2019 - The Year in Cinemas



   Back in December 2017, having just enjoyed Blade Runner 2049 on the big screen, I set myself the challenge of watching one film in cinemas every month. Although I didn’t quite manage it in 2018, I came very close; there was only one month where I didn’t make it to the cinema, due to a particularly busy workload.

   How did I do this year? Well, I came incredibly close to achieving my goal. December has likely been the busiest month of the year for me, and although I had every intention of going to see Star Wars this month, there's only a couple of days left until the end of the year, so it's not looking likely.

   But apart from this month, I've done pretty well. Excluding film festivals and short film nights, I still managed to go to the cinema once a month between January and November. In May, I actually went twice! Big shout-out to Tommy Draper for being my cinema buddy for another year (and he often persuaded me to get out the house to go and watch things!), but I was also able to have a couple of ‘date night’ style cinema trips with my partner Edward Harvey this year, which was really lovely.

   So, which were the twelve films I saw in cinemas this year, and what did I think of them?


JANUARY 2019


Film: The Favourite

   I watched The Favourite within the first week of January, so it was definitely a strong start to the year. I’ll admit that I found the film a tad too long (it’s nearly 3 hours, with multiple chapters), but my discomfort was partly down to the fact that I was wearing fake leather trousers on a leather recliner seat: I was roasting and fidgety the whole time! 

   That minor niggle aside, I did love the film. It’s an acting tour-de-force, and Olivia Colman’s subsequent OSCARs speech was probably the industry moment of the year. It feels all the more special for me because I’d just seen her make a similar speech in person, after she accepted the BAFTA award for the same role.


FEBRUARY 2019
Film: Green Book

   Green Book is a loveable film, and I wish they’d shown it closer to Christmas, because it has one of the most festive, feel-good endings I’ve ever seen. Some people have criticised the film for being too light and fluffy on its presentation of racial issues, but I feel as though they made it accessible for people who would normally avoid grittier films, so it’s just another way of getting an important message across. It didn't deserve the best picture OSCAR, but Mahershala Ali was amazing in the film, and I love Viggo Mortensen in absolutely everything, so it didn’t disappoint.


MARCH 2019


Film: Captain Marvel

   I did not expect to love this film as much as I did! I have seen a lot of Marvel films now, and it’s rare for me to want to watch them more than once - but I bought Captain Marvel on blu-ray as soon as it was available. I wish that this film came out when I was a little girl, but I’m so glad that my niece will grow up in a world where this film exists; the message of ‘your emotions make you stronger, so don’t try to restrict them’ is such an important message for children of any gender. Also, on a side note, the 90s setting and soundtrack was perfection - it’s a long time since I’ve been to the cinema and known every song that was in the film! I cheered more than once.


APRIL 2019
Film: Wild Rose

   Wild Rose was one of the ‘smaller’ films I saw this year, and as a result, it hasn’t really stuck in my mind. This being said, the film was crafted well enough; I had the opportunity to attend a talk with the filmmakers at BAFTA Guru Live in September, and I really appreciated hearing their thoughts. The star of the show was definitely Jessie Buckley, in more ways than one. Last year, I saw her play a timid but secretly passionate woman in Beast; this year she played a character who was confident, outrageous and not always easy to watch (particularly in the scenes with her kids), and I love the diversity Jessie Buckley has already been able to show within her brief list of credits.


MAY 2019


Films: Vox Lux & Avengers: Endgame

   Vox Lux has to be the weirdest film on this list. I didn’t know quite what to expect - but it definitely wasn’t the film that I saw! It certainly could’ve done without the gratuitous last act, which was basically a concert montage, with brief moments of voiceover foreshadowing the characters’ future. The strongest part of the film is definitely the opening act, in which the lead character’s younger incarnation is played by the brilliant Raffey Cassidy. That’s an odd thing to admit, as Natalie Portman was the big draw for this film - and although she had one incredible powerhouse monologue, her scenes just weren’t quite as interesting as Cassidy's, which depicted an innocent young girl's rise to musical fame.

