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Thread: Best Movies of 2019 so far

  1. #16
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    The experience of cinema changed a lot since my boyhood in the 60s and 70s(obvious opening line). Television was never as good as the best films and the best films were never half as good when broadcast in crudely edited, censored chunks and watched on crappy sets. It was easy to figure out what was released and when. It was easy to pretend one had seen the films that count, the ones that may have a claim to a place on any list of, say, the ten best. We watched movies in one theatrical sitting, in public, a social event that begins and ends at predictable times. If you missed something, and you always overlook something from the hyperexpressive, meaning-sprouting, audiovisual products of the cinema, then you had to wait until the next show and buy another ticket; no click-quick reprise; no reliving the moment. For me, the life changing technology was not the vhs in the late 70s but the dvd in the late 1990s, when I began to watch movies at home.

    In the 2000s, I started to watch movies at home in better sets (while still going to theaters a couple times a week). I also studied cinema in graduate school, which deepened my interest in both film history and history through film. I started to work at the school's art cinema which gave me access to optimal projection. Now, about half the films I watch are films from the past 2-3 years, and the other half are older films, including silents. It takes me a while to watch enough films from a given year to offer a Top 10 list. I give these movies a lot of thought. I like to watch anything I list more than once, but this hasn't happened in many cases. I also have a longer list of the best 25 from the rest of the 2010s. Did I post it? Where would one do that? I am also motivated by the thought that there is so much production that some of the films one loves really need promotion in order not to be completely ignored or certainly under appreciated.

    BEST CINEMA OF 2019

    3 FACES
    AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL
    THE BEACH BUM
    THE IMAGE BOOK
    MARRIAGE STORY
    LA FLOR
    LITTLE WOMEN
    THE SOUVENIR
    SUNSET
    TRANSIT
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 05-02-2020 at 09:08 AM.

  2. #17
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    oscar jubis has class

    oscar jubis has class. Talk about credible. He he writes he has substance behind it.

  3. #18
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    Thanks Tab; I enjoyed reading your post about your best personal films, as you well put it. My aim is to hope that anyone reading this thread decides to watch a movie from my list of 10. Nonetheless, there is that "personal" aspect that you recognize that almost demands that I acknowledge that some will find La Flor way too long and inconclusive, The Image Book too ugly and intellectual, and The Beach Bum too silly and grotesque. I'm debating how to characterize the other films on my list. I guess someone might called them "middlebrow" or "middle-class"; certainly the other 7 films would and have, done better at "art cinemas" like the one where I work, or used to work.

    So getting back to basics: I am writing because I keep running into films that are deserving of the kind of attention great films used to get back in my boyhood in the 60s and 70s. However, nowadays there is so much "content" available, on so many different platforms, in several media, that it's easier for great achievements to go practically ignored. So I take the opportunity to promote my 3 best personal films of 2018: The Other Side of the Wind, Zama, and A Bread Factory which has very wide appeal in my opinion, perhaps because it's American, and it has famous actors like Tyne Daly.

  4. #19
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    As you know, I spend most (but not all!) of my time watching newer films.

    I'm glad that Joanna Hogg's THE SOUVENIR got wide US distribution and I learned about it and her and saw it on the big screen, then watched her three earlier films online.It looks like a forgot to see THE BEACH BUM. Maybe you will inspire me to watch it. I did see SPRING BREAKERS and put it in a list of favorites of hat year. I would not want to watch THE IMAGE BOOK. I have had my fill of late Godard at Lincoln Center in several NYFFs.

    I didn't like SUNSET, though it's very interesting, an interesting failure. Strange. I saw it at the London FF with a friend. He agreed. SUN OF SAUL was a hard act to follow. TRANSIT I liked, also LITTLE WOMEN. MARRIAGE STORY is officially my favorite film of the year, simply because it gave me the most pleasure to watch.

    I saw AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL in ND/NF. I remember the experience. I also remember that Ed Lachman came, who had seen it in a European festival and couldn't wait to see it again, which impressed me. Working on movies all the time, he's still so enthusiastic about them. It's inspiring. I don't remember it as pleasurable but I remember it.

    I had free online access to LA FLOR but I didn't get round to it. Maybe you should warn people that it is 13 and a half hours long. You talk about yourself, but you don't talk about these films. I didn't either, about my list, which is a shame. I didn't put as much into my list-making this year.

