The 19 Best Movies of 2019

The 19 Best Movies of 2019

02 Dec 2019 (PT)
BEST MOVIES OF 2019MOVIES OF 2019BEST MOVIES

Each year, the list grows a little longer. We've arrived at that cozy time of year when top 10 encapsulations of the year in cinema consume the media cycle, at least for anyone who needs a break from the impeachment hearings. But look: Those of us on the frontlines just can't play by the rules. Watching movies throughout the year is a dream job, but the more aggressive one gets about tracking every title out there, the harder it becomes to diminish that experience to 10 slots. A few years ago, I decided I'd take advantage of the decade's progression and let my list grow a little longer each year, so after last year's best 18 movies of 2018, the prospects of one more open slot intrigued me. The list-making starts before January, with movies that are booked to open in the year ahead but premiered earlier on the festival circuit. And it gets crowded early on.

As it turns out, 19 is still not enough. And so the annual adage begs repeating once more: Anyone who thinks it was a bad year for movies simply hasn't seen enough of them. Sure, the movies face a series of existential threats, from dwindling box office to the streaming wars and tiny screens distracting us from virtually every direction. Scorsese is worried about Marvel movies, Marvel movies want to devour Scorsese, and everyone in between doesn't know where to begin. But the art form shrugged off the panic and kept delivering. This year's best movies were concerned with the chaos of the modern world: families falling apart, capitalist forces taking charge, systematic dysfunction taking a personal toll, you name it. These achievements provide essential windows into who we are and where we're headed. We live in the throes of terrifying times. Thank god that the movies are helping us sort through the mess.

Photo : A24

19. “High Life”

More than 50 years after “2001: A Space Odyssey,” filmmakers still huddle in its shadow, cobbling together icy space operas that lack the same cerebral chills. The brilliance of Claire Denis' long-awaited passion project is the way it casts those traditions into the ether and rebuilds the subgenre through her own provocative aesthetic. It's a haunting meditation on isolation, desire, and the existential quest to escape the boundaries of a drab routine. And it holds tight to its vision throughout: Denis' dreary epic hovers in claustrophobia and psychological dread before mapping out a path to redemption and familial catharsis.

Despite its heady conceit, however, “High Life” also functions as legitimate sci-fi world-building, unfolding in a credible distant future wherein prisoners wile their days away in the middle of a black, empty void, forced to complete mindless labor to keep their oxygen supply intact; at its center, Monte Robert Pattinson cares for a mysterious infant while grappling with memories of a ship that once held more incarcerated crew. Per usual these days, Pattinson merges with his director's beguiling aesthetic, funneling his imprisoned character's simmering frustrations into a puddle of uncertainties. In a movie with a lot of batshit insane curveballs, his character provides a mesmerizing centerpiece alongside the wilder developments, from ship doctor Juliette Binoche's notorious “fuckbox” to the blinding eruption of the closing shot. Released at a moment when interstellar sci-fi continues to fuel the biggest franchise of all time, “High Life” provides the ultimate contrast — Star Wars for the soul.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : Gunpowder & Sky

18. “Her Smell”

Alex Ross Perry's hard-rock profile features a career-best performance from Elisabeth Moss as a drug-fueled stage queen whose rough-and-tumble lifestyle finally catches up to her. That alone doesn't distinguish the movie from countless others that deal with this unseemly subject, but “Her Smell” towers above Perry's various roving portraits of neurotic loners by maintaining a relentless ability to dig inside his character's wayward journey. Barreling across a decade of experiences in the life of punk rocker Becky Something with five absorbing scenes, “Her Smell” upstages some of the pricier filmmaking achievements of the year with dazzling camerawork and sound design, all centered around Olsen's hypnotic connection to the gnarly material at hand.

As Becky Something and her band careen through backstage showdowns and domestic squabbles, the movie builds to one of the greatest scene transitions in recent cinema: a barrage of chaotic sound and movement, undercut by the sudden tranquility of utter silence, designed to evoke Becky's transition into a new life stage. The character isn't exactly Courtney Love, but it's no grand stretch to call “Her Smell” one of the best rock musician biopics of all time, one that takes the trope and reinvents it from the ground up.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : Amazon Studios

17. “One Child Nation”

China's one-child policy lasted from 1979 to 2015, becoming such an organic part of the country's history and culture that it has been taken for granted around the world. With “One Child Nation,” Nanfu Wang pulls back the veil to reveal its devastating history.

