2019: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched

OK, so originally, this was going to just be a “Top Movies Watched In 2019” list, like what I had done for last year, and that was going to be that. However, after thinking everything through, I thought I’d throw in a quick bit of “Year In Review” as well, just for the fun of it (and I’ve also gone back and altered last year’s as well to reflect that change). Starting off 2019, for my regular reviews, I continued on with some of the remaining Bing Crosby film reviews, as well as including various movies I had been given for both Christmas and my birthday (working in the handful of Errol Flynn movies that I have). In finishing off the year, I also started working my through Ginger Roger’s filmography (at least, those I own on disc), with more to come in 2020. And of course, I threw in a few film noirs for “Noir-vember,” along with some more Christmas oriented movies for most of December. Considering I was making up for a few newer releases from 2018 that I had gotten (but hadn’t reviewed yet), since doing this blog has certainly been a process of figuring out what I wanted to do and making those changes, I probably continued longer with those 2018 releases on Wednesdays than I normally would be doing. Plus, with 2019 being the 80th anniversary of 1939, that classic year considered by some to be one of Hollywood’s best years, I threw in one 1939 movie per month. While I am obviously not done yet with films from that great year, going forward they will be back to being amongst the regular Sunday reviews (or Wednesdays, when there are any new releases). Of course, among some of my special posts this year were my celebratory 100th post with my list of the Top 10 Dance Routines, a delayed post on the Crosby/Hope Road series, the screen teams of Frank Sinatra &Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire & Cyd Charisse, and a few comparisons of classic comedies and their musical remakes. About the only other thing I can think of is the switch for my video reviews (on FB) to my new YouTube channel (although those videos are me pretty much using my posts as a script, so there is little need for them unless you want to hear the sultry sound of my voice 😉 ). Of course, to truly keep up with what I am watching, I would definitely suggest keeping up with my FB fan page.

And with all that said, here’s my list, for what I think are some of the best movies I watched in the year 2019, culled from the list of 2019 Reviews, plus 2018 releases reviewed after January 1, 2019 and 2019 releases reviewed before December 30, 2019.  While I was able to enjoy watching a great many movies, some new and some I’ve seen before, the movies on this list are those I enjoyed the most, and would recommend to anybody that is interested!  And if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie titles to go to Amazon and support this site!

  1. Easter Parade (1948) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In the only film that teamed up Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, Fred plays a dancer who tries to take on a new partner when his old partner decides to break up the act and go solo. A wonderful musical that’s fun to watch any time of the year, whether for Easter, spring, or just any time, with music by the incomparable Irving Berlin! Full review here.
  2. My Fair Lady (1964) (CBS Home Entertainment, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison star in this classic musical based on the Broadway show!With many wonderful songs, including “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “On The Street Where You Live,” you can’t go wrong with this movie! Full review here.
  3. Swing Time (1936) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The sixth Astaire-Rogers film, and one of their best-known! With music by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields including the classic Oscar-winning tune “The Way You Look Tonight,’ plus others, it’s hard to go wrong with this one, now that it looks better yet on Blu-ray! Full review here.
  4. The Story Of Vernon & Irene Castle (1939) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The ninth Astaire-Rogers film, and the final one for RKO Studios, finds them playing the real-life husband-and-wife dance team of Vernon & Irene Castle. A lot of fun seeing how that couple influenced a lot of things in the world of dance, with equally fun period music to go along with it! Full review here.
  5. Lovely To Look At (1952) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The second filmed version of the Broadway show Roberta, this film again deals with a man (played by Red Skelton) inheriting a French dress shop from his aunt. With the wonderful music of Jerome Kern, some fantastic dancing provided by husband-and-wife dance team Marge and Gower Champion, some great singing from Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, plus Red Skelton’s comedy, it’s hard to go wrong with this wonderful movie! Full review here.
  6. Silk Stockings (1957) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Fred Astaire’s final musical for nearly a decade, and his second team-up with Cyd Charisse. She plays a Russian commissar sent to bring back a Russian composer who is working on an American film by producer Steve Canfield (Fred Astaire). With many wonderful Cole Porter tunes, including “All Of You,” Ritz, Roll And Rock” and many others, this is an absolutely wonderful movie! Full review here.
  7. Rose-Marie (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The second film featuring America’s “singing sweethearts,” Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, finds her going after her convict brother (played by James Stewart, no less) in the Canadian wilderness, with a Canadian mountie (Nelson Eddy) close behind. With some classic music, including what is probably the BEST version of “Indian Love Call,” this class is a winner, and one of the best MacDonald-Eddy films! Full review here.
  8. Maytime (1937) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • For their third outing together, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson returned in a Viennese operetta first done on stage nearly twenty years before. With the one song returning from that show, “Will You Remember,” that alone makes the movie worth watching (but the rest of the movie is pretty good, too)! Full review here.
  9. Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The classic Judy Garland musical, all about the Smith family in 1903 St. Louis, with the then-upcoming World’s Fair! With classic music such as “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “The Trolley Song” and more, it’s hard to go wrong with this movie! Full review here.
  10. Footlight Parade (1933) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this Busby Berkeley musical, James Cagney is a showman trying to put on short prologues to be shown on stage between movies. With several classic musical numbers, including “By A Waterfall” and “Shanghai Lil,” and a new restoration from Warner Archive, this movie is a lot of fun! Full review here.

