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35 Directors Pick Their Favorite Movies of 2019

Bong Joon Ho, Guillermo del Toro, Sofia Coppola, Luca Guadagnino, Lulu Wang, Bill Hader, Adam McKay, and more reflect on the best of 2019.


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There remains one group we’ve yet to hear from when it comes to the best films of 2019: the directors who made them. IndieWire has reached out to a number of our favorite filmmakers to share their lists and thoughts on what made this year great.

As is advisable with creative people, we gave the directors a great deal of freedom in how they reflected on the year in moving images. What follows is everything ranging from traditional top 10 lists to favorite moments and performances, with lists that span TV, podcasts, and much more.

This is the fourth year IndieWire has done this survey, and what was exciting about this particular group is how many are international, and the wide range of films they celebrated. If you are bored with every end-of-the-year list looking the same, you are in for a treat, as some of the best filmmakers highlight films that fell through critics’ and awards gaps.

Additional reporting by Eric Kohn and Kate Erbland.

Khalik Allah (“Black Mother,” “Field Niggas”)

“Red Beard” (1965)
“Kagemusha” (1980)
“The Hidden Fortress” (1958)
“Rashomon” (1950)
“Ran” (1985)
“Ikiru” (1952)
“Sanshiro Sugata” (1943)
“Sanjuro” (1962)
“Seven Samurai” (1954)
“Dersu Uzala” (1975)

Ana Lily Amirpour (“The Bad Batch,” “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”)



Warner Bros.

Here’s some of my favorite films this year.

“The Two Popes”
“Les Misérables”
“Marriage Story”
“The Irishman”
“The Mustang”

Note: Very much want to but have not yet seen “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.”

Olivier Assayas (“Wasp Network,” “Personal Shopper”)

“The Traitor”

It’s been a very busy year and I’ve seen far less movies than my usual. So, sorry, there’s quite a lot of blind spots. Here’s my list nonetheless. It’s actually in some sort of order, meaning the stellar accomplishment of Marco Bellocchio with “Il Traditore,” which makes you feel like you’ve never seen a mafia movie before, made a pretty big impression on me.

“Il Traditore” – Marco Bellocchio
“The Irishman” – Martin Scorsese
“J’accuse” – Roman Polanski
“Le Jeune Ahmed” – Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne
“Oh Mercy!” – Arnaud Desplechin
“Proxima” – Alice Winocour
“Atlantics” – Mati Diop
“High Life” – Claire Denis
“Marriage Story” – Noah Baumbach
“Ad Astra” – James Gray
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” – Quentin Tarantino
“Pain and Glory” – Pedro Almodovar

I have to add that as biased as I may be, I thought Kristen Stewart’s performance in “Seberg” was nothing short of amazing.

I love Christian Bale and I found him quite remarkable in “Ford v Ferrari.”

Bi Gan (“Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” “Kaili Blues”)

"The Shadow Play"

“The Shadow Play”

Berlin International Film Festival

Here are films/shows that have influenced Bi Gan this year, including two new films that played in Locarno.

1.  ”Blind Chance” (1987) dir. Krzysztof Kieślowski
2. “Sorekara” (1985) dir. Morita Yoshimitsu
3. “Picnic” (1996) dir. Shunji Iwai
4. “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) dir. Arthur Penn
5. “The Shadow Play” (2019) dir. Lou Ye
6. “Ne Zha” (2019) dir. Jiao Zi
7. “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” (1991) dir. Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper, Eleanor Coppola
8. “Black Sun” (short) 2019, dir. Arda Çiltepe  [FYI, played Locarno]
9. “Otpusk (Leave of Absence)” (short) 2019, dir. Anton Sazonov  [FYI, played Locarno]
10. “The Longest Day in Chang’An” (2019) (Chinese TV series ) dir. Cao Dun

Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite,” “Okja”)

“Hotel by the River”

“First Cow” – Kelly Reichardt
“The Irishman” – Martin Scorsese
“Asako 1 & 2” – Hamaguchi Ryuske
“Marriage Story” – Noah Baumbach
“Midsommar” – Ari Aster
“Uncut Gems” – Safdie Brothers
“Hotel by the River” – Hong Sang Soo
“Mindhunter” (Season 2) – David Fincher & others

Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation,” “Somewhere”)

I thought Adam Sandler was great in “Uncut Gems”! I totally believed he was that guy and you felt his heart underneath all the hectic energy. And Charlize Theron transformed into Megyn Kelly to drive “Bombshell.”

Kelly Fremon Craig (“The Edge of Seventeen”)

“Jojo Rabbit”

“Jojo Rabbit”: My favorite film of the year. Funny, heartbreaking, absurd, unlike anything else before it. What a truly singular voice Taika Waititi has. Sign me up to see all his work forever.

“Knives Out”: A joyride from first frame to last. Masterfully written and performed, with a final shot so achingly perfect, Rian Johnson had to be grinning to himself for days after he thought of it.

“Parasite”: Every time I guessed what would happen next I was wrong and what a thrill it was. When was the last time a film this entertaining also said so much about the way we live? I can’t stop thinking about it.

“Honey Boy”: Shia LaBeouf is mesmerizing, his whole performance built on raw impulse and bursting straight from the center of him. 12-year-old Noah Jupe captivates your heart the second he hits the screen and Alma Har’el brings the story together with a sure and loving hand.

“Joker”: You can feel Todd Phillips’ passion for the project all over it, and who else but Joaquin Phoenix could’ve pulled off the role? That eerie choked laugh. I held my breath the whole runtime.

“Uncut Gems”: A film so effectively panic-inducing, I never want to see it again. A master class in building tension and holding it tight for impossible lengths. Adam Sandler breaks loose in every scene. The role rips right through him.

“Marriage Story”: Bet no film this year has started as many conversations as this one. Nobody who’s seen it agrees which of the two characters is more at fault and if that isn’t evidence of some great writing, I don’t know what is. Ray Liotta as a pushy divorce attorney is an unexpected joy.

TV: “Succession” and “Fleabag” (two of the best written and acted shows in history), and the hilarious and thoroughly human reality series “90 Day Fiancé.”

Josephine Decker (“Madeline’s Madeline,” “Shirley”)

"Mary Magdalene"

“Mary Magdalene”

IFC Films

For personal reasons, I have seen very, very few films this year, so here are the films I have seen and loved — not necessarily made this year!

1. “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”: Celine Sciamma, I bow down to you.

2. “Touch of Evil”: Orson Welles is just too much of a genius. Illuminatingly, frustratingly good. The one-take shot over the first three minutes – heart in the ears!

