The Farewell – Ad Astra – The Last Black Man in San Francisco – For Sama – Us – Atlantics – Once Upon a Hollywood

2019: World Premieres
2019: U.S. Releases
2019: My Oscar Ballot
2019: Cannes Festival
2019: Chicago Festival

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The Movies of 2019: My Oscar Ballot
 By Title // By Grade // By Screening Date // By VOR Rating

Best Picture

American Factory - Practically and tonally complex story, so clearly and potently told
Atlantics - The year's capstone achievement in cinema, forthright yet so mysterious (more)
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood - Deeply moving and deftly executed (more)
Black Mother - Astonishing visual and sonic collage, edifying without explaining (more)
By the Grace of God - A moral crusade where solidarity is not the same as consensus
The Cave - Jaw-dropping immersion in the tensest, noblest workplace imaginable (more)
End of the Century - Perfect helix of what's simple and slippery about desire (more)
The Irishman - Meticulously builds a world, then tallies all its emotional costs (more)
Parasite - Every image, performance, and plot point makes a searing impression (more)
Ray & Liz - Hardscrabble family dramas are seldom more sobering, or more poetic (more)

Runners Up: Honeyland, For Sama, Diane, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, Dark Waters, Midnight Traveler, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, High Life, The Image Book

Best Director

Bong Joon-ho, Parasite - Mobilizes every facet of cinema to convey story and emotion
Lucio Castro, End of the Century - The clarity of a haiku, the intricacy of a sonnet
Mati Diop, Atlantics - How is this a first feature? Just exceptional in all departments.
Feras Fayyad, The Cave - Remarkable in-the-moment impulses, meticulous filmcraft
Marielle Heller, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood - Soulful and inventive

Runners Up: Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Khalik Allah (Black Mother), Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov (Honeyland), François Ozon (By the Grace of God), Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (American Factory), Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Richard Billingham (Ray & Liz), Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn (The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open)

Best Actress

Julianne Moore, Gloria Bell - Conveys Gloria's insecurities, her resilience, and her joy
Lupita Nyong'o, Us - Each of her characters is sharply drawn, as is their mercurial bond
Taylor Russell, Waves - Lies in quiet, artful waiting for when she inherits the whole film
Alfre Woodard, Clemency - Uncannily intricate grasp of a woman rotating among selves
Zhao Tao, Ash Is Purest White - Fulfills every tonal shift and technical challenge

Runners Up: Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir (Woman at War), Mary Kay Place (Diane), Gabriela Cartol (The Chambermaid), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Sienna Miller (American Woman), Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open), Renée Zellweger (Judy), Karen Kaia Livers (Burning Cane), Susanne Wolff (Styx), Charlize Theron (Long Shot), Violet Nelson (The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open), Charlize Theron (Bombshell)

Best Actor

Swann Arlaud, By the Grace of God - A volatile, heartbreaking, fascinating plaintiff
Antonio Banderas, Pain & Glory - Subtly plays specific beats and constant conditions
Tom Burke, The Souvenir - Charismatic but off-putting, an open book and yet an enigma
Tom Mercier, Synonyms - Keeps whirling energies of a wild part in just enough control
Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters - Shows us moral steadfastness as a picture of Dorian Gray

Runners Up: Robert De Niro (The Irishman), Robert Pattinson (High Life), Matthew Rhys (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Vincent Lindon (At War), Noah Jupe (Honey Boy), Shia LaBeouf (Honey Boy), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Wendell Pierce (Burning Cane), Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell), Félix Maritaud (Sauvage), Song Kang-ho (Parasite), Juan Pablo Olyslager (Temblores), Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name), Andrew Garfield (Under the Silver Lake), Brad Pitt (Ad Astra), Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari), Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse), André Holland (High Flying Bird), Jimmie Fails (The Last Black Man in San Francisco)

Best Supporting Actress

Luàna Bajrami, Portrait of a Lady on Fire - Trickiest, subtlest, most indelible in a trio
Jo Yeo-jeong, Parasite - Olympic-class manager of script tones and audience perceptions
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers - AMPAS needs to be redeemed to the One they sinned against
Deirdre O'Connell, Diane - In a few scenes, gives you a whole history with title character
Florence Pugh, Little Women - Recuperates an ill-served character without rewriting her

Runners Up: Park So-dam (Parasite), Octavia Spencer (Luce), Zazie Beetz (High Flying Bird), Jang Hye-jin (Parasite), Zhao Shuzhen (The Farewell), Christina Hendricks (American Woman), Lee Jeong-eun (Parasite), Teresa Sánchez (The Chambermaid), Danielle Brooks (Clemency), Nicole Kidman (Bombshell), Agyness Deyn (Her Smell), Margot Robbie (Bombshell), Tilda Swinton (The Souvenir), Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell), June Diane Raphael (Long Shot), Andrea Martin (Diane), Valeria Golino (Portrait of a Lady on Fire)

