The 2019 Howies

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It is the time again to list the best films of the year and give out my awards for The Howies. Please keep your thank you speeches to a reasonable length or the orchestra will play you off.


2019 was an odd year for films. For the first half, even up to September, it was on of the worst years in movies in ages. There seemed little to nothing to like and I despaired of even wanting to create a year end list.


Then something happened. We reached what it is now called in the industry the Oscar season or the Awards season, when the movies that are released are the ones the distributors and production companies believe have the best chance of doing well at the various award ceremonies creeping up on us-especially the Oscars.


Now that in and of itself is no guarantee of quality in film. The Oscars (and other awards that are outside the many critical societies), are generally not the best movies of the year, but the best in middle-brow entertainment with some edginess sneaking in. I don’t look at the Oscars to find out the great films of the year, but to tell me something about Hollywood and the films that are getting made. I mean, c’mon, Greenbook, the edgiest movie on race relations of 1972, won last year and that should tell you everything you need to know.


But somehow this year the best of the year also seems to correspond with the movies that are the strongest contenders for awards. This is a rare event, rarer than all the planets lining up together I would almost venture. Is something in the air or is it just serendipity? I suspect the latter. But happy I am with awards seasons this year.


This doesn’t mean I liked every one of these films. You will find a noticeable absence of The Irishman (poor Scorcese and De Niro-Scorcese thought he had his second Oscar guaranteed and De Niro thought he definitely had another nomination to notch onto his belt-but as of this writing-things can change-both look to be sorely disappointed). But generally speaking, this time around the end of year awards’ films are also of generally high quality. Praise the lord and pass the ammunition.


I have written this in another blog post, but I will repeat. 2019 may be one of the most important years in the new millennium when it comes to American films. Not only has Netflix revolutionized the making and distributing of movies (even more so than last year with Roma), their slate of films equaled that of many or most studios and independent production companies.


But also, the new generation of filmmakers have definitely staked their ground. They have arrived and have had major movies that have been received well critically; made a lot of money; are up for awards; or some combination of the above. From Under the Silver Lake, to the Lighthouse, to Midsommer, to The Last Black Man in San Francisco, to Queen and Slim, to You Were Never Really Here, to Uncut Gems, to the Farewell, to Little Women: they’re here, they’re your peer, get used to it.


As a final note, I have missed many films this year for various reasons. Sometimes financial, but more often, as in these last six weeks, due to some sort of cold or flu I simply can’t get rid of. So I have failed to see what I understand are some strong films. Also, since AFI now costs money to attend, I did not see a number of films I would normally have seen there.


So now on to my list of the best of the best. Seeing as it’s my awards show, I don’t have to limit myself to a certain set of number of entries in each category. I only do the major top categories, plus a couple of special ones. So on to the 2019 Howies:


Best Picture: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:


Jojo Rabbit


Little Women

Marriage Story

Pain and Glory



Uncut Gems


Best Director: Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

Bong Joon-ho – Parasite

Greta Gerwig – Little Women

Todd Philips – Joker

Sam Mendez – 1917

Benny and Josh Safdie – Uncut Gems

Taiki Waititi – Jojo Rabbit


Best Actress: Renee Zellweger – Judy

The remainder in alphabetical order:

Awkwafina – The Farewell

Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story/Jojo Rabbit

Saoirse Ronan – Little Women

Charlize Theron – Bombshell

Zhao Tao – Ash is the Purest White


Best Actor – Joaquin Phoenix – Joker

The remainder in alphabetical order: (an extraordinary year for male performances)

Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory

Roman Griffin Davis – Jojo Rabbit

Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Adam Driver – Marriage Story/The Report

Eddie Murphy – Dolemite is My Name

Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes

Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems


Best Supporting Actress: Margot Robbie – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell

Annette Benning – The Report

Da-Vine Joy Randolph – Dolemite is My Name

Shuzhen Zhao – The Farewell


Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

John Lithgow – Bombshell

Al Pacino – The Irishman

Song Kang-ho – Parasite

Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit


Best Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

Pedro Almodovar – Pain and Glory

Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story

Boon Joon-ho, Jin Won-han – Parasite

Ronald Brownstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – Uncut Gems

Greta Gerwig – Little Women

Todd Phillips, Scott Silver – Joker

Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit


Best Ensemble: Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Parasite


Special Awards:

Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood – Costumes, Production Design

1917 – Cinematography

Little Women – Costumes, Production Design

Jojo Rabbit – Costumes, Production Design

Joker – Production Design



  1. As usual, your Howie nominations tell me which films I still need to see. I have no disagreements, but to reinforce my point about subjectivity, I did read (and (sadly) also watched Marriage Story and I am flummoxed by an intuition that it will probably take home a screenwriting award. I can only assume voters judge screenwriting by looking at the screen, not reading what’s on the page. In this case, I think they made the right choice.

    • It shouldn’t win screenwriting. Best original screenplay will go to Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood probably. Screenplays get judged by reading at contests. But like plays, the awards need to be based on the final screenplay, which means the one on screen or, usually, but not always, the one on opening night. Thanks for the response. I appreciate people taking time to respond.

  2. so, i infer from this post that ur a fan of OUATIH 🙂

    I think its a great film and worthy of lots of praise. That being said, I think that 1917 is also a very worthy choice in the categories of BP and BD, but I’ll still be happy with wins for OUAT.

    Great insight as always Howard!

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