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A New Year Miracle — Adam’s Top Ten Films of 2019!

2019 was an interesting year for me. I had a great dream realized that I thought would only happen in the form of Amazon or iTunes reviews — I was invited to write about movies here at WhySoBlu. This exceptional opportunity has afforded me the privilege to share with you my passion for film as a whole, to share a small dose of me with every article I write. This has been a dream for me as long as I can remember. With my last 2019 film list and my first official post of the year, I want to thank my colleagues Aaron, Brandon, Brian, Corey, Gerard, Gregg, and Peter. Thank you for giving me so many great reviews to read and to look up to. You all have wonderful ways with words and I hope that I find myself continually influenced by your work. I’d also like to give a shout out to my husband B. for his patience and understanding with my writing. He hears a lot about my critiques now and he’s been essential in sharing his opinions as well. We’ve become like a more amiable Siskel and Ebert at home. For all the readers of WhySoBlu, I thank you just as much for your continued reading, sharing and mutual love of film and physical media. I hope you enjoy reading about my top 10 films of 2019 and find a few surprises in there!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Films in 2019 were all over the place for me. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, but as I said with my last list, I’m kinda, sorta terrible at these types of writings. To narrow down a list of favorites when you watch movies every day can be a killer. It’s a stressful thing for an anxiety-ridden fella like me. My inner thoughts at these times are like this: “That wasn’t a hit film… critically that didn’t do so well… I liked that movie a lot, but I’m going to get some flak for adding it… do you want to get roasted for sharing your like or love for that one??” It’s an endless cycle of nerves for me. Until boom! The guys I write with here all laid it out pretty plain and simple — Just write it up. You like what you like and you should be able to share that without any issues. I’m paraphrasing of course but you’ll see here before you a list unashamed. I hope someone out there can appreciate my eclecticism and not think I’m insane. But I digress.. read on…

BEFORE WE GET TO THE DOWN AND DIRTY NITTY GRITTY…

Films I wish I had seen this year…

  1. Star Wars: The Rose of Skywalker
  2. Uncut Gems
  3. Bombshell
  4. Jojo Rabbit
  5. The Farewell
  6. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
  7. Knives Out
  8. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  9. Queen and Slim
  10. 1917
  11. Doctor Sleep
  12. Parasite

This addition is just to mostly share my envy with my colleagues. These all looked incredible to me and I look forward to seeing them at home at some point this year.

AND NOW, FINALLY, FOR MY TOP TEN FILMS OF 2019… DRUMROLL PLEASE…

From Bottom to Top:

10. Hobbs and Shaw

Well, damn it if I don’t have to eat my words with this one. Thanks to our own, Brian White, I was gifted the opportunity to see this one. This is a film about as mindless as you can get. In its unbelievable setup, to its over the top action, this one should’ve been at the bottom of the list of the worst films I’ve seen all year. Something miraculous happened to me during my viewing that made it all better. Hobbs and Shaw turned out to be fun! Statham and Johnson show up and have a lot of fun in their roles. The action is relentless and fun, Idris Elba is a great cyber villain (no spoilers…) and Vanessa Kirby is a bad@$$ female which always is a great source of enjoyment for me in films. There is a lot of humor here and the familial elements thrown in there are also a welcome surprise. The Ryan Reynolds cameo doesn’t hurt either. This film doesn’t reinvent the wheel but for me at least, it brings back an old wonderful sensibility of 80’s action films… they didn’t have to be perfect, totally make sense or be believable in every moment. This film takes you back to times where movies were first made to entertain and not just make you think too hard. This is popcorn fun at its best and I enjoyed it way more than my closed mind wanted to.

9. Hustlers

Jennifer Lopez really knocked this film out of the park. At 50, she has delivered her best performance since Out of Sight and has set many minds afire with a dance scene set to Fiona Apple’s Criminal. Beyond J. Lo, of course, there is a very engaging, fresh twist on the Martin Scorsese formula. We are told a crime story but in a different way. Women rule the roost here, and their bad behavior isn’t far off from our favorite gangsters or robbers of the past. Constance Wu continues to show great strength as an actress and the rest of the ensemble, even in small roles leaves a loving piece of themselves in the film. Who knew a movie about strippers would have such a great impact this year? Definitely not me. This one has me laughing, surprised and by the end very impressed. Lorene Scafaria should be commended for elevating the story with a flair for the visual style and putting all the elements together for not just eye candy, but pure entertainment. For me, a huge music fan, the throwback soundtrack doesn’t hurt either.

