Film Highlights of the Decade 2010-2019

As the decade reaches its close, I take a look back at some of my favourite film trends and cinematic highlights from the last ten years…

The New Breed of Unmissable Directors

This decade has seen the emergence of a new breed of directors delivering must-see films. Leading the pack in Hollywood are Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins. Chazelle has delivered one of the decade’s best pictures with Whiplash, and two other fantastic films (La La Land and First Man). Meanwhile Jenkins gifted us two beautiful, nuanced pictures with Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. Jennifer Kent has also created two different but powerful movies (The Babadook and The Nightingale), making her mark.

Other impressive directors who have emerged this decade include Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse), Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), Justin Simien (Dear White People), and Julia Ducournau (Raw) also offered impressive debut features.

Excellent Late Franchise Entries

It really has been a decade of remakes, reboots, and belated sequels. Whilst many of these have been passable or forgettable, a couple of late franchise instalments have really stood out. George Miller bucked the trend to deliver one of the best films of this decade with Mad Max: Fury Road. The exhilarating fourth chapter in the franchise was breathtaking. Director Christopher McQuarrie re-teamed with Tom Cruise for the sixth Mission: Impossible film, and produced the best of the franchise and one of the best action films of the decade with Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Elsewhere director Steven Quale revived the tired Final Destination franchise with the very entertaining final chapter Final Destination 5.

Career Resurgences

This decade has seen a notable uptick in the careers of certain veteran actors. After a fairly quiet previous ten years, Laura Dern’s resurgence has been most rewarding to watch. This decade has seen the actress in an array of film roles including The Master, Certain Women, Marriage Story, and the upcoming Little Women. She has also been memorable on television in Twin Peaks and Big Little Lies. Michael Keaton has also had a belter of a decade, after a fairly unremarkable 2000s. He had major roles in Spotlight, The Founder, and Spider-Man: Homecoming (living long enough to become the villain), and was nominated for an Oscar for his brilliant turn in Birdman. Regina King has always delivered solid performances since her debut in Boyz n the Hood. It is only in the last few years that she has finally received the praise and calibre of roles she deserves, winning an Oscar for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk and playing the lead in the critically acclaimed show Watchmen.

Paddington Bear

In a bleak decade politically, Paddington Bear has been the hero we needed. Paul King’s Paddington and Paddington 2 have been a salve against the cruelties of this decade. A lead who is decent and kind (not to mention incredibly cute) has cut through the cynicism of the current world. The films were very entertaining, and a wonderful escape from current affairs. Paddington 2 in particular was very memorable and enchanting, with Hugh Grant on top form.

Christopher Nolan

If the decade had to belong to a single director, in terms of both critical acclaim and box office receipts, then that filmmaker would be Christopher Nolan. No one has been able to create original tentpole blockbusters in the way he has this decade. Nolan began the decade on top form with the action-thriller Inception, one of the biggest films of the year. He followed this with the final chapter of the Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. The film is just about the most hopeful blockbuster of the decade, reaching a peak of exhilaration that is difficult to match. Interstellar and the truly superb Dunkirk exhibited Nolan’s comfort in a range of genres. With the upcoming Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s films are always hotly anticipated.

Park Chan-wook and Chung Chung-hoon’s Continuing Collaboration

Director Park Chan-wook and cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon collaboration began in the 2000s, working on three films together (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, and Thirst). The fact that their partnership continued into this decade is a benefit to us all. With Stoker and The Handmaiden, Park and Chung delivered two of the decade’s handsomest pictures. The photography, the mise en scène, and the style are truly beautiful.

Trent Reznor Film Scores

After composing pieces for films earlier in his career (including for David Lynch’s Lost Highway), the 2010s was when Trent Reznor’s career as a composer really took off. His collaborations with Atticus Ross have been a highlight of cinema this decade. Highlights include the partnership with David Fincher (which netted Reznor an Oscar for The Social Network), as well as Mid90s and the recent Waves. Reznor and Ross also created the superlative score for the show Watchmen.

