CINEMAPS' BEST OF 2019: All the pain, all the gains

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I know I'm saying this every year, but it's especially true this year: life was exceedingly stretched for me, and as a result, my film watching time shrunk significantly. Without the Toronto International Film Festival, I don't know if I would have had anything to write for this post. I removed myself almost completely out of the awards season loop once I realized that it was going to be a bloodbath. I have less than zero interest in debating the political correctness of awarding films. As usual, my picks reflect my love and admiration for the films and their various features. The most political thing I would look at is a film's relevance and message to our time. Without further ado, here is the year in film for me:

Pain and Glory

01. Dolor y gloria (Pain and glory; Almodóvar) ****1/2 A devastating look at a life that has an undercurrent of both pain and beauty (my alternate title for the film). The pangs of regrets, to love and to have lost, embraced and escaped - all were sobering and filled with shades of light in this Almodóvar magnum opus. Antonio Bandaras was heartbreaking, and Penelope Cruz was just so radiant. Glorious.

02. Apollo 11 (Miller) ****1/2 I saw this in IMAX and it was transcendental. I was so moved by humanity's hope, and awash with sadness that we live in a time depleted with this much sense of collective wonder.

03. Om det oändliga (About endlessness; Andersson) ****1/2 I'm rapidly becoming a huge Andersson's fan. I picked this film to see at TIFF based on it being directed by him, despite not being all that keen on the synopsis that spoke to it being more of a series of vignettes. The existential angst and humour continued to lead the way, threading through various straight-face set ups. Theatrical, sad, absurdly funny, and just all around brilliant.

04. Synonymes (Synonyms; Lapid) **** The kinetic energy was so bold and infectious, it reminded me of the early (fun) Godard cinema. The film had lots to say about belonging and rootlessness, wrapped in the complexities of immigration and integration. It played almost like a satire in some ways. The scene with the citizenship class was so precise in its commentary, it was painful to sit through. And yet, the whole sequence developed in such surprising ways that one could not help but be glued to what was going to happen next. Exciting filmmaking.

05. Parasite (Bong) **** So much fun. Despite some of the more obvious over-the-head scenes, the picture was assuredly directed and Bong made certain his characters were highly accessible to the audience.

06. Jojo rabbit (Waititi) **** I love this movie more than probably most people, and I love this cast so, so much. Its sweetness at the core moved me to cry so many rivers. It's probably Waititi's most accomplished picture yet.

07. Marriage story (Baumbach) **** This should be mandatory viewing for those going through a divorce or about to go through/thinking of one. It was scarily accurate and heartbreaking in its earnestness. Scarlet Johansson was good, but the way that the script unfolded made sure that the film belonged to Adam Driver.

08. EMA (Larraín) ***1/2 Hypersexualized and daring in ways that most films featuring female protagonists would not attempt. Forget Joker, see EMA instead for the modern portrait of an intensely magnetic anti-hero whose edges defied moral conventions. If nothing else, see it for the dances!  

09. Atlantique (Atlantics; Diop) ***1/2 A unique and hypnotizing tale of young love in the time of separation and disconnect. The mystical, supernatural part of the story was seamlessly woven into the reality of life in the dust of industry and progress. Notably, the 'haunted' people were not treated as something to be scared of; rather, they were like ancestral ghosts coming back to make things right with their naughty relatives.

10. Ford v Ferrari (Mangold) ***1/2 Wonderful casting made this movie better than it would have been otherwise. I thoroughly enjoyed the car racing sequences, but it was Bale whose commitment elevated the material and centered the film's emotional core.

Apollo 11
Grin and Pulse
The most fun I had watching a movie this past year
Apollo 11
Jojo Rabbit
Ford v Ferrari
Knives out

Impressive, memorable staging of a shot or series of shots
Night time shelling, 1917
Jojo ties his mother's shoe, Jojo Rabbit
Ema's crew dancing, EMA
Mallo & his mother wake up in an empty building, Pain & Glory
Soldiers in a line walking in the snow, About endlessness

Confident storytelling, with a touch of "wow"
Pedro Almodóvar, Pain and Glory
Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit
Bong Joon-ho, Parasite
Roy Andersson, About Endlessness
Nadav Lapid,  Synonyms

I feel you

Scarlet Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Adam Driver, Marriage Story / Star Wars: the rise of Skywalker  
Antonio Banderas, Pain and glory
Carol Duarte, The invisible life of Eurídice Gusmão
Leonardo Di Caprio, Once upon a time in Hollywood

Mariana Di Girolamo, EMA
Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker   
Roman Griffin Davis, Jojo Rabbit
Lupita Nyong'o, Us

Create interesting, layered, cohesive universe; would make for a great read on its own
Pedro Almodóvar, Pain and glory
Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit
Bong Joon-ho, Parasite
Noah Baumbach, Marriage story
Fernando Meirelles, The two popes 

