The top 10 films of 2019 prove memorable and innovative.
Every year, when considering my top ten list, I organize it based off of a theme. Sometimes it’s the films I think are objectively the best of the year; sometimes it’s what I enjoyed the most. This year my list is organized around what has stuck with me the most. A good film, I think, stays with you after you’ve watched it. All of these have done that for me in some way.
This year was a good year for movies. And a bad year for awards. Or maybe more of a mixed bag? As a balm to you after the atrocious “Joker” getting the most Oscar nominations, here is a list of movies. It’s a special list to me — my personal favorites of the year, but, art is subjective. There’s a high likelihood that they will not be your favorite movies of the year. Maybe you’ll like them anyways. Here I present, in reverse order, The Collegian’s Top Ten, listed.
Honorable Mentions: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “Ash is the Purest White,” “Fast Color,” “Paddleton,” “The Dead Don’t Die,” “The Farewell,” “The Kid Who Would Be King”
Notably Missed: “Crawl,” “Her Smell,” “High Flying Bird,” “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” “Peanut Butter Falcon.” “Ready or Not,” “Synonyms”
“The Lighthouse,” dir. Robert Eggers
Robert Eggers returns to the screen after his brilliant film “The Witch” with “The Lighthouse,” a film about two men stuck manning a lighthouse together in New Hampshire at the tail end of the 19th century. “The Lighthouse” is striking in its absurdity. It’s weird and horrifying and funny. I’m not quite sure what the film means, but then again, that element of mystery might be why it made it to this list.
“The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” dir. Joe Talbot
The semi-autobiographical account of screenwriter and lead actor Jimmie Fails’s love affair with a house, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” follows a fictionalized Jimmie Fails as he navigates the rapid gentrification of San Francisco, his hometown. At times both tender and bitter, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” plays like a eulogy for what was once and never was.
“Uncut Gems,” dir. Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Yeah, I know. “Adam Sandler, really?” But to you, the skeptic, I say, Adam Sandler, really! “Uncut Gems” is full of energy and it’s loud. All of the normal sounds that would be edited out in an other movies have been left in this one. The frenetic noise and pacing allows the audience to feel the turbulence that Sandler’s character, Howard Ratner, experiences during the course of the film.
“Knives Out,” dir. Rian Johnson
I like “Knives Out” because it’s clever and funny and has a terrific script with all reveals in the right places, but even without these things, I would like it. “Knives Out” has good politics. The whole film hinges on Ana de Armas’s Marta, a Latin-American nurse who has a kind heart, navigating both racial and class complications after the death of her employer. The marketing campaign for “Knives Out” led me to think that Jaime Lee Curtis and Daniel Craig would be the main characters of the film. I have not been more delightedly surprised by a film this year than when I realized Marta was our protagonist. “Knives Out” has cards up its sleeve and delights in the sleight of hand.
“Little Women,” dir. Greta Gerwig
As a kid, I read a lot of books. A lot of them were old books, and most of the ones about little girls were boring. “Little Women” was different, though. “Little Women” had Jo. “Little Women” was bitter about how limited women were in their options. “Little Women” had absurd religion and a family that felt cozy and biting winters and drafty lofts. Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation captures the spirit of the March family and gives humanity to each sister. You can tell Gerwig too, loved “Little Women.” While the film is true to the book, Gerwig makes the story her own through the interspersing of events. The whole cast is fantastic, and Florence Pugh in particular is sparkling as the oft-despised Amy, revealing the essence of the character to the screen.
“I Lost My Body,” dir. Jérémy Clapin
This one is on Netflix — go watch it now! “I Lost My Body” is a French animated film about a lonely young man and a lonely severed hand. The young man, Naoufel, is bad at talking to girls and still suffering from the trauma of losing his parents when he was very young. The hand once was a part of Naoufel but is now severed, and narrowly escaping dissection, the hand sets out on a quest to find the rest of its body. “I Lost My Body” is strange and seems to point to some deeper sense of meaning that I haven’t figured out yet. It crescendos; the ending rings in one’s ears for a long time after.
“Honey Boy,” dir. Alma Har’el
“Honey Boy” could easily have been a bad movie. It could have naval-gazed or focused on the wrong things or lost itself in melodrama. It doesn’t, though, and instead it’s a terribly good movie. The kind that will break you, if you let it. Shia LaBeouf wrote the first draft of “Honey Boy” in rehab and the rawness of the script serves as a testament to suffering and recovery of his childhood. As the film progresses, it moves past the literal and uses a more artistic, modernist approach to the ending, conveying emotion rather than plot. It’s a wonderful thing when a piece of art can reach another through the vague. Like WWI poets and authors, I think the experience LaBeouf is trying to convey has moved beyond verbal explanation into a part of the soul that can only be touched by the abstract.
“A Hidden Life,” dir. Terrance Mallick
This was actually the first Terrance Mallick film I’ve ever seen — and it’s three hours long! Based off of the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who refused to swear an oath to Hitler, “A Hidden Life” is deeply moving and deeply spiritual. Modern Evangelicals should see it. Many critics I respect have said far more, far better than I could, but I have thought about “A Hidden Life” nearly every day since I have seen it.
“Parasite,” dir, Bong Joon Ho
While a satire, “Parasite” does not hyperbolize. Always entertaining, Parasite sets itself up brilliantly. There’s a turn about 45 minutes into “Parasite” where the film switches genres and all of a sudden everything is different. It’s executed like an architect building a bridge, and, like a bridge, the best part is when it all crumbles.
“Pain and Glory,” dir. Pedro Almodóvar
Months after I’ve seen this one, I still think about it. “Pain and Glory” follows a director well past his prime reflecting on his life and childhood and mother. The past and present mingle together, summed up in the ending shot, which changes the context of the entire film. It becomes cyclical, the film’s ending pointing to its beginning and around and around it goes, trying to reconcile what is and what was until it truly encompasses one man’s life within the span of two hours.