THE BEST MOVIES OF 2019 (so far)
From festival favorites at Sundance and SXSW to theatrical thrillers from Marvel and more, these are the movies that have stood out thus far in 2019.
The Amazing Johnathan Documentary
What begins as a documentary profiling the ailing performer The Amazing Johnathan morphs into an unexpected deconstruction of documentary filmmaking as filmmaker Benjamin Berman struggles to identify what is truth and what is fiction. Hulu acquired this hilarious documentary after its World Premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s available to stream now!
AtZ Scores: Art - 10; Alina - 9; Zach 8; Chase - 7; Fernando - 9
The Art of Self-Defense
After a brutal mugging, a man takes up karate to learn how to better defend himself. Riley Stearns directs Jesse Eisenberg in this dry wine of a comedy that premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival. Probably the most deadpan movie you will see all year.
AtZ Scores: Art - 8; Alina - 7
Big Time Adolescence
A suburban teenager (American Vandal’s Griffin Gluck) becomes friends with his older sister’s ex-boyfriend (Pete Davidson) and picks up destructive habits in this Sundance-approved coming-of-age comedy written and directed by Jason Orley. The hilarious movie features a breakout role for SNL star Davidson, as the cool, surrogate older brother to Gluck’s Mo, introducing him to a world of booze, drugs and women.
AtZ Scores: Art - 8; Alina - 8; Zach - 8; Chase - 8
Brittany Runs a Marathon
Living in New York and unhappy with her life, Brittany (Jillian Bell) decides to get in shape and run the NYC Marathon. Written and directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo, Brittany Runs a Marathon is a funny, inspiring story with one of the best endings of 2019. Amazon acquired the movie after its Sundance premiere after Brittany Runs a Marathon won the Audience Award for Best Dramatic Fim. It’s out now in theaters.
Listen to Art admit this was the only movie that made him cry at Sundance in the Let Me Explain Sundance 2019 recap: here
AtZ Scores: Art - 8; Alina - 9; Zach - 9; Chase - 7
A Chinese family reunites after learning that their grandmother has a short time left to live, but decide not to inform the grandmother that she is sick. Family drama is balanced with character comedy in this wonderful Sundance hit directed by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina. A24 released The Farewell in July.
AtZ Scores - Arturo - 8; Alina - 9; Zach - 9
The Garden Left Behind
An audience award winner at SXSW, The Garden Left Behind follows a young transwoman named Tina, and how she navigates her transition alongside her grandmother Eliana, both of whom are undocumented immigrants living in New York City
ATZ Scores - Art - 8; Alina - 8
Max, Lucas and Thor and best friends in sixth grade who ditch school for an epic adventure involving a lost drone, stolen drugs, and a boy-girl kissing party. Produced by Seth Rogen from a screenplay by Gene Stupnitsky & Lee Eisenberg (The Office, Bad Teacher) and directed by Stupnitsky, Good Boys premiered at this year’s SXSW and later went on to debut at #1 during its opening weekend.
AtZ Scores: Art - 10; Alina - 10; Zach - 6; Fernando - 7
A thoroughly bizarre satire of suburbia and conformity, Greener Grass is a highly stylized, highly mannered and highly uncomfortable comedy in the mold of a John Waters or Yorgos Lanthimos film. Co-written and co-directed by Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, this delightfully weird feature was acquired by IFC Midnight for distribution.
AtZ Scores: Art - 10; Alina - 9; Zach - 8; Chase - 9; Fernando - 7
Written by Shia LaBeouf and based on his own life as a child star, Honey Boy tells the story of Otis (Lucas Hedges), an actor sent to rehab who confronts the difficult childhood he experienced as a teenager (Noah Jupe) growing up with his erratic father (Shia LaBeouf). A surprisingly thoughtful and well-acted drama directed by Alma Har’el. Amazon bought the film and will put it into theaters this November.
Listen to Art explain why Alma Har’el was the right choice to direct this movie in the Let Me Explain Sundance 2019 recap video: here
AtZ Scores: Art - 8; Alina - 9; Zach - 6; Chase - 7; Fernando - 8
This year’s runaway award winner for documentaries at Sundance, Honeyland took home the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, a Cinematography Award and a Special Jury Award for Impact and Change. It’s no surprise given that Honeyland is a remarkable achievement. Packed with arresting shots of its protagonist female beekeeper as she roams the remote hills of Macedonia, the documentary illustrates a changing climate and its devastating effects both locally and, potentially, globally. A battle between modernization and nature, Honeyland is an astounding piece of filmmaking.
