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10 Great 2019 Movies No One Talks About

Every year a bunch of films aren’t talked about; they aren’t necessarily overlooked for awards or recognition, but they are films that dropped, overlooked at festivals, or even both. Sadly, they don’t get the attention they deserve, but true cinephiles can discover them in time. Therefore, here are 10 great films from 2019 that no one talks about.

 

1. 3 Faces – Jafar Panahi

Ever since his house arrest, the relentless Jafar Panahi has found ways to express his artistry in his native Iran. This time, alongside fellow actress Behnaz Jafari, he goes searching for a missing girl and aspiring actress in northwestern Iran, after witnessing a devastating plea over her iPhone.

What follows is a road movie with an observant approach and patient camerawork that makes you feel like you’re in the lands of northwestern Iran. We see the people, the culture, and landscapes change, much like the thought process of Panahi and Jafari. Of course, the film secretly comments on Iranian society, the outside cities, and the repression of its people, particularly women, in the case of the missing girl.

Panahi definitely crafted his most cinematic film since 2011 and his most diverse film as well. With beautiful moments on the road going from fierce to comedic and never shying away from the commentary on culture, it’s a film to be explored, much like Panahi and Jafari do in their own country.

 

2. The White Crow – Ralph Fiennes

Featuring an international cast and assorted direction by Fiennes, the film tells the story of Rudolf Nureyev and his ultimate defection to the West as a dancer from the Soviet Union. Shot in a beautifully 16 mm portrait, making this larger-than-life story more personal and in a form of documentary style, he sees this artist’s turning point and his life’s background to that point.

Fiennes manages to explore many elements of Nureyev’s decision and artistry in the film with different results. For example, we see young love, psychological thriller aspects, or the spy genre, all mixed into one man’s mind. This might cause the narrative to drift, but it ultimately supports the reasons for his ultimate defection in 1961. With stunning dance numbers and a commitment to craftsmanship, such as the different ratio and look of flashback sequences, Fiennes captured the man and moment with grace.

For any fans of biographical, historical, or European-centric films, don’t miss this film.

 

3. Donnybrook – Tim Sutton

In the earliest release of the year, Tim Sutton reaches new heights that explore the desperation of real America in a hauntingly brutal film. The film interweaves between a devil-like hitman and his young girlfriend; a man preparing for a bare-knuckle fight that can save his family’s life; and a down-and-out cop looking for peace of mind, amongst other things. Sure, this sounds maybe like a film noir or a B movie, but Sutton’s brutally poetic film must be experienced.

Despite the fact that it operates on a narrative that might be familiar, it is utterly unpredictable in terms of character, violence, and choices. It’s not necessarily a difficult watch, but you feel these characters’ pain and despair as Sutton doesn’t shy away from the commentary.

The film certainly captures real life in America in today’s age, but with Sutton’s approach, it’s elevated to brutal, violent poetry.

 

4. Frankie – Ira Sachs

After solidifying a string of New York films grounded in realism, Ira Sachs crafted an international cast led by Isabelle Huppert about three generations of a family over the course of a vacation day in Portugal. What follows is a conversation-heavy film on human relationships in the vein of Maurice Pialat or Eric Rohmer.

From an observant camera length and distance, his characters interweave and literally pass each other on the streets of Sintra. And we see the flaws, hopes, betrayals, and optimism of these people. It’s the tender moments of wisdom and grace mixed with uncertainty about the future that make us think about our own lives during the film, without ever leaving the characters behind.

Sachs has never shied away from difficult situations in his films, but here, with its minimal approach on storytelling, he gets to the roots of what these people want, think, and desire. It’s a film to watch on a Sunday afternoon, or to get you in the mood to think about what really matters in your life and the people to share it with.

 

5. End of the Century – Lucio Castro

A film that almost feels like a hidden gem of Queer Cinema from the 1980s, Lucio Castro explores the relationship between two men from the past and present. Played out in pure poetic realism, we see these two men from their casual sexual encounter to their first encounter, nearly 20 years earlier in Barcelona.

Castro allows for scenes and frames to linger, exploring these characters’s feelings of love, loneliness, and everything in between in the architecture of the city. It plays in fiction and the reality of the paths these two men take.

Never shying away from a sexy or haunting presence, it’s something that only film can capture – poetry, relationships, music, framing, and the sounds of any given moment. If you’re a fan of relationship films, straight or gay, or poetic cinema, this film feels both of the moment and classic at the same time.

The 25 Best English-Language Movies of The 2010s

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With 2020 already here, it’s time to recap some of the best films from the last decade. Without further adieu, here are the top 25 American-made movies from the 2010’s.

 

25. Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan (2010)

Starting from the bottom, Darren Aronofsky gives a hallucinatory take on Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in Black Swan. Nina (Natalie Portman), is gunning for the lead role in an upcoming ballet. So is another talented, and tattooed, dancer (Mila Kunis) who uses sex to get what she wants. But who will she seduce; Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), the art director in charge of casting, or Nina herself? As the stress of auditions takes a toll on Nina’s physical, and mental, health, the line between real and surreal become blurred.

Steeped in obsessive one-upmanship and sexual tension, Black Swan demonstrates Aronofsky’s most mature filmmaking while earning Natlie Portman her first Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. It also suggests that even in the best of us, a dark side resides.

 

24. The Social Network (2010)

The 2010’s saw more people interacting through a screen than ever before. How was this achieved? Two words; social media. From Instagram to Twitter, LinkedIn to Tinder, David Fincher’s The Social Network identifies the foundation of all these online applications. Adapted from Ben Mezrich’s bestselling book, The Social Network documents the advent of the world’s most popular social media platform.

 

23. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

A folk-singing couch surfer (Oscar Isaac) finds himself questioning his career in the Coen bros.’ Inside Llewyn Davis. After a cat runs away from its owner’s Greenwich Village apartment, Llewyn Davis, the former member of a popular duet folk group whose partner committed suicide, reluctantly assumes responsibility over it. He also discovers his angry ex-girlfriend is pregnant with his child and wants an abortion. Tired beyond belief, hitch-hiking his way across the state, Llewyn is about to throw in the towel. But if he does he may miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime.

Accompanied by the original song “Fare Thee Well” performed by Marcus Mumford from Mumford & Sons and Oscar Isaac himself, Inside Llewyn Davis offers invigorating insight into the life of a starving artist.

 

22. The Witch (2015)

Robbert Eggers caught audiences’ attention with The Witch set in 17th century New England. A christian father and his family are exiled and cast into the wilderness where they must fend for themselves. Finding refuge near a foreboding forest, what can only be attributed to witchcraft results in the disappearance of a newborn baby.