3. “Mary Magdalene”: How did this film fly so far under the radar? I think especially as a woman who grew up Christian in the South, seeing the Christ story through a heroic woman’s POV was… transformative. I love its doc-style approach to such epic material. The miracle is in the conscience.

4. “Toy Story 4”: I wanted it to be as good as “Toy Story 3,” and it was. It was.

5. “Us”: AHHHHHHH!

6. “Killing Eve”: Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh and — oh my gosh, every single human in this TV show is just so hilarious and good. Thank you, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, for being good at everything including creating this series.

7. “Les Misérables”: Surprise of my year. Really thought I was about to watch a remake of a remake, and it turns out Ladj Ly (doc-maker) crafted a stunningly researched, perfectly cast drama via power plays in a contemporary French banlieue.

8. “Booksmart”: Olivia Wilde makes high school jump out of its bones!

9. “Instant Family”: Will make you very very happy. And you might need to go adopt a child.

10. “Midsommar”: The only reason this perfect film is not higher on the list is that it gave me nightmares for weeks. Ari Aster, your cinematography, your production design, your world, your writing, your… gall.

Movies that would have made this list if I had seen them yet: “Uncut Gems,” “Hala,” “Waves,” “Edge of Democracy,” “The Nightingale,” “Ash Is Purest White,” “Black Mother.”

Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water,” “Pan’s Labyrinth”)

“The Irishman”


In NO order of preference-

1) “Parasite”
2) “The Irishman”
3) “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
4) “Uncut Gems”
5) “The Lighthouse”
6) “Pain and Glory”
7) “1917”
8) “Joker”
9) “Marriage Story”
10) “Jojo Rabbit”
11) “Monos”
12) “Little Women”
13) “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”
14) “Midsommar”

Yance Ford (“Strong Island”)

Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé

“Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé”

Courtesy of Parkwood


“Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool”
“Always in Season”
“Vision Portraits”
“Blowin’ Up”
“After Maria”
“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice”
“American Factory”
“Edge of Democracy”
“The Cave”
“For Sama”
“The Infiltrators”
“1619 Project” podcast


“Dolemite Is My Name”
“The Farewell”
“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”
“Queen & Slim”

Augustine Frizzell (“Never Goin’ Back,” “Last Letter from Your Lover”)

“Long Day’s Journey Into Night”

With a busy schedule this year (as of writing this) I watched a paltry 105 films, new and old. I still found many that I loved, and here are five taken from my list of faves, in no particular order.

“Greener Grass”: After seeing the short version of this a few years back, I was excited to hear about and watch the feature, and it did not disappoint. It’s funny and charming, and has so many surprising bits in it that I’m tickled just thinking about them. This is social satire at its best and I can’t wait to see what these filmmakers do next!

“Long Shot”: I love a movie that hits all the expected notes, but still manages to be funny and fresh. This was like an updated “Pretty Woman” — which is great, because I love “Pretty Woman.” Charlize Theron and Seth Rogan together = pure gold.

“Long Day’s Journey into Night”: This felt like a dream, like being on acid again, like a new and technically ambitious cousin of “Last Year at Marienbad.” I enjoy thinking about the experience of watching it, probably more than the film itself. I was distracted, I kept looking for seams — where did they cut and stitch this together? How can it possibly be a single take? I’d rather have gotten lost in the world, which only happened after the fact as we drove home and tried to put into words what the film was actually about (and for weeks, I tried to figure out what the synopsis would be if I were to write one). I’m still not sure I love this film, but I am in awe of the ambition involved, and of the eerie tone, which never faltered. In particular the sound of those distant singing children. They were so haunting and dreamlike, I can’t recall the melody but I can still hear the feeling.

“Russian Doll”: I’m a very bad TV watcher, meaning I rarely watch more than one episode of any given show, and I usually don’t even make it that far. I downloaded all the episodes of this to watch on a flight and had I not been stuck on a plane and forced into finishing the series, I likely would’ve missed out on one of my favorite viewing experiences this year. The moment in the elevator when the two leads first meet overwhelmed me to the point of tears. It so perfectly summed up that feeling of realization you have when you meet your soul mate, romantic or otherwise: “I’m not alone in the world.”

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”: I unabashedly enjoy Tarantino films. I look forward to them from the day they’re announced and I’m always entertained. I also forgive any inconsistencies because I find them so much fun to watch, this being no exception!

I watched “The Farewell” nearly too late to include it on this list, but thankfully was able to write in and add it at the last minute. I adored this film, not least for its beautiful simplicity. The camera work was gorgeous but never drew attention to itself, the writing was subtle yet smart and emotional, the acting honest and on point. I’ve read quite a few articles about this film and the challenges of getting it made and I’m so grateful it happened without compromises. More like this!!

Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me by Your Name,” “Suspiria”)

The Mafia Is No Longer What It Used to Be

“The Mafia Is No Longer What It Used to Be”

“Death Stranding” by Hideo Kojima
The body of work of the magnificent Claire Mathon
“The Irishman” by Martin Scorsese
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” by Quentin Tarantino
“Pain and Glory” by Pedro Almodóvar
The finales of all three above film are astonishing as the performances at the center of them.
Lena Dunham in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“First Cow” by Kelly Reichardt
“Synonyms” by Nadav Lapid
“The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao” [“Invisible Life” in U.S.] by Karim Ainouz
“The Halt” by Lav Diaz
“The Mafia Is No Longer What It Used to Be” by Franco Maresco
“J’accuse” by Roman Polanski
“Varda by Agnès” by Agnès Varda
“Her Smell” by Alex Ross Perry
“Liberté” by Albert Serra
“State Funeral” by Sergei Loznitsa
“The Wild Goose Lake” by Diao Yinan
“Ad Astra” by James Gray

Ciro Guerra (“Embrace of the Serpent,” “Birds of Passage”)

It Must Be Heaven

“It Must Be Heaven”

1. “It Must Be Heaven” – Elia Suleiman (Palestine)
Every Suleiman film is a miracle. Sadly they’re few and far between.

2. “A White, White Day” – Hlynur Pálmason (Iceland)
Most original storytelling I’ve seen in a while. Amazing performances too.

3. “Just 6.5” – Saeed Roustayi (Iran)
It was a great year for crime thrillers, from Scorsese’s “The Irishman” to Marco Bellochio’s “The Traitor”, but what if the best one actually came from Iran? As a lifelong fan of Iranian Cinema, this one opened up a whole new world of possibility. Gripping, tense, visceral and profound.

4. “Under the Silver Lake” – David Robert Mitchell (USA)
Of course it was misunderstood. This guy is on another planet already.

5. “La Llorona” – Jayro Bustamante (Guatemala)
Horror folk tale reimagined as political allegory. Brilliant and essential.

