06 February 2020

The 2019 (Cinematic) Jim Ridley Film Poll Apocrypha

So here are the other 23,000 words that didn't make it into the published version of the 2019 (cinematic) Jim Ridley Film Poll. You're soaking in it. Any formatting errors are mine, and I lament them.

2020 JIM RIDLEY MEMORIAL FILM POLL Questions: The Apocrypha

(Participants: Jason Adams, Siddhant Adlakha, James Adomian, Danny Bowes, Sean Burns, Erica Ciccarone, Charles Cosner, Jacob Davison, Alonso Duralde, Nat Dykeman, Ben Empey, Steve Erickson, Matthew Essary, Dr. Gangrene, Zack Hall, Sheronica Hayes, Odie Henderson, Elizabeth Howell, Anthony Hudson, Allison Inman, John Leavitt, John Lichman, Craig Lindsey, Brian Lonano, William Mahaffey, Scott Manzler, Matt McGuire, Thashana McQuiston, Richie Millennium, Tiffany Minton, Mae Moreno, Joe Nolan, Brian Owens, Parik Pilly, Stacie Ponder, Lauren Ponto, Matt Prigge, D. Patrick Rodgers, Jason Shawhan, Michael Sicinski, Graham Skipper, Nathan Smith, Sam Smith, James Spence, Scout Tafoya, Kyle Turner, Dave White, Lisa Williams, Cory Woodroof, Tony Youngblood)

In general, do you feel you have access to properly-exhibited films/DCPs in theatres?

For the most part, no. Most multiplexes tend to leave digital projection to automation -- they don't care about the actual picture and sound as much as specialized projectionists would. For that matter, many multiplexes in India and the US no longer seem to mask their screens for aspect ratio either. It's a bit of a mess right now.  (Adlakha)

Here in New York yes, as long as it's one of our million and counting indie theaters -- once you get to the multiplex all bets are off; I've had to complain at my local AMC several times because they're dimming the screen. (Adams)

Yes, but multiplex theaters are usually a gamble in terms of exhibition quality, and the demise of MoviePass really did a number on my movie-going habit, which used to be frequent and is now rather irregular. (N. Smith)
Yes. My issue with accessibility has more to do with all the movies I want to see and many only being shown at one theater for a very limited amount of time. (McQuiston)

Putting the Belcourt aside (in a class of its own): maybe? This past year and a quarter, I’ve become more aware of Regal’s flaws from first-hand experience (I have a Aquaman story) and from talking with others about it in general. I can’t comment on the state of AMC since it’s not my theater of choice, but I must wonder if any competition would help improve the room? I’ve had positive past experiences at chains such as Bow Tie Cinemas and Violet Crown, while the reputation of Alamo Drafthouse precedes itself. Logistics, market size, and other related business matters probably play a part in not expanding the options in Nashville. In view of that never happening, just have people who give a shit and projectionists in your organization. Proper exhibition shouldn’t feel like a lost cause or a civil campaign when it’s meant to be a basic denominator. (Spence)

Being in the Boston area I’m extremely lucky to have the Brattle, Somerville, and Coolidge Corner Theatres, independent operations that put a premium on presentation. I haven’t been to the new ArcLight that just opened downtown, but without fail pretty much every time I set foot in an AMC multiplex these days it’s some sort of disaster. (Burns)

I’m in New York City, so I have everything, from great to bad and everything in between. That means while we have a proper IMAX (at AMC Lincoln Square) we also have gobs of lame-ass LieMax, too. (Prigge)

I live in New York, so I feel quite privileged to be in an area that has the resources to exhibit films lovingly. The repertory scene in New York is always incredible and much of that has to do with both the means and the people who care deeply about film. However, I’m actually not especially fussy about exhibition method: if I can see the film without much problem, I’m golden. I don’t really care about masking the way other people do, and I’m more than happy watching stuff on my computer (which is sometimes a more satisfying experience), but much of that has to do with the fact that I grew up in an area (Connecticut) where there wasn’t the same care put into exhibition. So I just became conditioned to a kind of anything goes method of film exhibition.  (Turner)

Generally speaking, yes. Projection in Houston is not terrible, particularly at press screenings. I hope I'm not jinxing myself. (Sicinski)
I do! I also live in Los Angeles so I know it’s an embarrassment of riches here. (Skipper)

Yeah, but there are still those theaters that give zero fucks about properly projecting a film. I saw Long Day’s Journey Into Night 3D on a multiplex big screen and the entire film — not just the 3-D-covered second half — was shown with the 3-D lens on. It was a gotdamn mess. Thank God I saw a Vimeo link of it the week before. (Lindsey)

I moved this year from a major metropolitan area, where I would have answered this question a strong yes, to the middle of nowhere, where it is a definite no. As of two weeks ago, I've been to the three theaters within 45 minutes, and they are all pretty poor (two of them are even AMCs).  When I finally went to the theater closest, it was beyond dreadful. I would rather watch in my home theater than there. (Dykeman)

Having been a theater goer since my teen years, now is the best time from the standpoint of visual options, comfort, and overall experience. Even though the prices of admission and food continue rising, the overall pleasure gained from seeing a great film in a theater cannot be topped by watching it alone at home, no matter how large the viewing screen. (Wynn)

The Belcourt always has my back. At Regal Hollywood, I've been burned more times than I can count by sound issues: distorted and/or hissy soundtracks; mixes where the vocals are too low, as if one of the surround sound speakers were out; and sound leaking in from the neighboring theater during quiet films. I've complained multiple times to no avail. I've started to travel the extra 7 minutes to Regal Green Hills where there are fewer problems.  (Youngblood)

DCPs, kinda. New York is getting better at making sure the DCPs are working, but there's still an element of hoping no one notices the utter fucking incompetence overseeing mass film projection. I don't have any money so I can't ever make it to like rep screenings on 35mm, which is an existential gnawing I'll never make peace with, but it's still nice to know it's happening. (Tafoya)

You’d think in NYC that we’d be chock full of theaters that know what the hell they’re doing. Alas, we have AMC and Regal chains and, when I’m not dodging bedbugs, rats and perverts, I am in awe of how little they care about how the movies are presented. The smaller/rep theaters do a better job here.(Henderson)

Generally yes, but there are a lot of great films I would love to see in a theater that I don't get to. (Mahaffey)

Yes, but I know how privileged I am to live in New York. (Erickson)
Experience varies, but I frequent several indie/arthouses and even a few chain venues that offer a reliably solid experience. Regardless, I'll generally choose even middling Blu-ray projection over at-home viewing--for me, movie theaters are something of a sacred space.(Manzler)

Absolutely.  I only wish I could see more films projected on 35mm or 70mm. (Lonano)

What’s the best needle drop sequence of the year?

"Criminal" in Hustlers or "Next" in Hustlers. Runner-up "Angel of the Morning" in It: Chapter 2. (Tafoya)

The "Fuck the Police" doppelganger murder scene in Us is not just one of the best scenes in the film but one of the best uses of music this whole year! (Hudson)

I’ll go for a Rolling Stones two-fer. The way Quentin Tarantino uses “Out of Time” in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood captured so much luminous power. Indeed, the song is the film’s canary in the coal mine, a dutifully on-the-nose reminder to the film’s heroes that dusk is approaching their world and way of life, that time is of the essence. But he almost rages against the gentle night with showing the vibrant, alive popping-on of various Los Angeles neon signs at eve as Mick Jagger bellows the haunting It’s defiant choice for various reasons. It’s also a bell weather in and of itself since Tarantino writes his own Hollywood ending here. Second, “Sweet Virginia,” in the closing moments of Knives Out. The hum of the harmonica and Jagger warbles in the film’s eventual changing of the guard add such blissful sting an already-outstanding thesis. It makes Marta’s Kermit-sip of the coffee mug even more piercing. It’s fun to have this carry over into the closing credits, too, over the cast’s curtain call-via-portrait. (Woodroof)

Jojo Rabbit- Heroes by David Bowie. It's kinda on the nose, but it worked for me. (Mahaffey)

