This year was a really hard choice. From over 20 pickups, I made a hard selection, where some titles were tossed out with a breaking heart. But then… This list couldn’t be any different. I only wish every year was so generous in quality pictures.
This is a list of films I actually watched this year, no matter of the premieres. The rule is – this is the time around the premiere. Sometimes I just can’t watch something sooner or I saw a film sooner than it premiered in a certain country. So with further ado… Enjoy.
10. Pain and Glory
Pedro Almodovar’s autobiographical picture is sewn with pretty colours of his past but shows a melancholic story. Or simply a one about life? The main character played flawlessly by Antonio Banderas is a very ill film director who lacks inspiration. He tries countless of ways to ease his pain while trying to still be as creative as he used to be. “Pain and Glory” adorably presents the steps he took ever since his childhood. It shows the war between desire and limits of the human body.
The gentle tone and witty sequences are set in peculiar places from the memory of a boy. It gives plenty of thought while doing nothing and shows life exactly as it flows – sometimes better, sometimes worse, with a lot of planned meetings and a few nice surprises. And that there’s a way of living even after your young and healthy life.
9. Green Book
This film was praised and then forgotten right after its Best Film Oscar. And I may agree that it may not be an Oscar-worthy film but it is a perfect film to get an Oscar (and the 2019 nominations were… discredited). So yes, when half of the nominees are about racism, there’s like… 50% case a one about racism will score the main prize. And for me this was the best choice out of them.
I still remember what I felt after leaving the cinema. Maybe obvious but sometimes it’s not the case to make the story unpredictable. Sometimes the important one is to show the humanity and feelings. This is what Green Book is.
True story aside, the one we got was heartwarming, with an extreme character build-up. A simple one, but so beautiful, I couldn’t say no to it. Especially due to Viggo and Mahershala’s stunning performances.
8. Two Popes
Where do I start? If you haven’t Netflixed and chilled it already, it’s a high time to give it a go. I was very curious about what kind of pope story it would provide. After all, there’s a very thin line not to cross in religious adaptation (I’m looking at you, Sorrentino).
It turned out being spot-on. Exactly the kind of Vatican film I’d have wanted to watch. It wasn’t pretentious or expecting any kind of faith out of me. It was a dialogue between two elderly and wise men with completely different experiences. The reason behind Two Popes’ place in my heart is solely showing popes as human beings who are just like all of us… Only dressed in little, white hat.
7. Marriage Story
This is the most emotional movie of the year. There, I said it. I might have not even cried on it, but it still is.
Divorce aside, this is a story of helplessness with a completely empty head of what you can actually do. It tries to determine where borders are and what “I” think is best. This is a fight that’s not only unfair but unfair to people who did nothing to end up in this crazy situation. Collaterals of a war which was supposed to be a mere demonstration. There’s no reason nor intent to harm, it’s just life playing us when we try to bend the rules in our favour. No party is guilty. Only trying to make the system work for us. And there’re never winners. We lose every time, only to a different prize.
6. The Favourite
I feel like I watched it a lifetime ago. It already won all the possible awards and made Olivia Colman world-famous (high time). And now it feels like we all agreed that it’s an awesome film without any major thought about it. Or maybe it’s only me who thinks this way?
So it is another strong story from the director which gave us “The Killing of the Sacred Deer” and “Lobster”. This is a feminine story though. Moreover, it’s a powerful women story in a setting usually crowded with men.
Lanthimos shocks us all over again and gives another psychological slap to yet another group of people. I’d known I’d love this ever since I’d been aware of the production. And even though there’s plenty ahead in this list, The Favourite is still one hell impressive picture.
Seatbelts on and let’s crocodile rock!
The world seems to have enough of music icons biopics. And I do, too. But Rocketman proved to me that Bohemian Rhapsody didn’t necessarily have to be a bad film. It’s such a great film that focuses on everything that matters and doesn’t worry if the rating is higher than PG-13. It’s the truth. Extraordinary Elton by Taron Egerton is another thing to praise Rocketman for. With a bonus of young Elton and two most important women in little Reggie’s life – his mother and granny. This is flooded with emotions, properly sung music and a story of life. A story that happened in a way a bit darker but still with a happy ending. And it gave us all the collaborations of Elton and Taron. My life is way better with them in the world.
4. Avengers: Endgame
The ending we deserved and the start of something new. This huge closing of over 10 years of a story and a very important one for probably millions of fans.