With tensions high and food in short supply the family begins to turn on each other, suspecting the eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) to be in league with Lucifer. As the influence of black magic escalates, evil manifests itself in the form of a billy goat named Black Phillip who kills Thomasin’s father and recruits her into his coven. Juxtaposing Old English monologues with pagan folklore, Eggers first film is a force to be reckoned with!

 

21. It Follows (2014)

David Robert Mitchell directs a modern horror about a supernatural STD that stalks its victims in It Follows. After nineteen-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe) has sex with her boyfriend in the backseat of his car, a slow-moving entity that only she can see starts following her wherever she goes. To make matters worse, Jay must transfer the curse by sleeping with someone else otherwise she’ll die.

Where their parents’ teeth were chattering to Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street in their younger years, Mitchell places this millennial-drawn monster above the bed instead of beneath it. As convincing as it is ridiculous, audiences must decide for themselves whether It Follows is a scare tactic to discourage sexual activity among younger viewers or rather a campy horror, no more.

 

20. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

leonardo-dicaprio-the-wolf-of-wall-street

Having directed five films over the last ten years, it is difficult to choose which of Scorsese’s 2010-2019 releases most deserves to be on this list. Nevertheless, The Wolf of Wall Street seems like a pretty safe bet.

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a New York City stock broker who will do just about anything to make money. This includes selling penny stocks with get-rich-quick promises and defrauding his investors. Hopped up on cocaine and quaaludes, Belfort indulges in $25,000 dinners and five-star escort services.

Catching the eye of F.B.I. Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), Belfort can either cooperate with his investigation and inform on his accomplices or serve time behind bars. Supported by performances from Joah Hill, Margot Robbie and Matthew McConaughey and a budget of $100 million, The Wolf of Wall Street is an unfortunate true story about an industry that not only allows, but encourages, the same kind of recklessness that Belfort exemplified during the 1990’s.

 

19. Drive (2011)

Dialogue takes a backseat to an 80’s synthesizer in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. When he isn’t daylighting as a mechanic/stuntman, a mobster (Ryan Gosling) transports criminals in five minute increments. But as the little-to-say and less-to-lose stick shifter falls for his nextdoor neighbor (Carrie Mulligan), a robbery gone wrong sends apathy out the window. With on-screen contributions from Bryan Cranston and Oscar Isaac, Drive is high-octane action with a neon-noir twist.

Following his European crime series the Pusher trilogy featuring an up-and-coming Mads Mikkelsen, Drive is Refn’s second movie to make it to mainstream screens after Bronson (2008) and the first to be filmed in the U.S. With an affinity for graphic violence and drug smuggling, the Danish director would return to obscurity in 2013 with Only God Forgives, also starring Gosling, that centers around eye-for-an-eye crime in Thailand.

 

18. Get Out (2017)

After establishing himself as a talented stand-up comedian alongside Keegan-Michael Key on Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, Jordan Peele changed lanes for his directorial debut Get Out, a horror about brainwashing racists.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an African-American black and white photographer, takes a trip with his girlfriend, Rose (Allison William), to meet her seemingly innocent, albeit ignorant, parents for the first time. Before he knows it, Chris is hypnotized and sitting at the center of a huge conspiracy. With nothing but cotton swabs to intercept his captor’s white-supremesist plans, Chris must defeat his girlfriend’s family and put an end to their Aryan ideals.

Given the prevalence of racial tension throughout the 2010’s, Peele takes this opportunity to make some unnerving observations about how we as a society treat people of color. Deeply embedded in behind-the-scenes bigotry, Get Out invites us to discuss these issues openly instead of masking our intolerance with insincere pleasantries.

The 10 Best Written Movies of 2019

“To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script, and the script.” — Alfred Hichcock.

As stated by many masters of cinema, the script is one of the most important aspects of a film – perhaps the most important aspect. Some may claim that images, experimentation, and atmosphere are superior, and while those contribute a lot, it’s the script that creates characters that remain in your memory and change with the audience; it’s the script that grants themes for the audience to question; it’s the script that ultimately calls the audience to action, for better or worse. After all, look at the numerous crimes and dreams inspired by movies. Words are equally as important as celluloid. Words are what bring celluloid into existence.

Without further adieu, these are the best written movies of 2019, in no particular order. The themes, ideas, and characters in these movies will remain within you, inspiring you, challenging you, all the while making you laugh and cry.

 

10. I Lost My Body

In a world where animation isn’t considered by most to be a legitimate, serious art form, it’s an enormous gulp of fresh air when an animated movie surfaces that isn’t a mindless cash grab from some big studio, and Jeremy Clapin’s “I Lost My Body” does not disappoint. Based on the book “Happy Hand” by Guillaume Laurent, it’s the story of a disembodied hand that breaks free from a Parisian lab, embarking on a quest to find its body. As the hand journeys, it receives flashbacks to its life with a body. This hand is revealed to belong to Naoufuel, a young pizza delivery boy living a tragic and emotionally numb life, until he falls in love with the mysterious Gabrielle, a late night pizza client with whom Naofuel converses.

This film could have taken a more conventional approach with a teen love story, but the surrealist aspect it dons creates a more daring, emotionally raw experience for the viewer, unafraid to roam into disgusting territories. One can appreciate the surface level creativity that the juicy, visually driven surrealism has to offer, but if one decides to delve deeper, they will be rewarded with themes of loss, love, growth and life. “I Lost My Body” is a perfect anthem to the broken-hearted and sever-handed. Perhaps one must lose the body in order to discover the mind.

 

9. The Irishman

It’s a shame that so many wished for “The Irishman” to be a miniseries, because it’s best watched in one sitting.

“The Irishman” encompasses the life of Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran as he reminisces the defining moments in his life – the good, the bad, the big, the small, and the downright ugly. He’s been a veteran, a gangster, a leader, a father and a friend. And although from the outside it may have seemed that he lived life to its fullest, he suddenly finds himself an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone. He accomplished much, but failed to focus on life’s most important thing: family. Friendship is one thing, and the interactions between characters Sheeran and his mob friends Hoffa and Bufalino are expertly written – a little slice of heaven incarnated onto the silver screen – but friends don’t stay young forever. When you put love into a family, you’ll experience a love everlasting.

“The Irishman” is screenwriter Steven Zaillian’s finest work alongside “Schindler’s List,” serving as a call to action, telling this world not to be obsessed with the gangster life, and instead to pour that ambition into the dad life. The themes of life and age’s consequences are bound to wrench tears out of its audience. It’s Martin Scorcese’s thematic companion to “Goodfellas,” but as a tragedy.

