So 2019 is nearly over and for the first time in a while, it’s a relief to be able to say that the film world was driven more by what was happening on screen than off.
Harvey Weinstein made a few court appearances and reached a civil settlement with some of his accusers, while efforts continued to improve diversity on and off screen, but most of the discussion in the industry centred on the productions of the film-makers rather than their behaviour.
We had two major film franchises coming to an end – both from the ever-growing Disney stable; Marvel’s first batch of 22 blockbusters drew to a close with Avengers: Endgame, while the Skywalker saga reached its conclusion after 42 years in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Another big talking point was Martin Scorsese’s characterisation of the Marvel-style superhero films as being more like theme-park attractions than cinema.
Another significant development was Sky’s announcement that it was building a new film studio complex in Elstree, north of London, providing vital facilities for a burgeoning UK film industry, at a time when Disney, Netflix and Warner Brothers have tied up most of the other major studio space around the capital.
With the Golden Globe nominations so far the biggest clue as to the films that will be in the running for the 2020 Oscars, Maria Duarte and I are also looking back at the best – and worst – releases of the year, to tell you, in our view, What’s Worth Seeing from 2019 – and what is most definitely not.
As is often the case, with so many of the Awards films not coming out until early the following year, our best include films that featured during the 2019 awards season and many of the films you’ll be hearing about in the weeks to come will have to wait another year to make it onto our list.
What was Worth Seeing in 2019...
|...according to Jason Korsner||...according to Maria Duarte|
|MARRIAGE STORY - 2019 has really been Adam Driver's year but the emotional punch he packs in Noah Baumbach's intimate, heart-wrenching Marriage Story makes this his most powerful role, as a divorcing couple's best intentions are torn apart by lawyers as they fight over their son's future.||GREEN BOOK - Peter Farrelly's stunning Oscar winning drama is inspired by the real life story and friendship of a working class Italian American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) and an African-American classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) who hired him to drive him on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.|
|THE REPORT - Driver shines again in another awards-worthy turn as a civil servant, determined to blow the lid off accusations that the CIA tortured terrorism suspects in the wake of the September 11th attacks on New York, even though it was clear the techniques didn't provide any useful information.||THE FAVOURITE - Yorgos Lanthimos' stylish but surreal period drama set in 18th century England about the ailing and unpredictable Queen Anne (the magnificent and Academy Award winning Olivia Colman) and the two women (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) competing for her affections.|
|JOKER - The latest high profile actor to personify Batman's future nemesis on the big screen, Joaquin Phoenix is creepy, compelling and totally convincing in an origins tale that's all dark character drama with echoes of Scorsese's Taxi Driver and King of Comedy.||STAN & OLLIE - This delightfully sublime film stars Steve Coogan and John C Reilly in tour de force performances as the legendary Laurel and Hardy towards the end of their careers as they embark on a farewell tour of Britain in 1953.|
|ROCKETMAN - Dexter Fletcher's triumphant musical is a bold, shamelessly camp biopic of one of the most iconic performers of his generation, using the star's classic songs to bring his story vividly to life.||MARRIAGE STORY - This is a moving love story about a couple undergoing a divorce while desperately trying to keep their family together, with powerhouse performances by Scarlett Johansson & Adam Driver.|
|ARCTIC - In the vein of All Is Lost and Gravity, Arctic is another remarkable story of survival against the odds by a lone protagonist, here portrayed with admirable determination by a resourceful Mads Mikkelsen.||CAPERNAUM - It's an extraordinary piece of thought provoking cinema about a 12 year old (a captivating Zain Al Rafeea) who, while serving a 5 year sentence for a violent crime, sues his parents for neglect.|
|JUST MISSED THE CUT: 2 films that didn't quite make my Top 5 featured on Maria's list (right) but Green Book and The Favourite still warrant a mention from me. Perfectly-pitched performances and a razor sharp script make The Favourite a must-see, while Green Book gets across an important message with a simple, engaging and heartwarming buddy comedy that doesn't patronise viewers. And Pixar's Toy Story 4 was a fitting addition to the much-loved trilogy.||JUST MISSED THE CUT: Ken Loach's powerful examination of exploitative working practices in Sorry We Missed You, Gloria Bell's wonderfully refreshing celebration of middle-age, the surreal scandi-noir Border, which takes fantasy to a whole new level, the heart-warming underdog tale Fighting With My Family and the emotional roller-coaster that brought Marvel's trailblazing 22-film story arc to a fitting close after 11 years, Avengers: Endgame.|
What was not Worth Seeing in 2019...
