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
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
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