Matt's Top 10 Movies of 2019
- Written by Matthew Toomey
As is tradition, I like to finish up each year by unveiling my top 10 movies. I had the chance to see and review just over 200 films in 2019.
A quick (unfortunate) shout-out to my worst films of the year – After, Swimming with Men, The Kitchen, The Trouble with You, Promised, The House That Jack Built, 47 Metres Down: Uncaged, Angel Has Fallen and Rambo: Last Blood. I’m sure those films will have their fans… but I’m not one of them.
In terms of the best, excellent films I couldn’t squeeze into my top 10 list this year include Cold Pursuit, Mary Poppins Returns, Free Solo, Woman at War, Pain and Glory, Booksmart, Wild Rose, Avengers: Endgame, The Farewell, Official Secrets, Pavarotti and Parasite.
On that note though, here are my top 10 films of 2019 in reverse order…
10. Burning (out Apr 18) is an absorbing drama-thriller from South Korea. It's the tale of an introverted young man who bumps into a girl he knew from school but hasn't seen in years. This is a film with some great conversations and plenty of twists and turns. Lots to think about afterwards.
9. Dogman (out Aug 29) is a gut-wrenching, sad Italian drama about a kind-hearted dog groomer who, in trying to make a better life for his young daughter, falls in with the wrong crowd. Great performances. Powerful themes.
8. Toy Story 4 (out Jun 20) is another funny, intelligent, sentimental movie within this successful franchise that will appeal to audiences of all ages. The terrific script is filled with great dialogue, cool new characters and exquisite metaphors. If you’re looking for a reason to smile, Toy Story 4 will provide.
7. The Australian Dream (out Aug 22) is an affecting documentary that delves into the racial abuse endured by AFL footballer Adam Goodes during the final years of his playing career and the reasons it left such an impact. With a wide range of interviewees, my wish is that every Australian see this film.
6. The Report (out Nov 14) is centred on a former FBI employee asked to lead a Senate investigation into the CIA's “enhanced interrogation” techniques in the years following the September 11 attacks. There’s a lot to take away from this movie. It has something to say about the use of torture, the mental strain of being an investigator, and the role of government and subsequent accountability. Great performances from Adam Driver and Annette Bening.
5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (out Dec 26) is a beautiful French drama about a female artist engaged to paint the portrait of a woman who is soon to be wed. This is a patient drama that builds to a powerful, moving climax. As the artist studies her subject matter, so too do we as the audience. It’s a movie that relies more on eye movement and less on dialogue.
4. The Nightingale (out Aug 29) is a confronting, powerful drama that is not easily forgotten. Set in 1820s Tasmania, it's the tale of a flawed, strong-willed woman (Aisling Franciosi) who seeks vengeance against an abusive British soldier (Sam Claflin). Filled with exceptional performances, this is both an absorbing character study and a gripping history lesson.
3. The Guilty (out Feb 28) is a Danish film about a guy who sits at a desk in an office and talks on the phone for 80 minutes. It may sound dreadfully dull but this is one of the best releases of the year. I was hooked from the opening scene to the closing credits. The less you know going in, the better. Trust me.
2. Eighth Grade (out Jan 24) is an outstanding debut feature from first-time director Bo Burnham. It's the story of a shy, nervous, anxious girl trying to make friends and navigate her way through the final week of middle school. Newcomer Elsie Fisher has created a fascinating leading character. I was cringing (in a good way) at some of the dialogue..
1. If Beale Street Could Talk (out Feb 14) is from director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and is adapted from the 1974 novel by James Baldwin. Part of the film is a beautiful, poetic love story and part of the film is a sad, anger-inducing tale of racism in America. Winner of the best supporting actress Oscar for star Regina King.
Interview - Director Paul Feig on 'Last Christmas'
- Written by Matthew Toomey
He’s been in Australia for a few days to promote his latest film, Last Christmas, and I was fortunate enough to speak with Paul Feig about the film and his approach to filmmaking…
Matt: We all know the saying dying is easy, comedy is hard. You’re someone who has made some terrific comedies like Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy. I’ve gotta ask, what’s the secret?
Paul: You have to find really talented, funny people and you need a great script that is funny… and then you have to play it dead serious. You don’t want to try to be jokey or funny because the only thing that can make something not funny is people trying to be funny.
