And at long last here are the Best of the Best films of the year. They are not in any particular order since they are all great.
I have to start with three actresses whose performances transcended pretty much all others this year.
Svetlana Barnandid in ANNA shows herself to be an actress who might be the first person who I've ever seen who could challenge Gena Rowlands on screen and not be bested. It is a staggering achievement and I want to see more from her.
Maddy Murphy in MISS FREELANCE rocks your world. A woman who manages her life in certain way - and we realize the extent to which is is trying to fool herself- and it is soul crushing.
Until I saw Avigale Kovaric in REDEMPTION and RED COW I had no idea who she was. But seeing her in 2 films in one festival, acting completely differently in each, I realized just how good she was- and was left to wonder why in the hell she hasn't been grabbed by Hollywood.
The visuals of WHEN MAN RETURNS, a documentary about a man and his dog in the frozen north, are as haunting as anything I've seen. If docs were up for cinematography awards it would be game set and match.
AD ASTRA's visual effects are some of the best ever put on screen. They are a staggering achievement
And now the full films- again in no particular order-
GREAT LAMP- the first great film I saw in 2019. A film made because the director either had to make a film or die. The result is a film that is so full of life that will haunt you forever.
SHAKESPEARE IN TOKYO Young man with Downs Syndrome slips away from his brother and has a glorious adventure. A magnificent reminder that most people with supposed disabilities are not as disabled as we foolishly think.
ERNIE AND JOE CRISIS COPS- the story of two cops who are changing the way police are handling those with mental health issues. It is a film that opens the door to a sea change in the way the police do their jobs. It is a film that gets better each time you see it. And I was lucky enough to meet the men in person.
VIDEO STORE COMMERCIAL- short and sweet horror film about a commercial that goes wrong is as good as any horror films can be
SHE NEVER DIED-Olunike Adeliyi Oscar worthy performance highlights a film about an eternal woman and the demons she is forced to fight. It transcends being just a horror or action film to be a deadly serious mediation on eternity.
HE DREAMS OF GIANTS/MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE- The film about the decades long quest to make a film and the finished film make for a stunning pair that has so many ideas in them that you could discuss them both for weeks and weeks.
LOVE LETTERS FROM EVEREST- An animated true life love story that will revive your love of mankind.
FOR SAMA- hands down the best film on the war in Syria and one of the rare times I've seen a film that was even better than it was promised to be.
GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH- quite possibly my favorite film of the year, definitely the best of Tribeca, this story of a the San Francisco Gay Men's Choir touring Trump's south will make you cry from the humanity of it all.
PAIN AND GLORY- Antonio Banderas ages gracefully in a film about love loss and growing older. It is a film that put me beyond words that will live in my heart forever.
THE TRAITOR- One of the best mafia movies ever made is the true story of made man who just wanted to be left alone, but found himself a target of greedy mafiosa for no rational reason- and how he fought back.
THIS IS NOT A MOVIE- Portrait of journalist Robert Fisk is a warning about our times and why the news cycle is so messed up. Its a stunning portrait of on man who goes and sees and reports as well as starting point for long discussions on a variety of subjects such as the state of reporting.
UNHOLY 'MOLE- a vile, foul, screamingly funny short film from a filmmaker who needs to be watched closely ...for many reasons.
GIRL IN THE HALLWAY- Crushing film about a girl who lives in a hallway and the bad end she has and the guilt left behind.
MINE 9- claustrophobic nightmare of trapped miners will keep you on the edge of your seats. One of the best thrillers in years.
JUDAS COLLAR- Heart breaking, based on true story, of the story of camels used to hunt other camels. It's a magnificent film from a filmmaker who needs to be given a feature film.
ASK DR RUTH- portrait of the sex educator will make you smile from ear to ear and cry. A masterpiece.
HOW TO BE ALONE- a woman deals with being alone at night. Its very funny- and very not.
WANDERING EARTH- Batshit crazy science fiction epic that Netflix has buried despite it being one of the biggest moneymakers world wide this year. Better than pretty much every action film from Hollywood-it just goes and goes and goes until we are exhausted.
THE FAREWELL- Life and death in a family as everyone come together to say good bye- without telling grandma she is dying. This is real life made movie magic
THE TWO POPES- two great actors talk about life death, god and the universe and change us for the better. Several weeks on I am still glowing from its magic
KLAUS- the last thing we need is another Santa Claus origin story- except when it is this absolute charmer.
GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS- the greatest giant monster film that my six year old self ever saw- it is everything I ever wanted and more.
OUR TIME MACHINE portrait of the artist Maleonn and a special performance piece he puts together. Its meditation of fathers and sons and a whole lot more reduced me to tears.
ACCEPT THE CALL- One man tries to find out how his son became a religious extremist- and thus reveals a complexity to the subject that no one in the media or in fiction is coming close to truly explaining or understanding.
MISS FREELANCE- Yea I mentioned this above but the film itself is great beyond Maddy Murphy's performance and needs to be noted as such.
I AM A RAIN DOG- A hit man with a crisis of conscious. Its not what you expect and as a result absolutely haunting.
CRAWL- a crawl space, a hurricane,two people and two alligators make for the greatest popcorn film of the year and what is destined to be a classic.
KIDS- Animated masterpiece about "kids on a playground" who are running around, shifting, exerting pressure and things on each other. Seeing it on a big screen was a physical experience unlike anything I saw all year.