Alex's Top 15 Films of 2019

I'm going to note right off the bat that there are a few films I really wanted to see before posting this, but the opportunities to do so haven't yet presented themselves. I might go back and edit some of this later, but more than anything I just wanted to get something out. It's a shame that films like Jojo Rabbit, Booksmart, or A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood didn't get to factor into the decisions below, but it is what it is. I otherwise mostly got around to the movies I wanted to see.

I tried to step back from my list and see if any broader themes presented themselves. Were there stories I gravitated towards this year based on a current mindset? Overall, it's hard to tell. From my personal assessment, I didn't feel like there was as much featured with political commentary as I expected. Was the because I didn't see as many film with a political bent to them as I thought I did, or that, in review, I ultimately gravitated more towards escapism in my viewing this year? It probably could be said to be a bit of both. However, trying to step away even from myself, I actually think there was a lot on my list - more so than many would probably have - that had a political tinge to it. Even films that most wouldn't describe as so, I found ways to pull commentary out of them. And I think that ended up being my sweet spot for most films on my list this year: I needed to find something bigger that each one had to say, but overall I wasn't looking for commentary going into many of them. That's a long way of saying a lot of nothing, I know, but it at least provides a small glimpse into my mindset in reference to the films below. And more than anything, it filled up a paragraph for the intro.

That said, I think we'll leave it there. I could easily ramble on for a few more paragraphs if I don't consciously limit myself, so let's just stop while we're ahead. Without further ado...

Bonus: Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker
This didn't make my Top 15, but I have stuff to say, so I'm going to use this platform to do so. Here's the thing: I think if you really liked The Last Jedi, this film isn't what you wanted. I think if you didn't care for TLJ, then is was probably a return to exactly what you wanted. I happen to be in the camp of the former, so this definitely was not the conclusion to this saga that I expected or envisioned. Look, this movie checked every box you want for a concluding series chapter. It hit hard on nostalgia and tied a nice bow on just about everyone's storyline. I get it. Those things feel good. But as the movie went on, I just could not shake the feeling of pandering to an audience that just wanted its medicine. Give me what I like and shut up! That's opposite of what Rian Johnson did with TLJ, which I thought was such a smart approach to the franchise. His film bridged fans new and old, and kicked off some of the shackles the franchise had been bound to with previous installments. I had no problems with Johnson throwing out the playbook and saying it's OK to like something that's different. J.J. Abrams looked at TLJ and said scratch all of it. Let's spend the first half of this movie undoing everything that Johnson did the last time around, create super muddled and unnecessary narratives, and then just give fan service to the franchise the rest of the way. I am not saying Abrams is a lazy filmmaker, but this movie felt much lazier to me than it should have. Don't get me wrong, I get it - with it being the very last installment of the Skywalker saga, you really had to pay some lip service to everything that came before it. In Avengers: Endgame, I loved that it took us back to the previous films one more time before saying goodbye. While I feel absolutely justified having whatever feelings I want about different movies and franchises, it does feel a bit hypocritical to lament the very same thing here that I loved in another movie. But for some reason, none of it quite clicked with me here - and that simply might be due to the immediate course correction this film took from the last. The rest of this is a little spoilery, if you'd like to avoid such things. In a pure entertainment/fan sense, it was all fun - Rey visiting the Death Star, taking Luke's X-wing, battling on Endore, using Leia's lightsaber, etc. - but it just felt forced. I didn't much care for the Palpatine connection - it felt WAY too tacked on; and the fact that Ben (Kylo Ren) died after becoming a good guy was a bummer (though I get the parallels to Vader). The whole movie (and these last three films) were just so disjointed. I wish we could have seen a more cohesive vision from start to finish on the Reylo storyline. Overall, it was enjoyable enough, and we got to say goodbye to so many characters in so many ways. As the final film to a 40+ year franchise, it was fine.

