A quiet, fairly unremarkable film that sets out with a goal in mind that it fulfils but never exceeds as it explores adult relationships and the intersections of success, artistic fulfillment and happiness through the lens of improv comedy. The cast was the main draw for me and they didn’t disappoint, Gillian Jacobs was particularly great, and the ideas at play were interesting with some sweet moments, but it’s not the kind of film that’s going to stick in my mind for long despite doing it’s job well. Nonetheless, the film was a painful, bittersweet look at the pursuit of art that I think will be particularly appreciated by those familiar with the world on display.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ most accessible film and also easily my favourite, the three leads are absolutely sensational with Emma Stone’s Abigail having a particularly fascinating arc. Whilst it has its moments of comedy, the film is deeply tragic as it draws on Queen Anne’s life plagued with misfortune and treated as a tool as she is manipulated on all sides, if The Crown made being a royal look tough, this film amps it up tenfold. It is so refreshing to see not only three actresses at the top of their game in a thought provoking film which subverts gender norms, but also a period drama that is so assuredly it’s own beast. The film crackles with energy and beautiful detailing in the production (which my mum assures me is also accurate) viewed through wonderfully distortive lenses and gorgeous lighting. An uncomfortable, magnificent, saddening treat of a film.
It completely lives up to the hype, Alfonso Cuaron creates a living, breathing world full of atmosphere and tangible sensations and captures it in stunning black and white cinematography which could make George Barnes blush. There is less of a narrative than an exploration of a time and place and a family within it that feels incredibly real and richly drawn, some scenes feel almost like our own memories. Yalitza Aparicio and Marina De Tavira give wonderful, moving performances in a film that stands as a testament to the strength, resilience and kindness of the women in Cuaron’s life (I assume).
Really interesting and grounded film focusing on the human perspective of an apocalyptic scenario, from day to day survival, growing up in that world and the toll on connections. Too many dream sequences and wrongly marketed as horror, I can see how some may be dissatisfied with some of the unanswered questions. However I thought it worked as we are viewing it from the perspective of a limited set of characters and many of the questions would have led to heightened drama that would ultimately have been detrimental to the film if answered. There are some really interesting choices made in the direction and editing, particularly with the use of aspect ratio, the performances are great (shout out to Riley Keough for KILLING IT) and the climax is flat out harrowing.
An intriguing fairy tale plot bolstered by phenomenal, lived-in and authentic performances from actors at the top of their game. Paul Thomas Anderson’s direction and cinematography is restrained, precise and masterful and all the elements of production, particularly the costuming are impeccable. I loved the omelette scene.
So clearly my previous way of doing this hasn’t been working out so well with trying to write a lot about each film whilst doing a degree and everything else at the same time, maybe I’m not much of a multi-tasker. But, that said, going in to this year I am determined to keep a record of the films I watch this year because otherwise I will definitely forget. Unfortunately I’m probably going to have even less time than I did before (we’ll see) as I start my masters in Screen Acting tomorrow. So with that in mind and with some inspiration from a reddit post I didn’t actually click on but saw pop up, I’m going t limit myself to about 2 sentences or so for each film (I’m not good at hard limits), this is really just for me to keep track of things this year. If anyone decides to read these posts, as some (very few) people did with my previous ones, I apologise for the total lack of depth or anything, but I hope you find something worthwhile anyway if by some weird chance you are reading this.
Before I dig in to the films I’ve already seen this year, I’m just gonna list some of the films that I really enjoyed last year:
- Before Sunrise
- Before Sunset
- Before Midnight
These have absolutely made their way into some of my top films ever, particularly Before Sunrise, and cemented Richard Linklater as one of my favourite directors who I’m super excited to explore more this year.
- Three Colours: Blue
- Three Colours: White
- Three Colours: Red
What a good year for watching fantastic trilogies 2018 was, I loved The Double Life of Veronique, so I was super excited to dig in to these films. I really enjoy the way that Kieslowski shoots the world from warped perspectives (that car ride in Blue!) and the gentle pace of his film worlds (White somewhat excluded but in an amazing way). I dont think I could choose a favourite of these three films, I think White might be the most memorable of the bunch as at first I found characters largely unsympathetic and felt it relied on a few too many cliches. But as the plot developed, it revealed itself to be a much more comic fare than I had expected after seeing Blue, and I loved the weirdness and the darkness of the film. That said I thought the performances in Red and Blue were stronger. Red has also really stuck itself in my mind, perhaps because it is the most recent of the three that I watched, but I also loved the dynamic between Irene Jacob and Jean-Louis Trintignant. I’m really looking forward to rewatching all three of these films and I only wish that Kryzstof Kieslowski had been able to make more films in his time because I just adore his film making.
