Films about Mister Rogers, Aretha Franklin, whistleblowers and Shia LaBeouf: The best of 2019 arts and entertainment included these 10 cinematic standouts.
1. Pain and Glory: The first of two filmmakers-examining-their-own-lives entries on this list is Pedro Almodóvar’s depiction of how a stalled artist gets unstuck. Antonio Banderas, at peak handsomeness, is outstanding as a restless director who’ll try anything to recover from creative torpor.
2. Parasite: Bong Joon-ho’s suspenseful satire, about a have-not family that works its way into the lives of a family of haves, is a visual and storytelling triumph. The additional good news is that if you’re just hearing about Bong, his “Memories of Murder,” “Mother” and “Snowpiercer” are great, too.
3. The Irishman: Longer than a double-feature of No. 6 and No. 10 combined, Martin Scorsese’s 3½-hour tale of mobsters and their divided loyalties doesn’t waste a second.
4. The Report: Adam Driver has generated awards talk in the excellent “Marriage Story,” but he’s even better in Twin Cities native Scott Z. Burns’ taut, intelligent thriller, playing a real-life hero trying to uncover evil doings in the CIA.
5. Little Women: Greta Gerwig’s movie is both a sterling adaptation of a classic novel and an empathetic look at the lot of women, big or little, 150 years ago. And today?
6. Honey Boy: A terrible idea on paper, former child star Shia LaBeouf’s score-settling story of his poor-little-rich-boy career is gut-wrenching and compassionate in its execution. Extra degree of difficulty: LaBeouf contributes an understanding performance as the dad who sponged off him.
7. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Tom Hanks’ work as Mr. Rogers is stunning, but all of director Marielle Heller’s risky decisions pay off in a gentle drama about dealing with anger.
8. The Souvenir: Joanna Hogg’s autobiographical take on the awakening of a quietly confident young filmmaker (Honor Swinton Byrne) works both as a complex drama and the story of its own making.
9. Amazing Grace: Mired in production delays and litigation for decades, the film of a pair of gospel concerts at an L.A. church is a stirring tribute to Aretha Franklin’s monumental artistry.
10. The Farewell: The based-on-a-true-story aspect of this comedy got most of the attention (filmmaker Lulu Wang really did help her family keep her grandmother’s terminal diagnosis from her) but what’s best is its boisterous, complicated depiction of an extended clan.