AtZ Scores: Zach - 8; Fernando - 8
When a kindergarten class trip is interrupted by a zombie invasion, it’s up to their teacher Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o) to fend off the attack while keeping the kids safe. The hilarious comedy horror film, written and directed by Abe Forsythe, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and was acquired by Neon Films & Hulu for release in November.
Listen to Art explain why the movie is actually a love letter from a father to his son in the Let Me Explain Sundance 2019 recap: here
AtZ Scores: Art - 9; Alina - 8; Fernando - 8
A married couple with an adopted son have their picture perfect lives shaken up after an alarming accusation from one of their son’s teachers. From director Julius Onah, Luce is a smart, twisty social thriller that keeps its audience guessing until the very end. The dynamic cast is lead by Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth and Kelvin Harrison Jr. Neon Film released Luce at the beginning of August where it debuted strongly in limited release.
AtZ Scores: Art - 10; Alina - 9; Zach - 8; Chase - 6; Fernando - 7
A visceral, raw revenge thriller set in 19th century Tasmania, The Nightingale is filmmaker Jennifer Kent’s highly anticipated follow-up to The Babadook. Centered on a horrific act of violence, this film is not for the squeamish, as several audiences members couldn’t make it through its Sundance screenings. IFC Films released The Nightingale in August.
Listen to Art talk about what happened in his audience during THAT scene in the Let Me Explain Sundance 2019 recap: here
AtZ Scores: Art - 9; Alina - 8; Zach - 6; Chase - 9; Fernando - 7
Queen of Hearts
A woman risks her family and career after entering into a relationship with her stepson. Winner of the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance 2019, May el-Toukhy’s film is a stunning drama that keeps you guessing.
AtZ Scores: Art - 9; Alina 9
The Peanut Butter Falcon
A young man with Down’s Syndrome runs away from his care home to fulfill his dream of becoming a wrestler and crosses paths with a small time crook on the run. Tyler Wilson & Mike Schwartz co-write & co-direct this heartfelt adventure film that debuted at South by Southwest. The Peanut Butter Falcon stars Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Zack Gottsagen, John Hawkes, Thomas Haden Church, Bruce Dern, Jon Bernthal and Yelawolf. In theaters now.
AtZ Scores: Art - 10; Alina - 9
The music and life story of Elton John is brought to life in this fantastical interpretation from director Dexter Fletcher. Taron Egerton stars as a young Elton, on the rise and struggling against the music industry, his romantic entanglements, and drug dependency. Rocketman joins the catalog of music-driven biopics but adds its own distinctive, memorable flares.
AtZ Scores: Art - 8; Alina - 8; Fernando - 7
A hang out that becomes an emotionally impactful and surprisingly complex film. Someone Great navigates its one last night plot around a non-linear depiction of a break up to deliver a satisfying buddy comedy about love, friendship and modern living. The movie is uneven in parts but undeniably joyful in others; a perfect match for Netflix.
AtZ Scores: Art - 8; Alina - 9; Zach - 7
To The Stars
A loner befriends the new girl in town in 1960s Oklahoma, before the scrutiny of their small town tears them apart. Shot in gorgeous black & white, the stunning visuals are matched by keenly observed, whose inner lives become the subject of To The Stars’ tension. This immaculately directed film from Martha Stephens had its premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
AtZ Scores: Art - 7; Alina - 7; Zach - 7; Chase - 9
Toy Story 4
Pixar pulls its first franchise back out of the toy chest for a 4th installment that feels as vital as any of the previous ones. Toy Story 4 introduces Forky to the group of beloved characters, adding a splash of existential angst to its already dread-inducing storylines. Woody, Buzz and the gang still provide Pixar with one of its best mediums for resonant storytelling that speaks to all ages.
AtZ Scores: Art - 8; Alina - 9; Zach - 7; Chase - 8; Fernando - 9
Who Let the Dogs Out?
The Baha Men became ubiquitous for their smash hit “Who Let the Dogs Out,” but the new Who Let the Dogs Out? documentary seeks to show that the song is far more than a kitschy, one hit wonder. From the song’s peculiar origin story, to the song’s complicated copyright situation, this SXSW-premiered documentary is a surprisingly fascinating exploration into the question that’s dogged us all: who, in fact, let the dogs out?
AtZ Scores: Art - 8; Alina - 8
Yes, God, Yes
An innocent Catholic teenager discovers masturbating and a whole lot more thanks to some help from AOL Instant Messenger. The directorial debut of Obvious Child co-writer Karen Maine, this raunchy comedy debuted at SXSW.
AtZ Scores: Art - 7; Alina 9