Tag Archives: Lists

My 10 Favourite Films of 2019

Happy New Year!

Yesterday I shared my picks for my top 10 films of the decade, but we still have a bit of unfinished business with 2019. So here, keeping it (comparatively) brief, are my top 10 films of the year.

Homecoming

10. Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé

This film landed at #10 when I made my mid-year favourites list back in July. It remains at #10 now, bumping out several films that had initially placed higher. It’s a testament to just how vibrant and entertaining this doc is. Beyoncé is a master at cultivating a very specific sense of style for herself, and this A+ concert film has it in spades.

Waves

9. Waves

I had to watch Waves twice to figure out how I felt about it. I’ve decided that, for me, its many positives outweigh the considerable flaws also present. Trey Edward Shults took a lot of risks, and I think his ambition pays off in the sense that it’s a film that is memorable and never feels like it’s playing it safe. I’ll take that any day over something consistent yet mediocre. And all hail Taylor Russell and Sterling K. Brown.

Maiden

8. Maiden

There were a lot of strong 2019 docs that also could have found a spot on my top 10 in a weaker year (Apollo 11, Knock Down the House, Midnight Family, After Parkland, and Honeyland) but none more rousing than Maiden. Telling the uplifting story of the first all-female crew to compete in the prestigious Whitbread Round the World sailing race, it’s a crowd-pleaser in the best sense of the world. Probably also the film that I shed the largest amount of non-sad tears for in 2019.

Parasite

7. Parasite

Bong Joon-ho’s latest is as well-constructed and entertaining as everyone says. It’s so universally acclaimed that I feel that I don’t have much to add to the conversation. However, if you haven’t seen it, be sure to add this bold, twisty treat to the top of your to-watch list.

BOOKSMART

6. Booksmart

I still absolutely adore Olivia Wilde’s smart, hilarious coming-of-age tale just as much as I did when I saw it some seven months ago. Its entire cast is a true delight, and I love the goofy, sweet, raunchy script. If we got one big-budget comedy this good every year, we’d be doing just fine.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

5. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

This is the 2019 film I most desperately want to rewatch. Tarantino’s latest is so freewheeling and oddly likeable that it feels, in a way, like you’re hanging out with friends. It has an ease to it that you barely notice the lengthy runtime, and it leaves you with a lot to ponder even after it’s over. Easily top 5 Tarantino. Maybe even top 3? (I sense a viewing project for 2020 coming on.)

'Rocketman' Film - 2019

4. Rocketman

I’m more excited about Rocketman than the vast majority of people, but I really just adore it. It contains easily some of the most memorable and entertaining scenes of the year, and it’s a would-be glossy biopic that actually has a lot of genuine heart and artistic flare. Get Taron Egerton his Oscar nomination, please.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire 2019

3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

All of my top 3 films that combine a sort of formal elegance with considerable emotional heft, and perhaps no film was as restrained yet passionate this year as Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Celine Sciamma’s latest is a pleasure to watch and one that, while perhaps initially seeming understated, is likely to stick with you long after the fact.

Mouthpiece

2. Mouthpiece

Easily the most obscure film on the list, this Canadian gem certainly deserves to find a wider audience. Taking a premise that could have gone horribly wrong (it depicts the life of one woman by having two different actresses embody her on screen at the same time) it instead finds a unique, surprisingly accessible rhythm that hits pretty perfectly the whole way through. I loved the creativity.

Pain & Glory

1. Pain & Glory

Some years it’s difficult to land on which film will be the one to take the top spot on this list, but Pedro Almodovar’s Pain & Glory was my petty clear-cut favourite of the year. Everything about its style and story just clicked for me. Antonio Banderas gives the performance of his career and, from start to finish, I loved every colourful, heartfelt, and sometimes idiosyncratic choice Almodovar made.

My Top 10 Films of the ‘10s

The chance to write a “best of the decade” list is pretty rare, and I tend to put an inordinate amount of weight on the task. (If you happen to be curious about the full 100-film list I put together for the 2010s while preparing, you can find it on my Letterboxd here.) It was actually helpful looking back at the “best of the 2000s” list I published a full 10 years ago and realizing that half of the films on that list wouldn’t make the cut if I re-made it today. Tastes change, but these sorts of lists, to me, are an interesting way to at least capture a moment in time.

