Tag Archives: Matthew McConaughey

Our Most Anticipated Movies of 2019

2018 was mind-boggling. Ever since Black Panther back in February, the year just held strong up through the final days with the likes Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. So it’s no small statement to say that 2019 might rival it. In less than a month, we’ll have Dan Gilroy’s Velvet Buzzsaw (on Netflix, no less), followed soon after by the trilogy capper for How to Train Your Dragon. And with Captain Marvel and Us in March, the year will quickly become overwhelming. And it’s not only big budget films, or genre pieces from recent American (and male) darlings. There’s a new Scorsese film, a new Kore-eda film, a new Rees film, a new Joon-ho film, a new Larraín film, and a new Denis film — as well as exciting documentaries and feature debuts we’ll hear about soon at Sundance. With all that said, we couldn’t pick only 10 for our most anticipated list. In fact, we couldn’t even stick with 20. Below these 20 are sets of 15 from us individually, as well as five more honorable mentions (for a total of 55). Inject 2019 into our eyes already:

20. The Truth

Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters, After the Storm, Like Father, Like Son, Still Walking, Nobody Knows)
Written by: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Léa Le Dimna
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke
Release date: TBD
Hirokazu Kore-eda directing Ethan Hawke and Juliette Binoche is enough to start wondering if The Truth will bring the acclaimed filmmaker back-to-back Palme d’Or wins.
Levi Hill

19. Ford v. Ferrari

Directed by: James Mangold (Logan, 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line)
Written by: James Mangold, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Jason Keller
Starring: Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Jon Bernthal, Noah Jupe
Release date: June 28, 2019
James Mangold has proven himself as a storyteller who understands the American spirit. Combine that with stylish Ferraris, racing and another Christian Bale transformation, and Ford v. Ferrari could be another piece of Mangold gold.
Kyle Kizu

18. Honey Boy

Directed by: Alma Har’el (Bombay Beach, LoveTrue)
Written by: Shia LaBeouf
Starring: Lucas Hedges, Shia LaBeouf, Maika Monroe, Noah Jupe
Release date: TBD (Sundance premiere)
Shia LaBeouf writes and co-stars with Lucas Hedges in a Sundance premiering semi-autobiographical film about a childhood actor (Hedges) and his relationship with his father (LaBeouf). The film should be a challenging, honest, painful, but ultimately touching exploration of how LaBeouf became who he is today.
LH

17. The Beach Bum

Directed by: Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers)
Written by: Harmony Korine
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill
Release date: March 22, 2019
For his follow-up to Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine kept his color-soaked stoner aesthetic and added A-list stars Matthew McConaughey (Moondog), Snoop Dogg (Lingerie), Isla Fisher (Minnie), Zac Efron (Flicker), and Jonah Hill (Lewis).
LH

16. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

TriStar Pictures/Courtesy

Directed by: Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Written by: Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster
Starring: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper
Release date: October 18, 2019
Can You Ever Forgive Me? felt like a film from a 20 year veteran. That it was Marielle Heller’s sophomore feature just shows how astounding she is. Pair her with an icon for another icon’s story, and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is set up to be an affecting journey.
— KK

15. Proxima

Directed by: Alice Winocour (Augustine)
Written by: Alice Winocour
Starring: Eva Green, Matt Dillon, Lars Eidinger
Release date: TBD
Proxima follows an astronaut as she trains her body and her mind for a year on the ISS. The psychology of astronauts is such an intriguing subject that’s often left behind in massive sci-fi stories, so to see the exciting Alice Winocour take on a more intimate angle — Winocour says the film will focus particularly on saying goodbye to family — with Eva Green will be such a treat.
KK

14. Toy Story 4

Disney/Courtesy

Directed by: Josh Cooley
Written by: Stephany Folsom, Will McCormack
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Keaton, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Patricia Arquette, Keanu Reeves
Release date: June 21, 2019
Initially, a fourth Toy Story movie was a head-scratcher, especially after the exit of Rashida Jones due to “creative” and “philosophical” differences with Pixar. But then came the hilarious promos, as well as the reports of how emotional the film was for all those involved. And the first three films arguably form the greatest trilogy of all time, so why doubt the franchise now?
— LH

13. Detective Pikachu

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Directed by: Rob Letterman (Goosebumps)
Written by: Nicole Perlman, Rob Letterman
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy, Suki Waterhouse, Rita Ora
Release date: May 10, 2019
Ryan Reynolds might be an obvious choice after his (vocal) success with the wise-ass Deadpool, but that doesn’t make this adaption of the video game, featuring the adorable-looking Pikachu and other Pokemon, any less exciting. Think of it as a modern, pop culture heavy take on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.
LH

12. Velvet Buzzsaw

Netflix/Sundance Institute/Claudette Barius/Courtesy

Directed by: Dan Gilroy (Roman J. Israel, Esq., Nightcrawler)
Written by: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, John Malkovich, Daveed Diggs
Release date: February 1, 2019 (Sundance premiere)
Regardless of his second feature, Dan Gilroy directed an American masterpiece right out of the gate with Nightcrawler. It’s not only the slow, creeping relevance of the film or the incredible noir stylings, but Jake Gyllenhaal’s terrifying turn. The simple idea of them reuniting is tantalizing, but that it’s for a feature about the often terrifying and visually dazzling contemporary art world takes the anticipation through the roof.— KK

11. Little Women

Columbia Pictures/Courtesy

Directed by: Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)
Written by: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk
Release date: December 25, 2019
Through 2018, Little Women has seen the silver screen seven times. Take that, A Star Is Born. But it’s tough not to love the idea of Greta Gerwig adapting the story with her delicate, observant eye and such an outstanding cast after she made Lady Bird, one of the best American films of the 21st century.
KK

10. Midsommar

Directed by: Ari Aster (Hereditary)
Written by: Ari Aster
Starring: Will Poulter, Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper
Release date: August 9, 2019
Following up the critically acclaimed (and potential Oscar nominee) Hereditary is no small task. Yet, with A24’s backing, an exciting young cast, a Sweden setting, and another tale of horrific pagan cults, Midsommar has all the signs of another creep-fest by the already horror maestro Ari Aster. — LH

