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Film Critics Share Their Hopes for the Movies of 2019 — IndieWire Critics Survey

Film critics share their hopes for the movies (and movie culture) of 2019, including more women behind the camera and civility on Twitter.

Brie Larson, "Captain Marvel"

“Captain Marvel”

Marvel Studios

Sean Mulvihill (@NotSPMulvihill), FanboyNation.com

My movie hopes for 2019 are simple and they all revolve around one of my favorite living directors – Brian De Palma. I want Brian De Palma’s “Domino” to see the light of day. I would also love for his novel co-written with Susan Lehman, “Are Snakes Necessary?”, to get an American release (it’s currently only available in France). While that latter is probably not going to happen any time soon, the lack of information surrounding the former is truly baffling.

Even though I’m a big admirer of Brian De Palma’s films, I know his recent track record is spotty and his projects are certainly not a guaranteed to be box office hits. However, this is one of the finest filmmakers of his generation and the idea that he has a completed film just sitting around collecting dust is simply maddening. In recent interviews, the legendary director paints a portrait of a troubled production and expresses his doubts that the movie starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau will ever see distribution. De Palma said of the film receiving distribution, “I have no idea when this movie will be released. I’ll find out when I read it in the papers like everybody else.”

Whatever 2019 holds for the cinematic and literary projects of Brian De Palma, I can at least take comfort knowing that Shout! Factory, the Criterion Collection, and other specialty labels have been doing their part in restoring some the director’s classics with deluxe special edition Blu-rays. More than anything, I just want a new film from De Palma. Therefore I demand “Domino” be exhumed from whatever vault it’s currently occupying.

Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@chrisreedfilm), Hammer to Nail, Film Festival Today

In 2019, beyond the push – never enough – for more inclusion and diversity in what gets made and released, I would like to see us abandon the notion that a piece of moving-image storytelling made for an online streaming service (Amazon, Hulu, Netflix) is somehow different than a work released theatrically. A movie is a movie a movie, regardless of platform, and since many films eventually appear on these same services, anyway, then who cares? I, myself, prefer seeing movies in a theater, but I think to validate one over the other, in terms of primacy, awards and festival consideration, etc., is absurd. May 2019 see us move away from this outmoded idea. If the folks who hand out prizes for television work can embrace the streaming formats, then so can the movie world.

Jordan Ruimy (@mrRuimy), World of Reel

Whereas 2018 had a wonderful array of inclusively fresh films (“Sorry to Bother You,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Tale,” “BlackKklansman,” If Beale Street Could Talk”), I would love to have 2019 ameliorate the circumstances and one-up, so to speak, the progress we have made in showcasing fresh new points of view and voices in American cinema. Of course, I only wish for these films to turn out great, but we all know they will not always do so. And so, my wish is also that these new filmmakers hit home-runs and continue the striking trend we have seen the last few years.

I suspect Sundance, much like last year, will lead the way in giving us a fabulous array of new voices, striving for their art to be heard. The festival has all but become an oasis for American cinema as Hollywood continues to double-down on their extinction of the mid-budget, adult-oriented movie. However, I, like many other cinephiles, hope that the two most anticipated films of the coming year, and quite possibly the decade, Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” turn out to be as monumental and great as they look on paper. In fact, let’s have them debut at Cannes, because God knows Thierry Fremaux and the brilliant cinematic minds surrounding him at that festival need a bump of positive publicity after last year’s Netflix debacle (although despite all that Cannes still turned out to have the best lineup of films of any film festival in 2018).

Emily Sears (@emily_dawn), Birth.Movies.Death.

I’ll never stop hoping or asking for more stories written and directed by women each year. But in 2019, what I’d really love to see is those women being honored and respected for their work. Female filmmakers and narratives have been stifled in this industry for too long, and it’s time to lift them up and start giving credit where it’s due.

