2019, you were a dagger. My heart bleeds from your cuts. Though I saw your approach, I was not yet ready.
Are we ever?
My dad lived a long, happy life and left us on July 23rd.
My father-in-law was a few years younger, but his journey was long, which ended five days before Christmas.
It will be days, months, and years before I can fully adjust to life without them. We never get over loss; we add it to the tapestry.
Tilted; however, I am not. These men made my life rich. I am whom I loved and who loved me. If I stand tall tomorrow, it is their postures I inhabit.
Standing may be possible, but my gaze shifted in 2019. Apologies if you were ignored this year, given short shrift, the side-eye, or a sharp tongue. Some of my grace notes slipped. My gym routines faltered; with them, most of my projects. Abandoned, too, was a team I was proud to belong with whom I served meals to the hungry on frigid winter days. The only service I could muster was in my kitchen, where using my hands remained soothing. My sticky date pudding has never been better.
As always, solace, for me, is found in storytelling. I find answers in art, answers that are missing in people. The older I get, the less I can solve. Life remains ever mysterious. Arrogance is becoming less tolerable. I’m with Iris Dement. For fans of TV’s The Leftovers, maybe this resonates.
If you were somebody who made me laugh this year, you are dearer than ever. Suddenly, I was binging sitcoms formerly dismissed. What got me through? Schitt’s Creek. Younger. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. My mother, now a long-term care resident, loves the Hallmark channel. The bright palettes and simplistic storylines suit her, but I, too, found myself amused by the sheer audacity of all that cheesiness. Hell, I’d rather be amused right now than gutted. Baking shows, both the British original and all the iterations that followed, make me silly happy. Bakers want to give love. Period.
On the big screen, I found new things that moved me. Here is my list of films that impressed me somehow this year. This is a highly subjective list, as all lists are. I like all kinds of movies, and what moves, surprises, makes me laugh, cry, or ponder the mystery of life…well, it may not be yours. Have at it.
Little Women: Gorgeous, inventive, and worth your time, and I mean you, men of the earth. This is not just a women’s picture. Banish the ghetto of chick flicks forever.
Parasite: See my TIFF review.
A Hidden Life: See my TIFF review.
Apollo 11: A total kick for space nerds and everybody else too. In a fantastic documentary, spectacular footage and audio (never before captured onscreen). Best doc of the year.
Booksmart: Kudos to Olivia Wilde. Her directorial debut is a home run. I was right back in high school. Some things are indeed timeless, no matter how fresh or how current. Movies that make me laugh get high marks. Good comedies are rare.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood: Nice never gets old. I liked the 2018 documentary on Mister Rogers better (Won’t You Be My Neighbour?), but this one is also worthy.
The Farewell: Give the Oscar now to Awkwafina. This movie will elicit tears but don’t miss it. Lulu Wang, the real-life partner of director Barry Jenkins, directed them. This is a film with legs. If it wins awards, look for a slight shift to myopia in film financing. There is a world of storytellers outside the frame. Find them. Give them money. Let them fly.
Knives Out: see my TIFF review
Uncut Gems: see my TIFF review
Western Stars: see my TIFF review
Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins: If ever a film makes you want to stand and cheer, it’s this one from another hugely talented female director, Janice Engel—an utterly fascinating portrait of the famous brilliant Texan journalist.
Honey Boy: see my TIFF review
Rocketman: see my earlier review
The Two Popes: Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles won international acclaim for City of Gods. Here he is again with another beautiful film based on a play about two Popes attempting to find common ground. Sir Antony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, two of the industry’s finest, are spectacular here. As a television journalist, I interviewed Hopkins for a beautiful little film called Remains of the Day many years ago. He was gracious and thoughtful—a little Pope-like, miles away from his Hannibal Lector sneer. I have loved watching all his films ever since.
The Grizzlies: This gorgeous Canadian film deserves lots of eyeballs. While the script delivers a few clunkers, I fell hard for the cast, one of the strongest onscreen this year. The story surrounds a newly minted teacher who moves to a small Artic community and attempts to introduce lacrosse to his students. Both immensely watchable and heartwrenching, this is a film sneaking by most (if not all) of the sports film tropes right to the finish line.
Several films screened at TIFF last year were released in 2019. Of the titles I loved, these gems are now available in general release or on one of the streaming networks. Girl, Wild Rose, Maiden, Everybody Knows, What You Gonna Do When The World’s On Fire, The Wild Pear Tree. See my TIFF 2018 wrap for reviews of these titles. Try to see them all!
Two TIFF films I loved this year and should be on the list have yet to be released: The Sound of Metal (look for it soon on Amazon) and Rocks (2020). Look for more on both here. Both were also on my Best of TIFF list this year.
NEW ADD: The Lighthouse. Two men go mad inside a lighthouse. That’s the pitch, but if you’re looking for a masterpiece of cinematography, sound, production design, and performance, this is your film. Robert Eggers and his brother Max dived deep into their research to write this film, shot in Nova Scotia, and then director Robert pushed two movie stars (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattison) to the brink to pull off the stunner. What I loved most? This is not an arty show-offy kind of filmmaking. Nothing is there that doesn’t drive the narrative vision. There are hints of poetry and folklore. Film nerds will go nuts with the influences spotted here and there, not to mention the camera work. As for the mermaids in this film? Let’s say they are not made in Disney.
Best live theatre: The Brothers Size (Soulpepper)
My own favourite lived moments of 2019:
My London Top Ten,
I am still searching for a film to see to end the dispute on the family couch. Here are some of my past Best of The Year lists.
For all my patient readers, I wish you joy and peace in 2020. Thanks for sticking with me.