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The Best Movies of 2019, So Far

Though 2019 has not been the greatest year for the movie industry—with tentpole sequels flaming out at the box office and critically praised comedies not getting the audience attention they deserve—there have still been some cinematic highlights to savor. As we head into the deeper doldrums of summer, here’s a look back at the films Vanity Fair film critics Richard Lawson and K. Austin Collins loved most in the first half of this uneasy year—10 movies worth celebrating and seeking out if you haven’t already.

Alita: Battle Angel

Robert Rodriguez’s crashing, clanging, zipping wonderment of a sci-fi action epic was cruelly overlooked stateside when it got a muffled release in February. Which is a shame, because the movie—produced by James Cameron—is a grandly silly, wholly entertaining throwback yarn, a Chosen One narrative set in a credibly dystopian cyborg future. Rosa Salazar gives a plucky and winning star-turn as the titular big-eyed, half-robot warrior, acting as a sturdy inroad to the intricately alive world first envisioned by manga artist Yukito Kishiro. Not everything in Alita works perfectly—the film is full of hokey clichés, and the love interest, while cute, isn’t exactly a dynamo—but when the film hits its whirring stride, it’s a true spectacular. And the story isn’t about the same 10 or so superheroes we keep revisiting, which is awfully refreshing. Too bad there almost certainly won’t be a sequel, despite a tantalizing final-scene tease of what might have been had Alita been given her due. —R.L.

Ash Is Purest White

Jia Zhangke is known for his controlled, aesthetically adventurous, mixed-genre studies of modernizing China. Lately he’s turned to genre fare to explore these questions more explosively than he had previously. The results, as this film exemplifies, are just as chilling as they ever were, if not more so. Qiao

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