8. Booksmart

Olivia Wilde directing? Ok, sure. Not gonna see that one… Or am I? Oh yeah, I did. And I loved this movie. Right up my comic alley, Booksmart is a smart (at least in my opinion) rehash of Superbad. This ultra-modern version of the coming of age comedy is a huge step forward for raunchy comedy. Taking a cue from Bridesmaids, Booksmart takes its leads Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever and throws them at so many relatable situations throughout a wild day and night in LA. Feldstein and Dever are natural comedians and are wonderfully paired here. The film itself, although basically a copy of other films to me goes beyond just a retread with many wonderful personal injections. The characters are fantastic, and the all-inclusive nature of the screenplay is refreshing. There aren’t any stereotypes being used here. Everyone’s OK as they are. People can be gay or black or a party animal and nobody is judged in that way for being who they are. I loved that everyone, even if they had opinions managed to come together and be friendly. That may be just a film dream, but that’s what made this film go from good fun to important and also amazingly fun. A great new addition to a favorite comedy sub-genre of mine.

7. Little

Marsai Martin is a force to be reckoned with. She is talented, she has comic timing and amazingly she is already investing in her career. To be a 15-year old that is producing projects is one thing. To show up and deliver upon the first production is quite another. Little may be one person’s idea of a flipped version of Big… mine… well, that’s my idea of it anyway, but what a flipped version it is.

Besides Martin, we have Issa Rae, another amazing comic actress who has great timing as well. She embraces awkwardness and is very loos and easygoing with her comedy. I have been following her since her YouTube days and the strengths she showed there have only gotten stronger. Regina Hall added to the fold and you have a great triumvirate of female comedy. The story is predictable to be sure and there are a few plot holes here and there, yes, but imperfect as this is I was hooked immediately. It’s a fun, silly farce embracing the fish out of water style but also asking its characters to branch out, and you see a tremendous change from each one of them. There are also some great supporting characters and the direction is sound. Visually it’s a film that would’ve worked nicely on 4K Blu-ray, but that’s another story for another article.

6. Long Shot

Charlize Theron, comic actress? Hell yes, says I. I was blown away by her natural presence in this film. She plays a presidential hopeful, looking to steal the office from a former TV actor. Seth Roger becomes her speechwriter, but with all romantic comedies, there’s a twist. What’s not a twist is that this film features a genuine, sweet and new take on the romantic comedy genre.

The chemistry between Roger and Theron is incredible and there are more consistently funny scenes throughout that I laughed pretty much the entire film. There is also an undeniable sexiness to the film they worked for me as well.  A Boyz II Men cameo sweetened the deal for me, but overall this is an adorable and criminally underrated comedy. Smart, romantic, and down to earth. This was definitely my favorite comedy of the year.

5. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice

I was ecstatic when I first saw that there would be a documentary about Linda Ronstadt in 2019. I have been following her career my entire life and was introduced to her music as a little kid via

a tape called Cruisin’ Classics. My dad got me two volumes from Shell, the gas station that sold them. Ronstadt’s hit song It’s So Easy was the song on the tape and it was one of my favorites to be sure. As I grew older, I was taken with her eclectic musical choices and has seen her perform Pirates of Penzance via VHS, heard her sing Mexican classics on her Canciones De Mi Padre album (still the highest-selling Spanish language album in history) and have always been taken with her ability to sing the classics (Motown and pop standards have been claimed as her own forever now.) Ronstadt even now as she’s battling Parkinson’s Disease is still a headstrong, tough woman.

This wonderful documentary chronicles her life while she intersperses readings from her autobiography. We learn about her early life, her family, her friendships and relationships and some of the amazing connections she has made in the music world too. You’re invited back to LA in the 60’s and 70’s and the allure of The Troubadour is nearly undeniable now. We haven’t even begun to discuss that Ronstadt’s is one of the finest voices in music, period, only stopped now by her disease. The variety of music, the varied material, and the stunning and brilliant collaborations are all here. This was a huge highlight in my new films for the year and something for me that I’ll treasure as a fanatic of music and of music documentaries.

