The 25 Best Movies of 2019
2019 would be remembered for Martin Scorsese’s long-waited, dream project ‘The Irishman’ starring Joe Pesci, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Quentin Tarantino’s holistic, nostalgia-driven ride in the 60s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’. It will also be remembered for the phenomenal business of Hollywood – Marvel superhero movie Avengers: Endgame. The hype and the madness surrounding it would qualify it as the movie event of the decade. But the films that I really loved are small budget films that left a mark one way or the other. Here is the list of the Best movies of 2019 that I loved. The list does not include Indian films as they are separately ranked in the Best Indian Films of 2019 list . In case you have missed our annual list of the best movies of 2018, please find it here.
Gloria Bell | Sebastián Lelio | Drama
Sebastian Lelio remakes his own career-defining film “Gloria (2013)” keeping the soul and writing intact, just shifting the base from Santiago to Los Angeles. Julianne Moore reprises the role played by Paulina García in her Berlin Best Actor (female) winning performance. Gloria Bell is an independent woman, divorced a decade ago, having a stable life, and relentlessly doting on her children.
Her life turns upside down when she reluctantly starts dating Arnold (John Turturro) who is caught between the demanding ex-wife and subnormal children. The instability in the life of Arthur makes Gloria question about the midlife romance. Julianne Moore is a revelation here, but its John Turturro’s comically vulnerable and unpredictable performance as Arnold that deserves an applaud.
Knock Down the House | Rachel Lears | Documentary
In what could be the most redefining and inspiring moments, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tries to console Democrat candidate Amy Vilela and says, “It’s just the reality that in order for one of us to make it through, hundred of us have to try.” And that is precisely the whole movement was all about. To challenge the incumbent Democrats who have taken their position for granted over the years, who have played according to the industrialists funding rules, and the challengers would be working-class women so to bring the voice of the working class and the women.
Both, the working class and the women, have been held as a pawn in American Political History so the success of this movement would redefine the rules of politics. Rachel Lears weaves an arousing and inspiring documentary. She fleshes out the confidence and vulnerability of all the four candidates along with their personal arc that would connect with everyone, irrespective of what political ideology they have. As AOC said, they were not there to make a statement, they were to win.
Arctic | Joe Penna | Survival Drama
The chilling cinematography of Arctic would freeze your balls instill dread of ever trekking in the polar region. Watching Mads Mikkelsen taking a pernicious trek in a vast unknown and unforgiving terrain is equally heartbreaking and breathtaking. His stoic face expresses every inch of his frustration and anguish in the almost wordless film. He has given one of the best, if not the best, performances of his career.
25. The Beach Bum | Harmony Korine | Stoner Comedy
The Beach bum is freewheeling poetry in motion. It gives no two fucks about a few disgruntled audiences due to the string of outrageous scenes bordering disgust. But hey, how good and civilized are we to judge a beat poet describing ass of his dead wife to the daughter.
Recall how does it feel after you smoke up. Like in another dimension. Transcending time and hard to believe reality. Caught up between glorious illusion of being a slacker and freefalling deadweight of problems. The Beach Bum is 95 mins extension of that another dimension which you would wish to have one. And you can’t have it, because you cant write poetry of a dick the way Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) does.
24. Us | Jordan Peele | Horror
Jordan Peele’s US is terrifying, disorienting and chilling in equal measures. The narration is inventive and often hilarious even though it slacks a little in the middle. Peele deftly utilizes the anticipation and time to build the tension, and lands us in the middle of a psychological war between “Us”, fighting our own demons, that opens the wicked and immoral pages of tethering the soul. The metaphors are in abundance and they are up for grabs to stake the claim. Peele packs the ideas of American dreams, living and horror of living in the matrix.
23. The Farewell | Lulu Wang | Drama
A searing family drama that’s intimate, somber and yet hopeful, The Farewell – inspired from Wang’s personal life – is a deeply felt observational comedy that navigates through the generation and cultural differences to find an connecting tissue that emotionally connects them as a family. It could not be possible without the stellar cast that seemed to born to play the respective characters in the film, specially Billi (Awkwafina) and Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao). There’s unspoken warmth, underlying melancholy, and unbridled emotions on a ride that feels organic, real and close to heart.
22. Scattered Night | KIM Sol and LEE Jihyoung | Family Drama
KIM Sol and LEE Jihyoung directorial Korean film ‘Scattered Night’ base the plot on this unfortunate event but they give an intimate and internal perspective from the children’s point of view, especially from the youngest daughter Sumin, with no melodrama and glossy arc to feel their state, or with no resolution at the hindsight.
The visual of the film is minimalist and colours are muted that creates a melancholic feel to it. The camera composition is swift and static to capture the tension in its rawest form. The third act is a masterstroke and deservingly left an open end. Scattered Night is a vivid dramatization of an event that would be hard to resolve, hence the ending feels earned rather than a modern art hour gimmick. Read the complete review of Scattered Night (2019).