Directorial Debuts By Actors

This decade has seen some brilliant directorial debuts from well-known actors. These actors have proven their talents extend to behind the camera Highlights from this trend include Greta Gerwig’s wonderful Ladybird (Gerwig co-directed Nights and Weekends, but Ladybird was her first solo effort), and Jordan Peele’s fantastic Get Out. Other notable debuts include Chris Morris’ Four Lions, Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, Joel Edgerton’s The Gift, Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born, and Brie Larson’s Unicorn Store.

Preview of Coming Attractions: Films in 2019

With an abundance of movie releases slated for next year, it can be hard to identify the gems. After all, there is a glut of Disney live-action remakes (Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King), as well as the straight up unappealing (Downton Abbey film, anyone). Here are some must-see films in 2019…

The Favourite

Begin the New Year with Yorgos Lanthimos’ brilliant The Favourite. Starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone, the film is Lanthimos’ most enjoyable to date. Boasting a superb script and wonderful performances, The Favourite is hilarious, consuming, and at times touching. Read full review here.

The Favourite will be released in UK cinemas on 1st January 2019.

If Beale Street Could Talk

Director Barry Jenkins has done it again with the powerful and beguiling If Beale Street Could Talk. There is so much to be in awe of in If Beale Street Could Talk. Jenkins’ attention to detail is superb. His storytelling is absolutely enchanting. Read full review here.

If Beale Street Could Talk will be released in UK cinemas on 8th February 2019.

The Lady Eve

Not a new release for the upcoming year, nevertheless the 1941 classic gets a re-release in 2019. Directed by Preston Sturges and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, the screwball comedy stands the test of time. For first time viewers, The Lady Eve will be one of the best films in 2019.

The Lady Eve will be released at the BFI Southbank and at selected cinemas nationwide from 15th February 2019. It will be screened as part of the Barbara Stanwyck season in February 2019. For more details see here.

Us

Jordan Peele’s Us is one of the most anticipated films in 2019. Following the success of 2017’s Get Out, director and writer Peele returns with another striking-looking horror. Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, and Elisabeth Moss, the film is about a family trip that takes a dark turn.

Us will be released in UK cinemas on 15th March 2019.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino’s latest film has the potential to be explosive. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set during the Manson Family reign of terror, focusing on a television star and his stunt double. With a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Al Pacino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is sure to get people talking.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be released in UK cinemas on 26th July 2019.

The Irishman

Martin Scorsese’s latest project is a thrilling proposition. Focusing on a mob hitman and his possible involvement in the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa, the film sees Scorsese reunite with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, and a host of Boardwalk Empire stars (Stephen Graham, Bobby Cannavale, Jack Huston). The Irishman also sees Scorsese direct Al Pacino for the first time. The film is expected to have a cinema release as well as being available to stream on Netflix.

Sunset

László Nemes’ Sunset is a captivating watch. The director’s sophomore feature (after Son of Saul) is an entrancing mystery drama. Part of the film’s beauty is that it maintains this mystery throughout the duration. Set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the eve of World War I, Sunset‘s sense of unease is enthralling. The film is set to be released in early 2019.

The Nightingale

After the success of 2014’s The Babadook, all eyes are on director Jennifer Kent for her next picture. The Nightingale is about a young Irish convict woman who chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness in the early nineteenth century. Starring Sam Claflin and Aisling Franciosi, the film premiered at Venice Film Festival and is due to be released in 2019.

Greed

Michael Winterbottom’s Greed is sure to be a lot of fun. The satire is about a fictional retail billionaire and the build up to his star-studded 60th birthday party on a Greek island. Greed stars Steve Coogan, Isla Fisher, and David Mitchell. Although the protagonist is fictional, the parallels are all too clear. Greed is due to be released in UK cinemas in late 2019.

Sequels

Like 2018, next year will see many sequels. Here are some of the more anticipated follow-up films in 2019. 2014’s The LEGO Movie gets a sequel, with the main voice cast returning, as well as Phil Lord and Chris Miller as producers. The LEGO Movie 2 will be released in UK cinemas on 8th February 2019.