I love the juxtaposition of The Beach Boys' “Good Vibrations” playing whilst the Tyler family is murdered in Us. While the irony of that song choice might be a little on-the-nose, the scene itself is tense and eerie, and the echoes of dulcet harmonies piping loudly throughout the house only add to the discomfort. (Ponder)

Of course, Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood had a bunch of them. But I also gotta give a shout-out the slo-mo wedding scene from The Irishman, set to The Five Satins’ “In the Still of the Night” and Willem Defoe cruising for boys in Pasolini, set to The Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There.” (And I’m glad that H.E.R.’s “Focus” was used in Waves, but it was during a painfully on-the-nose scene.) (Lindsey)

Without a doubt, Scorsese’s final use of “In the Still of the Night” in The Irishman.  (Rodgers)

The first time “The Dead Don’t Die” plays in The Dead Don’t Die. And again. And again. And again. (Lichman)

In a year where Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” was used three times, the landscape of soundtrack choices can be as surprising and broad as it is predictable and narrow. If I had to pick just one, it would be “Five to One” in Rambo: Last Blood. Arguably the most sinister use of The Doors’ music since Apocalypse Now, to say nothing of the results of Rambo’s finesse. My second choice would be Ma. “The Safety Dance” has never sounded quite as creepy, while “September” is transformed from go-to dance track to perfectly absurd garnish of a scene ending. Others worth mentioning: The A/B of “Good Vibrations” and “Fuck tha Police,” along with “Les Fleurs” in Us. “The Carpet Crawlers” and “Islands” in Our Time. “Boléro” in Domino. “Ring A-Ling Dong” in Dolemite Is My Name. “In the Still of the Night” in The Irishman. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. “High Flyin’ Bird” and “Handsome Johnny” in High Flying Bird. “Where Are You?” in Greta. The majority of Waves, but especially the perfectly timed use of “IFHY.” And all of Climax (Spence)

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood has the year’s best soundtrack, but not because the songs are the best. They’re not. They’re the dross, the cultural detritus that was actually being played on the radio — some of it great, some of it forgettable, but most of it due for the dustbin of history not long after 1969 passes. Only a tiny fraction of the pop culture abundant at any age ever lives on, later to be collected on music compilations/playlists and played in movies about those times, creating a mythology of an era that was never quite true. One of the best jokes about Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is that it brazenly revises 1969 but at the same time gets it more right than any movie, TV show, music collection, etc. Anyway, the answer to your question is when “Hush” by Deep Purple explodes onto the radio as Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski peel out of their rented Hollywood Hills McMansion en route to the Playboy Mansion a mere two miles away. (Prigge)

Nothing obvious springs to mind, so Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood, by default. Not just Robbie cuing the Raiders but much of the film, which often functions as a prolonged needle drop, Tarantino's idealized radio DJ providing a soundtrack to a late-60s Hollywood fairytale. (Manzler)

Everyone’s gonna go with Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” in Hustlers, and god be with them, but I’m especially fond of the use of Three Dog Night’s “One is the Loneliest Number” in Christophe Honoré’s Sorry Angel. This little queer melodrama about the ineffable connection between and older man and a younger one and the chasm of life experience that threatens to derail their ability to find trust and safety in one another moves winsomely throughout, but it becomes especially devastating when this song not only bleeds into the film’s soundtrack, but also haunts the possibilities of both characters’ past, present, and futures. (Turner)

"Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78: III. The Crusaders in Pskov" by Prokofiev from the film Relaxer.  Runner up was "Treat Her Right" by Roy Head and The Traits from Once Upon A Time... in Hollywood. (Lonano)

Climax. (Hall)

One of the best was the home invasion scene when N.W.A. queues up in Us. Honorable mentions include the German-language version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in JoJo Rabbit, “You Keep Me Hangin' On” in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, “In the Still of the Night” in The Irishman, and “The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore” in Midsommar just to name a few. (McQuiston)

The 'You Keep Me Hangin' On' home invasion at the end of Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood. (Davison)

Take Me Home, Country Roads” in Dark Waters. HM: “The Macarena” in Richard Jewell, “YMCA” in Ash is Purest White, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” in 3 From Hell, “Type of Way” by Rich Homie Quan in Uncut Gems, “A Pirate Looks At Forty” in The Beach Bum. (N. Smith)

The “Out of Time” sequence in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is a staggeringly gorgeous bit of filmmaking, and leave it to Quentin Tarantino to make me cry while looking at a Taco Bell. Mick Jagger’s taunting lyrics tease the obsolescence of our washed-up cowboy heroes, lost in this new era that’s not their own, while also serving as a mournful countdown for Margot Robbie’s incandescent Sharon Tate on what we know to be the last night of her life. The twilight montage of neon signs switching on has the melancholy beauty of an Edward Hopper painting, coming to a haunting close on El Coyote and the inevitable end. (Burns)

Most of Rocketman, not just for finally proving that people haven’t forgotten how to shoot movie musical action in a wide shot, but also for the Studio 54 medley seemingly designed to make straight people uncomfortable. They didn't have to go that far and I respect it. (Leavitt)

A Flock of Seagulls' "Space Age Love Song" as the soundtrack to dancing and sex in End of the Century. (Erickson)

I think this honor belongs to the use of Neil Diamond’s “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” in Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood. It comes in the scene where Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth offers a ride to a young hitchhiker, played by Margaret Qualley, who then shows her appreciation by joyfully dancing a jig before giving the finger to a policeman and shouting obscenities at the officer. Clearly, this the kind of energy we should all be going into 2020 with. (Essary)

The acquisition of 20th Century Fox by Disney has made a lot of people come to terms with some messy aspects of the exhibition game. How have you (or your market) been affected by the consolidation of these companies?

I strongly believe in the theatrical experience when it comes to film. It’s nice to watch a classic film at home but nothing compares to sitting in a dark theater, focused on a giant screen watching a truly great film unfold. With the acquisition, so many classic films have been pulled from theatrical circulation and placed in “the vault”. It‘s disheartening to know that a whole generation of budding film fans may not be able to see titles like Alien or The French Connection the way they were always meant to be seen. (Essary)

I, for one, welcome our new corporate overlords. Joking. This is absolutely disastrous for distribution, individual access to a massive library of great films, and overall diversification of vision in film. (Hall)

I’ve heard of screenings of Alien being cancelled here, and I’ve noticed less Fox content in some of the upcoming rep programs. Again, I’m in the biggest market, so I don’t expect too much of an issue for now. (Henderson)

Not sure this consolidation of hyper-brands has anything to do with the cinema I love. That said, in our era of mutant capitalism, the merger of mega-corps almost invariably has negative consequences, ones I'm neither cynical nor capricious enough to predict. (Manzler)

I haven't personally been affected by this, but I'm appalled by the number of people whose response to one monopoly controlling almost half of the American film industry was speculation about the combos of IP that would result. (Erickson)

It hasn’t hit much of us yet but the irony isn’t lost on me because for years the Smithsonian Museum of American History’s main theater is “The Warner Brothers Theater” that famously only plays two types of film: educational shorts and anything from the WB catalog. (Lichman)

Not as of yet.  We still have weekly screenings of Rocky Horror at the Plaza in Atlanta and had screenings of Die Hard and Home Alone too! (Lonano)

It seems to me not just a sign of the times, but also a sign of things to come. Studios buying companies’ libraries have always been a part of the movie business (perhaps, at one point, the air of resignation when watching a older Fox film now and thinking “oh, Disney owns this” applied to MGM-Warner Bros). This wholesale consumption and its fallout open the floodgates to distressing possibilities. Imagine a Western shootout between the four companies that own every piece of media, with the viewer caught in the middle. Disney’s vault business practice being adapted elsewhere: you can’t rent, own, or see a particular film unless it’s on the company’s platform. There are juntas waiting to happen. I admit these are possibly extreme flights of fancy, yet I can’t help wondering Hollywood’s future with its past examples. Does United States v. Paramount apply to Netflix and the Paris Theater? Are we about to enter a more 21st century style studio system? The term Golden Age is thrown out quite a bit (glued permanently to television), but we are far past that. We are indeed in the Silicon Valley Age of Hollywood, and everything that comes with it. (Spence)

