This year the list is pretty short. I took a lot in, but I think my highlights say something about the changes happening in cinema right now. Old giants are falling, new giants are rising. I also list two works from the past which I discovered in the last twelve months.
Phantom Thread (PT Anderson)
This film was nominated for Best Film at the Oscars, but I think it went beyond its own category. The story kept haunting me over this past year. Everything from the set design to the costumes (garments are a key character in Phantom Thread) and the sound design were exquisite. The two central performances, especially when together, were disturbingly fun to watch. I particularly remember the moment Reynolds proposes to Alma and the following nervous silence. You can almost see the thread of electricity between them.
A Star is Born (Bradley Cooper)
Now this is going to win a lot. The fact that this picture is attracting a wide audience despite its uncomfortable themes of substance abuse and the effects of fame makes it really special. The character arcs also make it very timely.
Widows (Steve McQueen)
The detail of McQueen’s filmmaking makes him one of the greats of our time. Not only is this a heist thriller, it brings up political and social themes. In addition, it’s led by a great variety of fabulous actors and puts people opposite each other who we are not used to seeing together on screen.
Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)
Ok, it’s great that Netflix is showing this film all around the world, but I really hope people aren’t watching this on their phones. At least a computer screen, come on. Roma is full of surprising and poetic moments, but I’d like to mention the moment when, at a new year’s eve party, Cleo’s friend expresses her high hopes for Cleo and her baby-to-be. Suddenly, someone pushes past and Cleo’s raised glass drops and smashes on the floor. This movement is so unexpected that it feels violent. This film is full of these intimate and shocking moments.
Me Without You (2001, Sandra Goldbacher)
This is a beautiful film about a friendship between two girls in the UK, led by Michelle Williams and Anna Friel. Throughout school, university and adult life, Marina and Holly live through betrayal, self-doubt and a whole bunch of relationships, and never give up on their love for each other.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
I must end with this one, 50 years after its release. This film must be watched on a big screen, in the dark, without distractions or popcorn. It’s timeless, intense and reminds us how we, the human species, think we control so much, but are in fact so small in this universe. While some will accuse it of being too slow, every second is necessary to take us deeper into the unknown. “I’m sorry Dave…”