JM’s Top 10 Most Underrated and Under-seen Films of 2019! Her Smell! Apollo 11! The Biggest Little Farm! And More!

I genuinely can’t recall when there have been so many great films released in one year. I wouldn’t be surprised if 2019 goes down in modern history as something similar to 1939 with so many quality films (OK, maybe too ambitious, but a great year nonetheless). Already I’ve composed two separate Top 10 Lists realizing I would inevitably have to add and remove films due to fall releases before settling on my final list. Recognizing the importance and not wanting more great films to “slip under the radar” I’ve composed a new Top 10 List before my official one is released: THE TOP 10 FILMS YOU MOST LIKELY MISSED for 2019.

Certain films like “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” “Amazing Grace” and “The Farewell”  have crossed over from specialty/platform releases to wide releases. However, not every film has the opportunity to be seen until home release. All of these films listed below never received a wide release (600 or more theaters) and in the case of one was “released under the radar” with almost no fanfare despite once being eagerly anticipated. This was also a great year for documentaries with Mike Wallace, Molly Ivins, Pavarotti, John DeLorean, and Dr. Ruth amongst others receiving the documentary treatment, but I tried not to make it “one of those lists” although you could easily do that.

Without a bias I’ve gone ahead and listed the films in alphabetical order with theater counts, distributor info and the current availability to watch the film. At one point or another, all of these films were on my Top 10. Without further adieu here are THE TOP 10 FILMS YOU MOST LIKELY MISSED for 2019:

“Apollo 11”
Distributed by Neon with a wide release 588 theaters
(Streaming on Hulu and available to rent on Amazon

Comprised solely of archival footage, “Apollo 11” doesn’t feature any interviews, narration or recreations. The film focuses on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969 and for those not alive when the mission took place, magnificently captures the excitement of this amazing accomplishment in a stunning documentary. Released to coincide with the 50th anniversary, “Apollo 11” definitely deserves all the attention and will most certainly be nominated for an Oscar. Even if you’re not a big NASA or space nerd, the film fantastically hold your attention from beginning to end.

4 out of 4 stars

“The Biggest Little Farm”
Distributed by Neon with a wide release 285 theaters
(Streaming on Hulu, available to rent on Amazon and DVD/Blu-ray)

Head on over to my review here

Distributed by A24 with a wide release 217 theaters
(Streaming on Amazon Prime and DVD/Blu-ray)

Controversial cinematic auteur Gaspar Noe returns with one of the most immersive, intelligent and intense films ever. Largely improvised by the cast, “Climax” possesses several sensual and sensational long takes creating captivating cinematography for a very visually intensive viewing experience. The film takes place in the winter of 1996 portraying a French dance troupe throwing an after-party, but their celebrations take a demented, dark turn when everyone starts acting agitated and disoriented. Although lacking a proper story, the cinematography and stunning soundtrack by Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk) highlight this psychological horror for a bewildering, beautiful and brilliant movie. Perfect for the “artsy” type.

3 ½ out of 4 stars

“David Crosby: Remember My Name”
Distributed by Sony Picture Classics with a wide release 67 theaters
(Available to rent on Amazon and DVD/Blu-ray)

Over the past two decades, music lovers have been inundated with too many music documentaries with most of the stories/structures extremely interchangeable. However, director A.J. Eaton and producer Cameron Crowe carefully crafted a memorable movie (not just a documentary) that transcends time from the Woodstock generation to millennials almost coming full circle with an interesting, immersive film. To be honest I wasn’t a fan of David Crosby beforehand, but this film certainly can and will drastically alter your perceptions of Croz. The vulnerability and attentiveness with this amazing documentary definitely deserves all of your attention, especially if you truly care and appreciate music.

3 ½ out of 4 stars

“Greener Grass”
Distributed by IFC Films with a wide release 36 theaters
(Available to rent on Amazon and a tentative February DVD/Blu-ray release)

Easily the most bizzarre, yet brilliant film on this list. Imagine if John Waters, David Lynch and Wes Anderson made a film together you would get “Greener Grass.” The campiness immediately pulls you in and the stunning visuals are an amazing colorful combination (think Bo Welch production design especially “Edward Scissorhands”). Although self-depricating with the artificality of art for the sake of art, “Greener Grass” feels like a series of absurd sketches and 80s music videos combined to create a surprising, silly social commentary about chasing the American Dream. Honestly, it’s a delightfully disturbing and deranged version of classic Americana television.