9. The Lion King

Disney/Courtesy

Directed by: Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book, Chef, Iron Man)
Written by: Jeff Nathanson, Brenda Chapman
Starring: Donald Glover, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyoncé, Alfre Woodard, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Keegan-Michael Key, John Oliver
Release date: July 19, 2019
There’s no doubt The Lion King will roar all competitors away from the box office, and take it’s rightful spot on the throne as the top grossing movie of 2019 next to Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: Episode IX. So really, the only thing to hope for is that Jon Favreau takes enough risks to change some elements of the 1994 classic so that it’s not 100% a shot-for-shot CGI (instead of hand-drawn) remake. Other than that, this film is too big to fail. Hakuna matata.
LH

8. Uncut Gems

Directed by: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie (Good Time)
Written by: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, Ronald Bronstein
Starring: Adam Sandler, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Pom Klementieff, The Weeknd, Kevin Garnett
Release date: TBD
Say what you will, but Adam Sandler is a good actor. Seriously. He’s made some stinkers, but for those who have charted his career, it’s clear that when he’s given an original script from an acclaimed filmmaker (Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, Funny People, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)), he brings real depth to his characters. So, who better then than the Safdie brothers — who helped American audiences further see all of Robert Pattinson’s post-Twilight talents — to usher in even more indie goodwill for “character actor” Adam Sandler? Plus, the Netflix special Adam Sandler 100% Fresh, showing Sandler at his funniest and most heartfelt, was the thing I rewatched most in 2018. If the Safdie brothers tap into Sandler’s uncanny balance of hilarity and tragedy, Uncut Gems might be a major critical and commercial leap for all involved.
LH

7. Lucy in the Sky

Fox Searchlight/Courtesy

Directed by: Noah Hawley (Legion, Fargo)
Written by: Brian C. Brown, Elliott DiGuiseppi, John-Henry Butterworth, Noah Hawley
Starring: Natalie Portman, Dan Stevens, Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz, Ellen Burstyn, Colman Domingo, Tig Notaro
Release date: TBD
Between Black Swan, Jackie, Annihilation, and Vox Lux, Natalie Portman has offered some of the most complex, haunted characters of the past decade. With Lucy in the Sky, she’ll now examine the psychology of an astronaut (based on a true story) along with Noah Hawley, the creator of Legion, and likely further prove why she’s one of the absolute best actors of our time.
KK

6. Us

Universal Pictures/Courtesy

Directed by: Jordan Peele (Get Out)
Written by: Jordan Peele
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Elisabeth Moss
Release date: March 15, 2019
Get Out came out of nowhere to gross over $175 million domestically, receive four Oscar nominations (including Best Picture), and win Best Original Screenplay. Us won’t have the stealth factor that Get Out had. However, it’s apparent with Us that Jordan Peele is far more than the real deal. Even with what could have been a blank check and even more of a blank page to write and do whatever he wanted, he doubled down on the savage, if slightly funny, horror satire mode he worked to wonders with Get Out. While Us might not reach the box office or Oscar glory of Get Out, it could become, to us, an even more impressive and idiosyncratic horror masterpiece.
LH

5. Knives Out

Directed by: Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper, Brick)
Written by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer
Release date: November 27, 2019
It was hard to believe as the cast for Knives Out came rolling in, with powerhouse after powerhouse lining up. That they were lining up to work with Rian Johnson, however, is no surprise. With Looper, Johnson gave us one of the best original sci-fi films of the past decade. And with The Last Jedi, he arguably gave us the best Star Wars film to date. Knives Out is said to be inspired by the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie, and will show us a side of Johnson we haven’t seen before.
KK

4. Ad Astra

20th Century Fox/Courtesy

Directed by: James Gray (The Lost City of Z, The Immigrant, Two Lovers)
Written by: James Gray, Ethan Gross
Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga, John Ortiz
Release date: May 24, 2019 (rumored Cannes premiere)
Ad Astra was a bit of an enigma for all of 2018, with a strange January 2019 release date and speculation that it’d open early in December (and in IMAX). So the anticipation is already running high, and for good reason. Gray is a methodical, classical kind of filmmaker that allows you to soak in a film’s world, and feel deeply for his characters. And as Bilge Ebiri wrote for Vulture, filmmakers can get a little more personal, risky, and expressionistic with space films. Throw in DP Hoyte van Hoytema (familiar to space already having worked on Interstellar), Brad Pitt, and the Plan B producing team, and Ad Astra might just be the original epic of the year.
KK

3. Star Wars: Episode IX

Directed by: J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Super 8, Star Trek)
Written by: J.J. Abrams, Chris Terrio
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Kelly Marie Tran, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Richard E. Grant, Matt Smith, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Billie Lourd
Release date: December 20, 2019
Was Star Wars: The Force Awakens a bit safe? Sure. Did J.J. Abrams successfully relaunch the franchise after the unfathomable damage of the prequels with an exciting adventure filled with amazing new characters and hinting at themes that Rian Johnson would later fulfill? Undoubtedly. Besides Johnson, who better than to take on the monstrous task of closing out not only this trilogy, but likely also the story of the Skywalkers? And Episode IX, following Luke Skywalker’s death as well as the tragic real death of Carrie Fisher — who will appear via deleted scenes from the previous films — will be an especially emotional experience in a galaxy far, far away.— KK

2. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Directed by: Michael Dougherty (Krampus)
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields, Max Borenstein
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Kyle Chandler, Bradley Whitford, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ken Watanabe
Release date: May 31, 2019
Godzilla: King of the Monsters might not be in consideration for many people’s best-of-the-year list when 2019 comes to a close. And it’s possible that the film will be nothing more than monster-movie mayhem (and fun). Yet, when Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune came on during the first trailer, and Mothra spread her fluorescent wings under the neon blue, this lifelong Godzilla fan wiped tears from his eyes. Does the nostalgia for the memory of a four year old’s first experience with movie magic weigh heavy here? You betcha. But with the thrilling 2014 reboot from Gareth Edwards and the enjoyable (if forgettable) Kong: Skull Island, this franchise appears to understand that to win over our hearts, you just have to let some kaiju (Titans) fight. Long live the King.
— LH