Later in the year, Avengers: Endgame sees the finale of the cycle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which began with 2008’s Iron Man. The film will hit UK screens on 26th April 2019.  Spider-Man: Far From Home is the sequel to 2017’s superb Spider-Man: Homecoming. Jake Gyllenhaal joins the returning cast for Spider-Man: Far From Home, which will be released on 5th July 2019. Later this year, Zombieland gets a belated sequel. The original cast return for Zombieland 2, which will be released in UK cinemas on 11th October 2019.

LFF 2018 Highlights Part 2

With another BFI London Film Festival reaching its conclusion tonight, there have been some fantastic films this year. The best films of the first week of the festival can be viewed here. Below are some LFF 2018 highlights from the second half of the festival…

LFF 2018 highlights – Unmissable

If Beale Street Could Talk

Barry Jenkins has created one of the best films of the year with the beguiling If Beale Street Could Talk. The film is powerful viewing. Despite the age of the source material, If Beale Street Could Talk is incredibly resonant today. READ MORE

The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos hits the target once more with the brilliant The Favourite. The film is Lanthimos’ most enjoyable to date. The Favourite is a world away from other period romps. The film is hilarious, consuming, and at times touching. READ MORE

Sunset

László Nemes’ Sunset is a captivating watch. The director’s sophomore feature is an entrancing mystery drama.  Part of the film’s beauty is that it maintains this mystery throughout the duration. Coupled with this ambiguity is a constant sense of unease. READ MORE

LFF 2018 Highlights – The Best Of The Rest

United Skates

Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown’s United Skates is a thoroughly entertaining documentary. The film is a very impressive debut from the directors. What the filmmakers do is tell a story incredibly well; generating interest, emotion and occasionally amusement. READ MORE

The Sisters Brothers

Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers is a reflective western. By subverting some of the genre tropes, Audiard has created an interesting addition to the field. The tonal shifts that occur during the film are never jarring, but instead enhance the overall picture. READ MORE

Suspiria

Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria is a sway which builds to a cacophony. It is quite the cinematic experience. The film relies on an understated fear rather than going for the jugular. It is hard not to get caught up in the film’s turbulent rhythm. READ MORE

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? is an enjoyable comedy drama. The film is often funny, and at times moving.  Dialogue is superb, as are the contents of some of the forged letters. READ MORE

The Breaker Upperers

Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami’s comedy The Breaker Upperers is a sprightly and amiable affair. The first third is brilliant; the film establishes the main characters swiftly, and there are a lot of laughs to be had. READ MORE

The BFI London Film Festival ran from 10th-21st October 2018.

Film Review: If Beale Street Could Talk

Barry Jenkins has created one of the best films of the year with the beguiling If Beale Street Could Talk. The film is powerful viewing.

In 1970s Harlem, Tish and Fonny are in love. When Fonny is accused of a crime, Tish and her family do their best to prove his innocence…

Barry Jenkins exhibits his mastery as a filmmaker with If Beale Street Could Talk. An adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel, the film tells the story of Tish and Fonny. Despite being set in the 1970s, the film feels as relevant as ever. 

There is so much to be in awe of in If Beale Street Could Talk. Jenkins’ attention to detail is superb. His storytelling is absolutely enchanting. The narrative begins in the middle, before telling the love story through a series of flashbacks interspersed with present day scenes. Jenkins let the relationship unfold in a careful and natural manner, letting viewers fall in love with the characters as they themselves fall in love. 

Despite the age of the source material, the film is incredibly resonant today. The themes of persecution of minorities, police brutality, discrimination are all present. Jenkins deals with these themes sensitively, yet does not shy away from frankness. The conversation between Fonny and Daniel is one of most powerful moments in If Beale Street Could Talk. It really gets to the bones of issue; the trauma feels real. Elsewhere the show of solidarity from the landlord is an incredibly moving scene. 