Matt: One feature of all your recent films is that they’re female-driven with some great actresses in leading roles. Is that something you always set out to do?
Paul: Yeah. I’ve always loved working with women and I also love stories about women. I’ve seen such poor portrayals of women over the past few decades on screen, especially in comedies, where they’re often relegated to being props and supporters of the funny men. It never felt fair to me. The women were one-dimensional whereas the men got to be three-dimensional. There’s really nothing else I want to do to be quite honest. There are so many women’s stories to be told and I love doing it.
Matt: You’ve been ahead of the curve in that regard. Do you think Hollywood is getting the message? Are we going to see more female-driven comedies to even the balance up?
Paul: Yeah, they’re definitely waking up. It’s still ridiculous that they’ve been asleep for that. More than half of the population of the planet are women and they somehow thing people don’t want to see movies starring women. It’s getting better. Bridesmaids helped by showing there’s an audience and that money can be made. That’s the only thing that Hollywood ultimately understands. There’s still a long way to go because the percentages are very low.
Matt: Let’s talk about Last Christmas which we now have the chance to see. I believe it was Emma Thompson who came up with the first semblance of a storyline. When did you become involved with the project?
Paul: I only got involved about a year and a half ago. Emma had been developing the script with Bryony Kimmings and her husband, Greg Wise, for about 8 years. At one point, she had the opportunity to sit with George Michael and talk to him about it. He read some stuff and really loved it and wanted to be involved with the music when it was finished but sadly he passed away.
It’s been a long road. When it got to me, it was in really good shape. As a director, you go through it with the writer who just so happened to be Dame Emma Thompson and we tried a few things. She was a great collaborator and we just kept making it better and better.
Matt: So what was it about the script that jumped out at you when you first had the chance to see it?
Paul: The whole thing worked. It was compelling. I loved the lead character that Emilia Clarke plays. She’s a very challenging character in a way that women don’t often get to be on screen. We’ve seen movies start out with men who are misbehaving and lashing out and audience go along with it. If you dare have a woman do that, they’ll say “she’s not likeable”. It’s not fair. Why can’t a woman be three-dimensional and be misbehaving and start out in a place where she needs to find out who she is. I really responded to that. The script was also funny and emotional and I loved how dramatic it was. It kind of all came together as part of a perfect storm.
Matt: There are reasons but Kate’s self-centred and a very hard person to like before she starts to wise up. Is that tricky as a filmmaker? Working out how to push and illustrate the character’s flaws before they start down a different path?
Paul: Yeah, you have to be careful. Whether a character is male or female, people will go “okay, I’m so frustrated with this person and I can’t invest in them”. You have to walk the line a little bit. At the same time, we wanted to make sure we pushed it right to the edge. We all know these people in our lives who are in a bad place. If you see something in them or know something in their past that is redeemable, you want them to be healed and you want them to work things out. That’s kind of the feeling we wanted with this. Emilia Clarke is wonderful on screen. You do invest in her even when she’s misbehaving.
Matt: I have to ask about the store and there’s a great line where someone says to Kate “oh you must love your job” because it’s a Christmas themed place where everyone is supposed to be happy and festive when that’s not really the case. It says a lot about how we perceive the season.
Paul: Yeah, that’s why Christmas movies are so interesting to do. It’s this clash of forced happiness with getting together with family and friends. It sounds lovely but often it’s not. A lot of issues come out but you’re still surrounded by love and rebirth. It’s a nice, beautiful clash of everything. This movie could exist if it wasn’t set at Christmas time and I think it would work just as well but there’s something about that backdrop and being able to do it in London that is wonderful.
Matt: You’ve mentioned that the film is shot in London and part of Henry Golding’s character is to find some hidden, secret parts of London that he shows off to Emilia Clarke’s character. How did you settle on which locations to use?
Paul: It was both easy and hard. I’m a lover of London and its one of my favourite places in the world. I see it through the eyes of someone from the outside and not somebody who lives there and has gotten used to it. It’s like a Sophie’s Choice of which locations you use. There are so many great places around.
