- It chapter 2
A film that crosses all genres and excels at them; this has horror, romance, action, thriller, comedy. It is an epic achievement both in its scope and its ambition. Who’d have thought a three-hour horror movie featuring only a few name stars, low budget and nothing but director Andy Muscietti’s passion and enthusiasm behind it would be able to blitz the box office. An entirely different beast to Chapter one (and I suspect those who were disappointed were wanting more of the same childhood nostalgia which they got in spades in the first film and was featured a little less this time around) this is about adult fears, adult worries, adult connections and the themes explored here reflect that. It’s not so easy to put one face to grown up fears, and not so easy to defeat them. A visceral experience that made me cower, laugh and cry; it earned the applauding audience i saw it with. This is a big, beautiful, brave, and wears its heart on its sleeve. I’m glad to welcome it to my top ten of all time.
- Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Old Hollywood will always hold a fascination for new Hollywood, but the winds of change were blowing at the same time that Manson and his brainwashed minions were preparing to unleash hell, most notably on upcoming Hollywood ingénue Sharon Tate whose brutal murder became emblematic of the death of the hopeful flower children era. Embracing the very best of Tarantino, this is an expertly crafted long game. He is confident in his audience to stay the course and trust him to lead them where they need to go. Its his willingness to take his time, to tell a story well, to invest in his characters, and get amazing performances from his actors that are OUATIH greatest strengths. Every actor here is giving a career best performance and in a fairer world Leo would be taking home his second Oscar – he is breathtakingly good. Poignant, amusing and effortlessly cool, the finale made me swoon.
How far would you go to be part of the ‘haves’? To say goodbye to scrimping and saving and struggling, fighting over scraps? To be at the table with the top percentile? What would you sacrifice? How strong are your ethics? This latest film from Bong Joon Ho comes to you from Korea and its funnier than expected, more striking than expected and has a vicious streak that keeps you on your toes. Its film where I genuinely had no inkling of where it was going, what road this family of grifters would take next. And just when you think you know what’s happening, the rug is pulled out, again and again. Truly compelling viewing, I enjoyed the heck out of this.
Languid and long, I had no idea this was going to have the impact it did. Though fully engrossed from the first scene, the central mystery and drama unfurled like a midnight blooming flower – slow and beautiful and alarming in its intensity. I found myself growing more and more uncomfortable as Jong-Su searches to find what happened to the disappearing Hae-mi. Her recent connection with Ben (Steven Yuen from the walking dead – great!) is an added layer of intrigue, and when the answers come they bring a tragedy and violence that comes out of nowhere. Stunning
A witchy dance academy in 70s Berlin, an all-female cast, and dare I say it – its better than the Argento 1977 original. Terrifying and hypnotic, every player gives a nakedly honest performance that throws off self-consciousness with abandon.
And this is the root of what I liked best – this felt an inherently female story. Not the delicate, feminine type of ‘female’ that we have grown accustomed to on film, but real ‘female-ness’; all the rawness of it, the terror of vulnerability, the forced familiarity with blood and flesh and our bodies’ complexities, the connections amongst us, the animal physicality, the horror, sensuality and unabashed fucking beauty of being a woman. I can’t say that’s something I’ve felt in a film before, and if I have, I can’t recall it. A film to luxuriate in.
- Ford v Ferrari
I never expected this film to get under my skin as it did. I am not in the slightest bit interested in car racing and the infamous Le Mans 24 hour endurance race was not even a thing I was aware of. But this film managed to be completely engrossing, amusing, and achingly bittersweet. A story about friendship, common goals, the ‘little man’ and a lovely celebration of family life as an added bonus, this had so much more to give than just those exhilarating car racing scenes (that are spectacular by the way). Bale of course, is amazing.. again, but everyone is good. The fact that it’s a true story and it’s perfectly realised complex and whole characters made this even better. I really loved this one.
An impressive Florence Pugh (what a year she’s having!) is Dani, tagging along to a once-every-90-years Swedish festival with her boyfriend and his pals. The relationship is in its death knells and the bizarre place they find themselves in only adds to their discomfort. And things escalate, things escalate a lot. I found this clever, compulsively watchable, gut churning, extremely well acted and of course, from Ari Aster (of Hereditary) the direction is unique, cold and graphic with lush visceral cinematography. Hypnotising.
- Toy story 4
Hilarious!! I laughed my ass off at this, loved the new characters – Gabby Gabby, Forky and especially Duke Caboom. The team get together for one last adventure and then it’s a teary fare-thee-well for one or two of them. I’m not an animated movies or kids movies kind of gal but this just made me laugh too much not to make the cut.
- Uncut Gems
When I first put this on and was confronted by a load of shouty men yelling over each other I was close to turning it off, so convinced was I that it wasn’t for me. But I had enjoyed the Safdie brother’s previous effort (Good Time) after I got into it and so I took a chance. I’m so glad I did – Sandler makes good on the talent he showed in Punch Drunk Love and is a revelation here, the story about a loser who just keeps making stupid choices was the tensest film I’ve ever sat through; so tense that I actually couldn’t watch every moment of the last frenetic twenty minutes. The end hit me like a ton of bricks.
