As we near the end of 2020, there are probably very few things we want to remember about it. So, in the spirit of feeling nostalgic for comfy cinema seats and the smell of popcorn, let’s have a look back at some of the best movies in 2019, across a variety of different genres.
Which ones stuck with us and which ones failed to hit the mark?
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Screenplay: Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won
The Academy-award winner for Best Film is certainly fresh in its discussion of class struggles. Joon-ho centres the story around a low-income South Korean family who infiltrates into the life of an upper-class family, by posing as domestic workers.
They’ll do anything to move up the food chain. Even at the cost of their own souls. This over-the-top drama has many comedy moments as well. Leaving viewers somewhere between bemused and severely disturbed.
It’s social satire at its very best. With enough emotional commitment to actually make us care about these ruthless characters and the terrible things they do.
Director: Olivia Wilde
Screenplay: Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman
Coming of age is not an easy genre to tackle.
Films in this category might seem childish at times, or too pretentious to an adult viewer. But, Wilde infuses her debut feature with raw honesty and lightness, making the film’s leads relatable and three-dimensional.
When high-school seniors Amy and Molly discover that their classmates all got into high-ranking universities despite their low grades, and the time they spent partying, they decide to make up for all the fun they’ve missed… In the span of one night.
Women friendship isn’t often celebrated on the big screen. Here, the influence of the women screenwriters is perceived in the way the life-or-death friendship between the two main characters is presented as an essential formative moment.
Lead actors Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever equally share the screen. creating a balanced relationship. They allow the viewers to see the complexity of their struggles, and how their individual experiences reflect the bigger world we live in.
Director: Jordan Peele
Screenplay: Jordan Peele
Peele returns to the big screen with another horror after his critically-acclaimed debut “Get Out”. In a similar way, “Us” also deals with racial and class inequalities in the United States. Just, on a larger scale.
During their summer holiday in Santa Cruz, the Wilson’s, a wealthy African American family, gets attacked by a group of intruders that look exactly like them. The world of the story is much bigger, with multiple locations and household names in the main roles.
The horror factor is hyped up even more by an eerie soundtrack and a strange conspiracy around rabbits and catacombs. Lupita Nyong’o gives an unforgettable and truly chilling performance as both Adelaide, the matriarch of the family, and Red, her dangerous doppelgänger.
Director: Céline Sciamma
Screenplay: Céline Sciamma
Set in a remote island of Brittany during the XVIII century, this film tells of the love story between a woman painter and her subject. A noblewoman who refuses to sit for a portrait as she doesn’t want to be married off.
Tradition demands, in fact, that her portrait shall be sent to the man she is arranged to marry. Sciamma sets out to explore the philosophical implications of the female gaze. Both in front and behind the camera, and what it means to truly see the world through these women’s eyes.
Their secret affair is how the two women reclaim agency over themselves and their lives. Cinematographer Claire Mathon does an incredible job of turning every frame into a painting. Paired with the delicacy of the colour grading, the aesthetic of the film is absolutely memorable.
Director: Sam Mendes
Screenplay: Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
One might argue that there is no need for yet another war movie and I would tend to agree. But, what Mendes does in 1917 is to blur the line between war and action movies. In a way that almost emulates a role-playing video game.
The story, set during World War I, follows a pair of soldiers sent from high command to deliver an urgent message to a battalion nine miles away. Failure to do so would result in the death of 1600 soldiers, including the brother of one of the main characters.
The film is shot with advanced new technology and edited to look like one long single take.
This means the audience is constantly following the soldiers, with no chance to look away. The immersive atmosphere is the film’s special signature. What the first half does particularly well too is humanising the soldiers.
The main characters joke around with a lightness that is often absent from war movies. We get to glimpse at the bond that is forged in such extreme conditions.
Director: Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts
Story by: Waad Al-Kateab
The BAFTA-winner of “Best Documentary” is probably one of the most important movies ever made. “For Sama”, is a first-person account of the war in Syria.
The woman behind it, Waad Al-Kateab, filmed her life for six years while she fought on the frontlines against the Syrian regime. But in the midst of all the fighting, the documentary also shows the progress of her personal life, such as her marriage, her pregnancy and the birth of her oldest daughter Sama. To which the film is dedicated.
Al-Kateab narrates the events in voiceover as if she’s explaining them to Sama. It’s an invaluable piece of history without filters. A reminder of the horror humans are capable of. But at the same time, it’s an incredible story of resilience and of life finding a way, despite everything.
Looking back at the list, 2019 seemed to offer a great variety of stories from different corners of the world. This wider perspective is particularly important when Hollywood films often lack inclusiveness.
Now that the Academy Awards have finally inserted a diversity quota as a requirement for possible winners, we can hope to see more unique stories brought to the mainstream. But, this list of the best movies of 2019 is as good a place to start as any!
Hopefully, at least one of your favourites are mentioned here, but let us know if we’ve missed out your favourite in the comments below!
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