I didn’t even know if we’d be able to do it because a lot of the film is set in Covent Garden because that’s where the Christmas store is. I remember thinking that I’d have to find some place that looks like Covent Garden because they’d never let us shoot there but then it turned out the city was very welcoming to us. We just had to shoot at very odd hours when no one was out. A lot of our shooting on the streets of London started at 2am in the morning and would go through to sunrise. It was tough. We were tired a lot of the time.
Matt: So is the Christmas store a real place?
Paul: No, it’s completely made up. If you go to Covent Garden, there’s a couple of passageways that go through and so we built the store into one of those passageways and the interior was built on a sound stage.
Matt: You’ve thrown yourself into cameos in some of your films. Did you think about it for this one? Or where you in there and I missed you?
Paul: No. I’ve done that in the past but now I’m not doing it as much. I too much respect for this movie than to sully it with me. With these amazing actors, I wouldn’t even dare share the screen with the likes of Dame Emma Thompson.
Matt: A lot is being said at the moment about Netflix and other streaming services. Big movies like Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is largely avoiding cinemas and going to Netflix. Are you a fan of that or will you always be making movies for the big screen?
Paul: Yeah, I’m a big screen guy. There’s nothing like the experience of seeing a movie in a theatre. That’s why movie stars are movie stars. They’re up 50 feet high doing things in front of you. The streamers have a great place. I produced a movie called Someone Great that’s on Netflix now. It’s an $8 million movie with a first-time female director who also wrote it. She wanted to direct it, I wanted her direct it, but I don’t think a movie studio would do it and take the chance. Netflix are great for that but when it comes to big movies, they’ve got to be seen on the big screen.
Matt: What are you working on at the moment? What will we see from you next?
Paul: I’m hoping it’ll be a monster movie that I’ve written for Universal Studios. It’s based on the old movies of the 30s like Frankenstein and Dracula. I love the feel of those old movies because they’re scary but also really fun. It’s called Dark Army and I really hope the studio wants to make it.
Interview - Jillian Bell on 'Brittany Runs a Marathon'
- Written by Matthew Toomey
Brittany Runs a Marathon is a terrific, surprising comedy that is about to receive a limited release in Australian cinemas. While she was visiting Sydney, I had the chance to speak to star Jillian Bell about the film…
Matt: Can you tell us how this script first came across your radar?
Jillian: The script came to me a couple of years ago. My manager sent it my way and knew I was looking to do something a little different and outside my comfort zone. It was also an opportunity to step up and take on a leading role. She told me it might be a little daunting but it would be super relatable.
On reading it, I laughed so hard out loud in some parts and was crying in other parts. I immediately became protective of the character that I haven’t been before and so I desperately wanted to play her. I’ve shared a lot of the struggles she goes through and knowing that I’m not alone, I felt others would want to see it too.
Matt: I was reading that you lost 40 pounds as part of your preparation for the role?
Jillian: It definitely connected me to the character better which is why I did it. I wasn’t asked to lose weight. While there were parts of the script that I could relate to, there were other parts I didn’t understand. I felt if I went through it myself, I could better get into her headspace. I threw on my own running shoes and started prepping by myself at first and then I got a trainer.
Matt: Did your own personal experience with that weight loss shape the script from writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo?
Jillian: There were a couple of things I told Paul that I’d experienced in my own life. I had the script about 7 months before the shoot and so we were chatting weekly about every scene in the film. Because we had to shoot the film in just 28 days, it was important for us to get on the same page and make sure we were saying the same thing. It was also helpful that Paul was also the writer because we could then talk about what we were shooting. There’s such a delicate balance to the subject matter of the film and we didn’t want to screw it up or have anything lost in translation. We were constantly having creative conversations.
Matt: It’s not right to criticise people because of their weight but at the same time, we do have growing issues with obesity and heart disease in society. How do you balance that up in determining the messages to take away from the movie?
Jillian: I don’t think we ever had the goal of criticising people because of their weight. We wanted to make a film that shows what it’s like to make any kind of a change in your life. For this one, it happens to be a woman training for the New York City Marathon and she happens to be losing weight but it’s not the goal or the focus of the movie.
There are parts where Brittany loses her values and starts to focus in on the number on the scales but that’s her low point in the film. For us, it’s about what happens when you change your life and showcasing how difficult that can be. It’s not such an easy thing to make any change. That was the most interesting thing to me. It comes with real highs and real lows but if you put yourself first, in any regard in your life, it can be a beautiful thing.
