Top 10 Films of 2019 + Honorable Mentions

HAPPY NEW YEAR … and welcome to a new decade!

(I think you can still say that until end of Jan right? 😀 )

Well, it’s time for the obligatory Top 10 Best list. I usually post mine a bit later in January, but this year, time ran away with me as next week is already February! But hey, I think it’s still fine to post one’s top 10 list before the Oscars anyway.

Since there are still plenty of 2019 movies I have not seen yet, I should preface this post with the fact that I haven’t seen The Lighthouse, The Two Popes, Dolemite Is My Name, Uncut Gems, Honey Boy, The Irishman, etc. which might alter my current Top 10.

It goes without saying of course, that it’s my list… my criteria is that a film makes a lasting impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply-moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Replay-ability is a factor I take into consideration as well, though I don’t necessarily want to rewatch every single film on my list.

Well without further ado, here we go… 

Top 10 Films of 2019

(In alphabetical order)

1. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

I just remembered that the Mr. Rogers’ documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? was on my Top 10 of 2018. I didn’t even grow up watching his show, but I do know of his legendary kindness and iconic red cardigan. I love that Marielle Heller’s heart-rending film isn’t really about Fred Rogers himself, but more about his friendship between him and journalist Lloyd Vogel. Tom Hanks is an obvious choice to play Mr. Rogers given his also legendary ‘nice guy’ reputation, but Matthew Rhys and Chris Cooper are also exceptional in portraying a combative relationship between father and son. The film definitely captures the essence of Mr. Rogers and how kindness is always on trend.

2. A Hidden Life

I have to say that Terrence Malick is a hit and miss filmmaker for me, but I was immediately intrigued when I heard about Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian conscientious objector who refuses to fight for the Nazis in WWII. It’s an undeniable s-l-o-w film but it doesn’t feel tedious or boring to me as the reflective style is absorbing, boasted by the performances of August Diehl as Franz and Valerie Pachner as his wife Fani. You truly feel for them as they struggle to stand by their Christian principles to oppose the Nazis, despite being clearly hated by the community and seen as traitors of sort. The stunning visuals are to be expected in a Malick’s film, but it never overshadows the narrative. Definitely an emotional experience and an inspiring one about what it means to courageously stand firm in one’s faith.

3. The Farewell (my review)

If you’ve read my review from last Spring, you’d already know how much I adore this film. I’m dismayed that the Oscars completely snubbed the film, director Lulu Wang and Awkwafina‘s performance, but hey it’s definitely NOT the end of the road for everyone involved. It’s such a compelling, specific-yet-universal story told in a brilliant way, funny and heartbreaking. As an SE-Asian woman living in the US, the story struck a chord with me and it made me think of my own family and the cultural clashes I sometimes face as an immigrant. The Farewell has a deceptively simple premise but one that packs a wallop, I sure hope Wang will continue to make films in the future!

4. Fighting With My Family

What a year for Florence Pugh! I didn’t even know who she was a year ago and this year she’s got not one but TWO films on my Top 10 list! I remember hearing from someone that this is a good movie, and despite not being a fan of wrestling at all, I decided to rent it. I’m SO glad I did. Pugh is absolutely mesmerizing as a small-town UK girl who dreamed of being a WWE superstar. But the supporting cast is wonderful as well, including Jack Lowden, Lena Heady and Nick Frost who made up her family. Thanks to a fantastic script and direction by the multi-talented Stephen Merchant, this is such a hidden gem that should’ve gotten more love. It also boast one of the most memorable performances from Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson playing himself!

5. Jojo Rabbit (my review)

This is one of the three movies I saw at Twin Cities Film Fest that ended up in my Top 10 (the other two are Marriage Story and A Hidden Life). I had been a fan of Taika Waititi, as he’s got such a gift of mixing humor and pathos. He’s done it again this time with this rather controversial film, with the filmmaker portraying Adolf Hitler, no less! It’s always tricky to make a satire, especially involving the Holocaust. But Jojo Rabbit is a deceptively flippant film as it tackles a deeply emotional story and there’s SO much more than meets the eye. Taika’s gift in casting child actors makes brilliant use of Roman Griffin Davis as the lead, and Archie Yates as his hilarious BFF Yorki. I doubt it’ll win Best Picture, but it sure deserves its nomination.