   Avengers: Endgame was pretty much the polar opposite of Vox Lux, but it still defied expectations for me. Yes, it was a huge action film - and the battle scene (partly created by Weta Digital, the company who did the VFX on The Lord of the Rings) was probably the most epic I've ever seen. But the film had lots of quiet, steady moments too; great for character development, not great if (like me) you're waiting for a noisy scene so that you can eat your nachos! Avengers: Endgame definitely marked the end of an era, and I cried to see certain characters' storylines come to an end. Overall, it was very well done.


JUNE 2019
Film: Booksmart

   Another film where I went in with an open mind. I had heard little about Booksmart, bar the fact that it was similar to Superbad, but directed by a woman. That brief summary doesn’t do it justice; yes, the story is familiar, but it’s told with a fresh, different perspective. The cinematography is also really lovely, with a lot of craftsmanship and creativity on screen throughout, which elevates it from a standard teen comedy (the underwater scene particularly stands out in my memory). You have to watch it more than once to fully appreciate all the quirky little scenes and directorial choices that make up this film, such as the bizarre 'doll moment’ and gorgeous taxi set.


JULY 2019


Film: Midsommar

   Midsommar was, without a doubt, my film of the year. Even a drunk and rowdy couple in the row behind me couldn’t take away from how much I loved it! The whole experience was intoxicating, even borderline claustrophobic at times, in spite of the open-air, sunny settings in the film. That's what stood out for me the most; Ari Aster took the very language of cinema and spun it on its head, playing with our expectations in the process. When you go into a nighttime-set horror movie, you know when to look away; but when everything looks bright and pleasant, you keep watching, you see everything, and part of your brain feels like everything is lovely, even when you're watching something that's sickeningly gory (and this film does have some of the goriest moments I've ever seen!). Yes, there are some tired teen-slasher tropes in the storyline, but this film is about the spectacle, and the finer hidden details, more so than being about the characters. Incredible, unforgettable work - and I'm still thinking about it, half a year later.


AUGUST 2019
Film: Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

   I'll admit that I have mixed feelings about the work of Tarantino, as I've never been a fan of OTT violent scenes. However, bar the final scenes, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood showed us a very different Tarantino - a man filled with nostalgia, and a childlike desire to re-write events that tarnished the history of a beloved era (we saw something similar with Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, but not quite to this level). So much love went into this film, and it was a real treat to see all the classic Hollywood references - even though the film had a similar runtime to The Favourite. There were great buddy performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, and I really hope that DiCaprio wins some awards for his performance as near-washed-up star Rick Dalton. The breakdown scene in his trailer was a masterclass in acting.


SEPTEMBER 2019


Film: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

   Of all the films this year, Scary Stories was undoubtedly the one I was most looking forward to - and as a result, it was the only one which disappointed me. I love anything to do with Guillermo del Toro (particularly after seeing The Shape of Water last year), and I avidly followed the progress of Scary Stories as a result, from the monster character designs to the practical effects reveals. The film itself wasn't bad, per se (bar some rather clunky dialogue), but it didn't feel like it had an audience - it was too immature for adults, too scary for children - and it was hard to get attached to the characters as a result. It sat somewhere between Stranger Things and Buffy, without matching the quality or the fun level of either. 


OCTOBER 2019 
Film: Joker

   I think I'm right in saying that Joker was one of the most anticipated films of the year. I could write a whole blog post about it, but I'll try and keep this section as brief as possible. As a big fan of Batman, I was cautious about a Joker origin story; he's most scary when he's enigmatic, with his origins - and importantly, his motivations - completely unknown. So I was relieved that Todd Phillips' Joker kept an element of mystery around the character's childhood, and didn't portray a clear event which 'turned' Arthur Fleck into a madman. Although it was a standalone film, I'd happily accept it as part of the DC Cinematic Universe. Its dark tone and quasi-historical setting (the film presented a Gotham without a clearly defined time period) perfectly matched what fans love about the comic book series.

   And Joaquin Phoenix... wow. He carried us through the entire film, through the incredibly uncomfortable moments to the glorious victory we didn't quite want to cheer for.

