2019: My year in film

A list of 2019 releases seen this year across the U.S., Sydney, and occasionally, VOD and mid-air. As a result, there are some late 2018 releases, and it’s a week late so I could get to the late 2019 releases I missed.

Initial tweet-reactions to the higher rated films included. In alphabetical order, by star rating…

5 star

To execute with such precision at its monumental scale is a high stakes, technical magic trick that made me feel like I’m experiencing something entirely new in cinema. Would watch an 8-part series on the making-of.

Ash is Purest White
A sweeping look at how China is modernising over the last 20 years, with the one constant being a commanding, captivating Zhao Tao, and her journey through it all. The kind of film you’re happy to let wash over you.

Avengers: Endgame
Unprecedented in scope in what it attempts to cap off. Does so in utterly satisfying fashion time and time again, while not being afraid to look back. Big character moments, laughs, and comic book fan service. Bravo, Marvel.

Veritably despairing and pointed. An astonishing set of performances, the young lead in particular. Don’t quite know how the director managed to conjure it up.

The Chambermaid
A beguiling, methodical Gabriela Cartol puts you through the wringer in a mighty performance that carries this coldly-observed portrait.

For Sama
A crushing decoction of human emotion from the ground in Aleppo, captured with a fearlessness and purpose that is unimaginable. By far the most essential film of the year.

All that you can ask for and more in capturing the human existence, and our relationship to nature. The beekeeper is the best of us.

There’s a scene where she looks on with the joy of a proud mother, as a kid enjoys a piece of honeycomb she extracted, and then it cuts to a gluttonous family feast that’s been bought with basically ruining nature. It’s perfect.

Honey Boy
LaBeouf uniquely bares his soul and the trauma of his life. Noah Jupe is nothing short of astonishing.

A dangerous film, practically devoid of light. Joaquin is peerless, and this is a performance for the ages, finely attuned on many a level. The movement of the camera and score are excellent in building the mood too. Loved the homage at the end.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Boisterous and brimming with confidence right from the get-go, casting a golden gaze on the city; not so much the current inhabitants. Top notch musical choices.

Little Women
The warmth, loving, laughter, and sense of family that comes with these characters streams out of the screen and gives you a hug. Timmy is a dream, the costume designs are a treat.

Long Day’s Journey into Night
A film lover’s dream, playing with the visual building blocks of cinema in spectacular ways. There are shots of water and glass that are godly. Oh, and then let’s throw in a one-hour single take.

A scintillating screenplay about race and White guilt in America, paired with a wickedly-good Kelvin Harrison Jr! Kept me afraid and uneasy until the very end. Glad to see Naomi Watts back to her best, and lord is there a lot of reading to do now to process it all.

The most striking opening to a film in recent memory. Cinematic in the truest sense, exploding with rawness. The Q&A after illuminated how carefully put together it actually was.

A non-stop rollercoaster of entertainment, empathy, and incisive class commentary, morphing wildly in tone. Executed with consummate confidence. Can’t get over how well it evokes and uses smell to say so much.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire
A heart-swelling crescendo that is all art.

Elegant, ingenious, purposeful. How often can you associate that with an action film? Sublime set design, framing, and use of slow-motion as well.

Toy Story 4
Has no right to be the best of the bunch, but here we are. The adults were laughing way more than the kids. Large parts of it are plain dark and odd (in a good way). The animation is mind-bogglingly gorgeous!

Wild Rose
Gets exponentially better as it goes along, culminating in ALL the heartstrings being tugged. Grounded in reality, and makes the small moments matter. Jessie Buckley is the real deal.

Uncut Gems
A symphony of screaming and raucous energy, orchestrated by two maestros in the Safdies, propelled by Adam Sandler at his very best. It’s also the greatest NBA film of all time.

4pt5 star

Birds of Passage
The rise and fall of a crime family, but the focus is just as much on the tradition, culture, and destruction of it, making it all the richer.

A coward of the highest order, to man or beast of any size, makes for a painful, compelling character study. Framed beautifully, and can’t go past that grand weasel of a lead performance.

Free Solo
A successful balancing act in getting to know the man as much as the feat. The danger is clear and present, and insane to think about, yet with Honnold’s dedication and knowing himself, it’s pretty smooth sailing in the end! Practice makes perfect.

The Irishman
Luxuriously spaced over 3.5 hours, this doesn’t fly by, but boy is it time well spent. Pesci, Pacino, and De Niro age beautifully together, warts and all. It’s a treat seeing them go to work.

Late Night
Mindy Kaling has written the heck out of this. Genuinely, consistently funny with something to say, led by a simply terrific Emma Thompson.

The Lighthouse
As far as miserably dire descents into lunacy go, she be a mightily handsome devil. Pattinson and Dafoe completely give themselves over to it all. Sound Design has to be an Oscar lock. Cinematography ain’t far behind.

Marriage Story
Like Baumbach’s screenplay, pieces of paper rule this film with their heartbreak and multiple meanings. Acting noms are deserved across the board.

The Nightingale
An undaunted, necessary look at Australian history, soaked in savagery. Equally applicable over here, and troublingly easy to draw a line to now. Finds time for grace amidst it all.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino’s True Bromance. Made me nostalgic for a time and place I never knew. Fun, funny, and filled with those iconic close-ups and quick cuts. Wish it wasn’t so blatantly male-gazey at times. Pupusa Man kills it.

The highly personal, story-like songs of Elton John totally lend themselves to the musical genre, and I’m glad the director leant into that! Taron Egerton grounds it all with gusto.

The Souvenir
It could frustrate the heck out of you if you only ask “why?” I appreciated the experience (and it is that) it put me through, and its unconventional specificity in telling the story.

A blast to see with a packed audience! Visceral thrills and giggles, delicate camerawork, and a WHOLE lot to ruminate on after, cutting open the wounds of America. Lupita is a revelation!

A circling kaleidoscope of hurt and heart, hurtling at you, non-stop.

4 star

Ad Astra


High Life


If Beale Street Could Talk

Knives Out

Leaving Neverland


Pain and Glory




3pt5 star


Blinded by the Light



Dolemite Is My Name

The Farewell

Ford v Ferrari

The Guilty

Hale County This Morning, This Evening

Long Shot


Support the Girls


Terminator: Dark Fate

Too Late to Die Young

Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1

3 star

American Factory


Captain Marvel


Fyre Fraud

Jojo Rabbit

High Flying Bird

The Inventor

2pt5 star

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Queen & Slim

The Art of Self Defense


2 star

Decade of Fire

Dora the Explorer

Hobbs and Shaw

Last Christmas

Ready or Not



Cold Case Hammarskjöld


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