The 2019 summer has come to an end and it included the finale of both the “Avengers” series and the “X-Men” franchise, with one being far more successful than the other. Along with the action movies, there were a few indie gems out there that made the past few months really good.
Since some of these flicks might get overlooked during award season, they’re going to get some recognition in my award ceremony.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Poetic. Hypnotic. Even dream-like. That’s how “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” can be described. While it is grounded in reality, there’s a sort of mystique in the story-telling and the way it was shot, which gives it a more nuanced layer than just a straightforward drama.
The movie hits a lot of high marks when going down the list of what one wants in a movie. The acting is quite strong and the characters have great character. The music is also phenomenal and the film greatly benefits from a script that shines a spotlight on gentrification, racism and homelessness. Not only is it the best of the summer, it will likely be earning spots on top 10 lists at the end of the year.
Toy Story 4
I can’t say I walked into “Toy Story 4” without some hesitation. The third entry in 2010 seemingly left things off in a good way and completed a well rounded trilogy. However, the crews at Pixar managed to pull off another entry in the beloved franchise.
As expected from the popular studio, the animation is gorgeous, but the visuals aren’t the only positives here. “Toy Story 4” features a fun adventure while the story contains a wonderful subtext about changes in one’s life. The picture is especially boosted by the return of Bo Peep, who kicks all kinds of ass in the flick.
Runner-up: Dora and the Lost City of Gold
The promotional material for “Good Boys” really wasn’t selling me. I figured it would just be two hours of watching these kids swear. However, while that was featured, the movie had a bit more going on.
There were several unexpected moments that go over-the-top in this flick that produce laughs and it even has some heart to go along with all the humor.
Runner-up: Always Be My Maybe
While not being the strongest summer, 2019 still produced some solid action flicks. However, none of them could unseat this heavyweight. Even though “Avengers: Endgame” wasn’t as good as its predecessor, it was still the cinematic action event of a generation.
Because of some amazing action set pieces and how it wraps up an entire saga, “Endgame” earns the top spot for this summer’s action line-up.
Runner-up: John Wick: Chapter 3
Taron Egerton, Rocketman
There were plenty of contenders for this spot, but Egerton really knocked it out of the park with “Rocketman.”
Not only did he do great work in portraying the famous artist, giving him all the passion and vulnerability needed, he was also able to sing and recreate the legendary music. He really powers this biopic.
Runner-up: Leonardo DiCaprio, Once upon a Time in Hollywood
Nora “Awkwafina” Lum, The Farewell
Nora “Awkwafina” Lum had been on a streak as a comedic actress for the past few years, starring in movies such as “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Neighbors 2” and “Ocean’s Eight.” However, in “The Farewell,” she moved into drama territory.
Her performance in the genre was outstanding. In “The Farewell,” Awkwafina plays a reserved woman, who is holding a secret that’s tearing her apart inside. Lum’s layered performance was really impressive and one of the reasons “The Farewell” worked so damn well.
Runner-up: Florence Pugh, Midsommar
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Pitt’s performance as the cool, calm and collected stunt man Cliff was fantastic. He gives off a sort of relaxing vibe with his portrayal and his “go with the flow” attitude he brings to the screen is a perfect contrast with DiCaprio’s character.
Runner-up: Jonathan Majors, Last Black Man in San Francisco
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell
Zhao apparently had no prior acting experience before her work in “The Farewell” according to the Internet Movie Database. Could’ve fooled me. Zhao knocks it out of the park as Billi’s grandmother in this movie, lovingly referred to here as “Nai Nai.”
She’s extremely convincing as the loving grandmother who still manages the family and keeps everybody happy. The performance is outstandingly down to Earth and gives the picture a great measure of relatability.
Runner-up: Margot Robbie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Anthony and Joseph Russo, Avengers: Endgame
This is more of a long-term achievement award. The Russo Brothers duo helmed “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.” Each of those movies are in the upper tier of Marvel Studios’ productions.
The duo was able to transition this huge story, especially in “Infinity War” and “Endgame,” into fantastic movies that were coherent, entertaining and enjoyable overall. It’s quite the cinematic achievement they pulled off.
Runner-up: Joe Talbot, Last Black Man in San Francisco
BEST ACTION SEQUENCE
The Battle of Earth, Avengers: Endgame
There were some entertaining moments featured in this summer’s action library, but nothing compared to this. The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Masters of the Mystic Arts, Asgardians and Ravagers joining forces to defend Earth from Thanos was mind blowing and the action ranged from energy blasts to hand-to-hand combat. It was a brilliant, breath-taking finale.
Runner-Up Museum fight, John Wick: Chapter 3
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
The sound work in Tarantino’s latest feature was fantastic. The movie needed to have a balance of real life noises, 60s television shows and some moments of action here and there.
The sound mixing and editing allows an audience to buy into every sequence, recreating old television or just day-to-day life. The in depth sound work definitely gave the movie more stylized.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
The cinematography in “San Francisco” was stunningly gorgeous. The camera work brought the city to life.
The screen was basically overflowing with character thanks to how well the movie looks and how many city blocks, homes and corridors were captured by the camera.
Runner-up: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
As usual, Quentin Tarantino did fantastic work in penning his latest feature, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” What’s always impressive with Tarantino’s writing is he’s able to incorporate emotional, character driven moments in some scenes, and humorous, witty dialogue in others.
While this isn’t his strongest work, with other entries like “Inglorious Basterds” being better, “Hollywood” stands its own ground. There’s one set of scenes with DiCaprio’s character working on a television set for a new series, and it explores the actor’s struggles while also having moments to lighten the mood.
Runner-up: The Last Black-Man in San Francisco
BEST COMPUTER/VISUAL EFFECTS
Creating the character Thanos with computer graphics and making him appear so lifelike is just one of the many impressive visual features in “Endgame.” The movie had a gigantic budget, and it shows. It’s especially impressive since the movie recreates several sequences from other movies from new angles.
The Battle of Earth was especially great to look at, combining every super hero from the series and showcasing them all on screen was incredible.
Runner-up: The Lion King
BEST STUNT WORK
John Wick 3
According to MovieWeb, Keanu Reeves and many others in the “John Wick” films do their own stunts. Combined with some great choreography, “John Wick 3” easily rises to the top in this category.
The action looks fantastic and considering how many scenes featured over-the-top fights and chases, the stunt work has to be credited. While the character Wick might seem invincible, the characters here aren’t super heroes, and the stunt work helps get that point across well.
A lot of praise has to go to the whole cast and stunt team for their commitment to making the action entertaining and convincing.
Last Black Man in San Francisco
The music featured in “Last Black Man” consistently helped set the mood. Like the cinematography, the soundtrack romanticizes and embraces the city of San Francisco, giving it a character. Because of the subject matter in the picture, the music is also somewhat melancholy, reflecting what’s happening on screen.
The standout piece of music from the film is a magnificent cover of “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” by Michael Marshall.
Courtesies to Universal Pictures, United Artists, Plan B Entertainment, A24, Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate, Walt Disney Motion Pictures, Marvel Studios, Pixar, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures, Ray Productions, New Republic Pictures, Paramount Pictures and The San Francisco Examiner.