Now that I have dug through all the trash, this year we begin 2020 with the best films of 2019. Most people reading this will be unfamiliar with a few of these movies so I suggest you check them out as they are worth the watch. Character Studies, foreign films, Americana, and narrative films led the pack in this year best of so let’s start with #10.
10. Five Feet Apart
Five Feet Apart is one of the most creative romance movies in years. Romanic dramas for feel played out as they are full of the tropes that can make the film feel formulaic rather than genuine, not this film. Director Justin Baldoni goes out of his way to avoid those tropes. Dealing with characters who suffer from CF, checkpoints like holding hands, the first kiss, and sex scenes are thrown right out the window. This means the film has to tell a story to sell its emotion. The film is emotional, heartwarming, and will likely jerk your tears especially if you are a sucker for romantic movies. Five Feet Apart is a well-acted teen drama that gives hope that the genre can still be saved.
9. Back Fork
The realism is what makes this a stand out film, the bare-bones feel of the subject matter fits like a glove with the authentic cinematography and visual setting of small-town West Virginia. Stewart carries this story as a man who slowly falls into a rock bottom, the character is tragic, but relatable because, at its core, it’s the story of a man who could be anyone and is anyone under the same circumstances. The story isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but it’s simple and forward delivery is makes it an early pick for the best drama of the year. Back Fork is a tear-jerker and possibly a wake-up call for many Americans.
The story is easy to get lost in and credit has to go to director Marielle Heller who has built a solid resume in the realm of drama along with last year’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? The film doesn’t get too deep into Rogers’s ideology but does a great job of showing how he used his television show to teach valuable life lessons to kids. John Nolte goes into detail about how for decades on public television, Rogers preached the Gospel without ever mentioning Christ or God, without ever preaching. Rogers in real life was a well known Christian conservative. The film obviously cannot work without the performance of Tom Hanks. Hanks brings home the voices and the mannerisms of the character on screen, he becomes Fred Rogers in every aspect. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood will create a whole new appreciation for Fred Rogers.
7. Richard Jewell
A heart-wrenching story of incompetence, character assassination and the scary part is that this happens far more times than certain people (the media) would like you to believe. Today’s cancel culture is the end result of the environment that we have allowed in this country for so many years. Just like the guy who raised $1 Million for Charity and then some hack journalist dug through his Twitter to attack him for things he said when he was 16. Sam Rockwell is the MVP of this film and has had an amazing 2019. Richard Jewell is yet another reason why the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” should always prevail over believing narratives with no evidence.
6. Extreme Job
This film is ridiculous from the very beginning and it never stops being entertaining. The opening chase scene of a drug dealer running in the streets from a group of dimwitted cops is one of the funniest comedy sequences in years. It is so refreshing to see a comedy that doesn’t rely on terrible improv, dick jokes, or pop culture references to get its laughs. Extreme Job seamlessly mixes good action with great comedy while managing to pace the story so that it’s always progressing and never overplays its gags. The chemistry of the cast is outstanding, each cop has a distinct personality that makes the film a hit. I can’t put over this film enough, watch it and you are guaranteed to be entertained, not to mention the food in the film looks pretty damn good too.
5. Uncut Gems
People wrote off Adam Sandler’s acting abilities quite some time ago. Almost 20 years of sub-par to terrible comedies later and most people cringe whenever they hear he has a new film out in theaters. Well, this movie is anything but funny, Uncut Gems is the story of a man who can’t get out of his own way and it is one of Sandler’s best performances in decades. The film is a character study of a man consumed by his own vices. The story is enthralling for a 135-minute epic as the film progresses, you are encaptured in the question of how can things possibly get any worse. Filmmakers The Safdie Brothers (Joshua & Benjamin) take influence from Martin Scorsese in order to portray a modern-day New York underbelly. The grittiness does wonders for a realistic setting and makes for an even more crushing story so don’t into expecting to leave in a good mood.
The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil is everything you ask out of a good film in the current age of cinema. A good setup, compelling characters, solid performances, and a world you can get lost in for two hours. It is very intriguing to watch the police and criminal worlds come together to stop a common enemy that is just per evil. Kim Sung-kyu plays the cold-hearted psychopath who kills at random and indiscriminately. The plot keeps the tension high and the audience engaged through the very end while providing a few twists in between. The film provides Hollywood like quality while managing to keep its focus on the central story which has become a daunting task for Hollywood filmmakers in the last few years. When it comes to quality, the South Korean film industry has been on a roll in the last few years and The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil is no exception.
3. The Irishman
Most people think the mafia only exists in films like The Godfather or tv shows like the Sopranos, the reality is that powerful organizations have been running the world in secret for many decades and pogues like us won’t know their names until they are long dead and their stories are sold to Hollywood to be portrayed as fiction. The Irishman is an amazing look into the seedy US history that you don’t learn about in schools. The world of organized crime is brilliantly brought to life by the mind of Martin Scorsese and the performance of Robert De Niro. The Irishman is pure storytelling at it’s finest and it’s the kind of story that can only be told by the remaining members of Hollywood’s old guard. In front of the camera, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci are the heart of The Irishman. Scorsese took a lot of heat for saying that Marvel Cinematic Universe films were not cinema and Martin responds by releasing one of the best narrative films of his entire catalog. A film that is the exact antithesis of the big-budget studio machine of the modern era.
Joker is easily the best comic book film in the last five years, arguably longer. Joaquin Phoenix is a Rockstar who knocks this film out of the park. It is up to the viewer whether you believe his performance is better than Heath Ledger but you will definitely wonder what the hell Warner Bros was thinking casting Jared Leto. Joker’s descent into madness is both gripping and entertaining. The ending of this film is one of the most intense and well-acted sequences in the last few years and despite being a douche in real life, Robert De Niro deserves major credit. He isn’t in the film much, but he leaves a mark for every scene that he is in. The film is a certified home run for people looking for more than just a cookie-cutter comic book film that we have been accustom to.
Ford v Ferrari is a cultural shock to longtime viewers of modern cinema. In an industry that favors stories that promote a more progressive world view, Ford v Ferrari is a throwback to the time of Americana and family values. A compelling story that highlights the importance of family, friends, love, and the drive for American greatness. Christian Bale is the show-stealer of the film as character of Ken Miles. As a racer, he is shown as the only man with the true knowledge and understanding of how to build a car from scratch that is destined to win. As a father, he is shown as a true family man and a strong role model for his wife and his son. A complete 180 from an industry that currently wants to demonize men and traditional families. Ford v Ferrari is the type of oscar bait that restores your faith in the genre as well as the industry. The film’s window into classic California Conservatism is one that should be savored because you won’t get much of it from Hollywood these days so enjoy while you can.
Honorable Mention For Best Films Of 2019