Category Archives: Back in Time
Back in Time: 2019
As I noted in the previous Back in Time article, it seems kind of silly that we put out a “best of the year” list at the end of each year and then just walk away, as if we never watch another movie from that time period again. I watch older movies all the time. Just a few days ago I watched a movie from 1929 that makes me totally re-evaluate that list (as there are now two films on it). So why don’t we ever step back, look at a year again, and amend our best of the year lists? That’s what I’m doing here, going back a year at a time. In this second installment, I’ll talk about my favorite films of 2019, pointing out as I go which ones wouldn’t have made my list at the end of that year because I hadn’t seen them yet.
12. Point Blank. Joe Lynch’s remake of this French thriller was really strong – energetic, exciting, with strong characters and just the right amount of comic relief. It’s a blast to watch.
11. Zombieland: Double Tap (watched in February 2020). While not quite as strong as the original, the second Zombieland film extends the universe in a logical way (at least from a character standpoint – there’s some handwaving going on about how the universe functions from a technical standpoint, but that’s acceptable in a comedy of this type). It’s funny, and it’s fun to watch.
10. Yesterday (watched in February 2020). Richard Curtis has gone in an interesting direction with these sorts of magic realism romcoms. A movie about a man in a world that has somehow forgotten the Beatles is really high concept, but the likable characters and good direction by Danny Boyle carry this forward and make it a winner for me.
9. Klaus. There are a lot of Santa Claus movies out there, including a lot of origin stories, but I never knew that what I really needed was the one that linked old St. Nick to the postal service. This animated film is one of the most charming Santa movies I’ve ever seen.
8. Tread (watched in May 2020). Paul Solet’s bizarre little film is half documentary, half reenactment, and all totally bonkers. The true story of a man who got fed up with his small town and decided to build a tank to flatten it is totally gripping and utterly engrossing.
7. It Chapter Two (watched in March 2020). I know that a lot of people didn’t think the conclusion of this two-film saga was as good as the first part, but I was pulled in and moved by the whole thing. It is my favorite Stephen King novel, and I really felt like this film did it justice.
6. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (watched in June 2021). I never thought that Quentin Tarantino would make a fairy tale, but that’s kind of what this is. As he did with Inglorious Basterds, he created some amazing and moving characters, dropped them into real historical events, and then let things go completely off the rails in a highly satisfying way. In fact, this is now my second favorite Tarantino film, after the aforementioned Basterds.
5. Spider-Man: Far From Home. It almost feels quaint writing about this movie, having seen No Way Home, but this remains one of my favorite Marvel movies. Tom Holland is my favorite Spider-Man, and I thought this film was a fine epilogue to the Infinity Saga that ended in Avengers: Endgame.
4. Joker (watched in Jan. 2020). Batman villain by way of gritty crime drama, Joaquin Phoenix absolutely nails his performance in this movie about a man whose own weakness and the crushing weight of his life ultimately leads to an explosive self-destruction. If they never make a sequel to the film, I think it stands just fine on its own.
3. Shazam! Outside of Superman, the original Captain Marvel is my favorite DC hero, and I had high hopes that this film would be a lighthearted adventure worthy of the premise of a boy who transforms into the world’s mightiest mortal. What I did not anticipate was a film with a profound message about the power of a found family, and a finale that left me giddy, as it introduced beloved characters that I never would have guessed I would see in a feature film.
2. Knives Out (watched in February 2021). Of all the films on this list, this is the one I’m most angry with myself for sleeping on. The trailers looked like it would deliver a quirky little murder mystery. I was unprepared for how layered, complicated, and altogether satisfying the movie would be – to say nothing of how much fun it was to watch this phenomenal cast tear up the scenery. I couldn’t be happier that there are more Benoit Blanc mysteries in the works.
1. Avengers: Endgame. This topped my list the moment I saw it, and I sincerely doubt there is anything that can possibly topple it. The grand finale of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe up until that point was epic, moving, heartbreaking, triumphant, and contains perhaps the single greatest moment in any superhero movie ever made. Yeah, you know what moment I’m talking about. That one. Magnificent.
Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. In 2019, he thought that the last couple of years had been lousy, but they were bound to get better, right?
Back in Time: 2020
I’m going to have a little fun with something here: last week, as the year was ending, everyone shared their lists of their favorite movies of 2021. I did it myself. But the thing that’s occurred to me is that these lists aren’t immutable, are they? It’s not like I’m never going to watch another movie from 2021. It’s not even like I’ll never watch a movie I like more than one of the ones on the list. In fact, the list I shared on New Year’s Eve would already be different today because I try to spend January watching movies I missed in the previous year, and I’ve found one that would have made the list.
