Oliver has written 17 reviews for films rated ★★★★ during 2019.

  • Uncut Gems

    Uncut Gems

    ★★★★

    Gone are the beauty and potency found in Good Time, yet present is still another technically well-made crime thriller that I found more frustrating than thrilling, with a career-best performance from Adam Sandler, who plays a scumbag jeweler and husband we wish we weren’t forced to root for; a frenetic pace mixed with a taut, reckless plot that almost never gives us time to breathe; several stressful scenes that raise the film to the level of exhausting; and a shocking albeit rightfully uncompromising ending.

  • The Conjuring

    The Conjuring

    ★★★★

    A good old-fashioned horror movie that doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks or illogical plotting but instead takes its time to invest us in the characters and pin us to our seats with its butt-clinching tension and an ominous atmosphere helped by a formal rigor whose fine attention to detail and understanding of genre and structure make its chills and scares more terrifying and effective than we could imagine.

  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire

    Portrait of a Lady on Fire

    ★★★★

    Exquisitely directed and handsomely acted, Portrait of a Lady on Fire makes up for a dull plot with a sumptuous cinematography that captures the beauty of its environment without the need to impress its audience while also showing that people’s feelings for each other do not end just because of the restrictions enforced by society in a male-dominated world, and I was taken aback by the final shot that accentuates that message.

  • One Cut of the Dead

    One Cut of the Dead

    ★★★★

    An impressive feat for low-budget filmmaking, One Cut of the Dead is an entertaining, unconventional zombie flick that lives up to its title and subverts viewers’ expectations by turning into something unexpectedly awesome.

  • Marriage Story

    Marriage Story

    ★★★★

    Showing an admirable maturity behind the camera and featuring some of the year’s best performances, Noah Baumbach brings us an intimate, perceptive, and enlightening divorce story crafted with the necessary acuity to make it authentic and emotionally powerful.

  • The Nightingale

    The Nightingale

    ★★★★

    Featuring an intense performance by Aisling Franciosi as the emotionally broken but unflinching protagonist, The Nightingale is a brutal, uncompromising, unpretentious, and solid revenge thriller from Jennifer Kent—set during the Black War while touching on some heavy themes and not hiding the atrocities committed by some degenerate soldiers.

  • On the Waterfront

    On the Waterfront

    ★★★★

    Based on a true story that took place in 1940s Hoboken, New Jersey, On the Waterfront contains an intricate, suspenseful plot that takes a gritty and realistic albeit melodramatic look at union violence, corruption, extortion, and racketeering on the New York waterfront and raises important questions about the nature of power with a dash of romance and character study while featuring Marlon Brando in a landmark performance for cinematic acting.

  • After Hours

    After Hours

    ★★★★

    Elevated by Griffin Dunne’s magnetic performance is this unusual New York night excursion that works as an exercise in Murphy’s law and as a metaphor for escaping the mundanity of life, while not always coherent, with a prominent style of vibrancy and oddity that combines the exuberance of Scorsese and the peculiarity of something from David Lynch.

  • Adaptation.

    Adaptation.

    ★★★★

    With intelligent dialogue that emulates the self-hatred of the film’s protagonist, this is an offbeat, humorous, and clever dramedy that understands the struggles of being a screenwriter and features one of Nicolas Cage’s best performances.

  • Incendies

    Incendies

    ★★★★

    Albeit messy, overlong, and slightly melodramatic, Incendies is a powerful, thought-provoking, and incredibly depressing drama, told in an unhurried pace through a family mystery and a series of flashbacks, that shows the inescapable burden of religious intolerance and is elevated by immaculate cinematography, a remarkable performance by Lubna Azabal, and a shocking ending.

  • Arctic

    Arctic

    ★★★★

    A solid, intense, and engaging survival thriller with a strong message of perseverance and fighting against all odds while featuring an excellent performance by Mads Mikkelsen and becoming even better thanks to its ambiguous ending.

  • Hereditary

    Hereditary

    ★★★★

    Ari Aster plays with genre tropes here in an unconventional way, attempting to blend horror with family tragedy while exploring themes such as grief and mental illness as well as creating an uncanny atmosphere through ominous music and skillful cinematography. And although the relentless misery and slow pace can make Hereditary lose its steam after a while, it is further elevated by Toni Collette’s tremendous performance.