Patch’s Top 10 Films of 2019

2019 was weird for me when it came to film. In some ways, it wowed me. In other ways, it made me shake my head. Sandwiched in between an epic franchise finale and retellings of classic favorites were some real gems (cut and uncut).  Below is the best of the best, for me at least. As with every year, not everything could make my top ten, so here are my honorable Top 5 Best of the Rest of 2019.

THE BEST OF THE REST

5. Brittany Runs a Marathon

4. Luce

3. Spider-Man: Far From Home

2. Waves

1. Avengers: Endgame


THE FEATURE FILMS

Without further delay, here are my 10 favorite films of 2019. If you haven’t had a chance to see them, hopefully, this list will help encourage you to seek them out soon and draw your own conclusions

10. UNCUT GEMS – One of the surprise performances of 2019 is Adam Sandler in “Uncut Gems”. As a gritty New York gambler, Sandler shows us the life of trying to make a fast dollar, and his performance carries the film all the way to its surprising conclusion. His performance combined with the fantastic cinematography put me right in the tough streets with him, hoping that I don’t get caught saying or doing the wrong thing, for fear I might get a bullet in the chest.

 

9. ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD – Quentin Tarantino is a director that I can respect and value, but also dislike and dismiss based on personal preference. There are few movies I can watch more than once with him in the director’s chair. “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” stands out as one. Tarantino succeeds in crafting his own history, using a combination of real-life celebrities of Hollywood past as well as fictionalized characters representing those personalities that lived so prominently of that era. Two of those characters, Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, and their friendship carry the story, something I didn’t expect from QT. That relationship becomes the catalyst for the film, and it’s the thing that captured my attention more than anything. (Hear our discussion about “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” in Episode 178 here.)

 

8. JOKER – A friend of mine said to me after seeing “Joker”, “if this was about a guy named Arthur Fleck, without the whole Joker origin story, it would have been just as impactful.” I completely agree. What Todd Phillips does in this story is invite us into the chaotic world of mental illness with the pressure of having that mental illness in a world that expects you to behave as if you don’t. Joaquin Phoenix delivers an outstanding performance and journey succumbing to the monster he eventually becomes. It’s a hard movie to watch and one of the few I hesitate to revisit because of the impact it has. But it’s one that will be the most memorable of 2019 for me. (Hear our discussion about “Joker” in Episode 191 here.)

 

7. FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY – I love it when a movie makes me feel happy. What I thought was going to be a nice little throw-away popcorn flick turned out to be one of the most memorable films of the year. It is anchored by Saraya Knight, an up and coming wrestler with dreams of being in the WWE, but the emphasis extends to the importance of family, of being connected to a common set of people, believing in each other’s dreams and how success and failure can shape each person’s life. It also doesn’t hurt that it takes me back to my days growing up watching “rasslin” every Monday night and Saturday afternoon.

 

6. MARRIAGE STORY – What a gut punch. “Marriage Story” acts as a mirror in a lot of ways in exposing the honesty of real relationships. It’s a raw vantage point seeing how two people come to grips with the fact that they, as a couple, aren’t happy, and have to deal with it knowing that there will be collateral damage no matter what. I see that in my marriage, in the hard conversations that expose the messiness of choosing to be together. But “Marriage Story” also reminds me that, at the heart of relationships is the ability to choose, and though I don’t agree with some of the choices made by our main characters, I am reminded that that ability is crucial. The film isn’t pretty, but it’s honest, which makes it a valuable watch for anyone. (Hear our discussion about “Marriage Story” in Episode 203 here.)

 

5. THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON – Independent movies don’t get enough love. I’ve learned to accept that. Limited theater distribution, smaller marketing, and sometimes a simple narrative can hinder the buzz that these films deserve. “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is no different. Centering around a relationship between a couple of rejects pursuing a better life, this film invites us to join them on this journey and accept them for who they are as they grow to accept each other. Family doesn’t have to be defined by blood, and this film sells that message in a way that makes a believer out of me. (Hear our discussion about “The Peanut Butter Falcon” in Episode 199 here.)