Matt: The film is about more than weight loss. I loved the exploration of the character and how Brittany pushes people away and wallows I’m self-pity. Was that a challenging side to the role?
Jillian: Yeah. That was the one thing that I struggled with. I surround myself with people who I love dearly and want good things from my life. I don’t know if I could survive in this world without that. Life is tough enough as it is and hard to not have people who are rooting for you.
Matt: The film had a great response when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won the audience award for US dramatic film. Were you expecting such a strong response to the movie?
Jillian: You always hope that people like the film but it was still a big surprise to me. I was already back home at the time of the awards ceremony and I was watching it on my laptop while playing a game on my phone. I didn’t think anything would happen and I didn’t even know Paul was still there. When we won the audience award, I was screaming in my house and the dogs were jumping on me.
It was such an incredible moment because it’s the audience that really matters. They’d seen all these different movies and they voted for our film to win. Since that happened, the responses have been so amazing. Having women and men come up and say “thank you for this movie… I finally feel seen”. That’s been the best response.
Matt: It’s great to have you in Australia and doing a few Q&As. What’s the response been like since you’ve been here so far?
Jillian: It’s been wonderful. We’ve been doing a press junket for the past couple of days and one of the publicists was saying the audience reaction has been so strong with people relating their own stories. I told her that it’s been like that throughout the whole process.
I’ve been part of press junkets before where the interviewers are mundane off camera and then get all excited on camera as they go “we’re live here with so and so…” I almost want to stop the interview half way through and ask if they’re doing okay and want to talk about their own problems. With this, people have been coming in and sharing their own stories and their own backgrounds. It’s been lovely.
Matt: You actually shot scenes during the New York City Marathon?
Jillian: Without giving too much away, they were. It was one of my top 10 days of my life. Being a part of something that big and to be shooting in it with 50,000 people deciding to do the same thing with the same goal. It was incredible. We were all weeping that day. We had a small crew of about 4-6 people the day of the marathon and I didn’t even have a microphone on. It was really about nailing the look, the feel and the emotion of the marathon. It was a day I’ll never forget.
Matt: So did you get to the whole thing yourself or was it select bits for the camera?
Jillian: Yeah, it was select bits. We also had a cheat day where we recreated the marathon and used extras to film certain parts of the marathon.
Matt: I’ll finish up by asking what are you working on next?
Jillian: I’ve been doing a couple of smaller parts in movies such as El Tonto with Charlie Day and Bill & Ted Face the Music. I just wrote a movie that I’m hoping to shoot next year. That’s the biggest thing I’m trying to work on.
Matt: Do a few more doors open up when you’ve got a film out like Brittany Runs a Marathon where you’re the lead and it’s putting bums on seats and making money?
Jillian: It seems to be. I’m taking that and running with it as much as I can. I would love to create more content myself. I’m working to produce more, to write and hopefully direct some day.
Matt's Top 50 Films of the Decade (2010 to 2019)
- Written by Matthew Toomey
We’re two months away from the end of another decade and as I’ve seen other film folk putting out their “best of the decade” lists, I thought it’d be a good idea to do the same.
It took a while to settle on a list but over the next 5 weeks, I’ll be releasing my top 50 films of the decade (2010 to 2019 based on date of release in Australia) in reverse order. I’ve reviewed just over 1,900 films across that period and so any film that makes the top 50 has my ringing endorsement. If you’re yet to see any of these, make sure you do so!
50. The Skin I Live In (2011) is from Spanish director Pedro Almodovar and stars Antonio Banderas as a plastic surgeon who has developed a new type of synthetic skin. The less you know the better.
49. I Am Love (2010) is a beautiful drama focusing on a wealthy Italian family. This will polarise audiences but I loved it. The cinematography and film score are stunning. The characters will keep you guessing and I enjoyed the lack of dialogue.
48. The Nightingale (2019) is a confronting, powerful drama that is not easily forgotten. Set in 1820s Tasmania, it's the tale of a flawed, strong-willed woman who seeks vengeance against an abusive British soldier. Filled with exceptional performances, this is both an absorbing character study and a gripping history lesson.
