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  • Writer's pictureMartin Vaux

Martin's Top 20 Films of 2019: 5-1

Updated: Feb 22, 2020



In line with personal tradition at this time of year, I have compiled my Top 20 Films of 2019.


Here are the final five films from that list.




5. John Wick 3 – Parabellum



The third instalment in one of today’s most pleasing action franchises, John Wick 3 - Parabellum is an inventive, hilarious, pacy riot.


You need not have seen the previous films to enjoy it, but I would recommend all three, and this one most of all.



4. Can You Ever Forgive Me?



An amazing true story adapted for the screen by director Marielle Heller and writers Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, Can You Ever Forgive Me? centres on author Lee Israel, a misanthropic alcoholic whose career has hit the skids.


Played sensationally by Melissa McCarthy (Spy, Bridesmaids), who demonstrates a real gift for dramatic performance here, her Lee shuffles about New York in a manner reminiscent of Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck in Joker; the two films have many parallels in fact, and it is interesting to see how this film was received in comparison to that one.


Faced with utter destitution, Lee sells a letter she owns from Katharine Hepburn and, flush with cash, begins a cottage industry forging correspondence from literary celebrities. Along the way, she befriends fellow down-and-out Jack Hock, a charming, ageing addict played by Richard E. Grant (Gosford Park, Withnail and I), and the film details their journey from the bottom to… well, slightly above the bottom.


Films like this are not fashionable - low key, humanistic dramas about ugly people. It qualifies as a period film, in fact, albeit one set in the very recent past, and it feels traditional in some senses; it’s a story of anti-heroism, and its style is muted and sepia. But goodness is it assured, and funny, and moving, and everything in the film belongs there.


The added thrill, that the story is true, only enhances it, and the whole picture delivers in spades - an offbeat crime story with a lot to say, it deserves to be very widely seen.

3. Velvet Buzzsaw



From the fascinating mind of Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler, Roman J. Israel, Esq) Velvet Buzzsaw is a Netflix-exclusive supernatural horror satire, a film about art and art criticism that revels in ferocity and that really ought to have been released on the big screen.


With an ensemble cast featuring Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Nightcrawler), Rene Russo (Outbreak, The Thomas Crown Affair), Toni Collette (Hereditary, Muriel's Wedding), Zawe Ashton (Dreams of a Life, Nocturnal Animals) and John Malkovich (Shadow of the Vampire, Ripley's Game), the film follows a series of critics, painters, sculptors and dealers all of whom become involved in the sensational works of a dead agoraphobic.


As you might imagine, considering it is a film about art, it looks astonishing. And, of course, it’s pretentious too, but it plays with that very idea and comes down - decidedly - on the right side of bad taste.


If you missed it, and like art movies, I highly suggest that you give it a go.


2. Midsommar



The second feature film from budding auteur Ari Aster (Hereditary) is a wildly detailed, incredibly interesting folk horror.


It sadly seemed to come and go from cinemas without much commotion, fuss or celebration, but the movie is brilliant and truly deserving of attention.



1. High Life



Surreal, hypnotic and elliptical, the English language debut from director Clare Denis is a science fiction movie like no other. Toying with the form and offering a series of exceptionally haunting images, it is a piece of visual art the power of which only grows in the memory.


High Life stars Robert Pattinson (Good Time, Cosmopolis) as Monte, a man who, when we meet him, is patching up a spaceship that is falling to pieces. He is shutting down life support systems, preparing for the end, yet is simultaneously caring for a baby girl whose origins are one of the film’s central mysteries.


Without wanting to spoil anything at all about the plot, moments from the film’s start Monte tells this girl, who we later learn is named Willow, about taboos. In doing so, High Life begins its evocation of the unacceptable - a discussion of environmental apocalypse, sexual desire, sin and retribution.


With a fantastic supporting cast featuring Juliette Binoche (Chocolat, The English Patient) on sensational form, OutKast’s André Benjamin, and Mia Goth (2018’s Suspiria, Nymphomaniac), the film explores heavy themes. Abuse, suicide, murder, rape, neglect, desire and the absurd... it's all there, and Denis determinedly digs into the underside of things in arresting, hyper-real ways.


While it challenges viewers, it also bombards them with stunning imagery. And undoubtedly it’s a weighty movie, but it is a funny, sexy, horrifying one too.


Admittedly, the production design is decidedly lofi, evoking Silent Running at times, yet these choices are so deliberate. Exceptionally rich in every other respect, it overflows on the one hand with ideas and questions, some eternal, some timely, and on the other with bodily fluids - blood, urine, sweat and semen.


At the centre of it all, Pattinson is on incredible form. Yet, everything within the movie feels incredible; like a fever dream born from the mind of a prophet, it’s divisive, challenging, careful and bizarre.


It’s a film for acquired tastes perhaps, and maybe it is a little too challenging for its own good, but it needs to be seen to be believed.


Indeed, there really is nothing quite like it, and I cannot recommend it more strongly.


Thank you for reading, please check out my other posts, and do consider sharing these articles if you know people who you think might appreciate them.

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