A strong year at the cinema, helped by being around for the New Zealand International Film Festival for the first time in several years, though I missed plenty of other films during months of travel. In no particular order here are my picks from the 60+ films I saw this year.
Three Identical Strangers
The most unbelievable and disturbing true story of three identical twins in New York City, separated six months after birth. To say anymore would spoil the multiple surprises, but this is a truely fascinating documentary.
An understated Australian gem based on a novel by Tim Winton, Breath is a lovely coming of age story. Avoiding cliches for the most part, it revolves around that most Australian of pastimes, surfing. Beautifully shot and well acted, it brings a fresh look at the challenges and excitement of growing up.
A fascinating documentary about Gurrumul, an unlikely Aboriginal musical star. Blind from birth, he grew up on the remote Elcho Island, off Arnhem Land in North Australia. He ended up as the most successful Aboriginal musician ever despite shunning publicity and interviews, and singing in his native languages (English was his fifth or sixth language). It movingly contrasts western attitudes with Aboriginal.
Solo : A Star Wars Story
It may have been the first Star Wars movie to lose money (given it’s huge development and marketing budget) but I thought it one of the more enjoyable in the series, almost preferring it to the latest trilogy of sequels. It was fun and kept me gripped throughout.
A worthy winner at Cannes, The Square is an exquisite collection of uncomfortably hilarious scenes revolving around the art world. It also had a cheeky marketing move in which some scenes are in English (featured in the trailer), though the majority of the film is in Swedish.
The Death of Stalin
A painfully funny and scarily true to life (though with comic exaggeration) portrayal of the days following the death of Stalin. It treads a very fine line of bringing out comic gold from unbelievably dark times, dark humour at it’s finest.
Small in scale but fully deserving of all the accolades it received, in particular for the well realised mother daughter relationship. It doesn’t necessarily do anything new, but everything is perfectly crafted and portrayed, an exquisite film.
Another pairing (after the modern classic There Will Be Blood) of Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day Lewis produced one of the finest screen portrayals of a relationship, the highs, lows, and compromises required. Brilliantly acted, directed, and produced, it is another modern classic.