The 20 Best Movies of 2019 (so far)
The first half of 2019 would be remembered for the phenomenal business of Hollywood – Marvel superhero movie Avengers: Endgame. The hype, the madness surrounding it qualified it as the movie event of the decade. The hysteria was unprecedented just like the box office figures of Avengers: Endgame. 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 so far that I loved. The list will be constantly updated. In case you have missed our annual list of the best movies of 2018, please find it here.
STYX | Wolfgang Fischer | Drama
The film takes J C Chandor’s survival drama ‘All is Lost’ starring Robert Redford and taxes it with the moral dilemma and physical jeopardy. STYX, the mythological river that separates the living from the dead, studies the indifference of a member from the privileged society encountered with a sinking boat of refugees. Faced with a moral quandary after the authorities asked not to intervene in the matter, the only character played by Susanne Wolff finds it hard to oblige the order.
Sonchiriya | Abhishek Chaubey | Western Drama
Even at times, Abhishek Chaubey’s films feel more observational of the indigenous environment and characters inhibiting them, the emotional undercurrent of his films are universal. On the surface, Sonchirya is about dacoits on the run from the police of Chambal who won’t budge until they have cleaned the town. If you probe deeper into the subject matter, the underlying subtext is cruel and universal; the deliverance for the sin we commit, the toxic masculinity & patriarchy plaguing the families and the shifting moral dilemma in the face of crisis. The poetic and often dreary, Sonchiriya is an existential dacoit drama that succeeds much more than what it sets to achieve.
Sonchiriya is available on Zee5.
20. To Let | Chezhiyan | Drama
To Let us available on Amazon Prime.
19. High Flying Birds | Steven Soderbergh | Sports Drama
After being fired from ‘Money Ball’, which was a back-office sports drama, Steven Soderbergh directs a micro-budget Netflix film on iPhone.High Flying Bird is a taut, chilling film that moves at a breakneck pace, giving no breathing room to catch up with the unravelling layers and connects them in its bigger scheme. After a lockout between the NBA and the athletes, the other sort of the game is played off the field, in its full swing, that puts the mechanics of player management on display.
High Flying Bird is available on Netflix.
18. 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.
17. 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.
16. Arctic | Joe Penna | Survival Drama
The chilling cinematography of Arctic would freeze your balls instil 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.
15. 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.
14. Bhonsle | Devesh Makhija | Drama
Commonly referred to as the ‘outsiders-insiders’ issue, the north Indians have been subjected to prejudices and treated as a second-class citizen by Mumbaikar aligned to anti-Bihari sentiment. Devashish Makhija, popularly known for bone-chilling revenge-drama ‘Ajji’, base his new plot around the anti-Bihari sentiment.
Languorously paced and painstakingly slow, Bhonsle is a nuanced and sweeping character study that demands utmost patience. As much as Bhonsle belongs to Devesh Makhija’s excellence in writing & direction and towering performance of Manoj Bajpayee, the supporting cast, production design and every technical department bring their game to reimagine the reclusive and detached world of Bhonsle living like a beaten hermit. Continue reading the review of Bhonsle.
13. 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.
12. Photograph | Ritesh Batra | Drama
Ritesh Batra returns to the film-making with another lyrical and meditative narrative that warmly embraces two lonely souls living in Mumbai. One is a photographer, Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui in his most understated performance) working on Gateway of India, trying to clear the debts his father, and another is a young introverted girl, Miloni (Sanya Malhotra) who thinks she owes everything to her parents. Their lives seem to be governed by helpless circumstances around them and the shallowness of society. On the flip side, the editing of the film in the first act is frustrating and jarring. Despite the hiccup, Batra manages to weave a heartfelt tale of two people sharing the grief in the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps. Read the complete review of Ritesh Batra’s Photograph.
11. 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).
10. 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, Paddleton 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.