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 and happy life and left us July 23rd.
My father-in-law was a few years younger but long too was his journey, one that ended five days before Christmas.
It will be days, months, years before I can adjust fully to life without them. We never get over loss; we just 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 or if you were given short shrift or 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 up meals to the hungry on very cold winter days. The only service I could muster was in my own 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 resident in long term care, loves the Hallmark channel. No doubt 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. As ever, baking shows, both the British original and all the iterations that followed, make me silly happy. Bakers just want to give love. Period.
On the big screen, I found new things 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 films and what moves me, surprises me, 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. Spectacular footage and audio (both never before captured onscreen) in a fantastic documentary. 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, how current. Movies that make me laugh get high marks. Good comedies are rare.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood : Nice just 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. Directed by Lulu Wang, the real-life partner of director Barry Jenkins. This is a film with legs. If it wins awards, look for a shift, however slight, 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 yet another hugely talented female director, Janice Engel. An utterly engrossing 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 and here he is again with another wonderful 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 both spectacular here. Many years ago when I was a television journalist, I interviewed Hopkins for a beautiful little film called Remains of the Day. 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 is a gorgeous Canadian film that deserves lots of eyeballs. While the script delivers a few clunkers, I fell hard for the cast; one of the strongest on-screen 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 certainly 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 in 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 what is quite the stunner. What I loved most? This is not 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 just 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,
Still searching for a film to see to end the squabble 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.