Jenkins frames characters in such a beautiful way. The cinematography by James Laxton is wonderful. There are several beautiful shots, such as the close up of Fonny on the phone delivering his moving monologue. The camera is fluid in other situations, sweeping the viewers into the action. The use of colour and lighting charms. The score works very well; it is distinct from the diegetic music, but beautifully sets the mood. 

Performances are flawless all round. Kiki Layne and Stephan James are superb. Layne’s quietness is perfect, while James is so expressive. Regina King finally gets a role with real meat; she is wonderful. Colman Domingo is also great.

If Beale Street Could Talk shows Moonlight was no fluke. Barry Jenkins is one of the best directors working today.

If Beale Street Could Talk is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

BFI London Film Festival 2018 Launch

Today saw the BFI London Film Festival 2018 launch. Now in its 62nd year, the festival is screening 225 feature films, including 21 world premieres. Here are some highlights from the festival programme…

Headline Galas

The Opening and Closing Gala films had already been announced. The BFI London Film Festival 2018 opens with Steve McQueen’s hotly anticipated Widows, starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Colin Farrell. McQueen co-wrote the  screenplay with Gillian Flynn. McQueen’s last film, 12 Years A Slave, screened at the 2013 London Film Festival to great acclaim. Stan & Ollie, which features John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan as the legendary comedy duo, closes the festival. Other headline galas include Luca Guadagnino’s hotly anticipated Suspiria, Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?. A particular highlight is Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest. The Favourite is about Queen Anne’s court, and stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weiss, and Emma Stone. 

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

There are several great looking films in the Strand Galas and Special Presentation programmes. They include Barry Jenkins’ follow up to Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, which is an adaption of James Baldwin’s novel. Others in this category include Lee Chang-dong’s thriller Burning, and Alfonso Caurón’s first film since Gravity, Roma, and Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Special Presentations include Michael Moore’s Donald Trump documentary Fahrenheit 11/9, Carol Morley’s noir thriller Out of Blue, and George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give. 

Official Competition

There are some big names in this year’s Official Competition. Films include David Lowery’s (A Ghost Story) The Old Man & The Gun starring Robert Redford, László Nemes’ (Son of Saul) Sunset, and Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead – Wheatley’s Free Fire closed the 2016 festival. Also competing is Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer, starring Nicole Kidman. Meanwhile the Documentary Competition features Putin’s Witness (Svideteli Putina’s film featuring footage of Putin from 1999-2000) and Julien Faraut’s John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection. First Feature Competition includes Isabella Eklöf’s Holiday and Paul Dano’s Wildlife. 

Strands

As in previous years, the eleven programme strands are back. Love features Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and the Sandra Hüller starring In The Aisles. Debate includes Oliver Assayas’ latest, Non-Fiction, starring Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet, and Catherine Corsini’s An Impossible Love. Laugh includes New Zealand comedy The Breaker Uppers, about two women running a relationship break-up service. Amongst the Dare programme is The Green Fog, which sees filmmakers Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson remake Vertigo using clips from other people’s films. Thrill includes Kim Nguyen’s The Hummingbird Project (starring Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård), while Cult features Nicolas Cage in Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. 

Jessica Hynes directorial debut The Fight is part of the Journey strand, and Create includes Joan Jett documentary Bad Reputation. Richard Squires’ Doozy, which recreates the career of Hanna-Barbera’s villain actor Paul Lynde is one of the Experimenta films being screened. The Family strand features Linda Hambäck’s animated detective tale Gordon & Paddy. Finally, there are some great films being screened as part of the Treasures strand. These include Billy Wilder’s classic Some Like It Hot and Mae West in My Little Chickadee.

The BFI London Film Festival 2018 runs from 10th-21st October. The full programme can be viewed here.