4. The Peanut Butter Falcon

When you think that you won’t find a sweet film in this landscape, we have been gifted The Peanut Butter Falcon. Shia LeBeouf shines with Zack Gottsegen (a first-time actor) in this tale of an unlikely friendship. The comparisons to Mark Twain are true and necessary. Their journey is one that is equal parts funny and mythical. The story of Zak, just escaped from the retirement home he lives in (He’s in his 20’s but living with Downs Syndrome) and Tyler (who is trying to make a run for it after commuting a crime) presents a highly unlikely duo and gives them a rich landscape to escape into. They bond immediately and form a needed brotherhood to make the journey together.

I was immersed into their world from the get-go as Zak and Tyler go on the hunt for the wrestling school Zak wants to attend. His idol, the Salt Water Redneck and his school are his chances for change and his determination is inspiring throughout the film. This film was immediately a favorite for me this year after the first viewing and I continue to find things to like about it on repeated viewings.

3. Ford V. Ferrari

This was a film that to me, moviegoers needed this year. We have so many movies about superheroes, powerful forces, and dystopian nightmares that something simpler was needed. This film encapsulates one of those simple but amazing stories that just so happens to be true. Carole Shelby and Ken Miles (yes that’s his real name) team up to challenge European supercars at Le Mans in 1966. Simple enough story right? Add to that Matt Damon, Christian Bale and a slew of phenomenal character actors and we are blessed with a brilliantly paced and beautifully filmed true story film.

James Mangold is always quite good at capturing a period in his films and this one is no exception. We aren’t hanging out witnessing a film of the past here, we are thrust right into the world in ’66. Cars are incredible and texturally the film is like a backlog of 69’s culture. The racing sequences are brilliant and the lead up to those scenes is even more wondrous. The science that was put into the creation of the Ford GT is astonishing and being there to see it all unfold, just like we’re there is one of the better storytelling elements there. Performances are all wonderful and the film just gels so greatly. Just what we needed this fall!

2. Joker

I toggled between this film and my number one for weeks. Which would be my number one… but I had to put this at 2. They’re basically my number one combined, but one had to take the. 2bd spot. Joker is a huge cinematic blow. An emotionally charged drama that places mental health at the forefront and puts a lot of the spectacle of most superhero/supervillain fare way into the background. This is not what anyone excited to see this film was expecting. The consensus seems to be that most audiences were expecting creepy bedlam in Gotham for two hours. When faced with a quieter portrait on mental health and the dangers of said mental health going untreated, it seems that critics and audiences were divided. The audiences that went in with an open mind were of course rewarded with a character study and origin story unlike any we’ve seen before. Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck seems almost tortured from his birth. He has a tick that causes him to laugh uncontrollably and at the start of the film we are shown that his benefits are being cut as funding for the psychiatry side of his health care system is being closed down. That means no more therapy, no more medicine and for those of us who suffer from mental health can attest to… a loss of whatever little piece of sanity poor Arthur might have had left.

This film really triggered a lot of emotions for me. You can see from what I wrote above that I don’t intend to give much away. I’m sure a majority of you reading this have seen the film and those who haven’t should be urged to do so right now! This one really hit me though. As someone who has benefitted greatly from therapy and antidepressants and has suffered from anxiety and panic disorders for most of my life, I know the importance of those elements. To see Arthur struggle brings so many thoughts as to what can be done, even now to make things better for sufferers without the necessary resources. All that aside, this is an incredible drama. Todd Philips shows huge gains as a director outside of his comedy comfort zone and I can’t stress enough just how great this torn up 80’s Gotham is for the atmosphere. This is a must-see event even as it heads to home media!

AND NOW FOR NUMBER ONE…

1. Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood

Yes, it is this film yet again on yet another list… What can I say? This just was THE movie of the year for me. People will say they don’t get it. Some will agree with my love for the film. There will still be others who can’t get past the pacing. Yada, yada, yada… True to all the points, but this is my list, so here goes. Tarantino has delivered yet again. This slow-burn love letter to Hollywood of yesteryear is phenomenal from start to finish. The little nuances, the subtle references to the death of old Hollywood, the music and radio ads… so cool! The cars, the clothes; the restaurants, and that adorable dog Brandy… what more do you need? Oh yeah… we have Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie among many many others to fill in there too.

