2019 - A Year in Film
In a fitting line with the climax of the decade, master filmmakers have taken another slog at the big (and small) screen, flexing their directorial muscles for our entertainment. Martin Scorsese managed to bring Joe Pesci out of ‘retirement’ to complete a dream old guard cast of De Niro & Pacino, whilst Tarrantino brought 2 modern heavyweights together in Brad Pitt and Leo Di Caprio. We saw behemoth films smash decade-old records, the streaming war rages on, and some serious flops.
Here's my top 10 films of 2019.
10. Doctor Sleep
Almost 40 years after Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece, The Shining, we finally got the sequel to Stephen King’s name making novel. Doctor Sleep follows a troubled, adult Danny (Ewan McGregor) as a grown man years after the events which took place at the Overlook Hotel. So, some context: the 'shining' power, in King lore, is at its core, a sort of combination of clairvoyance and telepathy. One who 'shines' can see the true nature of things and events (past, present, or future) and can mentally communicate with others, most strongly with others who have 'the shine’, and boy Danny can shine. In Doctor Sleep we see him form a connection with a young girl, Abra, who can also shine, as they both try to escape a nomad cult, True Knot who are finding children who shine killing them to become immortal.
This film surpassed all my expectations, with some great acting and from young Kyliegh Curran (Abra) who appears to be destined for greatness, along with some amazing work in recalling such famous scenes from its timeless prequel, this film sneaks into the top 10. If you haven’t seen The Shining, however, this film may as well be spoken in a non-native language.
Everyone loves Elton John right? So why wouldn’t we want to sit through 2 hours of hit after hit and this film hits all the right notes? Taron Egerton stars in this biopic of the British Pop Icon, and boy is he good. Rocketman depicts the early life of young Reg Dwight as he transforms to Elton John alongside best bud and hit writer Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). As great as it is to see how the hits were written, Your Song being famously finished from start to finish in 10 minutes, this film is much deeper than that. We see Elton’s struggles with alcohol, drugs, his relationship with his father and his sexuality.
I wasn’t expecting anything from this movie at all, but I finally gave in to taking my mum, which is why I enjoyed this film so much. Taron Egerton is just fantastic, whether it’s the tender moments or singing and dancing, he hits every note. I wouldn't be shocked to see an outsider shot at an academy award when the time comes, he did record all the songs himself after all…
Right, Midsommar. Where to start. Arri Aster quite frankly loves to mess with us and has some issues he needs to deal with, believe me, his 2018 hit Hereditary might just be the second scariest film I've ever seen; any guesses for what’s number one? In Midsommar, we see a young group travel to Sweden to visit a friends home village for its famous midsummer festival but the lovely Swedish countryside quickly becomes a dark pagan cult - I’m not really sure what else I can say, this movie is something you have to see for yourself, but do so with caution. This film is not for the faint-hearted, there is some really, and I mean REALLY, dark s**t in here, from suicide to incest and way too much folk music for my liking.
Cinematically this breaks the norm for conventional dingy horror movies, with the entirety of the movie taking place in broad daylight, in the middle of the summer. I hated every single second in the best way, it’s uncomfortable but so captivating and I’ll see scenes of this movie in my dreams until I die, just give Florence Pugh the Oscar already.
7. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood for me is like waking up on Christmas morning and finding your mum has bought you every present she said you couldn't have! My favourite director, casting 3 juggernauts in leading roles (Brad Pitt, Leo Di Caprio, Margot Robbie) for over 3 hours? I was sold before the trailer. In this film we see an ageing actor, Rick Dalton (Di Caprio), struggle finding work after being a star of the screen alongside his stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) whilst his new neighbour, Sharon Tate (Robbie) is stealing taking centre stage.
To be honest, not all of this film is amazing, there are areas that it falls short and begins to feel its length, but when it’s good, this film is GOOD. Di Caprio looks like he's having a great time, alongside the star-studded cast, where sometimes the story fails them. I wasn’t sure how to feel about the Manson Family inclusion, but Tarrantino plays and toys with it like a master and when the pay off comes in the last 30 minutes, it’s hilariously entertaining. If this is Tarantino's last hurrah, it's not a bad way to go out.
6. The Irishman
Clocking in at number 6 is The Irishman, but let's look at the ingredients of this movie; directed by Martin Scorsese starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci & Al Pacino. Running for a whopping 4 hours long, it's easy to see why this movie has gone straight to Netflix with a limited cinema release, but every single second is pure magic. In The Irishman we see ex-mob hitman Frank Sheeran (De Niro) talk about his life in the Buffalino (Pesci) mob and protecting famous union man Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino).