15. Toy Story 4
I am not usually one for animated films, but for a variety of reasons, this one worked quite well for me. My expectations were mixed going into this one because on one hand, Toy Story 3 perfectly capped the franchise, and it felt like it would be hard to now end the series on any other note. But on the other hand, with the increasingly sophisticated narratives that these films took on, part of me was definitely excited to see if they still had any magic left in the tank. For the story itself, after we left the last film with the toys finding new purpose in the world (a new kid), here we see the toys contemplating life after fulfilling their mission; Woody wondering what it means to "live" without a kid to care for. Not only did this story yet again provide the perfect bookend to the franchise (until the next one?), but it really broadened the scope of what this world entailed and had in store for its characters. This film went in quite a different direction than the other films, one which I wouldn't have even thought about beforehand; but now that I've seen it, I can't imagine not having this chapter for these characters. I also really loved the animation of the film. It was so beautiful rich. Bo Peep's porcelain and the textures of all the different toys was really well done. While Toy Story 3 still remains my favorite of the franchise, this could easily top someone's list - and if judged on the art alone, this would be atop by a mile. This film also holds a special place for me because the Toy Story franchise are my youngest daughter's favorite movies. We watch all of the Toy Story movies with regularity, and it's been fun re-watching this one with her (this is her favorite of all the Toy Story movies, by the way).

14. The Report
This film serves as my political statement on the year. The older I get, the more I appreciate films that tell stories about the inner workings of our government - and usually in regard to scandalous activity. This film checks those boxes, detailing the work of Daniel Jones, who spent more than five years uncovering details behind "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" enacted by the CIA with prisoners after 9-11. We come to learn that meant: we can torture anyone with brown skin we don't like. I understand that without context, this topic will be divisive among readers. There definitely was a lot of anger and pain after 9-11 - and deservedly so - but I believe those emotions were taken advantage of by certain people who didn't have the country's best interests in mind. In the film, the torture techniques are described as "scientifically proven" for extracting information. To see the paths these people took to justify these practices around the laws - defining different techniques in ways that technically don't break the law - was sickening. While I can make certain arguments that the CIA did things to provide safety that I could never do - under the absolutely most certain scenarios, where information was to be gained, I can appreciate what was done to extract information that truly was meant to hurt us - the lengths people in this film (and our government) went to to harm other human beings was inexcusable. The place where I get really infuriated is in the aftermath when it's revealed (but originally covered up by the CIA) that among nearly 200 prisoners, no relevant information was ever obtained, and most of the people they captured and tortured, who they propped up to be "inner circle" guys of Bin Laden, actually had few ties to his plans. They were targeting brown people because they were angry, and the sick things they were doing to some of these guys because they wanted to take it out on someone, was truly repulsive. I can understand the emotions behind it, but it's unfortunate that such misguided individuals were put in places of such power and control. I hope none of this will be confused with me having any sympathy for terrorists who devastated our country and killed so many of our citizens, but torturing people just to show your power - when the people you're torturing can't actually help on the intelligence side of things - is where I draw the line. I hope everyone will see this movie, even though it's basically two hours of dialogue and research - because this is very recent history in our country, and about things that I think many of us kind of know about, but probably never knew the full scope. I think it's important that this bit of information, from this time in our country, is exposed.

13. Joker
I guess we'll start with the obvious element of the film: Joaquin Phoenix's performance as Arthur Fleck/Joker. The majority of my ranking is purely on this performance, though that alone does not make a movie. However, he really did transcend in the role. Heath Ledger set the standard in The Dark Knight (2010), and I was suspicious about the idea of someone else re-defining the role already, with Ledger's still pretty recent in mind. But because both roles took place at different times in Joker's arc, both actors had a chance to define those parts. Here, with more of an origin, there's much more of Arthur's backstory and reasoning for going down the path he did. What stood out to me with this performance was Arthur's innate sadness. We get a pretty deep dive into some of the reasons for his pain, and boy are they brutal. There's some tough stuff in here that this dude dealt with, and to be as balanced as he was is amazing. But the character's definition comes primarily from the world he's born into - which also provides some fascinating societal commentary. Gotham is portrayed in a very dark light (as it often is), with greed and corruption running the city, and substantial class division within its citizens (sound familiar?). We see this character, with some true mental issues, struggling to get the help he needs, with funding cut for inner city social programs, and no learned skills to cope or thrive in the world around him; constantly beaten down and thrown away. My main takeaway from the film isn't that it condones or heroizes terrorism, instead its commentary on mental health, and a lack of empathy and care in our society. We're a nation that treats its mentally unhealthy citizens like criminals, and to me that only perpetuates the cycle. The Arthur Flecks of the world, with life stacked against them often through no fault of their own - where they're born, the parents and childhood that's given to them, etc. - are never given coping tools or paths to success that many of us take for granted in our lives. I won't condone terrorism in any regard, and regardless of the circumstances in Fleck's world, won't look at his acts as heroic, but I do have some empathy for this character. I left the movie not thinking about the riots he caused or the radicalized movements he started, but instead just a sadness for him. Sad that there are people in the world who will never get what they need to live happy lives. I'm sad that Arthur never had the chance to be a "normal" person, as much as he fantasized about being so.

