Thursday, December 26, 2019

Listomania! My Favourite Films of 2019

“Sometimes it gets a little hectic out there
But right now, yo, we gonna up you on how we just chill”
-- Tajai of the mighty Souls of Mischief crew - 93 ‘til Infinity

It can be very, very tempting to put a button on the decade or the year as the final days roll past. A sentence or two to wrap things up in a decorative yet artificial and constricting bow. But there can be an infinitesimally fine line between the profound and the trite, the manufactured and the heartfelt. So let’s agree not to do any of that.
Here’s what I do know. This was the year when Souls of Mischief’s 93 'til Infinity turned up in Jonah Hill’s beautiful elegiac paean to skater boys Mid90s, and then accompanied Ali Wong and Randall Park in the delightful Always Be My Maybe (which featured Keanu Reeves in the greatest cameo appearance of the year), before making one final outing in Tim Story’s woefully misjudged buddy-comedy contribution to the Shaft dynasty.

Time to unveil my undisputed film of the year, followed by the rest in no particular order. Let’s do it.

Dolemite Is My Name (Craig Brewer)

Avengers Endgame (Anthony Russo / Joe Russo)

Border (Gräns) (Ali Abbasi)

The Chambermaid (La camarista) (Lila Avilés)

For Sama (Waad Al-Khateab / Edward Watts)

Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz)

One of the first films I saw in 2019 and I haven’t been able to shake it. Wonderfully strange with exhilarating tonal shifts, and you really don’t want to know any more than that to feel the full impact of it.

In Fabric (Peter Strickland)
Which I wrote about earlier in the year here.

Once Upon a Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)

Us (Jordan Peele)

War (Siddharth Anand)

This was a lot of movie. Imagine a Fast and Furious film stopping for a brief musical interlude so that the Rock can perform a song-and-dance number, and that barely covers it. Invigorating and overwhelming in the best possible ways.

And that makes Ten. But wait! There were a handful of others, every single one of which could have very easily nabbed a slot on that list. To the Almost Top Tenners...I salute you!

Close But No Cigar

3 Faces (Se rokh) (Jafar Panahi)
Beanpole (Dylda) (Kantemir Balagov)
John Wick Chapter 3 - Parabellum (Chad Stahelski)
Knives Out (Rian Johnson)
Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria) (Pedro Almodóvar)
Photograph (Ritesh Batra)
The Sisters Brothers (Jacques Audiard)
Thunder Road (Jim Cummings)

I have no idea what 2020 holds for us all. But I will leave you with a couple of fortifying epigrams to wear like luminescent armour in the days to come:

“The most courageous decision that you make each day is to be in a good mood.” -- Voltaire

“Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going.
No feeling is final.”
-- Rainer Maria Rilke

A very Happy New Year and love and peace to you all. See you at the movies.

It's never...

Friday, December 20, 2019

Listomania! My Favourite Films 2010-2019

Five years ago, in something akin to an insomniac fugue state, I cobbled together a decade-by-decade list of lists, from the 1930s right up to 2015. Now, as this decade weaves its way to its bewildering conclusion, it is most definitely time for an update. A symmetrically pleasing Top Ten to put a cap in whatever we’re calling this decade. Pretty majestical, aye? Let’s do it.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi)
“Me and this fat kid
We ran we ate and read books
And it was the best”

It really was.

Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland)
The obsolete audio technology of the recent past, the demolished innards of violated vegetables and the exquisite, excruciating sounds of the unseen The Equestrian Vortex. Slippery, sickly, elliptical and absolutely gorgeous.

John Wick (Chad Stahelski / David Leitch)
Keanu Reeves gives one of the decade’s greatest physical performances in this flawless action movie masterwork as “the one you send to kill the fucking Boogeyman”. When he snarls emphatically through gritted teeth that he’s back, it's not just John talking. Keanu was back with a vengeance. My most endlessly rewatched film of the decade.

Get Out (Jordan Peele)
I don’t believe in the sniffy, apologist concept of “elevated horror”, but I do believe in Jordan Peele. Holy shit! Disturbingly chilling, depressingly topical and exuberantly crowd-pleasing, Peele hits all the right notes, like a spoon hypnotically scraping the side of a teacup.

One Cut of the Dead (Kamera wo tomeruna!) (Shin'ichirô Ueda)
I summed this up best in my Top Ten of 2018 list: “You will grudgingly admire the 37 minute non-stop single opening shot, but you won’t really understand what all the fuss is about. Hang in there. Your persistence will be rewarded. By the time you reach the end, you’ll get it, I promise. Pom!

Faces Places (Visages villages) (JR / Agnès Varda)
I could wax rhapsodic about the penultimate feature of La Reine Agnès at length. And I did. Right here.

The Lone Ranger (Gore Verbinski)
I’ve been trying to convert people to the many pleasures of Verbinski’s much-maligned Western for years now (to varying degrees of success), mostly via this blogpost.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright)
I’m still totally in lesbians with it.

Big Hero 6 (Don Hall / Chris Williams)
From the lush production design of San Fransokyo to the soothing voice of an inflatable healthcare robot repeating “Tadashi is here”, this just might be the greatest superhero film of the century. You’ll believe that a fist-bump can make you cry.

Killer Joe (William Friedkin)
If Friedkin never makes another narrative feature film, this is a helluva good one to go out on. Grungy, visceral, warped and with just the right amount of nastiness. It’s worth having a read of this Q&A that Friedkin did at the BFI Southbank around the time of the film’s release.

That’s the decade done, but I’ve still got one more list to unveil before the year fades to black. My favourite films of 2019...Coming Soon!