6. “The Souvenir” – Joanna Hogg (UK)
I remember the director introducing it on its premiere saying “this one’s from the heart”; no other words can convey this film’s profound emotion. Tom Burke’s is my favorite performance of the year.

7. “Sound of Metal” – Darius Marder (USA)
A very moving personal journey towards humbleness and silence, coupled with an incredibly original sound design that deepens and enhances the experience.

8. “I Lost My Body” – Jeremy Clapin (France)
This film is like a present, crafted with great love and infinite care in every detail, and delivered blindly, like a message in a bottle. I’m so glad to have found it.

9. “Bacurau” – Kleber Mendonca Filho, Juliano Dornelles / “Invisible Life” – Karim Ainouz (Brazil)
In a year where Brazilian cinema is under serious threat of death from its own government, watching and celebrating it is a must.

10. “Long Day’s Journey into Night” – Bi Gan (China)
I know I had it as my number one for last year, but it really is that special. One of the films of the decade for sure.

Bill Hader (“Barry”)

The Fall

‘The Fall’


Second season of “Fleabag,” especially that first episode at the restaurant
“Thunder Road” by Jim Cummings
“The Fall” by Johnathan Glazer
“What We Do in the Shadows”
“I Think You Should Leave,” especially the “Laser Spine Surgery” sketch
“Adventure Time”
“Rick and Morty
“The Irishman,” especially the last 30 minutes
“Rolling Thunder Revue”
“Apollo 11”
And every true crime doc available.

Catherine Hardwicke (“Miss Bala,” “Thirteen”)



I’ve been doing a crazy fun series for Quibi, so I’ve haven’t watched everything yet, but here are some of my faves so far:

“Parasite” How could I not love it? I’m a former architect and “Parasite” even had a photo of the “architect” who designed the house. I was fascinated with the long horizontal window in the living room of the elegant house — looking out to the peaceful garden — in contrast to the long horizontal window in the semi-basement house looking out to the crowded neighborhood where a guy pisses regularly. As it rains at the elegant house — seen through the window, it’s a beautiful sight, but in the semi-basement house — rain becomes a flood of sewage! So many layers of detail which reveal economic inequities…. the cramped bathroom with the raised toilet — the only area where the sister could get cell phone reception… vs. how she “fit in” when bathing in the more luxurious bathroom. I loved the delicious details like the sister pointing out the “schizophrenic” area of the child’s paintings — the dark shape in the lower right hand corner — so she could be paid more for art therapy! Yummy! And of course the amazing shot where the former housekeeper is HORIZONTAL in the basement — trying to push open the bookcase. I thought she was possessed by a demon. Then the film surprised me again and took another unexpected seismic shift. All the visual delights strengthened the story in a great feedback loop! Bravo!

I also loved:

“JoJo Rabbit” — so much heart!
“UnCut Gems” — immersive specificity — thrilling pace!
“Judy” — Renée! (or was that really Judy?!)
“The Farewell” – Lulu Wang’s fantastic debut with amazing Awkwafina and the whole cast

“The Act” — incredible transformation by Joey King — and Patricia Arquette

Chad Hartigan (“Morris From America,” “This Is Martin Bonner”)

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

In addition to listing my 10 favorites of the year, which will no doubt overlap with many others here and cause most readers to scroll past with eyes glazed over, I’ve also mentioned my 10 favorite discoveries and 10 films I revisited during the year that I consider five-star masterpieces. In the streaming age, the shelf life of movies seems to be getting smaller and smaller and the act of searching out old gems or rewatching old favorites both seem more important to me than ever. All told, it was a wonderful year of movie watching for me and you can always find me on Letterboxd if you want to hear my thoughts on some of these. Obviously, Céline Sciamma and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” ruled the year for me as evidenced by it appearing on two of the lists. Give her the Oscar and all the money she wants to make movies forever, please.

10 Favorite New Releases in 2019

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (Céline Sciamma)
“Uncut Gems” (Josh & Benny Safdie)
“Marriage Story” (Noah Baumbach)
“What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?” (Roberto Minervini)
“Monos” (Alejandro Landes)
“Hustlers” (Lorene Scafaria)
“The Lighthouse” (Robert Eggers)
“Jojo Rabbit” (Taika Waititi)
“Knives Out” (Rian Johnson)
“Honey Boy” (Alma Har’el)

10 Favorite First-Time Watches in 2019

“Canoa: A Shameful Memory” (Felipe Cazals)
“Modern Romance” (Albert Brooks)
“Distant Voices, Still Lives” (Terence Davies)
“Blue Collar” (Paul Schrader)
“Cría Cuervos” (Carlos Saura)
“The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” (Joseph Sargent)
“24 Hour Party People” (Michael Winterbottom)
“Broadcast News” (James L. Brooks)
“The Big City” (Satyajit Ray)
“War and Peace” (Sergey Bondarchuk)

10 Favorite Rewatches in 2019

“The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On” (Kazuo Hara)
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (Michel Gondry)
“West Side Story” (Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise)
“Il Posto” (Ermanno Olmi)
“The Five Obstructions” (Jørgen Leth & Lars von Trier)
“Broadway Danny Rose” (Woody Allen)
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (Céline Sciamma)
“Husbands and Wives” (Woody Allen)
“The Trip” (Michael Winterbottom)
“You Can Count on Me” (Kenneth Lonergan)

Don Hertzfeldt (“World of Tomorrow,” “It’s Such a Beautiful Day”)



Universal Pictures

“1917”: I don’t know how they even shot most of this and I don’t think I want to.
“The Irishman”
“Uncut Gems”: I feel like more of the awards-y people should be talking about Julia Fox’s performance.
“Dark Waters”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”: I didn’t love it, but it cruises so far on pure charisma.
“Marriage Story”

Caveats: I still haven’t seen a bunch of stuff I’ve been really looking forward to, including “Parasite” and “The Lighthouse.”