 

4. PARASITE – I hope that we get to cover this on Feelin’ Film at some point. So much has already been said about this fantastic film. The social commentary is both obvious and subtle at the same time, giving the audience enough to think about but not overselling and overshadowing a fantastically entertaining story. There are so many “wow” moments in this film, twists and turns that keep me wondering what’s really at work here. It’s definitely worthy of the accolades that it has gotten and I hope that more people get a chance to appreciate what Bong Joon-Ho has crafted.

 

3. FORD V FERARRI – I don’t get a chance to see movies in the theaters more than once, so when I do, it’s got to be worth it. “Ford v Ferrari” is probably the most entertaining movie of 2019 for me, and it’s one that I had the pleasure of seeing twice on the big screen. There is a completeness in telling the story of Carol Shelby, Ken Miles, and their pursuit to bring Ford motor company back to relevance in the 1960s. James Mangold, in his meticulous direction, puts us so close to the action of LeMans as well as the intimacy of the relationships he takes care of in this story. I didn’t come away feeling wowed by what I saw, but rather getting a complete story, one that entertained me from start to finish. There wasn’t a single moment that stood out as the big moment, but it wasn’t necessary. Everything worked, and I can’t wait to experience it all again. (Hear our discussion about “Ford v Ferrari” in Episode 198 here.)

 

2. LITTLE WOMEN – What the heck? It’s no secret that period pieces are not my thing, and had it not been for Sam Mendes’ “1917” releasing in early 2020 instead of on Christmas (for my area at least) this was going to be a rental, easily. But as I learned in watching “Lady Bird” this year, Greta Gerwig can make me feel deeply in spite of my preconceptions of what a movie is supposed to be. “Little Women”, driven by a solid female cast, manages to tell a story that is both 200 years old and also still relevant today. Saoirse Ronan anchors the narrative as Jo March, and the supporting cast of her sisters propel it to entertaining heights. Watching the film reminded me of how important it is to understand yourself, how difficult it is for women to navigate a world dominated by men, and how family can bring out the best in a person, even through conflict and pain. (Hear our discussion about “Little Women” in Episode 207 here.)

 

1. BOMBSHELL – Movies that can entertain, educate, and provoke thoughtful discussion will always rise above any other, and “Bombshell” doesn’t miss any of those beats. When corporate America treats sexual harassment prevention training as a box to be checked to avoid liability, its importance is lost. “Bombshell” should essentially replace that training and be standard viewing for any employee working today. Solid female-led performances by Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margo Robbie help expose the toxic environment of Fox, and John Lithgow, portraying the sleazy Roger Ailes puts the exclamation point on that world. Much like last year’s “Hearts Beat Loud”, this film comes at a disadvantage, namely releasing late in the year against “Uncut Gems” and “The Rise of Skywalker”. If not now, hopefully, the early part of 2020 will bring it more of an audience and allow the message of “Bombshell” to explode beyond just the film world. (Hear our discussion of “Bombshell” in Episode 205 here.)


Patrick “Patch” Hicks calls Little Rock, Arkansas home with his family of four (his wife, son and three pets). When he’s not podcasting, he works as a multimedia designer and is also dabbling in the art of writing and directing. You can find him floating around the web on Twitter, Facebook, and his home on the web, ThisIsPatch.com.

 

 

Episode 207: Little Women

All adaptations are not created equal and this week we discuss one of the best, Greta Gerwig’s new take on Louisa May Alcott’s book. With a modern flair, a meta twist, and the best ensemble cast of the year, this version of Little Women warmed our hearts and won us over.

Little Women Review – 0:01:01

The Connecting Point – 1:21:02

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What We Learned This Week: December 2019

END OF THE YEAR AND END OF THE DECADE EDITION

Forgive the awards season hiatus! I missed you all and I couldn’t let you go without a quick toast to the end of 2019 and the end of the 2010s!

