Last week, Jerome Cusson and Michael Thomas ranked the films nominated for Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars. In light of Green Book actually winning Best Picture, try to wash that bad feeling away with these great films from 2019 that Jerome recommends.
This is a movie that exhibits the best of Kevin Smith and Spike Lee. It’s an honest look at a friendship that probably shouldn’t exist. Daveed Diggs is tremendously charismatic and something that could have easily felt like a gimmick, his various raps throughout the film, came off natural and paid off in a harrowing scene that felt realistic.
It’s unfortunate MoviePass essentially died around the time this came out nationwide because this could have been a sneaky hit, maybe even sneaky enough to be regarded as an awards contender. Not enough films about gentrification are created, and this taking place in Oakland feels relevant and present, especially since other important films of 2018 were also set there.
I wish this film failed because Liam Neeson was a racist, but we didn’t even realize this fact until months later. This was an elevated genre film that made tremendous use of every character and had one of the best shot scenes of the year. A scene of a car driving mere blocks served as a powerful look at the short distance that exists between poverty and wealth.
This is a film so good, I could argue it was a breakout for two different actors (Cynthia Erivo and Elizabeth Dabecki). The cast has so much depth Daniel Kaluuya and Robert Duvall are coming off the bench in glorified cameos. Viola Davis is the best possible centerpiece because she’s clearly gone through a lot, but her eyes tell us so much about the emotion she’s feeling. I cannot recommend people see this film enough. It’s lack of success perplexes to this day.
Conversion therapy is one of the most vile concepts I could possibly think of and I really hesitated about seeing this because I didn’t want something that was melodramatic or felt like yet another gay tragedy.
Lucas Hedges has his own agency and has one of the best film moments of the year when he decides he can no longer participate in the program. It’s more rewarding than most superhero fight scenes. Hedges shows the importance of taking charge of one’s own life, hard as it may be. Almost every performance hits pitch perfectly. Russell Crowe as a fat, aging preacher works because the charisma is still there, but the darkness is also present. Nicole Kidman plays a dutiful mom who at a certain point, makes a hugely important that decision which changes her life.
This still was not an easy watch at times, but it felt authentic. We need to see these kinds of movies as a reminder that the world still isn’t as accepting as it should be, and we still have to fight for equality.
If Beale Street Could Talk
I cannot believe this did not even get nominated for best picture. This is a luscious, intimate, beautiful examination of a relationship going through hard times. I was also concerned about there being tragedy. While it’s there to a certain extent, we also get numerous moments of catharsis and beauty. It’s easy to fall in love with both of the protagonists with the way Barry Jenkins shoots them.
Brian Tyree Henry, who is in all the best movies and television shows from 2018, has a great monologue that addresses the reality of being a prisoner and being black in America. I wonder what James Baldwin would think of how his novel was interpreted. This was close to being number one for the year, and with future viewings, still might be the case.
Leave No Trace
How many people could call Black Panther their second favorite film of the year and then have one of the quietest and sympathetic examinations of PTSD ever put to screen as number one? Likely only me.
I have tremendous respect for Leave No Trace. It could have made Ben Foster’s Will into some sort of abusive monster, but he’s portrayed as an honest man trying to his best. Definitely not perfect but always trying to do well by his daughter even if conventional society might not see him as being normal. Thomasin McKenzie does so much as the daughter, and Debra Granik (who directed Jennifer Lawrence in A Winter’s Bone) clearly has an eye for talent and getting the most out of young actors.
What is most impressive is how much of the film and rhythm of it has stuck with me. I’ve easily forgotten multiple climaxes but remember that these two characters visited a grocery store and left a house after briefly trying to conform to normal society. I remember many of the moments father and son have throughout. And the last shot? Amazing.