My top 20 for 2019. Located at: https://letterboxd.com/garyjbjr/list/my-top-20-2019/. This was an excellent film year, particularly in the international film arena; international films occupy several of the top spots.
Parasite (Korea): The story of a poor family infiltrating the lives of a rich family tells a very contemporary and universal story that is expertly directed.
Marriage Story: A powerfully acted story of divorce that ranks with A Separation and Kramer vs Kramer as among the best. The argument scene is one that I will remember for a very long time. Adam Driver and Scarlet Johansson give the performances of their careers, as does Laura Dern as the somewhat self-serving lawyer.
The Lighthouse: Shot in black and white, it is a film Herman Melville might have made if he were a film director. It is an art-lover’s film that is gritty but beautiful to behold. Robert Pattinson (who would have thought) is superb.
Pain and Glory (Spain): Almodóvar’s semi-autobiographical piece that is very personal and features a stellar performance by Antonio Banderas, a long-time Almodóvar collaborator. The way his life story is told, in three parts, is very different.
When They See Us (Netflix Miniseries): The story of the Central Park Five makes an even more powerful impact than the documentary.
The Joker: Joaquin Phoenix brings a human aspect to the man who slips ever further into madness to eventually become the Joker.
Jojo Rabbit: A young member of the Hitler youth who has Hitler as his imaginary friend. It doesn’t seem like it would work, but what results is hilarious yet tells a touching story.
A Hidden Life: Terrence Mallick’s story, based on true events, of an Austrian man who refuses to pledge allegiance to Hitler. As with all Mallick films, it is long, detailed, and exquisitely filmed.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France): This romantic story of women in the early 18th century is like listening to a poem, and every scene looks like a painting.
Little Women: I loved the spirit and the ensemble acting in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of this story – she brings a fresh, woman-centered spirit into the story that is helped along by some stellar performances.
The Irishman: Scorsese’s latest film tops a career of gangster films, and this one, based on a true story, features some outstanding performances.
1917: While the story is rather shallow and doesn’t measure up to the best war movies, the technical aspects of the film, including its camera work and the cinematography, are brilliant and add a new dimension to war movies.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Tarantino, who can tell an amazing story, uses the backdrop of late 1960’s to tell a story of changing Hollywood. He captures perfectly the era through music, costuming and set design. This film also has a great ensemble cast.
Atlantics (Senegal): This film cleverly uses genre shifts to keep the viewer slightly off-balance while telling a story based in the social conditions in a large city in Senegal.
Uncut Gems: The direction and editing of this film are amazing – everything moves so fast that the viewer is kept as uncomfortable as the main character in a career-defining performance by Adam Sandler (who should have had an Oscar nomination for his performance).
Les Misérables (France): A story of social unrest in a mostly immigrant suburb in Paris, the story tells, much through the eyes of the kids, the various power structures that define the city.
Monos (Colombia): Lord of the Flies meets Apocalypse Now, this film of a band of young teenage fighters explores the implications of human nature. The end of the film is brilliant.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco: I love the screenplay of this film about a young man and his best friend who live through the effects of gentrification in San Francisco. Unfortunately, this film came out early in the year and seems to have been forgotten.
Chernobyl (Netflix Miniseries): This great mini-series gives an hour-by-hour account of the events leading up to and following the nuclear power plant disaster at Chernobyl. It features excellent acting, particularly by Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, and Emily Watson.
American Factory: People are scared about jobs being outsourced to China; this film is a wake-up call that the bigger problem is when the Chinese buy out American factories and try to make changes here.
For Sama: I put this one tied with American Factory; for Sama tells the story of a new mother (a journalist) who takes us through, in a very personal journey, the destruction of Aleppo. It is hopeful, beautiful, chilling, and horrifying all in one.
Other films I loved (in no particular order): Honey Boy; I Lost My Body (France – animated); Klaus (Animated); Midsommar; Apollo 11; Peanut Butter Falcon; The Two Popes; High Life; Queen and Slim; Waves; Blinded by the Light; Us; The Mustang; Rocketman; The Reports on Sarah and Saleem (Israel); The Farewell; Booksmart; Yesterday; Echo in the Canyon; Wild Rose; Linda Ronstadt – Sound of my Voice; Tell Me Who I Am; Maiden; Ford v Ferrari; The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open; El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.