3 ½ out of 4 stars

“Her Smell”
Distributed by Gunpowder & Sky with a wide release 69 theaters
(Available to rent on Amazon and DVD/Blu-ray)

One reason why I detest “Avengers: Endgame” besides being an overblown and overrated glorified cameo-filled film was it stranglehold on the box office. As a result, very few films attempted to open around its release due to limited screen availability and “Her Smell” sadly paid the biggest price unfairly getting shown on limited screens. Elisabeth Moss provides a tour-de-force performance as the lead singer and guitarist for the grunge/punk band Something She illustrating the downfalls of the music business. Clearly a thinly veiled/fictionalized Courtney Love-like musician, the gripping and mesmerizing performance has been universally hailed and seems akin to a modern day version of “The Rose.” Considering it’s all-star cast with Cara Delevingne, Dan Stevens, Ashley Benson, Eric Stoltz, Amber Heard and Virginia Madsen, you don’t want to miss this amazing movie. Moss’ performance is arguably the best female performance of the year!

3 ½ out of 4 stars

“High Life”
Distributed by A24 with a wide release 148 theaters
(Streaming on Amazon Prime and DVD/Blu-ray)

Don’t continue to dismiss Robert Pattinson’s acting abilities purely because he’s attached to a film. “The Lighthouse” should’ve silenced all of his haters proving he really can act. Having worked with David Cronenberg (“Cosmopolis”), James Gray (“The Lost City of Z”) and the Safdie Brothers (“Good Time”), Pattinson continues building an impressive resume seemingly going under the radar with stellar performances. Earlier this year, “High Life” was another notable addition slipping through the cracks. Claire Denis’ English language debut is an amazing science-fiction film about a group of criminals sent on a mission to investigate a black hole and endure various experiments. It’s a daunting and visually challenging film similar to “Solaris” (1972), but it’s easily the best sci-fi film of 2019.

3 out of 4 stars

“Last Black Man In San Francisco”
Distributed by A24 with a wide release 207 theaters
(Streaming on Amazon Prime and DVD/Blu-ray)

Joe Talbot’s dynamic directorial debut took Sundance by storm winning Best Directing and a Special Jury Prize, but somehow never caught on with a wider audience. I have discussed this film more times unprompted and frequently than any other movie on this list when mentioning the best surprises of the year (including a random 10 minute conversation in an UBER). The movie tells the story of Jimmie Fails as he tries to reclaim his childhood home, a Victorian house in San Francisco’s Fillmore District, and the journey of discovering himself with his best friend Montgomery “Mont” Allen in one of the most fresh and fascinating films of the year. It’s an exquisite, entertaining movie that’s equally stunning with a great message of identity.

3 ½ out of 4 stars

“The Nightingale”
Distributed by IFC Films with a wide release 79 theaters
(Streaming on Hulu and available to rent on Amazon)

Head on over to my review here


“Under The Silver Lake”
Distributed by A24 with a wide release 2 theaters
(Streaming on Amazon Prime and DVD/Blu-ray)

David Robert Mitchell’s highly anticipated follow-up to “It Follows” was repeatedly delayed and deemed dead on arrival when “Under The Silver Lake” was released in only (2) theaters total! The neo-noir follows 33-year-old Sam (Andrew Garfield) who sets out on an epic journey in the Southland trying to investigate the abrupt disappearance of his neighbor Sarah (Riley Keough). During his investigation, Sam discovers an interwoven conspiracy and tries to save Sarah before it’s too late. There’s no denying, “Under The Silver Lake” is an extremely entertaining and ambitious down-the-rabbit-hole film, but the polarizing post-modern feel stumbles too often for the average filmgoer. Just imagine Rian Johnson’s “Brick” with an infusion of David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive.”

3 out of 4 stars

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