1917 Night battle behind the scene
Interesting, effective cuts and stitches that support and move the story visually
Apollo 11
Jojo Rabbit
Ford v Ferrari

Takes my breath away
Pain and glory
About endlessness
Once upon a time in Hollywood

About Endlessness
Art Direction / Production Design
Transportive, impactful set design
Pain and glory
About endlessness
Jojo Rabbit
Once upon a time in Hollywood

Movie Magic
Star Wars: the Rise of Skywalker
Ford v Ferrari
Spiderman: Far from home
Another beautiful day in the neighborhood

Amplify the visuals and enrich my sensory experience
Ford v Ferrari

Was it memorable?
Ford v Ferrari

Stray comments:
- Buckets of tears ranking: Pain and glory (regret scene), Apollo 11 (all the moon footages), Jojo Rabbit (Jojo with his mother), Another beautiful day in the neighborhood (death 'anything human is mentionable, anything mentionable is manageable'), Marriage story, Star Wars: the Rise of Skywalker (Chewie, Kylo 'I know what I'm supposed to do but I'm not sure I can do it')
- Totally did not expect to like Skywalker as much as I did, and a large part of it was Adam Driver's performance as Kylo Ren
- Scarlet Johansson's role in Jojo Rabbit is the most tailor made for her as a movie star as I've ever seen - she was absolutely stunning in it
- Newcomer George McKay was great in 1917, even though I don't have room on my top 10 for him
- Speaking of performances, Charlize Theron kills it as Megyn Kelly but I think half of that is prosthetics' work
- So sad about Dark Phoenix - what a waste of a cast!
- What the heck is with all the straight-to-Netflix films like Earthquake Bird and 6 Underground?
- Ana de Armas is MADE for the big screen; so is Mariana Di Girolamo, who commands and wills her film into being 
- Everyone should watch Marriage Story, for the intricacies of a dissolution of a well intentioned relationship
- Little Women was good but Greta made a better movie in Lady Bird.

Films I'm intending to see that could make a dent on the list above
They shall not grow old
The lighthouse
The farewell
Doctor sleep
Honey boy
Dark waters
Portrait of a lady on fire
Queen and slim
A hidden life
In Fabric
Varda by Agnès
The kingmaker
The cave

Ranked out of *****
Pain and Glory (Almodóvar)
Apollo 11 (Miller)
About Endlessness (Andersson)

Synonymes (Synonyms; Lapid)
Parasite (Bong)
Jojo Rabbit (Waititi)
Marriage story (Baumbach)

EMA (Larraín)
Atlantics (Diop)
Ford v Ferrari (Mangold)
Us (Peele)
I was at home, but ... (Schanelec)
Once upon a time in Hollywood (Tarantino)
Star Wars: the Rise of Skywalker (Abrams)
1917 (Mendes) 
Uncut gems (Safdie & Safdie)
American Factory (Reichert & Bognar)
Another beautiful day in the neighborhood (Heller)

Knives out (Johnson)
The two popes (Meirelles)
Toy story 4 (Cooley)
Martin Eden (Marcello)
Little Women (Gerwig)
Rocketman (Fletcher)
Bombshell (Roach)
The Irishman (Scorsese)
J'ai perdu mon corps (I lost my body; Clapin)

Ad astra (Gray)
Avengers: end game (Russo & Russo)
Spiderman: far from home (Watts)
A vida invisível (The invisible life of Eurídice Gusmão; Aïnouz)
Joker (Phillips)
John Wick 3: parabellum (Stahelski)
Dolemite is my name (Brewer)
Captain Marvel (Boden & Fleck)

The report (Burns)
The laundromat (Soderbergh) 
Stuber (Dowse)

6 Underground (Bay)
The operative (Adler)
Earthquake bird (Westmoreland)
Dark phoenix (Kinberg)

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2 Response to CINEMAPS' BEST OF 2019: All the pain, all the gains

February 11, 2020 at 9:30 AM

Pretty nice list! Surprised to see Apollo 11 that high.. I absolutely LOVE that era of the space race and all that (I even own a LEGO moon lander model!), but I wasn't THAT impressed by the doc. Maybe it's because I've seen so much of that before, in other films/docs, whatnot, that it didn't seem as special/impressive to me? Then again, I didn't see it in some deluxe IMAX theatre either tho.

Would've liked to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood higher up, but I guess that one stayed with me longer than it did for you? I'd recommend rewatching it though, I can't think of any of them that didn't get better on repeat viewings, anyway.

March 15, 2021 at 12:57 PM

Thanks for reading and commenting!

I have a weak spot for space movies. I love First Man, for example. The whole Apollo experience is just so ... soothing and exhilarating at the same time.

Hollywood meanders a bit too much for me. I don't think I'd rewatch. :p


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