VALDEZ: Ranking best movies of 2019


Column: The Power of an Open Mind

What was the best movie of 2019?

Like any question about art, it is completely open-ended and subjective. There is no wrong answer, unless you disagree with me. Just kidding, of course. Or am I? Well anyway, it is a fun question to ponder and discuss. That is why I am going to list my favorite movies of 2019, and you are going to be a loyal reader and read the whole thing, right? Well, I hope so.

Anyway, here were my favorite movies of the year, in order. If you have not seen some or any of these, please go to the Rutgers Cinema on Livingston campus. It is only $5 for student tickets! It is a fun alternative to going to a party or bar. Or, stream it online like a true millennial. Whatever floats your boat. 

  1. "The Lighthouse":" As if we needed another reason to discredit award shows. How did this film get snubbed at the Oscars? What a joke. They only nominated it for the cinematography, when it should have been nominated for all the major categories. Anyway, this movie is beyond incredible. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson each play 19th-century lighthouse keepers who slowly lose their sanity on a remote island. Dafoe’s performance is especially breathtaking, sounding exactly like how I imagine an 1800s drunken sailor would sound. Not to mention that Pattinson is no slouch either. I always wrote him off as the “Twilight” guy, but this dude is seriously talented. The black-and-white colors perfectly encapsulate the darkness and dread of the setting. The top-notch performances, the perfectly fitting colors and symbolism (the use of birds and light) make this film the best of the year to me. A true piece of art.
  2. "Parasite": I need to watch more Korean movies. This one is so good that it is ridiculous. A fusion of comedy, drama and thriller, this masterpiece follows a poor family hustling a rich family. They are literally “parasites,” finessing their way into working for them and using their resources. An excellent examination of class structure, it exposes how naïve and out of touch wealthy people can be, but also exposes the poor family’s immoral practices. It is unbiased, honest and exciting. The recognition it got in the U.S. is encouraging, considering how hard it is for non-English speaking films to be mainstream here. Hopefully, it starts a trend of great foreign films being recognized in the states.
  3. "1917": A technical masterpiece. I do not care if war movies scare you, watch it. It is filmed in one shot, following the two main characters around the whole time without cutting. It works perfectly for the story. It makes you feel as though you are on the mission with the two soldiers, navigating through the ugly violence of World War I together. It is more than a film, it is an experience. If you do watch, make sure to go to the theater. It is meant for the big screen. Everything feels so real: the sound, the dialogue, even the background shots. It truly looks like a war-torn environment. Anyone who appreciates good filmmaking will love this. I give it a 10/10 with no hesitation.
  4. "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood": Look, I swear I am not just being a Tarantino stan. This movie is just so damn fun. The story follows Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Dalton has to navigate life in 1960s Hollywood as a washed-up actor. It is hilarious and lighthearted, but has Tarantino’s patented action and violence. Even though Pitt is the supporting actor, he steals the show. Not to mention Margot Robbie killing it (as always) playing classic actress Sharon Tate. If you get bothered with Tarantino’s style of changing historical facts, then this is not for you. But if you are cool with it, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
  5. "Joker": This might have been the best acting performance I have seen since ... well, Heath Ledger playing the Joker in “The Dark Knight.” Joaquin Phoenix is the movie. A breathtaking display of a mentally damaged outcast trying to survive in Gotham City, it is much more than a comic book movie. It is a haunting social commentary on how decaying mental health can bring out the worst in people. Phoenix completely nails it as the lonely Arthur Fleck. The sorrowful facial expressions, the painful monologues, it is all there. It is dark, but it is well worth the watch. It makes me think: How would Fleck have turned out if he had gotten the help he needed?

Joshua Valdez is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and double-minoring in creative writing and cinema studies. His column, “The Power of an Open Mind,” runs on alternate Fridays. 

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