I’ve already posted my Albums of The Year (a list that could already do with substantial revising.) Here’s my Films of the Year, 2019.
2) Dolor Y Gloria
3) The Border
4) Marriage Story
5) Amazing Grace
6) Knives Out
7) Ash Is The Purest White
Bubbling under: The Souvenir, Woman At War, Hustlers.
I didn’t like Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir at all the first time I watched it, but I really liked it the second time. So why did I watch it a second time if I didn’t like it the first time? Well, there must have been something there that drew me back, even if it was only to find out why I didn’t like it, and a nagging thought that there was more to it than I was getting. Which, happily, there is. Not enough to put it in the Top Ten, mind. It’s slow and episodic, and demands commitment and concentration and attention to bring out its nuances. It can even seem self-indulgent at times. But even if it makes few concessions to the audience entertainment-wise, it is worth the effort. I kind of watched it is fragments the second time, which may be the ideal way to watch it. Like reading a novel, do it a chapter or two at a time.
Many of the films which are featuring heavily on critics’ end of year lists I either thought were so-so, or downright crap. In the ‘it is what it is’ former category: The Irishman, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Birds of Passage, Monos, Holiday.
I didn’t think much of In Fabric – fairly vacuous. Long Day’s Journey Into Night was all style and no substance – a bit like the dreams it purports to represent, although in my opinion there is lot more to dreams than beautiful but insubstantial images (see Maggie Lee’s excellent review in Variety, the only one that nails it, even if it goes against the critical consensus). And Midsommar was a downright utter campy hoot fest – not its intention, I think.
Her Smell was alright, Vox Lux not so much so – even if it had more of a story to it. I still have to see an indie film which deals successfully with the experience of the indie music scene, or contemporary commercial pop music. Both of these films suffer from the same problem that beset Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank: they come across (at least to me) as a straight’s idea of what it much be like being in an indie band. “They’re all fucking crazy.” Why do all film makers think all rock/pop stars are obnoxious, narcissistic egomaniacs? I’m not saying some aren’t, but the constant negative representation is irksome. Some of the nicest people I know are or have been in indie bands (myself included). The thing is, you don’t get to rise in that business if you have a bad reputation as being an asshole (unless you have an overnight mega hit which places you in a protective bubble). Most of the time you’ve got to make nice to get anywhere.
My Best Gigs of the Year to follow shortly.