Top Ten Films of 2019

I’ve been living in France since September, so I’ve seen both UK and France releases this year, which means that this list is properly dodgy, as there are films that would usually be in next year’s list (like Parasite, which doesn’t come out till February in the UK).  To not lose any in-between films, I’ve kept it to 2019 releases in either France or the United Kingdom.

Firstly, here is 20-11:

20. Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell)

19. Us (Jordan Peele)

18. The Sisters Brothers (Jacques Audiard)

17. Midsommar (Ari Aster)

16. The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers)

15. The Edge (Barney Douglas)

14. Ad Astra (James Gray)

13. Woman at War (Benedikt Erlingsson)

12. The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg)

11. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)

  1. Minding the Gap (Bing Liu)

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A skateboarding documentary, which like all the best documentaries it’s not really about the main subject matter.  The skateboarding acts as an aesthetic and a backdrop to stories on troubled youth, race, and toxic masculinity in places forgotten by the American establishment.  Where the film becomes something special is a gentle reveal of how much the director plays a part in the lives of the people on screen, and his own battles to get where he is now, thinking about the friends that made him.

  1. Parasite (Bong Joon Ho)

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This film is much higher on most people’s lists, and rightfully so, it is just about perfect.  I found love in other films from the year, however this is a masterful piece of work, even aside from the actual content of the movie.  It is a South Korean auteur picture that has managed to be marketed in the US, seen by huge audiences, which in itself is a hopeful thing.  The film is best seen without knowing a single thing about it, all you need to know is that you will be engrossed from start to finish.

  1. High Life (Claire Denis)

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Every year these lists are very personal, and the films that make it are usually ones that inspire me or shift my emotions in some way.  Claire Denis’ English language debut did both of those things, and it made me write THIS.

It is a space sex dungeon existential crisis orgasm and I fucking love it.

  1. A Hidden Life (Terrence Malick)

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The depth of this film is quite outstanding, telling the story of an Austrian farmer who refuses to fight in World War Two.  It asks questions about faith, resistance and protest without recognition, leading to a moving experience, and a mature ending.  Unsurprisingly it is ridiculously well shot, with wonderful Austrian countryside vistas, in a peaceful and mechanical setting.  Valerie Pachner as the left-behind wife Fani is one of my favourite performances of the year.

  1. Burning (Lee Chang – Dong)

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A transcendent work of fiction that works like a great novel does.  For a while it is a sort of love triangle movie, building to a stunning central scene, where the film changes completely to a noir-esque thriller.  You can take multiple interpretations from it, and I always enjoy it when an artform questions itself through technique, and metaphor, not being too concrete.  Steven Yeun’s performance as a massive smarmy bastard is great fun, amongst a film with endless meaning.

  1. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese)

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It is amazing that Scorsese even got this made, and it shows that he is still one of the greats, managing to pull a story this vast together.  Robert De Niro carries the film right through to the bitter end, the crushing phone call scene at the peak of it.  Joe Pesci’s performance is remarkable considering he’s hardly worked for twenty years, finding a character presentation in this film that is higher than being a simple gangster tough guy.   The film winds down to a profoundly sad ending, where Scorsese offers an idea about dying without epiphany – creating all this and it means nothing!

  1. Varda by Agnes (Agnes Varda)

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As a filmmaker and a human being Agnes Varda has given the world so much, and in this documentary, she reminds you of it all step by step.  She is giving lectures on her work, cutting to parts of her filmography, telling stories about her process.  The level of genius she has produced for the image and moving image is hard to comprehend, when you view the variety and sheer amount of work that she has done.  Every legendary artist should do this before they die.

  1. Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach)

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Again, perhaps another perfect movie.  Adam Driver and Scarlett Johannson disappear into these roles, moulding themselves around an excellent script that balances both sides of the argument in an honest way.  Johannson’s monologue on her initial meeting with divorce lawyer Laura Dern and Adam Driver singing ‘Being Alive’ are two of my favourite scenes of the year.

Full review HERE.

  1. If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)

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I’ve never quite a cinema experience like this, for a multitude of reasons, including my mental state and the person I was with.  Barry Jenkins is a sublime filmmaker, and this is a beautiful, heartbreaking adaptation of a James Baldwin novel that captures the essence of Baldwin’s writing.  The soundtrack from Nicholas Brittle is one of my favourites of all time, and I can’t listen to ‘agape’ without breaking down.  When the credits rolled, I was audibly blubbering.

One of the few things that I have written that isn’t actually bad HERE.

  1. Little Women (Greta Gerwig)

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This is a special film.  An entrancing rhythmic symphony of storytelling.  A tactile, physical, romantic, loving experience.  Meta, and intelligent in its nods to the original author of the book.  Gerwig imagines the story in a baseline gorgeous way, then adds subtilties that raise it to interesting high art.  I was falling off the Timothee Chalamet bandwagon slightly, but after this film, I am firmly back on it, some of the things he does with his face! And Saoirse Ronan as well is unbelievably adorable, and relatable in a role that she brings so much life to.  It is one of those films that I did not want to end, and I will be watching it continuously in the foreseeable future.

