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Top 25 Films of 2019

on December 09, 2019, 12:00am
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Last month, Martin Scorsese warned that we should all be a little bit more worried about the future of filmmaking, particularly in the United States. Since a lot of the discussion around his remarks got bogged down in tribalism and loud shouting about whether Marvel movies are good movies, we’d like to revisit one key quote from that discussion:

“If you’re going to tell me that it’s simply a matter of supply and demand and giving the people what they want, I’m going to disagree. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue. If people are only given one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing.”

Scorsese’s point is not that one kind of movie dominating the market is bad because of the kind of movie it represents. It’s that when the market is so dominated by that kind of movie, it’s bad because of how much harder it then becomes to get other important movies in front of the people who should see them. Film is not and has never been the sum of the dollars made, even now, when those dollars are measured in billions to a probably unsustainable extent. Its value will always be derived from its ability to resonate with different audiences at different times, and sometimes from its resonance with all audiences at the exact same time.

2019 was a great year in film all around, and don’t let all the “worst of the year” lists and talk of high-profile flops fool you. Indie productions are flourishing, boutique studios are getting some of the year’s most essential work in front of the people who want to see it, and even the major production houses are putting their muscle behind some of the year’s most valuable movies. (Just look at this year’s No. 1 feature, a major summer release backed by a global corporation.) There’s great cinema to be found at every level of distribution, and from some of the year’s biggest hits to some of its most unsung/uncut gems, the movies are as great as they’ve ever been.

As we move into a new decade of filmmaking, if one where its future remains uncertain, let the end of this one serve as proof that the movies are still in good hands. And if you want to make sure that they stay there? Keep putting your money where your online discourse is.

–Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
Senior Writer


25. Crawl

Crawl (Paramount)

Crawl (Paramount)

Who’s In It? Kayla Scodelario, Barry Pepper, and plenty of gators

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Florida is flooded
Gators on the attack
Better swim or sink

You Gotta See This: It’s ironic that a movie about killer alligators is the rare horror movie in 2019 that doesn’t bite off more than it can chew. By avoiding any social or political commentary, Crawl’s central message remains simple: don’t fuck with Florida ‘gators. Directed by Alexandre Aja, this slickly executed thriller flexes its muscles within the “when animals attack” sub-genre, providing an abundance of electrifying set-pieces throughout its brisk 87-minute runtime. There’s also a little dark humor in these waters that nurtures the tension until the credits roll. –Mike Vanderbilt

Extra! Extra! Read Meagan Navarro’s full review here.


24. Booksmart

booksmart olivia wilde beanie feldstein kaitlyn dever movie annapurna

Booksmart (Annapurna)

Who’s In It? Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Billie Lourd, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, and Jason Sudeikis

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

The jumpsuits you want
Billie Lourd is everywhere
Ivy league slackers

You Gotta See This: Booksmart does two important things: 1.) It represents Gen Z, thus giving old fart millennials like me (and beyond) an accurate depiction of their feelings and experiences and vision for the future; and 2.) For women of generations before Gen Z, it’s the movie we always wish we had. In her directorial debut, Olivia Wilde delivers one of the most realistic displays of female friendship: the highest ups and the lowest downs, all in the unapologetically vulgar but heart-warming tone that Judd Apatow joints dominated in the aughts with straight male leads. –Carrie Wittmer

Extra! Extra! Read Randall Colburn’s full review here.


23. Ready or Not

Samara Weaving, Ready or Not

Ready or Not (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Who’s In It? Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Elyse Levesque, Nicky Guadagni, and Kristian Bruun

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Wedded bliss falters
In-laws take Game Night too far
‘Til death Do They Part

You Gotta See This: All hail Samara Weaving! This star-in-the-making turned in a killer performance in one of the year’s biggest surprises. Pun intended. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett know exactly what type of movie Ready or Not should be and deliver an air-tight horror-thriller that zips along with raucous energy and gory glee. Full of suspense and macabre humor, the cast fully commits to every cheeky eccentricity the script requires of them. The satire aiming for the jugular of the 1% has never been as deliciously violent or as stylish as it is here. It’s the horror-thriller riff on Clue we didn’t know we needed. –Meagan Navarro

Extra! Extra! Read Meagan Navarro’s full review here.


22. Blinded by the Light

 Top 25 Films of 2019

Blinded By the Light (Warner Bros.)