6. Knives Out (my review)

I’m SO glad I got to see this before the end of the year in the theater! As it turns out, this film’s got legs as it’s still playing in some cinemas, more than two months after it’s released around Thanksgiving! Perhaps some people went to see it multiple times, and it’s easy to see why. Rian Johnson‘s delightful whodunnit has a brilliant script and a fun ensemble cast who seem to have a blast in their roles. Apparently Daniel Craig loved playing detective Benoit Blanc so much there’s rumor of a sequel with him reprising the character. It’s definitely a breakout role for Ana de Armas who proves that she’s quite a versatile performer.

7. Little Women (my review)

I have to admit that when everyone was swooning over Ladybird, I was a bit skeptical. When I finally got around to it, I wasn’t really wowed by Greta Gerwig‘s writing nor direction. But her sophomore effort won me over, and her Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nominations are well deserved. Once again starring Saoirse Ronan in the lead role, Gerwig did a beautiful job adapting Louisa May Alcott‘s classic novel. The non-linear narrative is a bold directing choice but somehow the film flows nicely and has an immersive quality. I love how each character has a proper arc with its own ups and downs. It’s an inspiring story for the ages and it’s infused with wonderfully memorable scenes that I know I’ll enjoy again and again.

8. Marriage Story

I’m doing this list in alphabetical order, so it’s interesting that the next film on the list is written/directed by Gerwig’s life partner, Noah Baumbach. I’ve actually only seen one film he’s directed, While We’re Young, which I like but not love. But I can say with confidence that I LOVE Marriage Story. If someone were to ask me which 2019 movie that made the most impression on me, I’d say it’s this one. I tip my hat off to Baumbach for creating such a marvelous script that feels so natural and incredibly immersive. The story about the dissolution of a marriage is nothing new, but the genius is in the execution and the way the story is told. I felt like I was watching the characters Charlie and Nicole on screen instead of Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, which are a testament to their acting prowess. I sometimes think using letters to convey an emotion can be such cliché, but not only did Baumbach make it work beautifully, the scenes are pivotal to the story. Needless to say, I am rooting for this one to win Best Original Screenplay (I certainly hope it would NOT go to Tarantino!!)

9. Parasite

Parasite made Oscar history with six nominations, the first Korean feature to compete at the Academy Awards! I think many fans of Korean cinema know the power of Korean films, and Bong  Joon  Ho is definitely one of its best filmmakers. The story about a destitute clan injecting themselves into a wealthy family is a shrewd blend of black comedy, social satire, and Hitchcockian thriller. It’s definitely one of the most indelible films I’ve seen in a while, not just last year. Greed, class system, and familial loyalty are all universal themes even when it’s told in a specific culture and time. The film is full of surprises and some even made me gasp out loud, I know some scenes would be tough to forget. Now, it’d be a total surprise to me if Parasite would go on to win the coveted Best Picture, but this masterful piece of cinema certainly deserves a place amongst the nominees.

10. Toy Story 4

I never thought I’d include this movie on this list as honestly, I thought Toy Story 3 was a perfect ending to a fantastic trilogy. I almost didn’t even want to see it, but I’m glad I decided to give it a go. Well, leave it to director Josh Cooley and the Pixar team to craft yet another heartwarming tale of adventure that’s not just a soulless cash grab. Woody, Buzz and the ‘ol toy gang are back together again… who doesn’t love a good reunion story? But they run into new toys such as Forky and Duke Caboom who enliven their adventure and prove to us once again that this is truly the best animated franchise ever. For a movie about toys, Toy Story 4 (and its predecessors) carries such an emotional poignancy and deep humanity for anyone of all ages.


20 Honorable Mentions

(in random order)

Some of the movies here I like very, very much and I have actually enjoyed more than the ones on my main top 10. Some I appreciate but I don’t really feel like watching it again.

