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?

FlixChatter Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

The Peanut Butter Falcon is a fun revisitation of the classic American adventure story. It follows two unlikely companions, Zak and Tyler, who are thrown together by a mutual need to get out of town. Zak (Zack Gottsagen) is a young man with downs syndrome who is running away from his care home, pursued by the well-meaning Eleanor (Dakota Johnson). Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) is a fisherman who has made the wrong people angry. After a couple narrow escapes both Zak and Tyler realize that they need each other; Zak as a stand-in for Tyler’s brother; and Tyler as one of the few people who sees and treats Zak as a full human being.

Unfortunately, much of the writing in Peanut Butter Falcon is clunky. The introductory scenes in the care home and the fishing yard are stilted:  those scenes wind up feeling undirected, unedited, and rushed. In one scene, Eleanor’s boss urgently calls her into his office, but when she gets there, she, along with the audience, is forced to sit through the tail end of a pointless phone call. Tyler’s rivals talk in an expository way that makes them feel more like super villains than fishermen. They are caricatures of something that does not quite exist:  a confusing mash-up of a bad cliché of an inner-city gang member and an equally bad cliché of a blue-collar worker.

I would have liked more from Dakota Johnson, but her role was more of an outline than a character. She was effortlessly swept off her feet by Tyler, despite the characters seeming incompatible. Tyler mostly made judgmental assumptions about her rather than asking her questions about herself and although we definitely see her come to respect the way Tyler treats Zak, there is never a shift in how Tyler treats Eleanor. Regardless, Johnson played the character with heart and made Eleanor more than she would have been in lesser hands.

Maybe the most egregious writing foul in Peanut Butter Falcon, though, is that one of the movie’s two (count em two) speaking black characters was a “magical negro”. This is a bad move in and of itself, but is made worse because the filmmakers are familiar with the trope. In an interview with City Weekly Mike Shwartz (who wrote and directed alongside Tyler Nilson) said that they wanted to make sure that Zak never came across as a “magical disability person”, directly referencing the magical negro trope. (The film succeeds in this pursuit. Zak’s character has goals, a fun personality, strong opinions, etc.) Those same filmmakers being lazy enough to include a blind black man who lives in the woods and proselytizes to anyone who comes to his door is almost unfathomable when they apparently know that the negro trope exists is incredibly problematic.

So, the positives.

As mentioned above, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a movie that aims to empower people with downs syndrome and it does that well. Not only is Zak a nuanced, interesting character with a big personality, he is also played by a person with downs syndrome. Gottsagen is a great actor and his performance, especially in scenes with Tyler, are really well executed.  We are overdue for casting choices like this one.

Also, the movie did not shy away from the sometimes harsh reality of what life with downs syndrome can be like. Zak is underestimated, bullied, and called names often and although those things hurt his feelings, he remains a resilient man with dreams to fulfill. He is a fully fleshed character from the beginning and over the course of his journey he continues to grow as a person. 

The chemistry between LaBeouf and Gottsagen cannot be overstated. The two share several intimate moments: dancing around a campfire, walking through cornfields, and (my personal favorite) sitting on the edge of their raft gently slapping each other’s faces. The bond they create rests somewhere between brotherhood and friendship and is expressed masterfully by both actors.

The movie is a visual love-letter to the American south. Nigel Bluck creates a scenic backdrop to the story, incorporating drone shots and wide-angles that highlight that beauty of the natural landscape in breathtaking moments that never detract from the story.

Oh, and Thomas Haden Church has a great little cameo as retired wrestler “Salt Water Redneck”.

Overall, this movie has its flaws: the relationship between Zak and Tyler is obviously the element that the filmmakers put the most energy into (and the rest of the movie suffers for that emphasis, even if it is the crux of the story), but the movie is worth a watch for that relationship and for its ultimately empowering story.


Have you seen The Peanut Butter Falcon? Well, what did you think?