Jaime’s Film Diary: February 28, 2020

In order to continue keeping this site as active as possible while I have not been able to write as many full-length film reviews as I had planned initially, I figured that another solution would have come by in placing my Letterboxd entries starting from the week before here as a placeholder for eventual full-length reviews that are set to come by, if I were able to find the time to write another one. But as is, these are quick thoughts that I figure would be nice to keep afloat so that the site will remain active on a regular basis.

First-time viewings are noted as such. You can follow me on Letterboxd right here.

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2019: The End of the Decade’s Year in Review

First, I think I ought to apologize for how long-delayed this year in review would have been, but I had become incredibly busy over the past few months – to that point I was unable to write many film reviews as of late. Yet I still managed to find enough time to myself to catch films over the year as it was coming to its end in time for awards season, though it also left me with more than enough time to think back upon how great a decade this has been for film in general.

While it still feels sad to have to come think about one journey being over, it only feels most fitting we come back to the thought that we must always make way for tomorrow – the past has run its course, and thus we can dwell upon everything great about such in order to move forward. But as much as the 2010’s may have also been taken over by franchise films eating away the public interest every chance it has, it also made searching for the hidden gems all the more fun too. Yet as the best films of 2019 had already shown us, great cinema is still alive and well, and what matters most is how much we can continually share those experiences with others.

As far as this decade’s years of great films have gone by, many of 2019’s highs have struck a chord with me that I can’t quite put my finger on – but to put it lightly it was also the sort where I knew these films were going to be among films that define the decade too. It feels great to have been able to revel in what these films stood for within their moments, so without further ado, these are my favourite films of 2019.

Honourable Mentions

Booksmart

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Knives Out

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A Hidden Life

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High Life

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks (Finalized)

And now comes the countdown.

10. An Elephant Sitting Still

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image via KimStim

What saddens me is the thought that this is to remain the only feature-length directorial effort of Hu Bo, a filmmaker who tragically had taken his own life prior to the film’s premiere at TIFF in 2018. Yet the film that Hu Bo had left behind in his wake is a four-hour long journey all about searching for hope. An Elephant Sitting Still may prove difficult, whether we speak regarding its bleakness or the context behind its making and the context behind the life of filmmaker who brought it to the screen, but it will prove a rewarding experience.

9. The Lighthouse

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image via A24

Robert Eggers’s follow-up to The Witch is still every bit as beguiling as one can expect, but that’s also what reaffirms how terrifying it is. It’s only fair to say that The Lighthouse is the sort of nightmare that only a filmmaker like Robert Eggers could make, but there’s a certain audacity you can feel in his vision for the horror genre that feels like only he could have pulled off. Boasting great performances from Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse is more than just terrifying, it’s also funny every now and then but also just gorgeous from start to finish.

8. Little Women

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image via Sony

Greta Gerwig already made her mark as one of the most exciting directors to look out for after having established her name through collaborations with Noah Baumbach, and it only remains further solidified by Little Women. Being another coming-of-age tale from her eyes, Little Women does far more than just bring back to the screen another story that has been adapted many times over the years: it still reaffirms the story’s own impact by sharing how it captures generation after generation, which I think becomes the film’s greatest asset.

7. Uncut Gems

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image via A24

The Safdie brothers always know how to rack up anxiety to the max but in Uncut Gems, what comes forth is everything you’d have wanted from the makers behind Good Time and much more. Boasting a career-best performance from Adam Sandler, who is at some of the best he has ever been since Punch-Drunk Love and The Meyerowitz Stories, seeing the sort of work he manages to pull off in Uncut Gems does more than prove he is a wonderful dramatic actor when working outside of his familiar circle. You’ll feel your heart racing as you watch Uncut Gems, but the ride will absolutely be worth it.