LESSON #1: IT’S ALL CINEMA— Boy, did I miss one dismissive and hand-wringing soapbox after another with Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest directors of film history.  Rant after rant, click after click, retweet after retweet, boy did ole Marty start a fight.  I don’t mean to sound regressive like #AllLivesMatter versus the true need of something like #BlackLivesMatterbut someone needs to tell Mr. Scorsese that it’s all cinema, from every cheesy and trashy film to every astute and austere film.  That’s from Cats to The Irishman and everything in between. They are made by creators aiming for storytelling, entertainment, and expression.  They just do so to different degrees and for different audiences.  So, respectfully, Marty, STFU.  Because you do great work, I won’t sentence you to Lesson #2 like one of your peers.

LESSON #2: CLINT EASTWOOD CAN RETIRE NOW— Look, I adore Clint Eastwood’s work.  He is essential American cinema (there I go…) and has the legacy and hardware to prove forever.  But, gosh, is he slipping.  With each can he kicks down the road since American Sniper, he’s loosing a grip on the truthful side of his filmmaking to match the purposeful part. Honoring little notes of history is one thing with dramatic license.  Revising and degrading is another.  You crossed a line with Richard Jewell and the treatment of the late Kathy Scruggs, played by Olivia Wilde.  Go back to that sunset and porch rocker, Clint.

LESSON #3: PLEASE LET ADAM SANDLER TURN A NEW LEAF— Before Uncut Gems, I legitimately and truthfully had not watched an Adam Sandler movie in nine years.  I didn’t need Jack and Jill to give up on him and the repetitive manchild garbage he was making.  I had no regrets abstaining from his career.  Hot damn, though, did he supernova with Uncut Gems.  Please let this career resurgence be a true new trajectory and not a one time thing.  Don’t let him dangle a role of two like Eddie Murphy and go back to the low-hanging fruit garden.  He’s back and I want more.

LESSON #4: IT’S EARLY, BUT GRETA GERWIG REMAINS UNDEFEATED— That women knows how to make good films, period. After blazing bright with Lady Bird and all its crassness, she comes back with a PG-rated and spirited adaptation of Little Women that is an absolute delight.  It’s better than just a nod at girl power.  It’s rich and multi-layered art.  She has earned automatic watch status for whatever comes next for her.  And while we’re talking about Greta Gerwig, Dear Academy, don’t make the mistake the Golden Globes did and nominate more women like her for the excellence in their fields.

LESSON #5: ADAM DRIVER AND FLORENCE PUGH WILL BE THE STARS OF THE 2020s— Even with a big second half and huge 2019, I won’t call Adam Driver the star of this decade, but I have a good feeling he will be the star of the next one.  I’ll give this past decade to Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, and Christian Bale before Driver, but few actors have his crossover appeal and towering potential right now.  Need proof?  Pick anything from this year, but especially Marriage Story.  Watch him win the Oscar to kick off his 2020.  As they say, the sky (and for him, the galaxy), is the limit.  His white-hot female equivalent is Florence Pugh who carried a tremendous 2019 with Fighting With My Family, Midsommar, and Little Women. She is a dual Oscar contender for those latter two roles and has Black Widow to start 2020.  We see many ingenues come and go, but, like Driver, her range across genres is formidable and will keep her around and successful for a very long time.

LESSON #6: THIS NEXT DECADE HAS UNKNOWN CHALLENGES AHEAD— The 2010s brought a swell of nostalgia regurgitation like we’ve never seen with peaks and valleys across James Bond, Star Wars, Star TrekMission: Impossible, Jason Bourne, the MCU, the DCEU, TransformersPiratesGhostbustersPlanet of the Apes, Rocky, Rambo, Despicable Me, Men in Black, The Terminator, Toy Story, Ocean’s 8, and every possible Disney re-imagining.  Try as the greedy studios may, surely the noise of all that cannot continue another decade.  Creative bankruptcy has a limit and it’s going to run out and crash hard.  The 2020s have the challenge of creating new properties and experiences because the old stuff won’t last forever.  With the close of a Star Wars saga and a massive MCU phase to finish 2019, we stand at the edge wondering what’s next and what can top what’s been done.  It can’t all be new Avatar movies.  Your decade, your move, Hollywood.  Give us something good.  In the meantime, we’ll be on the couching binging your streaming services.

