The Best Films of 2019 (So Far)

Under the Silver Lake

Under-the-Silver-Lake.jpg
A24

High Life

high life.jpg
A24

Are you still human if you’ve been stripped of your humanity? Set on a spaceship-prison headed towards a black hole, Claire Denis’s latest film is both disturbing and sensual, savage and empathetic. The nonlinear narrative follows Monte (Robert Pattinson), the only prisoner left alive following a series of accidents who is forced into becoming a father to a newborn baby. In sharp contrast to the optimism of recent space films like Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, Denis questions the technological progress we’ve made at the expense of human lives and builds a staunch critique of the death penalty and the exploitation of prisoners. Granted, several parts of High Life are repulsive and cruel, but the power of the film comes from its deeply complex characters; they still cling to their desires and hopes even at the edge of oblivion, if only because that’s all they have left. – Ethan Cartwright

I Am Easy to Find 

I-am-easy-to-find1.jpg
The National

Director Mike Mills followed up his 2016 masterpiece 20th Century Women this year with the equally gorgeous, dreamlike 25 minute short I Am Easy to Find. Released as a visual album for The National’s latest record of the same name, the short follows 164 moments in a woman’s life, going from birth to death and showcasing all of the tragedy and joy that comes in between. Alicia Vikander is truly remarkable as the central character, delivering a near-wordless performance with incredible physicality and emotional honesty. And for however conceptually simple I Am Easy to Find maybe, that emotional honesty is its real draw – it delivers a quietly profound, contemplative meditation on our very existence, styled in gorgeous black and white photography and soundtracked by some of the most tender, colorful songs The National have ever released. It may only be 25 minutes long, but I Am Easy to Find is so beautifully realized that it ends up hitting harder than most full-length features. – Jonathan Edge

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

john wick.jpg
PHOTO BY NIKO TEVERNISE – © LIONSGATE

John Wick: Chapter 3 came into theaters earlier this year knowing exactly who its target audience was. The beautifully choreographed and intensely violent action movie delivered on everything fans of the franchise had been expecting, while also producing a few surprises along the way. With new shady characters and big actors like Halle Berry joining the fight, John Wick: Chapter 3 was able to produce more creative and exhilarating action scenes that outdo the last two films — which seemed impossible until you see this movie. Keanu Reeves was born to play the role of John Wick, as his commitment to each fight is visible through how brutal they play out. Action franchises can suffer fatigue, especially by the third movie, but John Wick has delivered at every turn. Still going strong in its ability to wow audiences with fight scenes set to beautiful set pieces, this series just may go down as one of the greatest action franchises in film history, and it looks like it’s only just getting started. – Emily Jacobson

Booksmart

13-booksmart.w700.h467.jpg
Annapurna

I am a massive fan of Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut. Aside from its personal relatability to myself,  there is an infinite number of things I adore about this film. The writing particularly stands out to me as feeling outstandingly genuine. As a whole, the cast is stellar, however, Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, and Billie Lourd are exceptional. You can tell how insanely comfortable the entire cast is on Wilde’s set, how willing they are to experiment in their roles. For a first time feature, Booksmart is remarkably well done: a perfect cocktail of deeply founded friendship and awkward relatability. Every beat of humor is followed by an equally resonant moment of emotional depth and exploration. Not to mention how significant it is to see an explicitly lesbian lead in a coming of age film. – Jenna Kalishman

Climax

climax.jpg
A24

Gaspar Noé’s latest work is a concoction that is equal parts challenging and rewarding. However, even after the LSD-fueled mania begins to kick in, there remains a grounded beauty that shows itself throughout the film. Noé’s nauseating camera work demands much of his audience, but the brave are rewarded with some of the best dance sequences ever captured on film. Even in the list of his already extremist filmography, Climax pushes the limits of the movie-going experience and is certainly a film everyone should seek out. – Cole Fowler

Captain Marvel

captain-marvel-ss-main.jpg
Marvel Studios

Carol Danvers has been one of my longtime favorite comic heroes, so seeing her on the big screen for the first time was absolutely exhilarating. Captain Marvel pries itself away (even if a bit reluctantly) from the Marvel mold, and finds success in the inventive and new — I only wish Marvel had had the guts to do this years ago. Additionally, Captain Marvel does an excellent job translating its source material into a well-structured film; Carol being, well, Carol was one of the most consequential aspects of the film for me. Impeccable casting certainly has something to do with how well the film achieves this. I’m so grateful that a generation of young girls will get to grow up with Brie Larson as their Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel is dynamic, inimitable, and powerful. – Jenna Kalishman

Ash is Purest White

ashis purest white.jpg
Cohen Media Group

“Zhangke Jia’s Ash is Purest White floats skillfully between being a gangster picture, a dark comedy, and a melodrama. Tao Zhao is astonishing as Qiao, a woman whose decision to protect the man (Fan Liao) she loves forever alters his life. Ash is Purest White is a meditative film on how toxic masculinity corrodes both personal relationships and the health over those who can’t overcome it. The epic three-act structure allows Zhao and Liao to really experiment with their characters, fully showing how time has worn them down. Gorgeously shot and deliberately-paced, it is a film that wraps itself around the viewers and sticks with them long after it ends.” – Aaron Linskey

Avengers Endgame 

avengers endagame.jpg
Marvel Studios

What is there to say about Avengers: Endgame that hasn’t already been said? The blockbuster behemoth was dealt the impossible task of creating a satisfying conclusion to 10 years and 22 movies of build-up, and it somehow pulled it off in spectacular fashion. Few films feel as decade-defining as this one; a perfect conclusion to the first saga of the MCU and a genuine triumph of long-form characterization, paying off like a cinematic slot-machine. MCU movies so frequently get wrapped up in the narcissism of superheroism without actually focusing on why they’re heroes, making it a major relief that Endgame delivers a true epic about the necessity and nature of heroism, as the Avengers are forced to reckon with who they are and how far they’re willing to go in order to save the world. While the MCU will keep rolling on, I don’t think it’s going to be able to top Endgame for quite some time – this is maximalist franchise filmmaking at its finest, and it represents the best possible version of what this franchise can stand for and what it should be. – Jonathan Edge

Us

us.jpg
Universal Pictures

Us is not as self-contained and neat as many other films on this list — or even its predecessor, Peele’s directorial debut Get Out — but to compare it at all is a disservice. This is far too complex a piece of media for easy comparison, less a conventional film and more a fractal — as labyrinthine as the tunnels from which the tethered emerge. Each element of the film, from the costumes to throw-away lines, is specific and loaded with conations, like hundreds of miniature texts stacked together and folding into each other to form a grand tapestry of meaning. Us isn’t the next Get Out and Jordan Peele isn’t the next Spielberg or Kubrick. Peele is his own original voice, and the comparison does him as much a disservice as it does to Us. – Joshua Sorensen

 

To help us continue to create content, please consider supporting us on Ko-Fi.

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.