Best Films of 2019
My Best Films for 2019 fall into three somewhat arbitrary categories: City Tales, Dark Visions, and Family Stories.
The Irishman – Throw together a brilliant cast of Martin Scorsese regulars as real life reprobates and 159 million dollars and you have a masterpiece. This is a reflective work from a master filmmaker. (Review)
Uncut Gems – Under the right direction, Adam Sandler turns out to be a great dramatic actor. The Safdie Brothers have been honing their style for over a decade. Supported by an eclectic cast, the film takes us on a jittery nonstop ride into the dark world of a hapless jewelry merchant.
Joker – An examination of a DC comic villain becomes an unnerving study of psychopathology highlighted by Joaquin Phoenix’s unnerving performance. Director Todd Phillips turns every comic trope on its head. It is as though Pennywise (from IT) fuses with Phoenix’s Joe from last year’s You Were Never Really Here. (Review)
Midsommar – Director Ari Aster starts his story off-balance and continues with a descent into a kind of hippie hell. I laughed and cringed in equal measure. Audacious and preposterous, the final shot of a deranged Florence Pugh echoes the final shot in her earlier film, Lady Macbeth. (Review)
The Lighthouse – A hallucinatory blend of myth and folktale. Shot in black-and-white in a square aspect ratio, as was the practice of early German Expressionist films (1.19:1), the film descends into a battle between God and man, with an ending straight out of the story of Prometheus. (Review)
Marriage Story – This droll script tugs at your heartstrings. A stunning Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are a married couple navigating what could be a friendly divorce — were it not for the intervention of combative lawyers marvelously played by Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Alan Alda. (Review)
Souvenir – Joanna Hogg’s film, with its static and pastel compositions and subtle acting from Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, and Tilda Swinton, respects the audience’s ability to piece things together. We stare at the edges of a young woman’s relationship — one that was not meant to be. I had to watch it twice out of sheer joy. (Review)
A scene from Little Women.Little Women – Director Greta Gerwig was a writer before she was an actress. She has penned a script that honors Louisa May Alcott’s classic by making the story feel modern, particularly with a surprising last scene. The acting ensemble is delightful and this is the first version of the story shot in Concord. It’s just about the perfect Christmas film. (Review)
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood – Film geeks, history buffs, movie star fans, and Tarantino aficionados couldn’t ask for more than this epic tale of Hollywood in the late 1960s. (Review)
Waves – Trey Edward Shults’s kinetic directing style is well suited for this devastating reflection on fate, redemption, and healing among families and generations. (Review)
10 BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILMS. These innovative films deserve their own list.