6. The Irishman

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image via Netflix

It’s hard to say no to a new Martin Scorsese film, because he may arguably be the greatest American filmmaker working today – but he always finds a new way to approach the familiar subject matter of his work. In The Irishman, he returns once again to making gangster films to tell the story of how Frank Sheeran climbed his way up the mafia and even got himself involved with the case of Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance, but in typical Martin Scorsese fashion, there’s never a dull moment in this three-and-a-half-hour long odyssey. Yet it also shows Scorsese within a more introspective mode, which can be felt from having stuck around Frank’s life from his youth all the way to his old age. By the time you’re finished, you’ll feel like you lived his life, asking questions about how much of it was worth it.

5. Honey Boy

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image via Amazon Studios

Shia LaBeouf has already made a name for himself as one of the most fascinating figures working in the industry today but seeing how he enters a more sensitive side within Honey Boy only gives one all the more reason to love him. The narrative directorial debut of Alma Har’el, this semi-autobiographical film all about Shia LaBeouf’s own life experiences, as penned by him, and starring him as his own troubled father, Honey Boy is more than a tribute to the people whom he loved most, it’s a testament to what goes on in the life of a child star – and how those experiences have come to define the sort of person that he has become. I’m also looking forward to what Alma Har’el has got in store for the future, because this movie hasn’t left my head very easily.

4. The Farewell

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image via A24

For an Asian audience member, The Farewell will already strike chords for some – but there was something else that I had felt from watching it. Part of me saw my own life experiences feeling exactly like it had been for Awkwafina as shown in Lulu Wang’s film. It can be hard to say no to family matters, but what also makes The Farewell ring so perfectly comes out from how much it’s clear that Lulu Wang had written this as her own family’s love letter. Showcasing Awkwafina at some of her very best, The Farewell may be a slow burn but in that awkwardness it makes you feel from seeing family members you may have been estranged with for so long, it becomes a beautiful emotional rollercoaster.

3. Marriage Story

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image via Netflix

The ironically titled Marriage Story shows Noah Baumbach as he returns to familiar territory after The Squid and the Whale but tells of the adults’ perspective on the situation. But for Noah Baumbach it’s clear that this is a subject that nonetheless still hits him very hard, which is what makes it so easy to feel Marriage Story making its impact right from the film’s start, all the way until its end. To call Marriage Story the best that Noah Baumbach has ever been would already be easy enough, but when you’re also taking into account the many personal details sprinkled in, the title already feels fitting. It is less a film about the divorce and a film all about why they married to begin with, which best captures its impact.

2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

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image via NEON

Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire won the Queer Palm and the Best Screenplay Award at the Cannes Film Festival, but what makes this lesbian love story so beautiful can already be felt in its testament to great art. Sciamma’s film is one that is all about looks: how they define the artist’s relationship with muse, but also how both those feelings define the art we make. Boasting some beautiful production design as well as amazing performances from Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a stunner.

1. Parasite

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image via NEON

People who have followed me closely would already know that there was no other movie that would take this spot. Aside from being more rewarding with multiple viewings, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is a film that approaches a subject that seems familiar to us, in the most outlandish yet most entertaining way possible, although not without its willingness to hit back with the harsher realities surrounding the circumstances we see onscreen. I feel like there’s already so much in my prior review that I haven’t been able to cover because ever since I had seen the film then, I could already feel as if it were only set to become even more rewarding as I kept coming back to revisit Parasite more over time. Equal parts funny, equal parts gripping, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is more than just the best film of 2019, it’s wholly thoughtful and encourages its viewers to look back at the class landscape that they live within.