- The Favourite
I’ve never been a fan of period movies or the royal family, frankly they bore me; but this, with its modern flourishes, relatable characters talking like actual people, and a lively plot of deception and survival, was a breath of fresh air. Powerhouse Olivia Coleman deserved her Oscar but strong supporting turns from Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone also impress. I was entranced from beginning to end
- Eighth Grade
This slice of life from the perspective of an awkward teenage girl was almost painful to watch. So real, it paints a portrait of how perilous and lonely it feels as a teenager, particularly a young woman, but it also manages some sweetness with the relationship she has with her dad and newfound friends. Newcomer Elsie Fisher is attention-grabbingly impressive in her brave debut performance.
The first film I put on this list. Set in the 80s and shot in stark black and white, this appears to be the story of a young man heading home for the holidays ostensibly to come out to his family, but then becomes about something else entirely that caught me off guard and left me in floods of tears. Raw and moving, a luminous Virginia Madsen is particularly touching in her open-faced love for her son.
Adam McKay is a complex director who deals with complicated subject matters that need a lot of exposition to help you understand, the tools he uses to get the information across to audiences is often ingenious and entertaining even when the subject matter can be dry. This is the story of Dick Cheney and his push to power that helped orchestrate the wholly unnecessary Iraq War. That it manages to be both engrossing and even amusing at times is quite the achievement. Christian Bale is a force to be reckoned with in the role of Cheney but no one gives a bad performance here.
- Juliet, Naked
With a winning cast in Chris O’Dowd, Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke this film is everything I want in a rom-com – droll, literate, charming; this takes you down familiar roads but is never predictable. I particularly enjoyed Hawkes turn as a semi-retired muso, damaged but working at being the man he always wanted to be. Sweet and satisfying this has more to offer than expected.
- Green Book
Though accused of not going far enough into the subjects it touches on, and perhaps suffering from a rose-coloured glasses syndrome, this was nevertheless entertaining and enlightening. Buoyed by superlative performances from the great Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen (surprisingly great as an oaf who leans better) I laughed, I cried and I craved Italian food.
- In the Fade
Dianne Kruger plays a woman who’s life implodes after her husband and child are killed in a bomb attack, and then sets out to get justice. This German film really stayed with me for a long time afterwards, the way grief was portrayed was palpable, the struggles and injustice hit like a bullet, the finale is shattering.
- Bomb City
The true story of punk rockers in a small Texas town and their violent harassment by the ‘good boy’ preppie jocks that hate them. The clashes between the two groups escalate and eventually leads to one of the most controversial hate crimes in American history. A galvanising plea to not judge a persons worth and measure on appearances and assumptions. Powerful.
A sheltered young woman, new to college, attempts to ward off her attraction to a friend who also happens to be a woman. These attempts are complicated by the fact that her devoutly religious upbringing has forced her to deny and supress her psychokinetic powers that now re-emerge with the strain. When she returns home and we learn of her past, it has devastating ramifications. Whether an allegory for supressed abuse, or accepted at face value this effort from Norway is a beautifully lensed movie with wonderful performances and a memorable subject matter. Haunting.
- Dr Sleep
The sequel to Kubrick’s The Shining was a welcome surprise to me. There was so much I admired – the lovingly rendered recreations of scenes and moments from the original, the brilliant cast (especially Rebecca Ferguson who’s seductive menacing turn is unforgettable) the nastiness it was willing to embrace, the unpredictability of the story etc but on top of this it gave me the full gamut of emotions and never failed to be thrilling all the way through.
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
A stupendously fun anthology movie featuring six Wild West stories. My favourite is the first one with the singing gunslinger but they are all good and feature a star-studded cast who were happy to take small parts to work with the Coen Brothers. Irreverent, textured, engaging and funny, enjoyable as heck!
Honourable mentions –
If Beale street could talk – Let down by a sudden ending this was beautiful, measured and ultimately life affirming.
Science fair – Edge of the seat documentary about some pretty impressive kids doing what they can to make the world better (and maybe win some awards along the way)
Shazam! – Too many comic book movies take themselves waaaaaay too seriously and I find that pretty dull to be honest. This was cute, very funny, and loads of fun. Pure entertainment.
Vox Lux – Sure I saw better films but for some reason this will not get out of my head. After surviving a school shooting a young woman becomes a singing star; even the premise sounds odd and odd it is. But the songs (by Sia) rock and I dug the whackiness.
The Nightingale – Beautiful, brutal and not easily forgotten, Jennifer Kent’s sophomore effort is a tough watch but and important one. Its damning exploration of the way Australia treated both its first people and its migrants still echoes today. We need to do better.
Us – Stupid stupid movie that falls apart as soon as you pull a thread.
Joker – Dangerously asks the average person to empathise with a sociopath, are we really that surprised that he’s been embraced worldwide by Incels?
Top End Wedding – Lazy, clichéd and not funny, haven’t we moved past this kind of filmmaking already?
Ad Astra – Dull with dodgy science, nice visuals only get you so far.
Yesterday – Could have been great but barely raised a smile and the finale is infuriating
The kitchen – Great cast, great premise; maybe ending the film in the middle of a scene wasn’t the best idea…