We’re rounding up the “best of the best” when it comes to movies of 2019. The Film Yap’s Christopher Lloyd shares his top picks:
- Late Night — I seem to be virtually alone in loving this film starring and written by Mindy Kaling, with Emma Thompson giving the performance of the year as an acerbic late-night TV host. Vivid female characters and a compelling story about a particular niche industry. It sort of mislays the boyfriend character, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
- Harriet — Another film that received respectful reviews and very good box office for an indie, but somehow got overlooked by nearly every critic. Cynthia Erivo is terrific as Harriet Tubman in a film by Kasi Lemmons that refuses to treat a historical figure as anything less than a complicated, flesh-and-blood person.
- Ford v Ferrari — A wonderful movie in the “best sports story you never heard of” mold like “Hoosiers.” A charismatic American car builder and a Brit loner racer join forces to vie for the crown at Le Mans. Great action scenes, but the relationships and terrific acting from Christian Bale and Matt Damon put it over the top.
- The Last Black Man in San Francisco — I saw this one very late in the awards season, and if I’d been aware of it earlier I would have pushed it harder for awards. A film like no other, as two men contemplate their love/hate relationship with their home city and their families — whether through bloodlines or the ones they made on the streets. Haunting, poetic, singular.
- Just Mercy — This one isn’t on anyone’s awards radar because of its late release — it won’t hit most theaters until mid-January — and that’s a shame. In many ways it’s a conventional courtroom/legal drama about a falsely convicted murderer, but superb performances make the day. Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Rob Morgan and Tim Blake Nelson all should get Oscar noms.
- Portrait of a Lady on Fire — I can’t pronounce any of their names, but actresses Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel are amazing as a painter and her muse in this riveting love tale set in the 1800s. Nobody directed a film better this year than Céline Sciamma. This one stays with you.
- Marriage Story — It may sound like a “Kraver v. Kramer” reboot, but this layered look at divorce from Noah Baumbach features a pair of great acting turns by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, as well as very good supporting turns from Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta. There’s a lot of lawyering but the film is less concerned with the legal stuff than the effect it has on the heart.
- 1917 — Yes, Sam Mendes directing this World War I drama in one long take is a gimmick, but it’s a good gimmick. It serves to heighten the intensity rather than just existing for its own sake. Two no-name actors traverse a hellscape of trenches and strewn bodies to try to commit one good deed.
- Bombshell — Really, the first #MeToo movie. Charlize Theron should get an Oscar nomination playing Fox News star Megyn Kelly as she carefully negotiates an atmosphere of sexual harassment and depravity. Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman and John Lithgow are top-notch, too.
- Richard Jewell — Despite its glaring (and easily avoidable) flaw, Clint Eastwood’s latest is still a compelling look at how the media scrum of the early 24/7 new cycle age nearly destroyed an innocent man who was actually a hero. DOA at the box office, alas.
For more movie news and reviews, visit www.thefilmyap.com.