And now, for Part Two… Begin!
‘Unsurprisingly, a Paolo Sorrentino film found its way to my top of the year. Sorrentino is one of my favourite directors and his style never fails. I’ve only seen the shortened version of Loro so far, but what I saw certainly met whatever expectations I had. Sorrentino holds his main character from the story for a good while and once the viewers finally get introduced to him, we dwell on his personal relationship struggles over his political endeavours, despite the expectation that the viewers might have of the film being a straightforward political satire. It is a somewhat surrealist biopic with political and cultural references that not every viewer will get, but nevertheless it works. Also, Toni Servillo does a great job as the rubber-faced Berlusconi.’ – Anni
‘Using restored archive footage, this account of the Apollo moon landings is a remarkable exercise in both the presentation and restoration of archive material and creating an engaging format that is not reliant on staged interviews. In a year where a lot of films and television attempted to convey the scale of the achievement, Apollo 11 stands apart. The film feels modern and cinematic, making use of not only a widescreen aspect ratio but also a deep and immersive sound design.’ – Jim
‘Peter Strickland may think he’s made just another imaginative homage to 1970s Giallo horror cinema and Jesus Franco erotica – but it’s more than that. What he in fact has given us is a hypnotic, laugh-inducing bookend to an incredible decade of British genre filmmaking, led by Ben Wheatley’s production company Rook Films, which funded this particular film. Simply said, the story is about a haunted red dress that terrorises its multiple wearers over two time periods. But with Strickland, style is the substance, as we are taken on a phantasmagorical trip through perverse desire, the mundanity of modern life, and the arousing inner workings of a washing machine, fuelled by an entrancing soundtrack by Cavern of Anti-Matter, atmospheric cinematography and cutting, and a knock-out script which features some of this year’s best dialogue. To give you a sense of the latter, imagine browsing at John Lewis, to be asked by an assistant, ‘Can I help you today?’ to which you shyly respond in the negative. Only to be met with Fatma Mohamed’s husky, Romanian monotone decree: ‘The hesitation in your voice is soon to be an echo in the recesses of the spheres of retail’. This film had me in bits. – Luka
‘From the horror genre, I would like to give an honourable mention to Midsommar. While not without fault, Midsommar packs an emotional punch within the first few minutes of the film and manages to carry its weight throughout. It’s carefully crafted, visually stunning and genuinely surprising at times. While it occasionally dips to the side of comedy horror and although at times the narrative isn’t fully waterproof, the main story still remains strong and it manages to create an eerie, almost psychedelic atmosphere. Florence Pugh delivers a great performance which ties the viewer emotionally to her character, thus justifying the grim result of the film’s midsummer festivities.’ – Anni
Pain & Glory
‘The latest film from Pedro Almodovar contains all of the Spanish master’s trademarks, in addition to a portion of heartbreaking pathos. A semi-autobiographical portrait of a filmmaker in the autumn of his career, played by Antonio Banderas, Pain & Glory wonderfully puts across the pain of reconciling your past and present selves. Banderas and Almodovar have created wonderful work together on many occasions, but there is a sincerity to the Banderas’ central performance as Salvador Mallo, which suits the extremely personal material perfectly. The supporting cast all deliver performances to match, and the script’s mixture of regret, longing, grief, and understanding deliver on the promise of the title.’ – Jim
‘The subject of more debate and (manufactured) controversy than the impeachment inquiry and Greta Thunberg combined, Todd Phillip’s dark foray into the DC cinematic universe, spearheaded by Joaquin Phoenix’s cackling virtuosity, proved to be an effective delve into the iconic character; a precisely worded perspective with which Jim no doubt agrees. Where we differ: it is a film that knows exactly what it’s doing, and it does it well. Subtly drawing (hahaha, just joking) from the works of Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet, Phillips gives us a Gotham that is more 1981 crime-wave New York, than Burton-esque ‘Dark Deco’ or Nolan’s corporate metropolis, but never falls prey to simple pastiche. By suturing us into a world with an all too creeping sense of reality – be it mental health issues, socio-economic inequality, the corruptive influence of the media – Joker proved, yet again, that the operatic and deterministic narrative of a comic-book story could be a palpable thing. Through a loner protagonist that finds iconographic connection with everyone from Raskolnikov to Rupert Pupkin, it wisely shows us that a macro view of societal despair can somehow always be evinced by the suffering of one person – and how that suffering can recourse to a perverse self-actualisation and destructive movement. A subtle presentation? No, not entirely. But when I’m looking for a murderous clown, I don’t expect a mime.’ – Luka
‘Noah Bambauch is certainly one of my favourite directors of this decade, but I think this is one of his best films to date, offering a nuanced tale of a marriage in crisis and exploring the literal trials and tribulations of a family undergoing the dissolution of a long-term relationship. The script is smart, sometimes funny, and at times heartbreaking. It offers us a glimpse into the issues that each individual faces in a breakup when they need to redefine their own personal and artistic identities after choosing to split. The performances by Scarlett Johansen and Adam Driver are exceptional, but the supporting roles played by Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Alan Alda are equally entertaining and effective, if not flat-out amusing at times. New York and Los Angeles are also in many ways supporting characters in the film, in which their own differences and idiosyncrasies are explored, aided in large part to the beautiful cinematography of Robbie Ryan (no doubt a busy year for the man). Ultimately, I think this film will stand the test of time in its portrayal of the personal and psychological effects that a divorce has on those who have to face the often-impermanent realities of a modern-day relationship.’ – Amanda
‘Between Marriage Story, Roma and this, I have been surprised and delighted by the content Netflix has been bringing to the market recently. Yet, as a big fan of Goodfellas and The Sopranos, my expectations for this one were perhaps slightly too high. It’s a great film and definitely one of my favourites of the year. Of all time? Maybe not. But the story is great on many levels and the visual style is spot on. Of course the acting is top notch, even with the digital anti-aging effects, although, that might have not be so obvious on the small screen in comparison. However, one of the biggest impacts The Irishman has had, is that it definitely opened up the world of Netflix to highly critically acclaimed films and the old masters of filmmaking. And it’s great to see how the public has taken to it and sprung memes galore – my favourite so far is watching the film on a Nintendo 3DS.’ – Anni
‘It’s what it is.’ – Jim
Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Our podcast discussion about our favourite films of the 2010s will be available soon on our Apple radio site: https://apple.co/2PLOAQt