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Top 10 Films of 2019 (So Far)

on June 27, 2019, 3:31pm
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05. Booksmart

Booksmart (Annapurna)

Booksmart (Annapurna)

Release Date: May 24th via Annapurna

Who’s in It? Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, and Jason Sudeikis

You Gotta See This: Booksmart could have been directed with a sort of no-frills, easily digestible efficiency, and it still would have been a great comedy. The enjoyably profane script and charming cast pretty much make that a guarantee. But Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is far from workmanlike. Whether she’s trapping her protagonists (Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever) in two separate car-related nightmares with a ruthless disregard for claustrophobia, or painting Gigi (Billie Lourd) with the magical light a unicorn like her deserves, or knowing exactly when to let up on the gas — and, in the case of one wrenching moment, the sound — Wilde proves that her eye and technical acuity are just as impressive as her ability to collaborate with her actors. That last part is less surprising, given Wilde’s background, but no less impressive as she enables the audience to invest deeply in Amy and Molly’s friendship. Even, and perhaps especially, when they’re assholes. –Allison Shoemaker

Extra! Extra! Read Randall Colburn’s full review here.

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04. The Souvenir

the souvenir a24 honor swinton byrne joanna hogg

The Souvenir (A24)

Release Date: May 17th via A24

Who’s in It? Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, and Tilda Swinton.

You Gotta See This: When you recall your past, especially as time goes by, the memories are never quite sequential. Certain moments, whether ecstatic or painful, you remember as clear as day. But most things occur out of order, out of time, out of sync with one another and yet always informed by everything that came before. It all happened, however, and you know that because you can feel it. Joanna Hogg’s gorgeous, personal film The Souvenir works in the visual language of bygone times, moving fluidly from halted glances to shattering lows. It’s a work of intense memoir and of stunning drama, with Honor Swinton Byrne delivering a commanding performance as a gifted young filmmaker quietly warring with her own artistic voice and a relationship with a self-destructive partner. It’s filmmaking as portraiture, specific and universal at once. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

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03. Apollo 11

apollo 11 neon moon landing documentary

Apollo 11 (Neon)

Release Date: March 1st via Neon

Who’s in It? Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and several other talking heads

You Gotta See This: On July 16, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins left the Kennedy Space Center and landed on the moon four days later. It was a miracle of competitive ingenuity and a symbol of the boundless limits of humanity. That experience is all there for the taking with Apollo 11. A 50th anniversary gift to the masses, Todd Douglas Miller’s incredible documentary is a miracle of montage and curation. Through stunning footage that ranges from 70mm prints to handheld work actually shot on the moon, Miller revisits history with a master’s sense of escalation. Now, it’s been estimated that the Apollo 11 mission cost over $25 billion for NASA. But for $20 at an IMAX this past spring, people went themselves. Talk about a high. –Blake Goble

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

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02. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

last black man in san francisco jimmie fails jonathan majors

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (A24)

Release Date: June 9th via A24

Who’s in It? Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Danny Glover, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan, Mike Epps, Finn Wittrock and Thora Birch

You Gotta See This: “You can’t hate [a place] unless you love it.” These words, uttered by struggling carpenter Jimmie Fails, are the thesis statement behind one of the most vibrant, exciting film debuts in a long time. Carved from the marble of Fails’ own life, and brought to life by director (and Fails’ childhood friend) Joe Talbot, The Last Black Man in San Francisco weaves magical realism, intricate emotional depth, and a pair of stunning lead performances throughout the tale of a man attempting to retrieve and keep his family home amidst a rapidly-gentrifying San Francisco. –Clint Worthington

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.

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01. Her Smell

Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell, Vinyl, Soundtrack

Elisabeth Moss in Her Smell

Release Date: April 12th via Gunpowder & Sky

Who’s in It? Elisabeth Moss, Cara Delevingne, Dan Stevens, Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin, Ashley Benson, Dylan Gelula, Virginia Madsen, and Amber Heard

You Gotta See This: American independent filmmaking is hardly ever short on unsentimental character studies about flawed people, but it’s truly rare that one hits on a raw, nervous-system level like Her Smell. Through five relentless acts, fictional early-’90s punk icon Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) drags her bandmates, managers, family, hangers-on, and audiences into a maelstrom of self-abuse and brilliance, as if defying the people who love her most to keep at it. And yet, as seen in unblinking close-up by director Alex Ross Perry and by Moss in what’ll be one of the year’s indisputable great performances, that may be how a woman like Becky Something sets herself free.

But even as Becky’s most unforgiving edges are left jagged throughout, the film hits the gut in its portrayal of what it is to both be and love an addict. She’s brilliant and cruel, terrified and vulnerable, in desperate need of help and wholly unable to accept it. She’s also every bit as worthy of salvation and love as anybody, if she can ever get there. Her Smell is every bit as ferocious as its protagonist, and as rife with multitudes as well. It grabs at you while shoving you away. It snarls and bellows and collapses and ascends right alongside Becky. It’s loud, fast, and built from the kind of roaring emotion that generates all great art while threatening to swallow the artist. It’s wholly unforgettable, and so far, for our money, it’s the best film of 2019. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Extra! Extra! Read Dan Caffrey’s full review here.

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