I can evoke my thoughts in one term for this film — Cinematic Pleasure. There really is a sense of pleasure that I got from this film. I love that I’m just in that world for nearly 3 hours. The drives, the creepy Spahn Ranch sequence, the flashbacks that are hilarious (I’m looking at you, Rebecca Gayheart!) and so many little Tarantino-isms just add to the enjoyment. Each of our lead characters is given time for longer vignettes into their days chronicled in the film. Leo spends time having anxiety onset and bonds with a brilliant child actress. Brad hangs with his dog, fixes a TV antenna and picks up a hippie chick for a ride. Margot goes shopping and checks out her newest movie to see if they really really like her. It’s all simple-sounding but there is so much more going on. When you finally get to the moment where some months have passed, you’re practically living these characters lives with them. You are in 1969 and you probably won’t want to leave, just like I didn’t. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved this one and really love how solid the film is. The length of time flies by for me and I am consistently looking forward to the next viewing too. Easily this one tops the list for the years best according to me.

AND FOR ONE LAST THING…

I really can’t begin to think of all the films old and new that I’ve seen this year. To have to narrow it down has been a bit of a struggle but as I close this list, I am so excited to see the kind of quality I found out there. It’s also worth’s mentioning that I saw quite a few amazing more commercially successful films and they’re great too, but didn’t make the top ten. That speaks volumes to what quality we’re lucky to be experiencing now.

I also wanted to take a couple of sentences and bookend the list with the one movie I wish no one to see at all, and that is The Kitchen. A movie I was so excited to see initially… what a cinematic dog turd. Wasted talent, wasted period setting, wasted hard work by a crew of people who probably knew it would be trash. Don’t waste your time with that one, but whatever films you haven’t seen on this list… give them a look! You may be pleasantly surprised!

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8 Responses to “A New Year Miracle — Adam’s Top Ten Films of 2019!”


  1. Brian White

    Wow, Adam! We had top 3 films of the year together! I agree with your sentiments and was just saying this yesterday…bring on the 4 hour cut as 3 hours is just too short of time to spend in this world. LOL.
    Thanks to you I now have Booksmart to watch!
    I still need to see Long Shot.
    So happy to AGAIN see Hobbs & Shaw on a Top 10 list and feel enamored I’m responsible for it here. What a pleasure!
    We already chatted about Hustlers offline.
    Also very happy to have you on the site and thrilled you feel at home here! Looking forward to your work here in 2020.

  2. Gerard Iribe

    Wow, great list Adam! Glad Long Shot was featured — such a shame that it bombed at the box-office. Glad it’s getting some props on home video now!

  3. Adam Toroni-Byrne

    Hey guys. Thanks again for the encouragement. Brian, just buy Long Shot. Just trust us. It’s great! Gerard, I loved it the first time and liked it even more the second. It was a lot of fun!

  4. Aaron Neuwirth

    Quite the list sir! Great to see some comedies get some love, let alone a docu (I tried like hell to pack in like 15 films into a list of 10, trying to hit so many kinds of films). I hope you get to see some of the films you missed soon because it’s a strong list of great films there for sure. That said, always happy to see folks with plenty of enthusiasm for sharing what they love about movies!

    @Brian – What, a half a year’s worth of people telling you Booksmart is great wasn’t enough?

  5. Brian White

    @Aaron I can see where my comment may have been confusing so let me clear it up. Adam graciously gifted me Booksmart, but I was unable to watch it in time for my Top 10 (just like I could not find anybody to let me see 1917 or Parasite) so it’s one of those films I now need to play catch up on. However, I do feel it’s weight is more significant when it appears on someone’s Top 10 list especially when Rise of the Skywalker would have been on here should he have seen it 🙂

  6. Aaron Neuwirth

    Fair enough! (It made my top 30 🙂 )

  7. Gregg

    A cinematic dog turd. LMAO! What an analogy! I wanted to see The Kitchen but the repetitive negative critiques were so consistent that I soon had no desire to waste two hours. I love your #4. That movie sat atop my list until late December. That is one movie that will never get old with me. Hey we’ve got the same #10! Finally, I couldn’t agree more on your dialogue regarding Ford v. Ferrari. It definitely stood out and Bale makes a strong case for best supporting actor.

  8. Adam Toroni-Byrne

    @Gregg, the Kitchen truly is a cinematic dog turd, and I was let down by my love of Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish. Trash! But I’m glad to know someone agrees with my thoughts on Ford V. Ferrari. I had such a great time with that movie and really loved the way it unfolded. It’s long but didn’t feel long and I was so engaged I could’ve continued in longer. Same way I feel about my number 1! Also glad I wasn’t the only one with Hobbs and Shaw on the list. I didn’t want to see that at all, but thanks to Brian, I got to!