The Top 10 Movies of 2019

1 01 2020

176 movies later, and it’s pencils down on the year in film.

Like always, I wait until the very last minute to file a top 10 list. I either want to spend time rewatching films to make sure I think they can withstand scrutiny in the future or cramming in a final few. But with the notable exception of a late-surging final entrant and some jostling for position among the top five titles, my favorite films of the year have been remarkably stable.

I’ll have slightly more profound ruminating around my best of the decade list that will drop shortly than I do here. Normally I opine on some grander theme or mood, perhaps a through-line I find or something else that makes this more than just a random scattering of movies with numbers attached. Turns out, even after celebrating 10 years at doing this in 2019, I may only have enough juice in me for a single year-end thematic list.

Anyways, that’s enough with my chitter-chatter … because, after all, you really just came to know the movies and rankings! Though I alluded to how easy this year’s list was to assemble, I do want to give a shout-out to a few other films that meant a lot in 2019:

  • “Clemency,” an extraordinary look at America’s prison system and the moral choices it forces from all who interact with it – as seen through the eyes of a black woman
  • “Knives Out,” the kind of joyous original entertainment for smart moviegoers that I spend all year carping for more of, delivered with a killer topical twinge
  • “The Irishman,” a film with such multitudes about life, art and death that a single watch feels like only skimming the surface
  • “Transit,” a groundbreaking merger of period piece and current political drama that makes bold aesthetic choices seem simple
  • “High Life,” which taught me more about how to watch a movie than anything I’ve seen outside of a film studies classroom

Now, on with the show…

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Everything I Wrote in 2019

30 12 2019

Marshall Shaffer New York Film FestivalHello friends! A number of you might be getting this because you subscribed to email alerts from Marshall and the Movies way back when. Or maybe you’ve arrived from a social media platform. Either way, it’s very reasonable for you to think, “I know Marshall is writing a lot but don’t know where to find it since it’s not on Marshall and the Movies anymore!”

Well, this post is for YOU!

I’ve collected all my writing from this past year – and even included some writing I did about 2019 films from last year out of film festivals, just to give you a more robust reading list. I’m really proud of the work I did and felt myself grow as a writer, interviewer and thinker. I hope, as always, you can derive some kind of benefit from what I’ve written as well. Be it your next movie night or (if I may be so presumptuous) a new lens on a film or cinema at large, I’m always writing with you in mind. These pieces mean little if not shared with other people!

There will be more from me on this site in the coming days – a best of the decade and best of 2019, at the very least. Thanks for sticking with me in this 10th year of writing, and I know that 2020 and the decade to come hold some very exciting things!

“Smells Like ’10s Spirit” Column

“Smells Like ’10s Spirit” takes a look at the decade in movies through the lens of success stories only made possible by unique trends that emerged. This series explores ten films – one from each year of the 2010s – and a single social, economic or cultural factor that can explain why it made an impact or lingers in the collective memory. Each piece examines a single film that tells the larger story of the tectonic forces reshaping the entertainment landscape as we know it.

How That Iconic Trailer Saved ‘The Social Network’ (2010)

Why ‘Bridesmaids’ Owns the GIF Era of Movie Comedy (2011)

How ‘The Avengers’ Assembled the First Successful Cinematic Universe (2012)

How ‘Blackfish’ Epitomizes the Era of Hashtag Activism (2013)

How ‘The LEGO Movie’ Gave Brands a New Way to Talk (2014)

‘Jurassic World’ and the Era of Nonstop Nostalgia (2015)

(Stay tuned for the rest in 2020!)

Reviews of 2019 Releases*

*Some of these were originally published out of festivals in 2018, but since I’m rounding up everything for this year, I figured I might as well throw them in! (Things that I wrote in 2019 about 2020 films will be in the “Festival Coverage” section below.)

“Everybody Knows”

“To Dust”

“Birds of Passage”

“Climax”

“Gloria Bell”

“The Hummingbird Project”

“High Life”

“Peterloo”

“Dogman”

“Her Smell”

“Teen Spirit”

“Hail Satan?”