1. Avengers: Endgame

Disney/ Courtesy

Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo (Avengers: Infinity War, Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Josh Brolin, Karen Gillan, Don Cheadle, Bradley Cooper
Release date: April 26, 2019
Amidst all of the complaints of it being an incomplete story (debatable) and fans having trouble with their favorite heroes screwing up (it’s called character development, folks) and dying is the reality that Infinity War is an incredible apocalyptic journey that fully earns its crushing dread. Its pacing is pitch perfect. Its theme of the weight of one life versus billions is carefully handled throughout the entire film. And its writing brings together massive superhero personalities in a way that proves that these storytellers truly know these characters. So, not only is Avengers: Endgame the event film of 2019 — sorry Star Wars — but there’s also the very real and likely possibility that the Russos and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely will deliver another supreme epic that does right by the eleven years of investment in this universe. And if they delve into time travel, as well as the heart of Captain America — the character that the Russos have defined — Avengers: Endgame could wind up as exhilarating as any big budget epic in recent memory.
KK


Kyle’s Next 15:

15. Superpower Dogs

Directed by: Daniel Ferguson (Jerusalem)
Release date: March 15, 2019

14. Ammonite

Directed by: Francis Lee (God’s Own Country)
Written by: Francis Lee
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Kate Winslet
Release date: TBD

13. The Nightingale

Directed by: Jennifer Kent (The Babadook)
Written by: Jennifer Kent
Starring: Sam Claflin, Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr
Release date: TBD (2018 Venice premiere, Sundance showing)

12. The Laundromat

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh (Logan Lucky, Magic Mike, The Informant!, Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Sex, Lies, and Videotape)
Written by: Scott Z. Burns
Starring: Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Matthias Schoenaerts, Antonio Banderas, Jeffrey Wright
Release date: TBD

11. Waves

Directed by: Trey Edward Shults (It Comes At Night, Krisha)
Written by: Trey Edward Shults
Starring: Lucas Hedges, Sterling K. Brown, Taylor Russell, Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Release date: TBD

10. Chaos Walking

Directed by: Doug Liman (American Made, Edge of Tomorrow, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity)
Written by: Charlie Kaufman, Patrick Ness, Lindsey Beer, John Lee Hancock, Gary Spinelli)
Starring: Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Cynthia Erivo, Mads Mikkelsen, David Oyelowo
Release date: March 1, 2019

9. Joker

Directed by: Todd Phillips (War Dogs, The Hangover, Old School)
Written by: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Shea Whigham, Marc Maron, Brett Cullen
Release date: October 4, 2019

8. Newsflash

Directed by: David Gordon Green (Halloween, Stronger, Pineapple Express, George Washington)
Written by: Ben Jacoby
Starring: Seth Rogen, Logan Lerman
Release date: TBD

7. Captain Marvel

Directed by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck (Sugar, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Mississippi Grind)
Written by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Jac Schaeffer, Nicole Perlman, Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse
Starring: Brie Larson, Jude Law, Gemma Chan, Samuel L. Jackson, Lee Pace, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening, Djimon Hounsou, Clark Gregg
Release date: March 8, 2019

6. Spider-Man: Far From Home

Directed by: Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Cop Car)
Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei, Samuel L. Jackson
Release date: July 5, 2019

5. Fonzo

Directed by: Josh Trank (Chronicle)
Written by: Josh Trank
Starring: Tom Hardy, Linda Cardellini, Jack Lowden, Matt Dillon, Kyle MacLachlan
Release date: TBD

4. The Woman in the Window

Directed by: Joe Wright (Darkest Hour, Atonement, Pride & Prejudice)
Written by: Tracy Letts
Starring: Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Brian Tyree Henry, Wyatt Russell, Anthony Mackie
Release date: October 4, 2019

3. Triple Frontier

Directed by: J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year, All Is Lost, Margin Call)
Written by: J.C. Chandor, Mark Boal
Starring: Ben Affleck, Pedro Pascal, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund
Release date: March 15, 2019

2. The Last Thing He Wanted

Directed by: Dee Rees (Mudbound, Pariah)
Written by: Dee Rees, Marco Villalobos
Starring: Ben Affleck, Anne Hathaway, Willem Dafoe, Toby Jones, Edi Gathegi, Rosie Perez
Release date: TBD

1. Apollo 11

Directed by: Todd Douglas Miller (Dinosaur 13)
Release date: TBD (Sundance premiere)

Levi’s Next 15:

15. The Dead Don’t Die

Directed by: Jim Jarmusch (Paterson, Only Lovers Left Alive, Broken Flowers, Mystery Train, Stranger than Paradise)
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Tom Waits, Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez
Release date: TBD

14. Radegund

Directed by: Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, The New World, The Thin Red Line, Badlands)
Written by: Terrence Malick
Starring: August Diehl, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Nyqvist, Bruno Ganz
Release date: TBD

13. Native Son

Directed by: Rashid Johnson
Written by: Suzan-Lori Parks
Starring: Nick Robinson, Sanaa Lathan, Margaret Qualley, Ashton Sanders, Kiki Layne, Stephen McKinley Henderson
Release date: TBD (Sundance premiere)

12. IT: Chapter Two

Directed by: Andy Muschietti (It, Mama)
Written by: Gary Dauberman
Starring: Bill Skarsgård, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Jay Ryan, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone, Teach Grant, Andy Bean, Xavier Dolan
Release date: September 6, 2019

11. The King

Directed by: David Michôd (War Machine, The Rover, Animal Kingdom)
Written by: David Michôd, Joel Edgerton
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Robert Pattinson, Sean Harris, Thomasin McKenzie, Lily-Rose Depp, Tom Glynn-Carney
Release date: TBD

