My Favorite Films of 2019 (11-15)
Leading up to the 2020 Academy Awards, I look back on 2019, which has widely been regarded as one of the best years in recent movie history.
This concert film has to be considered on the same level of Stop Making Sense or Sign o’ the Times. Beyonce’s great gift is to make any material profoundly her own, and her imprints are all over this glorious, two hour celebration of her music, Black culture, family, etc. The Beyhive may be intimidating in its unshakable conviction on the greatness of their queen, but they have a goddamn point when Lemonade is clearly one of the greatest albums of the decade and when we consider how impactful her presence in mainstream American culture has been.
Portuguese football player Diamantino (Carloto Cotta) is a genius at his sport but utterly naive and helpless in every aspect of his life. He is a creature of pure faith and love, as evidenced by the gigantic puppies he sees when he is on the football pitch. His evil twin sisters abuse him and take advantage of his naivete while a lesbian secret agent poses as Diamantino’s adopted son in order to investigate him. And it only gets weirder from them. As strange as this movie gets, there’s a great, big heart to this movie, anchored by Carloto Cotta’s wonderful performance. The movie also bursts with visual imagination, yet it is never style over substance, as the movie also contains a good deal of political commentary, which should be familiar to anyone living in Trump country or Brexit land.
13. The Lighthouse
This pitch black dark comedy is an experimental play and a deep dive into madness. It’s incredibly funny at Robert Pattinson’s character’s expense, and Willem Dafoe is either the worst, neediest roommate in the world, the older version of Pattinson’s character, a figment of his imagination or all three combined somehow. It is an alienating movie in many respects but I think there’s enough personal and idiosyncratic touches that Eggers lays on to this movie to make this a fascinating puzzle to tease out.
12. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Mr. Rogers strangely has mostly a supporting role in this film, but I think that was for the best. A straightforward biopic of a preternaturally kind man would have gotten boring really fast, and there had already been an excellent documentary covering the same topic. Yet hearing Mr. Rogers give advice and, more importantly, really listen to the reporter at the center of this movie, fulfills a kind of fantasy that few people got to experience in real life. This beautifully sincere film is childlike in its presentation, but it is no less sharp and skillful as Marielle Heller’s previous work who is able to tell deeply empathetic stories without sanding off the edges of any of her characters or filmmaking.
11. Blinded By the Light
As an Asian man with a more creative bent than most, I remember having the exact same, heated conversations that Javed has in this movie with his dad about his writing career. How the cultural barrier between us seemed insurmountable. Bruce Springsteen may not have been the catalyst, but the Beats, Salinger, Vonnegut, the Beatles inspired the same fervor in me that Springsteen does for the film’s main character. Chadha captures so well a picture of a youth that many of us once were that this movie resonated with me to the base of my soul and made me remember the youthful passion that has diminished over time. It’s not a perfect movie and there are definitely quite a few cheesy moments, but Chadha bottled lightning as far as I am concerned.