Monday 23 December 2019

The Incredible Suit's Top 10 Films Of 2019

It's the end of the year, what did you expect?

Todd Phillips' revisionist take on one of pop culture's most iconic villains surprised the shit out of me: not because I thought the idea of a Joker origin film was an inherently bad one (although I did, tbf), but because it was a good Todd Phillips film. The argument over whether it was right to transform Gotham's cackling symbol of chaos into an actual human being with a backstory still rages, and we wouldn't be having that argument if the film had been a flat out failure so it must have done something right. That something was essentially casting Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, an avatar for the disenfranchised, the disillusioned and the disadvantaged of both the film’s 1981 setting and the present day. The Scorsese tributes were delicious and appropriate, the boundaries of taste were shoved around a bit and the whole experiment was as disturbing and thought-provoking as its subject deserved.

As with The Last Jedi, the essence of Star Wars carried Episode IX through its disappointments. I could have done without an hour of interminable MacGuffin-chasing, and the shameless lifts from Return Of The Jedi were much harder to forgive than The Force Awakens' echoes of A New Hope, but if you're going to wrap up these characters' stories this way (and it's hard to imagine how else to have done it) at least JJ Abrams pulled it off in true Star Warsy style. The fan service was off the scale here but it was done with genuine love; nothing felt forced (sorry) and the most affecting moments felt like they'd been put there just for me. I'll get over the quibbles in time (the biggest being Abrams wilfully ignoring much of Rian Johnson's most intriguing setups), but it's probably a good idea to put the brakes on this franchise for the time being.

The funniest (and most fun) member of the MCU returned to provide the sticky toffee pudding after the carb-heavy meatfest of Endgame, proving once and for all that we're currently living in a golden age of movie Spider-Men. Tom Holland is the comic genius Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield wish they were, and Far From Home showed he didn't need Robert Downey Jr to hold his hand through the best bits. It might have been lacking a little in the way of actual Spider-Man action, but the character work between Peter Parker, MJ, Ned and the gang is just as welcome. And all hail the return of the King Of Fake News (not Mysterio; the other guy. You know. The one at the end).

Nothing this year provided as big a breath of fresh, salty sea air as this admittedly slight but intensely hypnotic tale of the loss of community and identity in rural Britain. Gentrification and the shifting sands of industry are the bad guys, personified by prosecco-wielding, Waitrose-dwelling, "prancing Lycra cunts" with zero appreciation for how their middle class meals end up on their middle class plates. Director Mark Jenkin's editing proved the real star here, pushing an already hallucinatory aesthetic (4:3, monochrome, hand-processed 16mm film) into the kind of expressionist fantasy world that small coastal villages generally evoke to urban, landlocked visitors. The message is clear from the start and maybe a little overcooked (the line "winner stays on" is repeated for good reason), but the atmosphere is everything. We need more films like this.

Showcasing the clever, fun and sweet side of limb-lopping horror, this barkingly meta romp - the Inception of zom-coms; a Russian doll of rug-pulls - knowingly ran the entire spectrum of genre ideas, from the most yawningly clich├ęd to the most gobsmackingly original. Low-budget filmmaking has rarely been celebrated this ingeniously, where art butts heads with necessity and teamwork triumphs over adversity. You really did need to stick with it despite what you might have thought of the first half hour, because the true awesome nature of its creative genius was only fully revealed in the last act - and then topped under the credits. A carnival of setups and payoffs that loved its characters as much as its own mind-boggling formal virtuosity, One Cut Of The Dead proved there's life in the rotting corpse of horror comedy yet.

Peter Strickland would struggle to do wrong in this dusty corner of the internet, so while his fourth feature certainly isn't perfect - it's overlong and awkwardly structured - it's still among the most surprising, original and exciting things to spurt across a cinema screen this year. A horror-comedy of sorts (although it's neither especially scary nor funny), In Fabric was a truly unique and bewildering experience: an ASMR-inspired dreamcoat of wild imagery and engulfing sound design that reinforces Strickland's position as one of Britain’s most vital, fascinating directors.

I was quite aware going in to Midsommar that it wasn't going to be a barrel of laughs; what I didn't expect was extreme levels of soul-gnawing anxiety that left me with a knot in my stomach for the best part of a week. Surprisingly sun-drenched and beautiful for a dread-laden study of grief, Midsommar distracted me with bright colours and pretty things while it burrowed into the self-destructive nature of toxic relationships with surgical precision and skill. Incredibly powerful filmmaking, but fuck me I never want to see a frame of it again.

It took two viewings (i.e. SEVEN HOURS) to convince me, but Martin Scorsese doesn't make disposable, single-use movies. This long and deep dive into late twentieth century American organised crime is a film to get lost in; like a great museum, you can sit and soak up the details for literally hours. At its heart is a void where an actual heart should be, but Robert De Niro's Frank Sheeran gets by fine without it - or at least he thinks he does. His empty legacy is The Irishman's devastating kicker, but the film itself only enriches the canon of work Scorsese has gifted the world. It carries all the weight of a final masterpiece; we can only hope that's not what it is.