10. The Irishman

Directed by: Martin Scorsese (Silence, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Departed, Casino, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver)
Written by: Steven Zaillian
Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Jesse Plemons, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Jack Huston
Release date: TBD

9. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Directed by: Mike Mitchell (Trolls), Trisha Gum
Written by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Matthew Fogel, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Michelle Morgan, Dominic Russo
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, Margot Robbie, Jonah Hill, Nick Offerman, Channing Tatum, Tiffany Haddish, Will Arnett, Charlie Day
Release date: February 8, 2019

8. Parasite

Directed by: Bong Joon-ho (Okja, Snowpiercer, Mother, The Host, Memories of Murder)
Written by: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-Jeong, Choi Woo-sik, Park So-dam
Release date: TBD

7.  How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Directed by: Dean DeBlois (How to Train Your Dragon 2, How to Train Your Dragon, Lilo & Stitch)
Written by: Dean DeBlois
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Kit Harington, Gerard Butler, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, America Ferrera
Release date: February 22, 2019

6. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Directed by: Joe Talbot
Written by: Joe Talbot, Rob Richert, Jimmie Fails
Starring: Danny Glover, Finn Wittrock, Thora Birch, Tonya Glanz, Mike Epps, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan, Jonathan Majors
Release date: TBD (Sundance premiere)

5. Jojo Rabbit

Directed by: Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows)
Written by: Taika Waititi
Starring: Taika Waititi, Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant, Rebel Wilson
Release date: TBD

4. The Lighthouse

Directed by: Robert Eggers (The Witch)
Written by: Robert Eggers, Max Eggers
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson
Release date: TBD

3. High Life

Directed by: Claire Denis (Let the Sunshine In, 35 Shots of Rum, Beau travail, Nenette and Boni)
Written by: Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau, Geoff Cox
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, Mia Goth, Lars Eidinger
Release date: April 12, 2019 (TIFF premiere)

2. Dumbo

Directed by: Tim Burton (Big Eyes, Frankenweenie, Corpse Bride, Ed Wood, Batman Returns, Batman, Beetlejuice)
Written by: Ehren Kruger
Starring: Eva Green, Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Alan Arkin
Release date: March 29, 2019

1. Everything Everywhere All At Once

Directed by: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert (Swiss Army Man)
Written by: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina
Release date: TBD

Honorable mentions:

Ema

Directed by: Pablo Larraín (Jackie, Neruda, No)
Written by: Guillermo Calderón, Alejandro Moreno
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Mariana Di Girolamo, Santiago Cabrera, Mariana Loyola
Release date: TBD

Gemini Man

Directed by: Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Sense and Sensibility, The Wedding Banquet)
Written by: Billy Ray, Christopher Wilkinson, Stephen J. Rivele, David Benioff, Andrew Niccol, Darren Lemke, Jonathan Hensleigh
Starring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong
Release date: October 4, 2019

Last Christmas

Directed by: Paul Feig (A Simple Favor, Bridesmaids)
Written by: Emma Thompson, Bryony Kimmings
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh, Rebecca Root
Release date: November 15, 2019

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Directed by: Bi Gan (Kaili Blues)
Written by: Bi Gan
Starring: Sylvia Chang, Tang Wei
Release date: TBD (2018 Cannes premiere, 2018 TIFF showing, 2018 China premiere)

Men in Black: International

Directed by: F. Gary Gray (The Fate of the Furious, Straight Outta Compton, The Italian Job, The Negotiator, Set It Off, Friday)
Written by: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Starring: Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Rebecca Ferguson, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Kumail Nanjiani
Release date: June 14, 2019

Featured image via Warner Bros.

Top 10 science fiction films since 2010

With the release of the decades-in-the-making Blade Runner 2049 nearly upon us, the MovieMinis staff compiled a list of what we believe to be the best science fiction movies of the last several years. The genre has seen a bit of a resurgence in the past decade. Both big-budget and independent filmmakers have leaned on sci-fi as a means of approaching Hollywood from a new, daring angle. And while for every Interstellar there’s bound to be an unfortunate Battleship, there’s no denying that the good outweighs the bad (or, in Battleship’s case, the very, very bad). Without further ado, here are the MovieMinis picks for Top 10 Sci-Fi Films of the 2010s:

10. (Tie) Upstream Color

erbp/Courtesy

Shane Carruth will likely never get the mainstream credit he deserves, but, then again, even the cinephiles enraptured by his work have yet to agree on the meaning of either of his two sci-fi masterpieces: Primer and Upstream Color. Whether Upstream Color is more of an experimental exploration of a deteriorating relationship or, rather, an unsettling science fiction narrative about mind control and the unforeseen power of the natural world may still be up for debate. Yet, what is not up for debate is the technical brilliance and narrative abstraction working seamlessly together to create an uncommonly intelligent experience that expects the audience not only to be engaged, but to actively want to work for any semblance of an answer. If that isn’t a hallmark of the best sci-fi works across all mediums, then I don’t know what is.

— Levi Hill

10. (Tie) Snowpiercer

CJ Entertainment/Courtesy

Prior to the well-known Netflix film Okja, Bong Joon-ho started working with American actors on Snowpiercer, the adaptation of the French graphic novel La Transperceneige — and what he gave us is a science fiction film that the US film industry is not worthy of. While obvious in its commentary on the class system, the film is far more layered in that commentary, and that commentary is far more wide-reaching in scope, than it may let on. Not only deconstructing the upper class’ oppression of the lower class, Snowpiercer thoroughly dissects the idea of how flawed a rebellion can be and how malleable a the middle class truly is. And while that rebellion happens, always pushing forward, shot in stunning tracking profiles, the film focuses in on the two Asian characters who are always concerned with what’s outside of the train. In that, Joon-ho breaks down the barriers of the system, quite literally at points, to show that that’s not all there is.

