Thanksgiving is a time to feast while looking back at the year’s accomplishments, as we head into the end of 2019 and get ready for a New Year. While some feared that 2019 wouldn’t bring any great films to celebrate come awards season, we’ve been proven wrong with several worthy movies now seemingly in competition with each other.
Is there a frontrunner? Many believe Sam Mendes’ World War I epic 1917 will steal the Best Picture Oscar. But the list of applause worthy cinema is long and deep, with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite, Hustlers, Joker, The Irishman, Marriage Story, Little Women and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood all deserving a place at the table. But we’ll do a best of 2019 list closer to New Year’s Eve. Today, we are going to look at some of 2019’s most audacious moments.
These are scenes that were seared into our brain, and made an impact on pop culture at large. Some of these moments come from Oscar contenders. No question. Others aren’t even in the awards season conversation. And, dare I saw, one movie isn’t really even from 2019, but it certainly deserves a shout out. They are all quite amazing in their own right. At least I think so. Here are the 13 Movie Moments from 2019 I’m Most Thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Avengers: Endgame isn’t just the biggest movie of the year, it’s the biggest movie of all time. It’s the culmination of over twenty movies spanning more than a decade. So the big climax better be something special, and the Russo Brothers certainly paid it off in grand fashion. Starting with a fight between Captain America, Iron Man and Thor against Thanos, all-out war erupts, portals open, and every player in the MCU is brought into what might be the most epic showdown ever put to film. The final battle takes over the third act of this defining chapter in the Infinity Saga, and it somehow manages to give everyone a moment to shine, culminating with Robert Downey Jr.’s exit as Tony Stark. The billionaire superhero gives the snap heard around the world with the words, ‘I am Iron Man.’ Thanks Marvel, for giving us, perhaps, the best superhero fight of all time.
While most of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is centered around Rick Dalton and his best friend/stuntman Cliff Booth, there is a constant air of gloom and doom hanging around the edges of this Tinseltown fable. We’re introduced to Sharon Tate through short vignettes wrapped around the struggling life of an actor past his prime. We know her real-life fate. And the movie is such a good time, we are constantly dreading those final moments. What happens is inevitable. But then Quentin Tarantino pulls the rug out from underneath the audience, offering an alternate universe take on what would have happened had The Manson Family gone to the wrong house on that fateful night in the summer of 1969. What ensues is a shocking, violent, visceral gut punch that is as astounding to watch as it is cheer worthy. Most didn’t ever see it coming. And it turned Brandy the dog into this year’s cinematic MVP. Thanks, Quentin Tarantino, for giving us one of the most dashing, bold and adventurous endings to any Manson Family movie ever made. This is great cinema.
The Irishman: The Fact that it Even Exists
The Irishman just premiered this week, in time to stream for Thanksgiving. And it’s being heralded as another Martin Scorsese classic. There are some great moments locked in its 3 and 1/2 hour runtime. But instead of celebrating one scene from the film, we should just take a moment and be thankful this movie even exists. If it weren’t for Netflix, Martin Scorsese would have never gotten this, his passion project for over a decade, off the ground. What we are left with is a gripping gangster yarn that lines right up with other Scorsese classics such as Goodfellas, Raging Bull and The Wolf of Wall Street. Thank you Netflix, for letting Marty do his thing. And Thank you Mr. Scorsese, for knocking this one out of the park.
Coming on like a Disney classic from the 70s, only with more swearing, The Peanut Butter Falcon has many great scenes, but the climatic wrestling match is where the magic truly happens. Zack Gottsagen’s Zak is a man with down syndrome who dreams of being a wrestler. He and Shia LeBeouf’s Tyler go on a road trip to find legendary wrestler, and Zak’s hero, Salt Water Redneck. After some convincing, The Salt Water Redneck sets Zak up with his ultimate dream: A wrestling match. And we get to watch it roll out in all its glorious glory. Gottsagen did all of his own stunts and owns the scene like nobody else could have pulled off. Thank you, Zack Gottsagen and Shai LaBeouf, for putting your hearts and souls into this fine comedy wine.
