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Best Ten of 2019 and a few of the Worst

By Alex Deleon. <>

1. SYSTEM CRASHER, director, Nora Fingscheidt, (Germany)
Starring ten year old Helena Zengel, as an uncontrollable child  
My own Best actress of the year as well. An amazing new talent.

2.  JOKER, directed by  Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix in an astounding interpretation of the troubled  clown who would later become the arch nemesis of Batman.  Hands down the Best Actor of 2019, with no remotely close seconds.

Nota Bene: This is a straight psychopathological study, not a comic book adaptation. Terrific!


3. "An Officer and a Spy", original French title J'accuse), by Roman Polanski.

A tremendous reconsideration of the Dreyfuss affaire which shocked France at the turn of the XX century.   A master class in historical reconstruction, so perfect In all details that it seems to be taking place in the present  An undeniable masterpiece  and the capstone of Polanski's long career



4.  "What She Said. The Art of Pauline Kael". Directed by Rob Garver.

A meticulous documentary on the meticulously controversial career of saucy film  critic Pauline Kael and her influence on the male dominated world of film criticism.

Love her or hate her,  her influence was undeniable. I personally had numerous differences of opinion with Ms. Kael's  pronouncenents but always enjoyed her wit and wisdom even when I disagreed.   Bottom line: one of the best bio docs of the decade.



5. Amazing Grace.  (At Berlinale).  Director Alan Elliot.  Tremendous restored documentary of a stirring 1972 recital by Gospel godsend Aretha Franklin when she was at her peak.  Based  on footage shot by Sydney Pollock but never released for technical reasons.  Electrifying!   Transcendental. Aretha was the Real Deal.



6.    GULLY BOY.  Rap and Hip hop comes to Mumbai.  Directed by Zoya Akhtar.              

A new twist from Bollywood with an overpowering  performance by leading  Bollywood star Ranveer Singh.   Rousing all the way. After this Bollywood will never be the same.



7.  Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.  

Tarantino strikes again with this nostalgic homage to the Hollywood peak year of 1969 with Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio and a nod to Charles Manson. Quintessential Quentin.



8.   Marighela. A gripping political docudrama from Brazil directed by Wagner Moura

centering on charismatic actor Seu Jorge as Carlos Marighela, a real historical figure who led resistance to the brutal dictatorship in Brazil from 1969 on until they snuffed him.


9.   JAPÓN,  Carlos Reygados. (Mexico, 2002) Nothing to do with Japan.

Everything to do with style.  Part of a Reygados retro at Yerevan, 2019.   

A troubled artist comes to a village in the North Mexican desert to commit suicide but is redeemed when an elderly women, really elderly, consents to have sex with him.  For the first time on screen elderly copulation explicitly shown, but this is far from porno. Many other surprises in a   very slow moving film that owes much to Tarkovsky. A new view of Latin cinema to say the least.

An impeccable love scene from JAPÓN


10. New York, New York.  Scorcese, 1977. Restored classics, at Venice 2019.

Features handsome supremely hateful young Robert De Niro as a saxophone virtuoso opposite a most appealing Lisa Minelli at vocal peak.  Handsomely mounted bitter sweet love affair, mostly bitter, with De Niro at his most obnoxious ever. I thought I had already seen it long ago but soon realized I hadn't, so it turned out to be a discovery, with lots of good jazz as a bonus.





FIVE OF THE WORST.   Films to avoid.


1.  PARASITE, Bong Joon Ho, (Korea) " Ki Saeng Chung" . 

Was awarded the Palme d'Or at Cannes and highly praised by some critics, but is easily the most overrated film of the year. Endlessly boring view of an extremely boring nouveau-riche family in Seoul with a tacked on insanely violent ending to relieve the extreme tedium of the first two hours.


2. Synonyms.  Israel in Paris. Extremely unfunny comedy about an Israeli desperately wants to shed his Jewish skin. Lunkily directed, ill conceived, and pathetically acted out. Director Nadav  Lapid should have stayed home.


3.  The Kindness of Strangers, Line Scherfig, Denmark

Big name cast by name Danish director wasted on lame story drearily told.

Opening film at Berlin was not a good choice for this prestige spot.


4. The Lighthouse, dir. Robert Eggers. Willem Defoe and Richard Pattison

Stranded in a murky Lighthouse. Go batty with them for two sickening hours


5. Waiting for the Barbarians. A big disappointment from talented Columbian Director Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Serpent) starring an unrecognizable Depp. With this desert clunker his once brilliant career is just about over.






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