12. The Irishman
This was a tough movie to rank because, admittedly, I watched this over like four or five different viewings. Being on Netflix and being accessible is great, but clocking in at nearly four hours, it also makes it really easy to hit pause for the day and revisit later. Because of that, I'm sure my overall experience was hampered. But at the same time, do I see this movie in theaters if that's my only access to it? It's a tough balance. Piecing it all together, I really did enjoy the slow burn of it all. There were definitely scenes and moments that I felt lingered way too long, but overall, the spanning runtime allowed for a much more expanded telling of the story. This wasn't a whole lot different than mob stories we've seen before - rise and fall type trajectories - but it was definitely done in a strong way, and you could tell Scorsese had fun drawing out the lives of his characters. Scorsese has a knack for these kinds of stories, and seeing the likes of DeNiro, Pacino, and Pesci back at this game was definitely fun to see. For my generation, this actually worked as a bit of a history lesson (not that I'll assume anything played out exactly like this). I grew up knowing the name Jimmy Hoffa, but outside of him disappearing and jokes about where he might be, I didn't know much about who he was or why it even mattered that he disappeared. So I liked some of the gaps this filled in for me. You have to be willing to put in the time for this movie, but even watched in segments (like a mini series) the experience seemed to work fine. It was a good throwback gangster drama, something we don't see a lot of anymore.

11. Uncut Gems
Even with all of the hype this film got, I wasn't sure it would be one of my favorites even most of the way through the film. The tension was definitely ratcheted way up, and it was fun to watch Adam Sandler in a very different role than what we normally see him in, but to me this movie played out a lot like an action movie, and for my tastes action movies don't usually have a big impact. However, in the final scene where we saw the payoff for all the held-on tension we've carried throughout the film, it was quite a shock. While I can look back now and have empathy for Sandler's character, the ending of the movie definitely put it into an instant perspective that provided quite the punch. I don't think it's anything that anyone else wouldn't say about the film, but the final scene is what sealed the deal for me with this movie; it paid off in a way quite differently than I expected. Otherwise, Sandler's character was a hard one for whom to relate. I just can't imagine myself in such dire scenarios, solving one problem just to get to the next; I don't know how anyone could live with such stress in their lives. You'll surely feel anxious watching this film, but it's unique and achieves its goal quite effectively.

10. Ready or Not
I'm a sucker for a good horror romp, and this one took the cake this year. If you haven't seen it yet, I (obviously) highly recommend it - it's a fun time with plenty of gore and shock for every horror fan. The general premise revolves around a *super* rich family whose previous relatives started a gigantic board game company - and games are still a prominent part of their world. The film starts on the day of a wedding between one of the sons, Alex, and his bride, Grace (welcome to the party, Samara Weaving!). She's never really met his family, and Alex wants little to do with them, but the ritual is that any new member of the family must be initiated by playing a game with the family. The game this time around happens to by hide-and-seek, and let's just say the stakes are high (ok, they're trying to catch you with guns and knives - if you survive the night, you're in). So imagine the shock of literally being hunted on your wedding night by a family of rich psychopaths. Not exactly how most would hope to consummate their marriage. Grace thankfully gets a little help from a few members of the family while trying to acclimate, but ultimately it's her against them all. Eventually, her strength and anger comes through in full force and she does what she has to survive - it's a fun turn to watch. The scenarios in the film are insane, though in a weird way, it doesn't feel out of the realm of possibility in regard to how the uber-rich spend their time. It's a commentary of sorts on the 1%, I think, but I didn't get a lot from it other than the general idea that money doesn't buy happiness and it doesn't by sanity. And that the world is very different for the 1%-ers and us regular folk. It was nice to see a "regular" person stick it to them a few times. Oh, and the ending of the movie is true insanity. It's absurd and I loved it!