Disney's move to monopoly is mortifying, and as a programmer their plans to archive repertory titles and potentially ban DCP screenings (while they can barely manage their own film print library) means that beloved but over-memed Baby Yoda comes at the cost of our movie houses. (Hudson)

Not yet, to my knowledge. For now, the deal mostly affects non-rep theaters, which sucks for everyone but those living in major cities with strong rep communities (i.e., most people). But never trust the Mouse. (Prigge)

No, but I live in a town where no one gives a shit about that. Just give us more Marvel movies, and everything will be OK. (Lindsey)

As more of an audience member/critic, the consequences of this will begin to be more discernible in the ways that rep programming in New York will look like moving forward. Matt Zoller Seitz has talked about his inability to program certain things for his series at IFC Center. (Turner)

I spend most of my time in Mumbai, and for the longest time, you'd be able to find a lot of mid-budget Hollywood thrillers playing in cinemas. Now it's almost entirely big franchise films. Recently, there was a week where it was nothing but Disney and Disney adjacent films, between Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home, the Lion King remake, Aladdin and Toy Story 4.  (Adlakha)

The corporate takeover of media and culture on many levels has been a negative thing, and this was/is no different. Among other things it's led  has led to a glut of superhero/comic book films, a constant stream of reboots and remakes, and the ascension into decision making and power positions of people who care more about profits than artistry and cultural impact. It hasn't affected me much personally other than providing me with more projects to avoid. (Wynn)

It's proven to me how many people are brand and company loyalists, which is truly terrifying!  (Tafoya)

What’s your fave location in a film this year, and why?

Hårga! Who doesn't want to live there only to plummet to your death at the ripe age of 73? If it's good enough for Florence Pugh, it's good enough for me. (Hudson)

The '60s and '70s L.A. of Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood and Dolemite is my Name. (Hall)

Los Angeles. Movies are frequently tempting me to move out West, and Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood had me craving El Coyote. I settled for Kraft Mac and Cheese. (Prigge)

The house in Knives Out, I bet there are tons of secrets to unlock there. (Mahaffey)

The suburbia in Knives and Skin which feels so dark and off-putting. It is (and I am dating myself here) like Twin Peaks made for SNICK (or CW for those born since 1999). (Lichman)

The Lighthouse in The Lighthouse, although like all things in all movies it would've been a little better if it was a lot gayer. (Leavitt)

I can't say I'd want to be stuck in the lighthouse from The Lighthouse (alone or otherwise) for any significant amount of time, but as a hale and hearty New Englander it certainly ignited some weird kind of spooky hometown pride in me. (Ponder)

I love the different set constructed for the porno film within a film about porn in Knife + Heart; there’s a shaggy passion that inhabits the fake interrogation room and darkly magical cave, and a seediness in the blue movie theater and studio where Vanessa Paradis makes many of her pornos. Honorable mention is the department store in In Fabric, with the morbidly poetic clerk (“Your hesitation, soon to be an echo within the spheres of retail…”).(Turner)

Personally, seeing Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan smash my hometown of Boston in Godzilla: King Of The Monsters was a beautifully destructive dream come true. (Davison)

The mansion in Knives Out is basically its own character with secrets and animus. Production designer David Crank built his own Rian Johnson character with that set. It’s got so many little flourishes and in-gags that you have to imagine Johnson and Crank rummaged through flea markets, antique shops, garage sales and eBay auctions to find all the striking paintings, foreboding statues and weird wall décor that make up Harlan Thromby’s home. It’s a set that honors the film it lives in. (Woodroof)

The Texas town in The Vast of Night. I liked how the director and cinematographer took the time to familiarize me with the town’s layout, so when suspenseful things started to happen, I knew where people were and how long it would take them to get from point A to point B. I loved being in this town and with its characters despite the fact that I would not have been welcome there, a fact the filmmakers incorporate into the story. (Henderson)

The village from A Hidden Life. I yearn to be in a place that beautiful. The mountains, the rolling green hills, the fog occasionally coming down from on high, with the church bell ringing in the distance. Honorable mentions: Godard’s Mind (The Image Book), The Party from Hell (Climax), Daniel Jones’ Office (The Report), The Robot Hotel (Family Romance, LLC), Palpatine’s Clubhouse (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) (Spence)

The Orpheum theatre from the end of Dolemite Is My Name. It’s a beautiful building and the sense of fun and excited joy in that scene is palpable. (Essary)

I gotta admit Tarantino made me wish I lived in Hollywood in the ‘60s. (I probably would’ve lived in Watts though.) However, The Last Black Man in San Francisco made the Bay Area a beautiful place to live. (It’s a damn shame I constantly hear that the rent is TOO DAMN HIGH!) And wherever Ira Sachs shot Frankie, I want to go to there. (Lindsey)
Gotta be Los Angeles in Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood. Combine that with the L.A. of Joe Begos’ Bliss and it’s a perfect L.A. dichotomy. (Skipper)

Los Angeles 1969 in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood - I was content just to drive around with Brad Pitt for the rest of the summer. I also love how Uncut Gems brought the Diamond District to life - it feels like such an under-utilized setting given all the NYC-set crime films.  (Nolan)

Checkford (a/o Hudson, NY) and its neglected but still-beating heart The Bread Factory. Much like Jarmusch's Paterson, Patrick Wang's kind-hearted, idea-packed diptych imagines a vibrant community in which every resident creates art just by living. Clocking in at just over four hours, the engaging and eccentric A Bread Factory's is, if anything, too short--I wanted to spend a weekend there. (Manzler)

Knives Out - I have always wanted to live in a house with secret passages and hiding spots, on a huge plot of land surrounded by woods with giant statues. And In Fabric – because I love the worlds Peter Strickland creates and I want be walk around constantly lit as if I am in one of his movies. And even despite knowing what I know – I want that damn dress. (McQuiston)

The shorelines of Atlantics and Portrait of a Lady on Fire because oceans just have that way of representing the boundless infinity of mystery, strength, and desire. (S. Smith)

Benihana in Dark Waters. That Ed Lachmann touch turns banal strip-mall Americana into the sublime! (N. Smith)

1960s Hollywood Boulevard in Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood because of the incredible historical work done by the production crew to recreate the facades of places like The Pussycat and Aquarius Theatres, making the location a protagonist.  (Minton)

The Lighthouse. Such a great setup for this claustrophobic story of isolation and madness. (Gangrene)
Radegund in A Hidden Life or Foxwoods in Uncut Gems. (Tafoya)

What’s the best experience you had in a movie theatre this year?

I sat next to Angela Bassett watching an Isabelle Huppert movie during the Tribeca Film Fest, that was pretty cool. (Adams)

Avengers: Endgame on opening night. I don't love the movie, and I certainly have mixed feelings about "event" films monopolizing the Hollywood landscape, but we'll probably never have something as big and as globe-spanning for a long time. It was a party, everywhere at once. (Adlakha)

I had the incredible fortune of seeing a special double feature of DA Pennebaker’s Original Cast Album: Company and its Documentary Now! parody Original Cast Album: Co-Op at IFC Center with Pennebaker, Seth Meyers, John Mulaney, and others in attendance. Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company means a great deal to me, so to see the two films together felt like a circle being completed; additionally, some cast members from the original Broadway production of the show were also present, as well as the studio producer on the album, who revealed his regrets of how he treated Elaine Stritch. (Turner)

Made a last-minute trip to Nashville to catch Satantango at the Belcourt in November, my first screening there in over three years. Catching up with old friends in the lobby and watching one of modern cinema's most monumental works in familiar environs was a treasured experience not easily replicable. (Manzler)

I saw Dolemite is My Name at an Alamo Drafthouse. I was going through Sober October at the time, so I couldn’t get lit while watching it. Thankfully, the movie was hilarious. Runner-up: 6 Underground. The movie was a garbage fire, but the fancy-ass theater had pillows and blankets! Plus, they fed us beforehand! (Lindsey)

This year's Aero Theatre Horrorthon. (Davison)