   But if you take Phoenix's performance, and put it to one side for now, I think this film was very flawed. From the very first scene, the dialogue was clunky, many of the side characters had wooden performances, storylines could've been shaved down (such as a lot of the Wayne family plot), and Todd Phillips' directing felt uncertain and heavy-handed. When he wasn't overtly 'borrowing' from The King of Comedy, some of Phillips' decisions - particularly his comedic ones, like Arthur walking into a window - fell flat. The cinematography also ranged from incredible (see the top of the page) to the tactless, such as the use of an obvious greenscreen during a bus travelling scene. I think I need to watch the film again, and I'm happy to do that because I did enjoy it - but I genuinely feel like the filmmakers didn't realise what kind of film they were going to make, or how good it was going to be, until Joaquin Phoenix came on board and completely elevated the material.

   Anyway, moving on to the final film on this list...


NOVEMBER 2019


Film: Doctor Sleep

   I was surprised by how slow and steady the pace of Doctor Sleep was; it felt like a proper book adaptation, whereas other films might’ve cut the majority of the build-up and gone to the main action sooner. It’s also worth saying that you should go into this film expecting a fantasy, not a horror (although the villains do conduct one of the most horrific, upsetting scenes I’ve ever seen on screen), and throughout the film, for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on, I was constantly reminded of the first Twilight film. 

   As with Joker, I think I need to watch the film again to really appreciate it, but the set design was amazing, and the final act - with ALL the fan service in the world for Kubrik’s The Shining adaptation - was goose-bump-inducing and magnificent. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to see a film with Danny Torrance as a lead character, and he wasn’t the most interesting subject (through no fault of Ewan McGregor, who gave a fine performance), but Rebecca Fergusson’s 'Rose the Hat' was brilliant. She looked like an evil Stevie Nicks, and I couldn’t help but sort-of root for her - which is unfortunate, as she was the leader of the villains!

*

   So there we have it - my twelve cinema trips from 2019. Although I haven't made it to the cinema in December, I did watch some great films on Netflix (while I've been doing a few concept art jobs), including Mid 90s, A Marriage Story and The King. The King might also be the last film I see this decade, which is an odd thought. 

   There were also a few films which I missed this year, and which I would've liked to have seen in cinemas - including Roma and The Aeronauts - which highlights the problem in going to the cinema only once a month.

   Overall, I think the year's movies started strongly (as always happens around awards season) but the quality petered out towards the end of summer, and I don’t think it’s a cinematic year which will stay in my memory. TV was also a mixed bag, with Game of Thrones ending astonishingly badly, after years of fantastic build-up - and the third season of A Handmaid's Tale left me with little desire to watch the fourth season. This being said, I loved the second series of End of the F**king World, and there's another programme which really does deserve an honourable mention on this blog post...


   As with 2018, much as I don’t like saying it, the best thing I saw all year was on television - and that’s The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance. The craftsmanship on display through all the beautiful settings and characters left me feeling inspired, and somewhat emotional. Yes, there was a bit too much obvious CGI, and some of the voice actors were better than others, but I didn’t care. It was exactly what I needed after the disappointment of the final season of Game of Thrones. Us fantasy fans get so little, and Dark Crystal delivered so much. Fingers crossed for a new season in 2020.

   This being said, I still love watching movies in cinemas, and I want to try and get back on track with my cinema trips in the new year. If I don't catch Star Wars, the next film I'll see on the big screen will be Greta Gerwig's remake of Little Women, followed by Mulan later on in the year - and I'm very much looking forward to getting back into that reclining cinema seat!


Sophie 

Comments

  1. UPDATE - I DID IT! I've just come back from my local cinema, where I caught Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. So I did manage to go to the cinema every month in 2019 after all! Feeling very chuffed about that, as I really didn't think I'd find time before the new year.

    So here's my thoughts on Star Wars:

    Overall, I loved it. The new Star Wars films have been so exciting to watch, and stunning too (particularly the horror-style cinematography in the opening scenes!). I also feel like Adam Driver's character was more likeable in this film, although that could be because I watched him in Marriage Story this week, so I've still got that awesome performance in my head.

    The plot moved far too fast, losing character development as a result (which is the problem with all the recent Star Wars films). And despite the filmmaker's best efforts, it's clear how much they sadly had to stitch together Leia's storyline after the untimely passing of Carrie Fisher. But there was still enough fan service to make the viewer emotional, with cameos both in voice and in physical appearances. The last act was amazing, and I was delighted to see Richard E. Grant and (OMG) Lord of the Rings and Lost star Dominic Monaghan among the new cast members!

    If this is the last film I see this decade, I don't mind at all.

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