2019 Was A Good Year For Movies

2019 was by no means immune to having bad movies – Disney live action remakes continue to exist, in defiance of even the basest standard of human decency – but we also got several really good films in the last year. Joker and 1917 stand out as movies that have worked their way into my top five, reminding me in a good way of Inception and Gravity, two films which have (evidently) stuck in my head for 7+ years. Avengers: Endgame is more of a popcorn film, but it was a satisfying finale to a decade-spanning cinematic megaproject, ambitious for its sheer scale even if not for the specific notes it tried to hit. Knives Out proves once and for all that Rian Johnson isn’t bad at making movies, he just hates Star Wars, JJ Abrams, or both.

Movies like Detective Pikachu, Spider-Man: Far From Home, the Lego Movie 2, and Toy Story 4, which could’ve been solid contenders for second best film of the year in most other years, are instead fighting each other to even make it into my top five of 2019. This checks out for 2017, where they’d be fighting Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Lego Batman, and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 for second place behind Logan, 2016, where they’d be fighting Rogue One, Captain America: Civil War, and Zootopia for first (although I never did see Hacksaw Ridge), and 2015, where Inside Out and Mad Max: Fury Road are fighting for first, the Martian has third locked down, but any of the 2019 also-rans could’ve  pretty solidly beat the fourth-place contenders out of the top five, like Age of Ultron and Ant Man. Funny enough, 2018 was also more crowded with good top five contenders, giving us all of Black Panther, Into the Spider-Verse, and Infinity War, but while these can all soundly trounce 2019’s also-rans, they compare less well against 2019’s own best movies. Particularly, the Infinity War vs. Endgame comparison isn’t kind to Infinity War.

This isn’t changing the world of cinema forever or anything. Film historians aren’t going to look back at 2019 and say “we’ll never have another year like that again.” If you could find a way to chart movie good-ness by year, 2019 would probably show up as noticeably above the trendline, but probably not as some massive, unprecedented spike. For starters, I already mentioned that 2018 holds up a pretty tough fight, and I only checked back to 2015. I’d be very surprised if you didn’t get a year about as good as 2019 once every decade-ish. But still, 2019 is the best year we’ve had for movies in a while.

Of course, about half the legs on this thesis can be knocked out if 1917 is actually a 2020 release. I’m counting it as a 2019 movie because both its worldwide premier and its American release were December, but there were other nations that got it in 2020, so you could list it as a 2020 film and that wouldn’t be inaccurate either. Joker is still a stand-out movie, but lots of years have stand-out movies. I still think 2019 is above par even without the one-two punch of both Joker and 1917, but it’s definitely less decisive if it has to ride more on Endgame (which is itself riding on every Marvel movie that came before it) and a slightly bigger crop of good second-place contenders to fill out its top five.

You’ve also probably noticed that I don’t watch all movies, or even all good movies, and there’s some good 2019 movies that I haven’t listed. But, like, there’s also movies from the other years that I’ve heard good things about but did not actually see, and that a good deal of my thesis rests on two absolutely fantastic movies coming out in the same year, so I’m reasonably confident my thesis is going to hold even on closer examination.

Office Space

I’m super short on time lately. Not, like, “I don’t even have ten minutes spare,” but definitely to the point where getting an hour or two spare is getting very difficult. So I wanted to watch Office Space, a classic movie that came out when I was seven and which I still haven’t seen, realized that this was going to occupy the time I usually have for reading Conan the Indomitable for a blog post, and decided hey, I could write a blog post about Office Space instead, Conan will still be there tomorrow.

So Office Space is a 1999 movie about a guy who works at a generic 90s tech company and they’re bringing in some consultants to figure out who to fire. Our protagonist hates his job because his job is mired in pointless bureaucracy. He has eight bosses (the movie does not, unfortunately, then require him to traverse the grass world, desert world, ocean world, ice world, lava world circuit to kill them all), and they only ever talk to him about getting the right cover on TPS reports. The plot starts when Jimmy Protagonist’s girlfriend brings him to a hypnotherapist, who hypnotizes him into forgetting all his worries, and then has a heart attack before he can break the trance, putting Jimmy in a completely relaxed state permanently (hypnosis doesn’t actually work this way, incidentally, the trance wears off in like an hour if it’s not maintained, but it’s the premise of the movie, so we’ll roll with it). As a result, he barely comes into work, does basically nothing while he’s there, but the consultants absolutely love him and convince one of his bosses to give him a promotion while firing his two friends, who have actually been showing up to work. This snaps him out of the trance and leads to a scheme to steal money from the company. Hilarity ensues when the scheme goes wrong and the three risk getting caught, until an entirely unrelated disgruntled employee burns the building down, destroying all the evidence that a crime ever occurred and, through an unlikely coincidence, ends up with all the stolen money. The weird thing is the smoothness of the switch from a movie about a guy hypnotized out of all his work worries to a movie about a guy stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his abusive workplace.

Despite being the origin of the “that’d be real great” meme and the two Bobs brought in to consult being parodied in multiple places across the internet, Office Space is weirdly lacking in real laugh out loud moments or quotable lines. What it has is a really good sense of atmosphere. Just like the drudgery of the terrible workplace it’s making fun of, the comedy of Office Space accumulates over time, coming together to form an experience far stronger than any of its individual moments. No one moment of the abuse heaped up on the eventual arsonist is particularly hilarious, but as a running gag spaced across the entire movie, it’s great. The whole “that’d be real great” line from the movie isn’t really funny and I don’t know how it turned into a meme, but as one part of the terrible boss performance that stretches across the whole movie, it works.

I ended up liking Office Space better than movies which actually made me laugh, even though it didn’t. Funny thing is, I don’t think Office Space is really that much better of a movie than the rest, I just think it’s different enough that I’d rather have one Office Space than one more Groundhog Day or Anchorman or whatever. It kind of reminds me of how Simpsons jokes were, back in the days when they were actually good, structured such that it was impossible to stick a laugh track on, because the joke had multi-layered punchlines where one punchline serves as the setup for the next, chained together three or four times. Office Space is that, but with each joke spaced out over a 90 minute movie, all running in parallel.