3 from Hell: Baby Goes on the Warpath
Not joking, Sheri Moon Zombie deserves the Oscar for her work in 3 From Hell. She is absolutely batshit insane, and I believed every single minute of her work here. Look into her eyes. She’s not all there, is she? I’d like to see Meryl Streep pull off such a nuanced, blood-soaked dance with the devil. It’s definitely the best performance in any horror movie released this year, including Florence Pugh in Midsommar. She goes off the rails in what isn’t a showy performance, but just strait-laced with rat poison and a realism you can’t fake. Watching her don an Indian headdress while hunting a Luchador gang around the seediest parts of Mexico with a bow and arrow is one of the most enthralling stretches of cinema contained within any genre movie of 2019. Stop being a whiney baby, and enjoy this amazing woman and her work. Thank you, Rob Zombie, for pulling one of the finest performances of the year out of your leading lady. And thank you Sheri Moon Zombie for solidifying Baby Firefly as one of the all-time great female slasher icons to ever grace the screen.
Love it or hate it, John Travolta is doing career defining work as the actor-obsessed Moose in Fred Durst’s thriller The Fanatic. I simply couldn’t take my eyes off what I was watching on screen. It’s stupefying, but not in a ‘so bad it’s good kind of way’. This is the kind of movie that goes onto reach true cult status, and will be remembered shoulders above anything that might win an Oscar this year. Watching Travolta’s Moose bound into action star Hunter Dunbar’s bedroom, where he has the celebrity tied to his bed, is jaw-dropping and compelling cinema. Travolta pretending to be Jason Voorhees, stabbing Hunter with a fake knife. And then the breakdown that ensues. Intense and crazy cinema at its finest, and one of the most memorable moments of the year thus far. Thank you, John Travolta for putting it all on the line. And thank you Fred Durst for not giving a shit what other people think, and making the movie you wanted to make. Mark my words, in ten or twenty years, this is going to stand out as one of those rare gems. Also, thank you Fred Durst for letting your characters listen to Limp Bizkit and wearing that Limp Bizkit hoodie when I saw you at the New Beverly. Some people might scoff, but they’re just jealous and I love it!
Jojo Rabbit: Hitler Goes Out the Window
Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit is a very unorthodox World War II movie. The story centers on Roman Griffin Davis’ young Jojo, who has Hitler as an imaginary friend in Nazi Germany. Throughout the movie, Watiti’s Hitler gives Jojo horrible advice involving Elsa, the young Jewish woman living in his attic. After Jojo learns that the Nazis are wrong, he finds the inner courage to kick Hitler out of the window, which is the big payoff in the movie. Thanks Taika Waititi for having the balls to make such a compelling piece of art.
I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle: Anthony Daniels Does an Exorcism
Ok, so I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle didn’t come out in 2019. But I’m mentioning it here because this truly bizarre horror flick sort of dropped out of the ether this fall, timed up to the release of The Rise of Skywalker, where Anthony Daniels will reprise C-3PO for one final time, swinging a bowcaster and rocking red glowing eyes while he’s at it. Think hard. Can you name any other Anthony Daniels movies right off the top of your head? Well, here’s your answer if anyone ever asks. Anthony Daniels comes on the scene late in the proceedings, playing a priest who must perform an exorcism on a motorcycle that has been possessed by a vampire, that has gone on a bonkers killing spree. There is high energy and a lot of spirit thrown into this wacky horror comedy, and it works. From the talking turd in the toilet until the climactic battle with tanning lights, this movie is truly something to behold, offering the kind of fast-paced craziness you might find in The Lost Boys mixed with the deep, dark horror of The Exorcist. All the while, Anthony Daniels is proving hard core that he’s more than just a man locked in a golden suit. Thank you, Anthony Daniels, for actually putting your heart and soul into this weird B movie that seems to have teleported here from another dimension. Longtime C-3PO fans should hunt it out.
