My 2019 Top Ten list is going to look pretty ridiculous to almost everyone who reads it. I didn’t get a chance to see a lot of the end-of-year Oscar contenders, as a result of a new baby right at the end of the year (he was born on the day The Rise of Skywalker dropped). But many of the movies I saw this year, the ones which really resonated with me, have some sort of deep, personal connection that’s tough to quantify (not that I didn’t try); a personal connection I don’t expect you to share, but hopefully I can explain well enough for you to understand. Here’s the stuff that hit me in 2019.
#10: Just Mercy
Michael B. Jordan at his charismatic, troubled best. Jamie Foxx showing a painful amount of despair. But while this film had some pacing trouble, the story behind it is important, thoughtful, and well-told. The fact that every event depicted in the film happened during my lifetime is troubling. Early last year, I read The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton (played by O’Shea Jackson Jr. in this film), which changed my mind about a lot of things; Just Mercy encapsulates most of what bowled me over about that book, as it covers the same events and prejudices from a different inmate’s perspective. Had it maybe received another pass each in the script phase and the editing phase, this film could’ve easily been an Oscar contender.
#9: Captain Marvel
If you’re the type of person who rolled your eyes at this one, well, you’ve never met my wife Natalie. Talking with her about this movie was a joyful experience (and you can experience that joy yourself by listening to the podcast she was on with Fizz and Hannah). Sure, there’s an indulgence in the “girl power” moments; but how often do we see those in big-budget superhero films? (Hopefully more) Sure, Brie Larson portrays her role in a muted, perhaps even downcast way, but wouldn’t you be muted if you’d discovered that everything you knew was a lie, and that you were being used as a weapon to kill innocent people? Sure, there are come continuity issues, but isn’t that par for the course in a film franchise that has spanned a decade? An already-enjoyable Marvel film took on a whole new dimension when I watched it through her eyes, and putting it on Disney+ again while tending to a newborn brought out even more new insights and a hope that I can give my kids an empowering tale that resonates with them like Captain Marvel resonates with Natalie.
A Reel World Theology Captain Marvel review (by my wife!)
Aladdin has been my favorite Disney animated film for as long as I can remember. I was certain that this film wouldn’t capture the magic, the beauty, the madcap thrill of the 1992 masterpiece. And so, when I sat down to watch this film, imagine my reaction when I discovered that…I was absolutely right. Because the live-action remake of Aladdin captured a whole different magic, beauty, and madcap thrill; it doesn’t try to surpass so much as accentuate the original film. As I wrote at the time, it’s a “fun and beautiful feature, with a more layered story, more breathtaking visuals, a greater set of musical performances, and more chemistry between the leads; in fact, were it not for Robin Williams and Jonathan Freeman’s turns as Genie and Jafar in the original, I believe that this one could have surpassed the animated classic (and, indeed, Naomi Scott’s brilliant performance nearly pushes it there on its own).” My appreciation of Naomi Scott’s brilliance has only grown since; and while I still prefer the original animated classic, this was an experience I’ll relish going back to again and again.
Reel World Theology’s Aladdin (2019) review
#7: Spider-Man: Far from Home
I’ve felt the helplessness, the imposter syndrome, the deep longing to make a difference and fear that I’ve already failed to do so, the abject failure that Peter Parker reaches in this year’s Spider-Man entry. I’ve had not only months, but even several years in a row like that. Coming out of it was a relieving but painful process, and seeing Parker become “the next Iron Man” after reaching his lowest low was a cathartic experience.
But Far From Home takes it beyond that; and I explored this more in my article on the film.
For a superhero that I’ve always enjoyed in a passing way, this film really gave me a whole new appreciation and connection with him.
Reel World Theology Podcast #206: Spider-Man: Far From Home and Absolute True Facts