21. Paddleton | Alexandre Lehmann | Drama
The sophomore feature film of cinematographer turned director, Alexandre Lehmann’s “Paddleton” is brimming with bittersweet and poignant moments and deadpan conversations that carry existential philosophy, seen through the lens of pessimism. Like Blue Jay, Pendleton is a two handler, about Michael (Duplass) and his neighbour Andy (Romano), who lives above him in a shabby pea-size apartment. Read the complete review of the film here.
20. Stan & Ollie | Jon S. Baird | Comedy-drama
In one of the most heartbreaking scenes, Stan and Ollie indulge in a war of words while the people at the party observe their altercation from a distance. At the end of it, an old man laughs on it and asks his wife surprisingly if it was supposed to be funny. It’s ironic and heart-wrenching. It gives profound insight into the understanding of humans; first, how people around perceived Stan and Ollie, almost unadulterated comic due without any scratch of the very feelings that make us human, as an iconic without the troubles that surround normal beings; second, we get to see Stan and Ollie without inhibitions and facade, a flawed humans trying to salvage their friendship.
‘Stan and Ollie’ pick the most crucial chapter from the lives of the most iconic and revered comedy, and makes it a charming but often soul-stirring tale of friendship that suffered a blow when Hardy shot the infamous ‘elephant movie’ Zenobia in 1939 without Laurel.
19. System Crasher | NORA FINGSCHEIDT | Drama
Bernadette (Helena Zengel), but she likes to be called Bennie, is a nine YO time-ticking bomb harbouring aggression & anger, ready to explode at the drop of a hat. Her erratic and passive-aggressive behaviour makes it impossible to engage with her, to reason with her.
Underneath all the fury and violent streak, Bennie is a delicate, fragile girl, longing for unconditional love, and trying to reconcile with her mother. If Bennie’s temperamental behaviour is deeply rooted, there are reasons for it – which is never explicitly dealt with in the film. Writer-director Nora Fingscheidt roots the intense drama around Bennie’s overwhelming need for love which no one understands except Maria Bafané.
18. The Two Popes | Fernando Meirelles | Comedy Drama
In the backdrop of Vatican leaks scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in Vatican city, Fernando Meirelles crowns a character study of an Archbishop Bergoglio [played by Jonathan Pryce] and Pope Benedict XVI [played by Anthony Hopkins]. He takes us in their amusing, often riddled with existential and spiritual crisis, journey to showcase their vulnerable humane aspect that is often ignored in films. A pope-mance between two individuals who can’t get along with each other are pushed to resolve their personal difference for a better future of Catholic Churches. Laced with two incredible performances and dash of organic humor, The Two Popes is one of the best comedies of the year.
17. The Criminal Mind | Dmitry Mamuliya | Psychological Drama
Dmitry Mamuliya’s glacially paced, taut psychological thriller The Criminal Man (Borotmokmedi) thematically stems out of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s tranquil spirit. A slight, minimal narrative with sparse dialogues harbors mammoth of a complex subliminal conundrum of the lead protagonist George Meskhi (Giorgi Petriashvili), a 28-year-old deputy-chief engineer from an industrial town.
George’s humdrum life turns upside down after he accidentally witnesses the murder of a famous football goalkeeper. The only eye witness to the sensational murder, George’s life find new meaning through his romantic obsession with the murder that leads him onto a perilous journey.
16. The Lighthouse | Robert Eggers | Psychological Horror
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You contradict that this ain’t the best romantic film of the year, yer a twat.
15. One Child Nation | Nanfu Wang | Documentary
Most of the developing countries face acute economical problems due to population explosion, and when Thanos revealed his agenda of wiping out half of the population, you might have thought, even for a ephemeral moment, he was right.
Nanfu Wang’s One Child Nation, based on strict One-Child Policy in China, is part investigative journalism and part personal journey that lay bare open the ramification of the brutal ‘One Child’ policy that left an emotional scar on millions of people, and left their lives skewed forever, for worst. It doesn’t end here, Nanfu exposes how the second child, if born, was handed over to the orphanages for international adoption that, in turn, had its own issues. It
14. Comets | Tamar Shavgulidze | Romantic Drama
Tamar Shavgulidze’s sophomore film ‘Comets’ (2019) unfurls at an unhurried pace in airy, pastoral villa, like an indolent and languid life in the idyllic countryside of Georgia. The time feels suspended in the lush green backyard as if the forthcoming drama would crumble under its weight. The sound of still air, of insects and birds, appear vivid.
Even at a modest running length of 70 mins, Shavgulidze languorously let the past of two teenagers trickle into the narrative without frantically opening it up to establish the intensity of their torrid affair. She indulges in long pauses, aching silences and leisure moments to make aware of the characters, the conflict, and their boundless love. Read our complete review from TIFF.