    As for formats. Surely the life-changing format is to see a movie in a theater, with an attentive audience, and I did so decades before you. I would give VHS the edge over DVD's because with my best VCR, I could examine films frame-by-frame and backwards and forwards. Now the format that's dominant is online screening, Vimeo, and being sent so many screeners with links and passwords, which is so easy, or being to watch films instantly as one can watch great TV series (there was classy TV in the Fifties, by the way; it went downhill after that) like Mad Men or Babylon Berlin or The Crown or Succession or you name it, instantly online. But what we miss now, I do anyway, is the quality projection you speak of. My greatest experiences, but there have been many, have been watching all the movies I've seen at Lincoln Center at the Walter Reade Theater. The last one I saw was UNE FILLE FACILE/AN EASY GIRL in the Rendez-Vous in the Walter Reade Theater Thursday, March 12, when they told us afterward in the lobby that the rest of the series had been cancelled due to the pandemic.

    I've seen MARRIAGE STORY, LITTLE WOMEN, THE SOUVENIR, AND TRANSIT twice.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-03-2020 at 05:17 PM.

  5. #20
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    I enjoyed reading tabuno's list of personal favorites too and his descriptions of them.

  6. #21
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    One thing that interests me is how the movie experience has changed. It's easy for me to watch movies in a theater because I run one; and for me, Blu-rays are tax-exempted work tools. However, I'm interested in the film experience of someone not in my unique circumstances, and that means, as you say, online streaming. Now that I will be doing all my teaching online, at least in Summer and Fall semesters, I am thinking more seriously about how cinema changed ...is changing....as a result of changes in exhibition and reception, as a response to viewing in smaller screens by people who may regard watching as one task out of multiple, simultaneous tasks such as making a cup of coffee and monitoring text messages. Does the cinema seem smaller and more disposable in this era of plenty when cinema is, for a significant number of people, a solitary activity?

    I did "talk about these films" a little. I said that I tend to divide the films I love that were released in 2019 into two groups. Films that "my audience" at the cinema watched or that I would program for them (an audience very similar to the average audience at art cinemas) and films I estimate this audience would not enjoy. I think it's interesting that the 3 of my Top 10 that I place in the latter category are the 3 you have not seen. However, The Image Book, La Flor, and The Beach Bum are to be found in the lists from Film Comment, etc., so that tells me others also find great value in them.
    (What about "3 Faces"? IMdb gives a 2019 release date so I included it in the 2019 list. I'll have to check the 2018 version of this thread and see if it was listed for that year.) So I used two adjectives each to warn readers about their likely responses to these 3 movies. I think the other 7 movies I listed are the 7 movies I have watched that I would generally recommend and that is probably the biggest reason to write a post about movies: to encourage others to appreciate a few movies one regards as special achievements.

    So, that's where my head is right now. I'm glad you have so much time to dedicate to cinema and to share what you learn with me and everyone else here and in other places. It's great you have been able to watch some of the best movies twice. This British film The Souvenir has a second part(let us know if you hear of a released date Chris) I had forgotten or did not know, when I watched it, the habit hidden by the love interest of the film student protagonist. This ignorance is important because the audience knows exactly and only what the protagonist knows, in this film, from beginning to end. What the viewer knows, when, and how this compares with what different characters know or don't know is often a most important narrative aspect (and not only in cinema, of course). Some of my favorite films provided restricted or partial knowledge of plot events and character traits. I think a great deal of the enjoyment of narrative, and most films we love are narratives, is in what the viewer feels and thinks about not knowing something we know is there to know. The grave and great emotional impact of The Souvenir on me derives from finding out two major revelations at the same moment as the protagonist and feeling this intimacy with her.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 05-04-2020 at 12:39 PM.

  7. #22
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    One claim I brought up in the previous post involves the relationship between technological developments in terms of access, exhibition, and reception of movies and the movies themselves, their production or creation, the filmmaking. I wonder what readers think about the received wisdom (fact?) that the reduction in average shot length in feature films since the 1980s was mostly a response to the editing rhythms of music videos me and my MTV-addicted college friends devoured in that decade. Is there any doubt that the increase in fantasy films (or films involving fantasy sequences) has something to do with how special effects became easier and cheaper to produce in the digital era? Do you doubt that the smaller size of the screen in which people watch films has something to do with the popularity of shots in which only one person is prominent? The camera got closer because the screen got smaller, to get to the point. Is this of interest to our readership?
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 05-04-2020 at 10:18 AM.

