Although 2019 had many important moments, none compare to the fact that it is the year before 2020, a special year when the world was turned upside down by the pandemic. And this convulsed not only humanity itself but also its activities, one of which was the cinema and audiovisual art. We will remember 2019 then as that light breeze that kept a catastrophic forecast silent. This is the top 5 of the best films of that year, in which we did not know how quiet it would be.
Todd Phillips’ Joker is excellent, a movie that has nothing to do with comics beyond references. Joaquin Phoenix (Arthur Fleck/Joker) fills the screen completely and makes you uncomfortable all the time with his laughter, his instability, and even the feeling that maybe you are part of that deplorable society that makes life impossible for him and the film reflects that perfectly.
A film that, because of the social theme it presents and how intense it is, was on everyone’s lips. Some even believe that it is a dangerous film with everything that happens on a “social justice” level and massacres, especially in the United States, at the moment. Todd Phillips shows us, once again, that it is possible to make a high quality film with a precise and twisted narrative, based on a Comic book, as Nolan did with his Batman trilogy. Sublime in every aspect.
New England, the 1890s. Two lighthouse keepers arrive on a remote island for a month-long stretch of maintenance and solitude. But mysteries abound: both men harbour secrets, strange visions and hallucinations appear, and when relief doesn’t arrive, their grip on reality starts to loosen.
Subtext swirls and swells in Robert Eggers’ head-tripping psychological horror. Both adorned with outrageous facial hair, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are the ‘wickies’ – aka lighthouse keepers – stranded together on a rain-lashed rock, slowly losing their grip on sanity and displaying an obsession with the pulsating lamp at the top of the tower.
Equal parts Lovecraftian and Freudian, Eggers’ film is a freaky and fascinating blend of folktale, sea myth, homoeroticism, and psycho-thriller, full of unforgettable imagery and deeply unsettling sound design. And Pattinson and Dafoe give raw, wild-eyed performances, hemmed into the frame by a near-square aspect ratio that lends the whole thing the feel of an unholy long-lost film reel, freshly dredged up from the ocean depths.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
This film is perhaps the one I talk about the least, because you simply have to sit down and watch it and appreciate the staging and, above all, the performances. Leo Di Caprio (Rick Dalton, a 60s Western actor) once again plays an Oscar-worthy role and Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth), as Rick’s stuntman, shows off his years of experience superbly and correctly. Many may be confused by the subplot of this film that tells the story of how the Manson family settled in the city, so if you don’t know the story read it and that will prepare you better to see this film, which has a beautiful direction and photography and an ending where Tarantino again makes his own.
On 6 April 1917 — three years into World War I – two young British soldiers in northern France, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), are tasked with delivering a life-saving message to a distant battalion. To get there, though, they must traverse life-threatening enemy terrains.
Much was made of the sheer technical achievement of Sam Mendes’ World War I movie, presented as one extended take through the Boschian hellscape of the frontlines. And it is an astonishing feat – seamlessly stitched together, Roger Deakins’ camerawork fluidly taking in every assault and eerie landscape.
But 1917 is an emotional, visceral experience too, George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman putting in excellent, empathetic performances as the soldiers dispatched across No Man’s Land to stop thousands of British soldiers walking into a devastating ambush. A frequently harrowing, heart-stoppingly tense cinematic odyssey – and filmmaking at its most immersive.
Seoul, South Korea. The Kim family are living in poverty, and collectively cannot hold a job down. When a teaching role in the household of a much wealthier family arises, the Kims scheme their way into employment by posing as highly skilled workers. But not everything goes according to plan.
Bong Joon Ho has been concocting heady genre fusions for years – and Parasite found the Korean auteur at his most intoxicating. Is it a thriller? Or a dark comedy? Or a tragedy? Or a satire? All of the above, and more. The intertwined stories of the hardscrabble Kim family and the wealth-dripping Parks is deeply layered, richly thematic – and, most of all, breathlessly exciting, twisting and turning in such unexpected ways that you’re never quite sure what comes next.
Bathed in Hitchcockian suspense, nodding to decades of Asian horror movies, peppered with laugh-out-loud lines, it’s a supremely entertaining ride, flawlessly executed by Director Bong with precise craft and a knockout ensemble cast. Before 2020 went off the rails, it began with a miracle: for once, Best Picture really did go to the best picture.