2019 Crome Yellow Favorite Films

It’s always interesting to see how my favorite films of the year stack up. Each of these films me engaged deeper than ever, and each in their own ways. People complain about the ubiquitous nature of superhero films and all (I love ‘em), but there’s still so much out there if you look in the right place. This is a humble list that represents the vast range of what’s possible. These films rocked my foundations and challenged me in ways I didn’t dare dream. 

Parasite review Park So-dam

THE MASTERPIECE: PARASITE – Bong Joon-ho has been knocking out visionary works for some time, but his latest is what he’s been leading up to. After briefly dipping into Hollywood waters, he’s crafted a singularly Korean story that’s also a defining moment. There’s a masterful blend of comedy, horror, drama, social and political deconstruction, and a distinct weirdness that’s entertaining, timely and heartbreaking. This is the cinema of life, and a stone cold masterpiece. FULL REVIEW

THE ONE THAT GUTTED ME: THE FAREWELL – Of all the film’s on this list, Lulu Wang’s breakout is the one that hit me the hardest. Having struggled with similar instances through the passing of my own father, Wang somehow addressed feelings that I didn’t know I hadn’t yet confronted. Her film is eloquent and dense, yet accessible and endearing. There’s a grace and wonder to it that captures culture divides and familial responsibility. As an Asian American myself, the film brought me to my knees and reminded me of how great cinema speaks to us on the most personal levels. This is the work of an honest artist bearing her soul. FULL REVIEW

Robert Pattinson High Life review

THE WEIRD, F*CKED UP ONE: HIGH LIFE – Leave it to Claire Denis to create one of the darkest, aggressively insane, and beautiful sci-fi film in recent history. Just like the genre’s greatest, Denis doesn’t get caught up in the trappings of overcomplicated fantasy. Her film takes a really dark premise and lets us watch as its confined characters enact both the most terrifying, sensual and tender traits that humanity is capable of. Despite how low Denis brings everything, there’s a blinding sense of hope at the film’s core. The ending has like an emotional bag of bricks to the face. FULL REVIEW

Waves review Kelvin Harrison Alexa Demie

THE ARTHOUSE TRIUMPH: WAVES – Saying that Trey Edward Shults’ film is ambitious is a severe understatement. Harnessing performances from a stunning ensemble, he’s created an American story that’s as broad as it is deeply intimate. Unfolding in two distinct chapters, Shults captures pain, heartache, forgiveness and grace in the aftermath of an unspeakable tragedy. I’ve never seen anything quite like this. The way that Shults folds his narrative and splits it says so much about how we process grief and yearn to love and feel loved. FULL REVIEW

Uncut Gems Adam Sandler

THE ONE THAT’LL MAKE YOU SWEAT: UNCUT GEMS – This is the film that cements the Safdies as American auteurs. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from the directors, but dialed up to 11. I don’t even understand how they get away with creating something that feels this real and unhinged. Adam Sandler stars as a jeweler addicted to winning, committed to making bets with money he doesn’t have. The film starts fast rom the get and never once slows down. In that sense, the Safdies capture unparalleled high’s and devastating lows, making this an adrenaline shot straight to the heart. FULL REVIEW

Peanut Butter Falcon Shia LaBeouf Zack Gottsagen review

THE ONE WITH ALL THE HEART: THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON – This is probably the sweetest, most sincere film on this list. Directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz deconstruct Mark Twain for a wonderful buddy pic that reaches deep into our soul. Shia Labouf and Zack Gottsagen are an epic pair, staring as a criminal on the lam and a Down syndrome boy who’s just escaped from his nursing home. The film never feels exploitive. Instead, it’s an empowering vehicle for Gottsagen, who nearly steals the year with his honest performance. FULL REVIEW

Long Day's Journey into Night review Wei Tang

THE ONE YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE HEARD OF: LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT – Bi Gan takes what could’ve been a stock gangster premise and instead imbues it with unmistakable spirit. His latest is a mature musing on the fleeting nature of life, its relationships and how we can become attached to a certain memory, time or place. It all culminates with a staggering 50-minute, one-take sequence that blurs the line between dreams, cinema and heartache. FULL REVIEW

Beach Bum

THE BLACK SHEEP: BEACH BUM – Harmony Korine owns a singular type of cinematic madness, and it’s all defined perfectly here. The story features a pot-smoking writer winging it somewhere in the Florida Keys. It follows his misadventures and successes as he encounters progressively bizarre friends, family and acquaintances. True to form, the film isn’t about judging the absurd, but rather coming to understand it an actually heartfelt way. Korine carves out a niche of colorful characters, navigating a shark attack, insane cameos and possibilities as limitless as the ocean that cradles the film. Come for the McConaughey, stay for the twisted, perverse rumination of what really matters in life. 