So, without further ado, here are the 10 films that I (for now) consider my favourites of the decade that was the 2010s.

Fish Tank

10. Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2010)

We’re starting with a slightly “controversial” choice, considering Fish Tank came out in the UK (and played quite a few film festivals) in late 2009. However, it didn’t get its North American theatrical release until January 2010, so I count it as a ‘10s film. And indeed, Fish Tank seemed to usher in a spate of films about economic disparity in the UK throughout the decade that followed. But it was Arnold’s naturalism in telling the story of young Mia (Katie Jarvis), a young woman fighting (often literally) to break out of the suppressive social class she’s been raised in, that had the biggest emotional impact on me. It is a quiet film full of extremely flawed characters who are given the empathy to simply exist as they are. It’s the film on this list that I’ve had the longest to sit with, and it’s haunted me since I first saw it.

Columbus

9. Columbus (Kogonoda, 2017)

Speaking of empathy, there was perhaps not a kinder film I saw all decade than Kogonoda’s stunning debut, Columbus. Haley Lu Richardson and John Cho play extremely warm, realistic characters and the pure bliss in watching them share ideas, learn from each other, and explore the unique architecture in the titular Columbus, Indiana is far stronger than it has any right to be in such a simple film. It’s a film that some absolutely adore and others shrug at. I just sat there in the theatre absorbing every beautiful frame.

Lore

8. Lore (Cate Shortland, 2013)

Cate Shortland is a director who doesn’t make nearly as many films as I’d like, having released just three in total since her debut in 2004. (Although she’s about to get a major bump in notoriety, given that her next project is 2020’s Black Widow.) Her second film, Lore, tells the harrowing tale of a group of young German siblings who must flee their home unaccompanied after the end of World War II. It is a quietly stressful adventure tale, a coming-of-age story, and an artfully told period piece all at once. It also boasts captivating performances from its young German leads, Saskia Rosendahl and Kai Malina, and pitch-perfect cinematography. This is the least well-known film on the list, but one that I think a lot of people would appreciate if they sought it out.

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7. The End of the Tour (James Ponsoldt, 2015)

After this year’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, I’m going to put forward a motion that we retire the narrative structure of having a journalist interviewing a celebrity as the premise of a film. However, that structure was less overused when The End of the Tour was made, and Ponsoldt chooses it not out of convenience, but as the entire emotional crux of his story. It also helps that the two men being depicted (David Foster Wallace and journalist David Lipsky) are much more evenly-matched in their respective career accomplishments at the time the film takes place, acting as a mirror, an echo, and a sounding board for each other. (They also have a rich real-life text to draw from, as Lipsky published an entire book containing his conversations with Wallace during his book tour for Infinite Jest.) Ponsoldt depicts their relationship so cleanly, yet realistically, creating an incredibly emotionally rich film from conversations may on the surface sometimes seem offhanded or even banal. Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg also turn in wonderful performances, seeming impressively unburdened by the “real life-ness” of the characters they’re playing. It’s a fun hangout film, as also one that sneaks up on you with an understated emotional wallop.

Oslo August 31

6. Oslo, August 31 (Joachim Trier, 2012)

I do tend to love depressing Scandinavian films, and Oslo, August 31 is a prime example. Set over the course of one day in the life of a man who’s been temporarily let out of rehab to attend a job interview, it’s a meditative, artful take on addiction. Trier levels up from his already impressive debut, 2007’s Reprise, and creates something even more beautiful and deeply felt. I only caught up with the film this past year, but I’m actually glad that I watched it now (rather than in my early 20’s when it first came out) because I found a relatable aspect (aside from the topic of drug addiction) that wouldn’t have hit me in the same way eight years ago; through the people that Anders interacts with in vignettes throughout the film, Trier perfectly illustrates that sense of feeling alienated from those around you by not having followed the path that you’re “supposed” to by the time you hit 30-ish. It’s not quite the main theme of the film, but it’s sprinkled as an undercurrent throughout, and it really hit me in a relatable, raw (though not necessarily sad) way. Oslo, August 31 is a stunner and, for me, was a great example of watching the right film at the right time.

