By Samantha Ofole-Prince
A biopic of a Blaxploitation legend, a thriller with a Hitchcockian feel, a ghostly tale and two dramas about Death Row inmates are some of the films which have made our most memorable of 2019.
Check out our list below:
Writer-director Bong Joon-ho’s caustic social satire of two radically different Korean families is smartly told and extremely engaging. With its social message about culture and class, the film revolves around a poor unemployed driver, his wife and their two college-aged children who ingratiate themselves into their lives of a wealthy family and get entangled in an unexpected incident. The film, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year not only offers humor, but it’s also an insightful look into the different levels of hierarchy in Korea.
A courageous young black lawyer battles to free a wrongly condemned Death Row prisoner in Alabama in this film which sheds light on the problems of bias and unfairness in our criminal justice system. Based on a true story, Jamie Foxx plays Death Row inmate Walter McMillian who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old white girl and Jordan plays the ambitious young Harvard lawyer who comes to his rescue. With its melodramatic score, sour subject, the labyrinth of legal maneuverings and unabashed racism both experience it is a guaranteed tear jerker.
A carefully crafted origin story about the DC villain’s meteoric rise, this film evokes empathy, compassion and yet repulsion for Batman’s notoriously evil nemesis. Director Todd Phillips delves into this detailed character study portraying Joker, whose real name is Arthur, as a sad socially awkward and increasingly desperate man living with his frail narcissistic mother.
It’s virtually impossible not to be moved by this story of Harriet Tubman’s life. A film, which begins with her as a young slave on a plantation, and ends with her being the first woman to command a battalion in war, director Kasi Lemmons expertly portrays a fully rounded individual who did more than just free a few slaves and directs an incredible cast that includes British actress Cynthia Erivo as the small but mighty Tubman.
This isn’t your typical run of the mill melodramatic depiction of prison life for director Chinonye Chukwu has gone beyond the walls of a jail house and offers a gritty realistic look into the psychology scars of those who perform executions on Death Row. It stars Alfre Woodard as a prison warden facing her 13th execution who has to confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates. Wendell Pierce plays her long-suffering husband Jonathan, and Aldis Hodge is the prisoner awaiting execution for a murder.
THE GOOD LIAR
There’s insidious deception, danger, intrigue and betrayal in this well-crafted suspenseful drama which starts as a simple swindle as a career con man Roy (Ian McKellen) sets his sights on his latest mark: recently widowed Betty (Helen Mirren). The plot quickly escalates into a cat-and-mouse game and it’s fun to watch legendary actors Mirren and McKellen go head to head in this thriller which has a Hitchcockian feel and brilliantly blends in elements of mystery, drama and crime.
Renee Zellweger is remarkable as child actress Judy Garland who died at 47 of a drug overdose and aptly captures Garland’s fragility in this film which sheds light on the icon’s final years after rising to global stardom in “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s a sentimental script adapted from a stage play, “End of the Rainbow,” by Peter Quilter which also features timeless music including performances of classic songs like “Over the Rainbow,” “For Once In My Life,” and “Come Rain or Come Shine.”
DOLEMITE IS MY NAME
Craig Brewer’s funky film about floundering comedian Rudy Ray Moore (played by Eddie Murphy) features a delightful ensemble that includes Wesley Snipes and Da’Vine Joy Randolph and has already garnered several well-deserved accolades that include an AAFCA nod for Murphy. It’s an extremely entertaining star-studded biopic about Moore whose iconic alter ego became a Blaxploitation legend.
Loosely based on her 2009 short film “Atlantiques” about a group of male friends in Senegal who set sail for Europe to seek a better life, Mati Diop’s Cannes award-winning debut feature is a tragedy. A forbidden love story, a refugee crisis and revenge tale which quickly evolves into spiritual possession, it’s filled with a haunting score and is visually stunning making it a hard one to forget.
QUEEN & SLIM
Written by Lena Waithe and directed by Melina Matsoukas, this classic American road movie executes a tricky balancing act: It depicts murderers who fall in love and humanizes them without romanticizing their actions. British actors Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith who gel so perfectly well together, play a couple who go on the run after killing a cop. Both are protagonists who were undoubtedly meant to be antiheroes and the brilliance of this film is that it doesn’t seek to shove the perils of racial injustice, police brutality and systematic racism down the viewer’s throat, but simply tells a story aesthetically and leaves audiences to digest it.
Samantha Ofole-Prince can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @samanthaofole
Ten Most Memorable Movies of 2019
By Samantha Ofole-Prince