“Non-Fiction”

“‘Charlie Says”

“Wild Rose”

“Los Reyes”

“Jawline”

“The Laundromat”

“American Dharma”

“Motherless Brooklyn”

“Queen of Hearts”

“Ford v Ferrari”

“Waves”

“Varda by Agnès”

“Knives Out”

“Feast of the Epiphany”

“Temblores”

“Little Joe”

“Knives and Skin”

“6 Underground”

“Invisible Life”

Interviews

Joanna Kulig, star of “Cold War”

Mike Leigh, writer/director of “Peterloo”

Claire Denis and Robert Pattinson, co-writer/director and star of “High Life”

Marcello Fonte, star of “Dogman” (from TIFF 2018)

Mary Harron, director of “Charlie Says”

Joe Talbot and Jimmie Fails, co-writer/director and co-writer/star of “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”

Jack Reynor, actor in “Midsommar”

Lynn Shelton, co-writer/director of “Sword of Trust”

Riley Stearns, writer/director of “The Art of Self-Defense”

Julius Onah and Kelvin Harrison Jr., co-writer/director and star of “Luce”

Lauren Greenfield, director of “The Kingmaker”

Trey Edward Shults, co-editor/writer/director of “Waves”

Marielle Heller, director of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

Céline Sciamma, writer/director of “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

Eddie Redmayne, star of “The Aeronauts”

Jessica Hausner, co-writer/director of “Little Joe”

Jennifer Reeder, writer/director of “Knives and Skin”

Features

Significant ‘Other’: How Chris Kelly’s ‘Other People’ Informs ‘The Other Two’ on Comedy Central

I Must Think of a New Life: On the Deliberate Duration of Judd Apatow’s Funny People

Taking ‘The Goldfinch’ from Page to Screen with Editor Kelley Dixon

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless May: Elaine May’s Discarded Women in A New Leaf and The Waverly Gallery

The 10 Biggest, Craziest and Most Important Cinematic Career Reinventions of the Decade

Festival Coverage

The Streamer’s Guide to Sundance 2019: What Non-Festgoers Can Watch at Home

The Kids Aren’t Alright: A Preview of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2019

Tribeca Report: The Inaugural Critics’ Week

Tribeca Report: Here Comes Generation Z

Tribeca Film Festival Review: Christoph Waltz’s ‘Georgetown’

BAMCinemaFest Review: Tayarisha Poe’s ‘Selah and The Spades’

BAMCinemaFest Review: Diana Peralta’s ‘De Lo Mio’

What To Expect at Fantasia Festival 2019

Fantasia 2019 Report: At the Mercy of the Programmers

Fantasia 2019 Report: Let the Punishment Fit the Crime

‘Mosul’ Director Matthew Michael Carnahan on Filming His Directorial Debut in a Language He Didn’t Speak and in a Foreign Nation [Interview]

The Streamer’s Guide to the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival: What Non-Festgoers Can Watch at Home

TIFF Report: Keeping the Faith

‘Guns Akimbo’ Review: A Gaming Satire That Indulges in What It Critiques [TIFF]

‘Jojo Rabbit’ and ‘A Hidden Life’ Offer Alternate and Equally Compelling Takes on Fighting Back Against Nazis [TIFF]

“Now Is Our Time”: How Global Female Directors at TIFF 2019 Subverted Everything

The Unsung Gems of TIFF 2019: Three Under-the-Radar Films You Should Know About

The Streamer’s Guide to the 2019 New York Film Festival: What Non-Festgoers Can Watch at Home

‘Liberté’ Review: A Prolonged Graphic Experience That Overstays Its Welcome [NYFF]

‘Young Ahmed’ Review: A Realistic But Uneven Look at the Effects of Extremism [NYFF]

‘The Moneychanger’ Review: A Slight Political Drama with a Few Delights [NYFF]

‘Wasp Network’ Review: Even Recut, It’s Still a Clunker [NYFF]

10 Lessons From Watching the Entire 2019 New York Film Festival Main Slate

‘First Cow’ Review: Kelly Reichardt’s Intriguing Tale of Early American Capitalism [NYFF]

Reporting

Todd Phillips Denies ‘Joker’ Sequel & Meeting Reports; Responds to Scorsese’s Marvel Comments





Everything I Wrote from TIFF 2019

21 09 2019

TIFF 2019 with sign.pngI always told myself that Marshall and the Movies would never become just a repository for links to pieces I’ve written elsewhere, and yet, here we are again…

I saw 35 films from the TIFF 2019 selection between screeners, pre-screenings and on-the-ground festival coverage. (I saw 23 films there in 5 days, for those curious!) I’m grateful as always to have a chance to share my thoughts on some of the most exciting new films debuting and getting an opportunity to help shape the early conversations around them. Thanks to the many editors who gave me the opportunity to contribute!

