I find it fitting that while we find ourselves in the middle of the most unprecedented box office occurrence of the millennium, I settled on three smaller movies for the top spots in April’s best movies. Maybe I’m a fraud, maybe I’m a highfalutin lover of capital “C” Cinema, maybe I’m well-reasoned, or maybe, juuuuust maybe, I unearthed a few hidden gems for you to watch down the line. (There’s probably more than one correct answer there — I’ll let you decide which are the most fitting.) All I know is that I found these films completely and utterly captivating in their own ways.
In combination with the honorable mentions that I’ll lay out in due course, April was easily the best month of film in 2019 so far. Whatever kind of film fan you are, chances were solid that you could find something to sink your teeth into.
Here are my picks for the best movies of April 2019:
#3: Under the Silver Lake
It’s a bit unfortunate that we had to wait as long as we did for Under the Silver Lake to release. The film premiered at Cannes last year to split reactions from fans and critics, leading to A24 pushing the film’s release date back from June 22nd, 2018 to December 7th, 2018. Rumors swirled that director David Robert Mitchell went back to the editing room to tinker with the film in that time, although reps from A24 have denied that claim.
And then, right before its release in December, a Blu-Ray rip made its way onto piracy networks, forcing a move (along with other factors) to Under the Silver Lake‘s final release date.
But as for the movie itself, it’s difficult not to get intoxicated by Mitchell’s cryptic vision. It’s understandable why some would view his follow-up to It Follows as a bit of a mess — tackling the idea of conspiracy theories, the film intentionally becomes more and more obscure and strange with every revelation, or lack thereof.
Andrew Garfield anchors Under the Silver Lake with a Travis Bickle-light descent into chaos, adding a new layer to the shaggy-dog detective movie formula. With pieces of The Long Goodbye to even The Big Lebowski, the puzzles of Under the Silver Lake become more curious by the second — sometimes becoming even downright hilarious or terrifying…or both.
I’m still processing this movie as I write, and with the ambition on display from Mitchell, this rumination will continue indefinitely.
#2: Little Woods
Though Lily James and Tessa Thompson have had flashier performances in the past, Little Woods marks two of their more human performances to date.
You’ve seen this setup in a film before: the lead character is looking to escape her past and earn a fresh start in the last week of her parole only to get dragged back into a less than legal game (in this case, selling prescription medication) to help the lives of others. The magic of Little Woods comes in its execution. Unlike many films that have this kind of story, Little Woods isn’t a thriller, building tension until all hell breaks loose in the third act as a wild goose chase involving law enforcement takes place. Though there are plenty of tense moments throughout, director Nia DaCosta is much more concerned about the toll that living in such a way takes on someone.
It’s not an accident that the title of the film is “Little Woods”, the name of the North Dakota town in which the movie is set. DaCosta paints a picture of a certain walk of life in this corner of the country, where blue-collar workers not only rely on living paycheck to paycheck, but never have the chance to better themselves without resorting to other, less legal means. I can’t recommend this movie enough.
#1: High Life
I’ll state the obvious first: High Life isn’t for everyone. In fact, it may be the most A24 movie in the history of A24 in that it has no concern if you’re onboard or not. It obfuscates itself with circular editing and stoic figures, opting for gross, animalistic displays of sexual frustration and anger above all else.
High Life isn’t a comfortable experience; it largely hopes to shock and confound with every move. To that end, the cast goes for broke when given the opportunity, both literally and figuratively foaming at the mouth to discuss humanity and its reliance on feeling tethered to some kind of warmth or growth. Robert Pattinson continues his rather impeccable post-Twilight career with an amazing performance, and, as for Juliette Binoche, well.. she’s at the center of one of the most head-scratching, disgusting, bizarre, and oddly titillating scenes of the decade.
For many, this will be first time viewing a Claire Denis film with this being her first English-language film. I hope this film spurs many to go backwards through her filmography. With time, I see High Life joining the same group as Under the Skin, Children of Men, and Ex Machina (among others) as modern science fiction marvels.
*To read the site’s full review of High Life, please click here.
In Case You (Or I) Missed It
I couldn’t make it through this article without mentioning a certain movie that is most likely going to become the highest grossing movie of all-time. Nor could I do the same for a few other movies that are equally as lovely even if they aren’t setting the world on fire from a financial perspective.
Here’s a few honorable mentions:
Shazam! is one of the corniest, goofiest, silliest movies of recent memory, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. As the superhero landscape has molded and evolved since Iron Man back in 2008, there’s been a growing propensity to make our blockbusters more serious than ever, so much so that they’ve forgotten one of the most vital things about the genre: the pure ecstasy of developing superpowers. I could watch Zachary Levi smile with glee for an eternity; I hope Warner Bros. and DC allow me that opportunity with sequels down the road.
Endgame is the finish that many hoped they would get. Though it is consistently at risk at crumbling under its own weight with a dizzying amount of moving parts and star power in each frame, my analysis of Endgame comes down to one important factor: there’s so much cool shit in this film!
The latest Netflix rom-com boils down to merely hanging out with Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow, and DeWanda Wise for an hour and a half, but their chemistry together is more than enough to make it worthwhile.
Side note: Someone Great is the first time I’ve seen someone use a Juul in a movie. So…yay?
Channeling the troubled grunge stars of the 90’s, Elisabeth Moss is endlessly watchable as Becky Something. Her Smell is all about confrontation, no matter where our lead character takes, and though it might be too much for some to handle, it’s certainly worth it in the end.