All of that is simply the allegorical underpinnings of the story, which also features brilliant performances from Chris Evans, at perhaps his finest, and Tilda Swinton, in one of her most transformed roles. The action is breathtaking and the production design is integral, and feels organic, to the world that Joon-ho builds. Snowpiercer is inventive science fiction, in ways that both make the most of the storytelling style of the American system — a machine of forced, strict linearity — while also showing that perhaps the best kind of storytelling is that which can look outside of the system.

— Kyle Kizu

9. War for the Planet of the Apes

20th Century Fox/Courtesy

There’s arguably more “war” in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes than in War for the Planet of the Apes, but therein lies the success of this trilogy-closer — War is a methodical, elemental and profound examination of conflict, rather than an outright staging of conflict. As a result, we see Caesar (Andy Serkis, giving the performance of his career) fall to depths previously unimaginable, so, when he rises, it becomes a triumphant moment for the character, the franchise and the entire genre. Speaking of genre, this film returns sci-fi to its allegorical roots — before mother! unveiled its own take on the Bible, War turned Caesar into a Mosaic hero leading the film’s spin on the Book of Exodus. Forget The Batman, Matt Reeves already has a perfect trilogy on his hands.

— Harrison Tunggal

8. Looper

Sony Pictures/TriStar Pictures/Courtesy

That Looper is Rian Johnson’s only jump into science fiction filmmaking, prior to his small gig of directing the upcoming 8th episode of the biggest franchise in the world, is bizarre when considering the good amount of the craft, skill and storytelling that he proved within the genre. Starring a nearly unrecognizable Joseph Gordon-Levitt and a wholly committed Bruce Willis — which is sadly rare these days — Looper takes a time-traveling high concept, that would work on its own storytelling premise, and wisely adds in a considerable amount of heart about the cycle of violence. The filmmaking ambition that Johnson illustrates with a third of the budget of most sci-fi blockbusters is exactly why there is an intense amount of hope behind the impending greatness of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

— Levi Hill

7. ex_machina

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Part psychological-thriller, part romantic drama and all science fiction, Alex Garland’s 2014 indie sleeper hit not only put actress Alicia Vikander on the map, but it also redefined the extent to which humanity can play an integral role in a cyborgian sci-fi film. By crafting a narrative centered around identity, autonomy and sentience on such a small scale, Garland elicits a much more personal chemistry between his three leads (Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac) that leads to more electric and shocking interactions over the course of the story. For a film to so fully resemble a character study that the existential debate it poses over technological consciousness becomes the least intriguing aspect onscreen (relatively speaking, of course) is not an easy feat, yet ex_machina accomplishes this in spades.  

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

6. Interstellar

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Interstellar may not be Christopher Nolan’s best work — that honor could be argued for Inception, The Dark Knight or even Dunkirk — but it is, after retrospection and consideration of the value of film as art, undoubtedly his most important. There are few films in recent memory, if any at all, that try to tackle our purpose, our mission, our existence as living beings on a massive scope, while still basing that investigation in the deeply personal quite like Interstellar does. Immediately throwing away the egocentric idea that the Earth is “ours,” Interstellar forces us to consider our place in the universe and asks what continued survival really means. Is the decimation of those on Earth worth the prolonged existence of humans as a species? Or is it our very connections, our very love that we create with one another that is the key to our survival, and thus cannot be thrown away? In proposing those questions, Interstellar utilizes perhaps the strongest, most imprisoning and debilitating antagonist not only in film, but in life: time. We’re all bound by time, intrinsic to our existence as three dimensional beings, and cannot stop the ever moving train of life that will lead us to inevitable death. With that, epitomized by Cooper leaving his family behind to go on his mission, the film asks: how do we reconcile ourselves with the fact of existence of billions of others, and how do we honor that reconciliation without truly abandoning those we love?

While it may not be the most well-made of Nolan’s films, it has various aspects that epitomize his greatest strengths as a storyteller. Nolan’s collaborations with Hans Zimmer reach their pinnacle with Interstellar, as Zimmer composes his most vulnerable and affecting score yet. Nolan’s work with actors is notably less involved than some other directors, as Nolan leaves a lot of the responsibility up to the actor to understand the character within the story first and foremost. With Interstellar, that understanding finds a symphonic unity with Matthew McConaughey, who turns in his most committed performance. And while Nolan may not be a subtle writer, his screenplays are always haunting in at least some regard. The goodbye scene between Cooper and Murph is an example of tragic poetics, as is the video message scene, both written with an intimacy, love and sense of human existence within the many questions he presents that all coalesce stunningly. And the potential of Nolan’s practical chops as a director are fulfilled in the action sequence — the docking scene should go down as one of the most triumphant, and brilliant composed, in science fiction history.

Interstellar, already with so many singular qualities, even further distinguishes itself in the genre of science fiction by not only basing itself in accurate science and legitimate theoretical astrophysics, but organically utilizing those elements within its narrative. The visuals of the wormhole and the black hole were created from genuine equations written by executive producer and notable astrophysicist Kip Thorne, which lends a sort of tangible credence to them (and even helped Thorne write two papers on scientific discoveries from the visual effects). And, in regard to the narrative, time is inherently connected to astrophysics, and Nolan’s use of time as a narrative device to score the tragedy of humankind, and specifically the tragedy of a father and a daughter, is overwhelmingly heartbreaking.

Interstellar presents the type of big questions, and ways of tackling them, that we should demand from science fiction films that venture out into space because few other films genuinely try to answer them, let alone propose them in the first place. Interstellar does both, and is not afraid to embrace the intimacy of our humanity either.

— Kyle Kizu

5. Arrival

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In Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, alien spacecrafts descend upon the earth, hoping to end the cycle of violence that has always withheld humanity from achieving its full potential as a species. The aliens arrived when the people of earth needed them most. Eerily, Arrival did the same for us, releasing in the US three days after the 2016 presidential election. To the millions of people to whom Donald Trump poses an existential threat, the film was a reminder to not lose hope — an affirmation that our baser human instincts don’t hold a candle to empathy and communication. To the rest of the country, the film was a warning that vitriol is never the basis for progress. It’s hard to think of a film more urgent than Arrival, harder still to think of one more beautiful and profound.