Wrote something about the film HERE.

HIGH LIFE – What Happens After the White Light?

The vertical line is blinking and the only thought running around the room, exterior from any kind of mind space is that the black hole created by god is a sex joke.  Or instead a point of insertion into the discovery of planetary desire or the foundation of human drive, rather than an example of any kind of creation humour.  Perhaps even assigning this idea shows the sickness of the society that physics, chemistry, and biology created, and not the divine one himself.  He only dreams of being that funny.  Science is the canvas and art is the paintbrush, someone must have said – what if the English language was the canvas and Robert Pattinson was the paintbrush, a tool held onto softly by the warm hands of Claire Denis.  That is a simple imagination hovering above a tangible and ultimately pointless object and still, we are dying to know what happened beyond the white light.  Prose guessing your way through digital celluloid has about as much meaning as peeling an orange and eating it, only to digest the fruit and then defecate its remains.  Actually, it’s closer to peeling an orange, throwing it at someone who does not acknowledge its existence then eating it, before vomiting it all back up over the same person who will continue to ignore your cries for attention.  The conclusion to HIGH LIFE has inspired something however, and now staring at the orange, you can only wonder its sugar content and what pesticides cover its skin.

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There is a sweetness to the red-carpet photos of Robert Pattinson holding the baby that played his daughter in the film, a sweetness that is doubled when you discover the child belongs to one of his close friends.  That sweetness is present in the film but seldom in that imagination hanging over it.  It’s not a radical take to note the danger of R Pats in HIGH LIFE, his character Monte is a celibate and a part-time pacifist, which is a much scarier version than the killer he may have once been.  The later scenes with his grown-up daughter are like one setting plays where there is a gun in the top drawer, except the upper-class characters haven’t been adulterous, they’ve been floating through space alone for more than a decade.  And they’ve been off-camera too, away from prying eyes and a judgemental western audience whose only experience of incestuous stories have been on fantasy television shows and porn websites.  It is certainly a twisted thought, and an animalistic brazen view of Monte, who is our unfortunate hero.  Denis’ intentions may have been accidentally cruel on this new platform for her output, and yet they are honest and true in Pattinson.  She cast him based on his intelligence, the kind of intelligence where Pattinson can deliver with clarity whatever is thrust upon him.  This is a total contradiction of course, it is not about clarity, because Denis does not show us the future once they have passed the white light.  Under final assessment, the predicted denouement would not indicate an evil, lustful Monte due to the brightness of Denis’ final shot.  It is far too heavenly.

Death for Monte would be a release, whilst death for his daughter would be a strange beginning.  With this explanation her journey into the world would be a short one, shorter than those flies that are born, mate and perish in a single day.  The drifting space shuttle is hardly anything more than a womb, a holding cell before heading into general population.  Take solace in the peace and dread the incoming small talk.  Monte can keep his daughter’s innocence by guiding her into the sub-molecular hole he’s been avoiding, and it seems she wants it as much as he does.  The step of the pier is a peculiar notion and they must know something we do not, Denis pressing down on the naivety of consciousness.  Our ego and our need for our feet to touch the ground is questioned when all you can hear is the running of a depleting water supply.  This is when the sick jokes and the sick epiphanies about ejaculation and restraint are thrown out of the window.  The chances of there being a fuck room in the next level of reality are slim, and it won’t really matter when sexual organs disintegrate as you do.  Pessimism, with the white light turning into an infinite black one, is an easy road to go down here.  It’s a clear answer and a dull one which is not Denis’ style.

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Optimism is misjudged, the poetic potential of a happy ending is rarely visited.  Denis’ masterpiece BEAU TRAVAIL enjoys a credits scene that rides the line, bobbing up and down in the middle.  Here, she slaps R Pats on the back and tells him to start walking.  It is all sensory and emotional.  Writing like this only occurs because of the success of the film, and the proverbial pasta is being thrown incredibly hard at the wall here.  The orange has become dilute, drowning in a tap water of paradoxical inferences that have a longer reach than what the text is potentially offering.  And this is an offer from Denis, and Pattinson and Juliette Binoche, edging her blouse further down one failed attempt at an American accent at a time, trying to collect sperm cells as the writer, director throws them all onto the table, not carelessly but with an accuracy that could cut through an eight inch wall with a side of A4.  Plotting is a nuisance and cinema is a distraction, the white light theories shattered when the income peaks at one point two mil, leaving the discourse in disarray, colliding against familiar enclosed walls.  Would it be cliché to say that none of it matters when the maker cuts to credits?

 

‘I think you’re foxy and you know it.’

‘I think the painful doom that is meandering towards Earth is really killing my hard-on.’