Joker: Stairs Dance
People were afraid of what Joker would eventually be when it was released earlier this year. The army warned theaters of potential attacks. It had an aura of danger threaded through its very being. But come to find out, the movie’s defining moment would find Joaquin Phoenix triumphantly dancing down a set of stairs in Brooklyn laid against Gary Glitter’s thumping and problematic sports stadium staple Rock and Roll Part 2. And this may just be the defining cinematic moment of 2019. You’re sure to see it laced throughout any end of year retrospective. And those Brooklyn steps have gone onto become a tourist destination. Angry Incels didn’t shoot up matinees with automatic weapons. Instead, this movie got people dancing. It has made over a billion dollars. And is one of the most profitable movies in cinematic history. Thanks Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix, for crafting one of the most memorable superhero movie moments that doesn’t include someone in tights getting wham-slammed into the ground (and, yes, I know it’s not technically a superhero movie, but whatever, it’s got a young Batman in it).
Aladdin: Prince Ali Dance Number
Before Disney’s live-action remake of Aladdin hit theaters, many feared this would be a huge bomb. Will Smith’s blue Genie was tweaking people out, and it looked like a mess. Surprise, surprise, it turned out to be one of the most energetic, colorful and just plain fun movies of the year. And while the musical numbers aren’t Oscar contenders, they are a blast. Perhaps they curb too much from the original animated classic upon which this is crafted and grafted upon, but you can’t deny the sheer gleeful toe-tapping that some of these songs are able to pull out of your innards. Will Smith’s ‘Friend Like Me’ is an energetic explosion of neon electricity, but Smith and team really bring it home with the floor stomping ‘Prince Ali’. It’s big, and bodacious. It’s a beautiful thunderous moment in a more colorful take on the Raiders of the Lost Ark aesthetic. Thank you Will Smith, for really hitting an honest home run here. Maybe not the best movie moment of 2019, but it sure made me smile, with a big, fat, popcorn filled grin stretching from ear to ear.
Keanu Reeves really reached his crescendo as The Internet’s Boyfriend this year. But that didn’t stop him from delivering perhaps the best pure action movie of 2019. This thing kicks into high gear from its opening moments and doesn’t stop until end credits, after John Wick falls a great distance and crawls off into the sewer to fight another day. There are so many awesome fist fights, knife battles, sword swinging, kills and action sequences in this bold piece of swift-moving cinema. This here is why 4DX was invented. But perhaps there was nothing more enthralling than watching Keanu jump on a horse, riding it through the city streets, fighting off motorcycle ninja gangs. Thank you Keanu Reeves, for just being you.
Anyone who has every worshiped at the alter of Russell Crowe’s Master and Commander needs to sit down and watch this ASAP. Mel Gibson and Sean Penn are perhaps two of the most unhinged men in Hollywood. And here, they mix that into a weird fine stew about creating the dictionary. This. Is. A. Movie. It’s fantastic, and it has somehow rolled under the proverbial couch, where it seems to be getting ignored for the most part. There isn’t any one particular scene that stands out, the entire ride is one slow pull into the depths of madness hinged on creating one of the world’s most important tomes next to the bible. Not enough people will probably ever bother watching it to cause a swell of cult support. But it definitely deserves it. if you want to be the hipster bragging about Master and Commander at your next cinema party, put this on your radar. It’s a mesmerizing slice of whoo-doo. Thank you, Mel Gibson and Sean Penn for keeping it crazy all these years.
Our final scene to celebrate on this wet and cold Thanksgiving is the climatic hunt for Sasquatch in what could be described as Sam Elliot’s finest hour. There is much speculation in this, what should be a B-Movie throwaway, of whether or not Bigfoot actually exists. It’s all handled fairly seriously, in a pulp treat that definitely deserves a place in any well read member of the guild’s 10 Best Movies of 2019 list. Watching Sam Elliot build up to and eventually fight Sasquatch is one of this year’s strangest and most satisfying rides. It truly is something to behold. Thank you, Sam Elliot, for following your instincts in making something so crazy yet heartbreaking and compelling. This is cinema in 2019.