 

8. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is a historical revisionist Hollywood fairytale that follows actor Rick Dalton and his stunt double/best friend/personal assistant Cliff Booth, and their strange cruise through a Hollywood that’s passing them by, with the Manson murders and the career of Sharon Tate serving as the story’s backdrop.

The film doesn’t have much of a “plot” to speak of, so Dalton and Booth’s relationship is the glue that enhances its ambling tone. When the two are introduced, Dalton is a tad bit unlikable due to his unfiltered narcissistic tendencies, and we’re unsure of what to feel for Booth because of his shady wife-killing past. But their interactions with themselves and others grow on you until you’re completely in love with them. We realize Dalton’s flaws and Booth’s dedication are what makes them grounded and relatable.

It seems that ever since 2011’s “Django Unchained,” several internet critics have complained to have a “Tarantino fatigue,” dismissing him as derivative, edgy, and controversial just for the sake of sparking controversy. His latest entry disproves those claims. Wholesome and vulgar, over the top and grounded, violent, but also oddly… heartwarming? These may be a few words to describe this movie. What could’ve been another homage to exploitation is instead a meditation of a Hollywood that could have been. What if Hollywood was still a place of unashamed genre pieces and auteur-driven works? What if all its great tragedies were non-existent, unable able to define Hollywood into what it’s become today? By the end, you’ll yearn to return to the Hollywood of Tarantino’s childhood, too.

 

7. Doctor Sleep

In a year flooded with Stephen King content, “Doctor Sleep” stands superior to the peanut gallery. Mike Flannagan perfectly meshes Stephen King’s “The Shining” with Stanley Kubrick’s, and this makes for a very entertaining watch. It leaves behind the atmospheric horror of the 1980s classic and instead is a pretty accurate dark fantasy adaptation of Stephen King’s novel “Doctor Sleep.” Picking off years after the traumatic events of the Overlook, Danny Torrance and his mother are living in Florida, and Danny is struggling to outgrow the cycle of alcoholism that he inherited from his father. His encounter with another teen who has the “Shining” (telepathic powers) lead him on a journey to defeat Rose the Hat and True Knot, a vampyric cult that feeds off innocent Shiners.

“Doctor Sleep” isn’t superior to its predecessor, but the screenplay presents a scenario with themes of fathers and their sons that are far more character-driven and relatable to the average audience.

 

6. Ad Astra

“Ad Astra” is this year’s daunting, transcendental space epic. A brilliant fusion of nuanced writing and filmmaking from director/screenwriter James Gray and screenwriter Ethan Gross comes a story about Roy McBride, who receives news that his father (lost from a deep space mission 30 years before) may still be alive. McBride, a person as emotionally distant as space itself, must travel to Neptune to solve the mystery of his father as well as the ominous power surges threatening the safety of the solar system.

Through the realistic depictions of space travel, Gray is able to show us the emotions of McBride, which are restrained yet visceral. Marrying the meditation of Tarkovsky’s “Solaris” with the suspenseful intensity of Nolan’s “Interstellar,” “Ad Astra” is able to explore themes about the weaknesses of humanity, fathers, and their son’s silent image of God.

The 10 Worst Movies of 2019

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Though it is always preferable to celebrate and recognise the films that audiences and critics enjoyed and rated highly in any given year, inevitably along with the best films of the year lists will come the worst films of the year lists too.

Film is, and will always be, subjective. And so, box office ratings and reviews may not always be the best signifier of what any one person will enjoy or on the flip side, hate. That being said, there are certainly films where the general consensus is that of derision and so the films in question are often ones that do fall below the standards expected from audiences and critics.

2019 saw a number of films that disappointed audiences and that did not live up to their potential. These films spanned many genres and showed that even well-established actors and directors were not immune from producing bad films.

 

1. Polar

A wannabe Quentin Tarantino/Frank Miller inspired film that is an insult to the genre. It is so stupidly unintelligent that it is cringeworthy to watch at times. The plot is weak, the writing is full of embarrassing exposition and the acting is awful. Mads Mikkelsen, who by all accounts is a great actor, looks completely bored in a tedious role which ticks every trope in the book.

The plot is repetitive and just feels like a series of a different ways to shoot someone’s brains out all over the wall. Imagine if you gave a group of particularly immature and violently minded teenage boys a film budget and Polar is what they would probably come up with. Perhaps it can be argued that Polar is meant to be received as pure trashy entertainment, but it fails even as that. If you want to watch a film that has multiple close ups of a corpse’s erection, then this is the film for you.

 

2. After

Based on the popular book series, After already had a legion of fans ready to adore the adaptation of their favourite novel. But what about everyone else? Would they be able to enjoy After regardless? And therein lies one of After’s biggest problems – it doesn’t know who its target audience is meant to be.

Yes, of course the readers of the novel form a part of the target audience, but they are going to watch it regardless. After follows students in college and deals with sex and relationships, so in that way it suits a more mature audience. But the romance is so insipid and silly that it feels more like the film is aimed at younger teenagers. Neither of these aspects marries up properly, so overall After seems slightly inappropriate for the younger audience and a bit too silly for an older audience.

The characters are terrible. Every one of them is a stereotype – the good girl, the bad boy, the nice boy, the bad girl, the suffocating parent, the absent parent, blah blah blah. Sometimes stereotypes cannot be avoided and are inevitable, but none of the characters had any depth. It was difficult to root for anyone or to be invested in them.

The main plot point of the film is the supposed ‘intense’ romance between Tessa and Hardin, an attraction that cannot be denied or contained. That’s all well and good – until it becomes clear that that the chemistry between the actors is not really that strong. It is also a problem if the romance comes out of nowhere, with little build up.

Throughout After, the disappointing trope of the nice girl falling for the bad boy is at the forefront of all that is happening. If this film ends up mainly being enjoyed by a younger audience, then it feels like it is setting an uncomfortable precedent for its young viewers. Putting that issue aside, Hardin’s ‘badness’ appears to be based on little else than his tattoos and penchant to be quite moody.

After does boast some nice shots, and a surprisingly emotional end scene, which could have almost saved the film, but overall After is just not strong enough in any category to elevate it from ending up on lists such as this.

 

3. In the Tall Grass

There may be nothing obviously wrong with the performances, cinematography or technical aspects of In the Tall Grass – those are all fine. No, the main issue with In the Tall Grass is that the film’s premise hinges on one very particular and major element. And that element is this – can grass ever really be that scary? And unfortunately, the answer to that is no grass is not scary. It’s not scary at all. And then later on, another nature-based element is added in an attempt to ramp up the scares. This time we must ask ourselves – is this rock scary? And again, the conclusion is no it is not.