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#120)

Aaron’s Top 10 Films of 2019

2019 is coming to a close and what a wonderful year of movies we’ve had to wrap up the decade. This year I saw 175 new films, 26 of which were documentaries. Finding room in my Top 20 (much less my Top 10) for every film that I want to sing the praises of is always incredibly difficult and this year is no different. The process of narrowing down my favorites to the top ten films of the year was a painful experience that required a lot of reflection and time. The ranking you see here changed constantly right up until I hit “post”, but now what’s done is done and I have to live with it. Since it’s impossible for me to just settle on ten, you will see some of my favorites of the year in the #11-20 special mention spots.

With regards to my criteria, when it comes to ranking films critically, I do that as part of my membership in the Seattle Film Critics Society (see my nominations here and our award winners here). But on Feelin’ Film we focus more on matters of the heart, so my Top 10 films are often ones that I found the most affecting in 2019 – those movies that provided me an incredibly emotional or memorable experience of some sort. Another thing that factors strongly into my ranking is rewatchability, so think of this list as my favorites of the best.

In order to make this a tad easier on myself, and also because they truly are a unique medium unto themselves, I have listed my Top 5 Documentaries separately. It feels like every year is a great one for non-fiction filmmaking and 2019 was no different. At least two of these below would be featured in my Top 10 of the year if these lists were combined; I had to make some very hard cuts in limiting this list to just a Top 5. But as they say… “it’s what it is.”


THE DOCUMENTARIES

5. UNTOUCHABLE (not the 2019 documentary about Harvey Weinstein) The first documentary I saw in 2019 was this film by David Feige that started making festival rounds in 2016 and finally got its release this year. The film follows Ron Book, a Florida lobbyist and father to a daughter who has been sexually abused, on his campaign that leads to some of the toughest sex offender laws in the nation. The film is special because of the way it gives equal space to the stories of both victims and offenders, as well as their respective loved ones. It is an incredible example of what documentaries at their best can be – not just informative, but balanced and thought-provoking despite covering very difficult to watch & complicated subject matter. While never losing sight of the pain these crimes can cause, it challenges our long-held perception of sex offenders, forces us to see the effects of our strict justice system on them and their families, and offers statistics that question whether our laws are even making a dent in rehabilitation or prevention. (Hear our discussion about “Untouchable” in FF+ here.)

4. LOVE, ANTOSHA – Get ready to cry your eyes out and then embark on a (surprisingly long) quest to watch all of the late actor Anton Yelchin’s films. This film is so well-constructed as a documentary that tells the story of Anton’s life, but its power is in sharing the stories of what he meant to so many people, who could see in him what he maybe never could. It is a beautiful, beautiful tribute to a brilliant artist and wonderful human being gone far too soon.

3. SEA OF SHADOWS – I was blown away by the incredible access to both the bad guys and Mexican governmental agencies that this filmmaking team was able to have. “Sea of Shadows” is a documentary (which feels like an intense geopolitical thriller about cartels and other international criminal groups) that follows journalists teaming with activists and military to expose and take down powerful black-market fish bladder traffickers. The film is engaging and riveting in the way it brings this story of gross human exploitation and the destruction of our planet’s environment/animal kingdom to the forefront of public minds.

2. FOR SAMA – Many films have been made about the Battle of Aleppo, a 4.5 year conflict during the Syrian Civil War, but none like this. Told entirely from a young woman’s perspective, Waad al-Kateab becomes a journalist and documents her life in a sort of video log time capsule dedicated to her daughter Sama. It is an intimate, ground-level perspective otherwise unseen that captures the struggles of Waad’s life as she transitions through falling in love, becoming part of the resistance alongside her doctor husband, and eventually motherhood. It is visceral and painful in a way that caused me to have tears welled inside my eyes for almost its entire runtime. But though it is a horror film, it is also a love story, one that shows the cost yes, but also the deep devotion to justice and freedom that drives the resistance to protect one another and strive to reclaim their homeland from tyranny. It was unforgettable, and I hope that for the sake of retaining our humanity in this world as many people as possible will see it. Tough to get through? Absolutely. But worth it in every way for the beautiful relationships that exist within the chaos, and the inspiring hope these parents bring to not just their own child but the next generation as a whole.