  8. #23
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    For 3 FACES under Rotten Tomatoes on Goggle it says In Theaters‎: ‎Mar 8, 2019 limited.

    A New York Times piece by Randall Stross from eight years ago argues that in the solitary, small screen viewing predominating now, we've simply come full circle; it was like that at the beginning. I personally don't get involved much in cinema history. My interest is in individual movies, taken one at a time. For that reason I'm glad there's now a decent new documentary about our most important film reviewer, Pauline Kael. You can watch it online, alone, on your little screen. The trouble is that at this point the people who remember reading Kael's reviews in the magazine are literally dying out. If you weren't there you don't know what it was like. It wasn't about the opinions. It was that it was stimulating and very rare to encounter such passion and quickness of intelligence focused on movies.

    Re: THE SOUVENIR as I've often said, I do not think that one's pleasure in seeing a new film depends on knowing nothing about it. I know this is widely believed. It does not apply to the arts in general. The most knowledge you bring has a lot to do with your appreciation, along with the taste and common sense you already have. I'm a longtime student of literature, comparative literature and English literature, where you approach a read by learning as much about it as you can, not by maintaining a blank mind. Well prepared as I was for THE SOUVENIR, it was still surprising and fresh every step of the way. I still saw everything from Julie's semi-blind point of view. The film is dominated by her point of view. It's still a shock at the end to realize how blind she was.

    The big screen is still always the defining experience and I have great big screen experiences (as I mentioned, especially the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln center) in my head all the time as the ideal. As for the audience, first of all, we're not necessarily more alone watching on a small screen at home, we could be less so. We're usually alone - together - in the movie theater. The audience varies. My best memories are new movies watched in a full house with a crowd that is totally excited about it. That actually happens only rarely. When the audience is sparse, that opens up the possibility for people to be assholes, to talk, to make noise. If they're shoulder-to-shoulder twith strangers intent on the screen, people shut up.

    For the best audiences, go to Paris. Not always but generally there in a theater you can hear a pin drop, it's the civilized standard and love of cinema that prevails. I've enjoyed this for decades. It greatly enhances the experience of movie watching that here in my suburban California cineplex can be diluted by inattentive popcorn munchers. I've been told this by a friend who lives in Paris too who growing up lived in many countries and is half Swedish. She said nobody can touch the French for attentive, respectful, silent movie watching.

    I'd agree he said/she said closeups work better than panoramic outdoor action shots in a small-screen format but I guess my background as an artist helps me watch a small screen and imagine a big one. A beautifully composed image can be appreciated even postcard size. Statistics on shot length or closeup frequency don't interest me that much, frankly, or seem relevant to the individual films I see.

    I have examples from classical music that show how you first encounter great art can vary hugely and still be an equally tremendous experience. Two of the most momentous musical introductions of my youth were 1. first hearing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony played over the radio on the family radio-phonograph in the dining room; 2. Hearing the Berlin Philharmonic live in a concert hall conducted by Herbert von Karajan play Beethoven's Seventh. Sonically and technically those two experiences were worlds apart. Yet for me, they were equally life-changing.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-04-2020 at 04:26 PM.

  9. #24
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    We have retreated (devolved?) to what the cinema was for those 3 or 4 years years before the Lumiere brothers decided to project the images onto a screen: a Kinetoscope viewing box. At its best, cinema is an immersive, sensual and social experience. The lockdown serves to remind us what a precious experience it is. I enjoyed reading about yours; and about the Paris cinemas you visit.