Working with co-director Jialing Zhang, the filmmaker explores years of persecution and widespread fear engendered by the government's enforcement of the policy. Using a remarkable personal lens, the film examines the reverberations of propaganda on broken families across multiple generations. The cumulative effect creates the sense that its destructive impact continues to be felt well beyond China's borders.

Wang first probed the country's broken justice system with her debut “Hooligan Sparrow,” which focused on a child rape case — but she turned in a more intimate work with her second feature, “I Am Another You,” in which she followed a young homeless man across America. With “One Child Nation,” she combines those modes by fusing her massive subject matter with her own point of view through a candid voiceover. Now the mother of a newborn, Wang contemplates the future for her U.S.-born infant in the context of her own childhood. In the somber finale, “One Child Nation” leaves the impression that while one upsetting chapter in China's history has ended, the next one has only just begun. It's a triumphant synthesis of first-person storytelling and historical reckoning that deserves whatever bootleg life in China it can find.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : A24

16. “The Souvenir”

British auteur Joanna Hogg has been one of the festival circuit's best-kept secrets for years, even as her intimate, textured character studies have established the singularity of her voice. “The Souvenir” didn't exactly change that, but it shows a deepening of the narrative skills she's honed in prior efforts “Archipelago” and “Exhibition” by burrowing into her own life. Hogg's movies often deal with privileged characters frustrated by their surroundings and searching for more authentic experiences; now we know why.

The first half of the two-part saga unfolds as a delicate 1980s period piece, with stunning breakout Honor Swinton Byrne outdoing any of mom Tilda's many bit parts this year including one in “The Souvenir”. The younger Swinton's semi-fictionalized turn as aspiring filmmaker Julie, who falls into an ill-fated romance with sophisticated drug addict Tom Tom Burke, unfolds in quiet snippets of intellectual yearning as it builds to a devastating finish.

Julie's artistic desire and carefree romance disguise deep-seated insecurities, and Hogg slowly brings them to light as the drama builds toward bursts of emotional showdowns. The filmmaker excels at taking a slow-burn approach to touching pay-offs, including a dinner scene in which the terrible truth about her doomed relationship finally comes to light. But this isn't just another teary breakup story. Instead, “The Souvenir” charts a path to finding catharsis through creativity, how some of the most awful experiences can engender great art. The 18th century Fragonard painting that gives the movie its title hints at the timeless underpinnings of Julie's experiences, and the final shot matches it with a poetic encapsulation of her journey to a higher calling. It's a brilliant cliffhanger, and with the second part on the way, “The Souvenir” is the most exciting franchise of 2019.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : Neon

15. “Clemency”

Sundance's U.S. Grand Jury Prize winner is a major achievement on several levels. Director Chinonye Chukwu, the first black woman to win the festival's top prize, has crafted a haunting look at the experiences of a prison warden Alfre Woodard in charge of men on death row. Woodard has never been better as the icy Bernadine Williams, a woman intent on carrying out her job with near-mechanical precision even as she begins to experience a moral crisis.

While the countdown begins for the execution of potentially innocent prisoner Anthony Woods Aldis Hodge, also first-rate, Bernadine struggles to reconcile her emotional turmoil with the demands of the job. Chukwu depicts this eerie world with harrowing execution details and a nuanced window into the bureaucracy of the prison process, but the movie builds to an astounding emotional climax that pierces the darkness as Bernadine's internal strife finally breaks through. Woodard's acting in these moments is a historic masterclass of nuanced processing; she deserves an Oscar on the basis of these few minutes alone. On paper, the movie might sound like a tough sell, but “Clemency” works so well at building moment-to-moment suspense — and provides such a terrific showcase for its star — that it transforms grim material into a visceral ride, an unprecedented interrogation of the death peny from the inside out.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : A24

14. “The Lighthouse”

Robert Eggers' gripping black-and-white nautical psychodrama draws from a sea of potent references. The filmmaker's hypnotic follow-up to “The Witch” conjures the ghosts of Herman Melville and Andrei Tarkovsky, with ample doses of Stanley Kubrick and Bela Tarr for good measure. It's a stunning showcase for Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe to unleash their wildest extremes, by positioning them at the center of a two-hander about a descent into madness in the middle of nowhere. Above all else, “The Lighthouse” is the best movie about bad roommates ever made.

