We’re officially at the halfway mark for the year and with that means a wealth of sites listing what’s been good, so far. The Dames are no different and want to honor the movies they’ve loved over the last six months. Did yours make the list? Leave us a comment.
I was just talking to a friend the other day about how 2019 felt like a soft year to me. I’d seen a lot of movies, courtesy of attending SXSW this year, but not a whole lot had really stuck with me. There just weren’t many movies this year that resonated with me past an initial viewing. So this list was both incredibly easy – I had five immediately – but sad that so much just didn’t connect.
I’m not convinced Rocketman won’t be my top film of 2019, and I would have never thought I’d say that about the “Elton John musical.” As I mentioned when I reviewed the film on Citizen Dame, I love that this musical is unrepentant in its viewpoint. It celebrates and, at times, shows the unabashed fun Elton John had during the ’70s. It never hides from his sexuality, his drug abuse, his alcoholism. It’s a movie about the ’70s that you’d expect to see about a rocker from that time without being a Behind the Music cautionary tale. Oh, and Richard Madden is exceedingly hot and I did not expect that to affect me this year.
This hits digital tomorrow and I could not be more excited! Yes, it’s another musical but a far different one from Rocketman. Director Max Minghella does emphasize the small-town, big-eyed dreams of wanting to be a celebrity but he also takes time to show the mundane aspects of it. On top of there there’s some beautiful cinematography and some excellent musical numbers. (This year needs to go down as the year directors actually knew how to direct song and dance sequences.) This soundtrack has gotten so much play from me on Spotify.
This still doesn’t have a stateside release date and I’m pissed. I saw this at SXSW and I seriously contemplated burning another screening to see it again. This is one of the best zombie comedies, up there with the likes of Shaun of the Dead and that’s a bold statement. Lupita Nyong’o is flawless as a kindergarten teacher trying to protect his students from a zombie invasion. It has heart, humor, Taylor Swift sing-alongs, and a one-liner from Josh Gad that I wish more people knew about.
There’s a reason all of us have this movie on our 5. It’s THAT good! The relationship between Kaitlynn Deaver and Beanie Feldstein is so relatable and charming. None of the characters are good or bad but just fall into the realm of “teenagers.” It’s got a karaoke scene that I adore (in a year that had its fair share of them). I quote this movie a lot.
Ask for Jane
If we’re talking about movies that have stuck with us through the morass of things we’ve watched, I’d have to include this little indie gem. Ask for Jane talks about a tough topic that we thought was in the past but is now front and center in the future. This movie proves why indies are so vital, to tell stories that mainstream Hollywood wouldn’t. Go read my full review, it’s a movie that still makes me emotional.
Festivals are awesome, and I had the good fortune to go to both Sundance and SXSW this year. The one problem is that it makes it a bit tough to create these mid-year lists because I’ve seen some really good stuff that is coming…later. So I can’t include things yet that are almost definitely going to find themselves in my Top 10 by the end of 2019. But that’s okay! Because there’s still been some pretty darn good stuff this year and I’m digging the way things are going. Here are five of my favorites so far.
If this doesn’t end up being my very film of 2019, I’m really excited to find out what replaces it. Booksmart is brilliant, hilarious, charming, troubled, endearing, frustrating. In short, it’s all the things that female friendships are, especially the pure, sisterly type shared by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever’s Molly and Amy. This movie made me laugh and cry and remember the crazy times with my best friend.
Toy Story 4
I think I’ve learned my lesson now. I will never again question Pixar’s commitment to the Toy Story franchise, nor the “necessity” for another sequel to it. Every new adventure for Woody and Buzz and the rest is better than I could even imagine. This is the funniest of the four, and it’s about freaking time the girls get to have some major storylines and a really great friendship. Oh, lookit that. It’s the first one co-written by a woman. Funny thing.