47. The Diary Of A Teenage Girl (2015) is riveting, disturbing and thought-provoking. Based on the graphic novel and set in the 1970s, it's centered on a 15-year-old girl who enters into a purely sexual relationship with her mother's 35-year-old boyfriend. Not often you see a film that asks so many questions of its characters.
46. Gravity (2013) stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts who become stranded in space. Forget the over-the-top stuff we normally see in action films. This film shows how to extract maximum tension from a minimalist story. Alfonso Cuarón direction will leave you in awe (and also wondering how he did it).
45. Jiro Dreams Of Sushi (2012) is a scrumptious documentary about an 85-year-old sushi maker from Japan and his unmatched dedication to the craft of sushi making. His restaurant has just 10 seats but has been awarded 3 Michelin stars. If this film doesn't make you hungry, nothing will.
44. Lady Bird (2018) is about a restless high school senior from Sacramento who isn’t sure what she wants out of life. There are storylines that we've seen before in other teen flicks but what separates this from the pack is the way in delves into the relationship between mother and daughter. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf deserve all the praise they have received.
43. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012) is a moving story that explores the world of a insecure teenager and his efforts to fit in during his first year at high school. Rarely has this subject matter been covered so deeply, so beautifully.
42. Beasts Of The Southern Wild (2012) explores the relationship between father and daughter in a remote community near New Orleans. In her first acting role, 8-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis is simply extraordinary. The music is distinctive and unforgettable.
41. Anomalisa (2016) is a rarity - a stop-motion animated feature pitched at adults. It's no surprise that it's come from the creative mind of Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich). The film follows a depressed writer travelling to Cincinnati for a public speaking event. It's a great conversation generator and I’m still reflecting on its style and themes.
40. The Guilty (2019) is a Danish film about a guy who sits at a desk in an office and talks on the phone for 80 minutes. It may sound dreadfully dull but I was hooked from the opening scene to the closing credits. The less you know going in, the better. Trust me.
39. A Monster Calls (2017) is based on the novel by British author Patrick Ness and is about 12-year-old boy trying to come to grips with his mother's terminal cancer. This is a beautiful coming-of-age drama with some wonderful visual imagery. It delves into the ways we deal with grief whilst also reminding us that there are many different perspectives when looking through the prism of life.
38. Margin Call (2012) looks at 24 hours in the life of a major investment bank that is on the brink of collapse. Thankfully, the film does not demonise these characters - it portrays them as level-headed human beings who must decide whether to put their own interests ahead of others. The dialogue is superb and writer-director J.C. Chandor deserved his Oscar nomination for best original screenplay.
37. The Hunt (2013) is a Danish film about a teacher from a small town who is falsely accused of sexual assault by a misguided young girl. This is a riveting, depressing, amazing piece of cinema. You'll feel swamped by a sense of hopelessness as the tragedy unfolds.
36. The Secret In Their Eyes (2010) is an Argentinean film which won the Oscar for best foreign language movie. The story of a justice agent trying to solve a long-running case about a murdered woman. With believable twists and some fantastic dialogue, this is a must-see for anyone who enjoys a good crime thriller.
35. Searching For Sugar Man (2012) is a wonderful documentary that looks at the way in which a unknown American musician became a huge star in South Africa in the 1970s. This is superbly told with a strong narrative. It teases you with mystery and then when all is revealed, you'll feel amazed, inspired.
34. Custody (2018) is a French drama that delves into the complexities of a relationship breakdown when children get caught in the middle. Director Xavier Legrand uses a number of techniques to create a tense, uneasy experience for the viewer. The unrelenting narrative and flawless performances make this a powerful piece of cinema.
33. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) is based on the true story of Lee Israel, a struggling writer who forged personal letters from deceased authors in the 1990s to help pay the rent. Melissa McCarthy and co-star Richard E. Grant deserve praise for creating rich, complex, interesting characters.
32. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) is one of the more creative action films that we’ve seen in recent years. It begins with a well-choreographed chase sequence that never really stops. Except for a handful of very short detours, this is two hours of unrelenting warfare. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an action film with less dialogue. Intense and easily to follow. This is great stuff.
31. Sing Street (2016) is set in 1985 and follows a high school student from a poor neighbourhood in Dublin who forms a band to win the affection of a girl. This is a simple, funny, sweet, beautiful film. Directed by John Carney (Once), it's filled with great 1980s music and a bunch of new songs that I'm still humming. A movie for anyone and everyone.
