I don’t normally rank the new films I have seen until the end of the year, but for reasons obvious in the title of this post I thought I’d drop an early version of the list this time. Besides, a lot of people are looking for new movies to watch at home right now and for many of those films mentioned here, this is already possible.
1. Weathering With You
My film of the year so far is this sublime Japanese animation from the same director as Your Name. This movie is not quite as good as the one that preceded it but it is still a stunningly drawn, emotional inspiring, fantasy driven teen romance, this time centring around a girl who appears to be able to control the weather. This is truly breathtaking cinema, the likes of which is not seen in any other area of the medium. Like Your Name, this also features wonderful expansive views of the sky which we’re all kind of missing right now.
Unfortunately Weathering With You is not scheduled for home viewing release until September but you can see Your Name through all home viewing channels right now.
2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
I wrestled with which of these top two films would come out on top and you may well see them switch places in the final list come December. I loved Portrait of a Lady on Fire. The best films grab me emotionally in ways I often don’t see coming and this story of two women falling for each other in eighteenth century France did just that. It is just the most heart rending, beautiful and understated love story I have ever seen. The simplicity of the filmmaking is magnificently complex in a way you can’t understand until you’ve seen it.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire is available to watch at home now through Curzon on Demand.
1917 is a fairly standard war film but it is very far from being a standard film. The story is good enough to support the skill and artistry in the direction and cinematography but the skill and artistry in the direction and cinematography is incredible. It’s absolutely worth seeing the movie just for this and actually it’s also almost worth seeing the film for Andrew Scott’s brief cameo as well.
1917 comes to home viewing in May.
No one had really heard of Margot Robbie seven years ago but in that time she has done nineteen films, worked alongside Saoirse Ronan, Will Smith (twice), Leonardo DiCaprio (twice), Brendan Gleason (three times), Scorsese and Tarantino and clocked up two Oscar nominations. In Bombshell she stars alongside Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman and has arguably never been better.
Bombshell, about the Fox News scandal, is the film the MeToo movement needed and one that properly stands to inspire other people to fight sexual oppression and other forms of prejudice and bullying. Not a lot of films can say that.
Bombshell is also out for home viewing in May.
5. Jojo Rabbit
Talking of getting two Oscar nominations, Scarlett Johansson got two this year alone; for this and Marriage Story. The second of these is worth checking out on Netflix now but you’ll have to wait until May for Jojo Rabbit.
People have been making fun of Hitler and Nazis on film since 1940 but this movie does so without losing sight of the tragedy and fear surrounding the holocaust. It’s a fine line to walk but director Taika Waititi manages to dance along it, twelve year old kid in tow.
6. Uncut Gems
They told me this film was brilliant, they told me Adam Sandler was astonishing in it, they told me I’d barely be able to breathe with tension while watching it. I believed them but still I resisted. It was no good though, all they said was true and by the end I was gripped.
Uncut Gems is on Netflix now.
7. Little Joe
Little Joe is a smart and captivating little film. The Joe of the title is a flower with a scent that overpowers you and makes you forget all reason and concern for yourself and your loved ones. Looking it up on Amazon to find out the release date and the item that come up first was a Little Joe Car Air Freshener so I definitely won’t be buying. I might get a copy of the film on its home release in July though as it is a cleverly ambiguous little thriller that uses colour in the frame as well as it uses story and performance.
Considering how much this film has been celebrated, you might have expected me to place it higher. I did like it but I just wasn’t blown away by it as others were. It’s not because I’m already fairly familiar with South Korean cinema because my friend who is a real Korean film nerd loved it, but knowing movies of this type did take away some of the surprises.
People having secrets and class divides are common themes in a lot of the movies to have come out of this country and they have been explored by this very director before. Of the four Bong Joon Ho films I have seen, The Host remains my favourite. This is still a brilliantly crafted film though and I’m thrilled it took home all the prizes at the Academy Awards.
It is nice to think that this will have changed things for international films at the Oscars but in the end I fear it might have as much long term effect as Kathryn Bigelow’s director win in 2010.
Parasite is out for home viewing in June but The Host is on iTunes now so watch that while you’re waiting.