As with “The Witch,” Eggers' sophomore feature centers on a small group of characters surrounded by the elements and consumed by invisible forces that drive them all mad in the process. And once again, the title says it all: Set sometime in the 1890s, “The Lighthouse” finds Thomas Wake Dafoe and Efraim Winslow Pattinson arriving at that remote post, where the watery beacon extends from a small rocky islet and into a chalky sky. They spend the duration of the movie wandering its muddy, haunted crevices, and while the movie telegraphs their fate early on, the thrill comes from watching their erratic downward spiral take shape.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : IFC Films

13. “The Nightingale”

“The Nightingale” takes unseemly material and turns it into a liberating tale of historic reckoning. Unlike the eerie hauntings of director Jennifer Kent's debut, “The Babadook,” this masterful Australian period piece unfolds in colonial Australia circa 1825, as Irish convict Clare Aisling Franciosi, sentenced to indentured servitude, survives a harrowing rape and embarks on a dizzying quest for revenge. After her husband and newborn child are murdered by her assaultive master, a British officer Sam Claflin, Clare joins forces with a reticent aboriginal guide Baykali Ganambarr on a perilous trip across dense forestry to track down the man who ruined her life.

The movie blends the grand tapestry of a period epic with the intimate travails of its victim as she comes to grips with her situation; the visuals oscillate from sweeping landscapes to gothic nightmares as Clare comes closer to confronting her target. Far more than a rape-revenge story, “The Nightingale” allows the filmmaker to expand on motifs of violence and psychological turmoil without repeating herself. Kent's drama wrestles with victimhood on multiple fronts, not only contending with Clare's experiences but the persecution of the Aboriginal people as well, juggling repressed dimensions of the Australian psyche with a sophisticated eye. It doesn't skimp on the violence, but it manages to interrogate it at the same time, exploring the desire for retribution and what it actually means for the victims in question. A brilliant provocation loaded with feeling, and worth the investment for even the queasiest of viewers.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : NASA/REX/Shutterstock

12. “Apollo 11”

It takes a lot of ambition to tackle one of the most iconic moments in history and find a way to make it fresh. The moon landing saga has the same kind of narrative inevitability as the Titanic sinking: You know how it winds up, so what's left to explore? While Damien Chazelle's “First Man” found an intimate hook in its lonesome Neil Armstrong, the dazzling feature-length montage of “Apollo 11” rejoices in the process: Director Todd Douglas Miller assembles a whirlwind of archival footage and radio communications into a taut real-time thriller about the suspense of technological advancement. As the movie zips from the breathless drama of mission control to the menacing scale of the launchpad best appreciated in IMAX, where newly exhumed 70mm film works its magic, Miller deconstructs the mythology of the first moon landing by illustrating the sheer sophistication involved in getting them there.

At the same time, “Apollo 11” often cuts away to crowds watching the accomplishments from afar, providing a reminder of just how much scientific achievements can take hold of the public's imagination and become a unifying force unlike anything seen today. While it takes place in the distant past, “Apollo 11” practically unfolds like science fiction, given how many decades have passed since the last time we sent astronauts to our neighbor in the sky. By the end of the movie, one thing is clear: We have to go back.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : Netflix

11. “Atlantics”

Several recent movies have explored the refugee crisis as a deadly proposition, from the documentary “Fire at Sea” to “Mediterranean,” both of which focus on dramatic attempts to cross the ocean on rickety boats. The striking distinction of Mati Diop's “Atlantics” is the way it magnifies the experiences of those left behind. Diop's gorgeous, mesmerizing feature directorial debut focuses on the experiences of a young woman named Ada Mama Sané stuck in repressive circumstances on the coast of Senegal after her boyfriend vanishes en route to Spain. But it's less fixated on his departure with other locals than its impact on Ada, and the community around her, as it contends with the eerie specter of the boys who went away.

