2019 at the movies: Scorsese vs Marvel, ‘Joker,’ and Netflix rising

Photo: Netflix

It may not be surprising that the top film in 2019 at the American box office, “Avengers: Endgame,” was a Marvel superhero movie.

The top ten list for the year also included familiar themes, with other superhero movies, sequels and Disney remakes, and some checking more than one of those boxes. The only outlier was the Jordan Peele horror film “Us,” which came in at number ten.

But the year might better be remembered for some other storylines.

“Joker” could be said to fall into the superhero category, but was made as a throwback gritty 1970s movie. It made waves with themes of violence that some considered dangerous. Audiences seemed to like it more than critics, as it made over $300 million in the U.S. and $1 billion worldwide.

Netflix continued its push into making prestige films that contend during awards season. Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” was streaming shortly after opening in a limited number of movie theaters, and was watched by over 26 million people worldwide in its first week online, Netflix announced.

The mobster epic — starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci — was called a masterpiece by many critics, and called too long by others. But it has started to rack up award nominations, and seems likely be a major contender at the Oscars.

Another Netflix movie with major awards buzz is “Marriage Story,” by filmmaker Noah Baumbach and starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. Along with two other Netflix films, “The Two Popes” and “Dolemite Is My Name,” starring Eddie Murphy, the streaming giant recently got four of the 10 nominations in the Golden Globes’ two best film categories.

Scorsese had a second notable film on Netflix this year, the captivating “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story,” which playfully weaved in fictional anecdotes with footage of Dylan touring and performing in 1975.

Yet another Scorsese story in 2019 was his declaration that Marvel movies aren’t cinema, and that they seem closer to being theme parks than movies. This led to just about everyone in Hollywood weighing in on the topic, some siding with Scorsese and others defending Marvel movies.

Quentin Tarantino had critical and box office success this year with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” set in 1969 and without any superheroes, though it was packed with movie stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie.

Tarantino’s movie will likely be in contention on Oscar night, along with “Parasite,” the Korean-language film by director Bong Joon-ho about themes of class and economic inequality, which has gotten critical acclaim and made over $120 million worldwide.

Women directors made some of the year’s notable films, but were shut out of the Golden Globes nominations (again). Such films included “The Farewell,” “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” “Harriet,” and “Hustlers,” which featured a lauded performance by Jennifer Lopez.

And there is “Uncut Gems,” a December release directed by the Safdie brothers about a gambling-addicted jeweler in New York City. Adam Sandler has been getting love from critics for his lead performance, even winning best actor from the National Board of Review, so maybe 2019 was a shocking year in movies, after all.

This story first appeared on amny.com.