If faced with the situation that the characters in the film found themselves in, then the nature in question probably would be terrifying but on screen and as a horror film concept, In the Tall Grass just comes across as laughable. As a breeze ripples across the vast field of rich, green grass, it’s just very pretty and scenic. It’s not like the scene in Jurassic Park where the grass is moving because there are velociraptors in it – now that was pretty scary! But more importantly, because the core premise of the film doesn’t work, the rest of the film just feels pointless and silly. In the Tall Grass completely fails as a horror film because it is not in the least bit scary.

Based on the novella by prolific horror author Stephen King, In the Tall Grass may work well on page but it doesn’t translate well to the screen. Even more common horror tropes like the creepy kid fell flat (because the kid was actually quite cute). And the gore felt like a desperate attempt to somehow make this film worthy of a horror tag.

 

4. Rambo: Last Blood

Sylvester Stallone is adept at getting a lot of leverage from his film franchises (Rocky being the perfect example) and so why not return yet again with another popular character? Wouldn’t it be nice to give John Rambo a proper send off and wrap the character up? Well yes it would, so it is a pity that Rambo: Last Blood does nothing of the sort. And shock horror, it even leaves the door open for another film – Rambo: Last Blood One Last Time anyone?!

Mindlessly gory and ingloriously mind numbing, Rambo: Last Blood fails on almost every level. The script is clunky, the characters are boring and the entire film appears only to be setting up to the violent climax at the end. A finale that is reliant on CGI gore and brutality.

If Stallone is intent on giving audiences more from the characters that they know and love, then everyone should cross their fingers and hope for more Balboa and let Rambo be at rest forever.

 

5. Serenity

So, you have just watched the trailer for this film and now for fun, think of an unexpected twist that might happen during the film. No matter what strange or out there twist you come up, it is incredibly unlikely that you will guess what actually happens – and that is not meant in a good way. It is like someone had the skeleton of a really clever and intriguing premise for a film and then put it into the completely wrong setting, wrote a questionable script and then somehow made Academy Award winning actors look like amateurs.

In a crowded film market chock full of remakes and sequels, perhaps Serenity is the unique and original film that we all need. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that this is the only worst films of 2019 list that Serenity has ended up on. At least Serenity will provoke discussion, if not a lot else.

10 Great Movies To Watch If You Liked Sergio Leone

The impact of Sergio Leone’s filmography is colossal. Many of Leone’s signature touches from his classic Man with No Name trilogy become norms in the Western genre. Ultimately, his tragically short filmography leaves one wanting  more. Fortunately, a quick Google search of popular spaghetti westerns can offer a long list of films that very closely resemble Leone’s iconic output. Therefore, the purpose of this list is to uncover — for the most part — movies that unexpectedly reveal similarities to Leone’s signature style or sensibilities that most Google searches won’t offer.

 

1. Track of the Cat (1954)

Track of the Cat (1954)

William A. Wellman’s Track of the Cat is a bold American western, fusing elements of arthouse and melodrama. The movie follows a Califronian family isolated in a ranch. Gradually, they become overcome by domestic tensions, hostile weather, and fear of a panther supposedly prowling in the mountains. Wellmam, the director of Wings and The Ox-Bow Incident, conceived of the movie through its relationship to colour. The film relies predominantly on the high contrast between the overwhelming shades of white and black. With some vibrant exceptions, most other colours are muted. Indeed, it’s a heavily symbolic film and a definitive outlier in the landscape of 1950s westerns.

Far more subdued and foreboding than anything Leone ever touched, Track of the Cat nonetheless shares a similar taste for genre subversion. At a time when the western genre was dominated by John Wayne/John Ford or James Stewart/Anthony Mann collaborations, Wellman aspired to take the genre in a different direction. In Track of the Cat, everything is a metaphor and there’s no hint of glory in the Wild West. Other westerns of the era would still sometimes critique the idealized underpinnings of masculinity and racist American valor embedded in the genre. Yet Wellman’s film takes a more radical stance, revealing these qualities as myth from the very beginning.

 

2. Yojimbo (1961)

Yojimbo (1961)

Cinema of the West owes a lot to Akira Kurosawa. Star Wars is, of course, The Hidden Fortress reimagined as a space opera. Even countless classics from the western genre are remakes or riffs on some of Kurosawa’s most iconic samurai films. John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven is Seven Samurai with cowboys. Even Leone’s own A Fistful of Dollars is an unofficial remake of Yojimbo.The premise is the same: a lone figure finds himself in the midst of a conflict between two rival gangs and begins playing them against each other. However, Leone’s own creative impulses result in a very different movie.

Perhaps most notably, Toshiro Mifune’s performance is in stark opposition to Clint Eastwood’s. Mifune is wild, energetic and bubbling with violent glee. Eastwood is famously stoic, watching situations unfold without seeming particularly engaged. Yojimbo is, as a whole, some of Kurosawa’s most unrestrained action cinema. Mifune’s hacks his way through assailants, splattering blood and scattering limbs. Kurosawa collaborates with legendary cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, filming in stark, gorgeous black and white. The film’s aesthetics and temperament are vastly different from Leone’s rendition in A Fistful of Dollars. Yet the two distinct films are united by a gleeful predilection for suspense and deception.

 

3. The Great Silence (1968)

The Great Silence (1968)

Sergio Corbucci, a contemporary of Leone, delivered his magnum opus with The Great Silence. Jean-Louis Trintignant plays a mute gunslinger named Silence who’s hunted by a collective of bounty hunters led by a sadistic Klaus Kinski. While the movie leans into similar iconography and stylings as Leone, it’s ultimately far more mournful and elegiac. Even Ennio Morricone’s score avoids the grandiose dramatics he brings to Leone’s works, instead focusing on the sadness of the western. The film is among the western’s bleakest works, trampling over any sense of hope. Corbucci was influenced by the recent, tragic murders of Che Guevara and Malcolm X, and wanted to craft a condemnation of America’s eternal tendencies towards hatred and violence.

The Great Silence is packed with unforgettable imagery. Corbucci avoids the classic western landscapes of wide deserts and sun-glowing skies. His film is cold. Landscapes drown in thick snow, and a wild wind howls across the soundtrack. The warmth and radiance of the old John Wayne western is dead. The Great Silence is about a transition into a period without hope. In Corbucci’s western, there’s no room for heroes. His take on the spaghetti western is far more nihilistic than Leone’s. In The Great Silence, America is irredeemably broken.

