Year In Review: FADED GLAMOUR Top Films Of 2019

on Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Words: Saam Das

The 2020 Oscars have been and gone so it seems appropriate for us to drop a list of our top films of 2019. Before we get to our best of, a hat-tip to some honourable mentions that might have made the list on another day, in another mood. Not forgetting all those films we missed, including Oscar-winning doc 'For Sama' and Eddie Murphy's comeback in 'Dolemite Is My Name'.

The Netflix juggernauts of Martin Scorcese's 'The Irishman' and Noah Baumbach's 'Marriage Story', joined the likes of Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon A Hollywood' and Barry Jenkins' 'If Beale Street Could Talk' as formidable installments in each director's excellent back catalogue. Indeed, 'The Irishman' claimed the top spot in the UK film critics' poll that we were a part of, organised by HeyUGuys.

10) 'Pain And Glory' (August 23)

A somewhat autobiographical offering, acclaimed director Pedro Almodovar was in the finest of form with the episodic 'Pain And Glory', featuring a tremendous (and rightfully, Oscar-nominated) leading performance by Antonio Banderas. The film's denouement, bringing its strands together, offered a rich and rewarding revelation - 'Pain And Glory' by name, pain and glory by nature.

9)'In Fabric' (June 28)

Brit auteur Peter Strickland has shown himself to be one of the leading voices in contemporary leftfield cinema, with films of the calibre of 'Berberian Sound Studio' and 'The Duke Of Burgundy'. His latest work, 'In Fabric', is arguably his best yet, albeit sadly another cult (rather than box office) hit. A tongue-in-cheek giallo-esque horror that delights in its absurdist dialogue and surrealism, with special mention for its striking synth score from Cavern Of Anti-Matter.

8) 'A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon' (October 18)

Sharing many a similarity with the 'Paddington' Cinematic Universe, Shaun The Sheep jumped from the small screen to the big screen, improving on its solid opening installment, 2015's 'Shaun The Sheep Movie' with 'Farmageddon'. Largely devoid of dialogue, its charm nonetheless shone throughout in typical Aardman stop-motion fashion. A worthy spin-off from Shaun's origins in 'Wallace & Gromit' world.

7) 'The Favourite' (January 1)

The 2019 Academy Awards feel like many moons ago already - a mixed bag for many, with "safer" choices like 'Green Book' taking Best Picture and 'Bohemian Rhapsody' collecting the most Oscars, but also with UK TV stalwart Olivia Colman taking a surprise win for Best Actress for her portrayal of Queen Anne in 'The Favourite'. A period drama with a difference, as could be expected from director Yorgos Lanthimos ('Dogtooth', 'The Lobster') whose back catalogue has offered us the weird and the wonderful.

6) 'Thunder Road' (May 31)

A bittersweet tour de force from writer-director-and-star of 'Thunder Road', Jim Cummings. From the absurd to the heartfelt, this was one of purest and most engaging executions of a cinematic vision in 2019. Combined with Gurinder Chadha's excellent 'Blinded By The Light', what a splendid pairing of Bruce Springsteen-inspired film releases we had last year, not to mention the Boss' own performance-led 'Western Stars' doc.

5) 'Wild Rose' (April 12)

Perhaps best known for his TV work on the likes of 'Misfits' and 'Peaky Blinders', director Tom Harper made a couple of forays into the big screen in 2019 with 'The Aeronauts' and 'Wild Rose'. It was the latter that particularly caught the eye, with its triple whammy of central performances from Julie Walters, Jessie Buckley, and Sophie Okonodo. This tale of a Glaswegian single mum's (a fantastic leading turn by Buckley, who also contributed all-important vocals) pursuit of country music stardom was a crowdpleaser, in the best way possible.

4) 'Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story' (March 29)

Surreal Northern musician Frank Sidebottom has already been deemed noteworthy enough for the big screen with 2014's Michael Fassbender-starring 'Frank' but this documentary delved deeper into the man behind the papier maché, Chris Sievey. 'Being Frank' offered a fascinating look at a bemusing, innovative creator, without holding back on the less savoury aspects of his life.

3) 'Little Women' (December 26)

Had we put out this list in the usual end-of-year scrum, it would have missed Greta Gerwig's loving follow-up to our number one film of 2018 'Ladybird', 'Little Women'. And what a sore miss that would have been, much like Gerwig's disappointing omission from the Best Director nominations at this year's Oscars. A delightful remake of a literary classic, imbued with its writer-director's heart and wit.

2) 'Knives Out' (November 29)

The baffingly vitriolic reaction to Rian Johnson's entry into the 'Star Wars' canon with 2017's 'The Last Jedi' may have broken another filmmaker. Instead, he came back in fine form, with the brilliant murder mystery 'Knives Out'. A star-studded ensemble cast was led by Daniel Craig, deliciously hamming it up at every turn as "CSI: KFC" detective, Benoit Blanc. It was however, Ana de Armas' compassionate central character that tied proceedings together. From the sincere to the absurd, 'Knives Out' was a delight.

1) 'Minding The Gap' (March 22)

Bing Liu's debut feature was a documentary of significant proportions, despite its relatively straight-forward premise of an ongoing portrait of the friendships of three young skateboarders from Illinois. Across the course of 'Minding The Gap', this fascinating film transforms into a poignant treatise on class, race, and domestic abuse. Near universal praise followed, including from former US President Barack Obama who placed the film is own best of 2018 list, with a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Documentary cementing its status as a coming-of-age film for the ages.

Read our list of top films of 2018 and find more of our favourite things of 2019 here.

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