9. Ad Astra
This one took some time to settle in. The main issue I had with it was how it was marketed and what I expected going in. I'll say up front, if you haven't seen this yet, don't go in expecting a thrill ride in space akin to something like Intersteller. This was very much not that. Yes, it takes place in space in a not-to-distant future, but the pace is very different. Really, this is a slow character piece about relationships and destiny. Expecting more flash, I felt a little disappointed after first seeing this. But as it settled in, I just kept really liking it and feeling its messages. It's now up to a place on this list it should be, but had I gone in expecting more of what this film actually was, I think I would have gotten here much sooner. In the film, Brad Pitt's character, Roy - man, he really needs an Oscar nomination for this performance; I could feel the efforts he was making to constantly keep this character restrained - was an astronaut, constantly looking for his purpose and for acceptance in the world. His father, Tommy Lee Jones (Cliff), left when he was a kid to explore the farthest reaches of space, so there was no relationship there - even though Roy wants one more than anything. Roy has spent his whole career proving how tough he is and how unafraid he is of any job that comes his way - something you can feel he's just praying for his father to notice and say, good job, son. Roy ends up going on a mission to look for his father in space, and when the two finally meet, after decades of zero contact, let's just say Roy doesn't get the reaction from his father he hoped for - there's a scene that's a true gut-punch that cuts right through Roy's stoic front. I won't get into too many more details - ok, two words: space pirates! - but if you go in expecting a more nuanced experience, this film will deliver.

8. Us
I've spent a lot of time trying to come up with a way to talk about this film. It's just so damn cerebral and nuanced that it's hard to pinpoint many of the structures I know and feel. In general, the film is about a family being hunted by clones of themselves. These clones live underground as an abandoned government project that was meant to provide support to our "human" selves. Now, they're directionless, soulless creatures living out a mimic world of those above. Until one of them organizes an uprising to take over their counterparts and enjoy a life on the surface they could only dream of. We find out that the organizer of this plan is Lupita Nyong'o's character, Adelaide, who was swapped with her clone as a child and has been living underground for decades plotting her escape. As is to be expected in a Jordan Peele movie, there is a ton of commentary to unwrap here - and frustratingly, not everything has a nice clean bow to tie on top of it. This is definitely a movie you'll pull more from as you talk about it with others, but some of the general commentary seems to revolve around the concept of privilege (in this instance, in regard primarily to race) and maybe something on nurture vs. nature. You'll go down quite the rabbit hole trying to find meaning for every little part of the movie - much like Kubrick, I believe Peele does have purpose in every little thing in his movies - and while there's a ton to unpack, you might not find as many answers as you'd like. Still, there's a core story here that's pretty focused and definitely punches you in the chest. The acting performances are killer - Nyong'o fully deserved an Oscar nomination for her two very different character performances - and the soundtrack is appropriately chilling. You can dive as deep or as shallow into this movie as you'd like, and regardless it should provide quite the experience. Even just on the surface, the film is haunting and suspenseful.

7. Avengers: Endgame
This one is a bit of a mixed bag for me - but since it was the last of a franchise, I have a lot to say. Admittedly, I watched this again after the theater, and it wasn't the same tidy experience as the first time around. There were many points where I was ready for the movie to just get to the next part. I understand that's the case with many films, but clocking in with a more than three-hour runtime, you have to really be committed to the B- and C-storylines to take that much time out of your day to watch this again. That is my biggest mark against the film. However, on my initial viewing, time was not a problem. The concept of the film was so great, and it was such a perfect way to cap off the whole saga. The core team needing to revisit the previous films to save the day once and for all (let's not get bogged down by the time travel/timeline stuff - just enjoy the ride!) was the perfect way to conclude things. Seeing these characters in those pivotal movie moments one more time was great. It was such a smart mcguffin, allowing the audience to say goodbye to the the entire story one last time. And the final battle was truly epic (I'm not going to shy away from spoilers at this point - I saw the box office numbers, I KNOW you already saw this film). I mean, who didn't love seeing Cap finally wield Thor's hammer? I think a lot of people expected it after some teases in previous films, but it was cool to actually see. And though it was obviously the main pivot of the entire movie, the moment when everyone comes back and just jumps right in the fight provided plenty of feels. Outside of a Fox character or two popping up, I couldn't have asked for more. It was the all-on battle I wanted to see in Infinity War, and it delivered. Also, the moment with all the female heroes teaming up in that moment was pretty cool. Sure, there was some gimmicky-ness to it, but it was still great to see and I'm glad they left it in. I actually wish it would have lasted longer (in my second viewing especially I noticed just how short that moment was). The ending provided some closure that feels refreshing for movie franchises these days. As much as I love RDJ's Iron Man, it was great to see him hang up the mantle. Same with Cap, who got a nice ending to his long-running arc. Do I appreciate the whole time travel concept providing small windows for those characters to come back someday? Of course! Or the idea of Tony's consciousness being uploaded for a future hero to use (a new version of Jarvis)? Sign me up! But if this is the last of these characters, it was a good send off for both. I go back and forth on many of the Marvel movies, but it's not lost on me the framework that this franchise built, and how important it's been to so many people. It's hard to imagine a world without the idea of shared universes now, but without Marvel taking a chance on some of these movies, it might have never happened. It's weird to feel a true ending to a chapter as big as the Infinity Saga, but it was a fun ride. I'm cautiously optimistic of what's ahead with the MCU, but also very excited to see what happens next.