Nightingale review Aisling Franciosi Baykali Ganambarr

THE FEARLESS ONE: THE NIGHTINGALE – Jennifer Kent’s follow up to The Babdook is THE HARD STUFF. Rather than going deeper into monster horror, however, Kent’s latest is about the terrors committed by humans. Kent doesn’t pull any punches, resulting in a bold, fearless vision that confronts colonialism, racism and revenge without respite. Nothing can prepare you for how gutting this film is. And yet, despite how absolutely hard it is to watch, there’s a beauty and hope strung beneath the surface. In terms of craft and execution, Kent’s film is a masterwork. I can’t say it’s for everyone, but those who can stomach it will find a message that cuts deep. FULL REVIEW

Monos review Moises Arias

THE NEW CLASSIC: MONOS – Alenjandro Landes’ film is part Lord of the Files and Apocalpyse Now. Centering around a group of child soldiers in an anachronistic Colombia, Landes takes a deep dive into the jungles of our own human nature. This is a war film places innocence and terror alongside each other, making bold, profound statements about both. At a time at when war feels like it can erupt at any second, films like these are important reminders of our past and cautionary tales for the future. FULL REVIEW

Ad Astra Brad Pitt review

THE SPACE OPERA: AD ASTRA – Low key and almost unanimously hated by general audiences, James Gray’s sci-fi epic is breathtaking. It’s a restrained effort that places an intimate father/son story amidst the limitless backdrop of space. Needless to say, the film is packed with beautiful set pieces, anxiety-inducing moments of tension, and most importantly, tender humanity. I’ve never seen masculinity (and its most casually toxic traits) handled with this sort of restrain. In fact, this a rarity that should be mandatory viewing for all men. Here, spectacle and matters of the heart collide for a fusion of arresting sights and moving emotion. FULL REVIEW

Knives Out cast review

THE CROWD PLEASER: KNIVES OUT – Rian Johnson’s film is an irreverent barn burner. With its Agatha Christie influences on its sleeves, Johnson spins a murder mystery that takes on the privileged 1%. The film is an endless succession of unpredictable twists, addicting characters and an amazing protagonist by way of Ana De Armas. I’ve watched this thing twice, and it’s incredible to see just how Johnson has structured it. He gives away hints and clues with eloquence and wit, delivering a story in which the cause of the actual murder is just the beginning. It’s also a compassionate whodunit, with some revelations that force us to look at the timely xenophobia, casual racism and privilege that affects our lives on the daily. FULL REVIEW

1917 review George MacKay

THE MIRACLE: 1917 – Sam Mendes’ latest is nothing short of miracle. It admittedly isn’t saying anything new in terms of its message, but its execution makes it a film that feels unlike anything that’s come before. Faking a massive, one-take shot with the rich, stunning visuals of Roger Deakins, the film presents a life-or-death mission that occurs in near-real time. We’re in the WW1 trenches, anticipating every wrong turn and fearing the uncertainty of war’s cruel fates. At its core, this is a story about keeping a promise, blending technical precision with overflowing emotion. The shadowy nighttime sequence on the abandoned French village is alone worth the watch. FULL REVIEW

Jojo Rabbit review Thomasin McKenzie Roman Griffin

THE FUNNY, BUT ALSO PRETTY PROFOUND ONE: JOJO RABBIT – Who knew a film about a boy and his imaginary Hitler would be such a hit? Well, I mean, yeah, Taika Waititi really killed it with this one. Most criticism of the film has been that it makes light of Nazis and that its rose colored glasses ignore the horrors of reality. I personally think that this mentality completely misunderstands what makes the movie so important. Yes, the film is one that focuses most on love, compassion and understanding. Yes, we walk away from it feeling good. Yes, it’s really funny and even cute. But don’t underestimate how seriously it takes its subject matter. Waititi treads a tightrope here – the laughs never diminish the dangers of a kid who’s been brainwashed by the Hitler youth. There are moments in here that are utterly devastating despite the sly humor. I say this is essential viewing for all kids and for adults who have lost their way. FULL REVIEW