Who’s In It?: Viveik Kalra, Kilvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Dean-Charles Chapman, Rob Brydon, Haylet Atwell, and Nell Williams

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

It’s Thatcher’s England
Finding purpose with the Boss
You can’t stop smiling

You Gotta See This: Feel-good movies are often dismissed as mawkish, cloying, and unrealistic. But Gurinder Chadha’s sunbeam of a motion picture (based loosely on the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor) infectiously charts the life of a Pakistani British boy named Javed (a beautifully exuberant Viveik Kalra), who finds purpose and actualization in the music of Bruce Springsteen during the tumult of Thatcher-era England. The Boss’ words swirl around Javed’s head and paint themselves on the fabric of his surroundings, cutting right to the heart of the way the right art at the right time can actualize us in the best, most inspiring ways. –Clint Worthington

Extra! Extra! Read Clint Worthington’s full review here.


21. High Life

high life a24 movie claire denis robert pattinson

High Life (A24)

Who’s In It? Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, and Mia Goth

“Garth, that was a haiku!” 

Welcome to the box
Convicts see the galaxy
Space is a bummer

You Gotta See This: Extraterrestrial exploration generally fosters stories of curiosity or critter-like danger, but in the case of Claire Denis’ High Life, her thesis on deep space is far, far more sinister. Perhaps we’re all alone in this universe, and the final frontier is confronting our own awful selves. Hell of a hard-hearted, right? Well, get ready to see final frontiers unlike you’ve ever seen in Denis’ vicious vision. Denis places Pattinson’s Monte, a by-all-means decent convict, against insurmountable odds and dangers. Between defending himself from others onboard, to protecting his space-born daughter, the outer rims of our existence have rarely looked this existential and menacing. –Blake Goble

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.


20. Knives Out

Knives Out (Lionsgate)

Knives Out (Lionsgate)

Who’s In It?  Everyone who ever acted in anything, ever. (More seriously: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Colette, LaKeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Riki Lindome, Edi Patterson, Frank Oz—Frank Oz!</em— and the wonderful, film-anchoring Ana de Armas.)

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

She pukes when she lies
A gentlemen detective
Sees truth on her shoes

You Gotta See This: A two-faced film about a world full of two-faced people made for the most fun we had at the movies all year. Rian Johnson’s fiendishly clever screenplay finds room between the twists-on-twists for plenty of off-kilter, sharp-toothed, or slow-drawled humor (keep your ears peeled for Shannon’s “one iota of shit,” perhaps the line-reading of the year). Yet the real sleight-of-hand here is the way in which Johnson manages to make the film’s sly political message and its empathetic center the same. Eat the rich, but if you can’t, at least find a way to enjoy your coffee in peace. —Allison Shoemaker

Extra! Extra! Read Dan Caffrey’s full review here.


19. Horror Noire

Horror Noire (Shudder)

Horror Noire (Shudder)

Who’s In It? Jordan Peele, Tony Todd, Rachel True, Ernest R. Dickerson, Keith David, Rusty Cundieff, Ken Foree, Ashlee Blackwell, Robin R. Means Coleman, Tananarive Due, and Miguel A. Núñez Jr.

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

School is in session
Revealing and insightful
It’s a graveyard smash

You Gotta See This: Adapted from Robin R. Means Coleman’s Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from 1890s to Present, Xavier Burgen’s documentary takes us on an insightful, socio-cultural journey through the role African Americans play in horror. More than a vital history lesson of genre films by an underrepresented perspective, it’s a meaningful education on America’s complicated relationship with race. Full of wit, passion, intelligence, and humor, Horror Noire handles complex themes with power and grace, gifting us with an impactful and canonical course on film history. A profound look at the past, present, and evolving future of the genre, this documentary is essential viewing for those with even the slightest interest in film. –Meagan Navarro

Extra! Extra! Read Rathan Krueger’s full review here.


18. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Photo by Lacey Terrell

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Who’s In It? Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Chris Cooper

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

You Gotta See This: Fred Rogers never asked for perfection. Sure, thanks to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he became an icon of kindness and patience and emotional generosity. But he never sought to teach kids to be perfect, or to know what to do every time they feel sad or angry or confused. He just wanted to teach them how to deal with their problems, knowing that one day they’d become adults who have to know how. Marielle Heller’s film about Rogers (Tom Hanks) and the journalist (Matthew Rhys) sent to capture him takes unexpected chances at almost every turn, casting aside biopic conventions to cut to the heart of why Mr. Rogers asking us to be his neighbor mattered like it did, and continues to resonate as it does. As Heller and Hanks sublimely depict at one point in the film, he has his bad days too. We all do. Life’s just about knowing what to do when they come. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Extra! Extra! Read Joe Lipsett’s full review here.


17. Tigers Are Not Afraid

Tigers Are Not Afraid (Shudder)

Tigers Are Not Afraid (Shudder)

Who’s In It? Paola Lara, Juan Ramón López, Ianis Guerrero, Rodrigo Cortes, Hanssel Casillas, Nery Arredondo, and Tenoch Huerta

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

You Gotta See This: There are parts of the world where children are not able to be children, where they must either learn how to survive in unspeakable circumstances or perish fast. Tigers Are Not Afraid, set among the rooftops and alleyways of a Mexican city overrun by cartel violence, is all too aware of this even as it harbors hope for the intrepid young gang of orphaned kids at its center. Director Issa López deals in flourishes of magical realism throughout, but those sparks of innocence are never allowed to diminish the grave realities that drive the story. In its portrayal of lives torn apart before they even have a chance to begin, Tigers makes for thoroughly difficult viewing. But in the film’s bleakly wishful world, the machinations of the corrupt are no match for three wishes in the hands of the kids who’ll one day inherit the Earth. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Extra! Extra! Read Scout Tafoya’s full review here.


16. The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse (A24)

The Lighthouse (A24)

Who’s In It? Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, and a menacing seagull

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Pirate dialogue
R.Patz does the mermaid sex
Why’d ya spill yer beans?

You Gotta See This: Unlike Robert Eggers’ debut The Witch, which told a terrifying albeit straightforward story about a Puritan girl seduced by witches by way of a goat called Black Phillip, The Lighthouse leaves a lot to be desired – intentionally, maniacally, and successfully. Shot in black and white with a 1.19:1 aspect ratio, the film captures isolation, paranoia, and the benefits of sea salt on hair texture. Despite its artistic value, its performances from Pattinson and Dafoe (whose headshots belong next to the Urban Dictionary definition for “doing the most”) make The Lighthouse more memorable than it ought to be. But it’s the quieter moments that linger — and that includes a scene in which Pattinson goes to (sex) town with a mermaid on a rocky shore. –Carrie Wittmer

Extra! Extra! Read Joe Lipsett’s full review here.


15. Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit Movie Review

Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Who’s In It? Taika Waititi, Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Sam Rockwell, and Scarlett Johansson

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

I hate the unknown
Adolf Hitler, BFF
I have much to learn

You Gotta See This: Based on Christine Leunens’s Caging Skies, Taika Waititi’s coming-of-age dramedy is billed as “an anti-hate satire,” and that tagline couldn’t be more apropos. Which is why all the exhaustive backlash stemming from its surface-level conceit — a German boy whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler (Waititi at his most charming, ironically) — is so ludicrous. Jojo Rabbit is penicillin for an era of cancel culture, a beautiful meditation on how hatred is never forever, and that’s something everyone could learn to swallow. Wielding one of this year’s sharpest screenplays, Waititi never leans too hard into its satirical premise, either, avoiding any kitsch that would torpedo this film. –Michael Roffman

Extra! Extra! Read Joe Lipsett’s full review here.


14. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

the last black man in san francisco a24 movie sundance

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (A24)

Who’s In It? Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Dany Glover, Mike Epps, Finn Wittrock, Tichina Arnold, and Thora Birch

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Jimmie Fails is failed
By cities and by systems
Blackness in relief

You Gotta See This: One of the boldest, most audacious debuts of the year, Joe Talbot’s poetic retelling of the story of childhood friend (and star/co-writer) Jimmie Fails feels nothing short of miraculous. A tale touching on everything from the specter of gentrification to the lies on which we build our self-worth, there’s not a false note in Last Black Man‘s soulful, yearning presentation. From Fails’ wounded lead performance to Talbot’s dreamlike direction (not to mention Jonathan Majors’ show-stopping supporting turn and Emile Mosseri’s aching score), The Last Black Man in San Francisco is at once a loving ode to its titular city and a harsh rebuke to what that place has become. –Clint Worthington

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.


