Tag Archives: Olivia Wilde

My 10 Favourite Films of 2019

Happy New Year!

Yesterday I shared my picks for my top 10 films of the decade, but we still have a bit of unfinished business with 2019. So here, keeping it (comparatively) brief, are my top 10 films of the year.

Homecoming

10. Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé

This film landed at #10 when I made my mid-year favourites list back in July. It remains at #10 now, bumping out several films that had initially placed higher. It’s a testament to just how vibrant and entertaining this doc is. Beyoncé is a master at cultivating a very specific sense of style for herself, and this A+ concert film has it in spades.

Waves

9. Waves

I had to watch Waves twice to figure out how I felt about it. I’ve decided that, for me, its many positives outweigh the considerable flaws also present. Trey Edward Shults took a lot of risks, and I think his ambition pays off in the sense that it’s a film that is memorable and never feels like it’s playing it safe. I’ll take that any day over something consistent yet mediocre. And all hail Taylor Russell and Sterling K. Brown.

Maiden

8. Maiden

There were a lot of strong 2019 docs that also could have found a spot on my top 10 in a weaker year (Apollo 11, Knock Down the House, Midnight Family, After Parkland, and Honeyland) but none more rousing than Maiden. Telling the uplifting story of the first all-female crew to compete in the prestigious Whitbread Round the World sailing race, it’s a crowd-pleaser in the best sense of the world. Probably also the film that I shed the largest amount of non-sad tears for in 2019.

Parasite

7. Parasite

Bong Joon-ho’s latest is as well-constructed and entertaining as everyone says. It’s so universally acclaimed that I feel that I don’t have much to add to the conversation. However, if you haven’t seen it, be sure to add this bold, twisty treat to the top of your to-watch list.

BOOKSMART

6. Booksmart

I still absolutely adore Olivia Wilde’s smart, hilarious coming-of-age tale just as much as I did when I saw it some seven months ago. Its entire cast is a true delight, and I love the goofy, sweet, raunchy script. If we got one big-budget comedy this good every year, we’d be doing just fine.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

5. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

This is the 2019 film I most desperately want to rewatch. Tarantino’s latest is so freewheeling and oddly likeable that it feels, in a way, like you’re hanging out with friends. It has an ease to it that you barely notice the lengthy runtime, and it leaves you with a lot to ponder even after it’s over. Easily top 5 Tarantino. Maybe even top 3? (I sense a viewing project for 2020 coming on.)

'Rocketman' Film - 2019

4. Rocketman

I’m more excited about Rocketman than the vast majority of people, but I really just adore it. It contains easily some of the most memorable and entertaining scenes of the year, and it’s a would-be glossy biopic that actually has a lot of genuine heart and artistic flare. Get Taron Egerton his Oscar nomination, please.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire 2019

3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

All of my top 3 films that combine a sort of formal elegance with considerable emotional heft, and perhaps no film was as restrained yet passionate this year as Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Celine Sciamma’s latest is a pleasure to watch and one that, while perhaps initially seeming understated, is likely to stick with you long after the fact.

Mouthpiece

2. Mouthpiece

Easily the most obscure film on the list, this Canadian gem certainly deserves to find a wider audience. Taking a premise that could have gone horribly wrong (it depicts the life of one woman by having two different actresses embody her on screen at the same time) it instead finds a unique, surprisingly accessible rhythm that hits pretty perfectly the whole way through. I loved the creativity.

Pain & Glory

1. Pain & Glory

Some years it’s difficult to land on which film will be the one to take the top spot on this list, but Pedro Almodovar’s Pain & Glory was my petty clear-cut favourite of the year. Everything about its style and story just clicked for me. Antonio Banderas gives the performance of his career and, from start to finish, I loved every colourful, heartfelt, and sometimes idiosyncratic choice Almodovar made.

Review: Booksmart

Booksmart

I enjoyed the HELL out of Booksmart. And not just because my own high school best friend was — and, 10 years later, continues to be — very much the Beanie Feldstein to my Kaitlyn Dever. Although I’m sure the relatability factor helped.

Olivia Wilde takes a refreshing, freewheeling approach to the high school coming-of-age story with Booksmart. The set up is familiar: best friends Amy (Dever) and Molly (Feldstein) realize they’ve squandered their high school years by always following the rules and, on the night before graduation, decide to cut loose and attend a party hosted by cool guy Nick (Mason Gooding). As you might be able to guess, misadventure ensues.

And yes, films like Superbad and Dazed & Confused come to mind. (Though there’s certainly worse company to be in.) But what makes Booksmart stand apart is the unabashed emotion that Wilde and the film’s quartet of female screenwriters mix in with with its comedy. These types of films do often have a sweetness to them, but Booksmart has an emotional core to it that is rare in a wide release film and that feels distinctly — yes — female. Throw in its representation of a young, out lesbian lead character (acknowledged with a refreshing casualness) and this is a movie that certainly feels like something we haven’t quite seen before..

I did love that Booksmart was goofier than expected and has elements of genuine “gross” humour that’s usually reserved for the boys. And it’s actually very funny. (For example, a scene involving the world’s most uncomfortable Lyft ride with an expected driver.) But in the same film, you get poignant scenes of self-discovery, such as the dreamy pool sequence that comes late in the film, and the chain reaction of emotional unspooling that follows it.

No doubt driven by her experience as an actress herself, Wilde lets her leads have some wonderfully genuine, intimate moments as it goes along, which I was a bit afraid wasn’t going to happen during the film’s fairly broad first act. But it sneaks up on you. Dever, in particular, gives a performance that is stunningly natural and that grows to something pretty spectacular. That won’t surprise anyone who has seen her previous work in Short Term 12 or Men, Women and Children, but Booksmart shows a next level of growth from her and is the perfect showcase for her skills.

The supporting characters were a bit more hit-or-miss for me. I loved everything about the ridiculously wannabe-bro Jared (Skyler Gisondo), yet the unstable socialite Gigi (Billie Lourde) never really clicked into gear for me.

The best scenes, though, are undeniably the ones between its two central characters. Their friendship — and the honesty with which it is written — is what really makes Booksmart soar. The intricacies, goofiness, and complications of that kind of friendship are all perfectly on display. And set over the course of one night and told within a 90-minute film, no less. Whether or not you’re a woman and whether or not you’ve had that sort of ride-or-die friendship in your life, it’s a rare, special pleasure to watch it play out on screen.