Roma Cuaron

5. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)

I would struggle to think, on a frame-by-frame basis, of a more beautiful film that came out this decade. There was something about Roma that I found so captivating, despite its seeming straightforwardness. I know some found it a bit emotionally disconnected, but I was right there with Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) from frame one through to the end of her quietly seismic journey. This is perhaps partly because Cuarón crafted it with so much love, and the autobiographical elements came through beautifully. I could have watched another of hour of his vibrant, wistful, clear-eyed point of view.

Lost City of Z Gray

4. The Lost City of Z (James Gray, 2017)

James Gray was another director who succeeded at transporting viewers to a perfectly realized world, here with The Lost City of Z. Having caught up with it earlier this year (on gorgeous 35mm projection, no less) I immediately fell in love with how it evoked a sweeping historical epic, but depicted with a modern sensibility. Gray perfectly (yet deliberately) paced this tale of a single-minded adventurer, and I was along for the journey every step of the way.

The Social Network

3. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)

I could write thousands of words on The Social Network (and maybe have, over the course of my various viewings throughout the decade). There was no film that I watched more in the ‘10s (five times, in case you were wondering), and The Social Network holds up perfectly every time I watch it. From the performances to the score to the cinematography to the Sorkin script, it’s one of the extremely few films that I would classify as close to perfect. There is a rhythm to it that is unlike any other film that came out in the past 10 years, and it seems to somehow only gain relevance as time goes on. When I think of why I love movies, this is a film that almost always pops into my mind.

OJ Made in America

2. O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman, 2016)

The ’10s was definitely the first decade where I paid attention to documentaries. (Prior to this, my knowledge of docs pretty much started and ended with Supersize Me and March of the Penguins.) And I saw a lot of really great ones. But the one that eclipsed all the others (both in terms of my appreciation for it, and just it’s sheer length) was Ezra Edelman’s O.J.: Made in America. It’s a film that feels daunting to write about, because it does so much over the course of its nearly 8 hours. (And yes, I do consider it a movie, rather than a miniseries.) It is an incisive examination of American culture, a compelling “true crime”-style story, and an extremely thorough dive into the psyche of one of the most inscrutable figures in pop culture. And it’s all constructed with such an elegance that it’s impossible not to admire its craft, even as you’re engrossed in the story. This is an accessible, definitive, and unique take on a story that many of us thought we already knew. And, on top of that, it’s a film that’ll probably make you question why you had been so quick to form your previously-held opinions on its central figure.

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1. The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance, 2013)

Lists like these are always extremely subjective (hence why I’ve called this post “MY Top 10 Films of the ‘10s”) but there’s no other way I can really explain putting The Place Beyond the Pines in my number one spot beyond to say that it was just my personal favourite film of the past 10 years. I think it’s incredibly well-constructed, expertly acted, and tells a gripping story. I do think it’s a quantifiably great film. But the simpler, non-critical way to describe it is that it just “clicked” with me. Cianfrance, coming off 2010’s emotionally thorny, almost uncomfortably intimate Blue Valentine, crafted a big, generation-sweeping family epic with The Place Beyond the Pines. He balances the film’s unique structure perfectly, dividing it into three distinct parts that are satisfying on their own, but that also resonate with each other in fascinating ways. And though it’s a film that has a “twist” that seems like it might lose its impact after seeing it once, I found the film has only gained complexity and impact on multiple subsequent viewings. I’ve been on a quest ever since to find other films that balance the same level of bold structure and craft with deeply humanistic storytelling.

The Place Beyond the Pines is not a film you’re likely to see on a lot of other “best of the decade” lists (let alone at the top), but for me, it’s the film that defined my movie-watching in the 2010s.

