As I’m heading off for the holiday period until early January and heading for a place where the nearest cinema is a 90 minute drive (and likely to be showing multiple screenings of the latest Star Wars), I can safely list my top 10 films of the year.
2019 was not a vintage year from my perspective – and, with missing the Melbourne International Film Festival, my screenings count was down on previous years. But there were a few crackers in the list – it was simply a lot easier than previous years to whittle the list down to 10.
My top films for 2019 seen as the cinema:
10: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
9: Marriage Story
8: The Favourite
7: Cold War
6: The King
4: The Guilty
1: The Irishman
It’s loud, bombastic, funny, gruesome and enormously entertaining. In other words, a true Quentin Tarantino – that’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and number 10 on my list. It’s overlong and gets lost in its narrative but Brad Pitt is magnificent in a supporting role to Leonardo DiCaprio.
At number nine is one of three Netflix originals that, thankfully, were screened exclusively by independent cinema house Lido Cinemas. Marriage Story is not an easy watch – the breakdown of a marriage but its a film that celebrates the art of film making, with both Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver superb in delivering Noah Baumbach’s incisive dialogue.
One of last year’s Oscar winners came next with The Favourite and Olivia Colman unexpectedly winning the best actress award. It’s a deliciously ribald entertainment of power struggles at the 18th century English court of Queen Anne.
One of my first films of the year – and one of the best. Shot in bleak black and white, Cold War is an impossible tragic love story from Polish writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski.
Sixth on the list (and another Netflix film) is The King, a UK/Australian co-production which inexplicably lost out to the far inferior The Nightingale at the recent Australian Film Awards. Stirring and commanding with a powering central performance by Timothee Chalamet, The King is a magisterial telling of Henry V, loosely based on Shakespeare’s history plays.
And so to the top five for the year. A compassionate tour-de-force set in post-Civil War Lebanon, Capernaum is a narrative of lost hope, poverty and sorrow.
A tense, riveting claustrophobia of a narrative restricted entirely to one night in a Danish emergency call centre and built around the headset of one operative, Jakob Cedergren. That’s The Guilty – reminiscent of Locke and Tom Hardy from a few years back.
Number three is one of the few big studio productions – Joaquin Phoenix, whose extraordinary bravura performance plumbing emotional depth and physicality, made Joker a tour-de-force, with a limited palette tonality and brooding score from Hildur Guðnadóttir adding to the impact.
Oscar favourite for best foreign language film (and a few other possible nods) is the Korean Palme d’Or winning Parasite , a splendidly anarchic dark comedy about social divides and love of money. It was my number one film for many a month – until one of the film events of the year….
Another exclusive release screening within Melbourne by Lido Cinemas, Scorsese’s magnificent The Irishman saw sell out screenings (highlighting the importance of seeing such a film on the big screen). And it became my number one film of the year.