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Top 10 Films of 2019 (So Far)

on June 27, 2019, 3:31pm
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Halfway through 2019, Hollywood appears to be in a bit of a weird state. On the one hand, the money coming in for top earners is without precedent, box office records being shattered one weekend after the next in an arms race to see who can pull down the first billion-dollar domestic run. (Spoiler: Sooner or later, it will invariably be Disney.) On the other, the wave of long-overdue audience fatigue for an endless deluge of remakes, sequels, reboots, and “reimaginings” is finally starting to rise, with much of the summer so far checkered by a progression of expensive duds.

But if more and more Hollywood money is being poured into franchises with every passing year, 2019 also exists in the time of the boutique indie film revival. Distributors like A24, Neon, and ::tugs collar:: even Netflix are finding ways to get the people who’ve stopped going to the movies to come back out for original properties, or to at least check them out at home. The chain multiplexes may be full of whatever Disney’s pushing at the moment, and the rest of the industry might be scraping for the rest of the available space, but a mix of new and veteran filmmakers are putting their work with studios that appreciate it, and know how to sell it the right way, especially online.

As you’re about to see, many of Consequence of Sound‘s favorite films of 2019 so far weren’t among the year’s widest releases, aside from the one with the unfathomably wide release (and re-release), but as we’ve said before and will always say again: the movies are still good, and for all of the hyperbole, there’s never really been a point at which they became empirically bad. Maybe the early 2000s. Regardless, we invite you to join us, and we’re sure debate us as well, about our top 10 films of 2019 so far. Still six months to go, and now that Sonic the Hedgehog has been pushed back to 2020, it’s still anybody’s race to win.

–Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
Film Editor

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10. Happy Death Day 2 U

Happy Death 2 U (Blumhouse)

Happy Death 2 U (Blumhouse)

Release Date: February 13th via Blumhouse

Who’s in It? Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Ruby Modine, and Steve Zissis

You Gotta See This: Slasher sequels aren’t exactly known for their originality, which is why Christopher Landon’s Happy Death Day 2U is such a breath of fresh air. Rather than give us more of the same, the sequel eschews most of the first film’s horror elements in favor of science fiction, adventure, and comedy. Rest assured, Landon (this time working from his own screenplay) juggles it all with ease. Special attention must be paid to Jessica Rothe, however, who has emerged as this generation’s most talented Scream Queen. She’s exceptional in every scene, giving the film an unexpected emotional depth, while also making Happy Death Day 2U one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. Sadly, the film’s underperformance at the box office all but ensures we’ll never get a third installment, which is a real birthday blunder considering the bonkers cliffhanger that concluded the sequel. –Trace Thurman

Extra! Extra! Read Clint Worthington’s full review here.

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09. Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame (Marvel)

Avengers: Endgame (Marvel)

Release Date: April 26th via Walt Disney Studios

Who’s in It? Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, and 40 other A-listers

You Gotta See This: When Marvel first announced that Endgame would serve as a bookend for over 20 movies, well, there were doubts. Why not? The cast alone spelled trouble, what with the four dozen heroes attached to the project. To everyone’s surprise, however, it wound up being arguably the most hard-hitting drama of the entire saga, not only due to the narrative’s emotional gravitas, but because of what the film itself represents. Like 2017’s Logan, there’s an awareness of time with this three-hour epic, and there’s something existentially sobering about seeing many of those A-listers waving goodbye. It’s a reminder of all we’ve invested and all that’s changed, for good and bad. That’s a feeling you can’t make up on the spot, that’s a feeling you build. –Michael Roffman

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

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08. Horror Noire

Horror Noire (Shudder)

Horror Noire (Shudder)

Release Date: February 7th via Shudder

Who’s in It? Keith David, Jordan Peele, Kelly Jo Minter, Ken Foree, Tananarive Due, Rusty Cundieff, Ernest Dickerson, and Paula Jai Parker

You Gotta See This: Adapted from Professor Robin R. Means Coleman’s nonfiction novel, this essential documentary presents a crash course in black history through the lens of black horror films. Horror Noire assembles an all-star team of scholars, critics, directors, and actors to chronicle tropes, narrative stereotyping, and social impact under the deft direction of Xavier Burgin. With a persuasive mix of insightful analysis and a contagious passion for the genre by its participants, Horror Noire makes for a compelling entry point for films buffs and horror fans alike. Above all, it demonstrates just how much representation matters. –Meagan Navarro

Extra! Extra! Read Rathan Krueger’s full review here.

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07. Long Shot

Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, SXSW, 2019, Comedy, Long Shot

Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in Long Shot (Lionsgate)

Release Date: May 3rd via Lionsgate

Who’s in It? Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, and Alexander Skarsgård

You Gotta See This: Long Shot really leans into its title. Yeah, yeah, there’s the whole “Wait! Charlize would never go after Seth!” argument, but there’s also the whole conceit that we might once again live in a world that could be bipartisan. Hilarious, right? Yet by the end of Jonathan Levine’s political rom-com, you’re a believer. There’s a holistic magic to the film that recalls the chutzpah of Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire and the idealism of Rob Reiner’s The American President. It’s cozy, it’s friendly, but it’s not altogether an escape. The film’s willingness to contend with today’s cynicism is its strongest parlor trick, and the way it uses that bit of self-awareness is why it has our vote. –Michael Roffman

Extra! Extra! Read Michael Roffman’s full review here.

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06. High Life

high life a24 movie claire denis robert pattinson

High Life (A24)

Release Date: April 5th via A24

Who’s in It? Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, and Mia Goth

You Gotta See This: Claire Denis’ sensual, thought-provoking, and deeply unsettling English-language debut High Life might be set aboard a spaceship, but make no mistake: this is an auteur dragging a genre into their own wheelhouse, and not the other way around. As a prisoner (Robert Pattinson) struggles to keep himself and a newborn alive on a one-way trip into a black hole, after some kind of catastrophic incident, the film untethers itself from time, linear storytelling, and cultural taboos alike. There is violence, there are fluids (and lots of them). And yet, in the tradition of great sci-fi, Denis proves willing to start asking questions where others wouldn’t imagine treading. Without judgement, without preconception, she looks into the void and considers exactly what it’d turn us into if we ever got close enough. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Extra! Extra! Read Sarah Kurchak’s full review here.

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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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