Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Top 10 Films of 2019

Last year, I announced my favorite films of the year on this day. Like then, I feel like I’ve seen almost everything that I plan to, with a few technical Oscar characters sure to follow early in the new year. This year, I’ve set a record on the number of films I’ve screened (more on that soon), and I’ll be celebrating the best in cinema with the 13th Annual AFT Awards after Oscar nominations are unveiled. For now, here are the best films I saw in 2019. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments and share what you enjoyed best this year. Most of all, please see these films!

Runners-up: Late Night, Animals, Big Time Adolescence, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, American Factory, Booksmart, Dolemite Is My Name, I Lost My Body, Long Shot, and Richard Jewell.

The Top 10 Films of 2019


#10: The Silence of Others

This documentary was actually included on the shortlist for last year’s nonfiction Oscar race, and it’s unbelievable that it didn’t make the cut. This haunting exploration of collective memory and an unspoken agreement to forget rather than forgive or even address a national trauma is extraordinary insightful and difficult to shake. It demonstrates that a documentary doesn’t need to be flashy or include famous people to be truly poignant and important. Watch the film, which is slated for a DVD release next year, on POV on PBS.


#9: Joker

When comic book reboots are so omnipresent that it’s hard to keep track of them, it’s rare to find one that completely surprises by investing deeply in its characters in a way that almost entirely disregards the universe and context in which they were first introduced and featured. Comedy director Todd Phillips may have been an unusual choice to helm this dark character study, but the result is immersive and unsettling in all the right ways. Joaquin Phoenix looks to be headed for a well-deserved Oscar win for his transformative and deeply human performance. You can buy the film on Amazon Prime or rent it on DVD later this week.


#8: Olympic Dreams

This film is such an unusual and wondrous specimen, filmed on location at the Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018 by director Jeremy Teicher and starring just two actors, comedian Nick Kroll and Olympic athlete Alexi Pappas. This romance between a volunteer dentist and a competing cross-country skier is hardly complicated, but there’s something that really works about it and feels so sincerely authentic. This is the only film on this list that isn’t technically a 2019 film. Despite premiering at South by Southwest this past March, it won’t be released in theaters until February 14th, 2020, so be sure to see it then!


#7: Pink Wall

Actor Tom Cullen’s directorial debut is a formidable and complex examination of a couple in times of crisis and cohesion. Tatiana Maslany and Jay Duplass delivered blistering performances as three-dimensional, flawed partners who weren’t always prepared to deal with each other. Constructing this film through six extended scenes, each from six different years in their relationship, strongly frames the ups and downs of their riveting relationship. Rent it on Amazon Prime, YouTube, DVD and other formats.


#6: Wild Rose

Irish actress made an incredible film debut with Beast in 2018, and here she delivers a completely different kind of raw, vulnerable turn as a recently-paroled country singer desperate to get out of Glasgow. Her performance – and her singing – makes the film, but it’s also an above-average story about someone running away from her reality, with terrific music propelling her and her loyal friends and family keeping her going. It’s too bad it only has one real shot at Oscar recognition for its signature song. Stream the film for free on Hulu.


#5: Ms. Purple

I still remember when I saw this film at Sundance almost a full year ago since I walked out of a very late 10pm screening extremely happy with my choice to have seen it. This hypnotic spotlight of a karaoke bar waitress trying to care for her ailing father felt like a trip to another world thanks to its beautiful cinematography and music, presenting a stirring story in an extraordinary and unforgettable way. Rent it on Amazon Prime, YouTube, DVD (in a few weeks) and other formats.


#4: Honey Boy

Is there a better child actor working today than Noah Jupe? He is one of the best reasons to see this endearing, emotional father-son drama in which he stars opposite Shia LaBeouf, who makes an instant impression as the manipulative, know-it-all dad who wants his son to be a successful actor at any cost. Director Alma Har’el makes an excellent feature film debut with this exceptional film that has many opinions about its featured characters and wisely refuses to cast definitive judgment on them. This film may still be playing in some theaters and is coming to Amazon Prime on February 7th, 2020.


#3: Paddleton

After premiering at the tail end of Sundance nearly a year ago, this film had a completely under-the-radar debut on Netflix. Ray Romano and Mark Duplass delivered funny, relatable performances as best friends and neighbors whose relationship is transformed when one of them gets sick. This is a delightful film about life, death, and the small things that really matter along the way. Stream it for yourself on Netflix!


#2: The Last Black Man in San Francisco

This film as best described as fantastical, telling a story that could be ordinary and making it something else entirely. There’s an incredible sense of wonder to be found in this film that follows one man desperate to get his family house back and another with a unique perspective on the world. This film has much to say and does it wonderfully and beautifully. Stream it now on Amazon Prime.


#1: Parasite

I’m glad to see that my top film of the year is also one of the most popular and well-received. This South Korean satire about class differences is mesmerizing in its approach, featuring an excellent ensemble participating in a story that exists within many different genres. It may be hard to classify or describe, but it’s one hell of a tremendous viewing experience. It’s still playing in certain theaters and will be available to rent on Amazon Prime on January 14th and on DVD later this month. Don’t miss it.

What to expect here at Movies With Abe in early 2020:

January 1st: Reviews of a few remaining documentary and foreign Oscar finalists
January 5th: Golden Globe Awards (my predictions)
January 6th: Detailed predictions for each Oscar category
January 13th: Oscar nominations reactions and analysis
January 14th: The 13th Annual AFT Film Awards, my choices for the best in film from 2019 in 20+ categories
January 22nd: SAG Awards winner predictions
January 23rd: Sundance Film Festival coverage from Park City, UT

If you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to the movieswithabe channel on YouTube for regular video reviews and follow movieswithabe on Instagram for up-to-date posts about where I am and what I’m seeing. Also, visit TVwithAbe.com for regular pilot and episodic reviews!

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

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