Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 17, 2020

The best films of 2019

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 9:39 pm

What a genuinely radical movie looks like:


This is now the third “Best of” survey I have posted to CounterPunch. It might be subtitled “The anti-Oscar awards” since none of the films listed would have ever been nominated for an award in the Tinseltown-dominated ceremony.

As was the case in my 2017  and 2018 “Best of” round-ups, these are all films that were screened originally at art houses in New York or Los Angeles but can now be rented for less than $5 on Amazon Prime. Thanks to Jeff Bezos (and for little else), they enjoy a second life.

As a member of New York Film Critics Online, I receive well over fifty DVD’s at year-end for consideration of an award in our December voting. This allowed me to evaluate the kind of films that dominate the Academy Awards. Except for “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story”, I found them uniformly dreadful. Among the most disappointing were “Parasite”, “Joker” and “1917”  that each will likely walk off with a wheelbarrow full of Oscar statuettes.

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  1. I don’t get out to see films very often, but I actually liked Malick’s “A Hidden Life”. Malick took a story in which the protagonists are usually sentimentalized and simplified in heroic terms, and turned it into a thoughtful love story, one in which the moral and personal dilemmas of resistance are in the forefront. Visually overbearing and a little long, but emotionally powerful.

    Comment by Richard Estes — January 18, 2020 @ 3:11 am

  2. Louis: You don’t seem to have seen the French film, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”. Not surprising. I’d have skipped it too if I’d only read a resume: a lesbian love affair set in the late 1700s with no male actors in major roles and, on top of it, a female director (Céline Sciamma). Your take on it would be of interest. By showing the limits on women’s lives in the past, it has something to say about their limitations today. Adèle Haenel, the lead actress, has by chance just accused a director (male) of continually molesting her during the making of a film in 2002 when she was twelve. “Portrait” has no happy ending, the Haenel character being forced to marry a man she has never met, and whose sister committed suicide to avoid. The interesting part for me was how before their friendship is cut short by the marriage, the two lovers, in the slight margin for action they have, are moved to sisterly mutual aid that cuts across class lines. The story turns on the painting of a hypocritical society portrait. Noémie Merlant plays the second lover and the acting is quite special. The drama is put across by the play of emotion on the faces of the two women. The film was shown in the U.S. in December and will have a wider release in February. Interesting that the French didn’t make a “Lady’” of her. “‘Portrait de la jeune fille en feu’” is the original title.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — January 18, 2020 @ 9:06 am

  3. Thank you, Louis, for your input. I agree about Joker. I want Joker to be a self-ridiculing Dr. Frankenstein-type. Instead, the film scraps the mad-scientist persona and we get ancient Greek-style drama–Oedipus Rex crossed with Spartacus.

    Comment by tom123b — January 21, 2020 @ 6:14 am

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