My Favourite Films of 2019

As per tradition in March, I will give out imaginary awards to the films that I love most or hold in high regard for the preceding year.

GOLDEN SNOOPY – Wang Xiaoshuai (SO LONG, MY SON)

For taking the creative risk of making a three-hour film non-chronologically and meaningfully-layered, as well as matching emotional intensities across time periods in a seamless and poetic way, in a film about the devastating impact of China’s ‘one-child’ policy from the perspective of a working-class couple.

SILVER SNOOPY – Celine Sciamma (PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE)

For her formidable and exquisite period piece that is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally shattering, about two women who find deep comfort and intimacy in each other.

SILVER SNOOPY (SPECIAL MENTION) – Quentin Tarantino (ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD)

For a breathtaking and unexpectedly restrained work that is both playful and nostalgic, but more importantly, giving history and imagination an equal stake in the creative process of filmmaking.


  • Best Director – Angela Schanelec (I WAS AT HOME, BUT) for her masterful and highly-calibrated portrait of a German family in existential crisis
    • Special Mention: Gu Xiaogang (DWELLING IN THE FUCHUN MOUNTAINS) for his ambitious and sprawling first feature, with astonishing long takes and an eye for finding poetic beauty in China’s modernising landscape
  • Best Lead Actor – Robert Pattinson & Willem Dafoe (THE LIGHTHOUSE) for their compelling physical performances that are by turns hilarious and frightening
    • Special Mention: Adam Sandler (UNCUT GEMS) for playing against type in his best ever dramatic performance as an obsessive man who pushes everyone to their limits
  • Best Lead Actress – Noemie Merlant & Adele Haenel (PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE) for their sizzling chemistry and allowing us to experience the intoxicating tenderness of the female gaze in a refreshing and revelatory way
    • Special Mention: Saorise Ronan (LITTLE WOMEN) for her incisive and sensitive portrayal of the iconic Jo March
  • Best Supporting Actor – Al Pacino & Joe Pesci (THE IRISHMAN) for two diametrically-opposite performances that remind us that old is gold
    • Special Mention: Swann Arlaud (BY THE GRACE OF GOD) for his excellent performance as a character scarred by the trauma of past sexual abuse
  • Best Supporting Actress – Jo Yeo-jeong, Lee Jeung-eun, Jang Hye-jin & Park So-dam (PARASITE) for their collective contributions to making the film work so effectively
    • Special Mention: Kathy Bates (RICHARD JEWELL) for her emotional gravitas, particularly a scene where she gives the most heartbreaking five-minute speech of the year
  • Best Ensemble Cast – KNIVES OUT for the year’s most integrated cast of eccentric characters with every role sharply-realised
  • Best Original Screenplay – Gabriel Mascaro et al (DIVINE LOVE) for their audacious and provocative take on religion, sexuality and bureaucracy
    • Special Mention: Bong Joon-ho & Han Jin-won (PARASITE) for their razor-sharp treatise on class issues in South Korea that proved to be universal
  • Best Adapted Screenplay – Greta Gerwig (LITTLE WOMEN) for her skillful and imaginative reinterpretation of Louisa May Alcott’s seminal text
  • Best Cinematography – Vladimir Smutny (THE PAINTED BIRD) for his extremely bleak cinematography that creates an atmosphere of collective oppression and fear
    • Special Mention: Leonardo Simoes (VITALINA VARELA) for his extraordinary play with chiaroscuro in service of Pedro Costa’s singular artistic commitment
  • Best Film Editing – Roland Bronstein & Benny Safdie (UNCUT GEMS) for creating the film’s consistent hyper-manic energy resulting in prolonged tension
    • Special Mention: Mark Jenkin (BAIT) for using Eisenstein’s theories of montage in an expressive and original way to comment on contemporary working-class issues
  • Best Production Design – Barbara Ling (ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD) for her sumptuous recreation of ’60s Hollywood
    • Special Mention: Henrik Svensson (MIDSOMMAR) for his charming and surreal sets that help director Ari Aster achieve a sense of an idyllic constant in an increasingly terrifying geographical space
  • Best Costume Design – Dorothee Guiraud (PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE) for her striking use of colour in costuming to heighten mood and feminine intimacy
  • Best Original Score – Alberto Iglesias (PAIN AND GLORY) for his exquisite score
    • Special Mention: Fatima Al Qadiri (ATLANTICS) for her mesmerising electronic-ambient score
  • Best Use of Source Music – PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE for its devastating use of Vivaldi
  • Best Sound – FORD V FERRARI for its superior sound mix and editing that create a strong exhilarating effect
  • Best Sound Design – THE LIGHTHOUSE for its frightening and immersive soundscape
    • Special Mention: THE DAY AFTER I’M GONE for an incredibly subtle sound design that effects subliminal changes in its lead character
  • Best Visual Effects – AVENGERS: ENDGAME for Marvel’s top-tier visual effects work that is still not recognised by the Oscars
    • Special Mention: THE IRISHMAN for its technological breakthrough in de-aging actors
  • Discovery Award (Filmmaking) – Waad Al-Kateab (FOR SAMA) for her extraordinary courage in documenting the personal impact of the Syrian war
    • Special Mention: Ladj Ly (LES MISERABLES) for his incredibly powerful first feature about social injustices and street-level rage
  • Discovery Award (Acting) – Helena Zengel (SYSTEM CRASHER) for her riveting performance as a child with difficulties adjusting to the norms of society

