From Avengers: Endgame to Midsommar, here are some of our editor’s favourite films of the year.
Horror films tend to walk a tightrope between relevance and poignancy versus the mediocrity and unintended goof they sometimes fall into. Us, however, manages to successfully create a monster horror movie for adults, where the monster isn’t some guy in a cheap costume, but a horribly distorted version of our own selves. The themes of class and privilege explored throughout the movie give you plenty to talk about even after the film has ended. Following a movie like Get Out couldn’t have been easy, but Jordan Peele did it once again with his sophomore outing.
[Gautam Gupta – he/him – @9gcity]
Midsommar is everything a good horror film should be: suspenseful, intriguing and utterly unnerving. Director Ari Aster manages to live up to the hype from Hereditary, and Midsommar continues the same surreal themes of folk horror and pagan rituals. Setting the film against the perpetual lightness of a Swedish festival only serves to make it even more disconcerting, with the choreographed beauty of the film heightening its sheer unsettling nature.
Like Hereditary, the soundtrack meshes with the intricate decor and scenery to give the endeavour a hallucinogenic, surreal feel that makes the explicit horror scenes so much more brutal and shocking. Midsommar’s sweeping visuals and soundtrack effectively dehumanises the human emotions of sadness in breakups and death displayed by actress Florence Pugh. This creates a sense of detachment, leaving viewers feeling uneasy and out of place, making the horror of the film so much more effectual. It’s nearly impossible to leave Midsommar without feeling disoriented and shaken to the core – a sign of a truly iconic film.
[Catherine Bouchard – she/her – @cat_b_99]
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The tagline to Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? may as well be ‘be gay and do crime’, but it’s also so much more than that. The film explores the life of forger Lee Israel as she fakes letters from various literary figures and sells them in the New York antiques scene. Indeed, the crimes committed in the film are rather small scale, but what drives the movie are the magnetic performances by Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant as two lonely gay people who unexpectedly regain a spark in their life through their schemes. Though somber and restrained in tone, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a superb meditation on melancholy, aging and loneliness that is brilliant in its compassion and deep-seated empathy.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
One needn’t look past The Last Black Man in San Francisco’s mesmeric and enrapturing opening scene, which features two mean traveling through the urban streets of San Francisco on a skateboard accompanied by soaring music, to understand why it is one of the boldest and best films of the year. It is hard to believe that the film started as a crowd-funding project by a first-time director, considering the gentle confidence of its lyrical tone and dreamy cinematography. Yet despite its loveable idiosyncrasies, the film never becomes twee, and instead engages with themes of gentrification and race. The Last Black Man in San Francisco is as much a love letter to San Francisco as it is a critique of the city; it is a film deeply rooted in nostalgia but not blindly so, and it perfectly captures the paradoxical feeling of both hating your hometown and being fiercely protective of it.
[Amelie Voges – she/her – @amelieleav]
Avengers: Endgame marks an important moment in cinematic history. For the first time, a franchise as extensive as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought together nearly 40 superheroes, most with their own stories, in a conclusive and fulfilling ending that left it at the top of the box office records. Crafted around a story that has run across 23 films, Endgame has both fulfilled fans new and old, wrapped up the arcs of the fan-loved Robert Downey Jr., and left the way open for our new heroes such as Tom Holland’s Spiderman and Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel. Outside of the storyline and characters, the film is a visual masterpiece, with no CGI looking out of place or unfinished and supported by a score that makes you feel the gravity of what the film has achieved. For me, that moment was Captain America standing alone against the army of Thanos, and it is fair to say that few could have come out of that film without at least one moment where their jaw dropped, or a tear was shed for the end of a classic but unique story of good vs evil.
The ‘gritty and dark’ comic book movie trend may have been started by The Dark Knight, but it is Batman’s nemesis that stands on top for perhaps the most accurate portrayal of a ‘realistic’ comic book character. Joker does not shy away from any topic in its story; mental health, people, government, class, and society. Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of a person battered and bruised by society can only be described as frightening. He makes you feel empathy for a character in ways that make the film difficult to watch at times, but also carries another message that is just as important. You must help those around you as much as you can, that no one deserves to be left by the sidelines, and that the ‘Joker’ could be anyone if we don’t help them. It is not a film for everyone; it is not by any means a film with a happy ending, nor does it have characters we should aspire to be like. Nonetheless, it is a well-crafted story based in a believable world, filled with the turmoil’s of life and the loss of someone’s empathy and heart, and this puts Joker forward as perhaps the hardest hitting movie of the year.
[Mitchell Welsh – he/him]