The Best Performances of 2019

Actor, Leading Role:

  1. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems
  2. Song Kang-ho, Parasite
  3. Adam Driver, Marriage Story
  4. Robert De Niro, The Irishman
  5. Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse
  6. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  7. Noah Jupe, Honey Boy
  8. Daniel Craig, Knives Out
  9. August Diehl, A Hidden Life
  10. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory

Actress, Leading Role:

  1. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
  2. Cho Yeo-jeong, Parasite
  3. Noèmie Merlant, Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  4. Awkwafina, The Farewell
  5. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
  6. Lupita Nyong’o, Us
  7. Zhao Tao, Ash is Purest White
  8. Ana de Armas, Knives Out
  9. Kaitlyn Dever, Booksmart
  10. Julianne Moore, Gloria Bell

Actor, Supporting Role:

  1. Joe Pesci, The Irishman
  2. Choi Woo-shik, Parasite
  3. Al Pacino, The Irishman
  4. Lee Sun-kyun, Parasite
  5. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  6. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  7. Timothée Chalamet, Little Women
  8. Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy
  9. LaKeith Stanfield, Uncut Gems
  10. Asier Exteandia, Pain and Glory

Actress, Supporting Role:

  1. Park So-dam, Parasite
  2. Laura Dern, Marriage Story
  3. Florence Pugh, Little Women
  4. Adéle Haenel, Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  5. Chang Hyae-jin, Parasite
  6. Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell
  7. Julia Fox, Uncut Gems
  8. Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
  9. Penelope Cruz, Pain and Glory
  10. Jamie Lee Curtis, Knives Out

The Worst Films of 2019

  1. Loqueesha
  2. Katie Says Goodbye
  3. The Lion King
  4. Hellboy
  5. The Dirt
  6. The Haunting of Sharon Tate
  7. Cats
  8. Polar
  9. Girl
  10. It: Chapter Two

And so, this concludes what’s already been a wonderful decade of truly astonishing films – stick around, we’ve also got more to come as I talk about the best films of the decade.

‘Little Women’ Review: Greta Gerwig’s Adaptation of a Classic Tale Reaffirms Its Impact

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Greta Gerwig’s follow-up to Lady Bird is not the same sort of coming-of-age film that she brought to the screen years two prior, but another adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic story. Although it may be a story that has been adapted numerous times to the screens, whether they be for television or for the cinema, it carries a timeless quality to it that only makes it feel fresh no matter how many times it may be told. It’s a film that feels almost like you’re being wrapped comfortably within a blanket, but the more it continues flashing back and forth it also shows that there’s always a newer way to bring timeless stories of the sort to modern audiences, and for what’s only Gerwig’s second feature as a writer-director, it feels as if she’s on her way to becoming a talent for a generation.

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‘Wild at Heart’ Review: A Tender, Twisted, Dark Love Story from David Lynch

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David Lynch’s Wild at Heart received the Palme d’Or from the Cannes Film Festival in 1990, yet it still seems to have remained heavily underrated in his filmography. Among many things that one could ever find themselves loving about Wild at Heart, it’s also like looking at a new side of the David Lynch that one would be familiar with and even if the sudden shift in tone may not work for the most dedicated of his fans, it still results in what I see to be one of his most beautiful films by far. If there’s any other way to describe Wild at Heart, it would only be fitting to describe it as the happiest film that David Lynch might ever leave us behind with, but it still perfectly blends together all the distinctive elements of surrealism in order to create one of the most romantic movies that could ever have been made too.

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‘Marriage Story’ TIFF Review: Noah Baumbach at His Most Devastating, Complex, and Thoughtful

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Divorce is not an unfamiliar subject writer-director Noah Baumbach, as shown through his exploration of the psychological effect of joint custody on children in The Squid and the Whale. In Marriage Story, what Baumbach shows you is a different perspective of the divorce, rather one that takes the perspective of the adults in the situation as they are about to part their own ways. As one can imagine, it never would feel easy in any sense of the word and Noah Baumbach cuts really deep into where you really feel it hurts. These are people who know they can’t stick together any longer, but that uncertainty regarding how they feel about one another still rings so strongly. If there were anything else that best makes the film’s title fit so perfectly, it’s best described by what Baumbach shows about what we realize as something that seemed so meaningful finally must come to its own end.