My relationship with the MCU over the last ten years has essentially been a steady wearing-down of my indifference, from the couldn't-give-a-shit of Iron Man in 2008 to the must-get-opening-day-tickets of Endgame. And while I liked this year's super-orgy well enough first time, I crumpled under the weight of its wonder with repeated viewings. Everything about it screams "epic" in bold, massive-font capitals, from the weighty mood of its early scenes to the final, celebratory half-hour, which contains more air-punching, tear-jerking, spine-prickling moments of brilliance than the rest of the franchise combined. You win, Avengers. I love you 2,999.

More scissor-sharp sociopolitical savagery from Jordan Peele, making his point a little more obliquely than in Get Out but with no less bite. An America-centric Funny Games, Us had something to say about the privilege of the wealthy middle classes, and how capitalism and consumerism keep them (us) focused on grabbing a little bit more, thus keeping us distracted from those who have so much less. Of course Swiftian satire only works if what's above the surface is good enough, and Us delivered good old-fashioned home invasion horror with sophisticated wit and a total understanding of audience button-pushing. Lupita Nyong'o sealed her rep as a cultural treasure and Peele joined the very short list of directors whose future films I cannot miss under any circumstances.

Disclaimer: I have not yet seen Cats.

Further listicles:

Couldn't whittle it down to ten, sorry

Sorry if you already have, don't @ me to call me a patronising wanker

Wednesday 4 December 2019

25 Bits Of Bond 25:
It's the No Time To Die trailer breakdown!

For those of us beginning to wonder if the promise of another Bond film was nothing more than a vicious rumour, the first trailer for Cary Fukunaga's No Time To Die dropped today, proving at the very least that 156 seconds of this movie definitely exist. So what can we learn from this exciting blast of Bondery? Let's find out!

Our first look at the brand new Bond film for the brand new decade sees him being chased through picturesque Italy in an Aston Martin. We haven't seen that kind of thing since three Bond films ago!

I fucking love Angry Bond. Bond looks very angry throughout most of this trailer. Maybe he just got out of a screening of Spectre.

When sitting in the passenger seat of an Aston Martin being driven by James Bond, being chased through winding, hazardous streets, maybe pop a seatbelt on? Just a thought.

Bond diving off a ridic high bridge? We haven't seen that kind of thing since two Bond films ago!

Is it just me or does M appear, in the common parlance, to have become something of a chonky boi?

Absolutely wonderful to see Jeffrey Wright's Felix Leiter back after a TWELVE-YEAR absence. Here he is hanging around in a seedy bar waiting for Bond to turn up. We haven't seen that kind of thing since three Bond films ago!

Here's Bond getting a dusty old Aston Martin out of a backstreet lockup. We haven't seen that kind of thing since two Bond films ago! Actually the return of the Aston Martin Vantage from The Living Daylights is a very welcome one. With any luck Timothy Dalton's still in it.

Cary Fukunaga is really pushing the orange and teal colour palette with this one. It's lovely, but it is a bit every-movie-poster-between-2008-and-2016.

Oh mate, a visitor's pass? Embarrassing.

This joke is excellent and has Phoebe Waller-Bridge's fingerprints all over it. More please.

Q's flat! A new sweater! But will we see his two cats? Nice glass in those doors by the way, I'll keep that in mind in case it becomes relevant later in the trailer.

Blofeld is serving time at HM Prison Wakefield, leading to the very real possibility of Bond visiting West Yorkshire for the first time.

He's still angry. Let it go man, what kind of loser stays cross about a film that came out four years ago, Jesus.

Christoph Waltz here, still claiming he's not playing Blofeld.

Here's Rami Malek's villain Safin, trudging around in Roger Moore's skiwear from the pre-title sequence of A View To A Kill. Will Daniel Craig finally get some winter sports action? We can only hope.

Yes we've all seen your watch, just cash the cheque from Omega and get on with it.

Who's this? And more importantly, what's he or she doing in Q's flat? I swear to God if they've laid a finger on his cats or sweaters I will be very cross indeed.

Trapped under a frozen lake? We haven't seen that kind of thing since two Bond films ago!

Disability campaigners: The evil of movie bad guys being represented by facial disfigurement needs to stop!
Bond films: Absolutely. There's not one evil guy with a facial disfigurement in this one. There are two! 

Rami Malek has much to prove here. As Bond himself says: "History isn't kind to men who play rock gods".

They'll be fine as long as they're wearing seatbelts.

I was as thrilled as you to discover that 'Ana de Armas' is an anagram of 'armed assassin'! [note to self: check before publishing]
I don't know what's going on in this villain's lair, it looks like some kind of awful performance art. Come on guys, this isn't the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, shove a monorail in there or something.
Still time to change the title lads.

This shot had better be worked into the gunbarrel sequence or so help me I will mutter under my breath about it for several years.

Are you excited? I'm excited. Please be good, new Bond film, I can't deal with another Spectre.