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?

FlixChatter Review: Knives Out (2019)

With a provocative title like Knives Out, the film had better be a sharp murder mystery. Fortunately, writer/director Rian Johnson and his stellar ensemble cast delivered! The film embraces the tropes of the whodunnit genre – the wealthy dysfunctional family, the historic mansion, and an eccentric detective investigating the case… but it cleverly turned it on its head. It’s not as eerie, chilling or overly dark, in fact, Johnson kept the mood rather light and even seemingly frivolous. But don’t let that fool you, it’s suspenseful when it needs to be and oh, it’s just so delightfully entertaining!

The film starts out with the death of the family patriarch, crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), following his own birthday celebration. Soon the family gathers to mourn him, while in reality all they care about is how big of the inheritance they’d get. Given the suspicious nature of Harlan’s death, the detectives promptly arrive to question the members, including the debonair detective Benoit Blanc, whose involvement in the case is a mystery in itself.

Daniel Craig seems to have a blast playing Detective Blanc, with a rather quirky Southern Accent. The accent perhaps intentional to contrast him from the WASP-y, Massachusetts-bred Harlan  family, much like Agatha Christie’s Poirot’s mustache sets her protagonist apart from the people he’s investigating. Craig definitely stands out even amongst this stellar cast, but the real star of the film is Ana de Armas who plays Marta Cabrera, Harlan’s loyal nurse who can’t lie without vomiting. That bit lends to some hilarious scenes in the film. This is only the second time I saw her since Blade Runner 2049, but she’s proven herself a versatile actress. Here she looks plain as can be, dressed in the dowdiest clothes, but portrays a seemingly-helpless-but-smarter-than-you-think character so well that you’re never quite know just who she really is.

I won’t go into more plot details, as this is the kind of film that’s best to go into it blindly. Any fan of murder mystery would get a kick out Johnson’s clever plot that keeps you guessing. Every single member of the family could have been the culprit, and that’s what made this kind of movies fun. I kept thinking things would go one way and it went another direction, keeping things suspenseful yet light and mirthful. Most of the action takes place inside or around the mansion, but there’s enough going for it to keep you engaged. It goes to show that a good script the best special effect of all, no amount of special effect or stunning visuals can make up for a good story.

I also love the fact that the writer/director makes good use of his eclectic ensemble cast, even Plummer in the flashback scenes. Each actor have their moment to shine, though of course some are memorable than others. Chris Evans clearly relish on playing a spoiled brat, practically the black sheep of the family… quite a departure from his goody-two-shoes Captain America role. The cozy-but-oh-so-sexy aesthetic no doubt spikes up sales of Fisherman sweaters everywhere.  I always adore the chameleonic Toni Collette and she’s fun to watch as a lifestyle guru, perhaps channeling Gwyneth Paltrow a bit with her Goop empire. It’s also amusing to see Jamie Lee Curtis and Don Johnson as a couple. I think Jamie Lee should get more leading roles even now in her 60s, this sassy woman’s still got it!

Rian Johnson got so much flak for The Last Jedi which I actually enjoyed. I’m glad he’s back directing an original story as he’s clearly a gifted storyteller. In addition to the shrewd plot, he manages to inject a not-so-subtle jab about today’s political climate in regards to immigrants. I think the Best Original Screenplay Oscar nod is well-deserved, oh and the cast should’ve been nominated for Best Ensemble at SAG Awards too! The last shot of the film is absolutely brilliant… the expressions of the cast and an ingenious use of a particular prop is one of the best cinematic final scenes ever. I can’t help but smile every time I think about it!

I’m glad I was able to catch it before it left local cineplex as I missed the press screening back in November. Apparently a sequel is in the works for this, centered on Benoit Blanc with Craig reprising his role (so Craig is trading James Bond for Blanc, Benoit Blanc. Ha!) Normally I’d roll my eyes whenever sequels are announced, but I’m open to this idea, let’s hope the follow-up sequel’s script is as clever as this one.


