Happy New Year!
Yesterday I shared my picks for my top 10 films of the decade, but we still have a bit of unfinished business with 2019. So here, keeping it (comparatively) brief, are my top 10 films of the year.
10. Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé
This film landed at #10 when I made my mid-year favourites list back in July. It remains at #10 now, bumping out several films that had initially placed higher. It’s a testament to just how vibrant and entertaining this doc is. Beyoncé is a master at cultivating a very specific sense of style for herself, and this A+ concert film has it in spades.
I had to watch Waves twice to figure out how I felt about it. I’ve decided that, for me, its many positives outweigh the considerable flaws also present. Trey Edward Shults took a lot of risks, and I think his ambition pays off in the sense that it’s a film that is memorable and never feels like it’s playing it safe. I’ll take that any day over something consistent yet mediocre. And all hail Taylor Russell and Sterling K. Brown.
There were a lot of strong 2019 docs that also could have found a spot on my top 10 in a weaker year (Apollo 11, Knock Down the House, Midnight Family, After Parkland, and Honeyland) but none more rousing than Maiden. Telling the uplifting story of the first all-female crew to compete in the prestigious Whitbread Round the World sailing race, it’s a crowd-pleaser in the best sense of the world. Probably also the film that I shed the largest amount of non-sad tears for in 2019.
Bong Joon-ho’s latest is as well-constructed and entertaining as everyone says. It’s so universally acclaimed that I feel that I don’t have much to add to the conversation. However, if you haven’t seen it, be sure to add this bold, twisty treat to the top of your to-watch list.
I still absolutely adore Olivia Wilde’s smart, hilarious coming-of-age tale just as much as I did when I saw it some seven months ago. Its entire cast is a true delight, and I love the goofy, sweet, raunchy script. If we got one big-budget comedy this good every year, we’d be doing just fine.
5. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
This is the 2019 film I most desperately want to rewatch. Tarantino’s latest is so freewheeling and oddly likeable that it feels, in a way, like you’re hanging out with friends. It has an ease to it that you barely notice the lengthy runtime, and it leaves you with a lot to ponder even after it’s over. Easily top 5 Tarantino. Maybe even top 3? (I sense a viewing project for 2020 coming on.)
I’m more excited about Rocketman than the vast majority of people, but I really just adore it. It contains easily some of the most memorable and entertaining scenes of the year, and it’s a would-be glossy biopic that actually has a lot of genuine heart and artistic flare. Get Taron Egerton his Oscar nomination, please.
3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
All of my top 3 films that combine a sort of formal elegance with considerable emotional heft, and perhaps no film was as restrained yet passionate this year as Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Celine Sciamma’s latest is a pleasure to watch and one that, while perhaps initially seeming understated, is likely to stick with you long after the fact.
Easily the most obscure film on the list, this Canadian gem certainly deserves to find a wider audience. Taking a premise that could have gone horribly wrong (it depicts the life of one woman by having two different actresses embody her on screen at the same time) it instead finds a unique, surprisingly accessible rhythm that hits pretty perfectly the whole way through. I loved the creativity.
1. Pain & Glory
Some years it’s difficult to land on which film will be the one to take the top spot on this list, but Pedro Almodovar’s Pain & Glory was my petty clear-cut favourite of the year. Everything about its style and story just clicked for me. Antonio Banderas gives the performance of his career and, from start to finish, I loved every colourful, heartfelt, and sometimes idiosyncratic choice Almodovar made.