The world is changing, and it feels as though the rate of change is accelerating. Attitudes toward sexism, racism and the class structure are being challenged as ideas develop about what and how 21st century life should be. Regrettably, we still have such a long way to go with some of these issues, but it’s natural, of course, that the entertainment industry reflects this as artists across the world seek to tell stories that matter. Stories that inspire hope and change. Stories that remind us that we can believe for a better world, that we can make a difference and that we can be an influence. Why do we love films? Because they entertain us and help us escape but also because they move us, inspire us and sometimes make an indelible mark on us. They change the way we view sociopolitical issues and they inspire us to be better friends, love better and aspire to more than we have before.
2019 so far has been a year dominated by big-budget studio films. Under the Disney banner alone, we’ve had three Marvel films, two live action remakes of beloved classics and a sequel to one of the most popular animated franchises of the last 30 years. Whilst large studios are pursuing familiar stories, characters and multiverses for bankable box office returns, alternative voices are telling stories that are brave and challenging. Diversity in storytelling is as important as ever and in 2019 so far, we’ve seen this reflected in an array of unique films. What a time to be alive.
Honourable mentions: The Favourite, Apollo 11, In Fabric.
The below top 10 is based on U.K releases.
1st January to 30th June 2019.
10. High Life
High Life doesn’t quite have the transformative effect or emotional weight of some of its predecessors in Interstellar or 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it’s a powerful and disturbing study of what makes us human. Both the ideas and the film itself are hard to ignore.
Robert Pattinson does so much by doing so little in the main role. The idea of a lonely introvert in space has been done so many times, even recently (First Man, Blade Runner 2049) but in the context of the film, he represents something much more meaningful and profound than just the loneliness and isolation of space.
Claire Denis’ English language debut is a multi-layered sci-fi drama and could be interpreted in a number of ways, especially with the non-linear storytelling, but this insular, sexually-charged thriller is a film that stays with you long after the credits have rolled.
Christian Bale transforms into Dick Cheney in this unconventional political satire.
Read Dave's full review here.
8. Fighting With my Family
While Fighting With My Family could be accused of being formulaic in its story, there are a number of things that set this apart as a unique film. Stephen Merchant’s script is sharp & witty and it brings the best out of the cast, giving them a lot to work with and characters to flesh out, especially Nick Frost (who is hilarious) and Florence Pugh (a rising star). Obviously WWE is fixed, so the final drama isn’t built on whether or not she’ll win the fight, but whether or not she’ll win over her anxiety and win over the crowd. The anchoring of the finale is poised so well, and it only works because we’ve been allowed to truly buy into Saraya (Florence Pugh) and the Knight family.
The brother-sister dynamic gives an edge to the underdog story and brings an extra level of depth and truth to it. Not everyone makes it. Not everyone reaches their dream. In fact, most people don’t, but choosing to make a difference and to find purpose in your life is just as important, whether it’s teaching kids to wrestle or loving your family really well. We all need to see our truth on screen, not just the stories of people fulfilling their dreams.
7. Avengers: Endgame
A fittingly triumphant conclusion. A genuine, sincere film; epic in scope and driven by the original core characters. Whilst Infinity War was choppy and fast paced, Endgame has space and time to breathe. We’re lead to feel the weight of the snap and tension builds more naturally than it’s been able to in previous Avengers films. It’s not driven by high stakes, but by the characters. The Russo’s and team Marvel have shown that action is so much better when it really means something, and when the outcome could really be as we fear. They wrestle with big ideas (what, really makes a hero?) in building a truly epic finale, featuring possibly the greatest scene in the entire MCU.
A cinematic spectacle that allows the time and space its characters deserve. You may be sad to say goodbye to this phase of the MCU, but as someone wise said, the end is part of the journey.
6. Stan & Ollie
Stan & Ollie is a really lovely film. The casting is spot on but John C. Reilly is especially good. Some of the mannerisms and little movements in the accent are so like Hardy, especially the way he pronounces words like ‘superb’. As a lifelong Laurel & Hardy fan, I approached the film with reserve, but my mind was put at ease and my heart warmed by Jon S. Baird’s simply delightful film.
This out-and-out jukebox musical is an absolute joy. Rocketman doesn’t hold back on the glitz, glamour, music and somewhat tempestuous nature of Reginald Yates. Dexter Fletcher and Taron Egerton fill this snorts-and-all tale with colour, humour and vulnerability.
In summary? Great spectacle(s).
Jordan Peele's follow up to Get Out is a roaring success. A socio-political horror full of big ideas.
Read Dave's full review here.
3. Eighth Grade
Bo Burnham’s directorial debut about a young girl going through adolescence and the transition from middle school to high school. Eighth Grade is a simple story which nonetheless has the depth of a cinematic epic. Kayla’s everyday fears and neuroses are painfully familiar and memorable. Eighth Grade contains many of the tropes of a coming of age film, but it’s played with absolute authenticity, humour, originality and joy.
2. If Beale Street Could Talk
The story of two young lovers in 1970s Harlem. Injustice rages as melancholy resides. Oscar winner Barry Jenkins adapted this story from the James Baldwin novel of the same name and has captured the poetry in the long-suffering journey of a young black couple, to the jazzy sound of Nicholas Britell’s sumptuous, soaring score.
If Beale Street Could Talk captures the fleeting feelings of a budding romance, amidst the racial tensions of 1970s America.
1. Diego Maradona
A fascinating documentary on one of the true icons of 20th century sport. Diego Maradona is must see film, whether you like football or not.
Read Dave's full review here.
Written by Dave Howarth. Follow him on twitter @georgesaloon_ and let us know, do you agree?