Monday, December 2, 2019

Bengies Top 10 2019

Here we go again, another movie-viewing year in the books, and I'm reviewing photos of the Bengies marquee to decide my favorites for the season, which ran from March through November.

I've done this for a few year (links to prior posts below; okay, it's nearly 20 years now). My ground rules are: (1) the movie played at the Bengies Drive-In this calendar year, and (2) I watched it. The only minor exception has been movies I didn't see completely, whether due to waiting in line at the "sparkling refreshment stand", or nodding off to sleep for a few minutes, or, in rare cases, leaving the theater before credits rolled. With late night trippple features, that last caveat cannot be understated. Also, the movie could have been released in prior year.

When I started thinking of hit movies this year, no standouts came to mind. Ever more sequels, reboots, and franchises that blur together like a fused 35mm frame. While I think the Bengies had a better season weather-wise this year than last, I missed the weeks where the triumvirate of Aladdin, Toy Story and Lion King dominated the big screen. As noted below, I only saw one of those 3. Without little kids to escort, a double feature of only Disney fare isn't enticing enough to queue up. When shown as the early show in a mixed tableau however, I'm there.

Of the marquees shown in this post, I made it through 2 complete triple feature nights, a few more double features, and even stayed for just one more than once.

Numbers 1 to 3:

In the top 3 are: Once Upon a Time in HollywoodDora + The Lost City of Gold, and Terminator Dark Fate. Not quite a 3-way tie, as I think Terminator wasn't as enjoyable as the other 2. T:DF is nearly pure grindhouse fare, worth every bit of popcorn I consumed.

I particularly liked the scene in Dora where an odd substance consumption flipped the characters into an alternate universe à la Alice in Wonderland. Not quite fitting for the wholesome family values of the Scout weekend, as if anyone else noticed the dosing (the marquee with Dora is below).

Tarantino aimed for the big screen story, with 60's Hollywood theaters and marquees figuring into the scene-within-the-scenes, the opposite of breaking the fourth wall where there's 3 other walls inside the standard 3. List of locations here [ ] that details the L.A. movie palaces including the Aquarius Theatre, Cinerama Dome, Fox Bruin Theatre + Fox Village Theatre, Pussycat Theatre, Vine Theatre, and the Vogue Theatre.

Next 3

Picks Three through Five include Green BookGemini Man, and Avengers Endgame. We were fortunate to see the first on the Bengies opening night in March. I'd heard about the plot over the winter, meaning it spoiled my ability to see a flick without preconceived notions. As a result, not quite as enjoyable as it might have been. Whether it deserved best picture Oscar is beyond me.

Gemini Man played late in the season, and like Green Book early, I'd heard a bit of the plot, particularly the different recording methods for each of the characters Will Smith plays. Knowing they are the same right from the start when the players on stage don't was disconcerting.

For Avengers, I was more fortunate in avoiding spoilers. On the other hand, it was predictable that the doomsday cliff hanger ending of the prior episode would unwind in typical comic book show must go on fashion. Who lives, who dies, and who stayed in limbo was the primary reveal. Alas, creating one after another do-or-die fight left me yearning for less, not more, of the story. Cannot fault the special effects in the most expensive and expansive blockbuster series out there, especially on the giant outdoor screen (3 Avengers movies are in the top 4 most costly productions per wikipedia; arguable if the Pirates series tops them).

Next 4

Last but not least this year are four more features, rounding out my top ten. This set was probably harder to sort out than the first 6 since I had more than 10 candidates for my list, and leftovers here would fall off the list rather than precipitate lower. I may still mention the almost-rans (definitely one for sure).

Three movies played at the 8th Annual Scout Camp-In at the Bengies this year. I've picked Dora in the top 3. The other 2 were Toy Story 4, and SpiderMan Far From Home, as shown in the marquee shot above. In a toss-up, I kept SpiderMan above the fold, and dropped Toy Story, one sequel too many (or two maybe). I missed Into The Spiderverse at the Bengies, which I think tops Far From Home. The twist of Spidey giving up a Tony Stark toy seemed a bit lame but workable enough. Another reason I get this in the top 10 was I saw it twice in 2019, and it held up on rewatch.

Shazam had a fresh take on superheroism, and not too close to the storyline of Big to matter.

Another Men in Black franchise, without Will Smith? Well. okay. I like goofy alien stories, always have since the days of Retief [ see, e.g.: ]. Was expecting more cameos (or any) and in-jokes. Bonus: Emma Thompson.

Finally, in the end of the season Halloween fright move genre, but more family friendly: The Addams Family. With animation comes the ability to exaggerate their physical even more than makeup, prosthetics and CGI could do, yet risks making it just a weird movie not having a story. Their nemesis as a real estate developer trying to manipulate public opinion is so dead-on it makes this episode a necessary (not evil) inclusion in the 2019 top ten.

Almost Ran

Missed most of Captain Marvel after seeing The Avengers. It was late, the first showing was exhausting for several reasons, and for some reason the pumpkin spice or French vanilla cappuccino didn't trigger the stay awake syndrome.

Shown in a few marquees above, shows that didn't make the top ten that I liked anyway:

  • Abominable
  • How to Train Your Dragon (3)
  • Godzilla (2)
  • Pokemon Detective Pikachu
  • Toy Story (4)

All night show Labor Day weekend, also missed due to conflicts.

Not quite seen:

Elf and The Apartment ran November 30th, as the post-season-ending holiday special. We showed up for the lunch and small business sale in the afternoon, but had a conflict later and missed this show. Probably would have enjoyed the late show more than the early.

The Secret Life of Pets (2) would have been good, given the first installment.