above: Les Bonnes Femmes (1960)
I saw 102 movies on the big screen in 2019. That's a quite a dip from my all-time high of 126 movies in 2018. Not that it's about numbers, of course. (Though to be honest keeping count of my moviegoing is as close as I get to playing sports.)
I began the year with a bang, seeing BLUEBEARD'S EIGHTH WIFE (1938) in Paris. For a Gary Cooper fan, to see one of my favorites among his comedies on the big screen in Paris was a joyful experience. The last film I saw this year was Terence Malick's beautiful A HIDDEN LIFE (2019), a profound work of Christian humanism, and his best film in years.
My favorite new films this year, aside from A HIDDEN LIFE, were (in no particular order) the hilarious and horrifying PARASITE, the empathetic divorce drama MARRIAGE STORY, the loving documentary tribute THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES, the loving biopic tribute JUDY, the irresistible HUSTLERS, and the darkly elegiac THE IRISHMAN. My favorite blockbuster was ENDGAME, which did the big bloated blockbuster thing about as well as it can be done. My favorite overlooked movie of the year was MARY MAGDALENE, a feminist retelling of the gospel story featuring compelling performances from Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix (whose turn as Jesus was far more nuanced than his work as Joker).
As is always the case, I've seen a lot more old movies than new ones this year. (The benefits of living in Chicago, a town that loves its repertory movie programming.) Highlights included a retrospective of all four of Bogart/Bacall vehicles, an all-night program of four Dolly Parton movies (9 to 5, THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS, RHINESTONE, and STRAIGHT TALK), Chabrol's shocking LES BONNES FEMMES, and three Judy Garland films (EASTER PARADE, THE CLOCK, and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS). I also got to see a lot of noir, including IN A LONELY PLACE, SUDDEN FEAR, PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET, PUSHOVER, THE RED HOUSE, REPEAT PERFORMANCE, and both versions of THE KILLERS.
All in all, it was a hell of a year at the movies. Hope to match it this year...and maybe get those numbers up.