 

4. The Wild Bunch (1969)

The Wild Bunch (1969)

After the success of Italy’s spaghetti westerns, American westerns changed. It happened pretty abruptly with Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, a film whose slow-motion, blood-splattering shootouts feel revolutionary to this day. The movie is far more chaotic than anything Leone ever released. With its signature quick cuts rapidly teleporting the camera across a battleground, it can be hard to follow the fight. That’s, however, what makes The Wild Bunch so mesmerizing. Peckinpah and his editor Lou Lombardo make visceral action scenes, prioritizing chaos over coherence. The film’s hectic cuts toss the audience headfirst into violent shootouts.

Peckinpah is a tremendous filmmaker, maligned in his own time and still underrated today. His films, bloodsoaked and gritty, introduced a newfound depravity to mainstream American cinema. However, his reputation as merely a sadistic artist feels reductive. Peckinpah was also an incredibly sincere filmmaker, deeply concerned both with how his characters repress their emotions and also the life-shattering consequences of violence. He wasn’t merely a trigger-happy lunatic.

There’s no better evidence than Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, a film where countless acts of violence have severe and devastating emotional repercussions. This degree of sincerity is absent from much of Leone’s early work, but it begins to trickle in. By the end of his career, with Once Upon a Time in America, Leone’s relationship to violence had changed. America, like best Peckinpah’s work, is a film deeply concerned with the results of violence, both on its victims and its perpetrators.

 

5. 1900 (1976)

Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 is the director’s finest work. It’s a five-hour epic, tracking the history of Italy’s political landscape in the first half of the 20th Century. The movie follows two childhood friends (Robert de Niro and Gérard Depardieu) into adulthood. The men are opposites, raised from contrasting socioeconomic backgrounds and maturing into polarized ideologies. Bertolucci uses these characters to explore the clash between Italian socialism and fascism.

Leone’s films were never overtly concerned with political systems or ideology. However,  1900 bears the markings of a clear predecessor to Once Upon a Time in America. Some of the key players are present; De Niro and Ennio Morricone are some of both movies’ greatest assets. 1900, much like America, is concerned with tracing the evolution of a country through specific relationships. At the core of both movies is a tragic friendship. Bertolucci and Leone both shared a knack for capturing something grand and epic through moments of intimacy.

Unfortunately, 1900 was a commercial failure at the time of its release. Its catastrophic box office revenues drove producers away from the risk of distributing incredibly long films in wide release. As a result, Once Upon a Time in America was cut into an increasingly short film, until it was released domestically at almost half its full length.

All 20 Best Picture Winners of The 21st Century Ranked From Worst To Best

The Academy Awards have changed considerably in the 21st Century. What is seen as an “Oscar movie” has changed considerably, and thanks to longer awards seasons that put more emphasis on festival debuts, the eventual winners are often determined based on the aggressive studio marketing campaigns.

The award for Best Picture is often a representation of the year in film, and some of these winners have aged better than others. Sometimes, Best Picture goes to a genuine masterpiece like On the Waterfront, The Godfather, or Silence of the Lambs, while other times it can go to a thoroughly forgettable film like Out of Africa or Driving Miss Daisy.

In the past twenty years, the Oscars have awarded both great and mediocre films, as well as one thoroughly terrible one. While the Oscars aren’t the end all determination of the best in film, they do indicate how the industry feels at the time of a current ceremony. Here are all of the Best Picture winners of the 21st Century, ranked worst to best.

 

20. Crash

One of the worst Best Picture winners in history, Crash is a colossal creative failure that is representative of all of the Oscars’ worst tendencies. It’s a film that aims to subvert stereotypes, yet only conforms to these stereotypes through its shallow characters and cheesy means of interconnecting them with its convoluted narrative. While the film asks the audience to look deeper into every character as it explores xenophobia and race relations, the screenplay itself doesn’t develop any of the characters adequately.

The cast can’t be faulted for the end product, and admittedly Thandie Newton, Michael Pena, Matt Dillon, and Sandra Bullock give standout performances. Crash has noble intentions, but it comes off as a first draft that doesn’t grasp the complexity of modern Los Angeles. In a year that saw Steven Spielberg’s devastating Munich, George Clooney’s fascinating media study Good Night, and Good Luck, Bennet Miller’s powerful biopic Capote, and Ang Lee’s modern classic Brokeback Mountain, the choice to give Crash the Best Picture Oscar is downright embarrassing.

 

19. The Shape of Water

It should be noted that there is a massive quality gap between #19 and #20; Crash is a terrible film, and The Shape of Water is a thoroughly charming tribute to movie monsters and Old Hollywood. The characters are all likeable and charming, and while the struggling relationship between a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) and an amphibian creature (Doug Jones) fits the mold of any timeless romance; Guillermo del Toro even goes as far as having a musical number inspired by classic musicals.

It’s this sincerity that del Toro has with the material that elevates it, as well as the stunning production design, visuals, and costumes. The story is rather simple and raises some serious logical concerns, and some characters like Michael Shannon’s villainous Colonel Richard Strickland feel very over the top. It’s an inspired film from a very talented filmmaker, but considering this was the year of Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, Dunkirk, and Phantom Thread, it feels like an odd winner.

 

18. Green Book

Perhaps one of the most controversial Best Picture winners in history, Green Book was seen by many as a crowd pleasing throwback to classic buddy comedies, yet seen by others as a regressive depiction of race relations that sanitizes the gravity of its material. Indeed, Green Book is both; there is a charm to the film’s corny, straightforward road adventure that allows the characters to learn from each other, but it’s also unsettling how little the film actually goes into the reality of racial politics.

The best part of the film is undoubtedly the chemistry between Viggo Mortensen and Mahershela Ali, and both actors are able to add nuance to these fairly basic characters. As Tony Lip, Mortensen is able to add touches of vulnerability to a character who always escalates a situation, and Mahershela Ali depicts the struggle of having to remain polite in the face of hatred and disrespect. Even when the script goes to familiar places, these two remain charming on screen together, but it doesn’t make Green Book a better film than fellow nominees like Roma, The Favourite, BlacKkKlansman, or Vice.

 

17. Chicago

Chicago (2002)

Revitalizing the movie musical with lavish production design and extravagant musical numbers, Chicago is a fresh take on the iconic musical that nonetheless simplifies some of the material. Every performance is bold and gripping, and in particular Catherine Zeta-Jones as showgirl Velma Shelly and John C. Reilly as the hapless Almos Hart are scene stealers. The musical numbers capture all of the heart and humor of the songs, and do a good job at reflecting the gray morality of the characters.