— Harrison Tunggal

4. Her

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Though less overtly “sci-fi” than most other films on this list, Spike Jonze’s Her is one of the most thoroughly, organically defined. The film is set in a near future where artificial intelligence exists and people have distanced themselves from each other even further, and the design of each and every single frame, which acts to set forth those notions, is breathtaking. From the wandering souls walking through a much larger Los Angeles (shot partially in China) to the stunning skyscraper-high apartments, Her is arguably as well built of a world as Mad Max: Fury Road, yet on the other end of the spectrum. But Jonze doesn’t simply present a new kind of world; he crafts characters that feel like genuine parts of that world. Joaquin Phoenix is brilliant as Theodore Twombly, and the simultaneous intense disconnect and vulnerable sincerity have remnants in today’s world, just brought to their extreme here. And the love story told — between a man and an artificially intelligent device — is one of the most tragically beautiful and heartbreaking ever put to film. Her is a true gem, one that only the mind of Spike Jonze could conjure up.

— Kyle Kizu

3. World of Tomorrow

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Watching the 16 minutes that comprise animator Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow, one feels as though every frame of it could inspire multiple film adaptations, novels aplenty and one or two television shows. The short film tackles capitalism, time travel, cloning, the evolution of the internet, mortality, the limitations of art, slavery, artificial intelligence, love (the love of sparkly rocks, aliens named Simon and clones named David, specifically), economic recessions and depressed poetry. But this isn’t to say that the film is incoherent — it is a delight to discover, and its endless invention is a joy to experience as it washes over the perplexed, awed viewer. As an older version of Emily explains the titular future world to her younger self, one begins to grasp the futility of explaining the foibles and idiosyncrasies of our own times to the more innocent people we were as toddlers. Futile as such an attempt might be, one can’t help but feel excited for the sequel Hertzfeldt has planned.

— Harrison Tunggal

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

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George Miller’s return to the franchise that he started way back in 1979 was the most welcome of returns. Who knew a four-quel that features endlessly bombastic sound and rapid-fire editing could be not only one of the best science fiction films this decade, but truly ever. Using the Mad Max mythology of Earth becoming a completely desolate wasteland and humanity becoming even more desolate in their compassion, Miller retools the story and setting to not only create a powerful environmental message against misunderstanding sustainability, but also a tale about the tyranny men preside over others, women in particular. Acting as a not-so-subtle allegory for triumphant women and the resistance against their male oppressors — which grows more relevant by the day under the current presidential regime — Mad Max: Fury Road is just a hell of a movie. In fact, in an era of blockbusters mostly devoid of risk and danger or even vision, Fury Road was the adrenaline needle, straight to the heart, that we needed — just to remind us that there’s no art form quite as emotionally exhilarating as cinema.

— Levi Hill

1. Inception

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Following the release of The Dark Knight, there must have been those who thought director Christopher Nolan had undoubtedly crafted his magnum opus with the comic book crime epic. That was, until Inception hit theaters. Conceptually daring in its coupling of the time-tested caper film with the more abstract and imaginative idea of transitory dreamscapes, Inception represents a paragon of contemporary science fiction cinema. From the kaleidoscopic manipulation of Wally Pfister’s beautiful cinematography to Hans Zimmer’s now iconic score (complete with brass fanfare), Nolan and his crew created a motion picture that has made a lasting impact on the cultural zeitgeist. When “your mind is the scene of the crime,” there’s a lot of room for interpretation on the inner workings of the human psyche, and Nolan’s idea to not only enter that arena but to incorporate his signature style of paradoxical large-scale intimacy lets players like Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard and Tom Hardy to fully realize their character’s roles within a larger, engaging and cohesive script.  The methods through which Nolan tests the limits of his audience’s suspension of disbelief, and of reality itself, are grounded by a through line of realism so that whether it be the instantaneous degradation of a building or a slow-motion free fall off a bridge, the audience is kept captivated through and through. Inception will somehow make you feel simultaneously astounded, satisfied, confused and frustrated as you find yourself asking – was it all just a dream?

— Sanjay Nimmagudda

Honorable mentions: Guardians of the Galaxy, The Martian, Source Code, Gravity

 

Featured image via Warner Bros.

Ranking Christopher Nolan’s 10 films

Pretty quickly, one realizes that Christopher Nolan has never made a “bad” movie. Some have been a bit more divisive than others, but even then, none have failed financially or critically, or in the eyes of the public. His lowest rated film on RottenTomatoes, at 71%, is Interstellar, a film many, including myself, consider their favorite of all time. So then, a list of this type comes down to being about the good and the great, which makes it all the more exciting, but all the more difficult to truly nail down rankings. Some films have impacted culture unlike most movies in general, while others are some of the most impressively crafted pieces of art of our time, even if they lack similar cultural impact. But after long deliberation — and I must make note that these are what I think are his best, not my favorite, as that is a whole other list — I’ve come to a ranking I feel comfortable with:

10. Following

Following

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Following is a fantastic film, and it’s still #10. The main reason for that is that it seems like here, Nolan was out to prove himself, which rendered the film as more of a showcase for what was to come than a full film in and of itself. And yet, Following is built on such an intriguing structure that really does show that Nolan is a singular storyteller. With impressive performances and sharp technical composition on a microscopic $6,000 budget, the neo-noir is a debut that one can return to and still discover more in every time.

9. Insomnia

Al Pacino Insomnia

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Insomnia has sparked a lot of discussion from Nolan fans about whether or not it really is a “Nolan” film. It’s the only one he doesn’t have a writing credit on, although Nolan was involved in later drafts of the script. But, perhaps in result of the scripting situation, it’s the only film of his that doesn’t seem to have as sharp of a story as others.