Laugh-crying my with my best friend while watching Booksmart. (Minton)

I don’t think anything will top seeing Nashville, for the first time ever, at the Belcourt in January. Being keyed into the references and jokes from living here was a bonus. That’s an experience I’ll always treasure. (Spence)

There was a gentleman seated in front of me during Bombshell–one of a whole six people in the audience–who laughed and made jokes whenever women in the film were distressed, crying, being harassed, or talking about being harassed. I told him to be quiet, asked what was so funny, and he promptly left the theater. (Ponder)

As always, the Duke Mitchell Film Party at FrightFest UK. A bonkers night of cinema that has to be experienced to be believed. (Skipper)
I did the post-screening Q&A for Moonstruck at the IFC Center in NYC. Seeing the film while sitting next to the writer, John Patrick Shanley, and hearing him laugh with the appreciative audience, was the best time I had in a theater this year. (Henderson) 
I saw Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese at the Belcourt. It was rapturous. I grew up in a Dylan household, and my parents attended a show on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour. The music is elemental. It’s in my bones. No matter where I am, Dylan’s voice makes me feel instantly connected to my immediate family members, all of whom live quite far away. I kept looking for my parents — longhaired, unburdened, free — in the crowd, and the distance between us seemed to close. I’m 100 percent certain I would not have attained this feeling watching the documentary on Netflix in my living room — it was released on the streaming platform the next day — and I’m so grateful to the Belcourt for making this church-like experience possible.  (Ciccarone)

A public preview of The Dead Don’t Die which I am confident was the first time the majority of that audience ever saw a Jim Jarmusch film. I was the only person laughing. (Lichman)

Sitting with diverse audiences of people largely but not solely my age (upper 60s) and seeing everyone equally enjoying great films about the human condition from a variety of perspectives and experiences. These were productions with casts whose personnel reflected a similarly broad slice of life, and presented stories that were complex, varied, unpredictable and poignant. (Wynn)

Watching Vinegar Syndrome's 2019 Gore Cut of Tammy and The T Rex with a packed audience was revelatory and hilarious (and also shockingly progressive in its representation of Byron, Tammy's gay black best friend). None of us previously knew we needed to see Denise Richards ride an animatronic T-Rex containing Paul Walker's brain, but collectively we quickly understood that this was all any of us ever truly wanted from a movie. (Hudson)

Apollo 11, Uncut Gems, and Long Day’s Journey Into Night 3D wowed... I was a giddy kid again during Star Wars: the Rise of Skywalker, simply because the bar had been set so low by a relay-race of movies made up as they went along, not under the singular, unified vision of a filmmaker but as a lab-tested, scrapped, and re-scripted product of corporate synergy. This movie pulled out all the stops to draw out satisfying and surprising arcs from what were mere character sketches, and it was exhilarating having expected so little. Forget the toxic discourses on social media; It’s what you do with what you’ve got. (S. Smith)

Watching Amazing Grace at The Belcourt opening night and see the room simultaneously engage in a religious experience watching Aretha Franklin sing her heart out in one of the unearthed treasures of cinema was just something you can’t forget. (Woodroof)

Seeing Fabio Frizzi score The Beyond live at Central Cinema. (Mahaffey)

Speed Racer on 35MM. (N. Smith)

The most memorable was seeing Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse with an audience. The reaction was very mixed and quite frankly amusing and hilarious. The movie is not for everyone, but to hear people reacting so strongly and loudly was refreshing. Even if it was negative. Next would be Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and being in sold out theater, first night and everyone genuinely engaged and having a great time watching it. (McQuiston)

Long Day's Journey Into Night 3D at the Nashville Film Festival. (Youngblood)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood in 35mm at the Belcourt. The only movie of the year that I wanted to watch over immediately after it ended. Who knew Tarantino was going to follow-up his worst film with his most joyous? (Nolan)

Seeing the first press screening of The Irishman at the New York Film Festival — i.e., being the first audience to see it, far as I know — was a scream. And then Marty and Bobby and Al and Pesci all came out. I also got to see Ang Lee’s Gemini Man as close to its intended form as one could in America: in the highest frame rate available here, in 3-D. I’m glad that form of HFR is almost certainly dead, but I liked this experience as a one-off. There are textures I’ve never seen in a movie before, and even if they’ve been arguably misapplied to a dingbat old school action movie whose script has been sitting around since the Clinton era, I was glad I was one of the few people who saw it. (Prigge)

Ready Or Not. For all the praise Parasite and Knives Out got for their depiction of evil rich people in fancy houses, Ready Or Not also has cabals, satanic cults, hidden passageways, and gallons of fake blood. It is the very zeitgeist of 2019. (Leavitt)
Paris is Burning at the Belcourt during the Queer Qlassics series. The energy and the drama of the audience was nearly tangible. I believe that it was destiny to have a Vogue-off in the historic walls of the 1925 Hall. (Hayes) 

Seeing Michael Snow's newest film at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival. Guy's still got it. (Sicinski)

I was able to get to a screening of Parasite about a month after its Cannes debut. I knew it was rapturously received but I intentionally read nothing about the film. What I found was one of the most audaciously, deliciously fun rides we have ever gotten in the cinema. The first half is a bit more predictable in its rhythms and narrative, and even at this point I thought, I can't believe how much glee this movie is taking in its methodical process of one family knocking off the employees of a wealthy family's employees so that they could take their jobs. The film misdirects you at this point into thinking you know how the film is going to develop, but when the second half reveals itself my jaw dropped and never returned. (I'm still looking for it!) When it was over, I levitated from my seat, and it was only later, hours after the adrenaline wore off, that I realized the ending has one of the most profoundly nihilistic messages of a film in recent years. That director Bong is able to pull this off is absolutely breathtaking. The only theatrical experiences from the past couple years that even compare are Carol and Phantom Thread. (Empey)

Watching Keisha Rae Witherspoon's T, Raafi Rivero's Re//Connections, AV Rockwell's Feathers, and Iyabo Kwayana's Practice with a full house at Black Star Film Festival. Best place in the world to watch a movie. (Tafoya)

I had two great experiences this year.  One was watching Tammy and the T-Rex at the Knoxville Horror Film Fest.  I haven't laughed that hard at a movie in a long time.  Second was seeing Once Upon A Time... in Hollywood at the Alamo Drafthouse in Raleigh.  Drafthouses are simply the best. (Lonano)

Being in the first audience for “The Irishman” at Alice Tully Hall, sitting with some of my best and oldest friends, feeling like I was witnessing a little piece of movie history even before my personal cinematic Mount Rushmore walked onstage for the Q&A. (Burns)

The theatrical experience is at its core a communal one. No other trip to the theater in 2019 caused me to feel this more than seeing Avengers: Endgame on opening night. The room was packed with people from all walks of life, who were completely enamored with what they saw on screen. They gasped, cheered, and cried at every appropriate moment, culminating with enthusiastic applause at the start of the end credits. There was a lot of talk in 2019 about the value of superhero films and whether they are “cinema” or not. I think any film genre that can so strongly bring back the communal aspect of going to the movies deserves to be labeled as “cinema” without question. (Essary)

Is it possible to be surprised by the cinema anymore?