Alejandro Landes (“Monos,” “Porfirio”)

Dira Paes and Julio Machado appear in <i>Divine Love</i> by Gabriel Mascaro, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Gabriel Mascaro. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Dira Paes and Julio Machado appear in “Divine Love”


I haven’t seen as much as I’d like lately and the concept of “this year” is slightly blurry, but here’s what has lingered, in random order:

Dafoe (and the lenses) of “The Lighthouse”

the raw energy of “Waves”

the idea of “Divine Love”

the LOVE of “Border” and “Ash is the Purest White”

the beginning of “Atlantics”

the end of “The Irishman”

the engine of “Parasite”

Banderas in “Pain and Glory”

the lines of battle in “The Souvenir”

the fall in “Happy as Lazzaro”

time in “Cold War”

the percussion in “Isle of Dogs”

“High Life”

idem in “Diego Maradona”

…from the past:

the look into the camera at the end of “Memories of Murder” (Bong Joon Ho)

James Cann’s marriage proposal in “Thief” (Michael Mann)

David Lowery (“A Ghost Story,” “The Old Man & the Gun”)

'The Dark Crystal': Inside That Magnificent, Political Gelfling Makeover

“The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”


2019: the year a beloved fantasy epic was brought back to the screen with so much care and craftsmanship that it not only invigorated a time-honored IP for a new generation but retroactively enriched the tale that begat it. I speak, naturally, of the first six episodes of “The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance,” the Netflix series produced by the Henson Company and directed by Louis Leterrier. As with most things on Netflix, it arrived entirely unheralded, and I watched that first episode mostly out of curiosity. 10 minutes in, I was impressed by its scope but uncertain I’d have the patience for a full 10-hours of Gelfling dering-do; 40-minutes after that and I was breathlessly convinced this would be the grandest achievement of the year.

I single out the first six episodes simply because I find that every 10-hour series peaks at episode six (indeed, this one wrecked me in my hotel room late one night) but the whole thing is superb and you simply must give it a shot. The storytelling is exquisite, the performances superb, the world-building astonishing and the sheer physical craft it all completely unheard of in this day and age; the artistry never recedes from the forefront of the frame, nor does it overwhelm the storytelling. I don’t know who thought it a wise thing to greenlight a prequel to a strange and lumbering (though, yes, beloved) 30-year-old oddity, but I want to give them a hug.

2019 was also the year that I saw Bela Tarr’s “Satantango” for the second time, 12 years after my first viewing, and it made for as memorable a day at the cinema as it did back in 2007. The new restoration from Arbelos Films is stunning, but I sort of hope its inevitable digital home video release never actually happens. If ever any movie should ever be consigned solely to the big screen, I would that it might be this one. I can’t wait to see it again in another ten years.

Two other movies I couldn’t shake even if I wanted to are “Diane,” by Kent Jones, and “Waves,” by Trey Edward Shults. In the former, time slips by too fast, without remark; in the latter it sings, shouts, screams its passage. In both, its demarcation is uniquely, exhilaratingly cinematic, and both reminded me of the emotional might of the movies at times when my head was buried in a mess of shot lists and visual effects reviews.

Other things I won’t forget: the red jumpsuits and Lupita Nyong’o’s voice in “Us,” the rage in my gut during “The Nightingale,” Franz Rogowski hopping out of the car in “Transit,” his ideas about decapitation in “A Hidden Life,” the title card in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” Waterloo in “Peterloo” and the entirety of “Little Women,” as it was somehow my first encounter with the March sisters in any medium. I’ll quote “Hot Promethean Plunder” from “The Lighthouse,” wear my “Her Smell” t-shirt proudly and never forget the young fellow taking off his Boba Fett costume and putting it piece by piece into the trunk of his car in an Alamo Drafthouse parking lot at midnight last Thursday night – a private moment, accidentally witnessed, which summed up the ending of a whole lot more than just this year.

Adam McKay (“Vice,” “The Big Short”)

"Dark Waters"

“Dark Waters”


The movie that really knocked me over was “Parasite.” It was gorgeous, funny, heartbreaking, and so of this misshapen moment we’re living through.

I also thought Lorene Scafaria absolutely smoked “Hustlers.” Although, full disclosure, I’m a producer on it. But still. So alive and morally dubious. Every shot and music cue was a strong choice.

Just saw “Dark Waters,” which was old-school on-point. Mark Ruffalo is so good. And Todd Haynes has always had his ear on the pulse of the environmental crisis going all the way back to “Safe.”

“The Report” was another I loved. A reminder that the grinders are the ones who get at the truth.

I’m also an EP on “Booksmart” but screw it: how great a feature debut is that for Olivia Wilde?

Next up is “Uncut Gems.” Love the Safdies and I’m setting aside a night to just drink that one in.

Oren Moverman (“Time Out of Mind,” “The Messenger”)


Sony Pictures Classics

2019 for me was the year of picking sides, choosing to go down with the ship, embracing ellipses, resisting the social/political/psychological implications of the isolation machine.

Rowing the boat. Life is but a stream. To that end, I enjoyed, in no particular order, and without admitting this is one of those lists:

“Frankie” (Ira Sachs): American Independent filmmaking is alive and well… in Europe.

“Invisible Life” (Karim Ainouz): Rich and alive and melodramatic… inspiring.

“Honey Boy” (Alma Har’el): A cinematic manifesto of celebrity sacrifice at the altar.

“A Hidden Life” (Terrence Malick): I mean… Jesus Christ. Literally.

“Rolling Thunder Revue” (Martin Scorsese): A simple, desultory philippic.

“The Souvenir” (Joanna Hogg): A living breathing film… suffocating, gorgeous heartbreak.

“Wild Rose” (Tom Harper): Jessie Buckley must be watched… and listened to.

“Atlantics” (Mati Diop): The resistance…

“Ash Is Purest White” (Jia Zhangke): Pure…

“Synonyms” (Nadav Lapid): Raw. Probing. And my son liked it, so…

“High Life” (Claire Denis): Perverse and tender and my son liked it, so…

“Giants Being Lonely” (Grear Patterson): Be young, be angry, play by no rules, mess it up, get it over with… The future. Yet undistributed…

“Skin” (Guy Nattiv) / “Diane” (Kent Jones): I confess I am a producer on both, but my admiration is for the filmmakers’ craft, the art, the risk taking… from the in-your-face to the sublime and back… And my daughter liked them, so…

Alex Ross Perry (“Her Smell,” “Queen of Earth”)

“Under the Silver Lake”


1. “Under the Silver Lake”
2. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
3. “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”
4. “Marriage Story”

My top four films are the ones I will be (or already have been) revisiting and pulling ideas, inspiration, and innovation from. “Under the Silver Lake” is undoubtably the movie of the year; it is the most (only?) unique attempt at reconsidering the rules of storytelling, both written and visual. Of course, it was “dumped” into only two theaters, given the tiniest sliver of support, and will have to work to find the audience it deserves. Nothing says “2019” to me more than an out-and-out gonzo masterpiece that most people probably don’t even know was released.

5ish. “High Life” / “The Souvenir” / “Ad Astra” / “The Irishman” / “Dark Waters”

These next five movies are by excellent filmmakers whose work I always like and who did not surprise me by making more work that I liked. These are only ranked in the order in which I saw them. “Marriage Story” fits all these descriptions, but I simply love it more so it’s elevated above.

