The Weekend in Film - Top 10 Films Of 2019 as picked by Canvas reviewer Tom Augustine
Honourable Mentions: Whittling any list down to 10 is a struggle. A few wonderful films came close but didn't quite make the cut, including The Farewell, Marriage Story, Peterloo, Midsommar, Doctor Sleep and Crawl. But, without further ado, here are my top 10 films of 2019:
10. Ad Astra (dir. James Gray)
A visionary trip into an interstellar heart of darkness, James Gray's latest is an immensely personal, intimate film writ large across galaxies. Brad Pitt gives an astonishing performance, demonstrating subtlety and control in his turn as an astronaut searching the stars for his missing father.
9. Little Women (dir. Greta Gerwig)
Featuring a stellar cast (Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Meryl Streep) at the top of their game, Greta Gerwig's assured approach to this classic novel provides fascinating new layers and parallels to a text that may otherwise feel a little stale.
8. The Nightingale (dir. Jennifer Kent)
Undoubtedly the toughest film on my list, this odyssey of revenge and colonialism in 19th century Australia is often oppressively violent and cruel - but its disturbing denouement hasn't left my mind. From cult horror hit The Babadook to this, Jennifer Kent is one of Australia's most unflinching directors.
7. Us (dir. Jordan Peele)
Jordan Peele's sophomore effort Us is a total thrill-ride, providing an intriguing, ambiguous narrative and a deliriously committed double performance from Lupita N'Yongo. Us matches Get Out's ambition and scare-ratio, with haunting implications as its final twist is revealed.
6. Under the Silver Lake (dir. David Robert Mitchell)
David Robert Mitchell's freewheeling, insanely complex follow-up to 2014's It Follows finds the director producing a controversial slacker mystery that echoes everything from Mulholland Drive to The Big Lebowski to Inherent Vice while remaining its own thing the whole way through. A misunderstood future cult classic.
5. Atlantics (dir. Mati Diop)
A slice of African neo-realism, a mind-bending detective mystery, and a haunting ghost story rolled into one, this astonishing debut from French-Senegalese film-maker Mati Diop uses issues such as the Mediterranean immigration crisis and late-capitalism as a starting point for a broader inquiry into the nature of loss and identity.
4. Parasite (dir. Bong Joon-ho)
This twisty-turny Korean thriller keyed into the zeitgeist of 2019, capturing the class struggle with precision, rage and ingenuity. Featuring stunning performances across the board, Bong Joon-ho's Hitchcockian deployment of sly, macabre plotting and nail-biting atmosphere is unparalleled.
3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. Celine Sciamma)
A quiet film hiding torrents of emotion just below the surface, this exquisite romance slowly, deliberately washes over you, leading to a stunning finale of almost unbearable emotional catharsis. Celine Sciamma's steady and controlled camerawork (alongside director of photography Claire Mathon, who also shot Atlantics) is wondrous.
2. The Irishman (dir. Martin Scorsese)
A bleak, haunting gangster epic from America's greatest living film-maker, Martin Scorsese, The Irishman is another masterpiece. Uniting three of the greatest American actors - Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino together for the first time and all incredible - Scorsese's work here is deeply funereal, a lingering opus reflecting on a life's work.
1.Once Upon A Time In ... Hollywood (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
When it was announced Quentin Tarantino was working on a film about the murder of Sharon Tate, it was easy to feel uneasy. Yet, somehow, Once Upon a Time is perhaps Tarantino's finest film, a love letter to a time and place that never truly existed, a film continuously in conversation with history, cinema and his past work. A hilarious, laidback film, Tarantino removes most of his trademark ironic distance, allowing for genuine sentiment and understanding to sneak in.