Truly, there is something for everyone in today's screen landscape. Want blockbuster movies? "Avengers: Endgame" set the new standard by skillfully wrapping up the initial phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (before "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" not so satisfactorily concluded the initial "Star Wars" saga). Want intimate human-scale drama? I've got the Mr. Rogers flick "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" and indie film "The Souvenir" right here. Animated family movies? Have a "Toy Story 4" or a "Missing Link." Foreign film lover? We've got you covered with everything from "Parasite" to "Pain and Glory." "Rocketman" came along to shame those who thought "Bohemian Rhapsody" was the best of musical biopics, and "Cats" crawled into theaters to face the music with Broadway lovers. Even a good old-fashioned ensemble murder mystery came along in "Knives Out," to tide us over until Kenneth Branagh's Poirot returns.
In other words, not much has really changed (although TV's "Breaking Bad" suddenly became a movie — both streamed and in select theaters). But as the sheer volume of films and television increases, audiences must work harder to dig up the hidden gems (not to be confused with "Uncut Gems," the wild new Adam Sandler dramedy). That's where your Friendly Neighborhood Film Critic comes in, highlighting the most intriguing and, in some cases, the least widely discussed of cinematic options. Pin this list up on your bulletin board or grant it a magnet on your fridge, and you have a road map to 2019's boldest statements, its most adventurous narratives and arresting aesthetics.
In a year of cinematic stunts, like the long-take constructions of "1917" and "Long Day's Journey into Night" (which added 3D into the bargain) and the de-aging of everyone from Robert De Niro ("The Irishman") to Samuel L. Jackson ("Captain Marvel"), the fundamental things apply as time goes by: a dimly lit room, an illuminated screen and a story that appeals to our emotions.
And away we go...
The top 10 films of 2019
10. 'The Mountain'
As downbeat as they come, Rick Alverson's rigorous "The Mountain" functions as an eccentric commentary on the horror of historical ignorance and the pain of existence in a world that's gone insane. With just a dollop of deadpan black comedy, Alverson plays out a corrupted mentor-mentee relationship between the emotionally prone, newly orphaned Andy (Tye Sheridan) and a semi-charming lobotomist (Jeff Goldblum) as they travel the backroads spreading traumatic brain injury to the mentally ill and the socially ostracized. The year's most unsettling American self-portrait.
9. 'End of the Century'
Writer-director Lucio Castro's deceptively simple story of chance encounters, possibility and regret provides comment on gay romantic culture (and its sometime collateral damage) and how love and sex play out on individual but intersecting timelines. In 84 minutes, Castro dramatizes the lovers' two meetings (at either end of a 20-year gap), a flashback and a daydream to clarify the tension between the power of desire and the indifference of reality. Naturalistic performances (by Juan Barberini and Ramon Pujol) and direction make this zen koan on time linger in the mind and heart.
8. 'The Souvenir'
Joanna Hogg's agonizingly honest and mature semi-autobiographical drama explores the agonizing self-delusions and inexperience of youth. As Hogg's stand-in, Honor Swinton Byrne comes to hard-won realizations in her vocational and personal lives, each informing the other as the film student succumbs to the overtures of an older lover (Tom Burke) who's harboring a dark secret (Byrne's mother Tilda Swinton plays along as Byrne's uneasy screen mother). Hogg's understated approach and self-examined privilege accumulate for a distinctive take on the young-adult coming-of-age narrative.
7. 'The Last Black Man in San Francisco'
Joe Talbot's impressive debut serves up a highly personal and locally resonant story that begins as a screed on gentrification but turns out to be a lively and complex salon on family history, friendship, community and the folly of belief in ownership. Playing characters that exhibit differing shades of na
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