10. Gloria Bell
Directed by Sebastián Lelio (“A Fantastic Woman”), “Gloria Bell” is an English-language remake of Lelio’s 2013 romantic dramedy “Gloria” that stars Julianne Moore as a middle-aged divorced woman who is looking for love in Los Angeles’ nightclubs. When she meets Arnold (John Turturro), a father of two children who is also divorced, Gloria throws herself into a new relationship which, as expected, comes with challenges of its own.
Overall, “Gloria Bell” is not better than its original version and if we were to recommend you which one to watch, we’d still go with the 2013 film. However, Julianne Moore gives one of her career-best performances and it makes it impossible for us to call this remake unnecessary.
9. The Souvenir
A semi-fictionalized version of director Joanna Hogg’s experiences at film school, “The Souvenir” is set in the 1980s Sunderland and stars Honor Swinton Byrne as Julie, a young film student who falls in love with Anthony (Tom Burke), an older man who works at the Foreign Office. What starts as an intense relationship shortly stumbles because of Anthony’s untrustworthy character and hidden addictions.
Joanna Hogg’s might have benefited from a shortened runtime as it drags during its second act and at times becomes a little tedious, yet charming performances from Byrne and Burke combined with Hogg’s very personal script and David Raedeker’s grainy cinematography make “The Souvenir” stands out as one of the year’s better-crafted dramas.
8. The Farewell
A Chinese-American family discovers that their beloved grandmother Nai Nai has only a short time left to live after she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Hiding the bad news from Nai Nai, the entire family decides to pay her a farewell visit and travel from America to China under the pretext of a wedding celebration.
Partly based on director’s Lulu Wang personal life experiences, “The Farewell” is a touching drama which mixes heartfelt moments with slices of humor and, despite playing it a little too safe to be considered something truly outstanding, there is no doubt that it is one of the best family movies of the year.
7. Under The Silver Lake
“It Follows” director David Robert Mitchell released its third feature film to polarizing reactions. “Under The Silver Lake” competed for the Palme D’or at the Cannes Film Festival, yet at the same time holds an average rating of 5.83/10 on Rotten Tomatoes and the audience reaction was mixed as well.
“Under The Silver Lake” is too strange of a film to be on everyone’s liking, yet there are enough reasons for some viewers to love it and even place it among the top movies of the year. The film mixes mystery with black comedy and satire and tells a very ambitious story, is visually enthralling and takes inspiration from other cinematic odysseys such as Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” or Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” but at the same time remains unique and memorable on its own.
Ari Aster blew us away with his 2018 horror drama “Hereditary”, a film that set him up as one of the most promising emerging directors and received widespread acclaim as a masterpiece of the genre. Coming up with a second film that lived up to the mastery of his debut was a hard job for Aster, but “Midsommar” proved that he was far from a one-hit-wonder movie director and received widespread acclaim for its ambitious subject and excellent craftsmanship.
Inspired by Robin Hardy’s “The Wicker Man” (1973) and the ancient Pagan rituals of the Midsummer festival, the film follows a group of college students who attend a Swedish summer festival that turns into a daymare. From its very start, which features one of the main characters going through a traumatizing event, “Midsommar” establishes itself as one of the most unsettling movies of the year and for its remaining runtime it only gets more and more disturbing. It is a memorable film and, while less affecting than “Hereditary”, it is bigger in scope and shows even more prowess from director Ari Aster.
“Climax” starts with a television screen showing a series of interviews with a group of dancers and then it takes us to an abandoned school, where a long elaborately choreographed dancing scene commences. Not before long, you will realize that this is a film like no other you’ve seen before.
After the mesmerizing one-shot dancing scene, the group of dancers starts drinking sangria but soon they start feeling strange and they find out that their drink was spiked with LSD. From this point on, madness ensues and the film draws you in its claustrophobic, anxiety-inducing world which feels like a never-ending nightmare.
Disturbing, entertaining, dark, crazy, violent, provocative and stylish – there are not enough words to describe Gaspar Noé’s film, which is arguably his best work to date and one of the most demented films of the decade. As one critic put it, “Climax” is the closest thing to a crowd-pleaser Noé has ever done, but this is still not an easy watch by any means. The film lacks a concise story and is more style over substance, but, like David Lynch’s movies, it shouldn’t be perceived as a narrative film but more as an experience.
Trey Edward Shults, who has directed the impressive yet underrated “Krisha” (2015) and “It Comes At Night” (2017), solidifies his place as one of the most talented directors of the decade with his new movie “Waves”.
Set in South Florida, “Waves” tells the emotional story of a suburban family that is collapsing in the aftermath of a personal tragedy and is one of the most intimate, honest and heartbreaking movies of the last year. Apart from a moving story and great performances from its entire cast, the film also benefits from a fantastic soundtrack (songs from Radiohead, Tame Impala or Kanye West come to mind) and, like Shults’ previous work, exquisite cinematography and camerawork that are so good that they even stopped some of the film’s narrative flaws from bothering us.
3. The Last Black Man In San Francisco
Joe Talbot’s debut film amazed us with its jaw-dropping cinematography, camera work, and a soundtrack that is hard not to fall in love with. The film follows Jimmie Fails (played by Jimmie Fails) a young Afro-American who dreams of reclaiming a Victorian house that was once owned by his grandfather. Along with his best friend Montgomery (Jonathan Majors), Jimmy starts refurbishing the house despite the owners’ complaints, hoping that one day it will become his own home.
With many memorable scenes, likable characters and a very original script, this is one of the biggest surprises of 2019. And while it is uneven and its first half is much better than its second, “The Last Black Man In San Francisco” contains some of the best film moments we’ve seen all year and is the kind of movie where the visuals and atmosphere are so good that they make the plot flaws less disturbing. This is a must-watch for every film lover.
2. Uncut Gems
Who would have thought that one of the best movies of 2019 would star Adam Sandler as its lead character?
Adam Sandler has proved himself to be a good actor when in the hands of the right director (his work in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love” and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories” come to mind), but his role in The Safdie brothers’ movie is probably a career-high.
Here, Sandler gives one of the year’s best performances as Howard Ratner, a Jewish-American who owns a jewelry store in New York City and has an eccentric temperament. After getting in over his head with some money and jewelry loans and angering the people he works with, Howard finds himself in a hard to escape situation that seems to go from bad to worse.
Similar to their previous film “Good Time”, The Safdies’ new movie is yet another fast-paced, funny, entertaining and anxiety-inducing thriller that takes place over a short amount of time and grabs your attention from start to end. It is one of our favorites of the year and we will go as far as saying is the best film the two directors have made so far.
1. The Lighthouse
“The Lighthouse” was directed by Robert Eggers, whose debut film “The Witch” (2015) was a critical success and one of the best horror films of the decade, and revolves around two lighthouse keepers from the 1890s (played by Robert Pattinson and William Dafoe) who live alone on a remote island and start to lose their sanity as they are stuck together in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by alcohol, rainstorms, and screeching seagulls.
Shot on black and white 35mm film in the nearly square Academy aspect ratio, the movie looks like it was filmed in its early days of cinema by pioneers such as Fritz Lang and G.W. Pabst. This makes is one of the year’s best-looking films and an ode to the cinema of the 1930s. But it’s the powerhouse performances from its two leads combined with a masterful direction and a hallucinatory script from Eggers that complement the fantastic visuals and place “The Lighthouse” among the biggest cinematographic achievements of the decade.