Yet, when one really looks at Nolan’s career, it becomes quite simple to place Insomnia as a vital step within it. The film falls in line with his investigations into the validity of truth and what that means for his protagonists. And, even though its executed in a different way, Insomnia also creates a fascinating exploration of time — not only through Detective Dormer’s haze of insomnia, but also through his aging career. There may not be enough “pop” for some people’s liking, but with great performances from Al Pacino and Robin Williams as well as a crime intrigue that would explode over the rest of his career, Insomnia is an astonishingly good film to be at #9.

8. Batman Begins

Batman Begins

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Batman Begins revolutionized not only the superhero genre, but the blockbuster genre as well. To this day, many still reference the movie as inspiration for their gritty, realist take on whatever film they’re making.

And it is just that spectacular. The way Nolan slips through periods of time to craft the growth and development of Bruce Wayne from his youth through to his decision to build the identity of the Batman is structurally ingenious and some of the best “origin” work there is. Batman Begins truly does take the Caped Crusader and put him in a light that he was always meant to be under.

But there are two reasons that it stands lower. The film struggles in its third act, reverting to a bombastic (in a not so good way) mess of a climactic battle that seems so out of place for Nolan. It also feels as though, here, Nolan is still searching for the true feel of the world. The color palette changes rather jarringly between this installment and the next, and some of the more fantastical elements seem fit in a Burton film, not a Nolan one.

7. The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

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The Dark Knight Rises seems to get the most flack out of all of Nolan’s films, and it’s not for no reason. The final installment of his Batman trilogy does crumble, in ways, under its massive ambitions. Plot holes are a bit more prevalent than they’ve been with Nolan, and some deus ex machinas pop up here and there.

But it’s difficult to not be impressed by his grand vision. While some films present a grand ideology as a mask and never expand upon it, The Dark Knight Rises carries its societal complexities through its 165 minutes with full force — seemingly because the film is in the vein of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

The ideology is muddled for some, but the scope is undeniable. With inspiration from the Dickens novel, and in simply keeping with Batman tradition, the city of Gotham is a living and breathing character unlike it ever has been before.

And as a third and final installment, The Dark Knight Rises also closes Bruce Wayne’s arc in such a resonant and fulfilling manner. Even with its imperfections, the film ends his journey in an equally epic and intimate manner, a feat most trilogies struggle accomplish.

6. Memento 

Guy Pearce Memento

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Memento, the film that truly placed Nolan on the map, will forever remain a stunningly iconic piece of cinema — it’s already being referenced and utilized in film schools as a representation of structure, editing and the evolvement of the noir genre.

And all praise is wholly earned. While some may call Nolan’s structures “gimmicks,” it’s near impossible to do so with this picture. Running backwards and forwards at the same time, the film expertly crafts both its neo-noir mystery and grittiness as well as what many experts call a perfect representation of the experience of someone with anterograde amnesia — pulled off with razor sharp editing and a visual grasp that really is the immediate maturation of Nolan as a masterful storyteller (thanks to his first collaboration with Wally Pfister).

But the elements would only add up to so much were it not for the film’s ending, which is such an unnerving and affecting idea of the self and of the self’s reality. In that sense, Memento is the first of Nolan’s films where there’s not a single wasted moment, not a single wasted frame.

5. Inception

Inception

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Inception is a cultural phenomenon, which is such a bizarre statement when one really thinks about it. This is an original, scifi blockbuster with nearly an hour and a half consisting solely of expositional dialogue, and the other hour being a time-bending, crosscutting maze.

Nolan, however, as a storyteller, captured the zeitgeist precisely because of those elements. The exposition functions as the most thorough and fascinating world-building of Nolan’s career, while never slowing down the film’s pacing because it’s interwoven with stunning visual innovation and illusion that play right back into that world-building.

As for that last hour, it’s simply a masterclass in filmmaking, specifically in editing, but also in terms of evoking theme. It functions as a Bond-esque heist thriller, which is badass in and of itself, but it also leaves a mark on viewers that they can’t shake — their realities turned upside down and questioned.

And all of that comes without mention of Leonardo DiCaprio in yet another fully committed role, and composer Hans Zimmer also at his most culturally iconic. On a good day, Inception could break the top 3, but what ends up placing it at #5 is that, upon return viewings and close inspection, such a slick film contains some rough edges. Nevertheless, Inception will last a lifetime.

4. Interstellar

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Paramount/Warner Bros/Courtesy

To be clear, Interstellar is my favorite of his. But it’s difficult not to find the objective weaknesses in the movie. A few expositional scenes are not entirely necessary. Some of the thematic ambition is tonally off mark, or simply too gigantic for its own means.

But Interstellar lives with an earnestness that some sadly ignore. In Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper, there’s such an intense drive of hope and for progress, delivered with such vividness and verve and evoking a sense of humanity’s innate nature for exploration — something the film needed to not completely collapse in on itself.

And the film is, quite obviously, Nolan’s most emotional work to date as well. While some complain about the aspect of love, they seem to unjustly wash over the absolutely remarkable aspects of it. Cooper saying goodbye to Murph is a scene of tragic poetics, written with a beautiful tenderness, filmed with a raw intimacy and acted so genuinely. And Cooper watching his kids grow up through 21 years of video messages is a scene that truly cannot be described. In that moment, story transcends the dimensions of film and taps into something purely human — we’re all tragic victims of time.

(And how science and love function together in that ending, after repeat viewings, of which I’ve had many, makes complete sense in respect to the dimensions that some just may not understand.)

Accenting such work, Hans Zimmer taps into a humanity he had never reached before either, resulting in his most affecting score to date. And both Zimmer and Nolan combine to craft gripping, jaw-dropping action sequences that mark Interstellar as a representation of what cinema should strive for visually.

Sure, it’s not his most well-told or well-executed story. But there’s something to be said about what Interstellar means as a piece of art, as a statement on humanity and humankind. Most will write that aspect off, but when art reaches for that, reaches that high, it becomes more important for it, and Interstellar is Nolan’s most important film thus far.

3. The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

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If it’s not for Inception, Christopher Nolan will be remembered for The Dark KnightBatman Begins may have revolutionized superhero films, but Nolan’s second Batman installment re-revolutionized it, while revolutionizing cinema in general.