Where the film falters are any scenes that aren’t music heavy; Rob Marshall is a competent filmmaker, but ultimately much of the film feels like filler used just to connect the dots between the songs. There’s little subtlety to the character motivations, but that’s often not a concern considering the film is so damn enjoyable. It’s a fun movie, but certainly it did not deserve a win over Gangs of New York, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and The Pianist.

 

16. The Artist

One of the most fascinating elements of modern Oscar culture is the industry’s obsession with Old Hollywood nostalgia and a classic depiction of what cinema is. No film represented that more than The Artist, a black and white silent film that follows George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent movie star that questions his role in the film industry with the rise of the “talkies.” Not only a tribute to silent films, The Artist explores the very nature of a changing industry.

It’s an often dazzling work of cinematic energy, complete with joyous music and a committed comedic performance from Dujardin, as well as memorable side characters such as Berenice Bejo as the rising star Penny Miller and the iconic movie dog Jack. It fits the mold of a classic crowd pleaser, but it’s also not particularly challenging or groundbreaking. If the Oscars were interested in pushing the medium forward and not looking at the past, they could’ve chosen fellow nominees The Tree of Life, Moneyball, The Descendants, or Midnight in Paris.

 

15. Slumdog Millionaire

Another film that fits the mold of a crowd pleaser, Slumdog Millionaire is a rewarding piece of uncynical triumph told with the signature craftsmanship of Danny Boyle. Boyle is a filmmaker who loves to explore the macro through the micro, and he achieves this by framing the entire story around Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) explaining his story to his captor after winning the top prize on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

The structure isn’t distracting, and Boyle works very hard to make Jamal a relatable character who goes through hardships as he escapes poverty. The production is filled with color and energy, particularly when it comes to the touching romance between Jamal and his girlfriend Latika. While it’s one of the best examples of a film that satisfied both voters and the general population, Slumdog Millionaire was also released the same year as The Dark Knight, a film that was much more thematically rich and was completely snubbed for major awards.

 

14. Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby

The second Clint Eastwood film to win Best Picture after Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby is another powerful story of regret and trauma that depicts Eastwood’s character as a man wrestling with his own legacy. Eastwood’s character Frankie Dunn is a lifelong boxing trainer whose life is uprooted when he begins to train Maggie Fitzgerald (Hillary Swank), a young and successful boxer with her eyes on a WBA championship title.

The powerful performances of Eastwood and Swank breathe life into characters who are more than boxing movie clichés, and although the film is definitely intending to be a tear-inducing gut punch by the end, it earns all the emotional weight of the story it depicts. Eastwood’s sturdy, straightforward direction is ideal for the raw boxing sequences, as well as the intensely emotional third act. Sideways and The Aviator may have been better films overall, but Million Dollar Baby is not an undeserving winner.

 

13. A Beautiful Mind

While it is often cited as the epitome of “Oscar bait” and is ranked low on many Best Picture rankings, A Beautiful Mind is a much better film than its reputation suggests and uses many creative tactics to get the viewer to live within the mind of the brilliant mathematician John Nash (Russel Crowe). Nash, a paranoid schizophrenic, suffered from many delusions and imagined entire situations and people that didn’t exist, and the film uses his conditions as a twist, allowing the audience to feel the same shock that Nash does.

The film makes the transition from a whimsical coming of age story to a harrowing psychological drama with ease, and Ron Howard’s methodical direction spares no expense in showing the details of what Nash studies. Russel Crowe delivers one of the best performances of his entire career as Nash, and is believable as a tortured genius. It is hard to call a film that won Best Picture “underrated,” but A Beautiful Mind is a winner that is worth giving a second look.

 

12. Gladiator

One of the quintessential historical epics of its generation, Gladiator was an exciting revitalization of the sword and sandals action spectacle genre that benefits from the unparalleled visual detail of Ridley Scott. Scott has sadly never won an Oscar, as he lost that year to Steven Soderbergh for Traffic, and it’s a shame because he does an amazing job at building up the story of Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russel Crowe), a Roman general who is denied the role as Emperor after the evil Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) kills his family and sells him into slavery.

The key backstory of Maximus’s tragedy is instrumental in driving the story, and in turn it gives gravity to the epically realized gladiatorial combat sequences. Crowe is never less than riveting in the lead role, and gives the perfect amount of pathos needed to balance the nonstop violence of the story. Hans Zimmer’s masterful score also adds to the all-encompassing feel of the narrative. It’s one of the best films of Scott’s career, and makes for an untraditional and entertaining type of Best Picture winner.

 

11. Argo

The Academy Awards love to reward movies about Hollywood, and Argo has a great true story to tell that shines a light on an unheard of story of triumph and heroism. Ben Affleck directed and starred in the film as Tony Mendez, an American C.I.A. agent who rescued six Americans from Iran in 1979 by having them go undercover as the crew of a science fiction film. The Hollywood side of the story allows Affleck to give some pointed satire on the film industry, but he’s also able to show the positive and innovative side of making a film.

Despite the comic edge of the Hollywood aspect, the film is a relentlessly tense depiction of escaping a war torn country. Affleck constructs the film in a method similar to a heist film, and is able to put his dynamic cast of characters in imminent danger as they attempt to not blow their cover. The film’s thrilling third act airplane escape is a downright brilliant piece of filmmaking. While Argo had serious competition in 2012, including great films like Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, Django Unchained, and The Life of Pi, it stands as a worthy winner.

The 10 Best 2010s Movies About Musicians

The story of a musician’s life is inherently cinematic; inevitably, there will be highs and lows, and the artistic process is often something that is exciting to see lived out on screen. It takes more than a great soundtrack to make a great music movie, although having terrific songs never hurts. It is most important that the audience empathize with the musician and invest in seeing them succeed.

The 2010s featured many great films about the reality of being a musician. For this list, both real and fictitious musicians have been considered. Here are the top ten best movies of the decade about being a musician.

 

10. Rocketman

Rather than tell the story of Sir Elton John in a traditional way, director Dexter Fletcher chose to make a dazzling musical fantasy that uses Elton John’s songs to show what he went through. The film hits all the beats that a great biopic needs, as it explores the root of Elton’s love for music and the struggles he faced when entering the industry, but rather than settle for normalcy, the film uses elaborate musical numbers to make its themes clear. Taron Egerton gives a breakout performance, and although he’s pitch perfect in recreating Elton John’s mannerisms, he’s able to offer his own interpretation of the iconic music.

