I’m going to take a slightly abbreviated approach to this year’s best-of lists and mostly focus on movies. It’s not that I didn’t read or listen to music but for whatever reason I feel uninspired to talk about either topic. C’est la vie!
So in no particular order are five movies I greatly enjoyed watching this year.
Firstly, Avengers: Endgame. Well, I guess there is some order to this list because literally the first thing I thought of in terms of movies I’ve seen is this movie. It is inevitable! This is the one MCU flick it’s hard for me to remember as simply a super-hero film. Although I found its predecessor a bit more more compulsively watchable, I really enjoyed this film. First of all it’s tone, which veered from despair, heist hijinx, parental reconciliation, to epic mega-brawl was never boring. Even the gorgeous mess which is that final fight has its own interior logic and sports some of the best looking cinematography this side of Black Panther. With Endgame MCU found a way to transcend some of the limitations of the super-hero genre while stamping into place a archetype for the future on how massive story-telling has to be to improve on this saga.
Secondly, we have Parasite. Strangely similar to Endgame in the genre bending aspects, this film is one best watched with little context. There is something oddly inspiring about a film which can mesh together comedy, horror, and pathos in a single highly restricted set. The acting is incredible and the final scene really sticks with me now months after I saw it.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I was dreading the ending of this film and perhaps Tarantino was too because the film certainly took its sweet time getting to its point. Even so, I find it hard to dismiss this film as simply another Quentin Tarantino film. In a way I haven’t seen since Inglorious Basterds this film stretched out its premise in new and interesting ways. It’s a movie that asks you to sit, be patient, and wait for its surprises. One of my favorite QT films of all time in all honesty.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I watched this film three times in a row and I would happily see it a fourth or fifth. It’s an entirely respectable end to the sequel trilogy and a somewhat less convincing capstone to the Skywalker saga. Similar to the last JJ Abrams helmed Star Wars movie I enjoyed the first two thirds an enormous amount. It’s fast, effortlessly fun and good-natured, and a lot of fun. If I’m less impressed with the final act it’s more a problem of strange ambiguities the film seems to think it needs to hold on to. In any case I think the final scene, the last word in the Skywalker story, is just about perfect and certainly worthy end to the story as a whole. Star Wars is dead! Long Live Star Wars!
Late Night: It dawned on me that this comedy was a bit of a speculative fiction work as well. The speculation of a world where a woman has been a long-running successful talk-show host is a bit discouraging in its premise but also weirdly liberating. In addition to be wickedly funny, this is a story about how the old survives alongside the new and how each has something to teach the other. A timeless theme that struck me as timely when I watched it.