Best Supporting Actor

Bill Camp, Dark Waters - This man has a new soul in every role, rarely deeper than here
Aldis Hodge, Clemency - Bone-deep despondency that still discloses layers, coping tactics
Liao Fan, Ash Is Purest White - Less screen time than Zhao, but equal power and nuance
Leonardo Sbaraglia, Pain & Glory - Tender almanac of intricate pasts in just three scenes
Tony Way, Ray & Liz - You'll never forget the path he navigates between empathy and pity

Runners Up: Denis Podalydès (Sorry Angel), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Mauricio Armas Zebadúa (Temblores), Rob Morgan (The Last Black Man in San Francisco), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Chris Cooper (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Alan Alda (Marriage Story), Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy), Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit), Ray Liotta (Marriage Story), Sam Rockwell (Richard Jewell), Aaron Paul (American Woman), John Turturro (Gloria Bell), Rob Morgan (Just Mercy), Wendell Pierce (Clemency), Lucas Hedges (Honey Boy), Diego Cremonesi (Rojo), Sterling K. Brown (Waves), Philippe Ohrel (Sauvage), Lai Yde (Holiday), Jamie Bell (Rocketman)

Best Ensemble Cast

At War - Casting this labor-strike drama with nonprofessionals pays enormous dividends
By the Grace of God - With each shift in narrative focus, more expert players show up
Diane - Overall communal portrait is rich and plausible, and each figure is engrossing
Hustlers - Wu and Lopez are the Queen and Prime Minister of a killer, colorful royal court
Parasite - Bong has never orchestrated a cast into such nimble shadings or collective sync

Runners Up: The Irishman, The Wild Pear Tree, Little Women, I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Peterloo, Birds of Passage

Best Documentary Feature

American Factory - Fairly captures multiple sides of a timely, complicated conundrum
Black Mother - Rejects any hint of a touristic gaze and slowly unfolds an eccentric structure
The Cave - Totally harrowing, yet reveals how three-dimensional lives persist amid crisis
For Sama - A family diary and an open letter to the world—loving, brave, and pointed
Honeyland - A frontier standoff, a rare ethnography, and a disconsoling but beautiful elegy

Runners Up: Midnight Traveler, What You Gonna Do When the World's on Fire?, The Edge of Democracy, Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops, América, 5B

Best Original Screenplay

Atlantics, Mati Diop, Olivier Demangel - Shifting genres, recent and distant histories
By the Grace of God, François Ozon - Unprecedented economy, scope, detail from Ozon
Diane, Kent Jones - Unpredictable rhythms and short, finely-etched scenes all pay off
The Last Black Man in San Francisco, J. Talbot, R. Richert, J. Fails - Just see it!
Parasite, Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin Won - Every piece clicks, predestined yet surprising

Runners Up: Pain & Glory, End of the Century, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Woman at War, Ash Is Purest White, Burning Cane, Ray & Liz, Peterloo, Synonyms, 3 Faces, Clemency, The Wild Pear Tree, Asako I & II, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open

Best Adapted Screenplay

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, M. Fitzerman-Blue, N. Harpster - A+!!
Dark Waters, M. Correa, M. Carnahan - Dense but clear in legal and personal matters
Hustlers, Lorene Scafaria - Character drama as fully realized as tabloid circumstances
The Irishman, Steven Zaillian - Maximalist and pointillist, using every inch of its canvas
Little Women, Greta Gerwig - Honors a classic novel while updating it in major ways

Runners Up: Aniara, Transit

Best Cinematography

Ash Is Purest White, Eric Gautier - Expertly negotiates changing stocks, ratios, affects
Atlantics, Claire Mathon - Hazy but gorgeous by day, resourceful and haunting at night
Black Mother, Khalik Allah - Nobody's portraiture looks like Allah's or conveys as much
Honeyland, Samir Ljuma, Fejmi Daut - Exquisite light, thoughtful camera placement
Too Late to Die Young, Inti Briones - Pastoral beauty, pallid desaturation, unique framing

Runners Up: Long Day's Journey into Night, The Lighthouse, Ad Astra, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Monos, Dark Waters, Once Upon a Hollywood, The Wild Pear Tree, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, Little Women, The Irishman, High Life, The Third Wife, Ray & Liz, Hustlers, The Beach Bum, Peterloo, Parasite, Midsommar, The Souvenir, Diane

Best Film Editing

Atlantics, Aël Dallier Vega - Balances solo players, collective stories, larger environment
End of the Century, Lucio Castro - Precise cuts required for pre-scripted puzzles to work
The Image Book, Jean-Luc Godard - Extremely rare cineaste who "speaks" via his edits
The Irishman, Thelma Schoonmaker - Astounding control over a huge, detailed story
Parasite, Yang Jinmo - Shapes suspense, story, and characterization with fastidious care

