Written by: Patrick Howard
2019 has been a continuing year of great diversity in front of and behind the camera. In no way is the issue of diversity solved for good, but it’s a delight to see great films on this list like Jojo Rabbit and The Farewell receive the recognition and exposure they deserve. It’s not definitive, but one could look at these two films as measured, if not subconscious, responses by their respective filmmakers to the current tirade of ignorant messages of hate in the world. Either way, this list contains the films that, for me personally, fully utilized the complete toolbox of the filmmaking process and pushed the medium to new heights.
- Jojo Rabbit (title hyperlinked to my review)
- The Farewell – A cultural journey that is equally heartwarming and fascinating to watch. Awkwafina wastes no time and establishes herself as a great dramatic actress to watch out for in the coming years.
- The Lighthouse – An unapologetically weird and often unexplainable sea shanty brought to life. The twists and turns director Robert Eggers takes as Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe slowly lose their minds would make H.P. Lovecraft proud.
- Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood – A wonderfully chill tour through the unpredictable streets of 1960s Hollywood. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are a finely tuned pairing. Their combined charisma evokes the likability of Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
- Knives Out – Rian Johnson uses the familiar tropes and clichés of the murder-mystery genre at his disposal and just has a ball with them. Character motivations are revealed earlier than expected, plot points circle around back into the story in refreshing ways and Daniel Craig’s Detective Benoit Blanc is a highly entertaining sendup of Agatha Christie’s Detective Hercule Poirot.
- Ford v Ferrari (title hyperlinked to my review)
- Us (title hyperlinked to my review)
- Apollo 11 – Forget the interviews. Forget the narration. Documentarian Todd Douglas Miller uses fully restored footage and forgoes the usual pomp and circumstance to let us experience the Apollo 11 mission like never before
- Doctor Sleep – A cinematic Stephen King adaptation comes with its weird and goofy storytelling choices no matter how faithful. However, Mike Flanagan shuffles through the unavoidable camp and pays great respect to King, ataking the original Shiningtale to new heights.
- Alita: Battle Angel – The script never meets the same level of complexities as the original manga by Yukito Kishiro, but Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron have impressively translated the meticulous details of the manga’s cyberpunk design to live action. Rosa Salazar meets the physical requirements of the role of Alita and manages to imbue the cyborg with aspirations and tenacity.