MMC! continues to catch up with the best films of 2019 in anticipation of the Film Comment Readers’ Poll. This year, the magazine is giving away a copy of its September-October issue signed by Parasite director Bong Joon-ho. Entries are due by March 31, so be sure to submit your ballot!
- Avengement (Jesse V. Johnson, 2019)
- The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata, 2013)
- Les Misérables (Ladj Ly, 2019)
- La Belle Époque (Nicolas Bedos, 2019)
- The Two Popes (Fernando Meirelles, 2019)
- The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg, 2019)
- Millennium Mambo (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2001)
- Superexpress (Yasuzô Masumura, 1964)
- Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019)
- Tora-san’s Grand Scheme (Shun’ichi Kobayashi, 1970)
Two under-the-radar titles deserve shout-outs. First, La Belle Époque, about a disillusioned cartoonist in his 60s who revisits his youth and his one great love through a service that reconstructs historical eras for its clients. Bedos’ film evokes The Truman Show and Synecdoche, New York, plus a bit of The Parent Trap thrown in, and offers a charmingly wistful take on art, nostalgia, and romance. Second is Superexpress, an entry to Daiei’s “Black” series which featured bleakly cynical stories of industrial conspiracies and shady business-dealings. Superexpress offers a story about a corrupt land deal and presents Masumura’s characteristically crowded, claustrophobic, and oppressive frames. Does anyone know where I can find a comprehensive list for the “Black” series?
MMC! is currently caught in the doldrums of February screenings. As per usual, late December through February means trying to catch up with 2019 releases in an effort to round out sundry “Best of” lists. The effect of watching so many films based more on timing than interest (and inevitably finding most undeserving of their accrued regard) is to grow weary of screenings altogether and to otherwise skirt towards the periphery of respectability. Perhaps this also helps explain the interminable delay in MMC!’s first proposal of 2020.
- Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää, 2019)
- Eastern Condors (Sammo Hung, 1987)
- Tora-San’s Cherished Mother (Yoji Yamada, 1969)
- High Life (Clair Denis, 2018)
- The Art of Self-Defense (Riley Stearns, 2019)
- Kaiju Mono (Minoru Kawasaki, 2016)
- An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn (Jim Hosking, 2018)
- Crawl (Alexandre Aja, 2019)
- Bumblebee (Travis Knight, 2018)
- The Golden Glove (Fatih Akin, 2019)
While these last ten films lack anything truly revelatory or any unqualified favourites, they are frequently audacious, strange, and captivating in their individuality. There are some ugly ducklings here that I found particularly fascinating (The Golden Glove, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, and Dogs Don’t Wear Pants) and I have a solid elementary school-aged opinion that Kaiju Mono and Bumblebee are quality watches. Please, take these screenings and get weird.
As is common for this time of year, MMC! is dividing time between catching up with last year’s blind spots and regular screenings. Thankfully, these last ten movies include some real gems. Khalik Allah’s experimental effort in portraiture, Field Niggas, is rhapsodic, confrontational, dignified, and humane. Ching Siu-Tung’s Duel to the Death is a late wuxia that gleefully verges on Looney Tunes and Monty Python-esque madness. Knives Out, Booksmart, and Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans offered plenty of laughs, however the groaning comedy of My Lucky Stars was only redeemed by the pair of stellar action sequences that bookend the film.
- Field Niggas (Khalik Allah, 2015)
- Duel to the Death (Ching Siu-Tung, 1983)
- Knives Out (Rian Johnson, 2019)
- You Can Succeed, Too (Eizo Sugawa, 1964)
- Booksmart (Olivia Wilde, 2019)
- Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans (Jeff Mednikow, 2019)
- The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (Robert D. Krzykowski, 2018)
- Riding Bean (Yasuo Hasegawa and Osamu Kamijo, 1989)
- Memory: The Origins of Alien (Alexandre O. Philippe, 2019)
- My Lucky Stars (Sammo Hung, 1985)
For those wondering what happened to October’s “10 on the 10th” post, I simply forgot it was the 10th! No such oversight this month, with Parasite taking top marks and currently sitting second on my favourite films of 2019 behind Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse. Sam Rockwell and Archie Yates steal this list with their wonderful performances in Jojo Rabbit, while Edith Massey in Polyester claims the best line with, “At first I thought he was walking his dog. Then I realized, it was his date.”