30. Eighth Grade (2019) is an outstanding debut feature from first-time director Bo Burnham. It's the story of a shy, nervous, anxious girl trying to make friends and navigate her way through the final week of middle school. Newcomer Elsie Fisher has created a fascinating leading character. I was cringing (in a good way) at some of the dialogue.
29. Moneyball (2011) once again proves the value of Brad Pitt as an actor. He's not just a pretty face and he continues to pick good roles. He plays the GM of a baseball team and tries to turn their fortunes around through unconventional means. Directed by Bennett Miller (Capote), this film reeled me in very quickly with its interesting story and a surprising number of laughs.
28. Coco (2017) is this year's best animated feature. It's the story of a 12-year-old kid from Mexico who stumbles into the Land of the Dead and goes in search of his great-great-grandfather. This is beautifully touching tale that has a lot of say about celebrating the past and why me must remember those who have come before us. The walking, talking skeletons are great too!
27. Manchester by the Sea (2017) is the story of a man who has distanced himself from his family but is force to reconnect after a tragic event. This is an exquisitely well-told tale about the way we deal with trauma and loss. It also has a surprising amount of comedy. The performances, headlined by Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges, are wonderful.
26. Another Year (2011) is more brilliance from director Mike Leigh (Secrets & Lies, Happy-Go-Lucky). It revolves around a happily married couple in their 60s who find that all their friends around them are falling apart. Leigh has a great knack for capturing the "human condition" and he does so again here. It's capped off by a unforgettably annoying and/or touching performance from Lesley Manville.
25. Crazy Heart (2015) is the story of an alcoholic country 'n' western singer (Jeff Bridges) trying to revive his sagging career. A young woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) then enters his life, offering a chance at a fresh start. With a brilliant performance by Jeff Bridges, this is a beautifully told drama with a superb soundtrack.
24. The Big Short (2015) follows three groups of people who predicted the 2008 global financial crisis and profited substantially from the demise of the U.S. housing market. These guys are continually questioned and ridiculed but you know they’ll get the last laugh during the film’s final act. The performances are superb with Steve Carell the standout.
23. Burning (2019) is an absorbing drama-thriller from South Korea. It's the tale of an introverted young man who bumps into a girl he knew from school but hasn't seen in years. This is a film with some great conversations and plenty of twists and turns. Lots to think about afterwards.
22. Inside Job (2011) is a well-made documentary which looks at the reasons behind the global financial crisis. It's easy to understand (the charts and diagrams are very persuasive) and features many very interesting interviews. A friend of mine called it "the best comedy of the year". You can only laugh at how crazy some people are within the financial services industry.
21. Blue Jasmine (2013) is an engrossing black comedy about the wife of a multi-millionaire who goes from "riches to rags" after her husband is convicted of fraud. Jasmine is a fascinating character and writer-director Woody Allen is careful not to judge her. Cate Blanchett is superb in what may be her most memorable performance!
20. Zero Dark Thirty (2013) recounts the events that led to the capture of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. We all know this story ends but this is still gripping and action-packed. Jennifer Chastain is brilliant as a CIA agent who spends 10 years of her life trying to hunt him down. The film explores so much about life within the CIA.
19. Land of Mine (2017) recounts a fascinating piece of post-World War II history. It follows a group of young German prisoners of war who had to locate and disarm more than 150,000 land mines on a Danish beach. Unlike traditional war films, the tension comes from moments that are eerily quiet (as opposed to big action sequences). The moral is as relevant today as it's ever been.
18. Phantom Thread (2018) is from writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson and dissects the power struggles between a renowned fashion designer, his sister, and his latest lover in 1950s London. The less you know going in the better. These are fascinating characters who are part of an unorthodox love story.
17. Still Life (2014) follows a middle-aged council employee charged with the responsibility of organising funerals when a person has died with no friends or family. This is an immensely warm-hearted drama that is dripping with poignant moments. Eddie Marsan is fantastic is the leading role. There aren’t many films that have reduced me to tears but Still Life can now be added to that short list.