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  1. Aladdin 
  2. Always Be My Maybe
  3. Avengers: Endgame
  4. Blinded By The Light
  5. Captain Marvel
  6. Ford Vs. Ferrari
  7. How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World 
  8. The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley
  9. John Wick 3: Parabellum
  10. Joker
  11. Late Night
  12. Motherless Brooklyn
  13. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  14. Peanut Butter Falcon
  15. Seeing Is Believing: Women Direct
  16. Spiderman: Far From Home
  17. The Report
  18. Triple Frontier
  19. Wedding Guest
  20. Yesterday

Best Series I saw in 2019:

  • Killing Eve – season 1
  • The Crown – season 3
  • The Man In The High Castle

Well, what do you think of my Top 10 list? Any of your favorites on the list?

Thursday Movie Picks #288: Films Released In 2019

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! I can’t believe it’s been five years since I participated in this weekly Thursday Movie Picks blogathon that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 2019 Releases

Well, since I am still working on my Top 10 Best of 2019 that I’m planning to post next week (as I always like to wait at least a week or two after new year before publishing), then consider this post a preview of what you’ll see either on my main list or honorable mentions. I’ll choose three that I haven’t personally reviewed it myself.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

Marriage Story

A stage director and his actor wife struggle through a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes.

I saw this film back in October 2019 at Twin Cities Film Fest, and I still remember how much I was taken by it. Somehow I haven’t gotten around to writing a review of it, not sure why because I have SO much praise for it. Perhaps it’ll be too long of a review, ahah. If someone were to ask me my favorite film of 2019, I often say this one right away because it’s on my mind so much. I just LOVE Noah Baumbach‘s script, which I feel depicts a dissolution of a marriage in an unflinching-ly real and emotional way, with the actors performing in such a naturalistic way it’s as if I was watching the characters themselves, not a performance. I kind of have a thing for Adam Driver these days, and he’s absolutely phenomenal here (plus he sang, too!)

I actually have only seen one film he directed, While We’re Young, and while I like parts of it, I didn’t really love it. But I know I’ll be rooting for Baumbach to win Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars!

A Hidden Life

Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter faces the threat of execution for refusing to fight for the Nazis during World War II.

I actually just had a discussion about this film with my fellow blogger Keith who also loved this movie (check out his review of this film here). It’s definitely a return to form for Terrence Malick, which tells the true story of a conscientious objector during World War II. It’s a slow, reflective film but not-at-all boring… it’s a typical Malick film with gorgeous cinematography and long silences, but unlike his previous film Knight Of Cups (a film about a screenwriter without a script??!), this time it has such a strong emotional center. I truly felt for Franz and his wife and their struggle is so painstakingly-palpable. Truly an unforgettable film that stays with you long after the end credits roll.

Peanut Butter Falcon

After running away from a residential nursing home to pursue his dream of becoming a pro wrestler, a man who has Down syndrome befriends an outlaw who becomes his coach and ally.

One of my awesome blog contributors Holly P. has reviewed this a while back,  but I had finally seen it this past weekend. Oh it’s such a delightful film and Zack Gottsagen will steal your heart. I think it’s wonderful that the film employed an actor with Down syndrome to portray a character with that condition and he did a marvelous job. I love the relationship between him and his co-stars Dakota Johnson and Shia LaBeouf, there are SO many scenes that pack such emotional wallop. It’s such a funny, uplifting film, definitely one of the best 2019 offerings. In fact, I think it should’ve gotten more awards love than some movies that got nominated recently.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

BEST OF THE DECADE LIST: 20 Best Shots of the 2010s

Happy first weekend of the New Year, folks!

Everyone loves lists right, and since we’re entering a new decade, it’s a great excuse to make loads and loads of lists 😀 I’ll be working on various Best of the Decade throughout the year, and I thought I’d start with cinematography since Brittani just listed her 10 top best of 2018 over at Rambling Film blog (hey it’s also her blog 10th anniversary so head over and wish her a blog anniversary!)

I chose these images based on instinct… the one I think is the most indelible and leaves a lasting impression, as a film likely has a bunch of beautiful visuals (esp. those shot by the legend Roger Deakins!) Most of these films have the best cinematography of the decade, but I consider these images iconic in that people would likely know right away where it’s from. Now, it’s tough to whittle it down to just 10 and as we’re entering the [roaring] 20s, there’ll be plenty of Top 20s list this year.

