Let’s see what was worth watching.

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(above image taken from bellyfull.net)

2019 has been an odd year for film, and by odd, I mean it has been mostly a complete shitshow. Films like A Hidden Life and 1917 are so limited in release that I can’t actually consider them for this list. Further, with theaters only focusing on Marvel films, it is getting harder to see anything worthwhile. (I know, I know, Marvel films are important to a lot of people…)

I was honestly worried that I would not have 10 to list, but later in the year treats helped fill this one out. Anyway, let’s get started.

As always, here are my wife’s picks for best of the year:

  1. The Farewell
  2. Dr. Sleep
  3. The Lighthouse
  4. Parasite
  5. Midsommar
  6. Lords of Chaos
  7. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
  8. Book Smart
  9. Us
  10. Captain Marvel

And, as always, my entries will get fancy screenshots and text because I write the entries…

  1. Lords of Chaos

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Jonas Akerlund has a film on both the ten best and ten worst, so I guess that means he is overrepresented here.

The “true story” of Mayhem becomes more a tale of obsession and vanity. As young men vie to be the most present, dangerous, or known member the growing Black Metal movement in Norway things spiral out of control. The film is often harsh, but never exploitative (at least for me) and we see an often-critical look at what, in the end, was little more than angry teenagers out of control.

Stories about wayward youth are often done with a cautionary edge, which makes them preachy and stupid. This one tries to present the material in a way that allows us to understand the decisions, whether we agree with them or not.

While this isn’t the most enjoyable film, it certainly will stay with you after the credits roll. The earliest best film of the year, and one that is worth seeing.

  1. The Lighthouse

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A dear friend of mine described The Lighthouse as stupid crap pretentious people will say they like to sound smart. In reply, I suppose I will shove my fancy cane up my ass, straighten my monocle, and give my top hat a tip. (Look, I’m not saying she might be right, I’m just saying.)

To call the The Lighthouse divisive is simply an understatement. It is weird, off-putting, and often chaotic. However, I found myself captivated by trying to figure out what the hell was actually going on. The acting is strong and as the story gets more out of control so do our characters, which makes for a fun experience.

Shot beautifully on black and white the film has a haunting and timeless look. You’ll be transfixed (or not) by the hypnotic tale and will walk away feeling like you’ve seen something entirely unique.

  1. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

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As antigovernmental groups seem to be rising, Standoff drops us right into the middle of a militia after a mass shooting at a police officer’s funeral. Timely and frightening, this film forces us to see the events unfold from the perspective of the usual villain in these films.

A dangerous investigation of who is responsible forces the group to look inward, and we see that things often presented as clear cut are blurrier than we might be comfortable with.

By focusing on a truly human narrative, Standoff shows that independent films can still offer up something with a lot of bite without a lot of budget.

  1. Midsommar

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Another divisive entry. Midsommar is a strange, sometimes bloated movie that still ends up being an intoxicating plunge into madness. This film will make you hesitant to ever leave the U.S. on vacation and may or may not discourage you from trying hallucinogenic substances.

Well-acted, tense, and disturbing are a few ways to describe this one. As we plunge deeper into the unknown, and explore the outer edges of horror, you won’t be sure if you should laugh or recoil at some of the images. This is a unique film that I am glad Ari Aster made. While I think I liked Hereditary a bit more, this one should be at the top of the list for indie-horror fans.

  1. The Farewell

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Frequent readers might be surprised by this entry, but The Farewell captures family relations perhaps better than any film in the last ten years. While rooted in Chinese culture, the film speaks to the universal concept of love, duty, and grief we all go through when dealing with aging parents or grandparents.

While Nai Nai is the clear show stealer, Awkwafina’s portrayal of Billi is nothing but amazing as well. How she grapples with familial power, relations, and wanting to be seen as an adult and not a child are all perfectly performed.

For a movie that will remind you that love often comes with dealing with people who frustrate you, this one is a must see. Given its commercial success, I do hope the actual awards shows give this one plenty to celebrate.

However, isn’t this award the best any movie can get?

  1. Them That Follow

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This dark tale examines the limits of faith and power. We view an extreme Pentecostal sect hiding out in the Appalachian wilderness as they grapple with their lives. Following the Patriarch’s daughter, we are given an insider’s look to a harsh faith that removes power from many.

Shot beautifully and incredibly acted this dark drama plays more like a somber poem on the limits of spirituality and what it means to find oneself in the world. While the film demands patience, those who will allow the mood to be set won’t be disappointed.

  1. Doctor Sleep

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The decades later sequel to The Shining removes the narrative from its isolated moorings (well, mostly) and transforms the story into an epic fantasy of good and evil. Excellent performances propel this vast narrative into something that is a rare cinematic treat.

For fans of epics, this one is a must see. We have what amount to a new vision of a vampire story set in a world with almost limitless possibilities. Too bad people didn’t see this one in theaters. If you missed it, I highly suggest checking it out once it releases for home viewing.

  1. Climax

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Gaspar Noe’s descent into hell is one hell of a trip…literally.

Follow a group of dancers who discover they have been drugged with LSD and watch the madness ensue. Many scenes were created by the dancers, and nothing was off limits so long as everyone involved was okay with what would happen. In the end, we have a hypnotic and chaotic narrative where violence strikes as suddenly as surprisingly tender moments.

Fascinating camera work and excellent dance moves propel this film into an entirely unique viewing experience. This is Noe’s most accessible work to date and worth discussing.

  1. Parasite

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Bong Joon Ho’s delicious and scathing social satire is something to behold. As we follow our beleaguered heroes (or antiheroes?) as they fight to survive in a harsh society, we are thrown twists and turns that are impossible to predict.

Aside from being perhaps Bong’s best work, it is also one of the best examples of social criticism in film. A fantastic experience from start to finish that will leave you reeling when the credits roll.

If you haven’t seen this one, call out and go see it. Now!

  1. The Nightingale

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Jennifer Kent’s social criticism will rip into your heart and bruise your soul. The Nightingale is an unblinking examination of sexual violence, racism, and colonization. This film is not an easy view, but those who watch it will be captivated by a filmmaker at the height of her craft.

Despite being brutally disturbing, this film is almost perfect as every shot has a clear purpose. This is a masterwork of cinema and one of the best films I have ever seen.

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