I think so, if you allow yourself to watch the film and become swept up in it, not detach from it. I’m sometimes surprised by where a story goes, even if it incorporates themes or scenes that we’ve seen before or that are similar to other films – I mean, everything’s been done before, right? But it’s how the story is told THIS TIME that counts. How those pieces and parts are woven together. (Gangrene)

Yeah, but I wish it happened more.  (Tafoya)

I think so. Sure, maybe the only really surprising thing I saw this year was Avengers: Endgame, whose insanely silly time-travel plot full of nothing but fan service was very surprising to see. (Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood's ending would have surprised me if it wasn't simply a retread of the ending of one of his other movies.) Certainly, neither of these was as surprising as, say Swiss Army Man, which is the last time I think something made me drop my jaw and think, "wow, cinema can just be this now.” (Dykeman)

No. (Henderson)

Waves actually struck me as a subtle but profound paradigm shift in how we see and tell traditional narratives and cultural ideologies, and one that could only be attempted in the crux of our current condition. But I’ve been most surprised in the ongoing process of cinema as time travel. Sure, movies are always time capsules, but the quality of certain restored archival prints continually surprises me by bringing the past so vividly and immediately to life. The greatest example of this I experienced this year was the 70mm footage of Apollo 11, a humanistic and hopeful tribute to humanity’s ambition and achievement that wowed me unlike anything else I saw this year. (S. Smith)

Possible? More like integral or essential. Surprise (as well as delight, engagement, challenge, somewhere in there) is one of the main reasons I've devoted so much of my adult life to film-going. Even an oft-viewed classic can (and should) surprise. For instance, a September screening of M--it was like something new and wonderful all over again. (Manzler)

My main surprise comes now from finding out what random films appear to be uploaded on Amazon Prime with almost no notice. (Lichman)

Yes! One needn’t be cynical, one need just look deeper, beyond one’s initial line of sight. (Or, lower your expectations and you will always be surprised!) (Turner)

Yes, but it rarely, at least in terms of commercial/blockbuster offerings. The makers of these assume audiences need and want constant explosion, furor, bogus controversy and spectacle rather than the truly surprising things in life: people encountering unusual situations, learning about each other in moments of crisis, etc. (Wynn)

Yes: Gemini Man in 3D 120FPS. (N. Smith)

It’s all about the willingness to be surprised, to me. Cinema will always surprise those who want to be surprised. We’re only about 100 years into the medium as a product in mass culture. We’ve certainly seen plenty of incredible films over the last hundred years, but the medium continues to bristle with life. You just have to open yourself to the possibility that, on any given night, you might see the best movie you’ve ever seen. Those that bemoan that film is running out of gas aren’t going to the movies. Any given week these days, you could find something great. The surprise, and the cinema, are alive and well. (Woodroof)

It’s always possible to surprised by the cinema! Barring some bizarre development — like, say, the destruction of all cameras and screens — I’ll never become someone who thinks only old movies are good, or that cinema is dead. Only the incurious or Republicans think that. (Prigge)

Sometimes it doesn't feel very possible, particularly when you consume a lot of horror films. But as diversity grows in front of and behind the camera, even time-worn ideas and storytelling germs can be approached in new ways. I don't know if the latest superhero or Star Wars movie is going to surprise anyone, but there will always be fresh voices and new ideas on the fringes. (Or at least there will be until Disney controls 100% of the box office.) (Ponder)

It’s sometimes as much surprise as it is pleasure. 2019 was the first year where I got more enjoyment from what older films I was watching vs. what I saw in the theaters/contemporary affair. Usually there are always a few new films that won’t make that happen or not make that discrepancy become apparent. What new titles I’ve cast my vote for (and the few I wish I could include beyond ten) I’ve all enjoyed for various reasons – they each had something that I gravitated toward, a detail or aesthetic or pure chutzpah, that I recognized as I was watching. The top few of the bunch are all surprising in what they are at face value, but have that transcendent quality at the heart of the best movies. There were other changes I’ve noticed. I’ve enjoyed most of the comic book films that have populated (and crowded) this past decade, but this year was a first where nothing really registered as before. Both Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola have provided good food for thought, with many people’s responses to them being telling. The biggest issue is implementing the sensibilities of the comic book market onto the movie business. While Marvel and DC have a strong share of the market place, in the comic book world there is still a place for independent titles and creators. With the limited number of films per year that studios release, that ultimately takes up space - a bit like putting an elephant in a jack in the box. I’m not a full apostate on this, but even I’m beginning to have my doubts. What is surprising is not just a matter of pleasure, but what ends up reoccurring. What actor had “their year” (seemingly Florence Pugh and Adam Driver on the basis of quantity). The trends are always unexpected. This was the year of the Gospel Film: everything old is new again. Between the resurrection of Amazing Grace, the restoration of Say Amen, Somebody, and the reverie of Jesus Is Lord, there was enough joy, emotion, music, and power of the human spirit to go around. I think the Grateful Dead said it best: “Once in a while you get shown the light/in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” Really, it’s a question that will always be asked. The Death of Cinema is always being discussed and endlessly calculated. As Climax and the ending of The Image Book wonderfully demonstrate, if you’re going to go out, go out dancing. (Spence)

The directors who say "It's all been done before" will never be the ones to do something new. I was surprised by Long Day's Journey Into Night 3D, Parasite, An Elephant Sitting Still, and One Cut of the Dead. (Youngblood)

Of course, it is. Was anyone really expecting the nightmarish feline people of Tom Hooper’s Cats? Weren’t people caught off guard that in a year filled with great performances, maybe be the very best one came from Adam Sandler of all people? There will always be pleasant surprises and befuddling mistakes made when creative people are allowed to make bold decisions.  (Essary)

Constantly. (Nolan)

Yes! I was aghast at the rampant, hilarious homosexuality of The Lighthouse in a prestige horror film. I was surprised by Tarantino's introspective and reserved take on Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. The last shot of Midsommar made me scream with glee. I was certainly surprised by the sheer cowardice and stammeringly uninspired "storytelling" of The Rise of Skywalker. (Hudson)

Absolutely. There are so many ways to access indie releases these days, which means we get more films from people who have traditionally been marginalized. And how can you sit through the emotional buffet that is Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite and not feel surprised? I think you’d have to be dead inside, or at least depressingly cynical. The cure for both is more movies. (Ciccarone)

I was legit surprised by Happy Death Day 2 U turning what should've been a sequel cash-in to a throwaway horror comedy into a dense, tightly-plotted absurdist sci-fi trip. in 2019 we were all convinced time or reality itself had come out of joint and this movie told us we were right all along. Dorm room classic in the making. (Leavitt)

Yes, but studios aren’t even trying to surprise people anymore. The filmmakers who still wanna take risks are taking their acts over to places like Netflix — and it’s beginning to look like Hollywood is getting fed up with that shit. (Notice how The Irishman and Marriage Story were practically shut out at the Globes.) (Lindsey)

I'm one of the guys who avoids trailers if at all possible, so I still find myself surprised. I think seeing films at film festivals is the best way to view them, because you often have absolutely no idea what you're in for and when it's a great film, it makes it an extra special experience. (Mahaffey)

Ask Marielle Heller, Peter Strickland, Mati Diop, even ol' pro Mike Leigh, cuz they sure seem to know how to do it. (Adams)

Sure. I think people were genuinely surprised by just how bad Cats is. (Sicinski)

Of course. There are still so many great ideas left to be imagined. And with artificial intelligence already at our fingertips, we should expect many surprises ahead. (Minton)

Of course!  You just need to dig a little deeper to find some great surprises.  I was completely surprised by the film Dial Code Santa Claus.  I thought it would be a schlocky bad Christmas cult movie but it was so much more than that.  I don't use the word "masterpiece" often, but Dial Code Santa Claus was a masterpiece. (Lonano)

The answer to this question says more about oneself than cinema. (Erickson)

It absolutely is -- just look at films like Parasite -- but what's being lost is the opportunity for people to experience that surprise collectively, with more and more things going to streaming to make room for Disney and such.  (Adlakha)

What’s the performance (human, animal, CG, or otherwise) that made the biggest impression on you in a 2019 film?

