Published: 10:19, 18 December 2019
From Joker to The Irishman, 2019 has been a big year for film.
Here, KM Group cinema writer Mike Shaw gives us his Top 10 films of the year:
I was at a Christmas party the night before the election and there were more arguments over the best films of the year than there were over politics. Much like the election, bluster and aggression did little to sway my decision, much to the irritation of a particularly passionate Avengers fan. So here, in no particular order, are my Top 10 films of the year.
Joker was the most talked-about film of the year, and deservedly so. Hands were wrung, one-star reviews were given and cinemagoers were warned off watching such a dangerous film. Despite all the cautionary notices, there were no human sacrifices, dogs and cats are still mortal enemies and Joker became the first R-rated movie to make a billion dollars at the box office. For all the fuss, Joker is a relatively simple story: a sad, mentally-ill clown is rejected by society and lashes out. But what a clown. Joaquin Phoenix's performance is mesmerising, moving and chilling. The film feels closer to Taxi Driver than anything in the Batman canon. It's phenomenal.
2. Apollo 11
There have been plenty of documentaries about the moon landing, but it's fitting that in this 50th anniversary year, this film should land. This documentary about the mission was made entirely with incredibly high-resolution archival footage, and that somehow makes 1969 simultaneously look like last year but feel like a thousand years ago. There is no narration, and there are no interviews, it's just the actual footage of three men on a mission to the moon, and it's stunning.
3. Marriage Story
Noah Baumbach's story about a splintering marriage is a love story about divorce. Both Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver turn in some of the very best performances of their careers. They're heartbreakingly good, and by the end of the film, you're rooting for both parties in this film that shows both sides of a sad story.
4. At Eternity's Gate
Julian Schnabel's film is the most visually-unique work on this list. Telling the story of Van Gogh, Willem Dafoe's portrayal of the tortured artist won him his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor. The actor is at his very best here, engulfed in Van Gogh's emotional turmoil. It's a beautiful, turbulent film that splashes from scene to scene, and leaves the viewer unsure of what's real and what isn't.
5. Stan & Ollie
In this sweetly charming portrayal of Laurel and Hardy's autumn years, the writing is solid, but it's the acting that makes it a great movie. Playing the legendary comedic duo, Steve Coogan and John C.Reilly don't so much perform as resurrect. It's an affectionate postcard of a time, and style of performance, long since gone.
6. Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story
You'll recognise Frank Sidebottom, but perhaps not Chris Sievey, the man inside Frank's oversized papier-mache head. This wonderful documentary focuses on that man and his drive for stardom, and his subsequent imprisonment by the alter-ego he creates. Sievey was a relentlessly inventive force, and this film surfaces some fascinating examples of his creativity and the damage that did to his loved ones.
Yes, it's a bit idol-worshipping. Yes, it shuffles reality a wee bit. But Rocketman was fun, silly, outrageous and better than Bohemian Rhapsody. Taron Edgerton's portrayal of Elton John is superb, and he doesn't hold anything back in this film.
8. Missing Link
Made by the same people behind The Boxtrolls and Kubo and the Two Strings, Missing Link has the same distinctive stop-motion animation style and offbeat sense of humour. It's a beautifully-crafted, intelligent adventure about Bigfoot and his Yeti cousins, and deserves a larger audience.
9. The Irishman
Usually, films that have been hyped up for years before release end up being a massive disappointment. That wasn't the case with The Irishman. It brings Martin Scorsese back to a cinematic genre he helped define. The trumpeted de-ageing techniques used on stars like Robert De Niro aren't as astonishing as we hoped, but it hardly matters in a film with such a fabulous cast, compelling story and masterful director.
10. Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
This was initially billed as a movie about Charles Manson, but Tarantino uses that as a loose framing technique. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is about an actor's fading star. That actor is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who proved again in this film that he is one of this generation's greatest actors.
It's funny, it's melancholy and - yes - it's violent. It's also Tarantino's best film since Inglourious Basterds.
So there we go, they're my favourites. Let me know what you think on Twitter @mikeshaw101.
See you in 2020.
* Mike Shaw writes for the KM Group's What's On, which is inside paid-for papers across the county weekly.