The year is half over and as expected, we already have some great performances to talk about. Here is list of 10 Best Movie of the year 2019. Many of those lay in independent films, arthouses but there are some performances in bigger films that deserve to get talked about. Some of these may be remembered at the end of the year by awards voters, and some will unfortunately be forgotten, but they all deserve a mention.
Since film distribution can vary from country to country, the films in the list are the ones that had their first theatrical release this year in the film’s country (or one of its countries) of origin. That’s why you won’t see “High Life,” “Shadow” and some others while seeing some films that probably haven’t yet been released in your country. Here we go.
10. Matthias Schoenaerts – The Mustang
“If you want to control your horse, you’ve got to control yourself.” One of Sundance breakouts, “The Mustang” is a beautiful, quietly moving work directed by first-time director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre. It’s about the bond between a hardened prisoner and a wild horse.
The movie has somewhat of a predictable nature (well, maybe except that beautiful final shot) and comes up slightly short if you compare it “The Rider” of the previous year, but what makes this work is its honest portrayal of that aforementioned bond and character development.
Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts has been shining in movies since his 2011 breakout “Bullhead” and here he is terrific once again. Schoenaerts plays a prisoner who serves in a Nevada prison set against desert and mountains. He is placed in a rehabilitation program run by rancher named Myles (the excellent Bruce Dern) who assigns prisoners to train with wild mustangs.
It’s not a film full of dialogue and it doesn’t have a complex plot, but its poetic tone is involving enough. And Schoenaerts’ fully committed work makes the film even stronger. Even when his character is quiet and well-behaved, he vibrates with a dangerous energy that portends disaster. That had always been one of the strengths of Schoenaerts. He can play the sensitive man, and he can be menacing as well.
9. Olivia Wilde – A Vigilante: Best Movie
Olivia Wilde always deserved somewhat of a better career. She gets some strong parts in independent movies from time to time and she has a very solid filmography overall, but her roles can be pretty thankless. This year, thanks to critical reception, she got a lot of attention for her surprisingly showy directing work in “Booksmart,” but most people unfortunately overlooked her great performance in “A Vigilante.”
From its title, you may expect some kind of “Death Wish,” but it’s a different kind of film surely to disappoint some, mostly because it’s not your average revenge movie and its pacing and tone might not be for everyone. It’s also a tough and uncomfortable watch for its subject matter.
As for Wilde, she goes through a serious transformation into a woman who suffered physically and morally for the very serious abuses she endured. She’s a lone-wolf vigilante who helps mostly female victims of abuse to escape using force and asks for almost nothing in return.
Wilde’s portrayal is incredibly effective. Her character often faces panic attacks and Wilde balances her character’s feelings in an impressive way. You may have watched and liked what she had done in “Booksmart” this year, but “A Vigilante” will remind you that she’s capable of doing so much more as an actress as well.
8. Mads Mikkelsen – Arctic: Best Movie
Joe Penna made his name on YouTube with a channel dedicated to music and short films. He has also shot commercials and for his first feature film debut, he chose himself the right actor.
Survival films can be a great acting showcase for their stars; Tom Hanks, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Robert Redford, the list goes on. Now Mikkelsen gets a chance to carry a whole film on his shoulders with a steel charisma, expressing the relentless tension of the suffering, anguish, and desperate perseverance of his character.
Those in search of an explanatory narrative will find no flashback on his past life, neither family photos nor a monologue in voiceover specifying the circumstances of the plane crash of which he was a victim, but his facial expressions speak more than any monologue would. He loses hope, he regains it, he uses all of his strength. “
Arctic” has some other strong things going on, most notably its setting and impressive cinematography, but if anything makes the film memorable, that’s definitely Mikkelsen’s commanding performance. You know nothing about him but he still manages to find so many layers in his character that it makes you feel involved. Absolute testament to Mikkelsen’s talent.