If you’re expecting a film full horses heads, Tommy gunfights and punch ups, you’re probably going to hate this movie, however, if you love 3 masters of their craft dancing their way over a wonderful script with direction from one of the all-time greats, this is for you. Best of all? You can watch it from your living room!
When I saw the trailer for this coming of age movie, I was certain it wasn't for me, but I reluctantly accompanied a friend on a boring Sunday afternoon and it might just be the best decision I’ve made all year. In Booksmart we see academic overachievers Amy & Molly (Beanie Feldstein & Kaitlyn Dever) wanting to break from their ‘all work and no play attitude’, so on the night before graduation they decide to do all the things they feel like they’ve missed out on, drinking, boys, dancing, getting arrested, you name it, they did it and it’s hilarious.
Feldstein and Denver’s on-screen chemistry is pure magic, they’re so good together, you feel like you’re watching a home movie of 2 genuine best friends enjoying breaking the mould. As funny as this film is, it deals with some real-life issues, peer pressure, sexuality, social conventions, friendship and loss. It’s the biggest surprise of the year for me and deserved of the highspot on this list, it's the best comedy I’ve seen in years.
This 2019 South Korean black comedy thriller film directed by Bong Joon-ho, came out of nowhere for me...like a steam train derailing down a mountainside. Becoming the first Korean film to win the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes festival, doing so with the first unanimous vote since 2013, this film follows jobless and unmotivated Ki-Taek as he and his family become glowingly interested in the wealthy when a lucrative business deal arises to pose as English tutors, the stage is set for an outclass war, as the parasite takes hold.
Foreign movies aren't for everyone as they can feel like too much effort to read and watch, but his movie is phenomenal, some would say it's a masterpiece. It will make you laugh until it hurts, chill you to the bone, and stay with you long after the credits are over, I promise you it's worth the effort.
We made it, the top 3. I made it abundantly clear just how much I loved this movie in a previous blog (shameless plug). It’s the origin story that no one really wanted, but has become one of the most discussed and divisive films of the year. The cinematography is amazing, the acting is amazing and the music is divine. If you want to hear a more in-depth review on what I think about this film, take a read here.
2. Avengers: Endgame
It just had to be here right? The highest-grossing movie of all time overtook the local cinemas for weeks this summer. 22 movies had led up to this, the final battle between the Titan Thanos and Tony Stark’s Avengers and from the very opening of this movie, it was pulling no punches, as we saw the remaining Avengers return to try and bring back their loved ones and put a stop to Thanos’ tyranny. (Spoiler alert, but if you haven't seen this movie yet you must have been living under a rock for all of 2019)
I saw this movie as part of the double bill midnight showing with its prequel, Infinity War, and it’s probably my favourite cinema experience of all time. The entire cinema lept from their seats and cheered as we witnessed Captain America wield Mjolnir, was laughing at the hilarity of Thor, we cried as the Avengers we thought were gone, returned, and we sank into our seats as we watched Ironman and Spider-Man reunite. I can honestly say, thinking back to watching this movie, as Captain America bellows ‘Avengers Assemble’ accompanied with the visceral theme; it was pure euphoria. A cinematic marvel (pun intended) the likes of which, I anticipate we won't see for quite some time.
1. Marriage Story
We made it to number one, and probably not what you were expecting right? But bear with me whilst I explain... In Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story, starring Scarlett Johannson and Adam Driver, we watch a marriage fall apart whilst a couple tries to remain strong for the benefit of their son. This movie comes alive in its 2 leads who deliver career-best performances that are completely polarised with some stunning music and awkward cinematography, the one word that comes to mind, is devastating and perhaps to truest depiction of divorce ever put to the big screen, with a style that leaves you feeling like it belongs more on Broadway.
This is a solitary movie and one to be watched alone, if you’ve known divorce in your life, or are going through one at the moment, this movie is going to tear out your heart, stamp it to the ground, and then hug it after. There’s are a particularly upsetting moment with Driver and his son, if you’ve seen this movie you’ll know exactly what I mean, that left me burying my head into a cushion as I quite hysterically cried.
I would not be surprised to see this movie clean up during awards season, Adam Driver & Scarlett Johannson are that good, it almost isn’t fair on any of their contemporaries. Coupled with some masterful writing and beautiful cinematography - it wasn’t difficult to slap this right at numero uno - even if it was only released in December.
Marriage Story is available on Netflix, so go home, grab the tissues and enjoy.
So there you have it! My top 10 films of 2019, and what a hard list to pick out it was. There have been so many amazing movies this year and 2020 looks set to continue the trend…
What does your list look like? Are there in surprises in there? Let us know on social media.