9. “Redoubt” / “Diamantino”

“Redoubt” isn’t Matthew Barney’s finest work (“River of Fundament” would be on my top 10 of the decade list I haven’t bothered to make), but his control of rhythm, editing and non-verbal storytelling is unmatched. I wonder what it would be like if he made one of those Pixar shorts that play before features. As a rule, I generally try not to put movies by close friends on these lists but I’ve known Daniel Schmidt since we went to NYU together and couldn’t believe the leap forward he (and Gabriel Abrantes) made with “Diamantino.” I think these two would be a swell double feature. Speaking of double features…

10ish/12ish. “Joker” / “Avengers: Endgame”

As the kids say, “don’t @ me.” Sometimes the studio IP tentpoles just get it right.

James Ponsoldt (“The Circle,” “The End of the Tour”)

"The Last Black Man in San Francisco"

“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”


The list of films I haven’t gotten to see yet — but am dying to — is almost as long as the ones on my favorites list. But what am I gonna do? I have three young children and fall asleep most nights by 9 o’clock. (When I was 25 years old, I’d watch three or four films a day…). Ah, well. Life choices!

(In no particular order)

1. “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”
2. “Little Women”
3. “Give Me Liberty”
4. “The Mustang”
5. “Burning Cane”
6. “Knives Out”
7. “Diane”
8. “Pain and Glory”
9. “See You Yesterday”
10. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
11. “Uncut Gems”
12. “Marriage Story”
13. “Parasite”
14. “Clemency”
15. “A Hidden Life”
16. “Hustlers”
17. “Atlantics”
18. “Greener Grass”
19. “Just Mercy”
20. “The Great Hack”
21. “Her Smell”
22. “The Climb”
23. “Midsommar”
24. “Honey Boy”
25. “Wild Nights With Emily”

(For what it’s worth, here’s what I plan on catching up on in January: “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” “The Irishman,” “Dolemite Is My Name,” “American Factory,” “1917,” “Invisible Life,” “The Souvenir,” “Joker,” “Ford v Ferrari,” “One Child Nation,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Dark Waters,” “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” “Les Misérables,” “Hail Satan?,” “The Aeronauts,” “The King,” “Us,” “Rocketman,” “The Laundromat,” “The Two Popes,” “Harriet,” “The Report”…what else am I forgetting? It feels like there’s at least nine-dozen films and TV shows I mean to watch, and there’s a constant negotiation between work vs. family vs. food vs. movie-watching vs. sleep. How do people do this…this…modern life thing?!)

Julia Reichert & Steven Bognar (“American Factory”)

For Sama

“For Sama”

It’s been a year of raw, lyrical, and powerful documentaries. The thought of making a top 10 list is too overwhelming. So we both want to share just three indelible moments from this year’s docs. A while back, Film Comment had a column called “Moments Out of Time,” in which bits from movies would be noted, celebrated, affirmed. This is sort of like that. This was a year of great cinema verité films. Even though two of our choices here are from films full of archival material, they are all sustained, real, raw breathtaking moments.

The baby scene in “For Sama”

When our memories fly through all the hundreds of moments, scenes, faces, struggles from all the scores of documentaries we’ve seen this year, the one that haunts us the most, the one we each first think of, is the scene in “For Sama” in which a small medical team in a rough hospital under attack in Aleppo, Syria, deliver an unresponsive baby into this harsh, mean world. What happens next on camera, and behind the lens through the poise of director Waad al-Kateab, shook us to our core.

Billie Holiday performing “Strange Fruit” in “The Apollo”

Roger Ross William’s extraordinary, immersive chronicle of the Apollo Theater affirms that cultural expressions can be and are political action. In a film full of amazing performances, the moment of Billie Holiday singing and performing “Strange Fruit” is so alive, so emotionally open, at once ferocious and calm. Her serenity is profoundly unsettling, and we see not just a genius, but a freedom fighter using her voice as a weapon.

Joni Mitchell signing “Coyote” in “Rolling Thunder Revue”

Sitting in a house with her guitar, in a huddle with Bob Dylan and Roger McGuinn, Joni Mitchell shows the guys chords to a new song called “Coyote,” just before diving into it, in a vivid moment in “Rolling Thunder Revue.” It’s one sustained shot, handheld, and yet it feels like watching something great being born. The richness of Mitchell’s road-hardened writing weaves with her shimmering voice and guitar. Watching Dylan’s chagrined face, listening to, watching Joni, took us back to a kindred moment in the late, great D.A. Pennebaker’s classic “Don’t Look Back,” as Dylan sings “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” while Donovan takes it in. But this time Dylan is the humbled one.

Boots Riley (“Sorry to Bother You”)



In no order:

“Marriage Story”
“Knives Out”
“Long Day’s Journey Into Night” (3D Version)
“Uncut Gems”
“Give Me Liberty”
“The Lighthouse”

Angela Robinson (“Professor Marston and the Wonder Women”)

These films thrilled me this year and made me love the movies again. I went to see “Parasite” twice in the theatre, (which I used to do all the time and now I never do). A special shout out to all the brilliant women filmmakers in the bunch — you inspire me!

“Queen and Slim”
“Knives Out”
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”
“Captain Marvel”
“Little Woods”
“The Farewell”

Matt Ross (“Captain Fantastic”)

"Marriage Story"

“Marriage Story”


Films That Moved Me the Most or Films Whose Aspirations I Most Admired (in no particular order):

“Parasite”: It fulfills its promise in every way: a bold and balanced analysis of class, led by writer/director Bong Joon Ho, with superlative work from all departments.

“The Lighthouse”: Hallucinatory, demented, a Pinteresque dirge of isolation; a hilarious Gothic Sea Tale of barnacles, mermaids, and madness.

“Monos”: Another fever dream of isolation and madness, powerfully acted by a group of actors unknown to me (apart from Julianne Nicholson), with a haunting score by Mica Levi.

“1917”: George MacKay’s beautiful vulnerability and for the astonishing technical feat of the form-following-function “single” shot. Pure cinema.

“Uncut Gems”: A hyper-jittery assault of a movie, constant anxiety and tension, pulsating with a wall-to-wall, stress-inducing electronic score that leaves not a second to catch your breath. And for Sandler’s performance of Howard Ratner, a heartbreaking mess of a human being.

“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”: For a story about racial and economic displacement, this film bursts with beauty and compassion. A benevolent yearning for home and a powerful meditation on loss.

“Marriage Story”: Relationships are beautiful. Relationships are impossible. Everyone is guilty. No one is guilty. It’s exquisitely well-written and insightful, with nuanced performances by all. My vote for the best ensemble this year: Scarlet Johansson, Adam Driver, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever, Alan Alda, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Martha Kelly.