6. Long Shot
I enjoy anything that's a little politically tinged (when it agrees with my stances, of course), but outside of generally revolving around the world of politics, this one probably had more commentary on male-female dynamics than political opinions - for which, I can also appreciate. But in reality, I think this was just a silly-smart comedy that was incredibly enjoyable in a day when anything about politics isn't often enjoyable in the slightest. The world feels insane right now, and while it's not always easy to get in the mindset to enjoy such a film, this was a great escape from the real world for a few hours. This truly was the funniest movie I saw all year, with multiple scenes that provided laugh-out-loud moments. And though I've seen Charlize Theron in comedy roles before, this felt like a role made for her; she was great in it. I enjoyed her rapport with Seth Rogan - it surprisingly worked - and seeing the two of them act like normal and silly people (even though Theron's character was an esteemed political member) was entertaining. The movie definitely benefits from the chemistry and watchability of the two stars, but this one - as silly as many moments are on the surface - is smarter than it wants you to believe.

5. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
This is one of those movies, I thought, that the more it sits with you, the more you appreciate it. There isn't a lot going on in this film - outside of a few select scenes - so I think it's expected if you don't leave the theater feeling like it's instantly one of your favorite films (the quality was always there, though). While there were a few narratives going on here, I think the one I was most drawn to was the concept of getting older and finding your place in the world. As most of us get older I think that's a theme we struggle with. It can be difficult to let a new generation take the baton when you still feel like you have plenty of miles left in the ol' legs (I've never made a running metaphor once before in my life). For DiCaprio's character, it was nice to see a few of the redeeming moments for him, and ultimately an acceptance of his place in the world (and acting industry). Beyond the metaphysical aspects of the film, I absolutely loved the look of it. What a great play by Tarantino - he basically got to make a 60's Hollywood film and an old Western film in the same flick. Both of those are genres/worlds I'd love to play with, as well. And the alternate re-writing of history in some of his recent films - that's just been a lot of fun. If time travel ever becomes a reality, I absolutely want history re-written this way (sorry, spoilers): Leo DiCaprio has to go back and flamethrower the hell out of Manson's goons to save Sharon Tate's life. How epic!

4. 1917
These top four films are in a grouped tier of their own. OUATIH is only slightly behind, but these final four films were all in discussion for the top spot. As for 1917, I want to start by acknowledging that it takes a lot for a war movie to end up near the top of my list. They just don't stick with me much. Those that do are most frequently about earlier wars - wars that were waged for the good of the less fortunate; to remove evil from power. I'm not saying the same isn't true anymore, but more modern wars have a tinge of politicization and greed to them; rarely do I feel our troops are sent for the good of the world anymore. Maybe I'm naive and they never were. Still, there's an honor I feel with older wars - so if a war movie is going to appeal to me, it's probably going to be about one of the great wars. Moving on. 1917 not only provided a thrilling, engaging, tragic, and emotional story based on true events from WWI, but it was simply a masterclass in filmmaking. I went into the film knowing it was going to be a technical marvel, but assumed that would be its main hook. But right from the beginning, seeing these boys holed up in bunkers and just surviving life in the trenches (literally), I was in. You were thrown right into this world and you could feel what these people felt. When I first heard that the film was shot to mimic one single take, it seemed more like a gimmick than anything - but I have to say, it really worked. It was the perfect way to engross audiences in the minutia of this world. I'll admit I did focus on the scene transitions and time-of-day/night sequences more acutely to "catch" any mistakes in the timeline - all of which definitely took a touch of my immersion away from the experience - but it truly didn't feel gimmicky at all. The course of the film, which followed two soldiers trying to relay vital information to another front before running into a trap, featured scene after scene of captivating imagery and usually higher stakes than before. I can chunk the film into nice blocks from each location/part of the journey, and each one had its merits for being the best of the film. It was captivating from start to finish, and I can attest: even if you don't think you're that into war movies, this one won't disappoint.

