The Best 3 Films Of 2019!
Every year some colleagues or acquaintances will say to me, “This just wasn’t a very good year for movies.” To which I respond, invariably, “It was a great year for movies!” There are always terrific movies, because there are still filmmakers who believe in making the most of the medium. The mechanics of how movies get to us is a bigger issue than ever: Specifically, how much effort are most of us willing to expend to see a movie on the big screen, the canvas filmmakers who are serious about their craft continue to believe in—and want to work in? That drama will continue to unfold. But for now, here are 10 films—plus a clutch of very honorable mentions—that remind us what movies, at their best, can mean.
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino concocts a fantasy in which Sharon Tate—the actor murdered by Manson family members in 1969—gets the much happier ending she deserves. Margot Robbie plays Tate in a small but potent role; she’s the patron spirit of the late-1960s Hollywood in which a has-been actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double and buddy (Brad Pitt) struggle to find their place. This is Tarantino’s most affectionately detailed picture, filled with tenderness for a lost Hollywood, and a lost era of filmmaking.
The world doesn’t need another gangster movie, not even one from Martin Scorsese—or so you may have thought before The Irishman. Scorsese’s 3½-hour saga is based on the story of real-life low-level mobster Frank Sheeran (played, superbly, by Robert De Niro), who claims to have killed Jimmy Hoffa (a marvelous Al Pacino), the onetime Teamsters president who disappeared in 1975. For roughly its first two-thirds, The Irishman is hugely entertaining. Then it shifts into something far more complex. It’s a melancholy mob epic.
Pain & Glory
In any life, there’s only so much time to do all we want and need to do. In Pedro Almódovar’s Pain & Glory, Antonio Banderas gives the performance of a lifetime as 60-ish filmmaker Salvador Mallo—a stand-in, more or less, for Almódovar himself—who’s in so much physical pain that he’s uncertain whether he’ll ever work again. Worse yet, his suffering is so intense that he may not care; instead of life after death, he’s settling for death before death, a premature leave-taking that’s a betrayal not just of his gifts, but of the time on earth any of us are given. But an anniversary screening of one of his older films sets off a chain of events that shifts everything: A lost love reappears as if conjured from a dream, and other bits of his past—particularly recollections of his mother, played as a young woman by a radiant Penelope Cruz—reassemble into a joyous, haunting interior monologue that demands to be explored visually, through his art. Pain & Glory may be Almódovar’s most resplendent and moving film, a panorama of vibrant paint-box colors and even more intense emotions—and a hymn to the mysterious whatever-it-is that keeps any of us going, in the years, months or days before our bodies betray us.