I am happy to recommend these selections, the links going to my earlier remarks about them:
Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse (animated)
Campernaum (Ethiopian refugee in Beirut)
Ash is Purest White (Chinese, obscure)
High Life (best science fiction movie of the year?)
Long Day’s Journey into Night (big screen only, Chinese obscure)
Woman at War (Icelandic, wacky)
Booksmart (full of energy on the screen)
Echo in the Canyon (L.A. music scene in the 1960s and beyond)
The Farewell (American-Chinese, about a dying relative)
Honeyland (Macedonian, about bee keepers)
Inside Bill’s Brain (Bill Gates, short documentary)
Parasite (Korean, the Straussian reading is anti-egalitarian)
JoJo Rabbit (modern-day anti-Nazi comedy, mostly they pull it off)
The Rise of Skywalker
A Hidden Life
From those my top picks would be Marriage Story — the American redo of Scenes from a Marriage, and then Honeyland. Overall it was a much better year for movies than last year.
As for marginal choices, Ad Astra and Knives Out were two movies I liked, and came close to making this list, but didn’t.
As for historic cinema, I am very glad I purchased the complete Blu-Ray set of Ingmar Bergman movies, spectacular transfers and the American viewer can watch the true, complete version of Persona for the first time.
As for the rest of the year, I have high hopes for The Souvenir, Little Women and also the new Adam Sandler movie, but I have not yet seen them. The documentary For Sama has potential too.
What am I forgetting?
I read so many scathing — forgive me long and thorough and scathing — reviews of this one that I figured something had to be up. And indeed there is. However unpleasant and disturbing this movie may be, it is excellent along all major dimensions of cinematic quality, including drama, script, characterization, performances, cinematography, color, music, and more, not to mention embedded cinematic references.
But here is the catch: it is the most anti-Leftist movie I have seen, ever. It quite explicitly portrays the egalitarian instinct as a kind of barbaric violent atavism, and it is pointedly critical of Antifa and related movements, showing them as representing a literal end of civilization. Only the wealthy are genteel and urbane and proper. On crime and law and order, it is right-wing in a 1970s “Death Wish” sort of way, though anti-gun too.
I believe the critics simply could not see straight. I hesitate to recommend such a non-entertaining and indeed reactionary movie, but I am very glad I saw it. If you have been put off by the reviews, with this blog post I am adding my dissenting voice of reason.
From Brad Allen:
I was watching the Dark Knight on a bus yesterday evening (I’m not sure how familiar you are with the movie) – there was a scene that I thought was pretty interesting to think through, and was curious how you might go about it.
There is a scene where the Joker kills a mob boss, and then gives his 3 subordinates one half broken pool cue – and basically tells them that to live, the other two have to die. You don’t see what happens, but what do you think happens? Is it advantageous to pick up the pool cue, or would that signal the other two to attack you first? Would you try to back out and let the other two fight? Or would that incent them to come after you? OR does everyone do nothing, until a last second dash like bicycle sprints?
Obviously, I’ve had fun thinking about this. Do you have any guesses?