Honourable Mention: Synonyms
10) FYRE: The Greatest Party that Never Happened / Midsommar / Climax
Watch as the society all goes to shit.
9) The Farewell / Ready or Not / Parasite
Same, but with families as well.
This film was really decent and should have been much more highly regarded, perhaps doubly so for a film that looks and feels so “obvious”. A Canadian gem that brings honorary Canadians Maria Bello and Kyle MacLachlan into the fold.
7) High Flying Bird
The best movie of the year about Netflix and doubly so for actually streaming on Netflix. In addition, this was the most exciting movie about basketball in which not a single second of basketball is played on screen. Extra bonus points to Karl-Anthony Towns who, between this film and What Men Want, showcased two great performances in less than a month, which, sorry, LeBron James in Trainwreck couldn’t pull it off.
6) Little Women / A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
A tie for Sony titles that are directed by women and are better than the majority of male directed junk this year. Because they are about proper social behaviour, gender roles, toxic forms of masculinity and subtle commentary on femininity, Greta Gerwig and Marielle Heller might not be invited to the boys club of award shows. A special shout out to Chris Cooper for giving memorable performances in both movies.
5) Liars (The Handmaid’s Tale – season 3, episode 11)
Yes, I know, people who call TV shows movies are pretentious AF but trust, this episode is an incredible achievement in an amazing year for a series that somehow improved season after season. This season alone featured “Little America” saving the day again, a “Holy Shit!” sequence in which Ofmathew (Ashleigh LaThrop) completely loses it under the smiling face of June (Elisabeth Moss), and a karaoke duet from Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) and John Ortiz. The use of the Kate Bush song and the expert direction from Deniz Gamze Ergüven make this episode extremely cinematic and a standout.
I know, I can’t believe that it’s here either, as I don’t really buy into hype and it seems as though South By is hype central (and this film is not an exception), and yet this film is absolutely delightful. In her feature film directorial debut, Olivia Wilde nailed it and Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever are a perfect pairing. It’s modern without being pandering and I want to live in their world.
3) The Irishman
I generally don’t really “get” the love for Martin Scorsese, though even I admit that The Departed was a decent enough film about Boston (and rats). But it’s an incredible feat to get me to care about a film for 3 hours and 30 minutes, and to be utterly fascinated on top of it (I even re-watched Goodfellas the next night and it made that film better). Just a fascinating take on the gangster tale and the last half an hour was mesmerizing (and what great cameos from Dascha Polanco and Action Bronson). Hey Marty: I hear you make movies.
2) The Two Popes
The real underdog story of the year, as I spent about an hour figuring out if it was a next in line for Young Pope, and then afterwards figuring out how a movie about the Pope changeover could be a buddy comedy (spoiler: it can!). Fernando Meirelles has pulled off the impossible: elevating a ho-hum potential biopic into a funny and viciously brutal takedown of organized religion, while still making a film affirming the power of religion and faith. The matzah ball soup gag is one of the funniest things I’ve seen this year or any year, really.
1) Marriage Story
The Holy Grail of films this year, a film that not only presents a story in which you aren’t actively rooting for either of its protagonists (though, let’s be honest, it’s Nicole, haters), and at the same time, Adam Driver is brilliant as Noah Baumba…”Charlie”, Laura Dern gives an award-worthy performance as a divorce lawyer, bonus points for Alan Alda and Ray Liotta as Charlie’s lawyers, and Scarlett Johansson delivers a career-best performance as Nicole, who is in no way based on a real person, and it’s not autobiographical in the slightest. By the time that Adam Driver sings “Being Alive” (if you haven’t watched by now, tough luck, or you are Adam Driver himself), I was done. I will never watch this movie a second time, but that’s the highest of praise.