7. Isabelle Huppert – Greta: Best Movie
It may not be a great movie, but nevertheless, “Greta” offers some enjoyment for those who loved ‘90s stalker thrillers. It doesn’t go to unpredictable places much and the payoff doesn’t feel satisfying, but in general, it’s kind of fun.
Mainly because French legend Isabelle Huppert chews the scenery and it’s just fun to watch her. Huppert admits that she never “played a psychopath” before. Greta’s actions are so over the top that it eventually influenced how both she and Jordan handled the character in key moments.
In the scene where Greta plunges a fatal syringe into a man’s neck surrendering to the essence of evil, Huppert improvised and did the first thing that came to her mind: She danced. And things like that are what make the performance unpredictable and deliciously entertaining. No wonder the studio decided to release the restaurant scene as a promotional clip first.
One would wish the film would do even more with the character and since it was already over-the-top, they could go a little more camp with this and give Huppert more material to do so. That said, it’s still a wonderful work and a reminder of her impeccable versatility. An honorable mention should also go to Maika Monroe in a very fine supporting performance. She deserves to get better parts in the future.
6. Elisabeth Moss – Her Smell: Best Movie
It may not be an easy film to watch for everyone, it can even be exhausting for some, but no matter what you’ll end up thinking of the film, most of the people can agree on one thing: Moss is riveting in it.
In the first three segments you feel like you’ve suddenly found yourself among the group of people you have no idea about. It makes it hard to relate, but Moss is such a force of nature that you can’t take your eyes off of her and you feel fascinated by her screen presence and raw performance.
The last act is more conventional; there’s one moment where she just sits and covers Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” and it may be one of the most haunting, gorgeous moments of the year. It takes a level of confidence that not many actors have to pull off a character like this. Absolutely exceptional work and something that we haven’t seen from her. Considering she was also brilliant in a scene-stealing turn in “Us” this year, it seems she’ll keep on amazing people with her versatility.
5. Honor Swinton Byrne – The Souvenir
Joanna Hogg’s dreamy, ambitious film gives Honor Swinton Byrne a chance to shine. Set in the early ‘80s, Byrne plays a young film student named Julie who gets romantically involved with a complicated man who is almost the opposite of her and, unbeknownst to her, also a heroin addict.
Byrne is the daughter of Tilda Swinton, who plays her wealthy mother in the film, which is great to watch. It’s her leading role debut in a film and an amazing one. Not a showy part, but the beauty lies in the quiet moments; she brings her character to life with such a genuine and honest way.
The movie lets the action play out in long takes until we almost breathe with Julie, and Byrne manages to find crucial emotional elements of her character. Julie has her insecurities and she’s very vulnerable and Byrne manages to fully understand her character.
It’s an absolutely tremendous performance. Its sequel is already in the works and Byrne will be back. Will she keep on taking acting roles? It’s unknown yet. Tilda doesn’t know it either, but we certainly would like to see more of her.
4. Lupita Nyong’o – Us
One of the most popular and discussed films of the year so far, “Us” saw Jordan Peele mastering his skills in building an atmosphere. He also again wrote great parts for his actors. Even though the whole cast delivers, it’s a Lupita Nyong’o show. Absolute tour-de-force. There had been some incredible performances in history when it comes to playing dual roles; for instance, Jeremy Irons in “Dead Ringers,” Nicolas Cage in “Adaptation,” or Sam Rockwell in “Moon.”
It’s a great chance for an acting showcase, but it’s also hard to pull off. Not for Nyong’o. She acts more with her eyes – and what an expressive eyes – than anything else in the movie. Her roles are the seemingly normal human mother Adelaide and her nefarious doppelgänger, Red. Both performances are effective. In what is probably her best role yet, Nyong’o brings so much energy, sadness and fear to the characters.
She owns every scene she is in, no matter who she plays. Her wildly different performances make you feel both unsettled and reassured. “Us” is an early release and we know that there’s a horror bias since even Toni Collette couldn’t get in for any of the major industry prizes last year for “Hereditary,” but Nyong’o deserves all kinds of recognition and acclaim for her impressive work.