What’s most impressive about Rocketman is that it matches each song thematically to a key point in Elton’s life; the sequence set to “Crocodile Rock” is an exciting look at Elton’s first big gig, “Tiny Dancer” is a tender ballad of loneliness, and “Rocketman” is a triumphant return from a moment of doubt and self-hatred. The choreography and visuals are stunning, and the film manages to fulfill the requirements of both a biopic and a musical.

 

9. Straight Outta Compton

F. Gary Gray’s smash hit biopic explores the ways in which musicians use their work to enact real change. Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) are all touched by police brutality and racism on a daily basis, and they use these experiences to create music that speaks to their identity. What Gray does brilliantly is explore the friendship between these three men over the years, and how controversies and conflicts caused them to grow apart.

The concert sequences are electrifying, and the historical recreations feel authentic. All three central performances are strong, but Mitchell in particular gets a lot to do as Eazy-E faces his tragic fate. The film wouldn’t have worked as well as it did if it wasn’t for the genuine affection between the characters, and even the earlier scenes of the group messing around as they record their first album are important in establishing the relationships. Covering years of history, Straight Outta Compton is a thorough exploration of the influence that N.W.A. had.

 

8. Frank

Frank

Frank is a film that shows the quest for artistic perfection that exists outside of the mainstream, and uses its oddball characters and their peculiar problems to explore the fulfillment of creating great music. Frank (Michael Fassbender) is a mysterious band leader who wears a paper mache head at all times, and it’s his unusual appearances and strange philosophies that draw in Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), an aspiring musician who is drawn to Frank’s radical new way of creating songs.

Frank shows that there isn’t one clear path to success, and the dark humor from director Lenny Abrahamson gives the film a decidedly twisted edge. Fassbender gives one of the most surprisingly great performances of his career, and does a great job at exploring the serious psychological issues that Frank faces as he masks his identity. Complete with a great soundtrack full of strange songs including the brilliant “I Love You All,” Frank is an engrossing exploration of the search for greatness.

 

7. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

The Lonely Island often spoofs trends in pop culture and music, and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a hilarious and insightful look at the extremes of the constant news coverage of modern pop stars. Told in a mockumentary style, the film follows Conner4real (Andy Samberg), the breakout star of a boy band who is embarking on an ambitious solo career. Sometimes cameos from pop culture figures and celebrities can be distracting, but with Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping the constant appearances by well-known figures help to make the film’s satire even more apparent.

The film really stands out due to its soundtrack; the songs are obviously exaggerated versions of modern pop music, but the clever ways in which they satirize genre trends make the film even more entertaining. It’s a relentlessly paced film with constant sight gags, but the heart of the story, which revolves around Conner reconnecting with former bandmates Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer), is never lost. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping bombed during its initial release, but thanks to a passionate fandom, the film is beginning to become a modern cult classic.

 

6. Youth

Youth is a unique film in that it is about an artist reflecting upon their life’s work and questioning whether the sacrifices they made for their music were worth it. Michael Caine stars as Fred Ballinger, a composer of classical music who stays at a resort in the Swiss Alps while on vacation with his best friend Mick (Harvey Keitel) and daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz). After Fred is approached by a representative of the royal family who requests him to perform at Prince Phillips’s birthday ceremony, the legendary composer goes on a journey of self-discovery as he reflects upon what success really means.

Director Paolo Sorrentino adds a surrealist quality to the story, inserting elaborate dream sequences throughout that give the film a unique tone. While it is often somber, there are also moments of levity, particularly when it comes to the humorous banter between Fred and Mick. Caine gives one of the best performances of his career; he is sensitive and understated, and brings a heartbreaking sense of humility to this musical genius. While it’s certainly nontraditional, Youth is a shattering depiction of the pressures an artist faces.

The 10 Best Movie Remakes of The 2010s

True Grit

More than ever, the last ten years of cinema has offered more remakes and reboots than ever before. It’s often said that Hollywood has no new ideas, and it’s hard to not get cynical when looking at the number of remakes that are released. However, they’re not all bad; many remakes are good, even great, and sometimes revisiting the same material more than once can produce a new and exciting film.

A good remake can outshine the original and have a fresh spin on its themes, story, and concept. Some of these films are remakes of films that didn’t work initially, and some take a fresh approach on an idea that wasn’t done to its full potential. Either way, these films have benefited from the talented filmmakers who took a chance on improving the material. Here are the top ten best remakes of the 2010s.

 

10. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller in a still from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The 1939 short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has long been an adventure ripe for a big screen adaptation, but the 1947 film starring James Thurber failed to capture the spirit of the original text. Ben Stiller directed the 2013 remake and also starred as the titular character Walter Mitty, an employee at Life magazine who has wondrous daydreams and embarks on a real globe-trotting adventure to find a famous photographer. Stiller has always been an underrated director and has excelled with comedies like Reality Bites, Zoolander, The Cable Guy, and Tropic Thunder, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is easily his most visually dazzling film to date.

Stiller often gives over the top, eccentric performances, but here he is phenomenal at playing a normal guy who feels disenfranchised from real life. Walter’s elaborate daydreams give Stiller the chance to show a more exaggerated side of the character, but his performance is still rooted in Walter’s unspoken desires and inability to express what he wants. Stiller’s exchanges with Adam Scott are often very funny, but it’s also a much more meditative and introspective film than one may expect, specifically when it comes to the gorgeous sequence set to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”

 

9. The Beguiled

Don Seigel’s 1971 film The Beguiled, which starred Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page, is undoubtedly a classic in its own right, but Sofia Coppola’s excellent 2017 remake was able to revitalize the material with a more feminist perspective and an unforgettable ensemble. The story could’ve easily slipped into melodrama, but Coppola is able to mix the satirical with the shocking to create a savage takedown of 19th Century gender roles that also features many shocking plot twists. Coppola is known for her patience as a filmmaker, and The Beguiled is a great example of a film where every character interaction escalates the tension.

The story is set in 1864, where Union soldier John McBurney (Colin Farrell) becomes injured and is taken in by an all-female school led by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman). McBurney’s arrival immediately throws the social structure of the school into chaos, particularly as he begins to lust for the teacher Edwina Morrow (Kirsten Dunst). Coppola is keen to set up the nuances of the girls at the school and how they interact, and the character dynamics are so well established that the eventual shocking elements of the story all feel earned.

