By Naseem Ally. By Naseem Ally. 2019 has been a great year for film and what better way to celebrate the closing of the year, then reflecting on the brilliant films that have graced our theatre screens.
Now let’s crack on with the festivities, and take a look back at what I consider to be, the best films of 2019…
5. Beautiful Boy/The Laundromat
I’m going to have to start off this list with a tie, as I’m equally torn between the films ‘Beautiful Boy’ and ‘The Laundromat’. Considering the time between the release dates of both films, ‘Beautiful Boy’ being released back in January and ‘The Laundromat’ in September, it’s common to forget about the films that hit theatres earlier on in the year.
They tend to become more of a distant memory than something at the forefront of your mind. Especially in the month of January, where cinemagoers are spoilt for choice with all of the award-nominated films. ‘The Favourite’ and ‘Vice’ are just some, to name a few.
However, ‘Beautiful Boy’ is one for the ages, as this film has stood out to me amongst a number of great films that kicked off 2019. So, for me, that’s definitely saying something about this film.
‘Beautiful Boy’, starring Steve Carrell and Timothee Chalamet is ACTUALLY, based on a true story of Nicolas Sheff, a teenager at the time, who seemed to have it all going for him at home and school until he falls into a vicious meth addiction cycle, forcing his father to intervene to save his son and family.
In arguably Steve Carrell’s best performance in a film, ever, he holds his own on-screen as a loving father who is going out of his own way to do extensive research, flying across the country to meet with clinicians to really try and understand, and get to the root cause of Nicolas’ addiction.
Alongside Steve Carrell, is Timothee Chalamet who does a brilliant job playing Nicolas. From starting out in the film as a happy go lucky chap, we slowly begin to see the deterioration of him as a result of his heavy meth addiction. Timothee really dedicated himself to the role, and I honestly felt for his character and the anguish he goes through during this period.
He really pulled off this role, even from his portrayal of the denial and withdrawal symptoms that are common amongst addicts of any kind. I couldn’t help but fall back into my chair when he had a relapse, just rooting for Nicolas to make it through to recovery. I wouldn’t be surprised if Timothee took a page out of Leonardo Di Caprio’s performance as ‘Jim’ in ‘The Basketball Diaries’ as his display in ‘Beautiful Boy’ was of that calibre.
Great performances from Steve and Timothee. Their on-screen chemistry made it really feel as if they were actually, father and son. I honestly can’t think of too many films that follow a similar narrative to ‘Beautiful Boy’. I’d love to see more films of this ilk, that shine men in a positive light instead of this recent phenomenon of ‘toxic masculinity’…(rolls eyes).
This film took me by surprise, as it didn’t have any underlying themes, it was just a genuine portrayal of a father trying to build a connection with his son, navigating his way through this thing called ‘life’. I’d like to see more films like this in the near future, with characters like Steve Carrell’s ‘David Sheff’ as role models for young men.
‘Beautiful Boy’ was superb. So much so, I picked up a copy of Nicolas’ book of the same name that the film is based on. Great read by the way.
Now, moving on from that, towards the latter stages of the year the Netflix original film, ‘The Laundromat’ has been one of my best films of 2019. It helps to have an all-star line up consisting of Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas and David Schwimmer (pivot!), but it wasn’t just their star power alone that sealed the deal.
There were a number of other great performers that helped to raise the bar and make this another awesome ‘financial expose’ film of recent times. Nonso Anozie was excellent as ‘Charles’, and added a great deal of humour to the film.
‘The Laundromat’ follows the similar theme of narration in financial expose films such as ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ and ‘The Big Short’. However, it’s not done in the same manner as the former films, per se. It has its own unique selling point that works.
The cinematography in this film was so vivid and crisp, visually, I can’t fault it. I was lucky enough to see it at a preview screening, and thinking back on it now, streaming this wouldn’t have done it justice.
As well as the cinematography being on point, credit should also go to the costume and set designers. I’ve previously mentioned before in my review of ‘The Laundromat’, that I wouldn’t be surprised if the costume and set designers were to walk away with a few gongs, come award season.
Netflix are giving major motion picture studios a run for their money, with the quality of films that they’re pumping out. To think no studios wanted to purchase ‘The Irishman’, which I’ve yet to see (what!?); Netflix seems to be doing a great job of being a maverick in the film industry, forcing everyone else to play catch up.
