2019 was a bumper year for films, with the likes of Parasite, The Irishman, Knives Out and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, but of course some films slipped through the cracks. Here’s a list of the best films from the last year of normality you might have missed.
The Farewell is one of the most winning, bittersweet, and funny movies of last year. It follows Awkwafina’s Billi, in a Golden-Globe winning turn, as she visits China to be with her grandmother, Nai Nai, who is fighting terminal lung cancer. The family makes the decision not to tell Nai Nai about her ailment, but this doesn’t sit well with Billi.
The Farewell is such a treat of a film because it dives into the dynamics that make an extended family tick, touches upon the differences between cultures, and is anchored by some wonderful performances such as the aforementioned Awkwafina and Zhao Shu-Zhen in scene-stealing form as Nai Nai. Relatable, charming, and utterly winning, The Farewell is a delight of a movie.
Available on: Prime Video
Dolemite Is My Name
Eddie Murphy stars as Rudy Ray Moore, an icon of 70s American comedy, in what might be one of his best performances. We all know how funny Eddie Murphy can be with the right material, and he has it here, thanks to a script by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski.
Alexander and Karaszewski may not be identifiable names to the average movie-goer, but they’re responsible for movies such as the Jim Carrey-starring Man On The Moon, Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, and the one good season of American Crime Story. They specialise in biopics about fringe American figures, and Dolemite Is My Name might be the best iteration of their formula yet.
With a such a strong backbone, Murphy is in full flight, and a stacked supporting cast of Keegan Michael-Key, Wesley Snipes, Snoop Dogg, Craig Robinson and Chris Rock, Dolemite is a great throwback to the kind of comedy they simply don’t make anymore.
Available on: Netflix
Indie writer-director Alex Ross Perry has been knocking on the door of the mainstream for a while now, and Her Smell should be the movie that makes him a household name. Elisabeth Moss turns in yet another electrifying performance as Becky Something, a Courtney Love analogue whose self-destructive behaviour threatens to sabotage her rock career.
Atmosphere is a subtle, yet tricky thing for a director to get across, but Perry makes it look effortless, with smoky cinematography that evokes the same vibe a student flat kitchen has at 3 in the morning.
Films about the music business have become almost impossible to take seriously ever since Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story deconstructed it in 2007, but Her Smell is closer to a Paul Verhoeven psychological thriller than it is Bohemian Rhapsody. If you’re looking for a film that will make you feel uncomfortable, you could do a lot worse than tracking down Her Smell.
Available on: Now TV
High Flying Bird
In the mood for more basketball drama after The Last Dance? Check out High Flying Bird.
Quietly released on Netflix in February 2019, Steven Soderbergh shot a movie about the nuances of union law within the NBA on an iPhone, and it was still one of the most gripping films of the year.
Boasting a script from Moonlight Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCarney, High Flying Bird is a joy of a film, and like all good films should, clocks in at a lean 91 minutes.
Despite being filmed on an iPhone, it sacrifices none of the quality associated with a typical Hollywood movie, with a stellar cast, including André Holland, Zazie Beetz, Kyle McLachlan, Zachary Quinto and Bill Duke help bring the story to life.
NBA stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Donovan Mitchell appear as themselves, lending verisimilitude to the film. This movie can be enjoyed by basketball fans of all backgrounds, from your casual only knowing Steph Curry and LeBron James types, to your hardcore, dedicated Cleveland Cavaliers fans.
Available on: Netflix
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Technically a 2018 movie, but it wasn’t released in Ireland until 2019, so we’re in the clear!
Melissa McCarthy secured her second Oscar nomination for her performance as Lee Israel, showing off her dramatic side along with her well-established comedic chops. Somewhat similar to Dolemite Is My Name as discussed earlier, the sub-genre of “biopics about lesser-known historical figures” is a personal favourite of this writer, and when done well, they can be some of the best films out there.
McCarthy plays Lee Israel, an author who commits literary forgery to keep herself afloat financially. She falls back in with her old friend Jack Hock, played Richard E. Grant in a tremendous performance, as her circle of acquaintances and enemies become bigger by the day.
A great mix of comedy and drama, Can You Ever Forgive Me is a low-key, subdued movie by most metrics, but it’s one you’ll be kicking yourself if you ignore it.
Available on: Now TV
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.