The Best Films of 2019 (So Far) – The New York Times

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Want to catch up on your moviegoing? Here’s what our chief critics say is worth checking out.
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“Joker” may be dominating movie talk right now, but as we get closer to the end of the year, expect to see theaters flooded with Oscar-bait films. Before the deluge, you have a chance to catch up on the overlooked gems and instant classics so far this year. Based on what they have reviewed, our chief critics, Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott, say these titles are worth your time.
THE STORY In this semi-autobiographical drama from Pedro Almodóvar, Antonio Banderas plays an ailing director very much like Almodóvar looking back on his life, including his boyhood and his lost loves.
MANOHLA DARGIS’S TAKE “Sublime” and “as visually striking as any Almodóvar has made.” The drama’s “agonies are tempered, its regrets hushed, its restraint powerful.”
READ The full review.
WATCH THE MOVIE It’s still in theaters. Here’s the list.
THE STORY Based on an episode in the life of its writer-director, Joanna Hogg, this drama follows a British film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) and her relationship with a boyfriend (Tom Burke) who may or may not work for the Foreign Office but is certainly a heroin addict.
A.O. SCOTT’S TAKE This is “one of my favorite movies of the year so far, but I almost want to keep it a secret. Partly because it’s the kind of film — we all have a collection of these, and of similar books and records, too — that feels like a private discovery, an experience you want to protect rather than talk about.”
READ The full review.
WATCH THE MOVIE Buy or rent it on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu or YouTube.
[Here is The New York Times’s list of the best movies on Netflix right now. ]transcript
“Hello, this is Bong Joon Ho, director of ‘Parasite.’ This is the story about infiltration. One family infiltrates to other family. This is in the middle of that process. —that kind of moment.” “Simply speaking, it’s just something like ‘Mission: Impossible,’ the TV series when I was a little kid. I was a huge fan. And this some kind of nerdy family version of ‘Mission: Impossible.’” “In this moment for the young son, he is kind of manipulator. He controls everything. And he has a plan. When they rehearse, it looks like a kind of filmmaking. It is like the son is director, the father is the actor.” “I intentionally shoot those shots very quickly and some very spontaneous reaction and sudden, small, improvised. And something happened very naturally. Rolling the camera, that kind of momentary feeling is very important.”
THE STORY Barely getting by in their cramped “semi-basement” apartment, the Kim family schemes its way into the employ of the wealthy, neurotic Park family. Then, with the Parks on a camping trip, the Kims get a huge, not very welcome surprise. From the South Korean director Bong Joon Ho.
MANOHLA DARGIS’S TAKE “Brilliant and deeply unsettling.” Thanks to Bong, “the movie’s greatness isn’t a matter of his apparent ethics or ethos — he’s on the side of decency — but of how he delivers truths, often perversely and without an iota of self-serving cant.”
READ The full review.
WATCH THE MOVIE It’s in theaters. Here’s the list.
THE STORY Set in 1969 Los Angeles, Rick, a fading TV star played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his stuntman and faithful servant, Cliff (Brad Pitt) have fateful encounters — with an agent, a child actress and Manson Family acolytes among others. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.
A.O. SCOTT’S TAKE “There is a lot of love in ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,’ and quite a bit to enjoy.” It should be considered a “bad-guys-come-to-town western,” and “like other classics of the genre, the film “will stand as a source of debate — and delight — for as long as we care about movies. And it wants us to care.”
READ The full review.
WATCH THE MOVIE It’s in theaters. Here’s the list.
THE STORY A young Israeli army veteran (Tom Mercier) flees the country he served by moving to France, where he refuses to speak Hebrew and tries to make his way among well-off Parisians and fervent expats.
MANOHLA DARGIS’S TAKE The movie is “furious, brilliant, exhausting,” and the Israeli director “Nadav Lapid isn’t afraid of obvious situations, bold gestures and didactic metaphors, all of which he deploys in a coming-into-consciousness tale of violence and memory, being and belonging.”
READ The full review.
WATCH THE MOVIE It’s in theaters. Here’s the list.
THE STORY Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) is a hit man who is ordered by the Philly mob boss (Joe Pesci) to kill Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). The real Sheeran’s claims about Hoffa’s 1975 death have long been questioned, but the director Martin Scorsese is mainly concerned with issues of legacy and loss.
A.O. SCOTT’S TAKE “What ‘The Irishman’ looks back on is a legacy of violence and waste, of men too hard and mean to be mourned. A monument is a complicated thing. This one is big and solid — and also surprisingly, surpassingly delicate.”
READ The full review.
WATCH THE MOVIE It will be in theaters on Friday. Here’s the list. On Nov. 27 it will move to Netflix.
THE STORY Set in an indeterminate time when soldiers are invading Paris, a German émigré (Franz Rogowski) there flees to Marseille, where he meets other refugees as he awaits the papers that will let him leave the country.
MANOHLA DARGIS’S TAKE The director Christian Petzold “doesn’t over-explain the trickier plot entanglements, confident in his audience’s ability to sort through its thickets. He embraces ambiguity as a principle but also sometimes gives the movie the accelerated pulse of an action flick.”
READ The full review.
WATCH THE MOVIE It’s available on iTunes.
THE STORY This documentary examines Brazilian politics — two recent presidents in disgrace, the current one leaning toward authoritarianism — from the outraged point of view of the filmmaker, Petra Costa.
A.O. SCOTT’S TAKE Costa’s analysis “is by turns incredulous, indignant and self-questioning.” Her film is “a chronicle of civic betrayal and the abuse of power, and also of heartbreak.”
READ The full review.
WATCH THE MOVIE It’s on Netflix.
THE STORY In Milwaukee, Vic (Chris Galust) is driving a medical-transport van with a raucous crowd of passengers on his hands. They include an elderly Russian relative and his friends on their way to a funeral, and a woman with A.L.S. angry that he’s late but also perhaps feeling something more.
MANOHLA DARGIS’S TAKE Directed by Kirill Mikhanovsky, “‘Give Me Liberty’ is a jolt of a movie, at once kinetic and controlled. It’s an anarchic deadpan comedy that evolves into a romance just around the time the story explodes.”
READ The full review.
WATCH THE MOVIE It’s in theaters. Here’s the list.
THE STORY In this documentary, a Macedonian beekeeper, Hatidze Muratova, keeps alive old traditions with her work in a rural village not far from the capital. Then neighbors move in.
A.O. SCOTT’S TAKE The directors Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska “have shaped their observations — more than 400 hours of footage — into a luminous neorealist fable, a sad and stirring tale of struggle, persistence and change.”
READ The full review.
WATCH THE MOVIE Rent or buy it on iTunes.
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