|...according to Jason Korsner||...according to Maria Duarte|
|LATE NIGHT - What could have been an important film, taking a swipe at a post #MeToo Hollywood, through the window of a late night comedy chat show, ends up as a mixed-up, inconsistent, contrived and unbelievable mess. It's a disappointing box-ticking exercise, almost entirely devoid of jokes.||AD ASTRA - Ad Astra is one of the most boring and turgid sci fi space dramas ever punctuated by endless soporific voice-overs by Brad Pitt who plays an astronaut with father issues suffering an existential crisis. Not even he can save this car crash of a film as it disappears up its own black hole.|
|AD ASTRA - Another film that wastes huge potential as a Brad Pitt struggles with the impenetrable nonsense of a script that tells, rather than shows, and fails to have any emotional connection with the audience, while recreating elements that have been done far better before in so many earlier films.||UNDER THE SILVER LAKE - This totally nonsensical and uber-pretentious crime drama is about a young, disenchanted man (Andrew Garfield), who is a secret peeping tom and is obsessed with masturbation, which masquerades as an edgy and smart Hitchcock meets David Lynch thriller. But it is neither.|
|COLD PURSUIT - As the film Liam Neeson was promoting when he boasted about having wanted to kill a black man to avenge the rape of a friend, no-one will remember that Cold Pursuit was an incoherent, hateful, lazy and uneven revenge thriller.||GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS - This should have been a kick-ass monster film but instead it was excruciatingly slow and dull and it was held together by a flimsy and ridiculous plot full of two dimensional human characters.|
|LIFE ITSELF - The intertwining tales in multiple time frames that worked for Dan Fogelman on TV's This Is Us feel arch, deviously contrived and horribly clumsy on the big screen. And despite its good intentions, a clunky and pretentious script, bursting with signposts, leaves you feeling short-changed.||OPUS ZERO - Another totally pretentious art-house movie which stars Willem Dafoe as a composer who travels to a remote Mexican village to deal with the death of his estranged father but when he decides to search for a missing local woman the film starts to lose the plot turning into a tortuous and incomprehensible drama.|
|PAW PATROL: MIGHTY PUPS - Everything kids love and parents hate about the PAW Patrol TV show in a bumper 44 minute episode, padded out to feature-length by episodes of two different shows - one of which is aimed at a totally different demographic.||CATS - From the dogs of Paw Patrol to Cats; this big screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical hit show may be catnip to his fans but it is the weirdest, most unfathomable and certainly one of the most questionable cinematic experiences of the year.|
|JUST MISSED THE CUT: No backstory can elicit sympathy for Octavia Spencer's unhinged lunatic in Ma, although the insolent teenagers get what they deserve. Greta Gerwig's intercut time frames make Little Women an overlong, confusing mess. And no sparks fly as The Current War portrays the battle between Edison's DC & Westinghouse's AC in a film about lights that leaves you in the dark.||JUST MISSED THE CUT: Crawl is a cheesy action-packed horror which fails to do for alligators what Jaws did for sharks, Gary Oldman can't save Killers Anonymous, about a support group for killers, the unremarkable and pointless remake of Charlie's Angels adds little to the Time's Up and Me Too conversation and Horrible Histories: The Movie is more Carry on Cleo than the hilarious irreverence you'd expect from the CBBC series.|