First and foremost, The Dark Knight features one of the most terrifying and haunting performances of all time in Heath Ledger’s Joker. The best performances happen when an actor embodies a character, when an actor lives in a character’s bones and blood so thoroughly that they cease to exist as themselves in those moments. And Ledger strikes on that singularity of acting. The Joker is perhaps the most iconic villain in cinematic history, but credit must also be given to Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan.

With The Dark Knight, the Nolans fully realize the potential of Batman, Gotham city and the world they occupy, and ingeniously inject ideas of contemporary, post-9/11 society into the film to do so. The Joker’s mantras are fear and nihilism, manifested through terror threats. Gotham City, vulnerable, aching and scared because of its history, are the terrified. But the Nolans execute these scenes with perfection. The terror isn’t in the terrifying event itself, but in its anticipation. That’s where the epicness of The Dark Knight lies, within its thorough and unsettling sense of fear on a city-wide scale.

And those elements are completely dependent on how The Dark Knight functions as a crime drama, specifically on a human level. Some complain that Bruce Wayne is really the third most prevalent character of the film, and I wouldn’t disagree, but I would retort that that’s because, while Batman Begins is Bruce Wayne’s story, The Dark Knight is Batman’s story. The tragic fall of man necessary to crime dramas are found within Batman, Jim Gordon and, most obviously, Harvey Dent. All three are tested in ways that question their moral center and break their moral codes. The trio’s chemistry is dynamic and lively, grand and intimate. In that sense, The Dark Knight really does earn its comparisons as the contemporary version of The Godfather.

If the film had the efficiency and pacing of Batman Begins and a more overt necessity of Bruce Wayne, not as his own character, but as a necessary duality of Batman like The Dark Knight Rises, then The Dark Knight nears complete perfection. It stands slightly away from that, but there’s something to be said about how it handles the top of Bruce Wayne’s character arc. It is undoubtedly another cultural phenomenon, and a step forward for film altogether, and that matters for so much.

2. The Prestige

Christian Bale The Prestige

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For a long time, The Prestige went under-appreciated by most. But the film has aged unbelievably well, with many critics ranking it as Nolan’s best prior to Dunkirk‘s release. The Prestige will never match the cultural recognition of almost all of Nolan’s films. But it was, for a long time, his most perfectly crafted. Think the perfection, on all levels, of Memento, and intensify it.

The structure is informed, an illusion itself that defines the DNA of the film. There is no other way of telling this story. The shifts in time not only set up the deception, but thoroughly color and accent the rivalry — one of the best in contemporary film.

And that’s where The Prestige steps above Memento and, in turn, above most others: how its characters inhabit such its perfectly crafted world. The chemistry between Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, in regard to their hatred and despise of one another, is electric. Jackman is at his career best, owning his character’s desperation and obsession with an aura of truth that he only comes close to again in Logan. Bale’s performance is less overt, but just as impressive, with him having to convey a subtle truth about his character that builds just as much depth.

As said before, it all comes back down to the pitch perfect execution of their machinations. But it’s as the film wraps up, as the film pulls off its own “prestige,” that we begin to recognize how each frame that came before knew of its place, of its meaning — not one frame wasted. Some have strangely chided the film’s ending, but what’s built to in those final moments is really what the entire story was setting up thematically.

Oh, and did I mention that David Bowie (RIP) plays Nikola Tesla and is so good?

The Prestige has been the best of Nolan as a storyteller and a filmmaker for so long. But there’s just one aspect that’s let it sink, just one factor that keeps it away, and rightfully so, from the #1 spot.

1. Dunkirk 

Dunkirk 1

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It feels quite wrong for Nolan’s “best film” to not be a blockbuster, to not be a grand spectacle, and, truly, that’s what places Dunkirk above the rest. Its The Prestige-level of storytelling but in the massive scope that Nolan has always aimed for. Following was a showcase for his talents, and 19 years later, they’ve been fully realized.

Parring down dialogue and plot, not in response to critics, but in line with what the story calls for, Dunkirk features a method more refined than in any of Nolan’s other work. The film starts with a simple goal, of immersion, and branches out its impact from there.

The immersion starts with a capitalization of the IMAX 70mm format unlike any of his previous outings. Sound, cinematography, editing, setting, scale and the pure massive image on a true IMAX screen all coalesce and augment one another in ways that cinema should aim for visually. Cinema is about the image and, especially with this method, Dunkirk ends up being Nolan’s most cinematic endeavor.

But through immersion, he builds tension. His time-bending structure avoids gimmickry, evoking ideas of perspective and truth, but also serving as a literal experiential manipulation to manufacture the most intense action of his entire career. There’s such a viscerally invasive sense of suspense that grasps your spine and doesn’t let go for 106 minutes, only made more affecting by an entirely in-tune Hans Zimmer and his anxiety-inducing, rising, unforgiving score that makes use of the exact same manipulation to generate tension.

And, through the perfection of craft on all levels, through a singularity of filmmaking in all aspects, the film succeeds thematically as well. Each technical and more methodical choice seems to enrich theme, and that’s the way it should be.

Dunkirk is about the nameless, the faceless. It’s about the terror of war and the perspective of all of those involved in the action of this massive of event, while also digging down on a distinctly, intimately human level too. It’s about the disjointedness and senselessness of war and how that affects the humans involved, fair or not. But, finally, it’s about togetherness. Even with the disparate truths of experience between the soldiers in the air, the soldiers on the beaches and the civilians on the sea, Nolan builds a togetherness. He builds character, story and meaning through action, some moments more subtle than others, but all evoking what’s so special about the event and its aftermath: the “Dunkirk spirit.”

Dunkirk will never reach the cultural impact or significance of most of Nolan’s films. It couldn’t. But in its efforts of purely cinematic storytelling, on the big screen, and, on quite a new level for Nolan, what it means in regard to history and how it builds its truth, Dunkirk is something we haven’t gotten before, even with Nolan, and something we could only get with him in the future.