LFF 2016 Highlights Part 1

It is now a week into the 60th BFI London Film Festival, and so far it has offered some cinematic delights. Here are some LFF 2016 highlights from the first week of screenings…

LFF 2016 Highlights – Unmissable

La La Land

From the opening sequence, it is obvious that La La Land is something special. Damien Chazelle does not disappoint with his follow-up to Whiplash. The film is beautifully composed and wonderfully executed. READ MORE

Moonlight

Moonlight is a wonderfully absorbing character study from Barry Jenkins. The film is a profusion of taut emotion, which bubbles over in a delectable way. In a different pair of hands, the film could have been a trite concoction of stereotypes and cliché. Jenkins shows he is a force to be reckoned with with the magnificent Moonlight. READ MORE

Manchester By The Sea

Manchester by the Sea

Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea is rich with emotion and so finely executed that it lingers in the mind long after viewing. Lonergan exhibits a skilfulness in filmmaking and storytelling with the excellent Manchester By The Sea. READ MORE

LFF 2016 Highlights – Best of the Rest

Divines

Houda Benyamina’s Divines packs quite a punch. The film is engrossing throughout. Divines has an energy that is appealing. This is obvious from the film’s opening scene. READ MORE

The Handmaiden

Chan-wook Park’s The Handmaiden is exactly the style and quality of film one would expect from the filmmaker. It is thoroughly entertaining and a visual feast. There is so much to like about The Handmaiden, that it is difficult to know where to begin. READ MORE

The Birth of a Nation

Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation is a compelling drama that does not shy away from the realities of its narrative. The Birth of a Nation feels pertinent today, and it is a story that should be heard… READ MORE

ARRIVAL

Arrival

Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival brings the spectacle and wonder. For the most part, the film is an engrossing watch. Arrival is a very enjoyable science-fiction mystery. The film poses the big questions in an engaging and easily comprehendible way. READ MORE

Queen of Katwe

Director Mira Nair’s film is infectious in its positivity. Queen of Katwe is a heartwarming picture. Telling the true story of an unlikely chess champion from the slums of Kampala, Queen of Kwante is an edifying film. READ MORE

The Graduation (Le Concours)

The Graduation (Le Concours) is a fly-on-the-wall documentary that pays off, despite a slow start. Le Femis in Paris is one of the top film schools. Each of the prospective students need to go a rigorous selection process for one of the limited places at the school. READ MORE

The BFI London Film Festival runs from 5th-16th October 2016. Details of remaining screenings are available here.

Film Review: Moonlight

Moonlight

Moonlight is a wonderfully absorbing character study from Barry Jenkins. The film is a profusion of taut emotion, which bubbles over in a delectable way.

Chiron is a young boy growing up in a tough Miami neighbourhood. As a teenager, he is isolated from his peers. As a man, he struggles to deal with his feelings and the perception of who he should be…

Director and screenwriter Barry Jenkins has created something special with Moonlight. Based on Tarell McCraney’s play, the film is a coming of age story from a fresh perspective. The film is important because it depicts the type of protagonist not often seen in mainstream cinema.

Moonlight is a three-part production, taking place in different eras of the protagonist’s life. It is the story of a boy becoming a man in a less than perfect environment. The film combines two major aspects; black masculinity and homosexuality. As such, the protagonist faces lengthy struggle in trying to live up to expectations of what a black male in Miami should be, whilst internalising romantic feelings which contradict these expectations.

Characters in the film are drawn in a natural and engaging fashion. Moonlight charts Chiron’s journey, and the character is depicted in a empathetic way. Similarly, the supporting characters are portrayed with enough depth. The relationship between Chiron and Kevin is lovingly depicted. There is an emotional vein than runs throughout the film. Viewers will sympathise and root for the protagonist as he tries to defy the odds.

Jenkins’ direction is strong throughout. He shoots the film with an appealing energy. This is clear from the frenetic camera movement at the beginning. James Laxton’s cinematography in the film is excellent; composition and colour are used in a potent manner. Casting in the film is also wonderful. Ashton Sanders is great as the teenaged Chiron, as are Alex Hibbert and Trevante Rhodes as the child and adult protagonist, respectively. Mahershala Ali, Jenelle Monae, and Naomie Harris provide good support.

In a different pair of hands, the film could have been a trite concoction of stereotypes and cliché. Jenkins shows he is a force to be reckoned with with the magnificent Moonlight.

Moonlight is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.