After Bohemian Rhapsody turned out to be so much worse than we even suspected, I was very reluctant to admit publicly how excited I was for Rocketman. When I finally did, my won co-Dames sighed, shook their heads, and muttered, “O, Karen.” Well, the joke was on them because this movie turned out to be so great. Taron Egerton proves there is more to him than Generic White British Boy. The music is awesome. Unlike most biopics, this movie feels like a journey through Elton John’s own memoir, and it’s a really special film. It’s also the movie that made me say, “Wait a minute. Do I love Jamie Bell?” (Yes. Yes I do.)
Knock Down the House
It’s been called the AOC documentary, which is true in some ways. But we would be wrong to ignore Cori Bush, Paula Jean Swearingen, and Amy Vilela. All four of these ladies together make this documentary truly compelling. As a lifelong conservative (though no longer a Republican), I don’t agree with a lot of their political philosophies or policy proposals. But you have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by these stories. In fact, one of the reasons this documentary is so fantastic and important is that it’s really not about politics. It’s about going up against the machine. Each of these campaigns is a primary challenge against career politicians that long ago stopped representing their constituents. These four women (and many others) decided enough was enough and set out to change Washington. And they are still doing it.
If you haven’t seen Knock Down the House, it’s on Netflix and you have no excuse. Do yourself a favor and watch it immediately.
When I think about great films I’ve seen this year, one surprise I keep coming back to is Paddleton. Ray Romano and Mark Duplass are a couple of bachelors, Andy and Michael, who became friends mostly because they were lonely and bored and happened to be neighbors. It started as a friendship of proximity, but by the time we meet them, their years-long friendship has turned into something more like a brotherhood. When Michael is diagnosed with terminal cancer, they find ways to deal with it together and separately.
This movie particularly sticks with me because it’s a really beautiful story about non-toxic male friendship. There’s something very pure and lovely about their relationship, and there are two really strong performances from Duplass and Romano. In fact, I would venture to say this is the best work I’ve seen from either of them, ever. Oh, and this is also on Netflix.
Rolling Thunder Revue
I love Scorsese and I love Bob Dylan, so already this film was made for me. But it’s also one of Scorsese’s best films in recent years and creates a wonderful and confusing overlap of fact and fiction. Rolling Thunder Revue covers a Bob Dylan tour from 1975, including interviews with Dylan and other members of the tour (or were they?), and a host of archival footage. Most reviews I’ve seen attempt to divide the real from the fictitious, but I think that’s missing the point. Once you’ve acknowledged that this is about American mythmaking, featuring America’s true, lifetime Poet Laureate, you realize that what’s strictly factual and what isn’t doesn’t matter. The music is what matters.
At the Heart of Gold
I went in depth on this film in my Tribeca review, but it bears repeating that this is one of the best documentaries of the year so far. What I still find so moving is that it prizes the voices of the women, drowning out the voice and influence of the man who abused them. It’s a tough watch, but an essential one, and ultimately uplifting in showing a path forward not for an abuser, but for the victims. There is no redemption for someone beyond redeeming, and his pain doesn’t matter. It’s for them.
High Flying Bird
I included this because I feel like we’ve forgotten just how good it is. Yes, it’s a Netflix film, which shouldn’t a single bit of difference. It’s a fantastic Soderbergh film, unique and utterly riveting, with complex dialogue that interweaves with a narrative that becomes increasingly urgent, even if the subject itself doesn’t seem like it should be urgent. It’s a subtle dig at the exploitation of black athletes by white owners and feels at once timely and potentially iconic. Soderbergh is doing some interesting things in filmmaking right now and we need to pay more attention.
I have a feeling this is going to be on most of our lists. We’ve sung the praises of Booksmart consistently for weeks, because it deserves it, despite the definite flaws. It’s one of those films that I shall return to again and again, and force my friends to watch.
John Wick 3
I love everything in the John Wick franchise because it’s all so extra. Why do we have a multistory glass room full of samurai armor and fancy TV screens? Because it looks cool. That’s why.
Honorable mentions: Rocketman, Late Night, Always Be My Maybe, Circus of Books, American Factory, and Us.
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