An actress and filmmaker whose experimental shorts touch on similar themes, Diop's first feature casts a tricky spell that might not click for some viewers on an initial viewing, until they think it over, and it all makes sense: More than a superb neorealist fable, “Atlantics” is in fact a powerful work of fantasy, weaving supernatural conceits into an absorbing vision of alienated seaside life. It's a ghost story in which everyone's haunted by the desire to escape, and a beguiling tale of romantic yearning like no other.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : Neon

10. “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

Over the past 12 years, Céline Sciamma has steadily become one of the most exciting new voices in French cinema, with a string of moving dramas focused on young women that deliver new poignant experiences each time out. From “Water Lilies” to “Tomboy” and “Girlhood,” Sciamma has excelled at probing the coming-of-age drama from fresh angles, assessing emerging sexual identity and rebellious instincts while hovering inside the ambiguous emotions they stir up. That constant fixation has yielded her most confident achievement to date, a warm and lush period romance that hails from familiar traditions even as it corrals them in new directions.

Sciamma's lyrical 18th century lesbian drama finds young painter Marianne an understated Noémie Merlant assigned to paint wehy heiress Héloïse the ever-entrancing Adèle Haenel over a single summer on a remote island. The setting gradually transforms into a painterly achievement of its own, with the rocky landscapes and ocean waves accentuating the gradual bond between the two women and how it defies the linguistic boundaries of their time. Sciamma compensates for that by using the language of cinema to fill in the gaps: An enchanting, fantastic paean to forbidden love, the movie builds to a series of thrilling operatic moments, including a show-stopping musical number that catapults the story from the boundaries of its setting to achieve a timeless ecstasy.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : A24

9. “The Farewell”

Anyone with a large Chinese family going back several generations will probably appreciate much about the one depicted in tender detail in “The Farewell,” director Lulu Wang's touching and understated second feature. For everyone else — this critic included — Awkwafina's performance is a terrific gateway. The rapper-turned-actress' best performance takes a sharp turn away from her zany supporting roles for a restrained and utterly credible portrait of cross-cultural frustrations. As a Chinese-American grappling with the traditionalism of her past and its impact on the future, she's the central engine for the movie's introspective look at a most unusual family reunion. Based on a 2016 episode of “This American Life” drawn from Wang's own experiences, “The Farewell” centers on Billi, an out-of-work New York writer who learns from her parents that her beloved grandmother — that is, her “Nai Nai” Zhao Shuzhen — has terminal cancer. While this premise could have birthed a quirky dramedy, Wang's restrained approach instead yields a slow-burn immersion into her character's life, as she struggles with the conflicting emotions of loyy and resentment that define her adult life. “The Farewell” delivers a remarkable window into Asian American identity to which future audiences will surely relate, and a welcome introduction to a filmmaker who's just getting started.

Beyond all that, however, “The Farewell” stands up to the hype because it remains so unclassifiable — defined better by its premise than any single genre, the movie goes from family dramedy to thriller and back again before transforming into something else ogether, a snapshot of cross-cultural confusion utterly in touch with the present moment.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : Universal Pictures

8. “Us”

Jordan Peele's 2017 debut “Get Out” was a landmark in African-American storytelling, broke box-office records, and served as a representational wakeup call to the film industry — but it wouldn't have carried so much weight if it weren't also such a gratifying viewing experience. His sophomore effort, “Us,” proves that surprise hit wasn't a fluke. Peele's second outing as writer-director confronts the ridiculously high expectations of its predecessor by pivoting to a broader canvas of ideas about the nation's fractured identity. In the process, it gives audiences exactly what they want by delivering what they least expect.

On one level, “Us” is about a crippling identity crisis, transformed into a literal monster: As Adelaide, Lupita Nyong'o delivers her most ambitious performance to date, playing both a troubled wife and mother reeling from a mysterious traumatic encounter in her youth and the eerie doppelgänger who emerges from the tunnels to take her down. But she's not alone, as husband Gable Winston Duke, in hilarious awkward-dad mode and young kids Zora Shahadi Wright Joseph and Jason Evan Alex must ward off their own doubles as the creepy mirror family invades their remote lakeside vacation. But this fantastical “Funny Games” riff is merely a starting point for an abstract riff on America's fractured identity. While “Get Out” was a pointed satire of the nation's confused race relations, “Us” takes a broader swing at American exceptionalism, and how the tendency to think we're the good guys generally obscures some very bad things. By wrapping that scathing indictment in riveting genre clothing, Peele has pulled off the ultimate pop culture coup. Again.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : Netflix

7. “Marriage Story”

“Marriage Story” brings a lot of baggage to the table: It's a divorce saga about a wehy showbiz couple that burrows into the emotional turmoil of their split, and the plight of whiny, privileged white people is not exactly in vogue. But the power of “Marriage Story” stems from the way it transcends the simplicity of its premise, with writer-director Noah Baumbach matching the material for his most personal movie with filmmaking ambition to spare, and a pair of devastating performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson that rank as their very best. It starts from a familiar place, then sneaks into transcendence.