Have you seen KNIVES OUT? Well, what did you think?

Trailers Spotlight: ‘Knives Out’ and HULU’s ‘Four Weddings & A Funeral’ miniseries

Film/Show trailers come out every day, but only a few are worth posting about. Well, yesterday TWO trailers came out that caught my eye. Yes they couldn’t be more different from each other in terms of plot, tone and setting, but I’m excited for both! So let’s start with the Rian Johnson‘s star-studded whodunnit thriller…

A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family.

I mean, just LOOK. AT. THIS. CAST.

It’s gotta be quite a feat just scheduling THIS kind of ensemble to be in the same room, dayum! Looking at some of the character names on IMDb, sounds like Captain America and General Zod are related? With the Scream Queen herself Jamie Lee Curtis, James Bond’s got his work cut out for him to solve this case, ha!

And here’s the trailer…

After directing Star Wars: The Last Jedi in 2017, writer/director Rian Johnson is now channeling Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie in his family murder mystery with an amazing cast! Right off the bat it reminds me of the excellent miniseries Ordeal by Innocence on Amazon Prime starring Bill Nighy as the patriarch of a wealthy family. This one seems far more comedic, at least from the way the trailer is cut. Interesting to see Christopher Plummer co-starring with Daniel Craig in similar roles as in David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which I saw not too long ago. Apparently Craig’s character Benoit Blanc is described as an American Poirot, but what is that accent??! In any case, the scene stealer in this trailer is definitely Chris Evans, shedding his Cap’s goody-two-shoes image with his devil-may-care attitude and a potty mouth. I’m SO down for this suspenseful-but-mirthful wild ride this promises to be. I quite enjoyed Looper, though I should check out Brick one of these days.

KNIVES OUT is released on 27 November, perfect for the Thanksgiving holiday where family gatherings can be murder 😉


Maya, the young communications director for a New York senatorial campaign, receives a wedding invitation from her college schoolmate now living in London. She leaves her professional and personal life behind, in favor of traveling to England and reconnecting with old friends and ends up in the midst of their personal crises. Relationships are forged and broken, political scandals exposed, London social life lampooned, love affairs ignited and doused, and of course there are four weddings… and a funeral.

Now, normally I’m not into remakes of a classic, especially when it’s one of my all time favorites. But when I heard that Mindy Kaling is writing this miniseries AND I saw the cast includes the lovely Nathalie Emmanuel and my current crush Nikesh Patel, I’m SO down for this! Plus the original exec producer/writer Richard Curtis (who also wrote my fave rom-coms Notting Hill, Love Actually, About Time, etc.) himself is involved in this project.

I LOVE that they’re still setting this in London with a diverse cast. Ok my only gripe is the ‘Ryan Gosling dipped in caramel’ comment. Puh-leeze! The Goz wishes he’s got cut-glass cheekbones and voice like Mr. Patel! Glad Nikesh gets to use his own British accent this time, while Nathalie is playing American – not sure why, but I wonder if she’s related to Andie MacDowell’s character Carrie from the original movie who’s also part of this cast.

In any case, I’ve been enjoying the British Indian actor since my bestie Vony tipped me to watch Indian Summer (it’s on Amazon Prime, highly recommended!!). It’s like Downton Abbey but with more POC cast + more intrigue and higher stakes.  It’s time for him to shine as a romantic leading man and based on this trailer, methinks he’ll steal plenty of hearts!

Now, I suppose they could make an entirely new series that’s inspired by the 1994 classic, but considering how tough it is to launch any new tv show, sometimes leveraging something that’s beloved in people’s mind might get more attention. I don’t know what the real reason is, but in the case of this particular series, I’m willing to give this one the benefit of the doubt. A fresh new spin on a classic isn’t automatically bad, so yeah, I look forward to July 31 for the premiere!


Thoughts on these trailers, folks?