 

8. Dredd

1995’s Judge Dredd was a disaster, a terrible comic book movie that took the gritty source material and transformed it into a generic action vehicle for Sylvester Stallone. Thankfully, 2012’s Dredd was a better film in every way; Karl Urban nailed the character’s grim, unflinching approach to justice, and the film was able to use Dredd’s black and white worldview to explore his ideology. Urban’s excellent performance was accompanied by Olivia Thirlby as Cassandra, a psychic training to be a Judge, and Lena Headey as Ma-Ma, one of the most genuinely unnerving movie villains of the last ten years.

Of course, Dredd is best known for its incredible action sequences, and the Die Hard inspired plot strips the story to its bare bones as Dredd and Cassandra are trapped within a tower filled with criminals. The violence is brutal and the visuals are inventive, particularly when it comes to the way in which Cassandra’s psychic powers are visualized. Few films have been able to capture both the pulpy fun 80s action cinema and the mythic sci-fi world building this well. Dredd isn’t only a great remake, but a modern action classic that didn’t spawn the sequels it deserved.

 

7. Little Women

There have been numerous adaptations of Little Women onscreen before, most notably the 1994 film starring Winona Rider, but Greta Gerwig’s 2019 film managed to approach the story’s timeline in a bold and inventive way. The film poignantly ties two different timelines together, exploring the characters’ origins and fates all at once. The material could easily get confusing, but using Jo (Saoirse Ronan) and her development as a writer to guide the story is one of the best decisions of the film.

The chemistry between Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, and Eliza Scanlen is all excellent, and the film takes its time to set up each of the characters and how their aspirations differ from one another. Timothee Chalamet is also great as Laurie, a character who manages to be snotty and charismatic all at once. Gerwig’s dialogue is as fun and exciting as anything she’s ever written, but she also relies on more subtle visual cues, utilizing a great score from Alexandre Desplat. As the years go by, 2019’s Little Women may be viewed as the definitive version of the story.

 

6. It

Stephen King’s It is one of his most powerful and thematically rich works, and while the 1990 miniseries had its highlights, it didn’t grasp the full weight of the story. However, the 2017 remake of It solidified itself as a modern horror classic, and perfectly captured the mix of tender coming of age moments and horrifying nightmare sequences. Ultimately, It is about the perils of growing up and the ways in which children must contend with the adult world, and the film captures and personifies specific fears that each of the main characters face.

Often times it is hard to find a great child actor, but It featured a compelling ensemble of young actors that interact well together. There’s a lot of great comedy that comes from the ways in which these characters interact, but the film also has a lot of emotional moments when it reflects upon the deep bonds of friendship that the Loser’s Club forms. Bill Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise is suitably creepy, and the film doesn’t shy away from the novel’s most gruesome details. One of the best Stephen King adaptations of all-time, It is a remake that completely outshines the original.

8 Great 2019 Movies You Might Have Missed

One could go on forever about how film fans, or fans of most anything, only have a certain amount of time in which they can actually actively consume what they desire to, however that feels unnecessary, so… here are eight films from 2019 that are pretty great that you should consider seeing! No special emphasis on the order here, the movies generally vary in quality just as much as they do in running time, but there are eight films on here well worth viewing no matter which way you look at it… unless it’s a disturbingly cynical way, in which case… you can’t be helped!

 

1. Martin Eden (Pietro Marcello)

One of the most visually stunning films of recent memory, Pietro Marcello’s brilliant adaptation of Jack London’s book of the same name is one of the best films of the year, as well as one of the most overlooked (for now – hopefully that can change when it becomes more accessible).

Following the titular Martin Eden as he navigates his life without an education, looking to win over the love of Chiara Francini and become a writer during tough socio-political times within Italy. It’s mostly focused on the link between artist and culture, and it is really quite unforgiving in its vision of said connection, but it is also such a brilliant film formally, even if it would benefit from taking more risks, visually.

 

2. Mister America (Eric Notarnicola)

Any fan of the On Cinema At The Cinema series will likely already be aware of this film’s existence, but for those who aren’t acquainted with the series or the film, watch both! On Cinema is a hybrid of media, starting off as a podcast before becoming a tv show, then another tv show, even including one episode over five hours in length detailing a trial one of the characters is involved in, and now even including a movie, too!

The show features Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington as they discuss movies, usually in pairs, with each other and… life gets in the way… but as a work of comedy, both the show and the film are some of the most ambitious, unique comedy that there is, somewhere between the likes of Nathan For You and… an epic detailing seemingly endless events, creating the true feeling of a life lived in. It’s bizarre, to say the least, but it is every bit as strange as it is funny, if not funnier.

The film follows Tim Heidecker as he tries to win himself an election, but of course, his plans make things quite difficult. The film hasn’t been out for too long, and only one more series of the show has been released since, so a quick watcher could still easily catch-up within a month or so!

 

3. Domino (Brian De-Palma)

De-Palma’s latest seemed to be stuck in development hell, but it seems we got lucky (as did De-Palma himself) and Domino finally came out. And yes, before we dare go any further, it is more aligned with De-Palma’s most recent output… this isn’t a film to watch expecting anything quite like Scarface, but still, it is great.

Domino follows a police officer from Copenhagen who, after having his partner murdered by a member of ISIS, tries to stop a CIA agent who is now using the captured ISIS member to bait more members into capture so that he can enact his revenge… although, as many of you will know, it’s quite pointless to describe the plot of a De-Palma film and much more important to focus on the visual storytelling involved, because he is a visual master that no other director really compares to (aside from Hitchcock, who of course is De-Palma’s most transparent influence), and in Domino his visual storytelling is still stunning, but more importantly his political aiming pays off beautifully even if it isn’t the main focus of the film. De-Palma spent much of the 2010s experimenting with ways to tie the political and his style of filmmaking together, and it seems that with Domino he has come closer to his goal than ever before.

 

4. Sorry We Missed You (Ken Loach)

Ken Loach is a personal favourite, so perhaps there is a slight bias here, but Sorry We Missed You was not only one of the most necessary films of 2019, but also one of the most touching and powerful. The film tells the story of a family of four – mother, father, teenage son and younger daughter – who find themselves financially (and as a consequence, mentally and even physically) decaying and declining due to the false promise of freedom in a new job as a ‘freelance’ delivery driver.

Of course, coming from Loach, the form is really quite simple and the focus is almost entirely on the dynamics from character to character, from their different stories linking in the middle, and also from their relationship to the current political landscape in the United Kingdom as well as their relationship to Newcastle, as the place that they live in. It’s a tough film to watch, as many of Loach’s films are due to their focus on the harsh realities of life for the British working man, but it is redeeming both in its poignant messages and its honesty, as well as in its emotional reach. It’s great to see Loach operating at the top of his game, with some of the most realistic character in film in a little while.