Movie critic Roger Ebert once said: “When a movie character is really working, we become that character. That’s what the movies offer: Escapism into lives other than our own.”
For me, 2019 has been filled with these kinds of out-of-body vacations. I’ve been a Glaswegian country singer (Wild Rose), a fury-filled inductee into a Swedish folkloric cult (Midsommar), a member of the Avengers (Avengers: Endgame), a dancer in the throes of a drug-fueled mass psychosis (Climax), and a very hot stuntman (Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood). I’ve savoured mounds of dumplings (The Farewell), experienced a whirlwind of emotions, and watched lesbian porn in an Uber (Booksmart) — all without leaving my dingy seat in the dark of a New York City movie theater.
Movies are a window into our current cultural group-think: What are we worried about? What are we celebrating? What are the things we can’t quite grasp? Putting together this best-of list, I started to notice patterns. We’ve apparently been extremely concerned with murderous cults (Midsommar, Charlie Says, Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood, Us) — not all that surprising, given the current state of the world — and whether we can handle the responsibility and power that comes with superhuman abilities. But we’ve also been seeking uplifting stories, ways to celebrate individuality and specificity within larger, more universal themes (The Farewell, Booksmart, The Souvenir). Most refreshing is the sheer number of powerful performances by women, in a myriad of complex and nuanced roles, showcasing the vast expanse of our experiences.
Some of the following films were helmed by men, many by women. There are directorial debuts, and seasoned pros. A few were mainstream blockbusters; others smaller indies. Some of them act as companion pieces, showcasing the spectrum within a genre (Avengers: Endgame/Fast Color; Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood/Charlie Says). But all are worth stepping out of your comfort zone for.
We’ll be updating this slideshow throughout the year. Cheers to great movies, and the free vacations they provide!