In the cinemas I really enjoyed:
It was so intense, so well acted, so well made and chock full of surprises. The sound design was horrifying, I never knew what was going to happen next, I think this will stick with me for a long time, and that one shot in the bedroom (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen it) might be burned into my mind forever!
- Mission Impossible: Fallout
Love this franchise, nobody does action like Tom Cruise and his partnership with Christopher Mcquarrie is a godsend. This was a thrill ride where the plot didnt make a huge amount of sense but I didn’t really care because it was just so much fun and what a great cast, Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust is just the coolest, Henry Cavill was the absolute definition of a hunk, Vanessa Kirby was magnetic and its always great to see Michelle Monaghan in any capacity.
- The Incredibles 2
I still think the first incredible film is one of, if not the best Superhero film and I felt that the sequel totally lived up to the first, I laughed my ass off, the action was inventive and fun and the short film beforehand Bao was an absolute rollercoaster that made me laugh and cry (partly out of shock) in the space of 10 minutes.
- Sorry to Bother You
Smart, wildly inventive, a whole lot of fun and also surprisingly sweet, the world building a bit of Charlie Kaufman’s work, particularly Synecdoche New York, and a little of Maniac. Definitely going to rewatch this some time.
There are certainly a lot more films that I watched last year but either they’ve slipped my mind or weren’t worth mentioning. I focused more on TV this year and saw a lot there that I loved:
- Sharp Objects
I think this is the only one I’m going to write anything about because it may be one of my favourite things I’ve ever seen across any medium. Amy Adams is always amazing but in this she’s just jaw-droppingly phenomenal, Eliza Scanlen gave an amazing performance, particularly for a newcomer. I’ve never been amazed by Jean Marc Vallee (to be fair I haven’t seen a lot of his work) and I hated Dallas Buyers Club, but his work on creating such a rich, atmospheric sense of location with the way that dreams and reality and memories blend in to each other in a beautiful, liminal haze was magnetic. There are scenes and episodes I’ve watched countless times already and undoubtedly will continue to rewatch (I got the boxset for christmas hooray!). It is a relentless dark story but a study of a wounded woman who manages to remain so beautifully kind and sensitive and strong throughout it all. I cannot say enough good things about this show, I’ve recommended it to everyone I know, it may be a hard watch but its so worth it (trust me, I’m scared of spiders but still worked through it).
The rest of my top shows, in some order but its impossible to really rank them, but its been a fantastic year for television!
- Killing Eve
- American Vandal Season 2
- Bojack Horseman Season 5
- GLOW Season 2
- The Marvellous Mrs Maisel Season 2
- Daredevil Season 3
- Fleabag (Havent finished it yet, but LOVING it)
And last but not least, I have to give an honourable mention to this video game:
- God Of War
This game shows how this industry has matured and is continuing to grow, with the capability to tell beautiful and mature stories with wonderfully drawn characters and an absolutely intoxicating world. All tied together with visceral and engaging gameplay and impeccable direction. It really inspired such a range of emotions in me and its not often that video games can make me laugh, again, this game is firmly in my top games of all time, it was absolutely stunning and stand head and shoulders above the other games I played this year even though there was no shortage of games that are showing just how formidable and interesting a medium it is for story telling and world building.
So there’s my end of the year round up, as I said, I’m not good with hard limits on content and I’ve gone on a lot longer than I intended with all this, I will do my best to keep it concise for 2019!
So I’ve run into a lot of the same problems as last year with just watching too many films and having too much on leading to me falling massively behind on this, like I still haven’t written about films I saw weeks ago. So, with that in mind, I’m just gonna jot down the titles of the films and maybe a few words on each and hopefully with less of a backlog I can go back to doing a film at a time
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (2017)
I love Martin McDonagh, I think In Bruges has one of the most perfect screenplays I know and I’m a big fan of the three main cast members so this film had an easy way into my heart. I did feel however that the screenplay here was less focused than McDonagh’s other work and at points felt inconsistent, the family scenes in particular often veered a little too close to melodrama for my tastes. I also felt as though the cause and effect in this film was a little inconsistent with characters seeing little to no repercussions to their actions which should have easily landed them in prison.