3. Ford v Ferrari
This was one of the easiest movies to watch all year. The pacing was great, the story was intriguing, and the performances/characters were all engaging. This was a real classic American "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" kind of movie. You definitely watch it and think about times when America came together for common goal; goals of being the best - putting a collective of resources together to do what had to be done to win. I'm going to sidestep the institutional ramifications that would have gone along with such philosophies (it's probably fair to say that the actions in the 506s/60s hindered our social success moving forward), but as a stand alone story, this was a real testament to a traditional American Spirit. I did not care for Henry Ford II, who ran Ford Motor Company, but could appreciate his drive and determination to be the best. One theme of the film was how the egos and opinions of committees and companies played into the failure of such endeavors - a theme those of us who work or have worked in the corporate world can relate to. Too often, nothing gets done because of the bureaucracy and red tape, and by the time everyone's weighed in on the matter, it's either too later or no longer resembles the original idea. Damon's character, Carroll Shelby, understood this, and it was only when he could shed more of the corporate weight that they were able to accomplish their goals. I didn't love the concluding chapter of the film - it felt like such a dramatic epilogue to the story we saw otherwise for the last two hours - but I get wrapping everything up. Otherwise, the racing segments and building/testing segments were all gripping and fun to watch. This didn't feel like a movie that ran 2+ hours - it was fun and easy to watch from start to finish. I am not in the slightest, but this movie made me want to be a car guy. Also I want Matt Damon's sunglasses.

2. Parasite
Korean made by now-acclaimed filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite explores some fascinating layers of class immobility and inequality. The concept revolves around a very poor family that gets creative in its striving for societal advancement. I don't want to ruin some of the specifics, but through a series of cons, this family ends up working for a very rich family until everything eventually flies off the rails. While the film was entertaining to watch - it was equally dramatic, humorous, scary, and tense - the reason you talk about this film is to discuss its commentary on class warfare. Is the title "Parasite" in reference to the bottom-feeding poor in a society, leaching onto the very idea of finding purpose solely helping the wealthy? Or is it the wealthy who look down on those in the world around them, disinterested in the problem of their fellow man and unwilling to lend a hand - who also enjoy a way of life that only exists thanks to the services they take from others? Or maybe in the broadest sense, it's humanity in general. From there, nearly every scene of the film provides some metaphor on class structure, most of which I can't talk about in detail without ruining scenes. The most lasting of commentary, which I can share broadly, involved two poor families fighting each other to be the ones to work for the wealthy family. I just can't get out of my head how powerful that is. The poor killing each other to service the rich, while if they joined forces, they could overpower the wealthy and make the rules themselves. It's very sad. The ending of the film kind of reiterates the sadness, and while it's definitely not always the case, reinforces that the mechanisms in our world work to keep rich people rich and poor people poor. No matter how much we think we try, our lot in life is rarely changed. It's bleak, but there's some truth to it.

1. Knives Out
I've long been a Rian Johnson supporter, so it pleased me greatly that his latest was so much fun. In typical Johnson fashion, this grown up caper was not only expertly crafted - from symbolism to story construction - but was also a joy to watch. One of my favorite aspects of the film was seeing each actor chew on their scenery and imagine how much fun they all had playing such exaggerated characters. In this world, with this backdrop, everything felt real and taken seriously, but individually, they were all so silly. It was a real treat to watch everyone lean into the absurdity in sophisticated ways. The twists and turns of this whodunit were pretty elaborate, and as much as I tried to stay one step ahead of what Johnson had in store, I truly was never able to put it all together until the very end. As Daniel Craig's Mr. Blanc so absurdly yet appropriately detailed the various layers of the story: "We must look a little closer. And when we do, we see that the doughnut hole has a hole in its center. It is not a doughnut hole, but a smaller doughnut with its own hole, and our doughnut is not holed at all!" While there are pieces that you can probably put together as the film churns along, I doubt many will uncover the entire picture before its final reveal. I also really liked that this movie had some stuff to say, but never put it in your face - it provided some commentary without making you think it was doing so. Knowing how detail-oriented Johnson is, and that everything in his films have meaning, it doesn't feel happenstance that there are layers dealing with minorities and immigration; or white privilege and entitlement. The film shines quite the light on these themes without ever really saying that's what it's talking about. And I loved that. On the surface, this was a movie to sit back and just have some fun with, but if you want to pull out some commentary or explore its craft, there are ample opportunities to do so. One of the most enjoyable overall viewing experiences I had all year, and for that I give it the nod as my favorite film.

And that's it. That's what I have for now. Thanks for reading - and be sure to check back again for new posts and updates!