Some say it’s complete fan service and for that matter, Infinity War was way better, but this is the fan service I needed after all these years. I am this group of people they made Endgame for. The ones who stayed with Marvel, who started reading comics and who got close to all the heroes on screen. I am aware that it is not a film for “Sunday cinema” and you have to watch everything that happened earlier to understand and actually appreciate it. And being that person, and probably more, I can’t help but feel everything Marvel Studios wanted me to feel. I cried where I should, I laughed on each reference and I adored all the Easter Eggs. This was a satisfying ending to the Infinity Saga – after all not all fandoms received one this year.
I still can’t force myself to watch it again.
So, I think Joker chevked all the boxes in the fame to-do list. It was praised in Venice and then in Toronto, then pretty highly spoken of by critics and then also fandom hyped over the roof. After that, it slowed down and calmed, only to make haters appear. Only then the voices of Todd Phillips’s (director) “copycat style” started showing and quickly raised to the pretence it still is today. Although there’s literally nobody who didn’t appreciate Joaquin Phoenix’s artistry of acting, there are plenty who say that the script is either too easy and trivial or, quite the opposite, misunderstood and boring. The controversy is even louder now when Todd got an Oscar nomination for directing.
And I frankly disagree. While deciding to give Joker the brown medal, I had to remind myself what I felt in the cinema. How much I appreciated this questionable story and every struggle of our little villain. I loved the idea, no matter how broadly it based on comics and real life. I loved how everything fit perfectly with one another, and how valuable Joker is to the genre. Joaquin made me speechless and there’s no point in saying how incredible he was. Furthermore, the manipulation – probably childlike – treats the viewer gently. It says we should follow their lead because they know where it goes and they promise something valuable. The duality of the world and the flaws in both system and chaos. Was I trusting Joker too much? Well, probably. But isn’t it what films should do? Make us believe? Because it made me believe and I wanted to believe.
2. The Lighthouse
I wrote this short review a while ago but it is still very accurate and not yet posted here.
The Lighthouse is not a film to remember. It will be the experience I shall never forget. I can barely name it a film. I haven’t seen anything like it in modern cinema and this will make history one way or another. As you’re probably aware of it, this is a story of the sea. A lot of sailors’ superstitions and myths from the bottom of the ocean. It is an eternal uncertainty of the supernatural forces and whether they actually have the power over us. The Lighthouse has a taste of Lovecraftian literature not only in subjects but in the atmosphere. It can be the only not-adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s work that works 100%.
Robert Egger (director) plays with the genre and with the art of filmmaking itself. The film is shot in an almost square format which gives the sense of uncertainty of what is happening in the wider perspective. After all, we are accustomed to panoramic views ever since the 1950s and a lot of us haven’t ever seen such narrow format ever. Even with my small experience with indie films, I believe it was way narrower than any small budget films at the New Horizons Festival.
It is also rich in craftsmanship. Acting is aces, with very long shots and plenty of language from the nineteenth century. If Defoe got an Oscar nomination for Van Gogh, he definitely should get one for Tom (well, he didn’t). I consider his role as richer than Pattison’s but this is yet another film Robert tries to prove to the world his talents. I think it’s very unfair that every time he plays in something, every single review is saying something about his Twilight past and that he isn’t just the vampire he kickstarted his career on. Times and times again he made it clear that his acting is real and his Batman can actually be something. So let’s leave Robert Pattison alone. He’s been paying for his early fame enough. In The Lighthouse, where nothing can be named ordinary, he’s playing a person that tries to be someone better than the world. And even though Willem Defoe gets the higher ground, he still proves his talent.
It hasn’t yet scored its Oscar and HBO wants to make American version out of it. Well, it should be enough of an advert. This film surprised me at every possible corner. Whenever I thought it was coming to an end, it just turned around. I’m barely familiar with Asian cinema, but I am pretty sure Parasite is something that will be remembered and praised in the future.
This is not exactly a film you should know the plot of. You can, but you’ll miss some fun where you try to discover the roads it takes. The paths of all the characters, the reasoning behind their actions, their motivations… Bong Joon Ho plots his tension second after second and even after we get to the end, we still have a lot to think about. In a way, Parasite tells the story of humanity. Its better and worse sides, things we can do to secure the well being of ourselves and our loved ones.
Why I love it that much? Because literally nothing gave me that much pleasure while watching it. It was witty and creative. I got inside this world and I wanted to know all about the characters. I wanted to love them, to hate them, to question them and to punish them. This is a film that is not only quality but also fun and this is exactly what I want from films the most.
- Knives Out
- Dead Don’t Die
- It Must Be Heaven
- Lost Transmissions
- Ad Astra