13. The Irishman

Martin Scorsese's The Irishman no wide theatrical release

The Irishman (Netflix)

Who’s In It? Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Jesse Plemons, Harvey Keitel, and this year’s most divisive silent performance by Anna Paquin

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Heard you paint houses
All in the still of the night
It is what it is

You Gotta See This: The Irishman could have gone so wrong for Martin Scorsese. The de-aging process alone spelled disaster when it was first announced all those years ago. Instead, Marty came through, delivering arguably his most sobering drama to date. While he doesn’t exactly warrant the weighty three-and-a-half hour runtime — that first hour is lethargic — things eventually start boiling over. Pacino saves the middle, Pesci is quietly rapturous, and De Niro comes in with a final left hook that stings with solemnity. At 77, Scorsese chews on themes of memory, mortality, and the futility of man with the utmost clarity. This isn’t just cinema, to crib from the auteur, it’s a requiem. –Michael Roffman

Extra! Extra! Read Brett Arnold’s full review here.


12. The Souvenir

The Souvenir

The Souvenir (A24)

Who’s In It? Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, and Tilda Swinton

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

A film student dreams
Her tough past but bright future
Damn junkie lover

You Gotta See This: Joanna Hogg’s frail remembrance of doomed art school romance feels more generous and thoughtfully examined than perhaps it need be. Time will do that, and we’re so lucky. Based on her own experiences, Hogg represents herself as Julie (Swinton Byrne), film student of means but indecipherable vision. She’s honest, hard-working, and admittedly uncertain of her vision. But Anthony, a pompous, and frankly alluring counterpart, gives Julie unexpected strength. And equal if not greater heart-ache. This is a brilliant effort on how we learn and evolve from personal tragedy, how the past makes us who we are, and how painful that remembrance can be. –Blake Goble

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.


11. Little Women

little women 2019 film timothee chalamet saoirse ronan

Little Women (Sony)

Who’s In It? Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, and Meryl Streep

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Sisters March returns
A classic remixed with joy
See Chalamet burn

You Gotta See This: It’s almost like a great Altman flick. The camera is loosely set, the audio’s clean enough. (The warm art direction and vintage costuming doesn’t hurt either.) And then you get this wonderful cast of very talented people to do the work. They get the film to assemble through perfectly told and observed mini-stories. Moments, beats, jokes, sadness, and lives being lived in the moment. Greta Gerwig’s Little Women does invaluable service to Louisa Mary Alcott’s novel by letting her characters live, breathe, and simply be. From Jo’s defiance, to Amy’s admonishment, and everyone in between, this is lively entertainment, filled with life caught on film. –Blake Goble

Extra! Extra!

coming soon Top 25 Films of 2019


10. Apollo 11

apollo 11 neon moon landing documentary

Apollo 11 (Neon)

Who’s In It?: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and man’s sense of wonder at the vastness of the universe

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

One small step for man
One giant leap for mankind
Told in a new way

You Gotta See This: Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, editor and filmmaker Todd Douglas Miller’s Apollo 11 is maybe the closest we’ll ever get to feel like we’re a part of that (literally) stellar accomplishment. Cobbled entirely from stunning, previously-unseen archival footage, with a pulse-pounding ambient score from Matt Morton crafted from period-appropriate instruments, Miller mines incredible suspense from an event whose outcome we’re all too familiar with. Show this one to your flat-Earther relative this Christmas, just to shut them up. –Clint Worthington

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.


09. Marriage Story

Marriage Story (Netflix)

Marriage Story (Netflix)

Who’s In It?  Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, and Julie Hagerty

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Will we go to court?
Frankenstein with no candy
There is so much space

You Gotta See This: We write what we know, and Noah Baumbach knows Marriage Story all too well. Inspired by his own split from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh — not to mention, his own upbringing — this heartfelt drama screams with the chummy realism he’s trademarked for decades. That authenticity is matched, however, by his latest A-list ensemble, particularly Adam Driver, who unwraps one Oscar clip after another. Yet the true power of the film is how Baumbach so accurately captures the innate tunnel vision both sides of a relationship fall into over the years. The tragedy of working so hard to get what you feel is ideal for both parties, not realizing those efforts are actually marginalizing the other side. Harrowing and heartbreaking stuff that’s ultimately a testament to Baumbach as a filmmaker and a storyteller. –Michael Roffman

Extra! Extra! Read Joe Lipsett’s full review here.