16. A Single Man (2010) is about an English professor (Firth) who is struggling to overcome the sudden death of his long time partner (Goode). With less dialogue than you'd expect, director Tom Ford (a fashion designer by trade) lets his camera do the talking. I loved the facial close ups and creative mix of colours. A beautiful movie.
15. The Social Network (2010) is fantastic. I enjoyed learning how Facebook was created but much more interesting is the way in which Mark Zuckerberg is portrayed. Is he a sociopath or is he just misunderstood? Much to think about.
14. Inside Out (2015) is a Pixar animated feature that takes us inside the head of a vibrant, impressionable 11-year-old girl. It’s a fascinating concept that is rich in detail. The film’s most impressive attribute is the way it explores human emotions and the way they are so often intertwined. A stunning achievement that blends creativity, humour and emotion.
13. A Separation (2012) won the Oscar for best foreign language film. An outsider could see these characters as deeply flawed. That’s not the reality however. Writer-director Asghar Farhadi slips us into their shoes and we appreciate each of their perspectives. Life is rarely clear-cut and you can’t always rely on a textbook when faced when a tough ethical dilemma.
12. Senna (2011) is a well-crafted documentary that has the look and feel of a drama. It goes beyond what you might expect and provides an intimate account of Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna and his motivations to succeed. The never-before-seen footage is amazing.
11. Life Of Pi (2013) is the story about a boy stranded in the middle of the ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. I still can't shake the thought-provoking ending. It's a stunning directorial effort from Ang Lee who has brought this tricky novel to life.
10. Moonlight (2017) follows a kid named Chiron who is from a poor, troubled neighbourhood in Miami. It is split into three segments with each providing a glimpse of Chiron’s at key points in his life. This is a remarkably good movie about one man trying to find love and his place in the world. The performances are hard to fault.
9. Take This Waltz (2012) was a funny, sweet, emotional and real experience. We've seen many films about people cheating on their spouses and whether it's the right thing but I love this level headed perspective from director Sarah Polley. Yet another amazing performance from Michelle Williams.
8. Shame (2012) is outstanding. The story is fascinating in itself but it’s Steve McQueen’s careful direction that gives it a seductive, hypnotic edge. He takes us into the life of a sex addict and there’s very little respite. The lack of editing, curious camera angles and odd choice of music will leave many feeling uncomfortable. It's brilliant filmmaking.
7. Inception (2010) is the most intelligent action film you will ever see. How can I describe the complex storyline? I won't even try. Words do it no justice. This is a film which can only be experienced... multiple times! Writer-director Christopher Nolan has created a remarkable fantasy world. Incredible story, incredible visuals, incredible score.
6. Boyhood (2014) is masterpiece that chronicles the process of “growing up” through the eyes of an introverted kid named Mason. Director Richard Linklater shot this fictional tale over 12 years using the same actors! It seamlessly jumps between time frames and the character interaction feels amazingly natural. Sure to release the valve on your own childhood memories, this is about as good as cinema can get.
5. If Beale Street Could Talk (2019) is from director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and is adapted from the 1974 novel by James Baldwin. Part of the film is a beautiful, poetic love story and part of the film is a sad, anger-inducing tale of racism in America.
4. 20th Century Women (2017) is an observational drama set in 1979 about a 55-year-old mother (Annette Bening) trying to connect with her 15-year-old son. Drawing from personal experiences, Mike Mills has created a remarkable film that offers tragedy, laughter and reflection. I could listen to these characters talk and watch them interact for hours.
3. Call Me by Your Name (2017) is a hauntingly beautiful love story set in northern Italy. Director Luca Guadagnino makes the most of the idyllic setting and perfectly captures both the exterior and inner beauty of his characters. Dialogue is used sparingly with Timothée Chalamet gives the performance of a lifetime.
2. Spotlight (2016) is based on a true story and follows a team of investigative journalists as they dig deeper into the Catholic Church's cover up of child abuse in Boston. The script highlights the tough challenges that journalists face and the performances of the cast cannot be faulted.
1. Brooklyn (2016) is set in 1952 and follows a young Irish woman (Saoirse Ronan) who immigrates to the United States. Battling homesickness, she meets an Italian guy determined to win her affections. This is a sweet, moving, gorgeously-shot tale that has the perfect balance of comedy and sentimentality. The characters are honest and genuine too. As good as cinema gets.