A brief Editor’s note: It’s been an eye-opening year for me, personally and professionally. Professionally, especially, as this year I oversaw the launch of Brief Take, an entertainment digital magazine that I’ve dreamed about for a very long time. After over six years of contributing content, acting as a full-time community manager, pitching and editing articles/reviews/listicles at a number of established sites, it was time to branch out. With a small, but dedicated team, I was excited for a new chapter in my life. That excitement, however, quickly turned into a feeling of hopelessness, as I questioned the morality of people I thought I knew. Female publicists stopped answering my emails, but responded flirtatiously (and quickly) when my male colleague sent them the EXACT same emails that I had sent that day. Not one or two or even three female publicists either. MANY. Male site founders, with whom I had long established good working relationships, now suggested strongly to publicists (behind my back) that my work should no longer be validated and even questioned why I received the same opportunities that they did (this after knowing full well that I worked damn hard at other sites for years). In fact more than one site founder openly complains to whoever will listen that I shouldn’t have the interviews or contests or screening access that he does. All of this because I decided to have my own entertainment magazine after 6+ years of hard work on others’ sites. Gee, the gall of me!
My own professional struggle to re-gain industry respect is minuscule, however, when compared to the struggles women in the entertainment industry (every industry, really) have faced this year and for countless years prior. No matter what you’re going through, we need to start *really* listening to one another and supporting one another (women especially). Mutual respect is the bare minimum that we each deserve in our personal and professional lives. Imagine the things we could accomplish if we each had a support system and stopped using and abusing one another.
And rant over. Let’s get to the movies! Here are the films that made me feel empowered, enamoured and just gave me all the feels (in a year where every day the news made me feel more and more numb).
10) The Square
Ruben Östlund followed up his scathing take on toxic masculinity, Force Majeure, with the Palme d’Or winning The Square. The film is a highly intelligent, satirical look at our relationship with art and with each other, and I’ve been talking about it since I saw it at a pre-TIFF screening.
9) Get Out
Jordan Peele’s multi-layered psychological horror film has not only the best original screenplay of the year but also one of the year’s best acting performances in Daniel Kaluuya’s tour de force work.
8) The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
I haven’t been too keen on Noah Baumbach’s past few films but there’s so much truth and heart in his Netflix original film and it’s stayed with me ever since I saw it. Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and Elizabeth Marvel (as the Meyerowitz siblings) have never been better.
7) The Beguiled
One in a series of women-stuck-in-houses-that-are-really-metaphors-for-something films that came out this year, this artful movie has been unfairly criticized since it was awarded best director (for Sofia Coppola) at Cannes in May. Beautifully crafted and acted, it’s the best depiction of how women and men beguile and confound one another.
6) Lady Macbeth
Initially I wanted to group The Beguiled, Lady Macbeth and Phantom Thread as one entry, but to explain why would spoil the ending of each of the films. William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth should have won the Platform prize at TIFF last year but at this point I’ll be happy if it gains an audience on home entertainment. Florence Pugh gives a revelatory performance and is definitely an actress to watch.
5) Phantom Thread
If Paul Thomas Anderson filmed Daniel Day-Lewis reading the telephone book for two hours, I’d probably list it as one of my favourite movies of the year, to be honest. In his latest film (rumoured to be Day-Lewis’ swan song), Anderson tackles gender dynamics and the necessity of control in relationships with an electrifying pas de deux by Gutland‘s Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis.
4) The Florida Project
These next three films had me wiping away tears while the end credits rolled. Give Brooklynn Prince all the awards, please, (at the very least make her a presenter at every award show).
Dee Rees’ Mudbound is the most faithful book adaptation of the year and shook me to the core for days after seeing it. Hoyte van Hoytema (Dunkirk) and Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049) are the presumed favourites for best cinematography of the year but Rachel Morrison’s work on this film could easily best them.
2) Call Me By Your Name
In Shakespeare in Love, when Dame Judi Dench’s Queen Elizabeth bets Colin Firth’s weaselly character that no work of art could possibly portray true love, obviously she was a few hundred years too early for Call Me By Your Name, which sumptuously captures the beauty, thrills and heartache of an all-encompassing love affair. If this film doesn’t make your heart soar, nothing will.
1) The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro’s heartfelt love letter to cinema and the power of acceptance, The Shape of Water is a dazzling blend of Beauty and the Beast, Amelie and early-career GDT, set to an exquisite, Chaplin-esque score by Alexandre Desplat. Give Sally Hawkins the Oscar, already.
Runners-Up (in no particular order):
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Last Flag Flying
John Wick: Chapter 2