The best movie of 2019, according to Irish film critics

It’s clever, it’s funny, it’s dramatic, and this won’t be its last movie award this season

 

The Dublin Film Critics Circle (DFCC) has named Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story as its favourite film of 2019. Currently chewing up awards season, the cleverly balanced film — as much a sour comedy as a drama — stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a couple breaking up discordantly at different ends of the United States.

The film scored in multiple categories. Driver and Johansson were named as, respectively, best actor and best actress. Baumbach took the prize for best screenplay.

If there is a lesson to be drawn from the critics’ list it is to do with the continuing rise of Netflix. Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, like Marriage Story, a production of that company, registered as the circle’s second favourite film of the year.

The streaming giant, hitherto sceptical about theatrical distribution, put most of its awards contenders into Irish cinemas several weeks before they debuted online. It will be interesting to see if Netflix continues to score with film critics and Oscar voters as the years progress. Now an important producer of films, the innovative firm ends the decade in a position of power that would have seemed inconceivable in 2010.

The distance between... Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story. Photograph: Netflix
The distance between... Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story. Photograph: Netflix

There are also lessons about the perils of releasing your awards-friendly film right at the beginning of the year. Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite, which emerged here on January 1st, figures seventh in the best film race, but only eighth in the competition for best Irish film.

Originated by Element Pictures in Dublin, that film qualifies in the home category, but ultimately lost first place to Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman’s supernatural comedy Extra Ordinary.

If the Irish Film and Television Awards, which went missing earlier this year, reappear in 2020 then The Favourite will have one more chance of late recognition.

Other Irish films scoring strongly included Lee Cronin’s horror The Hole in the Ground, Shelly Love’s Derry comedy A Bump Along the Way and Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn’s searing drama Ordinary Love.

Might Neil Jordan’s Greta, a co-production set in New York, have fared better if it had been more conspicuously “Irish”? We can only speculate.

Many of the current awards favourites featured throughout the Dublin critics’ list. Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory and Todd Phillips’s Joker also did well. Martin Scorsese, current favourite for best director at the Oscars, grabbed the equivalent prize from the DFCC.

But a few films did fare better than they have hitherto done at awards such as the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. There was a deservedly strong showing for Olivia Wilde’s delightful comedy Booksmart. Largely ignored by other critics’ groups, the raucous, noisy film, following two teenagers on their last days in high school, scored top-five finishes in best film, best director and best screenplay. Wilde spent many of her childhood summers in Waterford and, undoubtedly a keen reader of The Irish Times, is sure to appreciate the respect put her way.

The DFCC awarded two “breakthrough” prizes. Aisling Franciosi, the Irish actor who was so strong in Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale, won the prize for outstanding breakthrough performance. Kantemir Balagov, whose Russian film Beanpole astonished towards the end of the year, took the prize for best breakthrough director.

The Dublin Film Critics Circle, of which this writer is a member and whose president is Tara Brady of The Irish Times, comprises full-time critics working within the capital. In addition to its annual awards, it presents a range of prizes at the Dublin International Film Festival. 

The Dublin Film Critics Circle 2019 awards

BEST FILM
1. Marriage Story
2. The Irishman
3. Pain and Glory
4. Joker
5. Booksmart
6. Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
7. The Favourite
8. Hustlers/High Life
9. The Souvenir
10. Ash is Purest White/Monos

BEST DIRECTOR

The Irishman: Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro star in Martin Scorsese’s latest gangland film. Photograph: Netflix
The Irishman: Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro star in Martin Scorsese’s latest gangland film. Photograph: Netflix

1. Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
2. Pedro Almodóvar, Pain and Glory
3. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
4. Olivia Wilde, Booksmart
5. Todd Phillips, Joker
6. Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
7. Jordan Peele, Us
8. Claire Denis, High Life
9. Lorene Scafaria, Hustlers
10. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

BEST ACTOR
1. Adam Driver, Marriage Story
2. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
3. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
4. Robert De Niro, The Irishman
5. Christian Bale, Vice
6. Taron Egerton, Rocketman
7. Brad Pitt, Ad Astra
8. Robert Pattinson, High Life/Stephan James, If Beale Street Could Talk
9. Steve Coogan, Stan and Ollie
10. Felix Maritaud, Savage

BEST ACTRESS
1. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
2. Lupita N’Yongo, Us
3. Olivia Colman, The Favourite
4. Renee Zellweger, Judy
5. Jessie Buckley, Wild Rose
6. Florence Pugh, Midsommar
7. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
8. Awkwafina, The Farewell
9. Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
10. Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Kindergarten Teacher

BEST SCREENPLAY
1. Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
2. Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, Katie Silberman, Booksmart
3. Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
4. Rian Johnson, Knives Out
5. Steven Zaillian, The Irishman
6. Joanna Hogg, The Souvenir
7. Lulu Wang, The Farewell
8. Pedro Almodóvar, Pain and Glory
9. Jordan Peele, Us
10. Lorene Scafaria, Hustlers

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Brad Pitt plays a cool-headed, emotionally-stunted astronaut
Brad Pitt in Ad Astra

1. Hoyte van Hoytema, Ad Astra
2. James Laxton, If Beale Street Could Talk
3. Lawrence Sher, Joker
4. Robert Richardson, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
5. Pawel Pogorzelski,  Midsommar
6. Rodrigo Prieto,  The Irishman
7. Robbie Ryan, Marriage Story
8. Robbie Ryan, The Favourite
9. Adam Newport-Berra, The Last Black Man in San Francisco
10. Jasper Wolf,  Monos

BEST IRISH FILM

Extra Ordinary requires epic suspension of disbelief
Extra Ordinary 

1. Extra Ordinary
2. The Hole in the Ground
3. A Bump Along the Way
4. Ordinary Love
5. Gaza
6. Papi Chulo
7. The Dig
8. The Favourite
9. Greta
10. Float Like a Butterfly

BEST DOCUMENTARY
1. Apollo 11
2. Diego Maradona
3. Gaza
4. Minding the Gap
5. For Sama
6. Amazing Grace
7. An Engineer Imagines
8. Shooting the Mafia
9. The Man Who Wanted to Fly
10. Land Without God

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE 2019
Aisling Franciosi, The Nightingale

BREAKTHROUGH DIRECTOR 2019
Kantemir Balagov, Beanpole