    I wonder how popular this forum is... Do I need to say "spoilers ahead" to those who will listen to Chris and I and watch "The Souvenir" soon? I can only go by my viewing of the film; I must say that as the film unfolds, I was fascinated and thoroughly engaged by my evolving assessment of "the love interest" in relation to the affections of the extremely simpatico protagonist. Part of the artistry in this film resides in the gradual, subtle realization in the first half that there's something "majorly wrong" with this man; and that it's going to have a profound effect on the extremely likable character whose partial perspective we share. Part of the pleasure of "not knowing" resides in the weighing of evidence, the consideration of hypotheses, the development of expectations about the nature of characters and predictions about their behavior. Knowing the guy is a heroin addict before watching the film would not have spoiled (as in "ruined") the experience but it would have diminished it. I can always watch the film again, as I have, to enjoy it now that I know how it is resolved. It was great to watch it once without knowing much more than "it's a British film a lot of critics love".

    So I was right to list Jafar Panahi's 3 FACES on my 2019 list. It seems to be the great film of last year everyone has managed to ignore. It's the film I should say something about. It won Best Screenplay at Cannes 2018.
    ======
    A figurine is as much a work of art, potentially, as a monument.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 05-05-2020 at 12:39 PM.

  10. #25
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    In my original review I laid out that I'd read a good bit about THE SOUVENIR before seeing it, but it still seemed fresh to me - as I said here too. That's my rule for myself, that I welcome "spoilers," but I try to avoid them in reviews. Nonetheless I gave away the fact you have mentioned, contradicting myself.

    Your "figurine" remark, which I agree with, reminds me of the famous remark of Jane Austen who alluded to her novels as "the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work. . ."

    It seems to me your description of your experience of watching the film focuses a lot on you. Again referring to my literature background, I was originally taught to focus on the work itself, and I like to focus on what goes on in the film, not so much what happens in my mind as I watch it. We could argue about this endlessly, but I think the discovery that the is something "majorly wrong' with this man" is as fascinating whether you know what it is or not. Another thing I learned as a literature student, from Alain Renoir at Berkeley especially, is that traditional audiences, such as of Beowulf or the Song of Roland or the Odyssey, always knew what happens, but their pleasure was in seeing not the WHAT but the HOW of its telling.

  11. #26
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    I'm reading 2 fiction novels relevant to the pandemic, but I do make time for film reviews, mostly reviews of films I particularly like shortly after watching them. So I read your review, Chris, of Hogg's "The Souvenir" as well as the other two for which you provide links (in another thread). I find statements about her signature shots and characteristic practices most interesting, and may have something more concrete to say soon, especially after watching another of her films.

    My major impulse nowadays is to be grateful for so much good cinema from now, from the past, and from the future that I have to discover. I'm thinking about how there is so much good stuff out there that I managed to totally miss the three features by Joanna Hogg that precede "The Souvenir". It's the sheer volume of movies and television programs out there, and our busy lives...

    I could have easily come across Hogg's "Archipelago"(2010) a decade ago, the way I managed to take notice of another movie by a female, British director that totally impressed me: Clio Barnard's "The Arbor" (2010). It mixes documentary and fiction aspects. Her features since then: The Selfish Giant and Dark River are excellent, if less experimental. Barnard is a filmmaker many people have failed to notice I think. The way I failed to notice Ms. Hogg, until now. I just received in the mail a dvd of her "Archipelago". I wonder if Hogg and Barnard would be better known if they were male. Anyway...it's great there are filmmakers this good awaiting broader recognition and acknowledgement.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 05-11-2020 at 08:54 AM.

  12. #27
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    I recommend watching all Hogg's other films if you can. I did right after cseeing THE SOUVENIR. It's worth it. They're not long. Don't blame yourself for missing them: there was no attention paid to them or to her, in the US at least, till THE SOUVENIR.

    Clio Bernard is a strong UK director, and I can see you'd particularly like THE ARBOR with its use of documentary elements. I reviewed it as part of the SFIFF of 2011. But the social worlds of the two director are worlds apart, though they might have much in common being women and English. I loved THE SELFISH GIANT, can remember exactly where I saw it, the tiniest auditorium at IFC Center in NYC. I missed DARK RIVER.

    The reason why I discovered Hogg is because I'm a regular weekly of the weekly New Yorker magazine. The background piece there on her and the making of THE SOUVENIR made me eager to see it right when it was coming out in theaters, and quite unlike her first three, it was shown at a big local chain movie house, AMC Bay Street. Wish I could go there now - or the Century Hilltop in the opposite direction, which I've discovered in the past year is cheaper, easier to get to, and has better buttered popcorn. When open, that is.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-11-2020 at 04:03 PM.

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