Dallas — It was a crazy year in the cinema. Indeed, we’re at the point where we can ask ourselves, “what is cinema?” — not just the title of an important book by French film critic André Bazin. So much good work is created for Netflix and Amazon, is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel cinema? Clearly, The Irishman is.
This was the year when Martin Scorsese attacked Marvel films for killing cinema. Sorry, Marty, but cinema is not dead. It is just morphing — as it always has. Film is a specific technology: celluloid, sprocket holes, etc. Cinema is a language of telling stories, started by Thomas Edison and D.W. Griffith, and it has constantly evolved. The cinematic tradition transcends any specific production technology or delivery platform. And 2019 was a good year for cinematic storytelling.
It was also a great year for watching films in theaters. The Dallas-Fort Worth area is lucky to have great art house theaters: The Angelika, Magnolia, the Alami (plural for the many Alamo theaters) and the greatness of the Texas Theatre. The Magnolia features many great documentaries, the Angelika has the classy indie foreign films, the Alamo has great diversity, and the Texas is like a year-round film festival. On any given night, there is a good film to be seen in North Texas. In Cowtown, there is now a small but great art house cinema called the Grand Berry. We also have an abundance of great film festivals that bring a rich and diverse look at cinema. (and indeed, at the end of February we will have the Best of the Fests II in which 23 film festivals in the area merge for one festival).
For years, filmmakers have shown us the illusion of seeing a film in one take (Rope, Timecode, and Russian Ark). The new film 1917 takes it a step further, making us feel like what it is like to be in WWI — it’s an astonishing feat and it works on a deeply visceral level.
While 3-D in cinema was a big deal a few years ago, in the documentary Cunningham, we got to experience important historic dance in a new way, celebrating the centennial of the great Merce Cunningham.
Without further ado, here is my Top 10 for 2019. If you want to know my specific thoughts on these, find me out and about at a movie theater, at a Video Association of Dallas event, or at one of the area’s great film festivals. Look for my commentary on the best film of the decade coming on TheaterJones.
1. Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho
2. 1917, directed by Sam Mendes
3. American Factory, directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (Netflix)
4. Jojo Rabbit, directed by Taika Waititi
5. The Last Black Man in San Francisco, directed by Joe Talbot
6. The Two Popes, directed by Fernando Meirelles (Netflix)
7. Apollo 11, directed by Todd Douglas Miller
8. Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, directed by Quentin Tarantino
9. The Irishman, directed by Martin Scorsese
10. Varda by Agnés, directed by Agnès Varda and Didier Rouget
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, directed by Marielle Heller
Bombshell, directed by Jay Roach
Dolomite is My Name, directed by Craig Brewer (Netflix)
Us, directed by Jordan Peele
Best Cinematic TV
Years and Years
When They See Us
» Looking for more on the year (2019) and decade (2010s) in the performing arts? Here's a guide to our special section.