Elisabeth Moss' extraordinary work in Her Smell is so far above what any actor put on any screen big or small this year it's absolute and utter nonsense that she's been all but ignored by the people handing out prizes for such things who profess to know a thing or two about acting. (Adams)

Florence Pugh in Midsommar. (Lonano)

Julia Butters in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood as the alternate timeline Jodie Foster, Trudi Fraser. The two Lupitas in Us. Every woman in Bombshell. (Hudson)

Octavia Spencer in Ma. I’ve seen her in a few films, usually in a prominent supporting role. With Ma, I got to see an actress unleashed, having fun in how far she can go. She is able to portray normalcy (never let it be said that Ma doesn’t like to party)– but when someone turns away, Ma’s true face shows: the cold unnerving steadiness of horror, with a clockwork mind. Watching what she ends up doing was one of the enjoyable experiences I had in a theater last year. One of my favorite discoveries of the past few years is What’s the Matter with Helen? Between it and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, I’ve realized I’m susceptible to Psycho-biddy, Grande Dame Guignol, whatever you wish to call it. Spencer with Ma, and Isabelle Huppert in Greta to a similar degree, scratch that nerve. I’m all for seasoned actresses being in roles that push your expectations and show off their skills and abilities. Doing it with style and terrifying you doesn’t hurt either. (Spence)

There are two: Adèle Haenel in Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Florence Pugh in Midsommar. The former was not a surprise, as I'd seen her in a handful of other films and knew to expect something strong, nuanced, and terrific (for my money, she's one of–if not THE–the best of her generation). Midsommar was the first time I'd seen Florence Pugh, though, and I was stunned; she's magnificent as Dani and she absolutely carries the film. It's another of those performances that makes you lament the lack of love horror receives on the award circuit–if there were any justice, she'd be getting nominations. (Ponder)

Both Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes came back with a vengeance in Dolemite Is My Name. (Lindsey)

Mothra in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Kyliegh Curran in Doctor Sleep, Ana de Armas in Knives Out, Julia Fox in Uncut Gems, Da’Vine Joy Randolph in Dolemite Is My Name, Taylor Russell in Waves, Renée Zellweger in Judy, Mary Kay Place in Diane, honestly this list goes on and on and on. (McQuiston)

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet and Michael B. Jordan in Just Mercy because they portrayed larger than life figures in the struggle for social justice and human dignity and displayed both their strengths and vulnerabilities. Joaquin Phoenix portraying a brilliant, yet undeniably insane figure in Joker. He brought an extremely well crafted dimension to presenting mental illness, showing the psychotic, yet compelling sides of an extremely scary individual. (Wynn)

Considering his Star Wars-excepted body of work, Adam Driver may well be the finest (male) actor of his generation, with Paterson and now Marriage Story the peaks. His immersive, thought-through portrayal of Marriage's Charlie, a controlling, uncomprehending egoist, somehow allows the audience to understand and even empathize with his emotional struggle to accept an outcome preordained in the film's first half-hour. (Manzler)

Jonathan Majors in The Last Black Man in San Francisco. He has to play so many different (and odd) notes, and he does so flawlessly. (Henderson)
Dev Patel as “Jay” in The Wedding Guest. Not only is he immediately imposing but he shifts the tone in moments as the film shifts constantly from thriller to heist to love story and then a modern noir. (Lichman)

Shia LeBeouf in Honey Boy. One of my favorite things is a deeply personal and meta work of filmmaking about an artist’s own life, and it was very powerful to see Shia arrive here with this performance and screenplay, recontextualizing a decade of seemingly-pretentious performance art as a vulnerable public quest for self-love. (S. Smith)

Lupita Nyong'o convincingly portrays two very different characters in Us, in a way that makes one rethink the nature of identity. (Erickson)

Brad Pitt in Ad Astra is everyone's dad. (Adlakha)

Young Will Smith in Gemini Man, Joshua Burge in Relaxer, and Paul Walter Hauser in Richard Jewell. (N. Smith)

Alfre Woodard in Clemency. (Youngblood)

Awwww, Baby Yoda! No, just kidding. It's either Elisabeth Moss in Her Smell or Bill Camp in Dark Waters, but Sandler in Uncut Gems...he did something there, that's for sure. (Sicisnki)

Rosa Salazar as Alita in Alita: Battle Angel (Davison)

Witnessing the powerful example of shared intimacy between men in The Last Black Man in San Francisco. Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors' performances were beautiful and healing. (Minton)

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite is My Name, Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, Pacino and Pesci in The Irishman. The Meryl Streep double reveal at the end of The Laundromat was great. Renee Zellwegger was remarkable as Judy Garland. Little Women gave us the best ensemble performance of the year. Theron's transformational turn in Bombshell. Shia LeBeouf was great in Honey Boy. Sandler was rock solid in Uncut Gems. Willem Defoe was so good in The Lighthouse. Including Robbie and Paquin it was a remarkable year for acting, overall.  (Nolan)

Leonardo DiCaprio as “Rick Dalton” in Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood. DiCaprio externalizes the fear of every aging creative who worries that their best days are behind them. He is a bundle of vulnerable masculinity and that is not a thing you see very often from big stars in big-budget films.  (Essary)

I loved Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood. But as good as he was it was the other pit, Brandy the pit bull, who stole that show.  (Gangrene)

Probably Paul Walter Hauser in Richard Jewell but also Sid Haig in 3 From Hell. (Tafoya)

There’s been a resurgence in film discourse lately about “10 Worst Film” lists and what sort of purpose they serve. What are your thoughts on the subject?

I mean, don't make shitty movies, but also, what are we, Rex Reed? Surely there's a productive way to talk about how bad movies should be better. Write your pan when the movie is new and then get the fuck over it. (Tafoya)

I am mostly apathetic; they can be fun to write (I did them when I was younger), but I suppose I am more interested in using my energies as a writer to advocate for films I love and/or find interesting. (Turner)

"Best" and "Worst" are so subjective these days. I probably enjoy the "worst" things every bit as much as I enjoy the "best" things. It seems like one's energy might be better put towards celebrate the things you love than tearing down a piece of art that you don't understand, don't enjoy, or just think is legitimately bad, ya know cause the world's on fire. That said, I don't mind calling out something as "the worst" when it's politically corrupt, dangerously dumb, or absolutely bereft of soul or vision. That's right. I'm talking to you, Loqueesha. (Hall)

Why waste your time? "Worst" and "bad" is subjective, but in an even more boring, bullying way than "best" or "good" is, and usually represents nothing more than a catalog of the racism and misogyny of an era (I'm looking at you, 1997 Razzie Nomination for Tori Spelling in The House of Yes - go to hell!). (Hudson)

10 worst lists are what they are. If someone, earnestly, writes about ten films that disappointed them or that they found lackluster, then by all means, write away. Negative criticism done in good faith can be some of the best pieces to read. But too often, people use them as launching pads for lazy takes, bloodletting, cheap shots and general antagonism. Most of them stoop to that, so their regression might not be such a bad thing. (Woodroof)

I put them together when I had a job where that was required. Depending on the year they can be justified, or at least fun. They usually included a Dinesh D’Souza film at the top, because those films objectively make the world worse. For the most part I don’t watch bad new movies, because I’m not being paid to. But if this post is referring to “most overrated lists,” like Owen Gleiberman’s notorious one in Variety at 2019’s end, then that piece is not the one that will render these lists necessary, or even decent reads. (Prigge)
I hate them. They’re pointless nihilistic insulting click bait. (Skipper)
Outside of clicks/ad revenue, what kind of purpose DO they serve? If there is some sort of larger reason for the list–maybe examining why a movie turned out to be a misfire, for example, or tying a box office flop to box office trends–then maybe they're worthwhile. Are they trying to find value in the “worst” films, or look at them in a new light? Outside of a different approach, I don't know what kind of conversation they'd incite beyond “Yup, that movie's bad, and if you like it you should feel bad.” Can't the internet tap out on that kind of content for a while? (Ponder)
I enjoy doing one every year and do not give a flying eff what Film Twitter thinks about my doing so. (Henderson)
They serve no useful or worthwhile purpose in my view. They're great for those who value snark, ridicule and humiliation. (Wynn)

Every time I think about the concept of a “worst list” I realize we’re at a point where a majority of film writers champion Heaven’s Gate and Ishtar now. These were films considered so bad that they were cultural touchpoints--for most of my generation--and now we enjoy them. So I don’t see much use of a “worst list” aside from trying to game the YouTube algorithm and smashing that like button. The scary concept though is in twenty years people will hail The Fanatic as Travolta’s best work. (Lichman)

