By Bradley Lane
- Midsommar (Ari Aster)
Shot in almost direct opposition to modern horror sensibilities, Ari Aster’s second feature film is brightly lit and shot in a robust and beautiful color palette that is a feast for the eyes. More importantly, though the film’s themes of grief, relationships and our starvation from community are communicated subtly but effectively. It is a must-see for any horror fan in 2019.
- Booksmart (Olivia Wilde)
Unlike many actors turned directors, Wilde has a clear voice and tone she wanted to communicate and Booksmart is a testament to her talents. The leads, Kaitlyn Denver and Beanie Feldstein, are charming, hilarious, and always sincere. It is a heartfelt, empathetic, and hilarious journey of discovery and support.
- A Hidden Life (Terrence Malick)
A Terrence Malick film looks and feels like no other. He is peerless in his approach to storytelling. He uses natural light and handheld camerawork to paint beautiful scenery paired with wistful, almost poetic, inner dialogues that feel consistently profound. This tale of an Austrian farmer quietly standing up to Nazi oppression is both devastatingly sad, and immensely hopeful in the power of convictions.
- The Irishman (Martin Scorsese)
The power of The Irishman lies in pauses and silences. Scorsese uses the character of Frank Sheeran to explore not only the immediate consequences of violence, but the long-lasting scars it creates on even the relationships of the perpetrator. Joe Pesci, Robert DeNiro, and Al Pacino are firing on all cylinders, demonstrated best by the way their performances change to reflect their aging bodies and minds.
- Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell)
Masterfully crafted suspense film revolving around a mysterious disappearance. The details in this film elevate the viewing experience into something otherworldly. Essential viewing for fans of David Lynch or Alfred Hitchcock.
- The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers)
A visual tribute to films of yesterday, The Lighthouse is incredibly forward thinking in its storytelling techniques. It takes inspiration from Kubrick and Bergman without ever feeling derivative. It is a funny, but horrifying tale of sexuality, mermaids and madness.
- The Art of Self-Defense (Riley Sterns)
A stylistic and idiosyncratic style permeates every scene in Riley Stern’s karate crime drama. Jesse Eisenberg plays a shy, emasculated man seeking an outlet to reclaim his masculinity after being beaten up and robbed. Stern’s observations about masculinity may seem surface level, but a closer look reveals a film full of profound assertions about manhood.
- Climax (Gaspar Noe)
A drug-fueled nightmare by cinema’s most transgressive auteur. Climax in a singularly focused story that aims only to disrupt and disturb. Noe’s skill is undeniable, and the technical proficiency displayed here is unparalleled. I understand this film is not for everyone, but I am thankful we have figures like Noe to push cinema to its breaking points.
- Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach)
A tender love story framed through a divorce might sound odd, even impossible, but Baumbach’s script is written with pinpoint precision that makes is work perfectly. It is a testament to the strength of his craft that the shot composition, editing, and script all work together harmoniously to communicate the importance and value of vulnerability.
- Parasite (Bong Joon-ho)
Simply put, Parasite is cinema. Funny, smart, tense, allegorical, beautiful, hurtful, sad, triumphant, and hopeful; Bong’s return to Korean language features is everything you could want from a film. I laughed, gasped and cried within its jam-packed two-hour runtime, and I think if everyone were to watch and think critically about Parasite, the world would be a better, more empathetic place.