The best movies of 2019 so far

Burning dir. Chang-dong Lee 2018

In the wake of the 91st Academy Awards, the time has come to consider the best movies of 2019 so far.

We have already seen the release of some excellent films in 2019. Often, certain films take longer to reach certain territories; this tends to be the case for Oscar contenders. This showcase of exceptional films will consider films released in UK cinemas in 2019 throughout the year:

Burning (dir. Chang-dong Lee)

Chang-dong Lee's Burning is not only one of the best films of 2019 so far, but it's also one of the most haunting films of recent years. It tells the tale of Jong-su (Ah-in Yoo), a young man who bumps into a girl he once knew (Jong-seo Jun). It appears as though a relationship may blossom between them, yet this all changes when she returns from vacationing in Africa with the charming, rich Ben (Steven Yeun). As the love triangle begins to endure further complications, nothing is as it seems. 

To disclose any more of Burning's narrative details would ruin the mystery of Chang-dong Lee's phenomenal film. It's a film you will find impossible to shake, with its crucial details becoming more problematic and provocative in wake of viewing. Not many films can burrow under your skin as Burning can; it's a masterclass of filmmaking and an expert study of loneliness. It does require a great deal of thought to appreciate, but you'd be foolish to allow Lee's film to pass you by.

Green Book (dir. Peter Farrelly)

One of the best films of 2019 so far is without a doubt Peter Farrelly's Green Book. The film won three Oscars at the 91st Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay and, of course, Best Picture. Its awards success has proved divisive, with some arguing that it was the least deserving of all the nominations. However, it also struck a chord with audiences who admired its charm. 

Green Book is a simplistic tale of tolerance and friendship with a straightforward moral takeaway. Based on a true story, the narrative follows Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) as he escorts musician Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) across the Deep South on a concert tour. Inevitably, the pair become fond friends; it's clichéd, predictable, but it's also irresistible. The central performances from Mortensen and Ali elevate Green Book, crafting something special as a result of their devotion to their respected roles. Although Roma should have taken Best Picture, Farrelly's film is a respectable winner. 

If Beale Street Could Talk (dir. Barry Jenkins)

If Beale Street Could Talk was perhaps the most glaring omission from the 91st Academy Awards Best Picture nominations. With the likes of Bohemian Rhapsody and Black Panther nominated, you'd expect a film as profound and elegant as Barry Jenkins' recent effort to be included in the shortlist. Yet, it wasn't. 

Fortunately, it did pick up the award for Best Supporting Actress, which went to the wonderfully talented Regina King. The director won Best Picture for 2016's Moonlight and his latest film concretely confirms his exceptional talents. It focuses on the life of a young pregnant woman in Harlem, who must strive alongside her family to prove her fiancé's innocence of a brutal crime. The cast are all terrific, the screenplay is superb and the film is a visual and audible feast. If Jenkins continues to construct such thoughtful cinema, we're very lucky to have him. 

The Favourite (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)

 Yorgos Lanthimos has risen to become one of the most intriguing and acclaimed filmmakers of the current decade. He first captured more mainstream attention with his bizarre 2009 film, Dogtooth. The film's style and odd humour would foreshadow the later success of his English language efforts; The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Favourite

Lanthimos' latest film was recently nominated for a whopping ten Academy Awards, yet only won one - Best Actress for Olivia Colman. Despite the lack of Oscar wins, the film has gone on to become the Greek filmmaker's biggest success, praised by critics and audiences alike. The narrative sees Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone) competing for the loyalty of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in 18th century England.

The Favourite boasts a hilarious screenplay, accomplished ensemble, distinctive cinematography and astonishing production design. It's one of those rare films that would actually have benefited from a lengthier runtime - this cannot be said often. It released in UK cinemas on January 1, 2019, and will likely rank on many critics' "Best of 2019" lists come the end of year roundup.

Under the Silver Lake (dir. David Robert Mitchell)

David Robert Mitchell's latest film has taken months to reach UK audiences, but it was definitely worth the wait. The director blew audiences away in 2014 with the gorgeously sinister It Follows and anticipation was immediately high for his next piece of work. While it looked like he would dive straight back in with another horror feature the following year, he patiently elongated his absence and returned four years later with the entirely different Under the Silver Lake

The narrative follows Sam (Andrew Garfield) a down-and-out slacker facing eviction from his home. His unemployment allows him to nurture obsessive relationships with all things around him; he spends his time engaging in Hitchcockian voyeurism, spying on his neighbours with binoculars on the balcony. One night, he meets the mysterious Sarah (Riley Keough), who after spending the night getting to know Sam, suddenly disappears. This triggers an impulsive search, in which our dissatisfied protagonist uncovers an overarching link between the unlikeliest of things. 

It has proven very divisive with critics and audiences but it's not difficult to see why. Many have labelled it a David Lynch rip-off but only brief elements really feel Lynchian, as it's very much a modern Hitchcockian thriller which is (crucially) very sure not to disguise its references and influences.  There are a range of influences here, but it still feels so fresh; the best filmic comparison would be Rian Johnson's Brick. Honestly, it's a huge amount of fun, offering a jolting parade of appealing set-pieces, good writing and a lot of imagination. Films liked Under the Silver Lake surface all too rarely. 

Be sure to check in as the cinematic year progresses for our updated choices. 

In other news, Jordan Peele explains the ending to Us.

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