1. APOLLO 11 – For the second year in a row, a documentary provided my most incredible IMAX theater viewing of the year. Composed entirely of newly discovered raw archival footage from the actual launch, mission, and landing, “Apollo 11” is an editing marvel that shares with the world an immersive experience from the past. Presented entirely free of any commentary and backed by one of the best musical scores of the year, this is technical filmmaking mastery at its finest. I held my breath, cried tears of pride and awe, and felt my bones rattle and my seat shake – all part of a spectacular experience that was one of my most memorable ones this decade. (Hear our discussion about “Apollo 11” in FF+ here.)


THE FEATURE FILMS

20. THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART(Hear our discussion about “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part in Episode 149 here.)

19. SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (Hear our discussion about “Spider-Man: Far From Home” in Episode 174 here.)

18. BATMAN: HUSH(Hear our discussion about “Batman: Hush” in FF+ here.)

17. THE FAREWELL(Hear our discussion about “The Farewell” in FF+ here.)

16. A HIDDEN LIFE

15. PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

14. FORD V FERRARI(Hear our discussion about “Ford v Ferrari” in Episode 198 here.)

13. TOLKIEN(Hear our discussion about “Tolkien” in FF+ here.)

12. MISSING LINK(Hear our discussion about “Missing Link” in Episode 160 here.)


  • I broke this into a Top 11 because I couldn’t bear to cut (heh) “Uncut Gems” from my Top 10. It’s that great. #SorryNotSorry

11. UNCUT GEMS – Remember. To. Breathe. “Uncut Gems” is an E-X-P-E-R-I-E-N-C-E. This is a one-of-a-kind stylish anxiety attack that captures the highs and lows of compulsive gambling like I’ve never seen before. It often feels like complete chaos and manic screaming of dialogue throughout, but that is actually the Safdie Brothers in complete control of a career-best performance from Adam Sandler. It’s terrifying to watch unfold – like a horror movie without the slashing or supernatural – and the gigantic breath I finally took at the end is like the greatest gasp of air I’d ever had. Bonus points for a huge sub-plot involving Kevin Garnett and one of the year’s best scenes where said NBA superstar caresses a rock lovingly.

 

10. BOMBSHELL – There’s always room for a stellar biopic with Oscar-worthy performances and a biting script in my Top 10, and this year it was director Jay Roach’s riveting story of how brave women at Fox News took down its infamous sexually abusive CEO and a culture of toxic sexism. It is a slick, entertaining, and highly uncomfortable film that is so much more than just a history lesson, though. It tells this very important story from a perspective that audience members may never experience otherwise, opening my eyes via dramatization in a way that mundane and cheesy workplace sexual harassment videos never have. I feel empowered to look for, notice, and stand up against sexual harassment of any form anywhere it exists. (Hear our discussion of “Bombshell” in Episode 205 here.)

 

9. TOY STORY 4 –  Shame on me for doubting Pixar and one of the most perfect trilogies of all-time. It took me two viewings, but once I took in the film detached from my expectations of what a Toy Story film “should” be, I fell in love. Not only is it heady and thoughtful in ways the series has never quite tried, it still packs the emotional punch I expect and crave. I laughed my ass off. I cried hard. I became obsessed with Forky. New characters won me over and this fourth entry manages to somehow create a new conclusion that makes perfect sense. (Hear our discussion about “Toy Story 4” in Episode 172 here.)

 

8. JOKER – Todd Phillips’ “Joker” is exceptional, elevating the type of stories we are accustomed to from our comic book characters into previously uncharted artistic territory. As Phillips’ muse, Joaquin Phoenix carries the film with a phenomenal physical performance that imbues the titular villain’s tormented soul with both a growing madness and a painfully affecting pathos. It took a lot of nerve for Phillips to depict a “beloved” villain in this way and style,  knowing that many fans would not approve, but his approach allows for a powerful conversation to be had about mental illness and violence. I was completely enthralled throughout the film, both with its narrative and its artistic elements. I left the theater floored and impressed beyond belief. (Hear our discussion about “Joker” in Episode 191 here.)