Since everyone is going to ask, my favorites were “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “Knives Out” and “Waves.” Among the highest profile titles, I also really enjoyed “Jojo Rabbit,” “A Hidden Life,” “Just Mercy,” “Bad Education,” “Synchronic” and “Sound of Metal.” Some foreign-directed gems to look out for are “The Other Lamb,” “The County,” “Wet Season” and “The Audition.”

TIFF 2019

Reviews

TIFF 2019 Review: On the Spiritual Strivings of Trey Edward Shults’ ‘Waves’

TIFF 2019 Review: ‘Knives Out’ Shows Rian Johnson Sharp as Ever

TIFF 2019 Review: James Mangold’s ‘Ford v Ferrari’ Provides an Old-School Adult Drama

‘The Laundromat’ Review: Steven Soderbergh Delivers an Uneven but Undeniably Ambitious Slice of Modern History [TIFF]

‘Guns Akimbo’ Review: A Gaming Satire That Indulges in What It Critiques [TIFF]

The Unsung Gems of TIFF 2019: Three Under-the-Radar Films You Should Know About

Interviews

‘Mosul’ Director Matthew Michael Carnahan on Filming His Directorial Debut in a Language He Didn’t Speak and in a Foreign Nation [Interview]

Taking ‘The Goldfinch’ from Page to Screen with Editor Kelley Dixon

Features

The Streamer’s Guide to the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival: What Non-Festgoers Can Watch at Home

TIFF Report: Keeping the Faith

‘Jojo Rabbit’ and ‘A Hidden Life’ Offer Alternate and Equally Compelling Takes on Fighting Back Against Nazis [TIFF]

“Now Is Our Time”: How Global Female Directors at TIFF 2019 Subverted Everything

 

 





A decade of Marshall and the Movies.

28 07 2019

“I have no idea where this inspired idea will take me,” a 16-year-old Marshall wrote on his first day of blogging, “but I know that the first thing that write will somehow come full circle.” This is not the end, to be clear. In fact, hopefully, this is far from the end. But nothing like a big milestone to inspire a lot of introspection, self-congratulation and gratitude, right?

Writing this blog changed my life. Maybe even saved it, if we want to get dramatic. The person who started writing this blog is forever a part of me, but in a ways, the 26-year-old Marshall who’s banging out this post feels like an entirely different person. So, if you’ll excuse the potential pretentiousness, I want to write in a kind of third-person omniscient narrator voice about this person who now seems so foreign to me but is also so dear.

“I have trouble getting things started,” he typed at 11:47:50 P.M. on Monday, July 27, 2009. “I don’t know where or when this will end, but it starts now.” He couldn’t know that he’d log over 1,500 movie reviews and 2,500 posts on the site. He couldn’t know that it would be a crucial selling point (perhaps) in interviews for scholastic and professional opportunities. He couldn’t know that the act of sharing his passion with others rather than keeping it to himself out of shame and fear would radically change how others saw him – and open up new opportunities for authentic, meaningful connection.

He couldn’t know that someday, he’d still be writing about movies, just exceedingly less and less on this site he started. (The “American Hustle” banner art ought to give away the last time the layout was seriously examined.) He couldn’t know that the passion project he worked on after finishing homework, during lunch breaks at work and (every so often) in class would open up an avenue for professionalization and monetization.

He couldn’t know that a childhood hero like Roger Ebert would compliment him. That he’d be interviewing some of the filmmakers behind some of his favorite films. (That he’d even want to talk to the guy who played Edward Cullen in the “Twilight” movies – remember, this was 2009!) That he’d be accredited to attend some of the world’s greatest film festivals. That his word would carry enough weight that a studio would put it in trailer and marketing collateral.

He knew he’d love combining his passions of film and writing, but he couldn’t know just how much that love would ripple out and affect everything else in his life. He just had the idea to start something, a Julie Powell-inspired burst of inspiration that his thoughts mattered and were worth sharing. 26-year-old Marshall thanks 16-year-old Marshall for this every day. It wasn’t always easy, but we made it somewhere neither of us thought was possible.

To everyone who humored me, especially in the early days when this seemed like more of a self-indulgent waste of time than anything else (and who’s to stay it still isn’t, honestly?), I owe you beyond anything you could ever imagine. To feel like my words and ideas had some merit meant so much to that teenager who felt small and alone. This also applies to anyone I’ve ever connected with online through movies as well and maybe hasn’t even met me in real life or has no idea about the person behind the words!