Runners Up: Diane, By the Grace of God, At War, Honeyland, Ray & Liz, American Factory, The Cave, Ad Astra, Hustlers, For Sama, Synonyms, Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops

Best Sound Mixing

Ad Astra, Gary Rydstrom, et al. - The vacuum of space, the perils of solipsism, the odd blast
Atlantics, Benoit De Clerck, et al. - The ocean is a vivid, ubiquitous, and complicated force
The Cave, Peter Albrechtsen, et al. - Cleans up and brilliantly engineers chaotic recordings
The Lighthouse, Mariusz Glabinski, et al. - Dense with textures, with indelible motifs
Waves, Johnnie Burn, et al. - Sure, it's divisive, but I appreciate its willingness to push us

Runners Up: Monos, Black Mother, Once Upon a Hollywood, High Life, The Image Book, Parasite, Hustlers

Best Production Design

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Jade Healy - Cleverly exploits its source text
Once Upon a Hollywood, Barbara Ling - Knows each nook of LA in ace detail
Parasite, Lee Ha-jun - A series of wonders from the hilltop house to sub-basement tenements
Peterloo, Suzie Davies - Uniquely gifted at rich panorama that doesn't lose sight of deprivation
Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Thomas Grézaud - Thematically apt blend of color and austerity

Runners Up: Joker, The Third Wife, 1917, Ray & Liz, Sunset, Little Women, Aniara, Midsommar, Long Day's Journey into Night, Honey Boy, The Lighthouse, Pain & Glory, The Irishman, Rafiki, Les Misérables

Best Costume Design

Hustlers, Mitchell Travers - Differently, equally revealing on and off that fabulous stage
The Irishman, Sandy Powell, Christopher Peterson - Vast spectrum of masculine modes
Peterloo, Jacqueline Durran - Copious, lived-in, and illustrative of hierarchies, for no money
Queen & Slim, Shiona Turini - Two leads visibly in sync yet in tension, sincere yet stylized
The Third Wife, Tran Phuong Thao - Ornate colors, fabrics, and folds all speak volumes

Runners Up: Joker, Once Upon a Hollywood, Missing Link, Little Women, Dolemite Is My Name, Us, Sunset, Pain & Glory, Knives Out, Rocketman, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, The Beach Bum, Judy

Best Original Score

Atlantics, Fatimi Al Qadiri - Oceanic surges of electronic sound, specific to mood and milieu
I Lost My Body, Dan Levy - Single element that comes closest to realizing film's potential
Joker, Hildur Guðnadóttir - Wide range of tones and volumes, while building ominous threat
The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Emile Mosseri - Cascades of color and lament
Little Women, Alexandre Desplat - Key to Gerwig's vision of frenetic but variable energy

Runners Up: Monos, Pain & Glory, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Dark Waters, Patricia Regan, et al. - For Ruffalo's decomposition and Camp's makeover
Hustlers, Margot Boccia, et al. - For gradients of glamour, faded glamour, stabs at glamour
Once Upon a Hollywood, Heba Thorisdóttir, et al. - 60s stylings, Pitt's scars
Peterloo, Christine Blundell, et al. - Another area of versatile and heightened verisimilitude
Us, Scott Wheeler, et al. - Artful creation of the Tethers, especially for the three main women

Runners Up: Joker, 1917, The Dead Don't Die, Little Women, Bombshell, Parasite, American Woman, The Nightingale, The Lighthouse, Ash Is Purest White, Knives Out, Gloria Bell, The Two Popes, Judy

Worth a Second Try

The Farewell - I thought it blunted some plot points and overstretched others, but maybe not?
The Souvenir - Not every affectation served it, and Byrne is too blank, but it has lingered
Transit - Historical and cultural nonspecificity hurt as much as it helped, but I'll travel back
Uncut Gems - Seemed weaker than Good Time in every department, but if you guys say so...
Us - Interested me less as the narrative problem got more global, but it demands a second go

Runners Up: A Hidden Life, Midsommar, I Lost My Body, I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, Knife + Heart, Marriage Story, Booksmart, In Fabric, Little Joe

Best Unreleased Film

Ghost Tropic - Quietly hypnotic and heartwarming fable of a woman walking home (more)
Just 6.5 - If you liked The Wire, and I know you did, you'll love this Iranian policier, too (more)
The Orphanage - Poignant period coming-of-age tale, complete with musical numbers (more)
What We Left Unfinished - Wowzers doc about short, semi-happy life of Afghan film (more)
The Wild Goose Lake - Among the best and boldest of recent Chinese crime thrillers (more)

Runners Up: Babyteeth, A Thief's Daughter, Mother, A Girl Missing, The Painted Bird, Fire Will Come, Gaza, Zombi Child, The Fever, Love Child, Waiting for the Carnival, Song without a Name, La Llorona, The Twentieth Century