Honorable mentions: Hello, Dolly! (1969) (20th Century Fox/Disney, Blu-ray), Vivacious Lady (1938) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD), The Thin Man (1934) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray)

So thank you all for sticking with me in 2019, and I wish you a Happy New Year as we head into 2020! And please let me know what movies you’ve enjoyed this year as well (whether those you’ve seen or whatever movies I’ve reviewed, whatever works for you)!

Previous Years:

2018

Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2019

Here’s the list you have been waiting for, on what I think are some of the best releases for 2019, giving new life to old classics and forgotten gems!  Again, my thoughts are coming ONLY from what I have been able to see myself. I do NOT receive screeners of any kind (nor, quite frankly, would I want to), these are all movies I myself bought. These are chosen from among the 2019 releases I have seen, as of 11/27/2019.  And if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie titles to go to Amazon!

  1. Swing Time (1936) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers star in their sixth film together, with him playing a dancer and a gambler, who falls for a dance teacher. The transfer on the new Blu-ray may not be pristine, but the movie looks better than I’ve seen it previously, and just makes all the wonderful dances just look that much better! Full review here.
  2. Footlight Parade (1933) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • James Cagney and Joan Blondell star in this classic Busby Berkeley musical, about a man trying to create prologues for movie theaters. The Blu-ray restoration shines, and is never more evident than with Busby Berkeley’s wonderful musical numbers! Full review here.
  3. The Thin Man (1934) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The classic screwball mystery featuring William Powell and Myrna Loy. A fun mystery, but the real enjoyment is in watching the relationship of the two main stars and their antics. While this movie hasn’t looked great in a long time, the recent Warner Archive Blu-ray has brought this film back to life! Easily one of the best film restorations of the year! Full review here.
  4. The Major And The Minor (1942) (Arrow Films, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Ginger Rogers stars in this Billy Wilder-directed comedy about a woman posing as a 12-year-old girl as she tries to get home, and is delayed by an army major at a military academy. A wonderful comedy, and one that looks so much better in the new Blu-ray release from Arrow films! Full review here.
  5. Summer Stock (1950) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Judy Garland’s last film at MGM, and her third film teaming her up with Gene Kelly as a pair who put on a show in her family’s barn! While not a perfect film due to stuff going on behind the scenes, the new Blu-ray release shows off the look of the 3-strip Technicolor, and makes the movie seem just that much better! Full review here.
  6. Jezebel (1938) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Bette Davis stars in one of her Oscar winning roles as the vain Southern belle Julie Marsden, as she goes against tradition and chases after Henry Fonda’s Pres Dillard in 1850s New Orleans. For this release, Warner Archives did a lot or work to restore it when it hasn’t looked good in a long time, and their work has really paid off with a fantastic restoration that makes this release easy to recommend! Full review here.
  7. The Kid Brother (1927) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this Harold Lloyd silent comedy, he stars as the son of the town sheriff, who must now deal with the problems that arise when he signs some permits in place of his father allowing a traveling medicine show to perform in town. With this release boasting a new restoration of the movie that looks fantastic in high definition, outside of a few scratches here and there, but some fun bonus features, including two of Harold’s earlier shorts, I can’t help but recommend this set! Full review here.
  8. Notorious (1946) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 9/10)
    • Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant star in this Alfred Hitchcock film about the daughter of a Nazi conspirator who tries to help an American agent take don some Nazis living in South America. With a new restoration for the second go-round on Blu-ray, this movie looks fantastic, and is definitely the way to go for this movie! Full review here.
  9. Road To Singapore (1940) (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, My Rating: 9/10)
    • The first film in the Road series, with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour as the two men escape impending marriages as they make their way towards Singapore. The transfer on Kino’s new Blu-ray release looks fantastic, and is easily the best way to see this movie! Full review here.
  10. Detour (1945) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 9/10)
    • In this classic noir starring Tom Neal and Ann Savage, he is a pianist hitchhiking his way across the country when he accidentally kills the man he is traveling with and is forced to take over his identity. Due to being in the public domain, this movie has lloked terrible for a long time, but this recent restoration looks fantastic! Certainly the best way to see this wonderful movie! Full review here.

