M. N. Miller’s 2019 Year In Film: Part 11
19. Apollo 11
A straightforward, no-frills documentary that smartly relies on the sheer accomplishment of men and women who refused to do nothing less than reach for the stars, then park there, if only for a short while.
18. Hotel Mumbai
I called Hotel Mumbai the first great film of 2019 when it came out in March and it still holds up nine months later. A visceral, pulse-pounding, frenetic docudrama held together with the extraordinary technique by director Anthony Maras. Imagine, a Hollywood film based on real events that depicts men and women of diversity as honest-to-God real-life heroes.
17. Marriage Story
We are now in an era where you inexplicably know who directed a film while watching it. Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is unquestionably his, belongs on the mantle next to The Squid and the Whale, that has two powerful performances, and ever greater humility.
The overwhelming hype was very real for Booksmart. It’s a heart-swelling, quick-witted, facetious, ultra-cool, and absolutely savage coming of age comedy. The impeccable young cast is headlined by star-making performances from Feldstein and Dever. A stunning debut film for director Oliva Wilde.
15. Paris is Us
Unfairly characterized as muddled by some, Vogler’s film has the feel of an almost Malick romance for millennials that won’t connect all the dots but is an immersive view of a decision that haunts its protagonist with deep regret. Paris is Us is available on Netflix right now. Go stream it!
14. Ad Astra
Ad Astra is as much about the void we create in our personal lives as it’s about space travel; we are more honest with complete strangers than we are with ourselves and the ones we love. Gray’s film is a stealthy, beautiful, evocative take on mental health.
13. Avengers: Endgame
Avengers: Endgame is a truly grand spectacle, whose scope and feel are on the scale of such big-screen adventure epics as Ben-Hur or Spartacus. I’m not sure if I would call the great completion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe the best comic book film of all time, but it’s certainly the finest conclusion to a greater ideal Hollywood has ever put together.
12. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
This is Tarantino’s period piece about the first few years after the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood, is his most mature work, even grounded, and beautifully shot.
11. Little Women
Greta Gerwig recreates such a highly engrossing, winsome adaptation of Little Women you can’t help but be taken with it. It’s utterly captivating.
10. Dragged Across Concrete
You simply can never know what is going to happen next in Zahler’s pulp-fiction exploitation tale that is a brutal, uncompromising, unapologetic, and often repugnant journey that is compulsively watchable.
9. The Peanut Butter Falcon
A rare crowd-pleaser that can bring people of all kinds of backgrounds together. It’s relatable, funny, genuine, and even moving without being preachy or resorting to cheap melodrama. Shia LeBeouf is truly remarkable here.
Here is a dark-comedy from the great Bong Joon-ho about class warfare that, depending on your mood, you may find to be a work of genius or too self-indulgent. One thing is certain, you’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Waves is a combustible masterwork. Trey Edward Shults’s film has such a livewire pulse it’s practically alive with energy and a deep emotional current that runs to the surface. It’s a testament of how fragile our most intimate relationships are, how difficult it can be to piece them back together, and how the healing power of forgiveness has a euphoric effect on everyone around us.
6. Uncut Gems
Sandler’s gamble pays off in a big way in Uncut Gems, a film that proves DeLillo right about what happens when men are left to their own thoughts in small rooms. The Safdie brothers’ third act is ferocious, fervent, and one of the most jaw-dropping of the decade.
I’ve never watched a self-biographical film that’s less indulgent or egoistical than Har’el’s Honey Boy. Shia LaBeouf’s script is a rare work that’s so different, honest, and real, it goes against everything we know about conventional film rules. It’s a cinematic miracle.
4. The Irishman
The Irishman is Scorsese’s Gangster Epic: A big, grand, ambitious rags to riches mob tale that blurs the lines between loyalty, friendship, and business. It might be the quickest 209-minutes in the history of cinema. Joe Pesci, you magnificent *******, welcome back.
The only thought that kept popping up in my head while watching director Sam Mendes gloriously immersive, thoroughly gripping and spine-tinglingly suspenseful film was, for lack of a better term, “the balls on this guy.”1917 is a stunning cinematic movie making achievement.
J.C. Lee’s fresh and endlessly interesting adaptation of his own play is like nothing you’ve ever seen. Luce is a deeply layered strategic thriller whose take on white guilt and black existentialism is always at a thoughtful boil. Exhilarating, radically thought-provoking.
1. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
There are moments in Joe Talbot’s visionary film that left me with the feeling of being positively giddy from a satisfying fulfillment and then heartrendingly broken the next. Talbot’s personally emotive takes on tradition, love, family, loyalty, friendship, community, gentrification, and finding your place is an epic achievement of the soul. All of this is woven into our future, our past, and our present while remaining uplifting. The Last Black Man in San Francisco answers the call for those craving something different, genuine, more authentic than the franchise fare, remakes, or reboots of the world. It’s an absolute stunner.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.