2. Parasite (2019)
Cliché of cliches, Parasite makes my list. The people screaming “Memories of Murder is way better” should quieten down.
Bong Joon-ho took decades of skill and craft, of learning, of everything he possibly could conceive of, and created one of the masterpieces of the 21st century here, so much so that even the American Academy had to bow down and award it Best Picture, the first ever not in the English language to do so. And they hardly ever even shortlist one in the main category to begin with.
Rightly does it deserve the award. The direction is impeccable, the writing flawless. The acting is en pointe. Emotions go from hilarious to terror to heartbreak within seconds. Its discussion of South Korean economic divides crosses every cultural border, taking something culturally unique and becoming universal.
And as South Korea does so well, it manages to bring all of that theme and symbolism and stuff that we critics and writers love so much whilst still keeping it understandable for everyday audiences. It never becomes pretentious. It’s the best of both worlds. Yes, “it’s so metaphorical”, but it’s also so damn good.
Recommended for you: Windows Into Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’
1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
Finally, a female director. They made it. And what they made, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, is something simply beyond the realms of understanding. A modern French queer historical romance being one of the greatest films ever made? How could this possibly be?
It’s very simple. There’s not a single frame which isn’t perfect.
Every shot, every line of dialogue, every look from every actress and actor, every touch of a piano key, every costume, every beam of light, is flawless. The cast and crew, from the main actresses to the runners and locations trainees, poured their hearts and souls into a few hours of film which transport the mind and heart to somewhere unparalleled in cinematic history. Not a hair out of place, and even this horror aficionado bows down to the supreme mastery on display here.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire is one of the only films I wouldn’t just say is the best, but is perfect. There is not a single way to improve the presentation of this story in the narrative feature film medium.