 

7. PARASITE – What hasn’t already been said about director Bong Joon-Ho’s delightfully dark social satire? It’s a commentary on class warfare and capitalism that plays out in a funny yet thrilling story that crosses several different genres and surprises at every turn. Worthy of every bit of praise and all of the awards that it is winning this year, “Parasite” is one of the best live-action foreign films of the decade and should be seen knowing as little as possible.

 

6. 1917 – “1917” is an astonishing exercise in immersion that left me utterly shaken. It is a true technical marvel, with emotional power that creeps up slowly, and then forces the viewer to reconcile with the futility of war in a manner that lingers long after the credits roll. Featuring my favorite score of the year and the best cinematography, as well, the film is stunning on every level, a tour-de-force in the genre, and an absolute must-see theatrical experience. (Episode coming in January 2020)

5. THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON – A simple, moving adventure story of friendship and family. Never condescending. My eyes were hardly dry throughout. I love this movie. Every single moment. The cinematography, the score, the acting, but of course the story most of all. And for me, the depiction of people on the fringes – a care center runaway with Down Syndrome and a troubled thief –  who come together and become a non-traditional family is one of the sweetest I’ve ever seen. (Hear our discussion about “The Peanut Butter Falcon” in Episode 199 here.)

 

4. WEATHERING WITH YOU – It’s no secret how much I adore Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name.” This film also features a central teenage romance with fantastical elements and natural disasters on the horizon but is a much more serious and dramatic work that takes its time moving the story along and has Shinkai exploring the very real issue of climate change (and humanity’s conflicting response to it) through the decisions that its romantically inclined protagonists face. In what has become the norm, Shinkai delivers breathtaking visuals yet again and they perfectly synchronize with another beautiful RADWIMP’s score. There is just something about how Shinkai consistently tells stories that move me deeply and affect my soul in ways that very few filmmakers do. “Weathering With You” is an incredibly layered animated dream and I can’t stop thinking about its characters, their relationships, and the challenging situations they must deal with, but also what my own feelings about those things ultimately say about me.

 

3. ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD –  Where Quentin Tarantino’s storytelling shines the most in “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” is in the relationship between movie star Rick Dalton & his stuntman/best friend Cliff Booth. Their friendship is touching and hilarious, and their stories are compelling enough on their own to carry a nearly 3-hour long movie. In addition, the satisfying and respectful retelling of Sharon Tate’s tragic murder within this alternate history grounds this film in the time period that QT is clearly making a love letter to. I could watch these characters in this world for hours upon end and never tire of it. Exceptional production value and acting all around plus great messages about friendship and how we remember people make this a slamdunk top film of the year for me. (Hear our discussion about “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” in Episode 178 here.)

 

2. MARRIAGE STORY “Getting divorced with a kid can be one of the hardest things you can ever do – it’s like a death without a body.” I relate very deeply with much of what’s depicted in this story, and from personal experience, I agree that divorce *is* like death without a body. What makes “Marriage Story” brilliant to me, is that Baumbach captures the waves of changing emotions and challenges that many, many couples face perfectly, despite the setting being that of two celebrities parting ways. “Marriage Story” is a reflection of this beautifully flawed couple that gives insight into the awful process of divorce, and it hurts like hell to experience but can also serve as a cautionary tale for those in relationships now. It is the rare film that comes along that has impeccable filmmaking artistry, is entertaining, and has a huge personal relevance, making it an easy choice for this spot on my list. (Hear our discussion about “Marriage Story” in Episode 203 here.)

