8 of the best films we watched in 2019
PUBLISHED: 21:00 13 December 2019 | UPDATED: 21:27 13 December 2019
There are a few Oscar-worthy winners in film buff Rory’s list. But how many have you seen?
When a science-fiction film earns comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey you know it's something special, and Ad Astra is that rare breed. Heavy on the visual spectacle and thematically deep, this may not be a film for those who demand their sci-fi to be zippy and stuffed with laser sword, but those willing to dedicate time to a more contemplative piece will find plenty to unpack here. Hopefully you saw this one on the big screen, because that is where it belongs.
The greatest bromance of the year wasn't between two men, but instead a pair of fantastically funny women in the forms of Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever). Booksmart managed to be both hysterically funny and wonderfully refreshing, even though its basic framework is more than a little bit reminiscent of 2007's Superbad. The interplay between Feldstein and Dever really shines throughout, and of the many top quality films released in 2019, Booksmart remains the most endearing and easily the most quotable.
Starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino and directed by Martin Scorsese, The Irishman was never going to be anything but stellar. But what's most impressive about The Irishman is that it doesn't play out like your typical mob movies, in fact while films like Goodfellas could be accused of glamorising the gangster lifestyle, The Irishman shows the stark realities inherent to a life of crime. Even with a run time that stretches well over three hours The Irishman is never less than enthralling, and more than lives up to the promise of its legendary cast/director.
This year the debate surrounding the artistic merits of comic book films reached fever pitch, and yet in Joker we got arguably the strongest entry in the genre. Stripping away the colourful tights and world-saving stakes synonymous with comic book movies, Joker is an intense character study of a criminally insane man, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix). Phoenix is electric as a damaged wannabe stand-up comic who is pushed over the edge and becomes the iconic villain. Joker has proven to be a winner even with non comic book fans.
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Rian Johnson had a pretty rough 2018, due to angry online trolls unhappy with his Star Wars movie, but he triumphantly returned this year with Knives Out. Inspired by a range of classic whodunits, this hugely enjoyable murder mystery sees detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) try to deuce who is responsible for the murder of wealthy novelist Harlan Thrombey - spoiler: it wasn't the butler. There are twists a plenty, wonderfully madcap characters (Chris Evans as a spoilt playboy is a highlight) and an ending that feels suitably satisfying.
Writer/director Noah Baumbach takes inspiration from his own personal experience to deliver one of the most heartbreaking films of the year. With two incredible performances at its core, Marriage Story tells the tale not of a happy union but of a messy divorce battle between two people who have dramatically fallen out of love. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson play the feuding former spouses - both are simply sublime. Driver particular seems a shoo-in for an Oscar next February.
With an innocent young child stuck in the middle of his resentful parents, Marriage Story is tragic but with enough comedy and warmth to still be hugely watchable.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino's love letter to classic Hollywood is a darkly comedic and very violent ode to an era of large-than-life stars and wide-eyed dreaming. The pairing of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, as a washed up movie star and his stunt double respectively, brings together two of the cinema's most beloved actors in a partnership for the ages. The duo's chemistry keeps the nearly three hour feature consistently compelling, and the gleefully brutal finale is the perfect way to cap off such a raucously entertaining flick.
Sorry We Missed You
Undoubtedly the toughest watch of the year, Ken Loach returns to shine a spotlight on the injustices in our society that many would rather ignore.
Tackling the so-called gig economy, Sorry We Missed You follows a family man who is chewed up and spat out by a company that cares not for his physical or mental wellbeing.There's no uplifting ending here, Loach instead forces us to face up to the cold hard reality for many in our broken society - a vital watch.