3. Julianne Moore – Gloria Bell: Best Movie
Sebastian Lelio’s “Gloria” gave Paulina García a great part. She played her part with scrupulous honesty and intelligence. When you make a great film and you decide to go for an almost shot-for-shot remake (though with some slight differences, including in the tone and cinematography), not only is it hard to bring up a movie as effective but it’s also very hard for the lead actress to make the character feel fresh again.
But Julianne Moore, that legend of our time, pulls it off in such an amazing way. It was such a surprise that the film worked as great as the original. Most of its success is due to Moore. She’s so vulnerable and marvelous and so strong in the lead part that you never get tired of watching the character.
In fact, you want more and more of her. It was an interesting strategy to release the film as early as this. Maybe Moore would have a chance to at least get some critics prizes if it was released in last fall. But hopefully many cinephiles will get to hear of the film anyway and witness Moore’s glorious work.
Gloria is an amazingly written great character. It’s not like we get such great English-language adult dramas that often, and Moore’s performance makes her even more interesting to watch. An honorable mention should also go to John Turturro who amazingly plays opposite her. Some of their scenes together are among the film’s highlights.
2. Taron Egerton & Jamie Bell – Rocketman
After the incredibly basic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” we’re lucky to have a movie as good as “Rocketman” that does justice to Elton John’s personality, legacy, and music. The film doesn’t shy away from the dark side of his life and actually takes some risks. Turning the movie into some kind of jukebox musical was a great idea, but for all of this to work you need the right actor.
Taron Egerton is that right actor. He brings so much energy and charm to his part. He’s delightful in more colorful moments and can be heartbreaking in more dramatic sequences. And most of all: he sings the songs himself and while you watch the film, you realize that how important factor it actually can be. He sings from his heart and he feels his songs, what they mean in the story.
While speaking of Egerton, we shouldn’t ignore Jamie Bell. The friendship aspect and creative partnership between Bernie Taupin and Elton was probably the best part of the movie, and Bell also transforms himself into Bernie as impressively as Taron.
Unlike “Bohemian Rhapsody,” its emotional moments feels earned. It doesn’t create a “lip sync battle” version of some iconic real-life moments to make you feel emotional. Bell and Egerton created fully realized characters and when Bernie says “you’re my brother” to Elton, it feels fully earned.
That’s why “Rocketman” deserves more recognition. Will Egerton and Bell get award attention? Who knows, since the film is R-rated, more honest, has some surreal moments to turn off traditional music-bio-lovers, and was released this early, but hopefully it will because both deliver some really noteworthy performances.
1. Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory
Pedro Almodovar is back with another very personal and witty, intelligently written, thematically rich film about aging, death, anxiety, depression, addiction, filmmaking, childhood, mothers, glory and most of all, pain. Gorgeously shot with surprising reveals, tender moments, and even a beautiful animation sequence, it shows that Almodovar still is at the top of his game.
It’s Pedro’s own “8 1/2”. Sometimes a performance comes that the only way to describe it is to say that the actor is born to play it. This is the case here. Antonio Banderas was born to play this role. Banderas play Salvador Mallo, a veteran Spanish filmmaker who deals with muscle aches, joint pains, tinnitus, addiction, and so much more. Clearly a fictional stand-in for Almodovar himself, Banderas’ nuanced turn is incredible.
Through his prolific career, Banderas has collaborated with Almodovar and he was a major superstar for several years, but it’s hard to find a role that is written this rich and he nails it. Every nuance of physical and psychic suffering is felt. The first half of the film is a bit repetitive, but everything pays off well in the end.
The scene where he meets with an ex-lover and his conversations with his mother are some of the highlights of the film and Banderas is so effective, so naturalistic in every scene of the film that it’s impressive. He’s already won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival, and it sure won’t be the last award he’ll win for the performance.
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