- Nightmare Cinema (Mick Garris, Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Ryûhei Kitamura, and David Slade, 2018)
- Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi, 2019)
- Cosmos (Andrzej Zulawski, 2015)
- The Limey (Steven Soderbergh, 1999)
- Toy Story 4 (Josh Cooley 2019)
- The Hired Hand (Peter Fonda, 1971)
- Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
- Polyester (John Waters, 1981)
- Slice (Austin Vesely, 2018)
- Halloween (David Gordon Green, 2018)
In unrelated but splendid news, MMC! will be providing coverage of the 2019 Buried Alive Film Festival! BAFF starts this upcoming Wednesday with its Sinema Challenge screenings, then launches into their feature and short film program on Thursday, culminating with an evening of awards and screenings next Sunday. Those in and around Atlanta should check out Buried Alive’s site for schedule information and tickets on its latest and greatest schedule.
These last ten films I’ve watched are an interesting bunch. Luigi Cozzi’s cut of Godzilla proved to be an underwhelming novelty, a primitively cut fanmix that was unfortunately dull as Raymond Burr stiffly toured through the movie under the haphazard haze of faded yellow and purple gels, then verged on offensive as it cut horrendous atrocity footage into Godzilla’s rampage and aftermath, creating a kind of Cozzila Holocaust. If only Cozzilla could have resembled something more intrepid like its colourful, sensational, practically incoherent epilogue, this movie could have at least been an entertaining mess.
- The Cremator (Juraj Herz, 1969)
- The Bitter Stems (Fernando Ayala, 1956)
- Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh, 2012)
- Get Shorty (Barry Sonnenfeld, 1995)
- Cozzilla (Luigi Cozzi, Ishirô Honda, and Terry O. Morse, 1977)
- Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (Ishirô Honda, 1964)
- Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)
- Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985)
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Michael Dougherty, 2019)
- Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2018)
I also inadvertently managed to create a pair of unusual double features. Come and See and Midsommar were expectedly traumatizing in their own ways, yet they proved to be remarkably easier to watch than I initially anticipated thanks to some captivating storytelling. The Bitter Stems and The Cremator managed to find common ground on the subjects of death and delusion, however it was the slippery interiorities of these films and their wild subjectivites that really connected them. On reflection, I might recommend watching The Cremator first and letting its more audacious style enliven The Bitter Stems all the more.
The last ten films I’ve watched lean toward the little seen and hard to find. For example, I had to order the Blu-ray of Five Fingers for Marseilles three times from Amazon before eventually getting one shipped, but I’m very happy to have finally seen it. Matthews’ film proved to be one of those great cinematic experiences where an otherwise unseen world is suddenly presented before you. Five Fingers for Marseilles is a slow-burning, South African neo-western full of gorgeous, hardy landscapes; wonderful, locally-inspired costumes; indelibly lyrical native dialects; and portentous, foreboding camera movements. African cinema can tend to be a blindspot for many of us, but for those who love the tropes of the western and have the patience for slow, atmospheric story-telling, Five Fingers is revelatory.
(Also, a spoiler alert! One of these last ten films will be MMC!‘s next proposed title!)
- The Ball at the Anjo House (Kôzaburô Yoshimura, 1947)
- Private Property (Leslie Stevens, 1960)
- The Devil (Andrej Zulawski, 1972)
- The Music of Chance (Philip Haas, 1993)
- Terror of Mechagodzilla (Ishirô Honda, 1975)
- Paradise Alley (Sylvester Stallone, 1978)
- Slap the Monster on Page One (Marco Bellocchio, 1972)
- Five Fingers for Marseilles (Michael Matthews, 2017)
- An Average Little Man (Mario Monicelli, 1977)
- Josie and the Pussycats (Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, 2001)