Honorable mentions: Road To Zanzibar (1941) (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray), Road To Morocco (1942) (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray), Stand-In (1937) (Classicflix, Blu-ray and DVD)

Honestly, though, it’s hard not to say that this has been a fantastic year of releases! A lot of the labels have really been upping their game this year when it comes to releases of many classic and obscure older movies. My own opinion is that the Warner Archive Collection has come out the best of everybody. After a couple years of mainly focusing on titles made in 1954 and later on Blu-ray (with the occasional pre-1954 title here and there), WAC has dug into their library to release a number of classic titles from the forties this year, and released a few from the thirties, the first time in four years the decade has been represented on Blu-ray from them, and all three titles were well worth it! Plus, in digging into Summer Stock, they have released their first new-to-Blu-ray pre-1954 MGM musical (marking the first time since Warner Home Video stopped releasing catalog titles on blu after 2015 that era of musicals has been represented on the format from Warner’s library). They even released a few movies on DVD I’ve long been waiting for on the format (although I haven’t quite managed to get my hands on them yet). Honestly, the only complaint I have with their releases is that they only released two new-to-blu musicals this year (since that is one of my favorite genres), but otherwise they have had a great year!

And of course, they’re not the only ones with a good year, either! Kino Lorber has been digging into the Universal library through their licensing deal with them, releasing a number of great films (plus a few obscure ones), with 2020 looking to bring even more! Criterion has had many good releases through their licenses with all the studios, plus some classic silent comedies making their debut with new restorations! And while Classicflix has had to pull back on how much they have been releasing, they still continue to maintain their high levels of quality in their releases, making it easy to try their films (most of which, I hadn’t even heard of before they announced them). And labels like Shout Factory and Arrow Films have both been delving into a number of Universal-owned classics, the first time either label’s Blu-ray releases have appealed to me! All in all, a great year of releases (and not enough time/money to keep up with all of them)! I can only hope 2020 looks this good!

Previous years:

2018

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Footlight Parade (1933)

“By a waterfall, I’m calling you-hoo-hoo-hoo” so we can get into the classic 1933 Busby Berkeley musical Footlight Parade starring James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell!

Chester Kent (James Cagney) has been producing musical shows on the stage, but with the advent of talking pictures, he finds audiences don’t want to see them. After his producing partners show him a prologue (short little stage shows shown in between movies) and he stops at a chain drugstore for some aspirin, he gets the idea that producing prologues for many theaters would be cheaper than producing for one, and his partners like the idea. Their studio becomes a success, but Chester’s partners have no trouble cheating him out of the profits while he is continually trying to come up with ideas for prologues, especially when the competition is stealing his ideas through spies in the company. His secretary, Nan Prescott (Joan Blondell), is secretly in love with him, and does what she can to help get him out of trouble. They are given the opportunity to sign with Appolinaris (Paul Porcasi), who would use the prologues in many of his theatres, but they have to come up with three different prologues to test on audiences before he will sign.

Following the success of both 42nd Street and Gold Diggers Of 1933, Footlight Parade was put into production. James Cagney, who had been a song-and-dance man on the stage but had quickly become typecast as a gangster in the movies after his role in The Public Enemy, campaigned hard to get a role in this movie after seeing the success of the previous films. Obviously, he got the part, and he was teamed up with his then-frequent co-star Joan Blondell, a pairing that had worked since they both came to Hollywood a few years earlier to do Sinner’s Holiday (which they had done on Broadway). Of course, continuing on from the previous two films onscreen were Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell and Guy Kibbee, with 42nd Street director Lloyd Bacon returning. And, of course, Busby Berkeley, trying to figure out what to do next after his work on the previous films.

Personally, I consider this movie the best of the Busby Berkeley movies from the thirties for two reasons: James Cagney and the song “By A Waterfall.” “By A Waterfall” was Berkeley’s big number for this film, making use of an 80-by-40 foot swimming pool, and lighting that helps emphasize some of the various formations that the swimmers do. Of course, the song itself is a lot of fun and quite catchy, too! And getting to see another James Cagney musical is just as fun! Here, we get to see his style of dancing, as opposed to when he was trying to dance like the real George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy. Honestly, my biggest complaint with this movie is that we don’t get to see enough of him dancing! He mainly does most of his dancing to demonstrate what he wants with the different prologues, and his only musical number is the final “Shanghai Lil” (which I would say is probably the second best song in the movie), in which he dances with Ruby Keeler for about a minute and is otherwise doing some of the formations choreographed by Busby Berkeley (word of warning, though, as Ruby Keeler is made up to look a bit more Chinese for “Shanghai Lil”). For the most part, the movie is mostly a comedy more than a musical, as there is maybe one song before the final half hour (which is almost entirely comprised of three big musical numbers). Overall, a very fun movie and highly recommended!! (of course, as a pre-Code, there are enough elements in this movie that there is a little room for debate about how kid-friendly it is, but adults should definitely be able to enjoy this movie)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. Regarding the transfer for this new release, it looks FANTASTIC!! Seriously, I don’t know what else to say, as the team at WAC has done their usual phenomenal work here, and I only hope it sells well enough for them to work on the rest of the Busby Berkeley films (not to mention some of their other 30s musicals)!

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #2 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2019

**ranked #10 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Public Enemy (1931)James CagneyAngels With Dirty Faces (1938)

Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) – Joan Blondell – Stand-In (1937)

Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) – Dick Powell – In The Navy (1941)

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