So without further ado, here are my picks in the order of the film’s year of release:

Inception (2010) 

DoP: Wally Pfister

Life of Pi (2012)

DoP: Claudio Miranda

Skyfall (2012)

DoP: Roger Deakins

Gravity (2013)

DoP: Emmanuel Lubezki

Ex Machina (2014) – dance

DoP: Rob Hardy

The Assassin (2015)

DoP: Mark Lee Ping-bing

Sicario (2015)

DoP: Roger Deakins

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

DoP: Robert Elswit

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

DoP: John Seale

La La Land (2016)

DoP: Linus Sandgren

Moonlight (2016) 

DoP: James Laxton

Rogue One (2016)

DoP: Greig Fraser

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

DoP: Roger Deakins

Dunkirk (2017)

DoP: Hoyte van Hoytema

Shape of Water (2017)

DoP: Dan Laustsen

Cold War (2018)

DoP: Łukasz Żal

Black Panther (2018) 

DoP: Rachel Morrison

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

A Hidden Life (2019)

DoP: Jörg Widmer

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) 

DoP: Dan Laustsen

Hope you enjoy my list. Now it’s your turn, what’s some of your favorite shots of the past decade?

TWIN CITIES FILM FEST unveils 2019 lineup! 100+ Premieres + Critically-acclaimed award season favorites

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, TCFF pulls out all the stops in presenting a phenomenal lineup this year. I have been covering TCFF since its inception year and so to me, every year is truly special, but I have to say that this year’s lineup is absolutely phenomenal!!!

Featuring 100+ premieres and award season favorites (many of TCFF spotlight/opening night films went on to win Oscars!), it’s no hyperbole to say this is going to be the best TCFF year yet!!

OPENING NIGHT TO CELEBRATE LAUDED TORONTO WINNER JOJO RABBIT & ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE TALIA SHIRE

More than 60 percent of 2019 program driven by female filmmakers; other top festival darlings set to debut in Minnesota include Marriage Story, Waves, Honey Boy, Motherless Brooklyn, Just Mercy, A Hidden Life, The Aeronauts, Premature and Saint Frances


Minneapolis, Minnesota (September 19, 2019) — Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) announces its full schedule for their 2019 festival, set to take place October 16-26 at the Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatres at The Shops at West End. Coming off an electrifying September gala that celebrated filmmaker and Minnesota native Jim Burke, the producer behind Green Book which took home both this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture and last year’s top festival prize, TCFF 2019 marks the organization’s 10th anniversary and arrives with a special focus on both female filmmakers and films that advance this year’s social justice cause: environmental sustainability.

Taika Waititi in JOJO RABBIT

Among the top awards contenders from the festival circuit set to land at TCFF next month are Taika Waititi’s Holocaust dramedy Jojo Rabbit (Oct. 16) which last weekend took home the top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival — often considered an early harbinger of what could contend for Best Picture in the winter — as well as Noah Baumbach’s marital drama Marriage Story, headlined by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson and recognized as this year’s TCFF Breakthrough Vision (Oct. 19), and Trey Edward Shults’s lauded family drama Waves, starring Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Lucas Hedges and honored as this year’s Virtuoso Selection (Oct. 26).

Other notable studio entries include the new Eddie Redmayne-Felicity Jones hot air balloon adventure The Aeronauts (Oct. 17); Terrence Malick’s war epic A Hidden Life (Oct. 20); the star-studded Edward Norton-directed crime drama Motherless Brooklyn (Oct. 24); and the stunning Shia LaBeouf-penned biopic Honey Boy with Director Alma Har’el in attendance (Oct. 21).

This year’s kickoff double feature on Oct. 16 will spotlight both the lauded Jojo Rabbit and Robert Jury’s Working Man, the official 2019 Opening Night Selection. A humble and heartfelt independent feature about a Rust Belt town coping with the closure of its last factory and the emergence of an unlikely hero who partners with his neighbors to break his way back into the shuttered shop, the film stars Peter Gerety from The Wire and two-time Academy Award nominee Talia Shire (The Godfather: Part II and Rocky), who will both be in attendance.