Don Shanahan (@casablancadon), Every Movie Has a Lesson and Medium.com

I feel it’s time to repackage the Academy Awards. The embarrassing panhandling for a new host after Kevin Hart’s departure and their poor attempts last summer to shoehorn a new, silly, and patronizing Popular Film category creates the need for this New Year’s Resolution for the film industry. Reduce the bits and focus on the awards with regality and stature. Make respect for the moment paramount. Don’t put award recipients and their speeches during commercial breaks. This isn’t professional wrestling. At this point, I could do without a host.  While that’s not likely, here’s some generous game-planning math even with a host.

Give the 24 categories five minutes each (three minutes to introduce it gracefully with deeper montages than mere quick mentions and two full minutes for each winner’s speeches) and that’s 120 minutes. Tack on five minutes to open with a tempered welcoming monologue, five minutes to close with thankful parting words, four minutes for the annual moratorium roll call, and 30 minutes of the required commercials to pay the bills. That’s 164 minutes, giving the broadcast sixteen minutes of wiggle room to spare to stay under three hours. The awards are given rich room to operate and nothing is forgotten except another hare-brained skit. As far as categories go, Best Casting and Best Stunt Work deserve inclusion. If the Academy wants to trade those for some technical awards being moved to the separate Scientific and Technical Awards night, so be it. Still, trim the obvious the fluff and fat. Leave that junk for the MTV Movie Awards.

Danielle Solzman (@DanielleSATM), Solzy at the Movies/Freelance

My hope for 2019 is that we don’t have to deal with a single cisgender actor taking away a transgender role from a trans actor. We seem to have this discussion every year and after the Scarlett Johansson fiasco this past year, I hope that Hollywood is beginning to listen. It’s not even just that but how about giving more opportunities to trans actors when it comes to increasing representation on screen. While there are trans actors who are able to pass as cisgender, so many of us are not able to pass. When we see ourselves represented on screen, it lessens some of the anxiety that comes with coming out. If a cisgender filmmaker is behind the camera, all that I ask is that you have transgender people working as consultants but especially have a trans person working on the screenplay.  Having trans people working in the crew but especially as a writer or director takes a huge burden away from the trans actors cast in the film.

As one of the few transgender film critics, I’m happy to discuss this topic but I won’t lie that I’m also happy to discuss other topics like comedy, Star Wars, and comic book movies. When I was pitching an article last summer, an editor told me pigeonhole myself with writing about one topic. While I’m obviously a trans specialist that outlets can turn to for comment, I’m happy to discuss these other topics! This brings me to another hope for the year: getting more opportunities to write!

"The Rider" Score Composer Nathan Halpern

“The Rider”

Sony Pictures Classics

Millicent Thomas (@MillicentOnFilm), Assistant Editor at Screen Queens and Freelance

It’s time that women-directed films are taken more seriously. 2018 saw some highly accliamed films directed by women that were loved and adored, for example, Chloe Zhao’s “The Rider”, Debra Granik’s “Leave No Trace”, and Lynne Ramsay’s triumphant return with “You Were Never Really Here.” Yet, somehow, these worthy films don’t appear in the awards talk – there is no Oscars buzz for directing nominations, or even for the actors who starred in them. “You Were Never Really Here” in particular is worthy of a Best Picture nomination, standing in equal measure with the films tipped for it thus far. You can offer a pat on the back to women making incredible films all you like, but give them the credit they deserve engraved on a statue in 2019 please.

Oralia Torres, @oraleiaCinescopiaMalvestida.