With all said and done, I really did enjoy the film, it had a great concept and tackled interesting ideas with some great humour and touching moments and a really fantastic cast all round.
Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989)
I don’t have a huge amount to say about this to be honest, I watched it 3 or 4 weeks ago now and it hasn’t stuck in my mind in any meaningful way although it was great to see such an influential film. Whilst it hasn’t necessarily made a huge impact on my life, I did enjoy the film and was at no point bored even if it wasn’t half as funny as it was advertised to be, strong cast of likable characters, James Spader is a stand out.
Ingrid Goes West (2017)
Its a real shame that this film didn’t get more attention in the latter half of the year, I suppose it wasn’t the best film of the year but there’s a lot of great stuff in here. I was reminded of Mr Robot whilst I was watching this just in the fact that it felt so current in the way it engaged with social media in a non-condescending way. It might also be one of the most well cast films I’ve seen this year, every single actor was perfect for their part, obviously you can’t talk about the actors without talking about how Great Aubrey Plaza is in this, really proving (if her other work wasn’t enough) her worth as a dramatic actress and so separate from April Ludgate. Elizabeth Olsen has less to do but is fantastic as the valley girl insta model, ignoring her early work in films like Martha Marcy May Marlene, watching this and Wind River (not necessary but its so good!) really prove her range.
It is a funny film, but the levels of cringe and just general dread suppress that side of things and make it feel as far from funny as possible but thats not a bad thing at all because the film has a lot more to offer than laughs and is just really worth watching.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
I kinda thought I knew what to expect after seeing Dogtooth and The Lobster, especially since the trailers for this film gave away a lot of the story, but still I was consistently surprised from the opening shot. What I really didn’t expect was how odd the dialogue was and the detached delivery from the actors, I suppose it is in keeping with Lanthimos’ other work but those had much more heightened settings than the fairly typical house and hospital (ignoring the events happening within). Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman are predictably fantastic and continue to be a great duo on screen, Barry Keoghan is sinister in a novel way giving him an a sense of actual unpredictability and theres even a small, fun role that Alicia Silverstone is clearly enjoying.
It’s a bit of a given that the film is beautifully shot but the camera movement is super interesting, almost always moving and zooming in on actors with clever editing that keeps the same movement between separate scenes. I’m not sure how well it will hold up for repeat viewings, especially with the detached tone that meant the film relied more on its mystery to keep me engaged but I really liked it the one time I did watch it, its also a lot funnier than expected.
I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore (2017)
This is the film I was writing about last year when I stopped writing this blog, I wasn’t sober enough watching the film to remember any of the details when trying to write about it the next day or week or whatever so at that point I just gave up. But this year I’ve rewatched the film and will tackle it once and for all in a small post with other films because I also find this a very hard film to pin down properly, I’ve tried a few times to write about this film but its always stumped me.
I think the main problem for me is the attempt to capture the ironic downplayed humour thats so prevalent in indie film but it lacks ta certain subtlety which just makes the jokes feel like a pale imitation of Fargo without the laughter. Melanie Lynskey’s character is pretty much the human embodiment of this sense of humour and she does a good job but the character just isn’t compelling or likable enough to care. There were hints of interesting things with the film’s antagonists, the brief view we get into their world has hints of the occult in a True Detective kind of way. Devon Graye’s character Christian is particularly interesting and could have been quite an iconic character if given a bit more depth as the rich, effeminate but incredibly violent junky, unfortunately Jane Levy doesn’t really have anything interesting to do but its nice to see her pop up any way.
Much like Jeremy Saulnier, who directed him in Blue Ruin, Macon Blair has a proclivity and an eye for violence that translates very effectively on screen.
Theres a lot to like about the film but it manages to fall short in quite a few areas, including some incredibly questionable lighting and colour grading at points, but its a good debut and watchable, though maybe more fun when not sober?
Sorry these are all rushed and haphazardly written, its been a while since I’ve watched most of these and I’m almost certain there’ve been more films I’ve watched for the first time but already forgotten somehow, I’ll try to do better!