Marriage Story Adam Driver Scarlett Johansson review

THE ONE THAT’S TOO REAL: MARRIAGE STORY – Noah Baumbach has built his career about divorce stories, but somehow, this one hits different. Taking what has to be autobiographical in part, the film is a searing look at a family struggling to stay together despite breaking apart. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver are each stunning, and Baumbach directs everything with fly-on-the-wall realism. It makes us laugh, cry, sometimes both together. It also feels like a director surveying ideas that have been close to him and revisiting them in a much more mature light. This is a movie he could’ve only made now. FULL REVIEW

Doctor Sleep Ewan McGregor Redrum

THE IMPOSSIBLE HORROR SEQUEL: DOCTOR SLEEP – With Shining fans split between King’s novel and Kubrick’s adaptation, director Mike Flanagan has someone found a fortuitous middle ground. This feels like a story that shouldn’t and doesn’t need to exist, but Flanagan makes it work with ease. He’s proven himself a master of splicing keen familial drama with horror, manifesting personal doubts and grief into monsters that are truly haunting. This doesn’t have the visual heft of Kubrick’s film, but it has a more relatable, deeper story that’s its own kind of beast. Flanagan is an expert on horror because he understand the human depths from which it comes from. This film also has one of my favorite moments of the year – the one that explains the film’s title. FULL REVIEW

Saint Maud Vast Of Night

THE FILM FEST SELECTIONS THAT YOU CAN’T MISS WHEN THEY FINALLY RELEASE: SAINT MAUD / THE VAST OF NIGHT – Both of these films couldn’t be more different. One is a profound, horrific look at faith and delusion, and the other is a retro science fiction adventure that prizes human connection over gluttonous CGI spectacle. Both immensely moved me in different ways, and signal the arrival of two unique cinematic voices. Maud’s Rose Glass has delivered a story that questions faith amidst horrific black humor and hallucinatory imagery, while Andrew Patterson’s Vast shows that, in sci-fi, it’s the ideas, not budget that matter. Saint Maud is coming out on A24, and Vast of Night from Amazon Studios – be on the look out! MAUD REVIEW / VAST REVIEW


THE RIGHT FILM FOR THE RIGHT TIME: HUSTLERS – I wanted to like this one a lot, but I ended up truly loving it the more I thought about it. There’s so much in here that Lorene Scafaria brings to light. It’s punchy, energetic and anchored by a killer ensemble who really gets to shine. Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu are queens who deliver a tragic story of friendship amidst a backdrop of strippers, Wall Street and empowering femininity. The film’s condemnation and metaphor for capitalism is one that really hits home. 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Brad Pitt Leonardo DiCaprio review

THE SINGULAR VISION: ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD – Quentin Tarantino is going to Tarantino, you feel!? The director’s revisionist history finally hits Hollywood, returning to a pivotal time in history and giving Sharon Tate the ending she never got. The film is heartbreaking at times, a raucous hoot at others, but an all-around gargantuan achievement that’s bound to be talked about for years to come. Just as the film captures a specific moment in time, the film also feels like it will define this moment in cinematic history. FULL REVIEW

Climax review Sofia Boutella

THE ONE THAT’LL MAKE YOU BEG FOR MERCY: CLIMAX – I caught this back in 2018, but it was unceremoniously released in 2019 to little fanfare. Gaspar Noe is a filmmaker that plays by his own rules. This hallucinatory trip of a film is no exception. The sangria is spiked, the loud thumping music never stops, and there is plenty of horror spliced between some insane dance numbers. By the end of it all, you’ll definitely be tapping out, but if you’re like me, also begging for more. This is a specific type of madness that doesn’t come along often, and it needs to be experienced to be believed. FULL REVIEW

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Apollo 11, Us, Tigers are Not Afraid, Honey Boy, I Am Mother

THE ONES I WANTED TO BUT DIDN’T GET TO SEE BEFORE MAKING THIS LIST: Atlantics, I Lost My Body, Ash is Purest White, Portrait of a Lady On Fire