Brianna Zigler’s Top 10 Films of 2019

*This list is in accordance with US release dates*

10. Come to Daddy (dir. Ant Timpson)

My favourite film to come out of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Come to Daddy follows a young music producer with a terrible haircut (played by Elijah Wood) as he attempts to reconnect with his estranged father (Stephen McHattie). But things take a turn when the man who reached out to him shows a much more insidious side. What starts as a father/son reconciliation drama turns into something so far from where the film began, that the tonal shift makes it feel like an entirely different film. It’s fun, hilarious, heartwarming, and fucking gross – the four staples of peak cinema. Reviewed for SQ here

9. Marriage Story (dir. Noah Baumbach)

Yes, we’ve all seen that clip on Twitter of Adam Driver screaming at Scarlett Johansson – but hopefully you’ve all watched the entire film, too? A very intimate and human portrait of a family falling apart, and the perspective of unravelling from both sides, the moral of Noah Baumbach’s film about his own separation from former spouse actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, is not about picking a side, but attempting to understand both – even if his view of the other is fragmented. I think Baumbach does his best at creating sympathy for Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) while framing the film as mostly from Charlie’s (Adam Driver) side, the only side Baumbach truly knows. It’s heart-wrenching, bittersweet, and incredibly funny, too – also, it makes punching walls look cool, I guess?

8. The Lighthouse (dir. Robert Eggers)

*Extremely Bill Hader Stefon voice* Robert Eggers’ latest film has everything: mermaid vaginas, masturbating, metaphorical beans; that thing where two guys scream at each other about lobsters and farting. Sure, it’s hard to understand what either Willem Dafoe or Robert Pattinson’s characters are saying, but if you watch the film while stoned as fuck, it doesn’t even matter.

7. Midsommar (dir. Ari Aster)

A film that initially disappointed me on a first watch because of the extremes it never went to, by a third watch I truly had grown to love it. I like the film less for its smattering of light gore and very occasional scares, but of the way it portrays the liberation from a toxic relationship – even if the end result is not necessarily deserved for either party. It’s a weird, creepy film that builds tension and paranoia between friends like its building a very well-structured house. It’s also surprisingly funny, and Florence Pugh gives it her all as the traumatised college student, Dani, while Jack Reynor gives it his all as one of the top 10 worst boyfriends ever put to film. Reviewed for SQ here

6. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (dir. Quentin Tarantino)

Tarantino’s two hours of “hanging out with the boys” is a laid-back, touching testament to male friendship, to 1960s Los Angeles, to Sharon Tate, and also to hating the Manson Family. It’s an aimless, meandering sort of film with a thin plot hanging the scenes together – but the plot doesn’t really matter, in the end. What matters is the friendship between Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), and the time we spend with them and with every character in the film, no matter how small or insignificant. And of course, there’s the fleeting time we spend with Sharon Tate, the lost beauty whose legacy Tarantino idolises like he idolises the bygone era of his film. The movie is, as many have called it, a love letter; probably Tarantino’s softest and most intimate film, bereft of most (not all of) his usual gory staples. A warm hug of nostalgia that wants us to bask in it, not buy it.

5. Us (dir. Jordan Peele)

A messy, silly, bewildering, and genuinely (at times) funny examination of classism in America, Us demands that you stretch your tolerance for plot holes and sit back, relax, and don’t think about why the people living underground did not simply go up the escalator before. It’s a fucking metaphor!!! Best use of “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys and “Fuck Da Police” by NWA ever put to film, I don’t make the rules. Every actor in this film owns: Lupita owns, my fucking BOY Tim Heidecker owns, hot dad Winston Duke owns. Truly the film for hot dad lovers everywhere. Less scary than it is just genuinely entertaining, it’s the type of flawed film that many will view as a sophomore slump for director Jordan Peele, but I view as a triumph. I love mess!!!!

4. Uncut Gems (dir. Josh and Benny Safdie)

Mazel tov, baby, the gems are here, and they are uncut as fuck. The Safdie Brothers’ take on wealth and materialism in 2012 is truly the Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride of cinema. Not as panic-inducing as initial reports claimed, but a genuine roller-coaster of stress – ebbing and flowing between calm and calamity, while Adam Sandler’s scumbag charisma as money-obsessed jeweller Howard Ratner steers the ship of insanity. If your idea of fun is being constantly on edge, watching people yell over one another as the task at hand slips out of reach and conflicts pile on top of themselves, then Uncut Gems is the film for you. Oscar for the Sandman or die.

3. The Irishman (dir. Martin Scorsese)

It’s the year for guys being dudes, and by that I mean guys showing genuine affection, loyalty, and love for one another. The Irishman is three and a half hours long, but by all accounts it should’ve been longer. To sit with these characters, played by this cast (Jo Pesci, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro), is – not too be corny – just watching the masters at work. It’s a film that requires patience and an entire chunk of your day interspersed with potentially numerous bathroom breaks, but it’s entirely worth it. A heartbreaking narrative about, of many things, morality, betrayal, and, maybe most importantly, time, it’s Scorsese’s rumination on our autumn years, and what we lose when we give our lives to something that doesn’t care about us.

2. Parasite (dir. Bong Joon-Ho)

Admittance to the Bong Hive is privilege, and I’m proud to be a lifetime member. As director Bong Joon-ho reflected on in an interview, the qualms with capitalism are not strictly held by the people of the South Korean society he portrays, but by people everywhere. Perhaps, that’s part of the reason why the director’s film has had such an overwhelmingly positive response from moviegoers around the globe, if not coinciding with the charismatic performances, creative filmmaking style, and constantly shocking and surprising narrative. Parasite is one of the most unforgettable and original films of the year, if not the decade. “Jessica, Only Child, Illinois, Chicago” will sweep the Grammys, for sure.

1. Under the Silver Lake (dir. David Robert Mitchell)

Many have been following my incessant championing of this film since it was dumped disparagingly to VOD back in April, after a tumultuous nearly year-long evasion from proper distribution and marketing. Now, the film has mostly fallen to the wayside, completely exempt from any awards consideration and off the most pressing conversations of the best films of the year. But not all of us have forgotten the merits of Under the Silver Lake, a film that sates my desire for secret tunnels similarly to Us and features a sweaty, horny Andrew Garfield tumbling around Los Angeles in search of a beautiful woman he barely knows. Is the film misogynistic? Is it a satire of misogyny? Are we supposed to really know? 

Everything about the film is ambiguous and shrouded in mystic, from the now-semi-infamous elderly musician scene to the outdated depiction of women, to what the film even means at all. Ultimately, I believe the way the women are portrayed in this film is intentional – how Hollywood has tended to view women as ideas rather than as people, and how the entertainment industry eats them alive. But it’s also a film about meaninglessness, how we live our lives in search of a greater truth that is nothing more than that we are ultimately beholden to people in positions of power who we can do nothing to stop. It’s a fairly bleak film with an absurd sort of plot, and a moral of trying to make peace with our insignificance and unanswered questions in the face of our unending existentialism. What does it all mean? Does it even really matter?

by Brianna Zigler

Brianna Zigler is a graduate in Film-Video and Writing from Penn State University with big plans and not a lot of planning. She loves horror, absurdism, Twin Peaks, is a die-hard Wes Anderson fan, and currently has almost 250 movies in her watchlist. Her favorite films are What We Do in the ShadowsA Serious ManLord of the Rings: The Return of the KingSwiss Army Man, and Suspiria. You can follow her on Twitter @briannazigs

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