My Top 10 Films of 2018

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10. Andy Irons: Kissed By God

Don’t let the “sports doc” packaging fool you – this is much more than a collection of cool surfing shots (though there are plenty of those to be found, too). Instead, Andy Irons: Kissed By God tells the wrenching personal story of Andy Irons, a world champion surfer who died in 2010 at the age of 32. No prior surfing interest is necessary (I’d never heard of Irons before), as the film’s main focus is on Irons’ battle with mental illness, addiction, and family tensions. It’s extremely difficult content told in a way that feels digestible, but it also deftly avoids over-simplifying or exploiting. Powerful, straightforward documentary storytelling at its finest.

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9. Blindspotting

As 2018 unfolded, it became clear that one of the major themes of the year in film was a socially-minded focus on racial and class inequality. And perhaps no film contended with those vast themes in a more freewheeling, vibrant way than Blindspotting. Considering the gravity of some of its subject matter, this tale of two Oakland, California friends (played by co-writers Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal) is an extremely funny and enjoyable film. (Though it’s certainly not without its intense moments.) It’s a faithful ode to Oakland, and an important film that I truly believe almost anyone could enjoy.

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8. Annihilation

Alex Garland followed up his promising directorial debut (2014’s Ex Machina) with this year’s philosophically intriguing and visually dazzling Annihilation. Fleshing out Jeff VanderMeer just-okay sci-fi novel of the same name, Annihilation follows an all-female expedition heading into an unusually vegetated and almost certainly dangerous quarantined zone. Things don’t go well. But as a viewer, this strange, heavy film was totally engrossing. Garland expertly blends beauty with horror in his storytelling, subtly expounding on some of the more difficult sides of human nature along the way.

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7. Eighth Grade

If there was one film this year that warmed my heart, it was Eighth Grade. Which is not to say that it’s treacly or entirely feel-good by any means. But writer/director Bo Burnham has crafted his debut film which such warmth that I found it virtually impossible not to fall for it. And were there three more likeable performances this year than Elsie Fisher (Kayla), Josh Hamilton (Kayla’s dad), and Jake Ryan (the nuggets kid)? I think not.

BlackKklansman

6. BlacKkKlansman

Truthfully, my #6-2 rankings are pretty interchangeable, since I adored all of them. Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman took a rightfully impassioned and forthright perspective on racism in America, drawing very clear parallels to the bigotry and hate that still thrive today. It’s full of style (as you would expect from Lee), but also a propulsive story and genuine tension that made the 2.25 hour runtime breeze by. BlacKkKlansman is masterfully constructed and far more entertaining than anything about this subject matter has a right to be.

The Rider

5. The Rider

Chloe Zhao’s semi-biographical sophomore feature tells the story of Brady (played, appropriately, by Brady Jandreau), a seriously injured rodeo cowboy who must now find new meaning in his once hyper-focused life. It is a quiet and quietly sad film, but Zhao’s strong sense of humanity comes through her highly observant camera, lending The Rider some qualified uplift. Jandreau, for his part, makes a highly compelling and charismatic lead, no doubt drawing from his parallel life experience. The sum of these unusual parts is a subtle but impactful film that has definitely stuck with me during the many months since I first saw it.

Transit

4. Transit

What if Waiting for Godot was a thriller? That’s the question that came to mind for me while watching Christian Petzold’s German thriller about a non-specific invasion of Europe. Franz Rogowski plays Georg, a man stuck in France and desperate to find safe passage to North America, but without the means or paperwork to do so. Watching the characters in Transit make mostly fruitless attempts to flee definitely brings on the existential dread and could have become tedious, yet Petzold’s assured direction instead ensures that the film never stops feeling tense.

Recovery Boys 2

3. Recovery Boys

One of the best Netflix-released movies of the year was one that unfortunately got almost no attention. Following her excellent Oscar-nominated short, 2017’s Heroin(e), documentarian Elaine McMillion Sheldon made the leap to the feature-length format but stuck with similar subject matter with Recovery Boys. The film spans roughly a year in the life of four young opioid addicts in West Virginia who find themselves at Jacob’s Ladder, a long-term farming-based rehab. Sheldon doesn’t use “talking head” interviews in her filmmaking, instead capturing moments and reactions as they happen, which makes for a very human and personal approach to subject matter that can often be sensationalized. In both Heroin(e) and Recovery Boys, I loved McMillion’s empathetic filmmaking perspective — I can’t wait to see what she does next.