The irony of “Marriage Story” is that the story has more to do with the particulars of the divorce process — the way the intricate legalities unfold in bland meeting rooms and harsh courtroom exchanges at odds with the fragile circumstances. Over the course of 136 absorbing minutes, as the movie navigates dissolving couple Charlie and Nicole's clashing perspectives, Baumbach doesn't attempt to reconstruct the path toward divorce so much as the complex psychological turmoil it instigates for his protagonists.

“Marriage Story” extends beyond the obvious merits of Baumbach's screenplay. The movie has been directed within an inch of its life, so that even drab conference rooms and claustrophobic apartments transform into poetic backdrops for the characters' gradual confrontation with the end of their lives together. Driver's show-stopping performance of Sondheim's “Being Alive” may be a viral moment in the making, but it's Baumbach's extraordinary seven-minute opening montage that really throws down the gauntlet, establishing Baumbach as a major auteur who knows how to use the medium to convey the conflicted mindsets of self-absorbed characters he's been writing about for decades. This is the apotheosis of his vision, a striking ability to empathize with people on both sides of an unresolvable dispute.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : Neon

6. “Parasite”

Bong Joon-ho's Palme d'Or winner “Parasite” revolves around a family that overtakes a wehy residence, bit by bit, but the best sequence finds them trapped. When an unexpected development no spoilers here puts their scheme at risk, they're forced to hide in various corridors of the expansive house, under floorboards and in the walls. It's a startling visual embodiment of the class warfare at the heart of the movie — carrying on that fixation from much of Bong's work, from “Barking Dogs Never Bite” to “Snowpiercer” — wherein less fortunate people attempt to take control of the conditions holding them down, and wind up stuck somewhere in the middle.

As patriarch Kim, Song Kang-ho leads a terrific ensemble of con artists weaseling their way into an unsuspecting household so lost in the stability of their affluence that they're utterly blind to the struggles of people from other worlds. Bong's historic set design — he literally built the house where the central events unfold from scratch — provides a unique cinematic labyrinth for interrogating the movie's robust themes. Just when it seems to have settled into its dark-comic groove, Bong's script fires a curveball into the mix, ening the stakes with a whole new set of circumstances and characters just as desperate for survival as the conniving family at the movie's center.

Nothing quite goes according to plan in “Parasite,” but as Kim tells his son, nothing goes wrong when you don't have a plan. That's not exactly sound advice, but it speaks volumes about this movie's wise and unpredictable trajectory as it careens through the inevitable outcome of self-destructive instincts before charting an even more surprising path to some measure of hope.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : A24

5. “Uncut Gems”

Adam Sandler has embodied many obnoxious, self-absorbed figures over the years, but with “Uncut Gems,” he plays the most contemptible character in a 30-year career. Directors Josh and Benny Safdie's followup to “Good Time” is on that same wavelength — abrasive, deranged, driven by an insuppressible blur of movement and noise. It's also a masterful high-wire act, pairing cosmic visuals with the gritty energy of a dark psychological thriller and sudden bursts of frantic comedy, and it's the first movie to truly commune with Sandler's performative strengths since “Punch-Drunk Love.” If “Uncut Gems” leaves people rattled, disoriented, grasping for clarity in the chaos of one man's hectic routine, that all speaks to the sheer precision of a visionary achievement in full control.

After all, it's a Safdie brothers movie. Ever since 2008's “The Pleasure of Being Robbed,” these sibling filmmakers have excelled at burrowing inside the mindset of combustible characters driven to destructive tendencies just to survive another day. The dysfunctional father of “Daddy Longlegs” may as well exist in the same restless universe as the furious junkies in “Heaven Knows What” and Robert Pattinson's hapless criminal and loving brother in “Good Time.” With “Uncut Gems,” the Safdies add one more impetuous creation to their jittery New York City milieu, and it's a hypnotic blast to watch him come to life.