I live in a Mexican city close to the US border, and still have to wait a long time to see US-theatrically released films in movie theatres here. As an example, Guadagnino’s “Suspiria” and Lanthimos’ “The Favorite” open in Mexico next weekend (January 11th), and there are a lot of movies that I’ll catch until they get on streaming portals and, even then, it’s not a guarantee to have a place to see them (for the record, Netflix LATAM still doesn’t have Dee Ree’s “Mudbound”). The regional restrictions for streaming are also a big challenge: some streaming portals, popular in the US and Canada, are not available this side of the border; if they are, the content is curated to the local audiences (whatever that means) and will be very different. If it’s difficult to watch smaller US movies, it’s even more so with movies in languages other than English: although there are French movies regularly in theatres, it’s rare to see movies in Japanese, Korean, Polish, Afrikaans, Portuguese, and even Spanish if they’re not from Mexico or Spain. And this is only regarding new movies: watching older movies is another great feat.

Watching national (i.e. Mexican) movies is another story: Despite the golden age of movies we’re having right now, with innovative stories being made by many brilliant filmmakers, most of them will not reach movie theatres; if they do get released through one of the commercial chains (or even both!), it will be for a very limited time, until the next Hollywood blockbuster arrives. Distribution has always been an issue, and 2018 shined for presenting it cristal clear: a year ago, Amat Escalante’s “La region salvaje” finally opened in Mexico, with a 2-year delay; during the summer, the indie “El club de los insomnia” was quickly withdrawn from commercial theatres, and in november, 2018, Cuarón’s “Roma” was only released on small, independent film theatres and the state-runned Cinetecas, limiting the exposure of the movie to general audiences, because the commercial movie chains couldn’t reach an agreement with Netflix regarding the exhibition model (the movie was released on november 21st, and released on Netflix two weeks later; movie theatres wanted Netflix to “hold” the online release for 3 months). However, one of the shining moments of this year was Natalia Beristain’s “Los adioses,” an unconventional biopic on Mexican writer Rosario Castellanos that stayed on different movie theatres across the country for 12 weeks. The commercial movie chains are slowly catching up and showing more Mexican movies on theatres, even helping with distribution; the best way to watch independent movies is still through film festivals held during the year and keeping up with the local Cinetecas, if available.

My movie hope this year, as well as every year, is better film distribution for both national and international movies, through movie theaters and streaming services. Discovering and seeing all kinds of movies shouldn’t be an excruciating journey. Personally, I hope to be able to cover film festivals, both national and international.

Ethan Warren (@ethanrawarren), Bright Wall/Dark Room

I recognize that the cold hard truths of the internet age make this unrealistic, but if I could wave a magic wand, I would eliminate the all too frequent tendency for us to go through the entire discourse—hype, backlash, backlash to the backlash, and more backlashes all the way down, each more virulent than the last—before a given movie is widely available. With the breakneck pace of Twitter discussion and the realities of festivals, critics screenings, and platforming, there’s no good way to avoid this cycle short of unplugging from the online movie conversation (which is an unequivocally good idea, but not one I’m likely to practice any time soon—like Marie Kondo, I love mess).

But with Sundance on the horizon, there’s a pit in my stomach. How many interesting movies in 2018 got culturally pre-chewed to the point that when you finally bought your ticket you felt like you’d already experienced the movie’s full range of emotional effects? And if the feverish month of online critical debate between the Toronto premiere and the wide release of “A Star is Born” felt like agony, how many cycles of hype and backlash did we endure in the 362 days between the Sundance premiere of “Call Me By Your Name” on January 22, 2017 and its US nationwide release on January 19, 2018? And one more rhetorical question for the road: who is served by this tendency? Not audiences, certainly not the films or filmmakers. As I say, there’s no choice but to make peace with this, because the internet beast craves this cycle, but that’s my pie-in-the-sky wish for 2019 and I’m sticking to it.

Sarah Welch-Larson (@dodgyboffin), Bright Wall/Dark RoomThink ChristianFreelance

I am a simple woman with simple tastes, and all I can hope for in 2019 is that “Star Wars: Episode IX” is very good.