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2. First Reformed

First Reformed may be the film I thought about the most this year. Because while Paul Schraeder’s latest, about pastor beginning to heavily question his faith, may be cynical (he did write Taxi Driver, after all), it’s definitely not short on ideas. Combine that with artistry, atmosphere, and fantastic performances and you definitely have one of the most memorable entries of the year. It’s a movie that is difficult to describe in words, but once you see it for yourself, you can’t get it out of your mind.

Roma

1. Roma

There has been so much praise for Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma that it may start to sound like hyperbole, but in this case it’s safe to believe the hype. Primarily focused on Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young maid working for a family in Mexico in the 1970s, Roma tells its deeply personal story in ways that are both intimate and grand. With stunning black and white cinematography, Cuaron creates a whole film’s worth of frame-worthy images. Yet, he also never forgets about the human element of the story. And thanks also to Aparicio’s wonderful first-time performance, the emotional stakes of this small story are sky high. Captivating from the opening long take to its final moments, Roma is not only the biggest cinematic achievement of 2018, but a film I suspect we’ll be talking about for many years to come. 

Honourable Mentions: Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Widows, Green Book, Kodachrome, A Star is Born, Burning, First Man, Support the Girls

My 10 Favourite Films of 2017

Happy 2018! The title of this post is pretty self-explanatory, so let’s dive in!

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10. Stronger

Portraying real-life tragedy in film is always touchy. Let alone recent, heavily-reported real-life tragedy. But David Gordon Green’s Stronger presents a sensitive yet gritty take on the story of Jeff Bauman (played here by Jake Gyllenhaal), a young man who lost both of his legs during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Most films about a dramatic national news story focus on the ins and outs of the event itself (see: Peter Berg’s also quite-good movie about the same event, Patriots Day), but Stronger shines a spotlight on what happens AFTER the news cameras stop rolling, when the real work begins for the innocent people directly affected. Stronger does not sugar-coat the mental and physical struggles that Bauman faced, nor does it shy away from presenting Bauman’s less likeable personality traits. The result is an intimate and highly compelling character portrait that avoids exploiting the inherent drama of its inciting event.

The Last Jedi

9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Breaking Bad fans may recall an episode called “Fly” (season three, episode 10) a strange entry in the series where protagonists Walt and Jesse spend almost the entire episode alone together inside of a laboratory chasing down a pesky housefly. This “bottle episode” was one of three Breaking Bad episodes that Rian Johnson directed, and it’s among the most memorable and most divisive in the entire series run, mostly because it was so different than everything that came before or since. Now, Rian Johnson has entered the Star Wars franchise and shaken things up similarly with The Last Jedi, essentially creating the “Fly” of Star Wars. Some people love it, some people hate it. “Fly” was among my very favourite Breaking Bad episodes. And as much as I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens and Rogue One? The Last Jedi is among my very favourite Star Wars installments.

Loveless

8. Loveless

The latest grim tale from notorious grim Russian auteur Andrey Zvyagintsev, Loveless tells the story of a couple going through a bitter divorce whose 12-year-old son suddenly vanishes without a trace. Oh, and it’s also all a metaphor for Russia’s crumbling political landscape. So no, Loveless is not an uplifting time at the movies. But for all of the chilly gloom, I was actually surprised by how accessible and narratively compelling Loveless manages to be. Not having seen any of Zvyagintsev’s previous films, I was expecting it to be much more esoteric than was, but the camerawork is inviting and the plot – while not high-action – is quite engaging. Zvyagintsev and co-screenwriter Oleg Negin create complex characters who portray some of humankind’s worst instincts while still managing to be interesting and oddly sympathetic. It’s not an easy watch in terms of content, but as for craft and storytelling, there’s absolutely no doubt that Zvyagintsev is one of the masters.

