2019 Film Year in Review

This year I decided to keep track of my viewing stats a little differently. In the past, I only kept track of the new to me classic films in  my tally. But for 2019 I chose to also include re-watches, newer films and television series. I continued to leave out television films from my total count. All told, I watched about 300 films and series which is quite a lot.

NEW CLASSIC FILMS – 143 Total 

I continued on from last year in watching the films of Marlon Brando, Robert Mitchum and George Brent. I also actively sought out the films of Shirley Temple, Margaret O’Brien, Kay Francis, Greta Garbo, Jane Powell, Marion Davies and John Garfield. 2019 will also go down as the year I watched my first Elvis film.

Kay Francis & George Brent

Some of the more popular classics I finally made time for were Murder My Sweet, The Stranger, I Know Where I’m Going, Angel and the Badman, Ryan’s Daughter and Becket. Cleopatra was as much of a slog as I expected. However, I was happily surprised by great experiences with The Picture of Dorian Gray and Cat People. I had also put off watching the famous silent film The Big Parade but it completely wowed me!

Silents

I continued exploring silent films including many of Greta Garbo’s such as Torrent, Love, The Single Standard, Wild Orchids and The Mysterious Lady. This experience was hit and miss with Wild Orchids being the best of the lot for me. While I understand the praise for Garbo, I’m afraid I will never be a true fan. I was disappointed with Street Angel. I’ve become a fan of Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor films, but felt this one was a let down. I saw Marion Davies in The Bride’s Play. Souls for Sale starring Richard Dix and Eleanor Boardman and which skewed the early film industry was a hit with me. I finally had the chance to see Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. and The Battling Butler. But probably the biggest and happiest surprise was The Big Parade, the WWI film starring John Gilbert. It was excellent at every level.

Foreign Films/Series -25 Total

After my unsatisfactory experience with classic foreign films in 2018, I decided to focus more on contemporary offerings this year.  As usual, the  countries whose films I watched the most were Russia, South Korea and France. I really enjoyed the Russian mini-series I Love My Husband and thought the film The Duelist was fascinating. I was completely obsessed by Netflix’ Korean drama Mr. Sunshine and finally watched the film Only which was the original inspiration for my favorite Turkish film Sadece Sen. I saw a few French classics such as Breathless and Le Silence de la Mer. But it was the newer French film Blind Date which may be my favorite discovery of the year.  I did sneak in a few Chinese films like Finding Mr. Right and Wonderful Nightmare which are almost as good as any Korean offering. Titles from countries whose films I had never seen before include Greece (Committed) the Netherlands (Admiral) and a gorgeous new Netflix series from Brazil (The Most Beautiful Thing). Overall, I felt this year was kind of hit or miss for this category, but still find foreign movies to be a wonderful experience in exposing me to other cultures.

Documentaries – 10 Total

All of my documentary choices were once again about classic cinema figures. Tea with the Dames is the most unique and may not qualify fully as a documentary as it presents four of Britain’s top actresses in a long conversation about their lives. I was super excited about this, but felt like it would have been better with more narrative context to help me understand the ladies conversations better. Otherwise, I found the documentaries on the early cinematographers and the making of Gone With the Wind to be the most interesting. That is probably because it taught me a lot about the technical aspects of film that I didn’t know and which will enhance future movie experiences.

  • John Ford: The Man Who Invented America
  • Image Makers:The Adventures of America’s Earliest Cinematographers
  • Ava Gardner: The Gypsy of Hollywood
  • The Great Buster: A Celebration
  • 1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year
  • The Divine Garbo
  • Tea with the Dames
  • James Stewart, Robert Mitchum: The Two Faces of America
  • The Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind.
SERIES – 20 Total 

I watched twenty new series or mini-series this year and looked forward to the new seasons of old favorites like Doc Martin, This is Us, The Good Karma Hospital, Call the Midwives, Suits, The Crown, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and more. If it airs on PBS or is available on Acorn or Britbox, chances are I will watch it.

Of all this years categories of entertainment, I feel that I had the most consistent experience with series. There were one or two that didn’t appeal to me,  but overall the quality and engagement factor were very high. That says a lot, especially since series require a bigger time commitment than films.

Feature Films

I didn’t make it to the theater too often this year. Partly because there weren’t that many films to interest me and partly because of my schedule. For the most part I enjoyed every title I made time for. I did get to see two of my favorite classics on the big screen, Gone With the Wind and My Fair Lady and it was a memorable experience.

  • Aladdin
  • Yesterday
  • Downton Abbey
  • Tolkien
  • Avengers: End Game
  • Captain Marvel
  • Green Book
  • Knives Out
  • Aladdin
  • Jumanji: The Next Level
  • It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • Little Women

I also made it a point to play catch up on titles I wanted to see in the theater but wasn’t able to as well as making time to check out some of Netflix original films such as: Book Club, Ladies in Black, Professor and the Madman, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ladies in Black, The Beautiful Fantastic, Mary Poppins Returns, Running For Grace, Breakthrough, Finding Your Feet, Juliet Naked, The Mule, A Little Chaos, Argo, Much Ado About Nothing and Murder Mystery

Favorite Film Discoveries

And of course I saved the best for last . Of all the titles I watched in 2019 and those I discussed in this post, these were my favorites.

    • Mum – A lovely series about grief and aging starring period favorite Lesley Manville.
    • Yesterday – Probably my favorite new release in years. I loved the intermingling of the Beatles music with a meaningful story and character arc.
    • Ladies in Black – This Australian picture is a quiet coming of age story that surprised me in a good way.
    • Mr. Sunshine -I’ve already mentioned my obsession with this Netflix produced series. I binge-watched eighteen hours in one day. I didn’t love the ending, but I did love the historical setting and the performances.
    • Wild Orchids – I never thought one of Garbo’s films would make this list, but I swooned over Nils Asther as Garbo’s co-star.
    • The Indian Doctor – This fish out of water story about a privileged Indian doctor who takes up practice in a Welsh mining town thoroughly charmed me.
    • Operation Mad Ball – An early Jack Lemmon comedy with great supporting character performances.
    • Bedtime Story – I didn’t expect to love this divorce to remarriage comedy starring Loretta Young and Frederic March as much as I did.
    • Tell it to the Judge – This lesser known Rosalind Russell film gave me a lot of laughs.
    • But Not For Me – Despite an intense dislike for a main performance, I thought this was a great film with the aging Clark Gable.
    • Front Page Woman – This was a re-watch for me, but it took a second chance for me to fall for this one. Bette Davis and George Brent show their comic chops as rival reporters who love each other.
    • Wee Willie Winkie – Who knew a Shirley Temple and John Ford collaboration would be so sentimental and sweet. Victor MacLaglen also gives a moving performance
    • The Million Pound Note – How I had never heard of this British comedy starring Gregory Peck, I’ll never know. But it was both clever and witty.
    • The Picture of Dorian Gray – A stunner, I didn’t expect. As soon as I heard George Sanders spouting Oscar Wilde, I knew I would love it.
    • The Big Parade – I was skeptical this two hour WWI silent could hold my attention, but it did with a combination of interesting characters, great cinematography and direction and a sweet romance.
    • Blind Date – This French rom-com surprised me in the best way.  A particular plot device reminded me a bit of the Doris Day film Pillow Talk.
    • Instant Family – Challenging and inspiring this film based on the director’s real life experience as a foster parent made me laugh and cry.
    • Little Women – The newest adaptation exceeded my expectations and managed to tell the story in fresh way. It’s so memorable, I can’t quit thinking about it.

I’m excited at what discoveries I will make in 2020!

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