Top 10 Films of 2019:

  1. SO LONG, MY SON – Wang Xiaoshuai (China)
  2. PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE – Celine Sciamma (France)
  3. ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD – Quentin Tarantino (USA)
  4. FOR SAMA – Waad Al-Kateab & Edward Watts (Syria/UK)
  5. LES MISERABLES – Ladj Ly (France)
  6. FORD V FERRARI – James Mangold (USA)
  7. SYSTEM CRASHER – Nora Fingscheidt (Germany)
  8. THE IRISHMAN – Martin Scorsese (USA)
  9. PARASITE – Bong Joon-go (South Korea)
  10. LITTLE WOMEN – Greta Gerwig (USA)

Special Mention (in alphabetical order):

  • AVENGERS: ENDGAME – Anthony & Joe Russo (USA)
  • BEARS’ FAMOUS INVASION OF SICILY, THE – Lorenzo Mattotti (France/Italy)
  • BY THE GRACE OF GOD – Francois Ozon (France)
  • DAY AFTER I’M GONE, THE – Nimrod Eldar (Israel)
  • DIVINE LOVE – Gabriel Mascaro (Brazil)
  • DWELLING IN THE FUCHUN MOUNTAINS – Gu Xiaogang (China)
  • FAREWELL, THE – Lulu Wang (USA)
  • HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD – Kim Bora (South Korea)
  • I WAS AT HOME, BUT – Angela Schanelec (Germany)
  • KINGMAKER, THE – Lauren Greenfield (USA/Denmark)
  • KNIVES OUT – Rian Johnson (USA)
  • LIGHTHOUSE, THE – Robert Eggers (USA)
  • PAIN AND GLORY – Pedro Almodovar (Spain)
  • PAINTED BIRD, THE – Vaclav Marhoul (Czech Republic)
  • SON, A – Mehdi Barsaoui (Tunisia)
  • SWALLOWS OF KABUL, THE – Zabou Breitman & Elea Gobbe-Mevellec (France)
  • TOY STORY 4 – Josh Cooley (USA)
  • UNCUT GEMS – Josh & Benny Safdie (USA)
  • VITALINA VARELA – Pedro Costa (Portugal)
  • WAVES – Trey Edward Shults (USA)

‘Out of Competition’ – watched outside of 2019 (1 Jan 2019 – 29 Feb 2020) period:

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