Keep it comin’ Netflix – and yes, the ‘The Irishman’ will be on my watch list.
4. Green Book
‘Green Book’ had ought to be in my end of year list with it winning best picture at the 2019 Oscars, but it necessarily didn’t need that award to prove it’s worth. With very strong performances from Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen as Dr.Shirley and Tony Lip, who during the course of the film form a ‘complicated’ bond over their tour of the deep south, neither of them do not waste a second of screen time.
Their respective characters build each other up, and they both learn from each other tremendously making this another fantastic on-screen duo of 2019, similarly to ‘Beautiful Boy’.
‘Green Book’ is another film that had a great deal of help from the set and costume designers in bringing this picture to life.
A solid display all round, and that’s why it’s in my list of the best films of 2019.
3. Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino delivered once again with his much talked about ‘Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood’.
Starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo Di Caprio as stunt double Cliff Booth and dwindling Spaghetti Western actor Rick Dalton; two buddies looking to rekindle their Hollywood flames. Over the duration of the film, we see their journey of them navigating through ’60s Hollywood all the while, a certain Charles Manson lurks not too far away from the Hollywood Hills.
I know I’ve praised set and costume designers before, but this film really takes the cake. I remember seeing this the day it released at Picturehouse and being in awe of the shot of Brad driving down L.A at night, with the beautiful backdrop of neon lights…effortlessly cool.
Leonardo Di Caprio gave another acting masterclass as Rick Dalton. I couldn’t help but contain my laughter at his very strong country accent – ‘this is my stunt double, Cliff BOOTH!’
As well as great acting, he brought a lot of personality and bravado to the film and in my opinion, this is Leo’s best performance since ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’.
What about ‘The Revenant’ I hear you say?
Yes, he did a solid job in that movie as always, but I believe he was at his peak as ‘Jordan Belfort’ in ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ and it still boggles the mind as to why he didn’t pick up the award for best actor at the 2014 Oscars.
Just ‘that scene’ alone with the Lamborghini Countach is absolute gold.
Nonetheless, his display in OUATIH along with Brad’s should make award season very interesting. At this point, ‘Rick Dalton’ and ‘Cliff Booth’ have got to be some of the coolest, iconic characters in cinema history.
If ‘Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood’ was the most talked-about film of the year, ‘Joker’ had to have been the most hyped film of the year, which it most definitely was. Did ‘Joker’ deliver on the hype?
Yes. Yes, it did. Matter of fact, it did more than that and quite possibly changed the face of the ‘comic book’ genre of movies as we know it.
There were questions at first with Todd Phillips director of ‘The Hangover’ series coming on board, but with talk of him wanting to create a mashup of Martin Scorcese’s ’70s classics, whilst experimenting with the 1988 graphic novel ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’, ears perked. Once Joaquin Phoenix was confirmed to play ‘Joker’, or ‘Arthur Fleck’, it was pretty much confirmed that this would be the ‘must-see’ film of the year, which it was.
Regardless of all the fear-mongering and talk of ‘incels’, this film brought back a glimpse of some of the greatest cinema from the ’70s. Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, and The French Connection come to mind. ‘Joker’ is made for cinema purists. There’s no-nonsense, no faffing about, it’s a piece of work that is very pleasing to the senses.
In a day and age of ‘woke’ and pc culture it’s not often we see this take a backseat, allowing the audience to be immersed in the world of the director as THEY see it, even if it ‘rubs people the wrong way’.
Todd pulled it off.
A massive round of applause should go to Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir and Director Of Photography Lawrence Sher whose work on ‘Joker’, took this film to the next level.
Of course, a stellar performance from ‘Don’ Joaquin Phoneix as ‘Joker’ was the icing on the cake. Prior to the announcement that Joaquin would play the iconic villain, there was talk of Leonardo Di Caprio possibly taking on the role.
However, I’m not too sure if the film would have turned out the way it did if Leo ended up grabbing the role. Joaquin Phoenix hit a home run as Joker. Even the scene of him abruptly bumping into the hospital exit, and the dazed, helpless look on his face as he’s waving his arms figuring out how to get in, is just…pfft – I mean, what can I say?
