1. Portrait of a Lady On Fire Directed by Céline Sciamma
A gorgeous, gripping, and emotional vision enough to reduce me to tears. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is so may things all at once, it’s hard to pin it down. It seems on paper to be a romance, but as you get into it, the atmospheric tension conveys a sense of gothic horror. It leaves you uneasy but also enraptured, yearning but also soothed. A movie about art, love, depression and self-actualization that manages to blend them all seamlessly and elegantly. The cinematography, editing, performances, production design are all incredible, coming together under Sciamma’s hand to create a masterpiece of cinema. AND. That final scene is an absolute thrill ride.
2. Jojo Rabbit Directed by Taika Waititi
Taika Waititi might just be the best writer/director working today, and this is evident in everything he does, from the MCU to The Mandalorian to Jojo Rabbit. He demonstrates so well how he can work under a major studio and direct a blockbuster, but also direct a film that is so personal and meaningful. And the most incredible thing about Jojo Rabbit is that it isn’t some small indie film he made for himself. It’s a movie for everyone, under a major studio, for a wide audience. This is so integral to the message of this film. It’s one that everyone should be able to watch and yes, enjoy and laugh at, but also feel uncomfortable, emotional and cripplingly saddened by. It’s the most important movie he has made, one that we should all be grateful for.
3. Parasite Directed by Bong Joon-Ho
The movie that finally gave Bong Joon-Ho wider attention, and rightfully so. His usual themes of social class and the degradation of civility are portrayed so effectively and empathetically in Parasite. Instead of the insane atmospheres of his earlier genre films, Parasite is about such a mundane situation that is put on a slow burner, simmering and bubbling to a chaotic crescendo. The emotional journey of watching this film in cinemas was incredibly rewarding, as I laughed alongside an audience- at first in good humour, then uncomfortably, and then silenced with baited breath, gripped with tension, shock and horror.
4. Extra Ordinary Directed by Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman
Totally and unfairly flying under the radar, Extra Ordinary was the funniest movie I saw last year. The multiple hilarious references to classic horror films, the self-mocking use of genre tropes, and one brilliant performance from Will Forte had me in stitches the whole time. At its heart, its a simple emotional story, enough to be not just funny, but also undoubtedly charming.
5. The Last Black Man in San Francisco Directed by Joe Talbot
Its incredible that in Joe Talbot’s directorial debut, he crafted a film so singularly artistic. Jimmie Fails’ story is one that is so beautifully poetic, and the film plays out like dream. It’s a story that is culturally relevant, undoubtedly, but also innately emotional and moving. Themes of race, masculinity, art and architecture are woven together cohesively in this exquisite film.
6. Booksmart Directed by Olivia Wilde
Speaking of impressive directorial debuts. Olivia Wilde breathes new life into raunchy coming of age tales with Booksmart. While this film has consistently been compared to Superbad, it should be clear that it is infinitely better than it. Booksmart is not simply a lewd comedy, but one with a strong understanding of it’s heart. It convinces us an audience to buy into the lead characters, root for them, relate to them, and yes laugh at and with them.
7. Avengers: Endgame Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
It cannot be understated just how monumental this film is. Kevin Feige and the team at Marvel Studios have achieved an impossible goal, and in only ten years. They have brought superheros out of the fringes of pop culture and made them immediately relevant and alluring. Avengers Endgame is an incredible celebration of the MCU, with moments of fan service that at times might seem pandering, but mostly tasteful and joyous. Endgame’s references to the past are filled with a self-aware sense of humour, and respect for its humble beginnings. Marvel forever changed theatre-going experiences to not just watching a movie, but sharing in a cultural event. And Endgame is a touchstone in cinema history. A shared experience amongst fans. And while it might not be proper to call it art, maybe it doesn’t need to be, because it stands apart nevertheless.
8. Toy Story 4 Directed by Josh Cooley
I really liked it okay? On paper, this movie seemed like a bad idea, as Toy Story 3 was so incredible and I couldn’t imagine a better ending. But as I got into Toy Story 4, I see it’s importance to the story. It truly delves into the minds of these characters, and questions what happiness means to them. Tom Hanks brought to life a piece of my childhood (and indeed many childhoods like mine), and this film allows us to see Woody off to his cathartic destiny.
9. Rocketman Directed by Dexter Fletcher
Unexpectedly brilliant, Rocketman sets itself apart from most formulaic biopics. It leans into the fantasy of Elton John’s music, and carries us trancelike through his life. Taron Egerton’s powerhouse performance fills in the nuances of Elton’s emotions. In the most gregarious bits of showmanship, to the darkest pits of despair, Egerton ensures that we empathize with, relate to, and celebrate the life of Sir Elton.
10. Little Women Directed by Greta Gerwig
Following the success of Lady Bord, Little Women is a daring choice for a second film. But Greta Gerwig proves that her prowess as a director has only gotten sharper. Her adaptation feels immediately compatible, honing in on the heart of the novel, and concisely translating it to a film that is funny, charming, and moving. Gerwig once again brings out the very best in Saoirse Ronan- her Jo March is equally headstrong and gentle, and every bit the iconic character that has been celebrated for decades. Timothee Chalamet really rocks it too.
Blinded by the Light (Directed by Gurinder Chadha), Knives Out (Directed by Rian Johnson), Dolemite is My Name (Directed by Craig Brewer), John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (Directed by Chad Stahelski), The Lighthouse (Directed by Robert Eggers), The Irishman (Directed by Martin Scorsese), Ford v. Ferrari (Directed by James Mangold)
I will forever be in awe of this scene, Jo March expressing her frustration of how society paints how a woman should act or be, yet shows that even how much she hates it, agrees that at some point we all deserve love & to be loved. But not because we care about what people will say.
We say “yes” when we think it is worthy or the other way around.
Jo March is my spirit animal! Bookish, hungry for adventure, vulnerable but is strong-willed, and loves her family above all!