It comes down to approach. Ideally, where a “Best of” should highlight and discuss titles keen to a contributor or entity, a “Worst of” is better off discussing the whys of what’s in it. What I would designate the worst film of 2019 isn’t even bad: it was massively disappointing, considering the potential it had and the amount of talent involved. That I found worst than some films that had more stupid parts to them. To borrow a line: “Shit has its own integrity.” Reserve the shooting gallery for those who truly earn it. (Spence)

Looking back, what the hell were the Razzies thinking when they nominated The Shining as one of the worst films of 1980? But even if I strongly disagree with that choice, it seems better than picking on films that everyone now agrees are trash. On social media, anger gets rewarded, while expressing enthusiasm draws crickets. "10 Worst Film" lists only have much point to me if they're made of films whose placement someone would disagree with, instead of picking the lowest-rated films on Rotten Tomatoes for 2019. But even then, you're guaranteed to get far more attention starting a Twitter thread about "the most overrated films" or "the worst films made by great directors" than "the most underrated films" or "the best films made by average directors." We're too cynical and numb. (Erickson)

If you saw ten movies that you thought were serious, straight-up ass, CALL THEM MUHFUCKAS OUT! (Lindsey)

Unfortunately, hate-clicks are a good way to keep the lights on. I don't like the idea, and I find it distasteful, but so much of the worst discourse online is a function of entertainment journalism slowly taking on water. It's hard out here for everyone. (Adlakha)

I am conflicted.  I don't like when outsider films like The Room and Dangerous Men are included on worst film lists because they are in a different league.  But when bigger budget films are just awful, then I feel it's necessary to create worst film lists.  (Lonano)

I don’t have a need for it honestly. I think the idea of ‘Worst” and “Best” is subjective and rarely do I see those lists or the critics who make them have the capability of being objective. I also don’t go into a movie with the intent of picking it apart or mining it for things to hate. I try to always find things I liked about it. Doesn’t mean I turn a blind eye to flaws, but I think it is important to recognize just because something isn’t for you, doesn’t mean it is a bad. (McQuiston)

As a critic, the last thing I want to be is a hater. But I also reserve the right to evaluate films and, if they’re lacking, to say so. But I try not be an asshole about it. (Shawhan)

I think they are nonsense. It is incredibly easy to tear down someone’s hard work and too often “Worst of” lists are just an excuse for the writer to try to show how witty they are and failing miserably. Even worse, they are usually aimed at boring multiplex fare (that aren't close to being the worst of the year) and give zero insight into the films they are savaging. Any person who loves movies would much rather spend their time celebrating the stuff they adored. (Essary)

They’re lame. A fair and honest critique is one thing, reveling in a “worst-of” list is amateur hour antics. (Gangrene)

We should seek to eliminate clickbait in all its forms. (Leavitt)

Which of the year’s Florence Pugh performances (Midsommar, Fighting With My Family, Little Women, The Little Drummer Girl) resonated the most with you?

Midsommar, she was having a terrible time and I was here for every second of it. (Leavitt)

Midsommar, as Pugh is tasked with both processing grief in silence and finding ways to subvert the stoicism of traditionally American funeral traditions, as she shares the most painful parts of her experience in ways that are often taboo in the west. (Adlakha)

Little Women (Davison)

Pugh is great in Midsommar, but the film was one of the year's biggest disappointments. She's just as great in Little Women which is one of the best films of the year. (Nolan)

Fighting with my Family. (Tafoya)

Little Women. Pugh made Amy more complicated than the other film versions did. I do wish that, rather than burning Jo’s manuscript, Amy had burned Laurie in a bear carcass instead. There’s always the sequel. (Henderson)

Midsommar - with all three demonstrating the facets of one of the best new actors today. I saw all three films respectively in theatrical order, but I didn’t even realize that the person I saw in Midsommar was the same person I saw in Fighting With My Family until after the fact, which is a testament to the power of acting. There’s so much going on with her portrayal of Dani and she exemplifies and explores all the highs and lows. What sealed the deal was being witness to crying of a different caliber: madness, grief, joy, all in the mix. The whole movie would not work without her. Little Women earns a place in the Canon of Cinematic Younger Siblings. Her Amy is a joy to watch. The facial expressions she gives when Jo and Meg return home from the theatre are masterful, to use just one word. It gets the short-end as a result, but Fighting with my Family has to be given its props. It was my first exposure to her, and she convinced me with her verisimilitude. Professional wrestling will always be the odd child of the art world, and I’m all for more films that respect the business and know what makes it unique. (Spence)

Florence Pugh in Little Women is some of the finest acting of 2019. The way she evolves her character into one of the film’s many pillars of strength. She grows so fast in such a small space, and when it comes time for her to bring it all home for her character’s arc, she does so in fine fashion. (Woodroof)
Midsommar (Director’s Cut). (Lichman)

I thought it was Midsommar, because of her uncanny knack for showing bottomless pain and rage, but every time she did anything in Little Women it was worth watching. (Prigge)

While her lovely work in Little Women finally made sense of an impossible character, her impossible work crafting a lovely character steeped in blinding white nonsense in Midsommar was the real jaw-dropper -- Dani's derangement feels so deeply empathetic we wince. (Adams)

Midsommar for sure. There were a lot of aspects about her character and the emotional toll her relationships had on her that really landed. Specifically, constantly apologizing for how she felt because it made other people uncomfortable. Which is an issue that I think many women struggle with on a regular basis. (McQuiston)

Little Women. I haven’t seen the previous versions, so I don’t know the whole history with Amy. But her performance made me go, “Yeah, I get it now.” (Lindsey)

She has such a phenomenal, diverse year.  Anyway, the one that resonated the most with me is her work in Midsommar. I mean, who hasn’t dealt with a break up that was long overdue or been invited to friend’s family gathering where you felt totally out of place at first but then ended up having a pretty good time once you relaxed and went with the flow?  (Essary)

Midsommar. Her character is depressed America. (Erickson)

Little Women especially spoke to me; on the one hand, it is about how being a writer kind of sucks but is also beautiful, and how it can be the only thing one knows how to be and how one can live, but you can’t really live as a writer because writing doesn’t pay, haha! On the other, with respect to Pugh’s Amy, it’s really quite magnificent in how clear-eyed Amy must be about her place in the world as a woman, and the opportunities she must take to find security, in a deeply unromantic way.  (Turner)

I would like the record to reflect that Florence Pugh is an angel from hell, we don't deserve her, and that smirk at the end of Midsommar completely shifts the film, its story, our takeaway, and the experience of watching it. She is brilliant. (Hudson)

What’s your preferred non-theatrical means of watching film?

Hard to beat the ease of access of Netflix on Apple TV. (Adlakha)

At home with friends, using a Blu-ray or 4K disc. That way you aren’t limited by shallow streaming service libraries or their mediocre A/V quality. Plus, once the film is over, you have good people to talk about the film with right there. It makes for a nice evening when going out feels like too much trouble. (Essary)

At home, on Blu-Ray, with motion smoothing and all those factory settings turned-off and obliterated. (Hudson)

On TV at home, whether it's streaming or physical media. I'll watch a movie on my computer if it's absolutely necessary (for a review or some such), but it's not a method I opt for willingly. And I'd rather stare blankly into space than watch a film on my phone. Movies are still “events” for me, to some extent, and I try to treat them accordingly. (Ponder)

The only time I’ve been tempted by the cult of no physical media is seeing a friend’s Kodi setup with all the searching and the key art and the crossreferencing. It was seductive- for a moment. But honestly, I’ll watch anything just any way if it’s something interesting. (Shawhan)

During any situation where I can pause to go to the bathroom. (Leavitt)

In my house, on my television. With snacks available when desired. (McQuiston)

On my home theatre setup. (Skipper)
Whatever works. I don’t know what I would do without the Nashville Public Library system. Its only disadvantage, besides the occasional wait, is the roulette of disc quality – will it play or will it skip?
Streaming is a part of my life, although I lean on it off and on. I’ve used Google Play more than I have Netflix or Amazon. (Spence)
I like to watch on a good laptop with my headphones on and the lights off.  (Turner)
On my laptop. It’s not so much “preferred” as “necessary.” (Henderson)
In theory, the proliferation of streaming options is both boon and bounty, the democratization of a medium/art-form which proffered a distant Xanadu rumored in specialty publications and chat rooms. But in practice, as a large market resident, I saw all but a handful of my 200+ film list in theater--once again, sacred space. (Manzler)
The theater in our basement.  (Dykeman)