08. The Farewell

The Farewell (Big Beach)

The Farewell (Big Beach)

Who’s In It? Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Zhao Shuzhen, Diana Lin

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Nai Nai is dying
Family time is proving hard
China is changing

You Gotta See This: Never has a title card been so accurate, funny, and wrenching all at once: The Farewell is, the film assures us, “based on an actual lie.” Heartbreaking, humane, and thank god, sincerely funny all the while, Lulu Wang’s Sundance darling follows a struggling writer Billi (heavyweight awards contender Awkwafina; what a time to be alive) who journeys to China when Nai Nai (“grandmother” in Mandarin) is diagnosed with terminal cancer. But here’s the rub: No one has told Nai Nai herself, and the family knits together a lie about a wedding so that they can all convene around her without tipping off the patient. This deception doesn’t sit well with Bill, and Awkwafina’s terrific, subtle performance keeps Wang’s deeply felt comedy emotionally charged from moment one. What a gem. –Allison Shoemaker

Extra! Extra! Read Clint Worthington’s full review here.


07. Uncut Gems

Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler, A24

Uncut Gems (A24)

Who’s In It? Adam Sandler, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Eric Bogosian, Julia Fox, Judd Hirsch, Mike Francesa, and The Weeknd

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Press your luck Sand Man
Pass KG that shiny rock
The price is wrong, bitch

You Gotta See This: Howard Ratner (Sandler) is not a likeable guy. He cheats, schemes, and damn does he have a serious gambling problem. But the years of goodwill accrued by Sandler somehow transform this broken character into a lovable, 10 carat underdog despite these glaring flaws. It’s a brilliant casting choice by the Safdie brothers who mine Sandler’s best performance to date. Uncut Gems puts him through a rock tumbler in this high stakes tale of a greedy New York jeweler who can’t seem to get out of his own way. And the anxious pacing, coupled with back and forth momentum shifts, will have you feeling like you’re court side in the closing minutes of the NBA Finals. —Dan Pfleegor

Extra! Extra! Read Brett Arnold’s full review here.


06. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Céline Sciamma, Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Neon)

Who’s In It? Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, and Valeria Golino

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

A portrait somehow
Transforms; painter and subject
Have changed each other

You Gotta See This: One of the most ravishingly romantic films of the decade arrives with its final breath, and what a breath it is: sharp, like a gasp of sea air on a cliffside; hot, like the licks of warmth off a bonfire; soft, like the texture of a dog-eared page in a novel, turned to again and again for the secret sketched on its surface. Of all the remarkable things about Céline Sciamma’s masterful film, what’s most striking is its patience—while charged from the earliest moments, Sciamma allows Marianne (Noémie Merlant) and Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) to approach each other not warily, but precisely, each steadily and sometimes brutally assessing the person who’s somehow found her way around the walls they’ve built themselves. By the time the film arrives at its captivating final shot, you’ll ache as they do.

Extra! Extra!

coming soon Top 25 Films of 2019


05. 1917

1917, Sam Mendes, World War I, George MacKay, Sam Mendes, War

1917 (Universal Pictures)

Who’s In It? George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Into the trenches
He travels fastest alone
Dante would agree

You Gotta See This: After spending most of the 2010s at MI6, Sam Mendes snuck in this masterpiece before the decade came to a close. With 1917, the English filmmaker outdid himself, dropping a total muscular upgrade of his crisp style that recalibrated the war genre in the process. For nearly two hours, he funnels the hellish terror of World War I through a series of ambitious long takes, and while that might read like a gimmick, these cinematic feats only embellish the infinite nature of war. Lensed by (soon-to-be two-time) Oscar-winner Roger Deakins, Mendes never wastes an opportunity for a jaw-dissolving shot, overwhelming the senses with one portrait after another. Blink and you’ll miss one as this thing moves with the cadence of a coked-out musical, leaving ample time to gasp or think or dwell. It’s riveting cinema in the most literal sense of the word. –Michael Roffman

Extra! Extra! Read Dan Pfleegor’s full review here.


