The nominations for “best movies of the year” all come out at the end of the year.

So when do all the best movies generally arrive in theaters? At the end of the year.

That’s not always the case. “Black Panther” was a Marvel best-picture nominee last year and took home three Oscars after a February 2018 release.

While it’s generally the case, we can at the halfway point of 2019 examine what are the best-of-cinema choices this year so far. Those marked with a * can be seen on streaming services and DVD; the others are still in theaters.

‘Avengers: Endgame’

“Avengers: Endgame” is epic, exhilarating and everything you want out of a popcorn movie that generates pure satisfaction. Marvel brings together all the heroes of its first 21 movies and makes a movie that in some ways is unlike all the others. Think of much of the first hour as “Avengers: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder,” with a reverence for those lost, depression for those who survived and lives forever changed. By the third hour, it’s a remarkable combination of soulful humanity, timely comedy and battles, and it’s all breathlessly edited into one moment of cheering, laughing and near-weeping after another. Remarkable.

‘Us’*

Equal parts terrifying horror movie and disturbing social experiment. Writer-director Jordan Peele makes us think about divisions in our society, about the haves and the have-nots in our country and about how those divides can create monsters. While the filmmaker is going all Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick on us, it’s still an original nightmare. It’s also ultimately Lupita Nyong’o’s film to carry, and she displays a range — from fierce warrior to a mother at her most vulnerable — that is mesmerizing.

‘Toy Story 4’

Pixar brings us heart and humor and a satisfying closure if this is the last time we see our animated little friends. There’s all the wonderful fun of these characters and then there’s the deconstruction of human emotions. Hey, toys just want to be loved (read: played with), and don’t we all want that? I’m not crying, you’re crying. The fourth film in the series still feels fresh because it’s so darned clever in all facets of creativity. If not a best-picture nominee like “Toy Story 3” was, it’s definitely the early favorite for the year’s best animated movie.

‘Gloria Bell’*

In this character study, Julianne Moore bares her soul as an older woman who’s lonely and unhappy in her work but who also loves to dance to disco-era hits in nightclubs and try out new yoga concepts. She’s an independent spirit, seeking out her joy among good days and bad days, which means she is like all of us in the sense that we want our life to have meaning beyond all the challenges. This is, again, Oscar-caliber work by Moore.

‘The Long Shot’*

In a world where Netflix seems to have taken over the domain of rom-coms, “Long Shot” is a hilariously raunchy example of a movie that is also smart, sexy, topical and overtly political. The concept is a risk, and the streaming giant isn’t casting stars approaching middle age playing the couple like Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen are. But the comedy-and-politics risk pays off with one of the best one-laugh-after-another experiences that will be offered to adult audiences this year.



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Michael Smith

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