Personal Shopper

7. Personal Shopper

Olivier Assayas and Kristen Stewart seem like an unlikely director/actor pairing, but between Clouds of Sils Maria and now Personal Shopper, they may actually be among the most perfectly matched cinematic collaborators of recent years. Assayas’ films and Stewart’s performances both have a chilly reserve that gives way to an emotionalism that is surprising simply because there seems to be no trace of it in any conventional sense. This especially applies to Personal Shopper, which left some viewers cold precisely because it is so opaque. Having seen the film, it’s still unclear to me whether the mood and the half-formed ideas about mortality and loss that Assayas sets up ever really amount to anything. Yet I found myself sucked into the liminal state that the film seems more than content to exist in. Don’t come to Personal Shopper looking for easy answers. Just settle in for the experience.

 Dunkirk

6. Dunkirk

Speaking of films that kept some viewers at a distance, Dunkirk has received criticism for its lack of focus on character development. And I’ll admit that I too did struggle a bit with the film’s shunning of conventional emotional arcs. However, I don’t think that’s a weakness of the film. In terms of craft, it’s immersive, daring, and sometimes downright confrontational in the way it’s constructed. And though we may not get to know any of the characters thoroughly, many of them are still very interesting thanks to the film’s storytelling techniques and the performances the impeccably-chosen cast give in limited screentime. (Yes, that includes Harry Styles.) I found Dunkirk to be compelling and emotionally charged – just perhaps not in the way I expected.

 The Square

5. The Square

A Palme d’Or winner that skewers the very type of audience that is often associated with the Cannes Film Festival. That perhaps speaks to just how smart and funny Ruben Ostlund’s latest film is. And while the satire is aimed at the modern art world and self-obsessed “intellectuals”, you don’t need much insider knowledge to appreciate the greater application of its statements about greed and narcissism. The Square is a strange, long film but it doesn’t wear out its welcome, thanks to Ostlund’s commitment to the sheer weirdness of it all. He’s not afraid to ~go there, as evidenced by the film’s much-discussed “monkey man” scene set at a banquet dinner. It’s not exactly “cringe comedy”, but The Square combines its satire with impeccable craft, making it one of the most memorable, uncomfortable, and fun viewing experiences I had all year.

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4. Beach Rats

If you hear that a film is about a closeted gay teen, you might have a notion of what that it’ll be like. If you hear that a film is about a bunch of agro dudes hanging out at the Jersey shore, that probably conjures something very different in your mind. Beach Rats manages to be both of those things and neither of those things all at once. Frankie (Harris Dickinson) lives separate lives, trawling through gay hook-up sites during his downtime from hanging out with his bros on the boardwalk. It’s a film about what happens when two distinct sides of yourself will never fit together. Director Eliza Hittman explores this dilemma and its emotional toll on Frankie with the perfect balance of confrontation and delicacy. This film is gritty less in its content than its emotional heft. Hypnotic and grimy, Beach Rats lets us marinate in Frankie’s self-loathing in an alarmingly gorgeous way.

Call Me By Your Name

3. Call Me By Your Name

If Beach Rats is about the toxicity of the closet, Call Me By Your Name is about someone learning about the freedom in breaking out of it. Luca Guadagnino has crafted a stunning, opulent ode to autonomy (and also to the inherent risks associated with living one’s life fully). The love story between Ellio (Timothee Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) aches and pulses with emotional intensity through every stage of the story. Guadagnino and screenwriter James Ivory hit every narrative punch with such subtly that by the time the film reaches its fittingly understated conclusion, the true weight of it all has snuck up on you. And it should not be overlooked that the film is also truly is a feast for the eyes. I was totally swept up in Call Me By Your Name’s gorgeous atmosphere and emotional delicacy.

Good Time

2. Good Time

If you look at the other films near the top spot of this list, you’ll see that I had a strong emotional response (of some kind) to all of them. The same can be said about Josh and Ben Safdie’s Good Time, though it may be more that my heart just realigned itself to match Good Time’s peculiar, breakneck rhythm. As we follow anti-hero Connie (Robert Pattinson) through an increasingly crazy night (brought on solely by his own fuckery) the stakes get higher and the tension ratchets up. This thing moves. And that’s thanks largely to the Safdies’ direction, which is truly stunning. They somehow create a film that feels highly stylized (in all the right ways) and also gritty, authentic, and intimate. It’s neo-verite on a Sprite bottle full of acid. I also have to recognize Pattinson’s performance, which is captivating and intense in a way that, frankly, I don’t think many people thought he was capable of. I can’t wait to see what the Safdies do next, and I can’t wait to watch this movie again.

