Well, 2018 has come to a controversial end. Let us hope that 2019 has a better ending. I am now choosing what are the ten best new films I saw in the year 2019. This year we seem to have had a more dreary collection of in even the best films than we have seen that in previous years. I have no film that I can whole-heartedly recommend to any film fan.
It seems to me that a higher proportion of films than usual are on the subject of the Black-White experience and race relations and particularly those between black teens and police. I guess that was to be expected in a year in which there were so many fatal incidents involving police and black teens. Film is usually thought of as an escape from a troubled world. 2018 showed just how hard it is to find such escapes. The title of my first film does not promise to be any more cheerful.
1) THE HATE U GIVE: Spike Lee showed one possible scenario for a
spark that starts a race riot with his DO THE RIGHT THING. In THE
HATE U GIVE Director George Tillman presents us with a very
different genesis but one that also leads to riots. While the film
is a bit hard-bitten it seems a little too anxious to have a
positive ending. Several racially charged and involved issues are
brought together in an effective story.
Director: George Tillman, Jr.
Writers: Audrey Wells, Angie Thomas.
2) ROMA: This is Alfonso Cuaron's semi-autobiographical account of
his life as a boy over the course of a very eventful year, 1970 and
1971. It is the story of one upper middle class family in a time
of social turbulence. Cuaron shot the film in monochrome, which
intensifies the emotional impact. It is not particularly a message
film, or at least not primarily. The main character is the family
servant Cleo, who is underappreciated and herself having a bad
year. The people of the household by the end seem superficial
compared to Cleo. This is a film that sticks with the viewer.
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Writer: Alfonso Cuaron
3) BLACKKKLANSMAN: In this film a black policemen tries to
investigate and if possible infiltrate the Colorado Springs chapter
of the Ku Klux Klan by talking to them over he telephone. When it
turns out they insist they will have to see him in the flesh
another policeman will represent the physical part of this invented
racist. This film is based on a true story but still manages to
include and coordinate drama, comedy, and suspense. Along the way
it (superficially) tells the history of the Ku Klux Klan and also
manages to include some excitement and give a viewer a history of
American racism going back to THE BIRTH OF A NATION and up to
Director: Spike Lee
Writers: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
4) MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT: Thisa is the latest continuation of
the popular TV and film series. In fact it sidesteps the tropes of
the series and really seems to have none of the tropes that made
the series what it was. The ideas have been largely supplanted by
death-defying stunts. There are no self-destructive assignment
messages; no choosing a team that would have the strongest synergy.
Also it was in part a sort of borrowing from the James Bond films;
most of the stunts are performed by the lead actor, always to show
Tom Cruise's athletic prowess. The stories were more complex and
adult than the Bond films' plots. Where Bond films usually had a
sexual subtext there was very little hanky-panky. I would not have
expected it but the Cruise's are starting to make for better films
than the Bonds. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT is just about better
than QUANTUM OF SOLACE. The plot is an attempt to head off a
nuclear threat, just like some people do in the real world. Oh,
and Cruise does (mostly?) his own stunts.
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie
5) WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?: This is a biographical documentary
about the life and the career of Fred Rogers. A friend told me
that housewives really appreciate PBS running the children's TV
show, MR. ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD. Fred Rogers had a talent for
keeping children entertained while he calmed them down. He
instilled values into his viewers. There were no guns. In fact no
conflict that could not be solved by getting to know and respect
all people. There were no guns in evidence, though there was a
discussion that nuclear war existed and Mr. Rogers told children
about them as a loving parent would tell a child. The world is a
better place for his gentle demeanor.
Director: Morgan Neville
6) BOY ERASED: I have been fascinated by methods to "brainwash"
victims and effectively reprogram their minds. This film is the
fact-based story of the late-teen son of a Baptist preacher. Jared
Eamons, son of Marshall Eamons, lets his father know that the son
is gay. This sets off an explosion in the family relationships.
Marshall registers his son in a gay conversion therapy program.
The film dramatizes Jared's struggle to maintain who he is rather
than who his family wants him to be.
Director: Joel Edgerton
Writer: Joel Edgerton
7) VICE: In this biographic account of the political life of Dick
Chaney as portrayed by Christian Bale, Bale gives a bravura
performance as Dick Cheney who saw a path to great political power
by way of the seemingly innocuous office of the Vice President.
Much of what happens was surmised for Adam McKay's script.
Director: Adam McKay
Writer: Adam McKay
8) 22 JULY; The title was the date of Norway's most deadly
terrorist attack as a right-wing extremist seized an island
belonging to a youth camp and opened fire. In total he murdered 77
victims. Shot in a photo-realistic style with handheld cameras, it
shows us the government's efforts to recue the captives. The film
has a real sense of immediacy.
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writers: Paul Greengrass, Asne Seierstad
9) THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS: This is a non-fiction documentary.
In 1980 a man starting out college is surprised to find out that a
large number of people on campus already seemed to know him. He
had never met them. They are complete strangers, but it appeared
at first that they are identical twins. They seemed to have been
identical twins separated at birth. That seems very unlikely, and
it is soon disproved. Instead there were three identical triplets
separated at birth. This could not have been a natural occurrence.
So what was going on?
Director: Tim Wardle
10) MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE is the story of Mowgli, Rudyard
Kipling's human boy-hero. Mowgli was found as a human baby in the
jungle. Orphaned he was raised by wild wolves. It was adapted for
the screen several times never quite satisfyingly. The filmmakers
always have had to decide how to depict screen images and languages
that were animals who looked like they were actually talking. In
the new adaptation the talking animals are animated by CGI. This
is a completely acceptable means of rendering the images the screen
would need. This may be the screens best rendering of the Kipling.
The director is probably the world's greatest authority on motion
capture animation, Andy Serkis (formerly Gollum and Kong).
Director: Andy Serkis
Writers: Callie Cloves, Rudyard Kipling
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2019 Mark R. Leeper