2019 was an all-around great year for films. In fact, I believe it has been one of the years for cinema this century. While most years, you get to see a couple of great films and a dozen good films, this year I saw at least half-a-dozen great films. What has also been amazing about 2019 is just the sheer variety of films. From Martin Scorsese to Bong Joon-ho, from whodunits to intense dramas, 2019 gave us films that will be remembered for a very long time. With that said, here is the list of top 10 films of 2019. Hope you enjoyed these films as much as I did!
Climax is about a troupe of young dancers who gather in a remote building to rehearse a dance performance. Following an unforgettable opening performance, the troupe begins an all-night celebration. But that soon turns into a nightmare as the dancers discover the sangria that they have been drinking was laced with LSD. What follows is absolute chaos and mayhem that end in a devastating climax. Noe surely was in an experimental mode — as he always is — when he made the film, but little must he have known that his crazy experiment will actually turn out to be his best film till date.
9. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Those who know me know that I am a big fan of period romance. But ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ is not any run-of-the-mill period romance. Set in France in the late 18th century, the film tells the story of a forbidden affair between an aristocrat and a painter commissioned to paint her portrait. To see a lesbian love story set in a time and place that feels so foreign and yet so close is refreshing to say the least. Not to mention the film is also thought-provoking that won’t leave you for days.
8. Uncut Gems
‘Uncut Gems’ is a thrill ride from start to finish. It’s as if the film never lets you breathe. There’s so much going on at any given moment that it’s difficult to make sense out of everything. But that’s where the beauty of the film lies. It tests you in a way that very few films do. Adam Sandler, in his best performance since ‘Punch Drunk Love’, was born to play Howard Ratner, a Jewish-American Diamond District jeweler who is addicted to gambling. My hats-off to Safdie brothers for giving us a true gem of a film.
7. Marriage Story
There’s so much of depth in ‘Marriage Story’ that it is difficult to explain everything in words. There’s heartbreak, there are emotional outbursts, there’s passion, there’s grief, there’s anger, there’s regret. But all said and done, in the end, ‘Marriage Story’ might just be about what it is to be human. We are flawed. We are selfish. We make mistakes. Most of us are ambitious too. So, when two flawed and ambitious people start living under the same roof, there are bound to be differences and arguments. And if you are asking yourself: who between Charlie and Nicole was at fault? The answer is neither. Their only fault was that, just like us, they are humans.
6. Knives Out
‘Knives Out’ is fast-paced and keeps you guessing till the last-minute, with a healthy dose of surprises and twists. Beyond making a murder mystery highly entertaining, the most extraordinary aspect of the film is that it closes out everything perfectly — meaning the film does not leave you with open questions or loopholes hard to find answers to. The bane of most “who’s the killer” movies is that there are just too many unanswered questions in the end. But not in ‘Knives Out’! It’s a perfect whodunit, if it is possible to make one.
5. The Irishman
At 3 hours 45 minutes, ‘The Irishman’ is one of the longest movies of this decade. And yet, when you watch the film you realize why this film needed to be so long. The film, even though set in the world of crime, is actually a reflection of life itself. That’s why while the first three hours of the film is great as is, but it’s the final act that elevates the movie to an altogether different level. I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed every minute of the film, but unquestionably the film has stayed with me even weeks after I saw it. That’s a real test of any great film. Can it stay in your psyche long enough? ‘The Irishman’ sure does.
In so many ways, ‘Joker’ is actually an anti-comic book film. Todd Philips approaches the film more like a character study than a comic book adaptation. I would be surprised if he studied or even looked at any of the previous DC films. His approach is completely original and seems to be inspired from the 70s crime movies. If I have to make a comparison, think ‘Joker’ to be closer to ‘Taxi Driver’ than to ‘The Dark Knight’.
‘Joker’ is as much Joaquin Phoenix’s film as it is Todd Phillips’. Phoenix’s Joker is extremely complex and because the film is an origin story, there’s so much more to delve into and explore for an actor. And Phoenix makes best use of that advantage, giving a performance that will be remembered for years, if not decades. Even in the scenes where his face is covered in make up, he communicates with his eyes and body. One of the best moments in the film is when he breaks into a dance routine towards the end of the film. An absolute delight to watch!
3. Little Women
Going into ‘Little Women’ I didn’t know that I would enjoy this 21st century feministic reinterpretation of the classic Louisa May Alcott’s novel so much. Greta Gerwig has mastered the art of telling coming of age tales. Her characters are always rich in how complex and layered they are. Most of the time, the perfection of the cinematic characters make them seem distant. But that has never been the issue with Gerwig’s characters. They are also flawed, and that’s why you love them. Be it Lady Bird’s Lady Bird or Little Women’s Jo March. Not to mention the strength and vulnerability that Sariose Ranon brings to both Lady Bird and Jo March only makes the characters even more likable.
‘Waves’ is the story of a suburban African-American family led by a domineering father who wants his high-school-going son to become a pro-wrestler. The pressure of meeting his father’s lofty ambitions ultimately proves to be not just life-changing for the young teenager but also the whole family. What’s so refreshing about ‘Waves’ is that it treats African-American family just as any other family. What I mean by that is ‘Waves’ could have very easily been about a white family or an Asian family, with the end result being the same. That Shults chooses an affluent black family — rarely seen in films — to tell his story shows both his confidence and maturity.
Apart from the emotional growth of the characters, that is so deftly handled in the film, what impressed me the most is that despite the story being centered around a violent incident, ‘Waves’ is not about violence or anger or hate. It’s about love. It’s about grief. It’s about regret. But more than anything else, it is about forgiveness. The characters in the film go through a lot of pain and frustration, but in the end they realize the only way to deal with the sense of loss and overwhelming sorrow is forgiveness.
I haven’t recently come across a more apt title to a movie than “Parasite”. It’s almost as if Bong Jong Ho came up with the title first and then decided to weave a satire on materialism around it. Ki-taek’s family is poor, but poverty is not their fault. What is their fault, though, is their laziness and greed. And it seems, Bong Jong Ho is also saying to the unprivileged people that instead of getting jealous of the materialism that rich exhibit, why not work hard and have an ambition in life.
What makes ‘Parasite’ so memorable is that it gives a serious message without ever taking itself seriously. So, for a disarmed viewer, some of the scenes might feel outlandish to the point of being unbelievable. But Bong Jong Ho knows exactly what he is doing. The whole point of the film is to first make you believe in its authenticity and then to completely shatter your preconceived notions by taking you to the edge of believability. And that’s why ‘Parasite’ is the best film of 2019 and one of the greatest of this decade.
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