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1. Columbus

Somehow, the film from 2017 that left the biggest impact on me was also one of its most unassuming. Kogonada’s debut feature, Columbus, is measured, kind, and profound in a way I simply did not expect. It’s about many things while outwardly appearing to be about very little. Set in the unlikely architectural mecca of Columbus, Indiana, the film tracks the burgeoning friendship between local Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) and involuntary visitor Jin (John Cho), who finds himself stranded there after his father has a heart attack while visiting and can’t be flown home. While Jin awaits his father’s fate, this deliberately paced film allows the pair to get to know each other organically, and it’s a true treat to watch play out. This likely has something to do with Richardson’s amazing openness as an actor. For my money, it’s the best performance of the year, which is fitting, since Columbus is the best film of the year. I suspect that this is a film that will quietly build a following, its emotional relevance to live on for years to come.

Movie characters I want to catch up with 20 years later

Reality Bites 2

This Friday, T2 Trainspotting hits theatres in North America, bringing Renton, Spud, Sick Boy, and the rest of the crew back together. They’re a little bit older and a whole lot craggier, but they’re still alive, so I guess that’s a start.

To be honest, my reaction when I first heard about a Trainspotting sequel was to recoil. I like the original film quite a bit, which means I hold it high enough esteem that I don’t want to see it tarnished, but I’m also not such a huge fan of it that I’m desperate to jump back into that world.

However, I trust Danny Boyle, and the spirited trailers for T2 have instilled a little more hope in me. And then I started thinking about other films that could benefit from (or at least survive) similar treatment. And I was surprised by how few came to mind. A lot of movies have endings that wouldn’t work with a sequel, some already provide their own epilogue to explain what happens, and some have characters that I just don’t care about enough to revisit down the line.

But some do paint a rich world that I’d be eager to jump back into. So here are a handful of movie characters who deserve a thoughtful follow-up showing what would be in store for them 20 years later, a la T2.

(Note: No major plot spoilers ahead But, when talking about a potential movie sequel, I suppose some mild contextual spoilers are inevitable.)

Boyhood

Mason (Ellar Coltrane) – Boyhood

Is this an obvious pick? Maybe. Would it be a terrible idea to call Boyhood’s hypothetical sequel Manhood? Probably. But considering we’ve already spent 12 years following Mason’s life, what’s another 20?

In all seriousness, though, even though trying to expand on the perfection that is Boyhood might sound like a terrible idea, if any director could pull it off, it’s Richard Linklater. He somehow turned Before Sunrise (what should have been a charming little standalone about a one-night stand, essentially) into a sprawling 18+ year franchise about the perils, joy, and lived-in tragedy of interpersonal relationships. Similarly, we saw Ellar Coltrane literally grow up in front of our eyes, so there would be something inherently satisfying continuing to follow Mason through post-college life.

So bring on the Boyhood Cinematic Universe. Plus, given his commitment to Linklater’s ridiculously long-winded timelines, we know Ethan Hawke would probably be on board.

Ida

Ida (Agata Trzebuchowska) – Ida

Oddly, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida was one of the first films that came to my mind for this list. And while this understated black-and-white Polish drama might not seem like a film that screams “sequel”, its central character is certainly fascinating enough to warrant further consideration.

As we see her, Ida’s life is in flux. She’s on the cusp of taking her vows to become a nun when she uncovers a family secret that shakes her self-assurance. By the end of the film, it feels like Ida’s only just starting to find the path she should truly be on. She makes some weighty choices, and I’d love to find out where they end up taking her. As well, since so much of the film revolves around personal and cultural history, it would be fascinating to see the echoes of Ida’s past reverberating in the future, and the various ways her own lived-in and inherited experiences mingle together into her adulthood.

