We are into the first full week of January 2020 and people have already started looking forward to what this new year has in store for all of us in terms of the visual and performing arts. But we need to pause for a second and take a look back at 2019’s finest cinematic masterpieces before we can move forward. 2019 was not only a very prolific year for film and television but it also was, you can say a standalone golden year with films that changed the landscape of filmmaking and storytelling in general. To be honest, writing about ‘top’ anything is pretty subjective and we do take into consideration the popularity and success of movies in any list that we post out. So with that said, here is Best in Australia’s top ten films of 2019.
Martin Scorsese has been very vocal this past year about his thoughts on comic book films and has had a mixture of reactions in terms of how people perceived his thoughts. On one hand, there were a lot of Marvel sympathizers, defending their beloved superhero film franchise while on the other hand, some people do agree with Mr. Scorsese. But that doesn’t take away the fact that Endgame was one of the best movies of 2019 with its phenomenal visuals and yes, a good storyline that has come to its finality for a lot of fan-favorite characters. The science of the film and the franchise, in general, seems wonky at times, but it didn’t over-complicate things for the regular movie-goer. Having a complicated plot and multi-layered characters doesn’t necessarily mean a good movie and Endgame proves it. A popcorn movie can be a popcorn movie and one of the best films in its years at the same time.
We also all said goodbye to our favorites like Tony Stark but with every ending, a new beginning blossoms with the myriad of announcements from Marvel-Disney on the next phase of their global franchise. Marvel has stated that these next couple of years will be a bit slower but will still be consistent in giving us new films to look forward to.
Let’s be honest, book adaptations are a coin-flip thing and almost nobody will be satisfied with the outcome of most movies that are adapted from the book. Some will even jumpstart certain pop-culture niches like say, I don’t know, the meme culture we have now (I’m looking at you Twilight Saga). But once in a while, we’ll get a film adaptation that actually works and is actually good. Insert Greta Gerwig, the young filmmaker who also moonlights as an actress with her latest masterpiece, Little Women. Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa Alcott’s classic bursts with the beauty of what a slice of life film is. This is the two in the filmmaker’s ‘one-two punch’, with Lady Bird being the ‘one’.
Little Women just established Gerwig as one of today’s best directors, with the help of a stellar cast of Saorise Ronan who she had worked with previously in Lady Bird, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, and the phenomenal Meryl Streep.
A Hidden Life
A hidden life is Terrence Malick’s re-telling of Franz Jägerstätter’s story of being forced to join the Third Reich in Hitler’s Germany during the events leading up to World War II. Malick’s aesthetic storytelling is both beautiful and haunting at the same time and create an intimacy for the audience that is rarely seen in cinema today.
The market for Asian-themed films has been growing steadily thanks to films like Crazy Rich Asians proves that it’s about time for Asian representation in film and television to break that glass ceiling and away from the typical martial arts niche and The Farewell is just that. Director Lulu Wang is very culture-based but also establishes a very vivid depiction of not only a family in crisis based on Wang’s on personal experiences but also showcases the generational differences of Asian families in the somewhat compare and contrast story. Awkwafina has also continued her tear into film by producing yet another strong performance as Billi, the film’s main protagonist proving that she can hold her own and establish herself as one of the best Asian actors today.
Todd Douglas Miller just made the best documentary of 2019 in Apollo 11. The documentary about America’s first trip to the moon premiered on the occasion’s 50th anniversary and showcases a ton of never-before-seen footage and audio that gets the audience up close and personal with the events leading up to the launch.
I just mentioned Asian representation with The Farewell, and that doesn’t stop in Hollywood. For years now, South Korea has been dishing out amazing films and television shows left and right and they just pretty much hit the jackpot with Joon-ho’s Parasite. Joon’s masterful storytelling of the coadjuvant but malicious relationship between the affluent Park family and the conniving Kims.
In today’s world this film might seem odd, weird, Avante Garde, but Robert Eggers just channeled classical film and made it his own in The Lighthouse. The period piece stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as two men stuck in a lighthouse with nobody but themselves to ponder on things and dives deep into the psyche of man if left alone to his musings.
Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci. Tell me this formula has even the slightest bit of chance to fall flat? No? Good. And ‘good’ is an understatement to describe this film. The film recounts the story of Frank Sheeran and his involvement with mobsters Russell Bufalino and Jimmy Hoffa and also serves as Scorsese’s curtain call of sorts on the genre that he is famous for. The film has layers of storytelling spanned through time and the emotional baggage that builds up in every character and their soul.
Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson knocked this one out of the park, bringing to life real-world struggles of couples that are going through divorce. Noah Baumbach catches the authenticity of what a real-life couple faces and the reality that it brings to give the audience something to ponder about regarding their own personal relationship not only with their spouse but with themselves. This is probably the first movie that has brought real-life accuracy regarding injured and fragmented relationships that Driver and Johansson exquisitely portrays.
A Golden Lion to Todd Phillips, a Golden Globe to Joaquin Phoenix, a Golden Globe to Hildur Guðnadóttir, I mean we could list it all. And honestly, Heath Ledger is probably smiling with how Joaquin Phoenix took the iconic character and made it into his own. his portrayal of Arthur Fleck and his dive into madness cannot be put into words lest we become redundant. Now we have a palpable back-story on the ever-changing history of the Clown Prince of Crime. Now we can better understand his motivations even a little bit compared to how lost we are as fans of the supervillain. The DC universe hasn’t lost yet to Marvel. This film and the slow emergence of the CW’s Batwoman and their steadfast DC shows just shows promise for the future.