 

1. LITTLE WOMEN – When was the last time a pure drama, period piece, with Hollywood star power, contending for awards had a PG rating? Greta Gerwig’s masterful retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s classic is a love letter to the source material that is as delightful as it is artistically terrific. Updated with a fun new meta twist that could have gone terribly awry, instead, Gerwig’s storytelling device highlights the theme of owning your own story and hammers home Jo’s arc in an impactful new way, while also portraying Amy’s important story quite powerfully, like we haven’t seen before. The acting is just as brilliant as you’d expect from this supremely talented group of young actors, and supporting roles by such veterans as Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, and Chris Cooper are every bit as perfectly cast. Each and every element of the film adds to its delight – from the production design to the score – and it’s likely Gerwig’s film will go down as the best telling of this famous story for many a viewer, and may just inspire a whole new generation of little women too. (Hear our discussion about “Little Women” in Episode 207 here.)


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: Little Women

Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” follows the lives of four sisters from the blooming time of teenage years into the world of adulthood. Taking place during a tumultuous period of the Civil War, Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) have their own distinct ways of viewing a world in which women’s opportunities for independence are scarcely low. The only paths to prominence were being the wife of a privileged husband, which left women in the predicament of being “property” with no sense of individual ownership, or being rich. Each sister has a sense of free will and distinct ambitions to go far beyond this limited vestige by focusing on their pursuit of the arts. Through seamless transitions between the past and present, these bonded sisters traverse romance, tragedy, family, and self-exploration.

Featuring one of the best ensembles of the year, the cast is a who’s who of gifted young actors/actresses and established veterans. Ronan, Watson, and Pugh are impeccable with a delightful charm and sit a level above the rest of the cast. Ronan is full of strong will and combustible energy that pulls the viewer into her inner wish to shatter the mold as an aspiring novelist. There is not one scene where she doesn’t steal the show. Pugh is a stellar sidekick, continuing her hot streak in 2019 that has seen her star in roles across several different genres. Watson plays her part with a silent elegance and really hits home in a couple of dramatic moments. Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, and Laura Dern all hold up their end of the supporting bargain with terrific turns representing relevant figures in the maturation of these sisters.

A certain amount of heartwarming compassion and charm is present in every little fabric of this adaption. Certain scenes will make you smile because of the easily discernible connection the sisters share or the little moments of moral humanity where characters are full of life and charity. This world is soaked with the beloved energy that the novel has carried for over 150 years; a rare case in which the film soars to the same heights of its literary companion. For a 759 page novel, the film’s pacing and actor mannerisms makesit easy to keep up with all of the important details, the switch between flashbacks and present time are handled with the utmost care and feel seamless. Jess Gonchor’s work on the production design is the equivalent of authenticity done right. House decor, horse-drawn carriages, fashion of the era, and street signs are carbon copies of what readers have imagined for decades as the words bounce off the page.

Gerwig handles writing and direction duties just as she did with her last great film, “Lady Bird”, and shows a greater sense of improvement and ease. It can be an audacious task bringing a well-received literary classic to the big screen, but Gerwig succeeds immensely. “Little Women” is an entertaining homage that carries a modern feel while keeping the personality of a timeless period piece. This is a film that speaks to all women in the celebration of autonomy and uniqueness while delivering laughs, developed character arcs, remarkable cinematography, and a winner’s circle of award-worthy performances. I’m still surprised with how much I enjoyed my time at the theater.

Rating:


Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Aaron’s 2019 SFCS Award Nominations

Having the honor of participating in an annual film awards voting group is one of the greatest joys in my life. It takes a lot of dedication, time, and sacrifice too. After watching 166 films released in 2019, some of which I greatly did not enjoy and others which I cannot wait to watch again, I’ve finally narrowed down my favorites or best or whatever you want to label them as. Presented below are my nominations for the 2019 Seattle Film Critic Society Awards. In the past, I have attempted to use strategy by not making nominations that I believed would have plenty of support elsewhere. This year, I decided to avoid getting that tricky, and instead have made my choices that I can fully stand behind and proudly champion. Many categories were extremely difficult and caused me great heartache. Where possible, I’ve listed my “Sixth Man” award for that nominee who just narrowly missed my field.

* A note about eligibility – Due to our voting deadline, access to films, and/or personal time constraints, the following late releasing films were not screened by me prior to these nominations: “Dark Waters”, “A Hidden Life”, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”, “Cats”, “Jumanji: The Next Level”, and (to make my daughter happy) “Spies in Disguise”.

