For dedicated moviegoers, the dark days of December can be spent in one of two ways: Catching up on all the awards contenders you can stomach or reliving the year by making unexpected (and perhaps far-reaching) connections on everything the year at the movies had to offer. To explore the latter option, The Globe and Mail presents its fifth-annual roundup of the fads and trends gleaned from a year spent alone in the dark.
Best track record: Keanu Reeves
If 2019 belonged to one performer, surely it was Mr. Whoa himself. Keanu Reeves proved that he can still fight for his life with the best of them in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (ugh, that subtitle), provided the most delightful element of the otherwise unnecessary Toy Story 4, helped Netflix disseminate some memes with his cameo in Always Be My Maybe and got the rest of the internet excited by announcing the filming of Bill & Ted Face the Music. Never mind the fact that he opened the year with one of his worst efforts to date (the already-forgotten sci-fi film Replicas) – just concentrate on how Reeves could very well repeat his zeitgeist-catching year in 2021, when both a new Matrix movie and the fourth John Wick film are set to be released.
Worst track record: Dogs
Despite IMDb telling me that both A Dog’s Journey and A Dog’s Way Home came out in 2019 and are completely unrelated, I cannot for the life of me remember which is which. And the less said about the animated Jeremy Renner vanity project Arctic Dogs, the better. Yet 2019 also witnessed the critical abomination that is Tom Hopper’s musical Cats. Hmm. The eternally raging dog versus cats battle marches on unresolved, then, for yet another year.
Best reason to see bad movies: Ben Mendelsohn
My pick for 2018′s Best (and Worst) Villain returns to the trend list for saving a handful of otherwise forgettable 2019 affairs: Captain Marvel, The King and Spies in Disguise. Shockingly, Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn plays an outright villain in only one of those productions, but his idiosyncratic presence is nonetheless appreciated across the board, especially when Captain Marvel tasked him with carrying a giant twist that, in his talented hands, made perfect sense.
Worst journalist: Olivia Wilde in Richard Jewell and Matthew Rhys in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (tie)
It is never a good year to be a journalist, but these twin studies in newsroom malfeasance don’t make it easier, either. In the Mister Rogers-centric drama A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Matthew Rhys plays an Esquire writer who gives magazine reporters a bad name: he argues with his editor, walks out of an interview, acts like a sullen jerk inside and outside the office, and turns a 400-word celebrity profile into a 10,000-word first-person feature without warning. Olivia Wilde’s turn in Clint Eastwood’s drama is worse, though, as she paints the real-life Atlanta reporter Kathy Scruggs as a cartoonishly unethical nightmare who trades story tips for sex. Take the buy-outs, both of you.
Best reason to stay inside: Netflix
The streaming giant has not had a perfect year: it is deep in debt, it dumps tons of worthy productions into the bottom of subscribers’ queues without warning, its war with exhibitors may result in the death of the theatrical experience, and it has a, shall we say, unique perspective on sharing its audience data. But the company is still responsible for some of the best films of the year, including The Irishman, Marriage Story, High Flying Bird, American Factory, Dolemite Is My Name and Atlantics. Oh, and it also gave Michael Bay $150-million to destroy various parts of Europe in 6 Underground, which was a good thing, despite how that sentence might read.
Best Chris: Evans
The continuing battle of the Hollywood Chrises saw a few twists this year. In the spring, it looked like Chris Hemsworth would nab the 2019 title, if only because his nicely felt turn as a severely depressed Thor in Avengers: Endgame helped enliven that otherwise soggy and overstuffed endurance test. But then Hemsworth made Men In Black: International, the saddest attempt at resurrecting a franchise in modern Hollywood history. Given that Chris Pratt didn’t do much of anything in Endgame and Chris Pine didn’t even star in a single 2019 film, the Best Chris trophy will instead go to Chris Evans, who can deflect his participation in Endgame by boasting of his darkly comic turn in Knives Out.
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