However, the joys of “Uncut Gems” go far beyond the Sandler factor: The Safdies have created the ultimate New York Movie entirely through the prism of their homegrown filmmaking talent. “Uncut Gems” communes with the spirit of Scorsese who executive produced, but it develops a sizzling, relentless pace that feels new: equal parts sports movie, freewheeling gambling saga, and a paean to Jewish neuroses, “Uncut Gems” makes no excuses for its hustling anti-hero even as it digs so deep into his psyche that it's hard to imagine what has to happen to finally escape its clutches. But when the movie gets there, it arrives as a bittersweet relief. “Uncut Gems” is a sensory overload for the ages.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : Kino Lorber

4. “Long Day's Journey Into Night”

Bi Gan's “Long Day's Journey Into Night” has nothing to do with the Eugene O'Neill play of the same title, but that's not the only misdirection in play. The Chinese director's sophomore effort is a fascinating application of filmmaking innovation toward expressionistic ends. It follows up on the promise of his 40-minute long take in “Kaili Blues” with an even longer one, in 3D, set within the confines of a dream sequence that plays like a total revelation. Bi's lyrical neo-noir begins with the poetic tale of a man returning to his hometown and searching for a long-lost love, then finds him putting his 3D glasses on at a movie theater — a cue for the audience to follow suit, as the movie launches into a staggering 55-minute long take shot entirely in 3D.

That gimmick might sound neat on paper, but it reaches a new level of cinematic intrigue as an immersive experience, unfolding within a surreal context that combines technical wizardry with high art. The unexpected love child of Wong Kar-wai and Andrei Tarkovsky, “Long Day's Journey Into Night” transforms from slow-burn pastiche to an audacious filmmaking gamble while maintaining the pictorial sophistication of its earlier section. It's both languorous and eye-popping at once. Last December, “Long Day's Journey Into Night” faced severe backlash in its native China after the distributor tricked audiences into thinking it was a traditional romance but not before it grossed $37.1 million in one weekend. One can only hope that some of th audiences emerged from the movie exactly the way the filmmaker intended — surprised by a completely new experience, and a better one than any traditional romance could offer up. This is the kind of original cinema so worthy of celebration that it really ought to be smuggled to unsuspecting viewers if that's what it takes for them to take note.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : Neon

3. “Monos”

“Monos” takes place in the dense jungles and foggy mountaintops of northern Colombia, but it may as well be another planet. Director Alejandro Landes' thrilling survivalist saga tracks a dysfunctional group of young militants as they traipse through perilous terrain, engaging in savage behavior while toying with their mortified American hostage Julianne Nicholson, but they never reveal their motivations. Equal parts “Lord of the Flies” and “Aguirre, the Wrath of God,” Landes' third feature distills guerrilla warfare into sheer anarchy.

By stripping away the sociopolitical context, “Monos” provides a window into power-hungry mayhem on the fringes of society that could happen anytime, anywhere — but depicts its hectic showdowns with a you-are-there intensity that could only take place in the present. Aided by “Under the Skin” composer Mica Levi's thunderous score, Landes delivers a suspenseful encapsulation of alienated youth enmeshed in pointless battles that can only lead to further destruction.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : Netflix

2. “The Irishman”

Nobody does gangster movies like Martin Scorsese. This truism has held tight for decades, and with “The Irishman,” it's basically a religion. As wayward hitman Frank Sheeran, Robert De Niro delivers a soulful look at the profound contradictions of a man trapped by the only allegiances he understands. Set entirely from his perspective, Sheeran's unreliable narration gives this magnificent epic a remarkable tonal sophistication as it encapsulates the character's dueling relationship with a tender Russell Bufalino Joe Pesci, one of the great out-of-retirement comebacks of all time and Union troublemaker Jimmy Hoffa Al Pacino, who somehow dials it down and up at the same time. In that fundamental disconnect — between endearing people and the psychotic world they represent — the movie presents a fascinating onramp to America's obsession with organized crime.

“The Irishman” is Martin Scorsese's best crime movie since “Goodfellas,” and a pure, unbridled illustration of what has made his filmmaking voice so distinctive for nearly 50 years. Forget that it's a touch too long and the much-ballyhooed de-aging technology doesn't always cast a perfect spell; the movie zips along at such a satisfying clip that its flaws rarely amount to more than mild speed bumps along the way. This critic watched all three-and-a-half hours twice in one 12-hour window and doesn't regret a minute. “The Irishman” is a marvel that keeps growing more impactful as it moves along, all the way through its wistful finale, a treatise on mortality that has the deep implications of great literature. Sheeran may be an aging man telling tall tales, but that puts him in the same category as the one behind the camera. Sheeran, however, lost touch with his world long before he left it. With “The Irishman,” Scorsese proves he's more alive than ever.

