My Top Ten Films of 2019
(film comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Well, it is time again to list my top ten films of the previous year. I am sorry that my list comes out after so many others have been published. Some reviewers announce their top ten lists in the middle of December. How they know that nothing better will come out in the next two weeks, I have no idea. As for me, I am lucky if I have seen all the major films of the previous year by the end of January. I have decided not to include films that I have seen over the year that have not yet been released in the United States. Too many of my readers will have forgotten I rated some of these highly by the time they finally do get released. I believe that the following in some order are what I think are the ten best 2019 films I saw.

1) JOJO RABBIT: Near the end of WWII a ten-year-old German boy who idolizes the German military finds he has to make some hard choices. While the film usually has high spirits, there are times when the viewer will not find the story a happy one. But this film is unusually creative.
Director: Taika Waititi Writer: Taika Waititi

2) THE AERONAUTS: With a little flair borrowed from Jules Verne, we get a story of two mid-19th century explorers who attempt to travel by balloon higher above the Earth than any humans had ever been to that point. The two leads from THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, actors Felicity Jones and Eddy Redmayne, are reunited in a piece of proto- science fiction. Of their two characters one is serious and in the process of inventing what will be the new science of meteorology. The other is a daredevil adventurer for whom the record-breaking flight is little more than a publicity gag. Ms Jones is an exciting woman taking a bite out of life and in return it may well take a bite out of her.
Director: Tom Harper Writer: Jack Thorne

3) THE REPORT: This film has a three-word title that requires special equipment to print. It is THE XXXXXXX REPORT. But the middle word has been redacted. It is so secret you cannot know the name of its author. The subject of the report is the notes on an investigation as to whether the United States has used torture among its special interrogation techniques. This is one of those films that shine a light on what our country does not want our people to know.
Director: Scott Z. Burns Writer: Scott Z. Burns

4) DARK WATERS: This film starts with one farmer's observation that his cattle are dying. There is a conspiracy by in this case DuPont Chemical where there the environment is being poisoned and it is very hard to stop because big money stands in the way. This film, a true story, has special interest since the main character actually works for the corporation committing the crime. This is every bit as scary a horror story as anything that Hammer Films ever made.
Director: Todd Haynes Writers: Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan

5) HARRIET: It has been years since I heard about Harriet Tubman and I guess I had always assumed that Harriet Tubman was remembered because she was a cogent advocate for abolition of slavery. This film shows her being a sort of action hero risking her life e to save hundreds of people from slavery.
Director: Kasi Lemmons Writers: Gregory Allen Howard, Kasi Lemmons, Gregory Allen Howard, and Tom Harper

6) WHO WILL WRITE OUR HISTORY: This is a documentary about brave people. In the Warsaw Ghetto almost a half million Jews are interned. Weapons for defense are available only for a high price in lives and blood. The only weapon that could be afforded is documentation of the hell they face on a daily basis. They have to write their own histories and accounts of what they have experienced or personally seen. If the Germans find their accounts they would most likely be instantly murdered.
Director: Roberta Grossman Writer: Roberta Grossman

7) KNIVES OUT: This is a case of a film company wishing they had a MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS sort of story. It is an ensemble piece of a group of people at a country house and one of them is murdered. Daniel Craig with a funny voice is the detective, though he denies he is solving the crime even when the audience expects it of him. The film's biggest flaw is that it is so typical of its genre.
Director: Rian Johnson Writer: Rian Johnson

8) SOBIBOR: The question is frequently posed as to why the Jews did not fight back and resist their own murders. There were, in fact, 600 internees who attempted an escape and of that number about half escaped into the surrounding countryside. This docudrama tells the story of how the escape was planned and executed.
Director: Konstantin Khabensky Writers: Konstantin Khabensky, Aleksandr Adabashyan, Anna Tchernakova, Andrei Nazarov, and Ilya Vasiliev

9) THE SPY BEHIND HOME PLATE: This is a biography of Moe Berg an American League catcher and a coach. He travelled internationally. He was a polymath with an extremely broad base of knowledge in many languages. This prepared for a second simultaneous career as an agent for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), during World War II. His task was to discuss with European physicists the likelihood of Germany developing a nuclear bomb.
Director: Aviva Kempner Writer: Aviva Kempner

10) MARRIAGE STORY: Noah Baumbach directs his own screenplay about a marriage that is on the brink of destruction. The film stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, both seeming to be ubiquitous on the wide screen this year. The film in fact seems strongly reminiscent of KRAMER VS. KRAMER has in its view of the destruction that a divorce brings to members of a family. In the first minutes of the film one feels these two people should really be together. Then the subject of the film is how they hoveringly tear at each other. Everything really comes to a boil when the lawyers get involved. That brings forth a heavy dose of mixed emotion and turns their lives into a battleground.
Director: Noah Baumbach
Screenplay: Noah Baumbach

That seems like a downbeat selection of films. If that bothers you, try THE AERONAUTS.

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2019 Mark R. Leeper