Best and worst of 2019 indie and streaming films
The year’s best had plot and character, the worst not so much
An engaging deep dive into the psychology of con-artist Billy McFarland and the events surrounding the Fyre Festival. Unlike the Jerry Media-produced Netflix documentary, this one also examines the level of involvement that Instagram meme account @fuckjerry had with the festival and its questionable marketing tactics.
I Lost My Body
Director Jérémy Clapin takes an imaginative and grisly approach to visual storytelling in this coming-of-age tale. It ticks all the thematic boxes: love, loss, our relationship to the corporeal. There’s a pretty charismatic severed hand, too.
In this sprawling Mafia epic, Martin Scorsese explores toxic masculinity and the failure of patriarchs, both big and small. Despite the mildly distracting de-aging CGI, Robert De Niro gives an excellent performance, capturing the essence of a regretful man seeking forgiveness too little, too late.
Timothée Chalamet plays another brooding teen—this time it’s King Edward V in a sweeping adaptation of Shakespeare’s histories. Director David Michôd builds tension through a delicate balance of political intrigue, medieval war strategy and strained family dynamics.
A struggling family attempts to climb the economic ladder by tricking an upper-class family into hiring them. Through the smallest of sensory details, director Bong Joon-ho provides cutting commentary on the horrors that rise up out of social hierarchy and wealth inequality.
The Last Laugh
After talent agent Al Hart (Chevy Chase) rediscovers stand-up comedian Buddy Green (Richard Dreyfuss) in a retirement home, the two hit the clubs for one last tour. This movie would’ve been decent if it relied less on star power and more on things like writing and basic shot composition.
Troubled valley kid Tyler is sent off to an elitist Malibu Beach lifeguard training camp to shape up. While the tone is grating and gives off a “rejected Disney Channel pilot” vibe, it’s got heart. It’s still pretty bad though.
Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy swings his critical gaze toward the art world, in which Jake Gyllenhaal is haunted by some paintings. Sadly, neither Gyllenhaal nor the rest of the cast are worth rooting for, resulting in a horror movie completely devoid of tension.
Armie Hammer plays a sweaty bartender who cheats on Dakota Johnson. When it comes to horror films that use extended metaphors for decaying relationships, this is—at best—a discount Midsommar. The most engaging characters are the cockroaches scuttling around the bar.
Oh look, it’s wine o’ clock—time to turn off this movie, uncork a bottle and forget the last 90 minutes of your life. Like most modern comedies featuring talented SNL alumni, it feels like most of the script was replaced with improvised dialogue, all of which falls flat.