There were movies that didn't make either my list or receive honorable mention that shouldn't be overlooked: These include Honey Boy, and By the Grace of God.
And there are movies that might not have worked, but still offered something noteworthy. Cynthia Erivo brought fierce conviction to the role of Harriet Tubman in Harriet. Director Paolo Sorrentino's images created mystery and allure in the imperfect Loro, a look at the life of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. And cinematographer Jorg Widmer did inspired work in director Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life. Director James Gray made the nearly visionary Ad Astra, a movie in which an astronaut (Brad Pitt) traveled deep into space to discover himself.
I loved watching a Pakistani student have his life transformed by Bruce Springsteen's music in Blinded by the Light. As a grandmother, Zhao Shuzen did memorable work in The Farewell, director Lulu Wang's look at a young woman (Awkwafina) who returned to China to connect with the family that stayed behind.
A fine cast did impressive ensemble work in Olivier Assayas's Non-Fiction, a scalding look at the cut-throat world of French publishing.
And then there’s Willem Dafoe, an actor of great skill and adventurous spirit. Dafoe impressed in three movies: Pasolini, The Lighthouse and Motherless in Brooklyn. Taron Egerton became Elton John in Rocketman, the movie that the overrated Bohemian Rhapsody could have been.
Director Zhang Yimou's Shadow gave us a screenful of warriors, palace intrigue and some stunning images. Alfre Woodard finally received a showcase role in the deeply troubling Clemency, a movie about the impact capital punishment on those who wait to receive it and those who will have to administer it. Dan Gilroy's Velvet Buzzsaw took an amusingly satirical look at Los Angeles' trendy art world. And Jamie Foxx created a memorable portrait of a man wrongly convicted of murder in Just Mercy.
And now, for my list of the 10 best movies of 2019.
2. The Irishman
4. The Last Blackman In San Francisco
I know. Many hated this take on a comic-book villain from director Todd Phillips. But to hate this movie is to disregard one of the most astonishing screen performances ever. As Arthur Fleck -- a.k.a. the Joker -- Joaquin Phoenix paints a staggering portrait of urban loneliness that elevates the movie above its flaws and becomes a towering piece of cinematic performance art.
7. Pain & Glory
8. Marriage Story
9. Birds of Passage
Honorable mentions: American Factory, One Child Nation, Ash is the Purest White, Diane