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Shazam looks amusing
It’s very amusing!
Shazam was fantastic I do agree
Glad you liked it!!! 😁
Yeah you’re awesome too btw it’d be cool if you follow me too.
Most of these guys are criminals, most of these are worst of the worst serving death sentences, they’re already disconnected from any sort of moral values as it is. They’re choosing to take part in their sexual endeavours. I think a lot of the masturbation or rape scenes were there to highlight their lack of humanity, like you said. But eventually reached a point where it was just that and that’s where things start to beat you over the head. That would be my main problem with the movie.
The 2nd would be that there’s just not enough connective tissue to tie it all together. The first 20 minutes or so are about Rob Pat’s character with his daughter living in space with some odd editing choices in between to show second-long snippets of what happened in the space transport beforehand (not talking about the editing you were referring to, I think). Then we have the flashback that’s supposed to be the main story about the orgasm experiments. And finally the ending, we’re back to Rob Pat with his now older daughter and again, there’s barely anything here to but the dogs that would reference what previously happened. If these themes are truly there how come each section of the movie feels like its own story? That’s my takeaway from all this.
One quick note: I get the objects falling in space, but those bodies dropped harder than the bass at a disco night club. The problem isn’t they’re going down, but dropping down. As for the pitch blackness, considering how they weren’t always next to a black hole, they were traveling there, I don’t think the entirety of space should’ve looked like that. Although maybe there was some greater meaning to it, but both of us should’ve picked up on it.
Every bit of this movie is a concerted choice by Claire Denis, especially the blackness of space (lack of humanity in darkness, entering the void, heading into the light, you can probably see where the metaphor is going from there). And yes, this is the circular editing I was referring to — each phase has its own piece of the discussion, and the fragments of flashbacks act as flashing memories that are quickly withering away. That cliched phrase “time is a flat circle” comes into play here with how one point in time comments on a previous point/comes back around again.
Most of criminals are really only taking part because they were blatantly lied to about the mission in the first place, and saying that they’ve already disconnected from humanity is a bit of a blanket statement since you see some of them still possess fears, anxieties, and some sort of moral compass — I I think there’s more grey area here than you’re giving it credit. Yeah, these criminals are probably horrendous beings for the most part, but there’s still bits to some of their personalities that makes them more than just complete monsters with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. (Not to mention that their treatment is a pretty great riff on prison reform and issues with incarceration.)
Well, since I didn’t see any of the films in your top three, let me be the one to boast about the high-quality of mainstream films that landed in theaters this month. You were right; April was the best month for movies so far in 2019. And though one of the films on my best list is probably near or on your worst, the other two did make your honorable mention. Here are my top films of April: 3) Pet Sematary (I wasn’t sure about the change in in the third act at first, but I felt it fit the story they were trying to tell and liked where they went with it… unlike some others I’ve heard); 2) Shazam!; and of course, 1) Avengers: Endgame – the perfect conclusion to such a groundbreaking series… thus far!
Your number one of the month for the best is probably my number one movie of the worst. That’s pretty funny. I just didn’t think High Life as a movie held its own. There were a lot of threads they’d forget about and come back into much later in the movie. Thematically there was nothing in this movie I could grab on to. Often it went places too far for me and it could’ve done so by having some sort of purpose. Like the movie is so disconnected from itself that many of its later elements are out of nowhere.
Surprisingly, there’s a lot heavy exposition. They tell you a lot of things instead of showing them or better, not mentioning them at all. I would’ve preferred not getting answers to some things especially in the way they were presented. And finally the technical that rubbed me the wrong way. Something like a glove floating in space couldn’t even give off a proper effect, it looked like it was hanging on a wire. The bodies floating in space would go down instead of float, the entire vacuum is jus blackness and when they pan away from the bodies I noticed they were just pulling the camera back. Oh boy. Very ‘un-cinematic’.
Apologies for the loaded comment, but I wanted to share why I didn’t like this film a lot.
I can understand if you don’t connect/like the more extreme acts in here that you wouldn’t identify with the movie, but that’s also where the thematic weight of the film lies, so shutting out the extreme is essentially shutting out the ideas of the movie. With all these characters losing all semblance of Earthly contact in the midst of these wild sex experiments, they’re slowly losing feeling, forced to continue to up the ante to get any closer to a sense of warmth or humanity. As a result, most of them cave inwards, essentially turning into rabid animals (which ties in quite nicely with the dogs that show up later on). The acts just become clinical acts; all feelings one would normally associate with them are gone — which is why a lot of characters are either mostly emotionless or completely unstable — you see both sides of what this can do to someone. Even Andre 3000’s character just wants to be buried in the garden, as that’s the closest thing he can get to any sort of balance in his life, where he might find some kind of longing or warmth. So when all this feeling is gone, there’s plenty of ideas about humanity to pull from it that had my mind swirling long after the movie was done. That circular editing works alongside of it too for a disorienting feel of longing and lost purpose. All of this clearly has a purpose, it’s really just up to the viewer to get onboard and ride through the crazy.
One quick note: objects in space will continue to move in the same direction since they’re not being acted upon by an opposing force, so since he’s dropping them out of the ship, I think it’s perfectly reasonable that they would continue downward. And since they’re hurdling towards a black hole, there probably wouldn’t be many stars/general light around them with the mass sucking everything inward. I’m sure there’s some artistic license used here, but it’s probably still within the realm of plausibility.
It looks like I followed up your long comment with an even longer comment lol. Oh well! Like what ya wanna like, but I still think there’s more here than your giving it credit for.
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