Honorable Mentions: “The Souvenir,” “The Farewell,” “Honey Boy,” “Ad Astra,” “High Life,” “Midsommar,” “Transit.”

Films I Still Haven’t Seen, But Can’t Wait to See: “Honeyland,” “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” “Les Misérables,” “Little Women,” “Birds of Passage,” “Queen & Slim,” “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” “Atlantics,” “Booksmart,” “The Mustang,” “Ash Is Purest White,” “Synonyms,” “Waves,” “Varda by Agnès,” “Beanpole,” “A Hidden Life,” “I Lost My Body,” “Under the Silver Lake,” “The Edge of Democracy,” “The Mountain,” “Invisible Life,” “The Painted Bird.”

Documentaries: “Apollo 11,”American Factory”

Best TV: “Chernobyl,” “Fleabag,” “The Crown,” “Watchmen,” and “The Great British Baking Show.”

Paul Schrader (“First Reformed”)




(Not ranked)

“Dolemite Is My Name”
“The Irishman”
“Long Day’s Journey into Night”
“One Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Pain and Glory”
“An Officer and a Spy”
“Watchman” Ep. 6

Daniel Scheinert (“The Death of Dick Long,” “Swiss Army Man”)

Greener Grass

“Greener Grass”

IFC Midnight

In no order.

“Greener Grass”: The most nightmarish and unapologetically ugly comedy I’ve ever loved.

“I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson”: The funniest dumbest thing I’ve seen in years.

“BLKNWS”: Find this video installation wherever you can and get sucked down a beautiful curated, YouTube-y rabbit hole.

“Hail Satan?”: A hilarious irreverent piece of propaganda that brainwashed me. Give Satan a chance, y’all.

“Knock Down the House”: A painful portrait of ‘in the trenches’ politics that got me teared up.

“Pen15”: Middle school is NUTS and someone finally captured it.

“Anima”: A meditative beautiful all-timer music video.

“Midsommar”: We are all in a cult.

“Parasite”: How do you make a crowdpleaser this fucked-up and bleak?

“Hustlers”: I’m not a “true story” lover, but I’m ALL ABOUT a romp so sexy and cool, you hardly notice its badass radical politics.

Daniel Schmidt (“Diamantino”)



Love for “Atlantics,” love for Mati Diop.

Many months later, mysteries persist: Still following the dress hovering through “In Fabric,” troll opening the fridge in “Border,” first dancer’s contorted death in “Suspiria,” Steven Yeun’s character yawning in “Burning.” Moved suddenly to tears by the the momentary flashback of family faces in “Happy as Lazzaro.” “Synonyms” and “Zombi Child” are still very fresh.

A pleasure to curate a series of films at Light Industry, Metrograph, and Spectacle: “Alienating Resurrections.” Spending hours both alone and together rewatching four beguiling masterpiece features paired with four shorts by friends: “Mahal” (1949) and James N. Kienitz Wilkins’ “Special Features” (2014), “Death by Hanging” (1968), and Mati Diop’s “Atlantics” (2009), “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” (1947), and Benjamin Crotty’s “The Glorious Acceptance of Nicolas Chauvin” (2018), “Cemetery of Splendor” (2015) ,and Rachel Rose’s “Everything and More” (2015).

Wish Korine and Tarantino always felt so loose and loving, and got into a Hong Sang-soo-like rhythm of output. At last entered “Atlanta” and “BoJack” — despite whatever initial aversions — and now they are worlds I don’t want to be apart from. Will miss Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets. Lil Peep’s grandfather’s letters in “Everybody’s Everything,” surely the best voiceover since Malick’s “Days of Heaven.” There was an unplanned Val Lewton retro in my bedroom. Ever grateful for puppycodes’ video curation via Instagram. I want to see a new movie by Raya Martin. I’m excited to see “First Cow.” More love for “Atlantics.” Where do we go next?

Chad Stahelski (“John Wick,” John Wick 2,” “John Wick 3”)


Well Go USA

1. “Shadow” – Zhang Yimou

2. “Ford v Ferrari” – James Mangold

3. “Furie” – Lê Văn Kiệt

4. “Little Women” – Greta Gerwig

Whit Stillman (“Love & Friendship,” “Metropolitan”)

“Nova Lituania”

“Nova Lituania”

“Nova Lituania”
“Richard Jewell”
“Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood”

As of these, only “Richard Jewell” is in first-run cinema release I would strongly commend people see it there before too late.

Peter Strickland (“In Fabric,” “The Duke of Burgundy”)

"Only You"

“Only You”

It’s very hard to pick favorite films this year given how few I’ve seen. It hasn’t been a buoyant 2019 with either watching or making films. One feature film fell apart at the last minute, another film that has been in development for years went back to square one after a lead actor pulled out, and a script I adapted for someone else didn’t work out. In between the misfires, I traveled a lot to promote “In Fabric,” and I got to see most of the 10 films listed here (in no particular order) at festivals. I couldn’t call this a definitive list given that I haven’t even seen the films in most people’s top 10s, but I greatly enjoyed what I saw below. This would also prove to the film director who called me a dickhead for not looking at his rough cut that it’s not always possible to catch even the films I’ve been desperate to see, such as Scorsese’s “The Irishman.”

“Climax” – Gaspar Noé

I’m a huge Gaspar Noé fan and loved submitting to his latest assault. I was caught off guard with “Climax” given how the reviews centered on how much fun it was. It’s incredibly distressing and disturbing in places and unlike with ‘Irreversible’, I wasn’t prepared for it.

The opening with all its influences laid bare reminded me of the legendary Nurse with Wound list from the late ’70s in which all the music that influenced their first album was openly acknowledged. By pure coincidence, erstwhile Nurse with Wound member, Geoff Cox, regularly collaborates with Noé’s on/off creative partner, Lucile Hadžihalilović.

The dance scenes are extraordinary and as it becomes increasingly deranged and warped, the film lapses into a dimension that evokes the altered physical space of Ernie Gehr’s structuralist film, “Serene Velocity” combined with the narcotic delirium of Richard Kern’s “Submit to Me” skits. It’s cinema as sensory overload and it’s completely Noé’s world.

“Midsommar” – Ari Aster

I had an instant soft spot for Ari Aster when he treated anaphylaxis (in “Hereditary”) as the terror that it really is, whilst some other contemporary directors sadly still think someone’s face swelling up is hilarious.

“Midsommar” really goes to places untraveled. I heard a lot about its folk-horror roots along with similarities to “The Wicker Man,” but I keyed much more into its cathartic wail borne out of grief. I remember seeing a video of the performance artist and musician, John Duncan lying naked on the floor and letting out an extraordinarily protracted primal scream and the dark heart of “Midsommar” lies somewhere within that realm for me. The film is brimming with the explosive power of grief and it’s one of the starkest examples I can think of in modern cinema.