I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know how much longer this will go. That’s not any indication that I’m hesitating, by the way, just an admission that perhaps I’m not quite so different as the 16-year-old who banged out that first post over his MacBook a decade ago. But 26-year-old me has so much more than that – confidence, experience; community, self-reliance; support, trust.

If you’re reading this, you’ve played a part in making that possible. This accomplishment belongs to you, too. I hope you know the impact you have on people, including me, and that you continue to use that impact to make the world around you a brighter place. Be it through supporting others or believing in yourself, your affirmations have power. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing about movies for 10 years, it’s that there is a world of people out there who are full of passion. Many of these people I’ve come to know share this spark for film, but I’ve also come to realize that being your most authentic self can help inspire others to be theirs as well. I promise you that there’s someone out there who shares your very particular brand of zeal for something. Let others know, and you’ll find your people.

That’s all I’ve got for now, as most of you really just come here for me talking about the movies! But on this milestone occasion, I hope you’ll spare me waxing a little sentimental and personal. (And I know this site is getting a little rusty from lack of use. I promise I’ll start making it back here more … some day!)





Top 10 of 2018 (My 10th Top 10)

31 12 2018

My goodness, have I really been doing these for 10 years now? I know I play the gobsmacked card at just about every one of these milestones, but when you take a step back and think about how time moves both quickly and imperceptibly, it has the power to bowl you over.

It’s so interesting to look back at my various top 10 lists and see how my top choices reflect how I’ve changed since writing this blog. There was my anxiety about being a loner in high school (“Up in the Air,” “Black Swan“), the awakening of a political consciousness as I watched cinema respond to the Great Recession in real time (“Win Win,” “The Queen of Versailles“), a freakout about identity after a semester abroad revealed a new side of myself (“American Hustle“) and the desire for deep connection and feeling in a dark world (“Manchester by the Sea,” “Call Me by Your Name“). Oh, and there was also a period where I fully believe I chose inarguable masterpieces (“The Immigrant” in 2014, “Inside Out” in 2015).

Who knows how I’ll feel looking back at this crop of choices down the line? I can’t worry about it now or think like that, though. As I can now see, learning more about these movies has also led to me learning more about myself. One unifying theme I picked out of the 2018 list is that six are roughly 90 minutes or less, and none are over two hours long. I watched 173 new releases in 2018 and spent over 875 hours watching movies during the year (thanks, Letterboxd, for that frightening statistic). Making that time count and not wasting it apparently counts for a lot with me these days!

A final note for longtime readers of Marshall and the Movies – namely, friends and family – I’m sure you’ve noticed that I am posting less and less on the blog these days. My work has primarily shifted to doing freelance writing on other websites so I can make a little bit of money off my words. I don’t regret this pivot, but I do wish that I’d done a better job about communicating that change to people who mostly come here (and to the Facebook page) looking for those takes. So, in 2019, I resolve to be better about sharing my work to my first real audience.

Thank you all, as always, for your time and support. No matter how your 2018 went, I hope your 2019 is filled with joy and splendor, be it cinematic or real.

So, without further ado, my 10 favorite films of 2018…

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Everything I Wrote from #TIFF18

17 09 2018

TIFFI’ve now pretty much filed everything from my time at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival! I was grateful to have the opportunity to attend again this year, now with a full badge, and write about some excellent films. I might have more to say about some of these titles later on Marshall and the Movies, but for now, here’s a collection of links to my published pieces from the festival. Many thanks to the editors who commissioned all this work and made the trip possible.

Now, after penning 24,000 words in two weeks, it’s time for me to catch up on some sleep…

Slashfilm

The Streamer’s Guide to the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival: What Non-Festgoers Can Watch at Home

‘Monsters and Men’ is an Uneven but Potent Drama About Police Violence [TIFF]

‘Beautiful Boy’ Provides a Moving Showcase for Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell [TIFF]

‘Ben Is Back’ Haunts As It Shows the Ripple Effect of Addiction [TIFF]

‘Climax’ Review: Gaspar Noé’s Latest Dances Deliriously Toward Death [TIFF]

‘mid90s’ Review: Jonah Hill’s Directorial Debut is a Masterful Coming-of-Age Tale [TIFF]