* Additionally, I have chosen to remove Animation and Documentaries from my Best Picture lineup in order to allow more room for live-action feature film nominees.

(All nominees in alphabetical order)

BEST ACTION CHOREOGRAPHY

1917
Ford v Ferrari
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Shadow
Triple Threat

VILLAIN OF THE YEAR

Divorce – Marriage Story
Joker – Joker
Mysterio – Spider-Man: Far From Home
Red Dress – In Fabric
Swiper – Dora and the Lost City of Gold

BEST YOUTH PERFORMANCE (under 18 at time of filming)

Anna Pniowsky – Light of my Life
Isabela Moner – Dora and the Lost City of Gold
Julia Butters – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Noah Jupe – Honey Boy
Paola Lara – Tigers Are Not Afraid

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

1917
Alita: Battle Angel
Avengers: Endgame
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Spider-Man: Far From Home

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

1917
Joker
Little Women
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

I Lost My Body (Dan Levy)
Uncut Gems (Daniel Lopatin)
Joker (Hildur Guðnadóttir)
Marriage Story (Randy Newman)
1917 (Thomas Newman)

BEST FILM EDITING

1917
Apollo 11
Bombshell
Ford v Ferrari
Marriage Story

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Bombshell
Dolemite is My Name
Little Women
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Rocketman

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

1917
Joker
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Shadow
The Lighthouse
*Sixth Man* – Monos

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FEATURE

The Farewell
Monos
Parasite
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Weathering With You
*Sixth Man* – Promare

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Apollo 11
For Sama
Love, Antosha
Maiden
Sea of Shadows
*Sixth Man* – American Factory

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Missing Link
Promare
This Magnificent Cake!
Toy Story 4
Weathering With You
*Sixth Man* – The Lego Movie 2

BEST SCREENPLAY

Bombshell (Charles Randolph)
Joker (Todd Phillips, Scott Silver)
Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach)
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)
The Peanut Butter Falcon (Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz)
*Sixth Man* – Little Women (Greta Gerwig)

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST

Avengers: Endgame
Bombshell
Ford v Ferrari
Little Women
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
*Sixth Man* – Marriage Story

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers
Laura Dern – Marriage Story
Margot Robbie – Bombshell
Nicole Kidman – Bombshell
Zhao Shuzhen – The Farewell
*Sixth Woman* – Taylor Russell – Waves

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Joe Pesci – The Irishman
Song Kang Ho – Parasite
Sterling K. Brown – Waves
Zack Gottsagen – The Peanut Butter Falcon
*Sixth Man* – John Lithgow – Bombshell

BEST ACTRESS

Awkwafina – The Farewell
Charlize Theron – Bombshell
Jessie Buckley – Wild Rose
Saoirse Ronan – Little Women
Scarlett Johanson – Marriage Story
*Sixth Woman* – Lupita Nyong’o – Us

BEST ACTOR

Adam Driver – Marriage Story
Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems
Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory
Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
*Sixth Man* – Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes

BEST DIRECTOR

Jay Roach – Bombshell
Josh & Benny Safdie – Uncut Gems
Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story
Sam Mendes – 1917
Todd Phillips – Joker
*Sixth Man* – Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

BEST PICTURE

1917
Bombshell
Ford v Ferrari
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite
The Peanut Butter Falcon
Uncut Gems
*Sixth Man* – Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Total Count by Movie: Bombshell (9), Marriage Story (9), 1917 (8), Joker (8), Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (7), Little Women (5), Parasite (4), Ford v Ferrari (4), Uncut Gems (4), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (3), The Peanut Butter Falcon (3)


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

FF+ Frozen 2, Honey Boy, Waves, and Little Women

For this week’s FF+, Seattle film critic Paul Carlson of Escape Into Film joins the show to discuss four wildly different new and upcoming film releases.

New For You 

Frozen 2 – 0:01:52

Honey Boy – 0:15:13

Waves – 0:23:36

Little Women – 0:33:51

 

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Music: City Sunshine – Kevin MacLeod

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