My first reaction when seeing all that verdant grass was the almost invisible menace of ticks — an anxiety that Aster quickly acknowledges. The fear of tick-borne encephalitis is not unusual in both Sweden and Hungary where the film was shot and in some askew and unintentional way, I could imagine seeing the film alternately as a fever dream of someone who had been afflicted by the disease during a meadow ritual. Of course, the front of house is hallucinogenic folk horror, but maybe I bypassed that due to my lack of knowledge, which led to a more primal and simplistic interpretation.

I was also blown away by the presence of Björn Andrésen, whom I remember from Visconti’s “Death in Venice.” Aster’s film buff credentials are really to the fore here even though I’m aware that nobody sadly uses the term “film buff” anymore. The ghosts of Bergman, Jancsó and Paradjanov circle the film.

“Toy Story 4” – Josh Cooley

I got dragged to this by some young relatives in Greece after a frustrating day in an immigration office thanks to Brexit. I hadn’t seen the first three installments and the film was dubbed in Greek, which hindered my grasp to some degree, only it turned out to be one of my most memorable experiences in a cinema and a lot of that was down to the uninhibited audience.

I saw the film in the same open-air cinema (on the outskirts of Athens) where I saw “Dirty Dancing” over 30 years ago, which was even wilder with the beyond capacity audience who went crazy when the film’s climactic dance erupted. Though not reaching the euphoric audience chaos of the latter film, “Toy Story 4” was a timely reminder of how valuable and downright memorable a communal cinema experience is. I was completely swept up in the highs and lows of the film and never imagined that the fate of a single-use plastic item could reduce adults to tears. It was funny, scary and heavy on the heart in places. I actually bought it on DVD hoping to repeat the experience.

“Only You” – Harry Wootliff

I saw this at Helsinki’s Love and Anarchy Film Festival, only missed the beginning of the film, and had to leave early to present my own film at another cinema.

This was just a great debut. Really stripped down and honest without the frills and trappings that often come with first film insecurity. I was completely immersed in the couple’s predicament and to my shameful ignorance, there was so much I didn’t know about IVF prior to seeing the film.

I’d only seen Josh O’Connor in “God’s Own Country,” but he was just as believable and brilliant in “Only You,” and Laia Costa completely pulled me into the depths of her frustrations. It was also great to see not only a European character in a British film, but also a European played by a European rather than a Brit putting on an accent, which is still often the case. I wonder how that will pan out after Brexit.

I had to leave the cinema when the protagonists had a row towards its final minutes and still don’t know or want to know how it ended until I watch it again.

“Bait” – Mark Jenkin

I saw this at Helsinki’s Love and Anarchy Film Festival with Mark Jenkin taking questions from the audience. From the very opening, I was transported to a completely different place even though we’re in contemporary Britain and I haven’t seen anything so singular from my home country in years.

I had a sauna with Mark Jenkin the day after its Helsinki premiere and told him how jealous I was. It’s the kind of film I wish I had made. Its success is remarkable and it regally urinates on the perceived industry wisdom regarding so many things: nobody wants grainy black-and-white 16mm, nobody wants unknown actors and so on and so on. Congratulations not only to the truly visionary Mr. Jenkin, but also to the thousands of people adventurous enough to pay to see such a film. Both parties have hopefully made industry heads doubt their opinions. I recently got into an argument with a friend’s salsa partner who told me off for not being an audience-friendly director after he saw “In Fabric” since he regarded filmmaking as being on a par with customer service. I should’ve used “Bait” as a happy example of a film that finds its audience without pandering.

“One Day” – Zsófia Szilágyi

This came out in late 2018, only I saw it in January this year in Budapest. I’m going to sneak it into this list, as it was ironically and frustratingly overlooked by many film writers when it won a FIPRESCI award in Cannes despite the abundance of articles complaining about the dearth of films from women in the festival that year.

Zsófia Szilágyi’s micro-budget debut film about motherhood in present-day Budapest deserves all the praise it can get.

At first, I didn’t regard the kids in the film as that much of a handful. No industrial-strength tantrums, nothing spilt or broken, no fussiness at dinner and so on. But maybe the focus is more on the logistics of parenthood rather than especially difficult moments with one’s children.

I was initially too focused on what was missing from the film and in the process overlooked many other great qualities – the beautifully naturalistic acting, the relentlessness of getting three kids from different sets of A-B and back within a busy city and the sound design that teased out the various everyday noises we’d normally cancel out. Also, the kids do give the parents a run of sorts for their money, but more of a jog than a run.

The acting really is first class and all across the board. I have no idea how Szilágyi got such great performances from kids so young. The dad isn’t around much and it’s pretty much a solo show for the mother struggling with work and kids. There’s a wonderful shot of her at the window of an all-night pharmacy buying painkillers for her son and looking beyond exhausted. There’s also a brilliant altercation between the mother and some typical alpha male in a car park. My favorite moment was with the “orrszi porszi,” which is a vacuum adapter that goes up toddlers’ noses. It’s the kind of gross-out contraption that you’d expect to find in an early John Waters film, but Hungarians swear by it.

The Brits think the Hungarians are crazy vacuuming snot and the Hungarians think the Brits are crazy not doing anything about snot and maybe that’s why the film wasn’t picked up for distribution in the UK.

The film’s strength is in showing us most of the moments that are glossed over in more regular fare such as the time it takes to dress young kids, the repetition and the complete lack of time for oneself. Although it’s very different from Chantal Akerman’s “Jeanne Dielman,” it still shares the dedication to a perspective and experience that is normally deodorized from cinema.

I have to confess to being confused by the protagonist’s use of a mobile phone whilst driving, but then again, should all protagonists be perfect or is this an example of how pushed she is with all the multi-tasking she has to do with work and parenthood?

“The Lighthouse” – Robert Eggers

I shamefully saw this study in maritime lunacy on one of those industry links that emit noxious gas from your computer if you dare to forward to anyone. I was about to do a joint interview with Robert Eggers for MovieMaker magazine, hence the link, and was pretty excited given how much I loved “The Witch.”

“The Lighthouse” is unlike anything I’ve seen. Willem Dafoe reminded me a lot of a security guard I worked with at Trollope & Colls joinery in Reading many moons ago. It was that look in the eye from someone who saw too much of what was in their head. That’s something I instantly recognized and it brought me right back to the gates of that joinery. There were too many similarities — the pride in the job, the obsessive attention to detail, the authoritarian streak and the delusion. I got to reimagine my days archiving a room of architect’s drawings in a joinery as being stuck in a lighthouse with a flatulent Willem Dafoe.