Aaron White (@FeelinFilm), Feelin’ Film PodcastFeelinFilm.com

My biggest hope for 2019 is that film fans and critics alike can begin to change the way we interact with one another over disagreements in a film’s quality.  There is not much more demoralizing than being loud and proud about how much you love a film only to have social media tell you how wrong you are for thinking the way you do. This reared its head recently in an ugly way, when after the surprising 76th Golden Globes Awards, 15-year old actress (and nominee) Elsie Fisher was attacked on Twitter for daring to post that she was happy a certain film won an award. The anger many seem to feel when not having their opinion validated is concerning and we should always remember to respect whomever we’re interacting with, even when just discussing a difference of opinion about a movie. I think one of the best things we can do when discussing film is to accept another person’s experience with a movie as equally valid as our own – and especially so when our opinions fall in the minority and are counter to a consensus. Instead of arguing that the majority is wrong, it’s a wonderful opportunity to use the words “that just didn’t work for me” instead.

If I may offer one quick second hope, it’s simply that the DCEU continues churning out quality films in the wake of its success with “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman”. The studio seems to be on the right track with its two 2019 releases. “Shazam” appears to be a hilarious comedy and Todd Phillips’ Joaquin Phoenix-led “Joker” may be the kind of prestige comic book film to gain awards attention. The more quality superhero films the better, I say. 2018 was a strong year for the genre and I hope that continues in this new year.

Hannah Woodhead (@goodjobliz), Associate Editor at Little White Lies

2018 felt like a landmark year to me. It was an exciting year to love film, an exciting year to be a critic. Coming off the back of last night’s Golden Globes, I’m disappointed at how short Hollywood’s memory seems to be. Last year everyone wore black for Time’s Up, this year, a film directed by an alleged abuser was lauded. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the mechanics in the industry are corroded, and no one with the power to change them, wants to change them. There’s so much talk about calling out abuse of power. My biggest hope for 2019 is that this relentless talk actually becomes action. I want to see inclusion riders put into action, I want to see festivals making active efforts to diversify their programmes and attendees (shout out to the ones who are already doing this), I want to see studios making more of an effort to ensure their films don’t just disappear into the ‘content ether’, and I want to see abusers shown the door once and for all, no ifs, no buts.

But given that I have so little faith in the machinery of the film industry at large, it comes down to us – critics and film fans – to be the guiding light. To champion the right movies, to call out the bullshit as and when we see it. I hope we become braver, I hope we become less afraid to speak out, but I hope we become smarter too. I hope we learn from our mistakes, I hope we don’t just settle for more of the same. I hope ‘hot take’ criticism dies a death, and that we get the thoughtful, precise pieces we need. I get it, life is hard, I too am tired on a molecular level. There’s a lot of work to be done, and sometimes it’s hard to stay hopeful. I look at Reverend Ernst Toller in “First Reformed” as he spirals deeper into existential despair and think, quite without irony, big mood, but I’m trying to stay positive. It’s only January, after all. It’s so easy to say ‘What’s the use?’ when it comes to cinema. ‘What’s the use in this garbage fire of a world?’ But movies are one of the few good things we have left. Protect them, cherish them, fight for them. They don’t exist in a vacuum, they have currency, they have meaning. They have power.

Clint Worthington (@clintworthing), Consequence of Sound, Alcohollywood

I’d certainly like to see an end to the claim that “movies are all just sequels and remakes now” — plenty of original movies are being made, but no one goes to see them! With the rise of Netflix and other streaming services, there’s certainly an accessible home for great, original films for people without access to arthouse theaters. But it’s still a shame to see films like “Widows” tank while continuity-porn franchise fodder like “The Crimes of Grindelwald” continues to rake in millions.

Even with non-franchise films like “Get Out” becoming sleeper hits, this narrative of creatively bankrupt Hollywood still perpetuates itself, which feels like a lazy criticism for people who aren’t really paying that much attention to movies in the first place. Let’s put that to bed and keep supporting original films in whatever format we can find them.

Q: What Is the Best Movie Currently Playing in Theaters?

A: “If Beale Street Could Talk”

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