As is tradition, I like to finish up each year by unveiling my top 10 movies. I had the chance to see and review just over 200 films in 2019.
A quick (unfortunate) shout-out to my worst films of the year – After, Swimming with Men, The Kitchen, The Trouble with You, Promised, The House That Jack Built, 47 Metres Down: Uncaged, Angel Has Fallen and Rambo: Last Blood. I’m sure those films will have their fans… but I’m not one of them.
In terms of the best, excellent films I couldn’t squeeze into my top 10 list this year include Cold Pursuit, Mary Poppins Returns, Free Solo, Woman at War, Pain and Glory, Booksmart, Wild Rose, Avengers: Endgame, The Farewell, Official Secrets, Pavarotti and Parasite.
On that note though, here are my top 10 films of 2019 in reverse order…
10. Burning (out Apr 18) is an absorbing drama-thriller from South Korea. It's the tale of an introverted young man who bumps into a girl he knew from school but hasn't seen in years. This is a film with some great conversations and plenty of twists and turns. Lots to think about afterwards.
9. Dogman (out Aug 29) is a gut-wrenching, sad Italian drama about a kind-hearted dog groomer who, in trying to make a better life for his young daughter, falls in with the wrong crowd. Great performances. Powerful themes.
8. Toy Story 4 (out Jun 20) is another funny, intelligent, sentimental movie within this successful franchise that will appeal to audiences of all ages. The terrific script is filled with great dialogue, cool new characters and exquisite metaphors. If you’re looking for a reason to smile, Toy Story 4 will provide.
7. The Australian Dream (out Aug 22) is an affecting documentary that delves into the racial abuse endured by AFL footballer Adam Goodes during the final years of his playing career and the reasons it left such an impact. With a wide range of interviewees, my wish is that every Australian see this film.
6. The Report (out Nov 14) is centred on a former FBI employee asked to lead a Senate investigation into the CIA's “enhanced interrogation” techniques in the years following the September 11 attacks. There’s a lot to take away from this movie. It has something to say about the use of torture, the mental strain of being an investigator, and the role of government and subsequent accountability. Great performances from Adam Driver and Annette Bening.
5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (out Dec 26) is a beautiful French drama about a female artist engaged to paint the portrait of a woman who is soon to be wed. This is a patient drama that builds to a powerful, moving climax. As the artist studies her subject matter, so too do we as the audience. It’s a movie that relies more on eye movement and less on dialogue.
4. The Nightingale (out Aug 29) is a confronting, powerful drama that is not easily forgotten. Set in 1820s Tasmania, it's the tale of a flawed, strong-willed woman (Aisling Franciosi) who seeks vengeance against an abusive British soldier (Sam Claflin). Filled with exceptional performances, this is both an absorbing character study and a gripping history lesson.
3. The Guilty (out Feb 28) is a Danish film about a guy who sits at a desk in an office and talks on the phone for 80 minutes. It may sound dreadfully dull but this is one of the best releases of the year. I was hooked from the opening scene to the closing credits. The less you know going in, the better. Trust me.
2. Eighth Grade (out Jan 24) is an outstanding debut feature from first-time director Bo Burnham. It's the story of a shy, nervous, anxious girl trying to make friends and navigate her way through the final week of middle school. Newcomer Elsie Fisher has created a fascinating leading character. I was cringing (in a good way) at some of the dialogue..
1. If Beale Street Could Talk (out Feb 14) is from director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and is adapted from the 1974 novel by James Baldwin. Part of the film is a beautiful, poetic love story and part of the film is a sad, anger-inducing tale of racism in America. Winner of the best supporting actress Oscar for star Regina King.