I adored the dialogue and I could listen to Dafoe and Pattinson endlessly if Mr. Eggers ever did any radio play spin-offs. There are elements of Harold Pinter and Herman Melville amongst a host of other touchstones I probably missed, but it’s a film steeped in its own logic. Its saline black & white photography is also moody enough to probably tempt Béla Tarr out of retirement.

“The Favourite” – Yorgos Lanthimos

How Yorgos Lanthimos sneaked Olivier Messiaen and Luc Ferrari into an Oscar-winning film is one of modern cinema’s greatest mysteries. Mr. Lanthimos doesn’t get enough credit for his soundtracks, which often work brilliantly counter to the proceedings in his films. The use of music in “The Favourite” deserves a whole essay in itself. The acting isn’t bad, either.

“The Barnabáš Kos Case” – Peter Solan

A stunning restoration of a ’60s Slovak film that clearly riled the authorities at the time. A nondescript triangle player is promoted to the role of director of the orchestra that he hitherto played an almost insignificant role in. The comedy that follows is a riot that mirrors not only ’60s Czechoslovakia, but also one or two of Slovakia’s neighbors even in 2019 when it comes to the confounding realization that absurdism is actually social realism.

The trusted political appointee who is often unqualified, clueless and capricious with newly realized power is hilariously embodied here. Amidst the political satire, you get generous lashings of unintentional avant-garde music since a triangle player has full control of his orchestra and if that wasn’t enough, the film also features some of the most beautiful concert halls in Europe.

A friend who saw the film told me how similar Barnabáš Kos was to her boss.

“Adam Bohman: By Biro and Umbrella Spring” – Cathy Soreny

This great documentary on musician and artist Adam Bohman had a few screenings at festivals and deserves special mention here. The world has been crying out for an Adam Bohman documentary even if the world doesn’t know it yet. He’s one of my favorite artists and his DIY catalogue mantras with Jonathan Bohman were an influence on my washing machine repair scenes from “In Fabric.”

Someone once threw a beer at Adam Bohman when he supported Sonic Youth many years ago at Shepherd’s Bush Empire and his work often polarizes people, but I adore everything he does.

Ondi Timoner (“Mapplethorpe,” “Dig!”)

"The Peanut Butter Falcon"

“The Peanut Butter Falcon”

My favorite films of the year, from what I have seen thus far (and I am woefully behind/counting on this coming week to catch up!) are, not in order — but organized more in a “it’s late on Christmas night” stream of consciousness sort of way…

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is pretty much a masterpiece. It is gorgeous to look at, hilarious and harrowing, so well-acted, and touches cult history along its edges in quite clever and satisfying ways. I think this is Quentin’s best work – found it to be a great ride.

“Maiden” is as captivating as any scripted film this year. It tells an incredibly gripping and powerfully feminist tale about the first women’s sailing team to enter the Whitbread Round the World Race with killer archival footage which kept me spellbound the screen, and twists which ultimately subvert every preconceived notion associated with its subject matter.

“The Peanut Butter Falcon” is a must-see that will melt your heart. It should be shown in every school in America, because no one can leave this film and see people with disabilities the same way again. The love and beauty in every frame of this film is palpable, and it’s charming as heck. In fact, I would say Shia LaBeouf and Zack Gottsagen on the run together makes for the greatest love story of the year, tied only with…

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” which enveloped me in its soft, magical world of colors where the innocent joy of discovering love is so quietly captivating. I never wanted to end. It also features my favorite shot of the year (which contains a small, handheld mirror, you’ll know it when you see it.) and is, I find, the most beautifully photographed scripted film, only to be matched by…

The documentary “Honeyland” – a drippingly gorgeous film shaped by its sensitivity to its subject: An aging woman who lives in remote Macedonia harvesting honey from bees to care for her sick mother and is robbed by her neighbors.

While talking docs, an important one to see is “The Great Hack,” which provides a frightening, thorough investigation with people you might not even know existed as to the extent any notion privacy is now an illusion, how we have been manipulated politically, and the myriad ways in which we are now vulnerable to the interests of anyone who has our data.

I want to mention “Jojo Rabbit” which had hands-down the best opening of any film this year from the first frame, with the Beatles rewritten for the Reich as a title track too. A really innovative and entertaining film, which rides a line I’ve never seen before, to imagine how this monster and his organization could brainwash their youth.

“Rocketman” was brilliantly executed. The magical surrealism from the first performances align us with what the uber-talented Elton must have been feeling at the Troubadour as he literally got his wings, while taking us from the starting point of how his alienation as a child led to his self-loathing and problems with drinking and drugs. Wrapping layers of glitter and glam around himself like armor to cover the pain created the icon of Elton John we know today.

In terms of performances, I’d say Adam Sandler in “Uncut Gems” and Shia LaBeouf in “Honey Boy” tie for most grating, harrowing and flawlessly-delivered performances. Brad Pitt delights in every scene of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Saoirse Ronan is wonderful in “Little Women.” Christian Bale and Matt Damon make a great duo in “Ford v Ferrarri,” which is also a great ride worth taking. The boy in that film, Noah Jupe, who struck me with the subtlety of his performance when facing his father’s friend at the end of the film — and the way that young actor carries the other half of “Honey Boy” alongside Shia with such an authentic and nuanced performance – makes him the greatest young talent on screen this year in my book. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are also both excellent in the heartbreaking “Marriage Story,” another great film worth sitting down to watch and learn from…

Okay, that’s what I have so far.

I will see “Pain and Glory” and “Atlantics” this week, which I hear are fantastic — along with “Knives Out,” “Parasite,” “1917,” “Dark Waters,” and so many more — and I will want to add to this list I’m sure.

Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”)

“One Child Nation“ by Nanfu Wang
Merritt Wever in “Unbelievable”
Bukky Bakray in “Rocks”
“1619” NY Times podcast, episode three: “The Birth of American Music”
“Two Popes” directed by Fernando Meirelles
“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong (novel)
“The Daily Podcast: Trapped in Syria” in two parts
Baby Yoda
“American Utopia” on Broadway
“Cellophane” (music video) for FKA Twigs by Andrew Thomas Huang

Adam Wingard (“The Guest,” “Blair Witch,” “Godzilla vs. Kong”)

"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”


My favorites of the year!

1.  “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
2. “The Irishman”
3. “Ken Burns: Country Music”
4. “Leaving Neverland”
5. “Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes”
6. “The Lighthouse”
7. “Parasite”
8. “Apollo 11”
9. “Climax”
10. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

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