A Decade of Movies, 2019 Favorites

And today is the day! Only 1 month late (and change).But I’ve been scrambling to catch up on as many 2019 releases as I can- and I’m ready to admit that at this point the payoff is decreasing.

I’m picking 8 favorites because there is an immense tier of excellent runner ups and I can’t choose.

  • 1917: It’s a fairly traditional war film shot to appear as though it were one or two long takes.  The cinematography is beautiful, it’s fun to see the cameo Brits (Benedict Cumberbatch, the Hot Priest/Moriarty, and Mark Strong, among others), the characters feel real and sympathetic, and the stakes are high.
  • Parasite: Absolutely and delightfully twisted, intricately layered, and a masterpiece.  Here’s a really excellent reading of some of the film’s themes.
  • Jojo Rabbit: An enthusiastic Nazi youth has an imaginary best friend. The imaginary best friend is Hitler.  And then his world gets turned upside down when he discovers that his mother is sheltering a Jewish girl in their home. And I literally can’t think of any director who could pull this off except Taika Waititi. I think my mouth was gaping open like a fish the full first five minutes.
  • Ford v Ferrari/Le Mans 66: I’m hearing this described as a “Dad movie”, maybe because it’s ostensibly about cars? But the deeper story is about people’s willingness to put everything on the line- to fight hard- to do the thing they love.  Christian Bale is always excellent.  Matt Damon is also excellent this time.  And this movie kind of broke my heart. It was really rude of it and I had to call my Mom for a good vent afterward.
  • Knives Out: Rian Johnson’s whole thing seems to be turning classic genre structures on their head- this time he’s taking on the whodunnit with the help of an expert cast, all of whom seem to be having a fabulous time (especially Daniel Craig and his extremely theatrical Southern accent).  Chris Evans (the ultimate Hollywood Chris) wears comfy sweaters.
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire: Once again, we come to my happy place with and erotically loaded costume drama.  A young painter is hired to create the wedding portrait of a young woman… but in secret, because the woman doesn’t want to be painted, much less married. Guys, it’s so so good. Watch it.
  • Us: I think I may be one of the few who likes Jordan Peele’s (admittedly convoluted) second entry better than his first (Get Out).  The soundtrack stuck with me, there are so many ways to read it, Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke kill, the child actors are great- it’s a rewarding watch on every level. If my problem with Get Out was that everything felt too bluntly metaphorical, Us’ ambiguity does it for me. And because I’m extra, here’s my favorite interpretation video.
  • I Lost My Body: Okay, here me out. It’s animated. And it’s about a decapitated hand traversing Paris in search of it’s lost body.  The hand even gets in a fight with the Metro rats.  It’s haunting and moving and even- dare I say it- romantic.

Honorable Mentions: Uncut Gems (Amazing but WAY TOO stressful for me), Ready Or Not (fun fluff horror), Fighting With My Family (heartwarming underdog female wrestling story with Florence Pugh), Rocketman (should have been nominated for best costumes at the VERY LEAST), Klaus, The Art of Self Defense, Joker, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Little Women, The Irishman, The Lighthouse (This is where I draw my weirdness line), Marriage Story, Bombshell, Midsommar (really tough when you’re a follow up to Hereditary), Just Mercy, The Two Popes, Hustlers, Frozen 2, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Judy, Waves, Peanutbutter Falcon, Togo, Dolemite is My Name, Honey Boy, The Farewell, Brittany Runs a Marathon (I couldn’t finish because I found the exercise/body image focus triggering), Wild Rose.

I have not yet seen: Pain & Glory, Midnight Family, Ash is Purest White, Queen & Slim, Tigers Are Not Afraid, Bacurau, One Cut of the Dead, First Love, The Souvenir, La Llorona (The one NOT in The Conjuring universe), End of the Century, An American Factory, The Vast of Night, The Blonde One, Shadow, Belle Epoque, The Mustang, The Platform, Clemency, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Little Monsters, Atlantics, And Then We Danced, Les Miserables, Weathering With You.

I tried guys!

A Decade of Movies, 2017

2017 was a very good year for me, in term of finding favorites- to the extent that, even after narrowing my list down, I find that I have 14 in the top tier.

They are as follows:

  • Call Me By Your Name: Every aspect of this movie is perfect- from the atmosphere to the plot to the chemistry between characters (notably Elio and Armie Hammer and Elio and his father).  I want a pair of vintage-y swim trunks. And maybe a peach.
  • It: It Chapter 2 disappointed me a bit, but happily this one stands very well on its own.
  • Dunkirk: A stylishly-executed war drama about the evacuation of soldiers from Dunkirk. A few people have criticized the “confusing” pacing of the film, but I found that the manipulation of time serviced the feeling of different types of combat in a really interesting way.
  • Baby Driver: The use of diegetic music (music incorporated as part of the plot, rather than disconnected soundtrack) in this really blew me away, particularly during action sequences. Shame about Kevin Spacey, but there’s enough Jon Hamm, Jaime Foxx, and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers to provide a good distraction.
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: I’m struggling not to start every single one of these descriptions with “This is one of my favorites”. Frances McDormand is a queen, the supporting cast is amazing, and I hope Sam Rockwell can break out of playing incapable racists (see also Vice and Jojo Rabbit).
  • The Shape of Water: This is almost one of my favorites but it is at the same type so elegantly done that I would be amiss not to include it.  Yes, it is a fish sex movie. Yes, I watched it with someone I was trying to dissuade from his romantic intentions toward me, not realizing the first scene would be bathtub masturbation.  The music is beautiful, the wetly green colors are slimily luscious, the acting is all great. They need to cut out the random musical number. There is some controversy about the disabled marrying literal monsters that is very much worth reading about.
  • Coco: Coco is highly predictable, fairly formulaic, and astonishingly beautiful.  yes, clearly if I were to take two films off of this list, they would be Coco and The Shape of Water, but I’m including them, so deal with it.  I can’t stop thinking about the skeleton who is forgotten, I believe his name is Chich. The true star. Along with that beautiful flying tiger animal.
  • Phantom Thread: A psychologically twisted costume drama, one of my favorite genres.  For fans of Daniel Day Lewis, couture, Paul Thomas Anderson, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (you’ll understand).  Also good on a rewatch (I rarely rewatch because there is so much new to see, but this was on a plane).
  • The Killing of A Sacred Deer: You may know Yorgos Lanthimos from The Lobster (too weird for me) or, more recently, from The Favorite (a psychologically twisted costume drama for which Olivia Colman won best actress).  The Killing of a Sacred Deer seems less well known than those two and deserves to be more widely seen. It’s disturbing and will put you off spaghetti.
  • Hostiles: In 1892 a legendary US Army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne chief and his family back to their lands through dangerous territory. Frankly, I really liked this movie and did not find it to be too problematic or too forgiving toward white people in an era when we did a whole lot of bad shit, but it’s been long enough since I saw the film that I am unprepared to thread the needle of an accurate description with adequate historical disclaimers.
  • Wind River: We’ve already covered Sicario and Hell or High Water- this is the third and last installment of Taylor Sheridan’s trilogy. In my mind, it is the best of the three and hideously underwatched. It’s cold and bleak and fairly devastating. Jeremy Renner rides a snowmobile.
  • Ingrid Goes West: It’s a compulsively watchable dark social media satire about a disturbed Aubrey Plaza who worms her way into the life of an Instagram influencer.
  • Thoroughbreds: Unfortunately not about horses. Fortunately about two teen girls who hatch an evil plan.
  • Detroit: A fact-based drama set during the 1967 Detroit riots. I put off watching it for a long while after hearing about how absolutely brutal it is to sit through. I wish I hadn’t, because it’s also appallingly necessary viewing.

Honorable Mentions: Get Out, The Wife, Annabelle: Creation, The Breadwinner, BPM, Good Time, Logan Lucky, Mother!, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Beast, and I, Tonya.

I have not yet seen: Okja, You Were Never Really Here, One Cut of the Dead, Tigers are Not Afraid, The Rider, On Body and Soul, A Fantastic Woman, Au Revoir La Haut, November, and Foxtrot.

La Vie En Rose 2: Travels from Paris

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This week is my first vacation from perfumery school at ISIPCA, and it feels somewhat undeserved but I’ll take it.  Especially because Lily is visiting me from the states.
We’re back in Versailles now, but over the weekend we explored Normandy/the North coast of France.

Including: Rouen (with the cathedral made famous by Claude Monet, also location of the trial and execution of Jeanne d’Arc- did you know the tower where her trial was held is now an escape room?), Omaha Beach, Mont-St-Michel, and, on the way back, Giverny (absolutely beautiful in Autumn- we were lucky enough to get there during one of the last few days of the season, and the day before the first hard frost).

And I’m realizing I’m super into traveling. Because I’m in Europe and not only am I super close to Paris, but I’m also super close to all of these places I haven’t been before.

Also inspired by seeing the photos from the travels of my fellow students, who are spread around in the south of France (Marseille and elsewhere), Luxembourg, London, Burgundy, and Florence.

Destinations appealing to me?

  • Morocco: Morocco (along with India) has been one of my top destinations for years. It’s particularly on my mind now because a) it’s closer and b) Hyun just visited and it’s beautiful with colors and camels and sand.
  • So many more places in Italy: I would love to see Milan, Rome, Florence, Pisa, and more of Tuscany. Even in spite of the tourist-ness I fell in love with the magic that was Venice. Can you imagine staying in Tuscany and doing work during harvest time? I had a friend do that. So cool.
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Croatia
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands: Because I need another association other than our luggage being lost there during a layover when I was eight. (We got it back eventually). Also the tulip fields, once the season is right.
  • Portugal
  • Switzerland: Particularly the Alps. Can I just say how into the Bernina Express train journey I would be? So into it.
  • Spain: I may visit my grandparents soon, who live near Madrid. I haven’t visited them in Spain since I was seven. Other places in Spain I want to see? Barcelona, Valencia, and Andalusia. Also wherever it is that has the most dangerous hiking trail in the world.
  • Malta: Warm-ish islands.
  • Turkey
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Galway, Ireland
  • Elsewhere in France: The chateaux, Nice, Toulouse, Cannes, Grasse, Lyon, and Marseille.

Top Films for Graphic Violence

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Don’t hate Quentin Tarantino; hate the game.

Actually that’s completely hypocritical of me; I can’t stand Tarantino’s particular brand of brutality. I made it through Pulp Fiction with only a feeling of resignation. And I think I stopped Kill Bill during the fight scene between Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu.
But Tarantino aside, blood and gore aren’t things I shy away from in movies.  I’m much more likely to avoid a movie focused on overblown and manipulative emotional scenes (i.e. why I haven’t watched Room yet) than a movie that unflinchingly shows blood and guts.

The criteria for this list? The film has to actually be good. No pain porn- an excellent plot is a necessity. The violence should enhance the plot, even if it does so a bit gratuitously.
No straight up horror.  That said, horror can be hard to define.
Lastly? Blood spatter.

And a disclaimer: I don’t claim to have seen all of the graphic films the world has to offer. I haven’t seen Sin City. Or Oldboy. Or Lady Vengeance. But what I’ve heard suggests that those might be at home on this list. Continue reading “Top Films for Graphic Violence”