9. Dark Waters
I feel like everyone was reigning it in with Dark Waters. It isn’t really the best work of anyone involved. The thing is though, is that this is exactly what the story calls for. It is a corporate corruption conspiracy thriller but it didn’t need the character work of Erin Brockovich or the courtroom theatrics of JFK. It just needs to tell the story of the DuPont companies unimaginable crimes and to let jaws drop.
Dark Waters has on UK home release yet.
10. The Invisible Man
There is a moment about halfway through The Invisible Man that is probably the single strongest and most effective image I have seen in any film all year. The shot in question is surprising, intriguing and thrilling and it changes everything in the film before and after. It is also in the trailer so if have any intention of watching this film then you should definitely avoid seeing that first.
Do watch the film though, it is a sophisticated horror film that, irrelevant of the title, says much about modern women than it does any conspicuously inconspicuous men.
The Invisible Man is on iTunes now.
11. First Love
This film, by legendary Japanese director Takashi Miike, is bonkers. It is a story of two young people rushing into a relationship in amongst a world of double crossing gangsters and corrupt police. It has call girls and car chases, hubris and hallucinations. In fact, think True Romance only without the same subtly and restraint. Seriously, this is full of comedy violence that is so cartoony, at one point the film actually briefly turns in a cartoon.
First Love is on iTunes now.
12. Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
They were sure Suicide Squad was going to be good but they made it and it was rubbish. The response to this has been to keep the one thing that everyone seemed to like; Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, and just make the same film again, only this time calling it THE Suicide Squad. That feels like stubborn man logic to me.
Give a woman the same job and she will keep the same successful female character, dress her in something other than hot pants, jettisoned everything else, add a whole load of other strong women and make it all tremendous fun. Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is the result.
The sad thing is that this didn’t make much money and The Suicide Squad, when it comes out, will probably be an absolute cash cow.
Reward this film on iTunes when it comes out for home viewing at some undisclosed time in the near future.
13. The Personal History of David Copperfield
I saw this film twice (it was a good one to take my Mum to) and I liked it more the second time around.
Initially I had thought that it crumbled under the weight of its characterisations but on repeat viewing I realised that the characterisations were probably good enough to hold it up.
Judge for yourself when it comes out for home viewing in June.
14. Miss Americana
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Taylor Swift who has so much to say in her songs, has quite a lot of good stuff to say outside of them too.
Learn from her wisdom on Netflix now.
Unfortunately last year’s Little Women is not out until May but this film plays with costume drama conventions a little as well and is already in iTunes.
This new release, coming out on iTunes just as the country goes into lockdown, is absolutely the wrong film for these troubled times.
This movie misbehaves when it should be raging against the establishment. It just isn’t angry enough. It brings women out of the home to stand up for female rights but can’t go any further than its clever title suggests. It brought a pun to a wife fight.
Misbehaviour is in cinemas now but unfortunately the doors are all locked.
When they made the film Bright (on Netflix now) they thought of what it would be like if orcs and elves had lived on past the setting of Tolkien’s books and into modern times. It sounds like it should have been a cartoon but the result was a brutal police drama featuring magic and a weird contemporary quest.
The people behind Onward obviously thought this sounded like it should have been a cartoon too and one film certainly bares similarities to the other.
19. Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters
In the publicity this promised to be the definitive retrospective on the iconic 80s comedy adventure.
It really isn’t.
It doesn’t tell the story of the film so much as provide a series of incomplete anecdotes. Also, considering that this is a new release it is odd that it doesn’t reference that Harold Ramis, who features heavily in the talking heads, passed away in 2014. Maybe their real scoop is getting a ghost to talk about Ghostbusters but I suggest it has just been sitting on a shelf somewhere for six years.
To be honest I can see why.
The Ghostbusters documentary on Netflix as part of The Movies That Made Us series is much better.
It’s not as if I had high hopes for this film but this is such a disappointment by any expectation. It is poorly written, poorly edited, poorly performed and poorly reviewed. Dolittle seems to have been the watchword for every aspect of the production. We have a clear loser here.