Every year, the wisened staff of Milwaukee Film steps up to deliver you top tens that celebrate the year in cinema. Stay tuned through January to see what we have to say! Next up is Membership Manager Kristopher telling you his favorite films of 2019!
It's my yearly tradition to fail at confining myself to a "top ten." When and why did we settle on ten? I didn't sign off on that, so here are fifteen... plus a few more.
I have a feeling that Greener Grass and Portrait of a Lady on Fire would have made this list, had I seen them. (Maybe I should make a list of top movies I loved this year without having watched them.)
THE FAREWELL (dir. Lulu Wang)
The lovely story of a Chinese American woman who returns to China to spend time with her dying grandmother who does not know she's dying. I expected humor and heartbreak and family drama, but I didn't expect what art artfully visual movie this would be. (Get ready. I never shut up about how good a movie LOOKS. But, this film has style AND substance.)
FRANCES FERGUSON (dir. Bob Byington)
A very funny film with a unique tone and style all it own. A young teacher has an affair with her student and we watch as her world crumbles around her. A particularly good performance from David Krumholtz!
IN FABRIC (dir. Peter Strickland)
An amazingly strange and funny film about - I'm guessing - a mannequin sex cult and a possessed dress? Like a cross between Suspiria and Mandy.
JOJO RABBIT (dir. Taika Waititi)
A hilarious and sweet film, considering the dark subject. A little boy and his imaginary friend, Adolph Hitler. Taika Waititi succeeds in taking what could be a hugh misstep and creates a film full of sensitivity and high comedy without trivializing the evil of that era in history. I love everything Waititi has made so far.
THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO (dir. Joe Talbot)
My favorite film of the year. Quirky and emotional and filled with wonderful characters and unexpected visual flair. A young man tries to reclaim a family home that it seemingly way out of his reach. Jonathan Majors plays the young man's best friend - an artful, sweet and eccentric performance. My favorite film and performance of the year!
THE LIGHTHOUSE (dir. Robert Eggers)
Two men sink into madness while manning a lighthouse in a dark fable of paranoia, brutal bird death, and mermaid bathing suit areas... A crazy film that has some of the best photography this year. Eggers directed The Witch and is quickly establishing a very solid spot in the art horror genre.
THE MUSTANG (dir. Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre)
I was like, oh one of those sentimental movies about a man bonding with an animal and learning to be more human, etc, etc. I mean, it IS one of those. However, it's one of the better ones of those. Also, it teaches us an important lesson: You will always lose a fist fight with a horse.
ON HANDS (dir. Lajwanti Waghray)
On Hands Trailer V1 2019 from Laj Waghray on Vimeo.
My favorite part of any film about an artist is the montage of them actually creating the work. This film is MOSTLY that! Though, it's much more, too. A thoughtful and beautiful film about artists of all kinds and the work they make with their own hands.
PARASITE (dir. Bong Joon-ho)
Okay, maybe THIS is my favorite film of the year. I'm so indecisive about these things. Parasite is an amazing film that moves seamlessly between genres - comedy, drama, mystery, a bit of horror here and there. A funny, thrilling and shocking story of the clash and entanglement of classes.
RAY & LIZ (dir. Richard Billingham)
Photographer Billingham makes a feature film debut with a story about his childhood in Thatcher-era England. As you'd hope from a photographer-turned-director the film has incredible cinematography that doesn't show off a visual spectacle of his skills, but instead thoughtfully frames and aides the story that he's telling. Can't wait to see more work from this filmmaker.
RUBEN BRANDT, COLLECTOR (dir. Milorad Krstic)
I heard very little about this film when it came out this year and I really don't understand it. A very distinct illustration style creates an extremely bold and fantastic animated world where the subjects of famous paintings bleed into the real world. Fans of animation should not miss this one.
SYNONYMS (dir. Nadav Lapid)
I'm sure many of us have wanted to abandon the nation we live in and run away to France... Armed with his Hebrew-French dictionary, an Israeli man shows up in France and squats in an empty apartment. He makes friends with neighbors who develop a very complicated relationship with him as he searches for a new identity while trying desperately to leave his old one behind. Great performance by newcomer Tom Mercier.
US (dir. Jordan Peele)
Genuinely scary movies are back! Us is creepy, complicated, funny, and celebrates the pantheon of horror films that came before it. Jordan Peele is making fun films with strong characters and a social awareness that cuts like a giant pair of shiny scissors (#reference)!!
VARDA BY AGNES (dir. Agnes Varda)
The final film by the legendary Agnes Varda. A retrospective of her career and life told with her distinct and whimsical style. You might wanna tear up thinking about the end of this magical director's career, but you'll be cheered by the most lavish cat memorial tomb you could ever conceive of!
WAVES (dir. Trey Edward Shults)
However much you love characters at the beginning of a film is directly equivalent to how tragic the events will be that follow. Waves sets you up and knocks you down. And then slowly sets you back up again? I need an occasional gut punch of a movie and this one more than qualifies. Brilliant, beautiful, and emotional.
Honorable Mentions: The Biggest Little Farm, Hail Satan?, The Mountain, Missing Link, and Impulso