|MOVIES OF 2019FAVORITE|
A few weeks back, Chappelle Show co-creator Neal Brennan tweeted, “The fact that critics write, 'Best of 2019' and not 'My Favorites of 2019' is wild.”
I initially reacted negatively, overcome by the idea that in the year 2019, any person could be confused by the idea that an arts review is subjective. While I suspect this question comes from a long line of flawed “critics only exist to tear things down” thinking, as if our goal in writing about the arts is for people to stop making art because, grr, we hate art!, and not to participate in an artistic form of our own that we enjoy, I admit Brennan made me reconsider the kind of headline we reflexively stick on our requisite year-end lists. If you missed it, you can read Uproxx's Best of 2019 movies list here.
Why do we say “the best” instead of “my favorite?” There are plenty of answers. The most basic and pragmatic is that newspaper writing best practices have long all but banned any use of the first person. Such that using “my” in a headline in any form would be a nonstarter with 95% of editors. And anyway, one might argue, “my” would be redundant, as any review is automatically assumed to be subjective, with the opinion coming from the writer. Why say “my favorite” when that's already obvious?
That being said, I suspect the preference for “the best” over “my favorite” comes in part from a notion that people won't read an opinion unless it comes with the sheen of authoritativeness. This isn't AO Scott's favorites, who the hell is that? This is the NEW YORK TIMES and their OFFICIAL LIST of GOOD THINGS, that is CORRECT because they are EXPERTS. There's also the question of whether a reasonably intelligent person being able to understand that opinions are subjective excuses the relative untruth of writing “the best.” Just because things have been done a certain way doesn't make that way the best.
Anyway, something to think about. All I can say is, I don't particular care whether anyone thinks I'm an “expert” as long as they read what I'm writing. Ideally, I'm just a guy whose opinion you enjoy reading, regardless of whether you agree. That's how I've always felt about my favorite critics and there are pieces of criticism that have stuck with me over the years as much as any work of fiction has. At the risk of stating the obvious, there's no such thing as an “expert” movie watcher. If that's the myth you need in order to read my reviews, I can play along, but the only type of expert I truly aspire to be is opinion-haver.
So here they are, the best movies of 2019, as determined by rigorous experimentation and a proprietary blend of unique genius. If you need, go ahead and picture me pouring...
You may recognize Kara Hayward from Wes Anderson’s 2012 film “Moonrise Kingdom,” where she charmed as one half of the film’s star-crossed couple, Suzy Bishop. Since making her debut with one of the best filmmakers of the day, Hayward has kept the pedigree of her collaborators similarly high, landing roles in films by Kenneth Lonergan, Jim Jarmusch, and Jordan Peele. Now, she once again steps into the lead to lend her talents to Martha Stephens’ latest feature “To the Stars,” which was a crowd favorite at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and recently debuted an absorbing first trailer.
The synopsis from Sundance reads: “In a God fearing small town in 1960s Oklahoma, bespectacled and reclusive teen Iris endures the booze-induced antics of her mother and daily doses of bullying from her classmates. She finds solace in Maggie, the charismatic and enigmatic new girl at school, who hones in on Iris's untapped potential and coaxes her out of her shell. When Maggie's mysterious past can no longer be suppressed, the tiny community is thrown into a state of panic, leaving Maggie to take potentially drastic measures and inciting Iris to stand up for her friend and herself. Director Martha Stephens infuses the film with elements of the western genre to tell a deeper story, about women as outsiders in a time and place of repression and intolerance.”
“To the Stars” is the third solo feature from Stephens, whose previous micro-budget movies, “Passenger Pigeons” 2010 and “Pilgrim Song” 2012, both premiered at the SXSW Film Festival. In 2014, she worked with longtime friend Aaaron Katz “Gemini” to co-write and co-direct “Land Ho!,” which was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics and won the John Cassavetes Award at the 2015 Film Independent Spirit Awards.
Shannon Bradley-Colleary wrote the script.
Originally premiering in black and white, the trailer offers a glimpse at the 1960s small town setting in glorious vintage hues. It also teases performances by the impressive supporting cast, which includes Liana Liberato, Jordana Spiro, Shea Whigham, Malin Akerman, and Tony Hale.
Samuel Goldwyn Films will release “To the Stars” on VOD on April 24. Check out the engaging first trailer below.