The Panic in Needle Park

Bobby and Helen (Al Pacino and Kitty Winn) – The Panic in Needle Park

Movies that focus on a character’s addiction are kind of built to leave us wanting a sequel. Even if a character seems to be on the path to recovery by the end, there’s still that lingering question of whether they’ll be able to stay on the wagon. I think this is why the premise of a Trainspotting sequel works, and it would also apply to 1971’s The Panic in Needle Park.

Granted, we’re now well past the 20-year anniversary mark, but in a hypothetical world where we could have gotten an early-‘90s follow-up to The Panic in Needle Park, it would have been fascinating. Even the time period would have worked, with the potential of contrasting gritty 1970s New York City with the “heroin chic” trend of the ’90s.

Not to mention the fact that Bobby and Helen are just fascinating characters. The ending of the original is open-ended enough to leave us unsure of their paths, and while I unfortunately suspect that things wouldn’t go so well for them in the intervening 20 years, I’d be highly curious to see where they end up.

 The Fits.jpeg

Toni (Royalty Hightower) – The Fits

Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits finds its young protagonist Toni very much in a state of transition. The film takes an ephemeral look at the onset of womanhood, represented by mysterious and rather frightening literal “fits” that beset pubescent girls.

Were we to jump forward a couple decades and find Toni in her early 30’s, the changes and growth she’d be experiencing definitely wouldn’t be as drastic and visceral as those that we see in The Fits. However, I think Holmer crafts such a weirdly honest look at life (albeit through strange magical realism elements) that I just want to see how her worldview would translate to other stages of life.

Plus, The Fits pits Toni’s tomboyish tendencies in direct opposition with budding femininity and I’m doing to know how that internal battle plays out.

 Ethan Hawke And Winona Ryder In 'Reality Bites'

Lelaina, Troy, and Michael (Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, and Ben Stiller) – Reality Bites

If there’s one movie that’s more quintessentially ‘90s than Trainspotting, it’s probably Reality Bites. And while I do love it, but I also think there would be something oddly satisfying about watching its characters stumble to navigate a 2010s world. In true Gen X fashion, they were already angsty and disenfranchised in Reality Bites, so just think of how wholly perturbed they’d be by millennials.

Some of the issues tackled in Reality Bites were very ‘90s-specific while others were timeless, so there’d still be plenty of angst to mine. I can’t imagine that life ended up the way the film’s self-assured young characters imagined for themselves, but the, ahem, reality of it all might end up being far more interesting.

The Wolfpack

The Wolfpack – The Wolfpack

Not actually “characters” at all, the titular Wolfpack from Crystal Moselle’s documentary of the same name refers to the Angulo brothers, a closenit sextet. Raised in an extremely sheltered New York City apartment (so much so that they’d only be permitted to leave the house a couple of times a year), the brothers made their own fun by recreating and film scenes from their favourite movies. The Wolfpack examines the various ways the brothers begin to break out from their sheltered existence (or, in some cases, choose not to do so) as they reached the cusp of adulthood.

If Moselle and the Angulos decided to turn The Wolfpack into something reminiscent of the 7 Up series and caught up with them a couple decades down the line, we’d have the potential to see how the young men adjusted to the “real world” after their oppressive upbringing. Plus, who know which fantastic new movies would come out for them to reenact in the intervening 20 years?

 25th Hour

Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) – 25th Hour

Spike Lee’s 25th Hour has so much complexity and character development packed into a movie with a mere single-day span. Following Monty through the final 24 hours before he begins a seven-year prison sentence, not only is Norton’s Monty a compelling protagonist, but he’s surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast that includes Barry Pepper, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rosario Dawson, Brian Cox, and Anna Paquin.

Any excuse to spend more time with interesting characters is always a good one. But even apart from that, 25th Hour ends on a note that is somehow both ambiguous and finite, leaving the viewer wanting to know what becomes of Monty. Considering how much he goes through in a single day, I’m almost afraid to think about what another 20 years would do to him. But I’m sure Lee’s vision of it would be enthralling.