04. Her Smell

Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell, Vinyl, Soundtrack

Her Smell (Gunpowder and Sky)

Who’s In It? Elisabeth Moss, Amber Heard, Cara Delevingne, Dan Stevens, Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin, Ashley Benson, and Eric Stoltz

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

She sings to her girl
Baby, you’re all that I want
Now we’re all crying

You Gotta See This: With Her Smell, Alex Ross Perry furthers his interpersonal exploration into self-destructive tendencies latent in humanity (and Elisabeth Moss). Perry opts for a five act structure in which Moss’s character proliferates utter chaos via her antics with both her punk band and broken family unit as her life spirals out of control thanks to substance abuse and egomania. With each devastating step, her on-stage persona, Becky Something, overtakes reality and looms even larger a la The Phantom of the Opera, haunting those who stand in the way of her vainglorious quest for self-righteous music glory. Her Smell takes viewers on a thrill ride from realized hell to hopeful heaven. –Kyle Cubr

Extra! Extra! Read Dan Caffrey’s full review here.


03. Parasite

Parasite Movie Review

Parasite (Neon)

Who’s In It? Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik and Park So-dam

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Upstairs and downstairs
Rich people are killing us
You should fear the peach

You Gotta See This: It feels appropriate that this year’s Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival went to an exploration of the ways in which well-off families oblivious to the plight of the world around them are destroying everything. Bong Joon-ho has been building up to a feature like this for some time now, if you look at the proletariat leanings of Snowpiercer and Okja. But what the veteran South Korean filmmaker accomplishes with Parasite is of an entirely different class, pardon the pun. The film matches the impact of a slowly tightening noose, introducing a rich family through the poor family seeking to milk them for money and opportunity and some of the intoxicating privilege they enjoy without even really thinking about it. Parasite is unyielding in its vision of social struggle, but what hangs in the air long after the film is over is the way that it seems to taunt its audience all the while, even while ripping its hearts out. All together now: Jessica, only child, Illinois, Chicago…. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Extra! Extra! Read Sarah Kurchak’s full review here.


02. Midsommar

Midsommar, Ari Aster, Frances Pugh, Jack Reynor, A24

Midsommar (A24)

Who’s In It? Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, and Will Poulter

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Dani was not asked
To go to Sweden and hang
Christian sucks so much

You Gotta See This: Midsommar has an arguably happy ending, although you’d be forgiven for missing it amid all the hallucinogenic terror and ritual suicide and suffocating trauma featured throughout Ari Aster’s sublime second feature. From the moment Dani (Florence Pugh, giving one of the year’s best performances) is grudgingly invited along on a boys’ trip to a 90-year summer festival in a remote Swedish village, Aster makes it clear that nothing good is about to happen. That’s what makes it so breathtaking when the film coils into twin explorations of Dani’s grief and her unfulfilling, frequently harmful relationship with her emotionally stunted boyfriend (Jack Reynor), and then into a parable about how sometimes there’s nothing more powerful a person can do for themselves than let go of the things hurting them, no matter the cost. It’s revolting, horrifying, and the kind of movie you don’t get to shake, but above all, Midsommar is built from the truths we find most difficult to address, the ones about how true freedom can only come from setting fire to everything you know and becoming something entirely new. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Extra! Extra! Read Trace Thurman’s full review here.


01. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Who’s In It? Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Al Pacino, and the list goes on and on and on

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Bad Twitter discourse
Brad Pitt shirtless on a roof
Manson never waves

You Gotta See This: In 2009, Inglourious Basterds stormed into the end of the summer to become one of the best films of that year. At the time, it was a great culmination of Quentin Tarantino’s inherent tastes and trademarks: gruesome violence over hilarious situations; tense, elongated scenes of quippy dialogue; and obscure pop culture references to be defined later online by the diehards. Ten years later, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood strings all of those quirks together, but for (maybe) the first time in the filmmaker’s career, it’s personal. Really personal.

Although Once Upon a Time… depicts a period in Hollywood history he wasn’t involved in — Summer 1969 — Tarantino still manages to sneak into the legendary studio lots with an air of authority. And by exploring the enduring friendship of two struggling middle-aged stars in Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), he too wrestles with his own passions and anxieties within the industry. But this is less of an aggressive purge and more of a dreamy meditation, one that warrants some of his most poignant and affecting scenes to date. –Carrie Wittmer

Extra! Extra! Read Blake Goble’s full review here.


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