‘Everybody Knows’ Review: Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz Lead a Thrilling, If Impersonal, Kidnapping Drama [TIFF]

‘Gloria Bell’ Review: Julianne Moore Charms in a Fun but Melancholy Romance [TIFF]

‘Assassination Nation’ Review: A Fascinating Tale of Online Justice Falters in Its Second Half [TIFF]

‘What They Had’ Review: Michael Shannon Dominates a Pleasant, If Unremarkable, Debut Feature [TIFF]

‘Boy Erased’ Review: Lucas Hedges Devastates in Conversion Therapy Drama [TIFF]

‘Maya’ Review: Mia Hansen-Løve Falters Slightly With Familiar Drama [TIFF]

‘The Hummingbird Project’ Review: An Engaging Financial Thriller Stops Just Short of Greatness [TIFF]

‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ Review: Melissa McCarthy Gets More Real Than Ever as a Legendary Fake [TIFF]

‘Teen Spirit’ Review: Max Minghella’s Directorial Debut Lacks Pop [TIFF]

‘Dogman’ Review: A Morality Tale We Deserve [TIFF]

‘Peterloo’ Review: A Different Kind of Historical Epic [TIFF]

‘Non-Fiction’ Review: Olivier Assayas’ Latest Film is a Droll Delight [TIFF]

‘Birds of Passage’ Review: A Thrilling and Refreshing Take on the Drug Trade [TIFF]

Crooked Marquee

TIFF Report: The Addiction Obsession

TIFF Report: Political, Not Polemical

Vague Visages

TIFF 2018: Embracing the Oxymoronic – A Review of Jacques Audiard’s ‘The Sisters Brothers’

TIFF 2018: One Small Step – A Review of Damien Chazelle’s ‘First Man’

TIFF 2018: Interview With ‘Dogman’ Actor Marcello Fonte

Decider

Thomas Mann on Growing Up in Netflix’s ‘The Land of Steady Habits’

Slant

Interview: Jacques Audiard on the Making of The Sisters Brothers





REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War

1 08 2018

At some point during the seemingly interminable carousel of trailers prior to “Avengers: Infinity War,” a thought occurred to me: I should probably do a quick Google to see if there’s any information I need to know before the movie starts. I’d done the legwork of seeing the previous installments (“Thor: The Dark World” excepted because everyone tells me I didn’t miss much), but they linger in my system like a flat, lukewarm draft beer in a plastic cup. As Marvel click-chasing as the Internet is these days, there was plenty of service journalism on page one to fill me in.

The more I read, the more I saw information about infinity stones. What they were, who had them, what happened the last time we saw one. I’m not such a passive viewer that I had no concept of these whatsoever, but, to be honest, I had stopped giving them much thought a few years back. Infinity stones were like excess information from a high school history lecture – you have some vague sense that these tidbits might show up on the final but not enough to scare you into paying full attention.

Imagine showing up for the final and having it be only those bits of knowledge you considered superfluous. That’s “Avengers: Infinity War.”

The analogy actually doesn’t fully compute because it puts far too much responsibility on me, the audience member, for keeping up. Over the past five years, after correctly sensing the audience could sense Marvel’s formula, head honcho Kevin Feige implemented a new strategy to avoid brand complacency. He brought in accomplished directors with a real sense of style and personality – no offense to Favreau, Johnston and others who can clearly helm a solid studio action flick. A handful of rising talents got the chance to play with a massive toolbox to make largely personal films on nine-figure budgets. Better yet, they essentially got to treat these infinity stones like MacGuffins, items whose actual substance matters little since they serve to move the plot and provide a goal for the hero.

Think about these films from late phase two and early phase three, as the canonically-minded Marvel fans would say. James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” films aren’t memorable because of their quest for Power Stone; they’ve endured because of the joyous rush of a stilted man-child who gets to live out his Han Solo fantasies to the tunes of his banging ’80s mix-tape. Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther” has far more interesting things to say about black identity, heritage and responsibility than it does about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Taika Waititi was still playing into the future of the studio’s master plan, yet he got to toss out much of what had been done with the God of Thunder in “Thor: Ragnarok” and cast him like the offbeat protagonists of his Kiwi comedies to find humor and heart where there had previously been little.

“Avengers: Infinity War” is a feature length “Well, actually…” from Marvel. The Russo Brothers are here to deliver the bad news that those infinity stones were actually the only thing that mattered the whole time. Silly you for thinking the studio cared about things like artistry and personality!

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