So what I’m going to do is start stepping back in time, one year per installment, and revisit the movies made in that frame that would now make that “best of the year” list, with an emphasis on what movies I didn’t actually see during the year in question.
I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I’m not presenting this list as any sort of objective level of artistry. I’m not saying these should all be Academy Award winners or anything (although some of them, I think, should), I’m just saying that these are the ones I personally enjoyed the most.
12. The Last Blockbuster (watched in 2021): Wonderful documentary that tells the story of the last Blockbuster video store in America, intercut with the story of the rise and fall of the one-time juggernaut. Lots of stuff in here I didn’t know, with a far more intricate and enlightening view of the topic than “Netflix killed it.” And there’s a hell of a nostalgia factor as well.
11. Bill and Ted Face the Music: Speaking of nostalgia, there have been plenty of movie and TV shows that have proven that nostalgia isn’t enough to fuel a movie. This one used nostalgia as the launch point, but it had a lot of heart and told a story about how, as we grow older, our dreams tend to change… and why that’s not a bad thing.
10. The Invisible Man: After two disastrous attempts to kick off a shared universe of Universal Monsters (those being Dracula Untold and the 2017 The Mummy), it seems that Universal decided to change gears and go for smaller, self-contained films revitalizing their classic monsters. While I can’t deny I would still love to see the Universal Monster-verse become huge again (just bring back Brendan Fraser, dammit), I really enjoyed this more quiet, claustrophobic take on the classic villain.
9. Freaky (watched in 2021): Another new take on an old idea – the Freaky Friday body swap formula applied not to a parent and child, but to a slasher movie killer and his victim. Vince Vaughan is fantastic as both the killer and the teenage girl who gets trapped in his body, and overall the movie treads the line between comedy and horror very well. Not as well as another movie I’ll get to later, though.
8. Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn: Awful title notwithstanding, this film was a great showcase for Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, and drew in several other characters from DC Comics in exciting ways that felt fairly true to most of them, with the notable exception of Cassandra Cain, who was really that character in name only. Never thought Rosie Perez would work so well as an action heroine, but she really steps up.
7. Onward: Pixar has rarely missed, and they succeeded twice in 2020, starting with this film about a pair of brothers trying to find peace with the loss of their father, all couched in a world of monsters and magic. Family stuff, and particularly stuff about parents and children, have really hit a chord with me these last few years, for obvious reasons.
6. Soul (Watched in 2021, but only by a day): The second of Pixar’s 2020 one-two punch treads a theme that Pixar likes to do, that getting what you want is not the same as getting what you need. Lovely story, beautiful animation… and damn, I do like jazz.
5. Archive (Watched in 2021): Fantastic low-key sci-fi movie about a man trying to make an artificial intelligence less artificial. I don’t want to say too much because I think it’s best if you go in not knowing much, but it’s well worth watching.
4. Palm Springs: The time loop movie has been done a LOT, but I always enjoy a new twist on it. Wedding guest Lizzie Caplan falls into a time loop only to find that fellow guest Andy Samberg has been there for quite some time. It’s funny, it’s clever, and it’s original.
3. Tenet: Christopher Nolan is at his most Christopher Nolan in this movie, an action film built around the premise of a technology that can reverse time. Like a lot of Nolan’s movies, you’ve really got to pay attention, but once you wrap your head around exactly what the rules are, it works really well.
2. A Quiet Place Part II (Watched in 2021): The sequel to one of the best sleeper horror films in years delivered just as well, if not more. Continuing the story right where the first ended, this second film explores the world much more and continues peeling back the layers of the family. It’s a fantastic movie and I really hope Part III is in the works.
1. Scare Me (Watched in 2021): Josh Ruben writes, directs, and stars in this phenomenal horror comedy about two writers (himself and Aya Cash) stuck together when a storm knocks out their power. How better to pass the time than by trying to scare one another? Seventy-five percent of the film is literally just the two of them telling stories to each other, and it’s wonderful. For a film to be this thrilling without relying on special effects, jump scares, or buckets of blood is amazing. For it to be legitimately funny is even better. If you haven’t seen this one and you like horror/comedies, get thee to Shudder right now and check it out.
For those interested, a complete ranked list of every 2020 movie I’ve seen is on Letterboxd. Next time I’ll step back a year further to 2019. Eventually I’ll loop back and look at 2021 again.
Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. He spent entirely too much of 2020 at home, like everybody else did, and watching YouTube videos, like everybody else with a toddler did.