The 19 Best Movies of 2019
Photo : Sony Pictures Classics

1. “Pain and Glory”

Across 30-plus years of filmmaking, Pedro Almodóvar has accrued the auteurist equivalence of a god, and his distinctive romantic whimsy carries such weight that the tagline “a film by Almodóvar” conveys more brand than vision. “Pain and Glory,” the filmmaker's best and most personal movie in years, brings him back to mortal terrain.

A grounded melancholic rumination on aging and artistic intent steeped in the aging director's own experiences, it may be the closest Almodóvar comes to crafting a memoir in the medium he knows best. At least, it looks that way on the surface. “Pain and Glory” stars an exceptionally world-weary Antonio Banderas, his face caked in s-and-pepper stubble and framed by an unruly mop of hair, as an acclaimed director wrestling with his past and present. The actor looks so much like his long-time collaborator that “Pain and Glory” may well be deemed “a film about Almodóvar.” And yet the filmmaker has claimed much about “Pain and Glory” has been fictionalized, including the details of the character's upbringing, a drug-fueled plot line, and the romantic history that the character wrestles with throughout this poignant movie, which rewards repeat viewings as its measured portrait of a tortured soul comes to life with details telegraphed from every corner of the frame. Almodóvar used to show off a lot. Now, he has nothing to prove.

“Pain and Glory” has the emotional resonance of an artist coming to terms with the intimate nature of his work, and in the pantheon of the films-about-filmmaking genre, it's a paragon of the form — a bittersweet “8 1/2” centered on the quest of a storyteller in search of his tale. Still, don't call him Pedro: Banderas plays Salvador Mallo, a veteran Spanish filmmaker who has contended with a lifetime of discomfort. As he explains in an early voiceover set to lively medical animations the one time the movie veers into overindulgence, the poor middle-aged figure suffers from ailments of all kinds: muscle aches, joint pains, tinnitus, anxiety, and depression. Yet all of these struggles have catalyzed his passionate artistry, at least until a recent dry spell, which leads him to contemplate his past.

From there, “Pain and Glory” doesn't exactly take any surprise turns — until the grand finale, a surprise twist for the ages that somehow whittles its way into this unsuspecting material. It's easy to dismiss a movie like “Pain and Glory,” given the narrative traditions in play and the filmmaker's decades of history. But these are exactly the same reasons why it ends up as the most triumphant cinematic achievement of the year. It's the ultimate illustration of a medium's power to operate within a familiar framework while pushing it in fresh directions. At the age of 70, Almodóvar has made more than a career summation; he's delivered a movie that consolidates the best of his work while making it seem fresh all over again. For movies to survive the next decade, filmmakers need to prove their own vitality; it can't just be one newcomer after the next. Almodóvar — and, for that matter, Scorsese — offers living proof that no talented filmmaker's journey ever has to end.

Source: Indiewire

BEST MOVIES OF 2019MOVIES OF 2019BEST MOVIES
Weekend of September 18 - 20, 2020 (IMDb)
Tenet
1.
Tenet
Net: $4.7M Grs: $36.1M
Weeks: 3
The New Mutants
2.
The New Mutants
Net: $1.8M Grs: $17.7M
Weeks: 4
Infidel
3.
Infidel
Net: $1.4M Grs: $1.4M
Weeks: 1
Unhinged
4.
Unhinged
Net: $1.3M Grs: $15.7M
Weeks: 6
The Broken Hearts Gallery
5.
The Broken Hearts Gallery
Net: $0.8M Grs: $2.4M
Weeks: 2
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run
6.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run
Net: $0.2M Grs: $4.2M
Weeks: 6
Bill & Ted Face the Music
7.
Bill & Ted Face the Music
Net: $0.2M Grs: $3.1M
Weeks: 4
Alone
8.
Alone
Net: $0.2M Grs: $0.2M
Weeks: 1
The Personal History of David Copperfield
9.
The Personal History of David Copperfield
Net: $0.2M Grs: $1.7M
Weeks: 4
Words on Bathroom Walls
10.
Words on Bathroom Walls
Net: $0.1M Grs: $2.2M
Weeks: 5
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