The little subtleties in his facial expressions that are so hard to capture and to make look authentic when performing on the screen, is a testament as to how great of an actor he is.
As I was watching that scene in the theatre, I just nodded and said to myself ‘Now, that right there, that’s acting – that’s how you act!’.
I’ll be taking notes, Joaquin.
You surely weren’t expecting this one as my top pick, huh?
As I said, I’ve yet to see ‘The Irishman’ and even though ‘Joker’ was out of this world…still, I have to put my hands up and say, nothing can come close to matching this film. Honestly, ‘Capernaum’ is that good.
Nadine Labaki did a terrific job on directing this film and she had a major influence on the casting, and it shows. Everyone in this film clicked.
But of course, a lot of the plaudit for me has to go to a certain, now 15-year old, called ‘Zain Al Rafeea’. He stole the show and carried the film on his young shoulders.
I must have seen it at least 4 or 5 times, and he never failed to impress me, not for a second. Every scene he’s in is magnificent. He’s also hilarious without even trying, adding in dashes of humour at just the right time – momentarily letting the audience feel a quick sigh of relief, before wanting to put him in our pocket and rescue him from all the turmoil around him.
Even the baby Yonas, that is forced to tag along with Zain on the streets of Beirut did an amazing job – he’s just a baby for crying out loud!
It’s a shame ‘Capernaum’ didn’t get all it’s due praise outside of Cannes, as we are now seeing with films like ‘Parasite’, with the director Bong Joon-ho making an appearance on Jimmy Fallon.
Not that ‘Capernaum’ needs approval from a major network TV show, but it would help to further attract a mainstream audience. But winning best picture at Cannes is a victory in itself, so Nadine and co should be very proud of their hard work.
With films like ‘Parasite’ and ‘Capernaum’ and this continuing trend of foreign films winning best picture at Cannes, I think major studios could learn a thing or two.
For one, let’s have fewer superhero movies and reboots. At the end of the day, we just want to see great cinema. Give the people what they want. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next best picture at Cannes is a foreign one, as it seems foreign filmmakers put the art of the craft first before thinking about opening weekend numbers.
Huge budgets and star names are not everything. It all starts with a great story. Stories are what films are, essentially.
And of all the ‘stories’ I’ve seen this year, ‘Capernaum’ tops the lot. Whether or not Zain decides to go further with his career, he has a bright future ahead of him.
I’ve always thought, what if there was a film simulation game like ‘Football Manager’, where you look to scout for the next ‘wonderkid’…I don’t know, call it ‘Oscar Manager’. That’s the best name I could think of to be fair!
Could you imagine that, setting up your scouting settings and landing on Zain in your shortlist?
Zain Al Rafeea – ‘Media Description: The Next Robert De Niro’.
‘Media Handling Style: Nonchalant’.
‘Mate, watch out for this kid called ‘Zain Al Rafeea’. He’s gonna be an absolute ‘worldie’ in the next couple of saves. 2027 Oscars, ‘Best Actor’, I tell ya – just look at his stats’.
Hey, I know I’d buy a copy of that game.
Anywho, if he does continue in film, I’d be over the moon to see him and Nadine work on another film, or a series of films together.
Who knows, they could be the next great director and actor pair since Scorcese and De Niro.
This is up there as one of my favourite films of all time with ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Scarface’, but you know what – I’m pretty confident in saying that ‘Capernaum’ is NOW my favourite film of all time.
Let’s see what’s in store for 2020, but please, as a public service announcement, I just want to see brilliant film – that’s all.
There are hopeful signs of the beginning of a new renaissance of film as we’re seeing now with praise of Netflix’s ‘The Irishman’, the highly revered ‘Parasite’ and the commercial success of the unorthodox comic book film, ‘Joker’. At the end of the day, films are meant to be enjoyed and talked about for decades to come.
Personally, I don’t need to be marking points off a film for not meeting certain quotas. A great film is a great film. Period. At this rate, films are going to have to start coming with ‘trigger warnings’, essentially milking the creativity out of filmmakers and studios.
We go to the movies to escape from the bland moments in our lives, now surely we don’t want our movies being bland, do we?…at least I don’t.
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