characters.

Best Male Performance: Anson Mount (Star Trek: Discovery - 'If Memory Serves')

Did anyone not already know how much I loved Anson Mount's Captain Pike? Well, now you do. Mount lends his Pike a human, down-to-earth feeling without allowing the character to feel tainted by the darkness that threatens to plague Discovery. He's at his best in 'If Memory Serves,' where he has the magnificent Melissa George to play off of.

Best Female Performance: Lily Collins (Les Misérables - 'Part Two')

I have never seen Fantine depicted as broken and destroyed as she is here, and Collins plays it beautifully. The fall of Fantine has always been tragic, but it's nearly impossible to watch it here because of Lily Collins. But you still can't tear your eyes away. Collins gives you every reason to like her character and sympathize, and in 'Part Two' she uses that to rip your heart out of your chest. It's mesmerizing.

Best Lead Character: Barry Allen (The Flash)

Grant Gustin has been killing it on this season of the show, and Barry Allen is once again front and center, carrying the whole thing. Magnificent.

Best Supporting Character: Earth-Two Laurel Lance (Arrow)

Yes, really. After seasons of just kind of being there, all of a sudden the final season of Arrow has brought Laurel into her element. Her journey has been powerful to witness, and I find myself caring about her like I never have before. This is the perfect character to support the b-stories of the season, and Katie Cassidy is finally killing it.

Best Villain: The Thernardiers (Les Misérables)

Do I sound like a broken record about this show? Good. David Oyelowo as Javert is subtly brilliant, but I hate the Thernardiers, played by Adeel Akhtar and Olivia Colman. Please don't misunderstand, I don't 'love to hate them.' I actually hate them. They are despicable beyond belief, and they possess none of the boisterous charm that serves to soften them in the musical. It's incredible how well the show and the performances are able to make you loathe them so much.

Movies:

And we're off to the cinema, with my top ten favorite movies I saw this year.

1. The Irishman
2. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
3. Joker
4. Marriage Story
5. Avengers: Endgame
6. Knives Out
7. Shazam!
8. Spider-Man: Far From Home
9. The Aeronauts
10. Earthquake Bird

It's a bit more of a contest this year than most, as I saw over 20 films in 2019. A word to explain this list is perhaps in order. Both The Irishman and Joker are similarly excellent depictions of something awful, but The Irishman is thematically superior in my view. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was the heartwarming story I anticipated, but it also surprised me by utilizing innovative and almost experimental storytelling techniques. The Aeronauts is not a technical achievement or a particularly well-told story, but its rare sense of wonder and scale combined with the aggressive likability of Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne make it a lot of fun. Plus, it's family friendly.

Now, on to character and performance.

Best Male Performance: Robert DeNiro (The Irishman)

I've heard lots of buzz about Pacino, who is undeniably great, and Pesci, who is wonderful, but DeNiro takes the cake for me. His character slowly devolves over the course of the film, and everything from his mannerisms to his vocal tics completely sells it to you. He plays both a younger man and an older man with such success that you completely buy the change despite the slightly uncanny visual effects.

Best Female Performance: Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)

Make no mistake. Both of the lead performances in Marriage Story are exceptional. Johansson carries, for me, the more difficult of the two, as the circumstances of the film and the amount of time we spend with Driver in the latter half had me siding with him rather than her. She somehow works as a protagonist even when her dwindling screentime could easily have made her into an antagonist. When she is the focus, she plays an independent and exceptional character, and when she takes a back seat to Charlie, she slips effortlessly into playing his perception of her.

Best Lead Character: Marta Cabrera (Knives Out)

Ana De Armas lends a strong performance to this role, which completely and totally defines the film. Marta, as the only good person in a movie filled with greed and fakery, is more firmly against the story world than any other character this year. That's what defines a lead character, and that's why this goes to her.

Best Supporting Character: Mr. Rogers (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood)

Yes, I would say Mr. Rogers is a supporting character in the film, because Lloyd Vogel is without a doubt the lead. Mr. Rogers bolsters and... *cough* er... supports Lloyd, pushing him to defy the story world. Tom Hanks' give-and-take with Matthew Rhys is masterful, striking just the right balance to make Lloyd the focus and still give us all the Mr. Rogers we need out of the movie. It's an excellent portrayal of the man that lets us know how deep the dark side of him goes without ever compromising his legacy and image, or even really showing us the darkness.

Best Villain: Mysterio (Spider-Man: Far From Home)

A good performance is an absolute necessity when trying to make a sympathetic villain. You need someone capable of walking that line without straying too far into sympathy or antipathy. Jake Gyllenhaal is a veritable tightrope walker, bringing the intensity and evil in spades while still keeping the audience engrossed in Mysterio's character.


Missed it:

As much as I've seen this year, there's a lot that I didn't get to see. Here's the stuff that I still hope to see at some point. There's not really much television that I know of and want to watch that I didn’t, with the exception of The Good Place, so it's just the movies.

-Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood
-The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
-Aladdin
-Toy Story 4
-JoJo Rabbit
-Parasite
-Frozen 2
-Ford v Ferrari (Le Mans '66 for you Europeans)
-Richard Jewell
-Uncut Gems
-1917
-Cats
-Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Note: I will probably see Star Wars before the year is out. 1917 was released this year in limited release, and doesn’t hit wide release until January. Of these, all could easily break my top ten except for Cats. That one could probably take worst movie, though. Speaking of...


CoramDeo's Worst of 2019:

Some quick hits on the worst stuff I saw this year.

Worst Movie: The Fanatic

The Fanatic continues John Travolta's slow decay. The first words from his character's mouth are 'I can't talk long, I gotta poo.' It's hilarious. That's all you need to know about this film.

Worst TV Villain: Control (Star Trek: Discovery)

Control began the season as an ominous presence in the background of the show. Maybe it should have stayed that way, because the moment it turned into a lousy Terminator knockoff it lost all that was compelling about it.

Worst Movie Villain: The Supreme Intelligence and whatever else Annette Bening was supposed to be (Captain Marvel)

This character completely failed to do anything for me in this movie. I didn't hate Captain Marvel, but I also didn't get any grasp of who or what this particular character was supposed to be. She/it/whatever else was almost entirely unnecessary in my opinion, and was an utter failure as a villain.

Dumbest TV Moment: Cornwell and the Torpedo

This moment narrowly beat out Titans' decision to kill one of their best characters for no reason as an afterthought and then halfway back down from it in the same episode. It is the absolute worst death I've seen on television in years. It's completely pointless and a disgrace to the character.

Dumbest Movie Moment: Hunter Dunbar aggressively listens to Limp Biskit (The Fanatic)

This movie was directed by Fred Durst, former lead singer of Limp Biskit. The sequence in which the character makes it very clear that he loves Limp Biskit's music lasts a good 30 to 45 seconds. He mentions how much he enjoys said music every seven or eight seconds.


Final Thoughts:
I saw a lot more this year than I normally do, and I loved it. Most of my top ten are movies I would recommend with few reservations. A great year, and I look forward with anticipation for the next.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

A great "best of," CoramDeo. Good job. Of course, I am so with you when it comes to Anson Mount as Christopher Pike, and I'm still holding out hope for a series. And what happened to Katie Cassidy's Laurel this season? Whatever it was, it was way overdue.

Diogo said...

I no longer watch The Flash regularly but like Chris Reeves for Superman and Hugh Jackman for Logan, he will always be my Flash