TCFF’s 2019 Centerpiece is Inside the Rain, Aaron Fisher’s autobiographical directing debut about a bipolar college student facing expulsion over conduct violations who hatches a madcap scheme to prove his innocence. The film co-stars Rosie Perez and Eric Roberts. Both Roberts and Fisher will be in attendance Oct. 18.

The festival closes Oct. 26 with Premature, Rashaad Ernesto Green’s electrifying coming-of-age drama about a teenager in New York City navigating her last summer — and an unexpected romance — before heading to college.  The film has earned rave reviews on the festival circuit, particularly for its vulnerable and hypnotic lead performance from Zora Howard; the Hollywood Reporter hailed the film as “a stirring coming-of-ager with a knockout lead turn.”

A still from ‘Premature’

Howard will be present for the closing night festivities, marking the culmination of a program that has prioritized projects made by female filmmakers. More than 60 percent of this year’s TCFF selections were directed or produced by women, continuing the organization’s push to create a home for works from a more diverse range of artists.

“When I founded this festival, I said it would be a home for all visions, all audiences and all artists — and to see us cross the mark in our tenth year, of having the majority of our selections created by female filmmakers, is to see our original mission fulfilled,” said Jatin Setia, TCFF’s Executive Director. “What’s even more powerful, and what has kept us going through the decade, is hearing how our big tent of filmmakers has inspired and motivated the next generation of Minnesota artists, who tell us that they thought a film career might be impossible. To now see those high schoolers come of age, and to see them return to our festival as debut directors…it’s everything an arts organization can hope for. It fills my soul.”

Special 35th anniversary celebration of Purple Rain to headline festival on Wednesday, Oct. 23

October 23 will feature Purple Rain night at the festival, with a special free 35th anniversary screening of the Prince rock musical at 6:45 p.m. and a Prince-themed afterparty to follow. Albert Magnoli, the director of the 1984 hit, will be making a rare appearance after the screening to discuss the film. Although the screening is free, tickets are still required for the reserved seats and can be obtained at ShowplaceIcon.com.

Every year Twin Cities Film Fest identifies a Social Justice Cause and programs a special series of films to call attention to a specific social issue. This year’s cause is “environmental responsibility” and the film series kicks off Oct. 17 with Roger Sorkin’s documentary Current Revolution, which envisions the next generation of America’s aging electrical grid. The series continues with Juice: How Electricity Explains the World (Oct. 18); Youth Unstoppable (Oct. 19); Food Coop (Oct. 19); Salvage (Oct. 23); and Sustainable Nation (Oct. 23).  TCFF Changemaker Partner for 2019 is the St. Louis Park Non Profit, Matter.

A still from ‘International Falls’

Among this year’s slate of “Minnesota-connected” premieres are International Falls (Oct. 19), a look at the fragile life of a touring comic and his chance connection with a hotel worker in a dead-end marriage. The film was shot in northern Minnesota and stars comedienne Rachel Harris (Natural SelectionSuits). On the lighter side, Raising Buchanan (Oct. 25) is a caper-driven comedy about two working women trying to profit from stealing the dead body of President Buchanan, played by notable character actor Rene Auberjonois (Star TrekMadame Secretary). Rounding out the 18 titles in this year’s Minnesota-connected program is The Truth About Marriage (Oct. 18), the latest thought-provoking documentary from director Roger Nygard (Trekkies).


I’ll post the complete schedule later with some of my most-anticipated selections!

Tickets will be on-sale September 21, 2019 for TCFF Members and Pass holders and to the public beginning September 27, 2019.

Ticket prices are $13 for General Admission & $20 for Spotlight Films. Festival Passes can also be purchased as follows: Silver Pass – $55 (5 pack of non-Gala tickets); Gold Pass – $90 (10 pack of non-Gala tickets); Platinum Pass – $130 (12 pack of non-Gala tickets + 2 Gala tickets); Spotlight Pass – $100 (6 tickets to any Spotlight Film).

The passes are such an incredible deal!! Get it soon so you can order your tickets right away. Trust me, it’s SO worth it!!

PLUS… All tickets guarantee admission to that evening’s afterparty in the TCFF Lounge located onsite at The Shops at West End.


To learn more about TCFF, events, film submissions or to donate, visit twincitiesfilmfest.org


So yeah, TCFF 2019. BRING. IT ON!