Movies Watched, December 2019

Still from “Knives Out”

December seems like a long time ago but I’m only now recapping my movie watching for that month—and for all of last year. Time flies.

Amid a bunch of travel, I watched twenty-four films and got out to the theaters five times. One of those excursions was to see “The Rise of Skywalker”—some coworkers had a free ticket, so I figured what the heck? After the previous two installments in this franchise, I’d already mostly given up on “Star Wars” ever offering anything of redeeming cinematic value, but this undercut even my already low expectations—a true stinker.

Out of some kind of misplaced loyalty to the notion of “Star Wars” that I still recall fondly from my youth, I went back to see if I could possibly rediscover something likable about the “The Last Jedi,” but no dice—I couldn’t even get past the first thirty minutes. Mostly I was awed by the fact that such a misshapen mess could have come from the same writer and director, Rian Johnson, who just gave us “Knives Out,” which is practically the exact inverse: a taut, hilarious, economical little mystery-comedy. Johnson’s films rarely demand much in the way of thinking on the part of viewers but this contemporary whodunit works harder and more conscientiously than most films in recent memory to take its audience on a true joyride. It was one of the best things I saw all year.

Speaking of bests of the year, I was feeling kind of bad about having gotten all the way to the end of January without having recapped my favorites of 2019. But then I looked back at last year’s list and saw that I didn’t get to my overview of 2018 until February 2019 anyway. So expect that soonish.

Here are all twenty-four films I watched in December.

  1. Okja” (2017) ★★½
    Very respectable until the English-speaking actors start acting.
  2. The Wolf’s Call” (2019) ★★★½
    A French “Hunt for Red October” and a solid dad movie.
  3. Rounders” (1998) ★★★★
    Rewatched. I didn’t realize how good this script was.
  4. Thirst” (2009) ★★
    There hasn’t been a truly decent vampire movie in decades.
  5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016) ★★★
    Rewatched. The only worthwhile installment since, well, “The Empire Strikes Back.”
  6. Harakiri” (1962) ★★★★★
    Starkly rendered, beautifully told samurai fable.
  7. He Ran All the Way” (1951) ★★½
    One of those noirs in which the characters are all dumb as a rock.
  8. Tokyo Story” (1953) ★★★★
    Searingly human tale of grown children and aging parents.
  9. Samurai Rebellion” (1967) ★★★★
    Anatomy of a moral tragedy.
  10. Knives Out” (2019) ★★★★
    One hundred percent pure entertainment.
  11. Marriage Story” (2019) ★★★½
    Impeccably directed but distractingly preoccupied with lives of privilege.
  12. Uncut Gems” (2019) ★★★★
    More successfully distortive than most fantasy movies, and also happens to finally solve the question of what to do with the Adam Sandler persona.
  13. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (2019) ★
    Intergalactic garbage.
  14. Klaus” (2019) ★★★
    Insofar as holiday specials go, not half bad.
  15. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx” (1972) ★★
    Episodic, not in a particularly beneficial way.
  16. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” (1993) ★★½
    Decent ideas, substandard animation.
  17. The Wedding Guest” (2018) ★★★★
    An off kilter thriller set in South Asia. Not for everyone, but I adored it.
  18. A Hard Day’s Night” (1964) ★★★★½
    Rewatched with my kid for the first time. She was enchanted.
  19. Frozen II” (2019) ★★
    All of Disney’s number crunching and strategy decks pretty much worked this time.
  20. The Souvenir” (2019) ★★★★
    Absolutely nails its milieu.
  21. The Art of Self-Defense” (2019) ★★★
    In the proud tradition of indie absurdity.
  22. Murder on the Orient Express” (2017) ★★★
    A bit self-serious, but I enjoyed it.
  23. Abominable” (2019) ★½
    Aside from its transparent pitch for the Chinese market, this is a movie utterly lacking any specific qualities.
  24. School of Rock” (2004) ★★★★★
    Rewatched. A masterpiece.

This is the latest roundup of my monthly movie consumption. You can also see what I watched in November, in October, in September, in August, in July, in June, in May, in April, in March, in February, in January and a full list of everything I watched in 2018, in 2017 and in 2016. And, if you’re really interested, you can follow along with my movie diary at