Through sleepy eyes, curled up next to a lover on a comfy sofa surrounded by snacks. (Hayes)

Physical media.  I've bought more Blu-Rays this year than ever before.  Boutique labels like Criterion, Arrow, Vinegar Syndrome and more are doing incredible work and I must collect them all! (Lonano)

My projector, my roll-up screen, and my couch. (Adams)

On blu-ray, at my house. Proper aspect ratio, no interruptions, and I can pause (or rewind) as needed! (Gangrene)


What can you say? It’s an impassioned disaster, all at once the future midnight darling people will claim is misunderstood masterpiece, Xanadu meeting Heaven’s Gate and Joe’s Apartment at a party thrown by Batman Forever-era Joel Schumacher. It’s also a bit boring and loses its macabre fascination as it heads toward Grizabella’s final ascension. Tom Hooper was the exact wrong director for this film, and I think this could’ve actually worked in much weirder hands. But because it’s a Hooper film, it’s the weirdest it could’ve possibly been? I won’t ever watch it again, but the memories will linger. (Woodroof)
I think it’s like Cursed Image: The Movie, and frankly, despite its numerous flaws on a craft level, I am delighted by its unhingedness. It’s deranged and horrifying but so fascinating, perhaps the most authentic piece of camp I have seen in years, especially since Ryan Murphy bastardized the term.  (Turner)

I have zero interest in it. That said, I do applaud it for the over the top zaniness. If you’re going to make a movie like that you might as well go all-in. (Gangrene)

In The Spanish Prisoner Rebecca Pidgeon's character one time exclaims, "Well dog my cats," and that's all I have to say about that. (Adams)

I mean the obvious response is, “what were they thinking?”. To look at it more critically though, I hope its failure sends a message to studios about rushing incomplete films to meet preset release dates or trying to mine consumer dollars with vague intellectual property name recognition. It probably won’t though. I’m sure we are about two years away from a narrative film based on Starlight Express.  (Essary)

Excuse you, that's TOM HOOPER's Cats. (Adlakha)

Hah, no. (Tafoya)

Cats embodies 2019 as the year of the Flop. As we saw countless mega-ultra tentpoles and franchise reboots sputter and collapse under their own weight while indies and little films thrived, we have to wonder: is the behemoth of corporate capitalist film green around around the gills? Only time will tell, comrades. (Leavitt)  

What films made you cry this year?

I don’t cry often due to movies. It does happen, but it takes those mysterious specifics and events to make it occur. I cried in the same section of E.T. I always cry at, only this time was different. On this viewing Elliott’s short speech over E.T.’s body hit me tremendously hard. In regards to new releases this year (let’s call them “Greatest Misses,” since they were close, but no tears or crying), two come to mind. I never would have guessed I would get the most emotional from of all movies Happy Death Day 2U. It presents a scenario that I’m sure many have thought about: someone you love and care for is alive again, and you are able to talk and ask all the questions you’ve wanted to ask them as you’ve gotten older. The shot of Nai Nai waving goodbye in The Farewell is brief but devastating. Seeing Singin’ in the Rain theatrically for the first time made me quite emotional. I’ll use this section to say: Nothing has been sadder than dealing with Anna Karina’s death. (Spence)

Gosh, what didn’t make me cry… Gemini Man, Little Women, Knife + Heart, Sorry Angel, The Goldfinch, The Farewell, The Beach Bum, Hustlers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Portrait of a Lady on Fire…. I should probably seek treatment.  (Turner)

I’ll just say Playmobil: The Movie so someone scrolling past this gets very confused. (Lichman)

Speaking of Cats, I almost teared up when Francesca Hayward sang “Beautiful Ghosts” — aka the only song in that thing that wasn’t 40 freakin’ years old. (I wonder if Taylor Swift knows her version of her own song is trash.) (Lindsey)
A Bread Factory, Daniel Isn’t Real, Diane, First Cow, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Light from Light, Little Women, Retrospekt, Rocketman, Varda by Agnès, The Wild Pear Tree. (Shawhan)
Harriet, Queen & Slim, Last Black Man In San Francisco. (Wynn)
JoJo Rabbit, Amazing Grace, Judy, Tell Me Who I Am, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood just to name a few. Despite how I come across in person, I am very much an emotional viewer in the theater. (McQuiston)
Literally.... all of them. From Toy Story 4 to Little Women, my tears have flooded nearly every cinema in the greater Nashville area this year. Top 3 ugly cries were: 1. Waves 2. The Nightingale 3. Last Black Man in San Francisco . (Hayes)
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Bombshell, us, Hustlers, Knife + Heart, Little Women. (Hudson)
New? The Irishman. Old? Click. Both times I watched it in 2019. (N. Smith)
Dan Sallitt's FOURTEEN, which I hope some distributor picks up for 2020. It ought to be seen far and wide. (Sicinski)
Little Women, Marriage Story, The Farewell. (Rodgers)

The first time I saw 17 Blocks, my favorite film of the year, was a less than optimal setting: on a computer monitor, in an office cubicle, under fluorescent lights. Still, the movie cut through all of that, and I found myself crying at my desk. Later, during the Nashville Film Festival, I cried through watching the movie again, and the director and I cried through our Q&A. One time I got choked up just telling someone about the film. I probably also shed some tears during the films Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops as well as Rewind. The only narrative I can think of that got me choked up was during the film Yesterday, when a surprise person showed up in the third act, and I contemplated the overwhelmingness of chaos theory.  (Dykeman)

The Nightingale, The Last Black Man In San Francisco, The Farewell, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, Judy, Honey Boy (Minton)

Godzilla: King of the Monsters when Mothra sacrificed herself so Godzilla could continue his struggle. (Cosner)

Most of them, but the queer desire in Portrait of a Lady on Fire completey shook me. Céline Sciamma and Adèle Haenel are both angelic geniuses. If you go see this film, which I believe is playing at the Belcourt in the near future, you’ll emerge a better person. (Ciccarone)

Jojo Rabbit when Jojo tied his mother’s shoes. Full waterworks. (Essary)

What are you most looking forward to in 2020?

At the moment, Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman from the Criterion Collection. (Lonano)

Besides Charlie Kaufman writing and directing a new film (!!!!!!!) I'm gonna go with what's next for the stars of Little Women -- Saoirse Ronan in a lesbian romance with Kate Winslet in Ammonite from the director of God's Own Country! Timothee Chalamet spicing it up in Dune! Florence Pugh Action Hero in Black Widow! And Laura Dern playing dino-expert Ellie Satler again! (Adams)

Not having to review half the shit I’m probably going to have to review. (Henderson)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire February 14th and Mulan March 27th. (Minton)

Just like last year, a new film by Charlie Kaufman (apparently, it's actually coming this year), as well as a new Edgar Wright film. Not that it matters what I'm anticipating. I wasn't anticipating 90% of my favorite films of this year, and I'm glad after decades in film that I can still find so many unexpected things that I enjoy.  (Dykeman)

There are so many things to look forward to! We are getting new films from directors like Edgar Wright with Last Night in SoHo and Christopher Nolan with Tenet to just name a couple. We’ll also be getting new films from international acting superstars like Rajinikanth and Ma Dong-seok. The one thing I look forward to most though is the unknown. Every year, there is some film or performance we never anticipated that knocks us all on our butts. I can’t wait to see what that will be for 2020. (Essary)
Hopefully a positive election outcome. (Skipper)
I was honestly surprised by how many movies I really loved this year. I hope that repeats itself this year. Specific films? Tenet, Bill & Ted Face the Music, Last Night in Soho, Godzilla vs. Kong, Dune. Oh, and Agnes. And not just for personal reasons.  (McQuiston)
Dune. (Nolan)
Godzilla vs Kong because I want to see Godzilla and Kong duke it out in a massively budgeted and SFX laden duel. (Davison)