Another year has ended and so I’m compelled to reflect on the films which most quickly jumped to my lips when asked the question “What have you been watching?” The following collectively represents cinema which reaffirmed my love of veteran directors alongside work from those who have built on the promise of their burgeoning careers.
10. THE FALL/ANIMA/I AM EASY TO FIND | Jonathan Glazer/Paul Thomas Anderson/Mike Mills
So not strictly a feature pick but rather a triple bill of beguiling films from cinema heavy hitters Glazer, PTA and Mills which each demonstrate in their own unique ways the power of short form storytelling.
9. THE IRISHMAN | Martin Scorsese
While I personally don’t consider The Irishman as the pinnacle of his career, seeing undisputed master filmmaker Martin Scorsese get the gang back together for this time-spanning crime epic was a joy indeed.
8. KNIVES OUT | Rian Johnson
I’ve been onboard the Rian Johnson train since his neo-noir high school debut Brick and seeing the polymath director submerge himself in the machinations of the whodunnit was just as satisfying an experience as I could have hoped for.
7. WOMAN AT WAR | Benedikt Erlingsson
Benedikt Erlingsson’s unassuming choir conductor executes an audacious one woman campaign of environmental sabotage in the Icelandic highlands whilst grappling with the concept of impending motherhood in this inspiring and heartfelt comedy drama.
6. US | Jordan Peele
While Us may not quite reach the near perfection that Jordan Peele surprised us with in Get Out a couple of years ago, Lupita Nyong’o’s broken voiced dual performance was just one highlight of this film which leaves you with much to chew long after the credits roll.
5. MARRIAGE STORY | Noah Baumbach
Best intentions for a cordial dissolution fall by the wayside in Noah Baumbach’s personal story of a divorce. Sublimely written and starring the always great Adam Driver opposite a Scarlett Johansson firing on all cylinders, Marriage Story is a captivating depiction of a couple tussling their way to a new emotional understanding of one another.
4. MIDSOMMAR | Ari Aster
After having that scene from Hereditary firmly etched into my brain I was excited to see what chills Ari Aster would subject us to beneath the blazing sun of Midsommar. The result, a delightfully disturbing revenge thriller wrapped inside hallucinatory horror.
3. PAIN AND GLORY | Pedro Almodóvar
Another master of cinema gives us a film which reflects on his illustrious body of work and powers as an artist. While Antonio Banderas captivates in his portrayal of a director whose loss of physical virility has stifled his creative output, Pain and Glory clearly demonstrates that if anything Almodóvar’s skills are most definitely on the ascent.
2. I LOST MY BODY | Jérémy Clapin
Back in 2013 when we celebrated the work of Jérémy Clapin in our TheyAreAnimators interview series we knew he was one to watch so seeing the French animator deploy his talents on a feature length project was always going to be a highlight of the year. The poignant and sometimes terrifying story of a severed hand searching for its separated body, Clapin provides a compelling new perspective of Paris, love and fate.
1. MONOS | Alejandro Landes
Sometimes you need the distance of time and reflection to decide if a film is truly extraordinary, Alejandro Landes’ Monos isn’t such a film. From the opening introduction of its ragtag band of teenage guerillas playing blindfolded football, I was gripped to follow the adolescent soldiers’ shifting dynamics as they moved from mountaintop cohesion to jungle discord. Add to that an unnerving score from Mica Levi which reminds us yet again why she’s one of our best working composers.
You can check out the rest of team DN’s Top Ten picks here.