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‘Blue Velvet’ Review: The Hypnotic Aura of David Lynch’s Strange World

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David Lynch’s films are so easy to characterize for carrying a weird aura that only he could ever perfect, yet the world that we’re seeing in Blue Velvet is one that is as ordinary as they get. Yet it’s also what makes everything about Blue Velvet so wonderful too, because it invokes his viewers to look at the world that they know a whole other way, beneath the cracks of the perfections in the “ordinary” as David Lynch brings you to see the underworlds that take the screen. It’s all a part of what makes Blue Velvet so intriguing too, because it’s characteristic of everything that has fascinated David Lynch through his long career in the form of a neo-noir mystery, yet it also happens to be one of the very best films of that sort too. Some can even say that a film like this best captures what also is best described as David Lynch’s America, for his subversion of the idealized lifestyle brings you on a journey of innocence slowly fading away through the exposure to a dark underworld unlike any other. You’re taken into a strange world by David Lynch, but maybe that might very well be the world we live in and we’ve convinced ourselves that everything happens to be moving along like it’s all fine.

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2018: Another Year of Cinema Come and Gone

This year was a real game changer for a person like myself. To kick things off, it was the first year in which I was able to attend TIFF as a press member rather than as any other audience member. It was a defining moment for myself, though I don’t want to brag a little too much about what happened there. It was just a good year for cinema in general. That’s all I can really say, and I want to bring more attention to the many films that I absolutely loved this year – and so many of them came around this year and so forth. We’re already nearing the end of a decade, and through the good and the bad, the cinema has always been able to provide nothing but the greatest pleasures through and through. Although as we look through the films that have come to define 2018 as a whole, there were many surprises that came along the way just as there were disappointments – all of which came in between the very best and the worst in cinema through the year. So without further ado, let us begin. Continue reading →

The Tale is a Difficult, But Important Watch

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CW: sexual assault

I don’t know what else to say. There was something that was at the back of my head that has always haunted me for my whole life, and I had not been able to share it because I was so afraid of what people would have made of me since. But as you continue reading this, I want you to imagine this, from my own perspective. During my high school years, I was still closeted for my sexuality and then there came a point in which a nameless face that is stuck in my memory had caught me out of the blue and forced me to strip down and lean against the wall, telling me that if I were queer, I would be feeling something more from his fingers running through my body. I still have memories of the experience ingrained into my head, but at this point I had made myself forget the face because I don’t want it to haunt me. It was haunting enough that it was an act to truly test if I were really a queer, for I had already been threatened to be outed in that moment. I was scared for my life. When I watched The Tale, I already felt so much of the most painful memories flashing right back to me, something I thought I had suppressed so far into the back of my head, and it was all the more difficult.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Review

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Rian Johnson’s latest film, a Star Wars film for the matter – isn’t the sort that one would expect him to pull off, but even for those who have stuck so closely with the Star Wars franchise, they didn’t get the same story that they would have wanted. If The Force Awakens only was the welcoming return for the franchise to the big screen after George Lucas’s prequel trilogy has come to an end, through the reintroduction of nostalgia – then what Rian Johnson has set his audience in store for is more possibility, all from the fact that he of all people had went behind what we would want to recognize on the surface as a Star Wars film. But nevertheless if this film were proof of anything, it would be that Star Wars finds its way of speaking to many generations over the years.

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Certain Women – Review

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Kelly Reichardt’s anthology drama Certain Women is a quiet film, like many of her other films, but they were never boring even at their worst. Although Reichardt has yet to blow me away, I’ve always seen fragments of excellence arising all throughout her body of work (Wendy and Lucy stands out from the bunch that I’ve seen as the best), all of which were enough to keep me wanting more. Adding more to this streak is Certain Women, an anthology about the lives of ordinary people residing in Montana, immersed within quietness and within no time, forming a connection that almost brought me back to the work of Chantal Akerman. If Reichardt continues on with this streak, then I can only see her work growing better over time.

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