At the start of the year we usually look back over the previous 12 months and pick out our favourite films. Normally for this blog these would be restricted to those shown at the Picture House and I though this year it might have to be different. However the first few months of 2020 were really good for cinema and I’m not sure if this top 5 would be much different even if the doors had stayed open for longer.
So my Top 5 of 2020 is:
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
Of the films I saw on the smaller screen at home the following would make it into my Top 10: Lynn + Lucy (BFIPlayer), Wolfwalkers (Apple+), Saint Frances (Netflix), Babyteeth (Netflix) and Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Sky/NowTV).
What about you? Did you still manage to see lots of great films (on screens of any size), let us know in the comments.
I remember the last picture show. It was on Friday the 13th, or maybe 28 days later. Life became rocky and I started feeling dazed and confused. I took a hard look in the mirror and vowed to never say never again. While it was not exactly a matter of life and death, I was in a lonely place until I joined the Lockdown Film Club. That was a night to remember. Now all is well. Life is beautiful. Members are happy together. So don’t be clueless! No titanic effort needed. Do the right thing and get in touch with the Lockdown Film Club (details below). You will find that you don’t look back.
2020 was always going to be a strange year for the Hyde Park Picture House, we were somewhat prepared for the doors to be closed whilst the renovation work got underway but none of us could have predicted how things have turned out.
As we enter the second half of the year we normally take a look back over the last 6 months and pick out our highlights of the year so far. Fortunately there were quite a few good releases before lockdown begin and there have been a number of great films released straight to streaming since. It’s also been great that online discussions, watch parties and interviews have been able to continue.
Here are my 10 highlights of films I did see (mostly on the big screen)
Uncut Gems (Netflix)
JoJo Rabbit (Rent/Buy)
A Hidden Life (Rent/Buy)
The Lighthouse (Rent/Buy)
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (Mubi)
Never Rarely Sometimes (Rent/Buy)
I’d also like to recommend Lynn Shelton’s final film Sword Of Trust. I don’t think it got a proper release in the UK but it turned up on Sky Movies/NowTV earlier this year. I’ve always loved Shelton’s films and this is no different, hear death was a tragic loss because it feels like she had so much more to offer. There is a celebration of her on YouTube which I haven’t had chance to watch yet and Birds Eye View interviewed her a few weeks before her death.
There are other films that I’ve heard good things about but still haven’t had chance to watch:
Little Joe (Rent/Buy & Bfi subs)
The Assistant (Rent/Buy)
Color Out Of Space (Rent/Buy)
Queen & Slim (Rent/Buy)
Woman Make Film (Bfi subs)
Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Don’t forget about the Hyde Park Picks on Facebook and Twitter for more recommendations of great things to watch at home.
2019, the year Brad Pitt fixed antennas (Ad Astra and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood), Scarlett Johansson tied shoelaces (Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit – out in the UK on 1st Jan), Adam Driver seemed to be everywhere and washing machines featured more than expected (In Fabric and Seahorse).
La Belle Époque – It’s too soon to know if this is really as good as it made me feel during the film festival or an “overegged French time-travel comedy” as Peter Bradshaw claimed in The Guardian.
The Favourite – One of the first films I saw this year which made me think it would be a while until I saw something I enjoyed more and I was right.
Eighth Grade – A really long wait to see this in the UK but it was worth it, a film about hope, despair, anxiety and it manages to be terrifying and funny in equal measures.
Marriage Story – Everything feels so authentic, it’s heartbreakingly beautiful and also surprisingly funny.
If Beale Street Could Talk – A beautiful film with a beautiful soundtrack.
Knives Out – Another recent film that may not stand the test of time but I had so much fun whilst watching it I had to include it in this list.
Midsommar & Us – Horror is a genre I tend to overlook but both of these films exceeded my expectations, both are carefully constructed and unravel in an enthralling way.
Irene’s Ghost, Seahorse, Our Most Brilliant Friends – Great documentaries that were enhanced by Q&A with the filmmakers.
My favourite film of 2019 only got a single screening as a Tuesday Wonder and (confession time) I didn’t see it at the Picture House. Minding The Gap: An American Skateboarding Story is one of those documentaries where the subject matter is just a cover story for the way it brilliantly exposes just what it means to be human and I absolutely loved it. It’s available on iPlayer as part of the Storyville strand and would make a great double bill with the underrated Mid90s.
Honorable mentions to: Collette, Beautiful Boy, RBG, Pond Life, Vox Lux, Madeline’s Madeline, Booksmart, Sometimes Always Never, Apollo 11, Only You, The Farewell, Peanut Butter Falcon.
Next in our series of posts on Leeds International Film Festival, Hannah tells us about her festival plans…
Last week, on a bit of a nostalgia trip, I watched the French film A Town Called Panic (2009) This showed on bonfire night at the Picture House during LIFF24 in 2010 and was my first taste of the film festival. Since then, my festival has steadily grown from the occasional odd film when I happened to be in Leeds to being an essential fortnight of my autumn calendar, around which all other things must be carefully arranged.
This year I’m going
full tilt into LIFF (can we call it LIFF33?). After 2018, I said I’d take it
easy and have time to reflect between screenings, maybe pop home occasionally,
check in with my family or go for some leisurely lunches. You know, the things
it’s nice to do when you’ve taken a week off work. Unfortunately somewhere in
the planning, that idea has been bulldozered. The changes in ticketing for the
festival, a jam-packed programme to choose from and a kind of film festival
FOMO have conspired to keep me as square-eyed as ever.
The Hidden City– a documentary by Víctor Moreno on subterranean worlds; the pipes, tunnels and transport beneath our cities.
Night of the Dead and the inaugural Sci-fi Day – the marathon events at HP are staples of the film festival programme and this year the line-up includes a sci-fi run back to back with NOTD. If you’re really going for it you could attempt both, and I’m sure some will!
Outside the Picture
House, I’m really looking forward to:
The Gangster The Cop The Devil – Thanks to LIFF, I’ve discovered a love of Korean action. A gangster and a police officer hunt a serial killer – the trailer is promising and I have high hopes.
Come to Daddy– Elijah Wood in a grizzly family drama. It might tip into type-casting, but Wood does wide-eyed terror well and I expect it to be put to good use here.
Days of the Bagnold Summer– the directorial debut from Simon Bird (Will from The Inbetweeners) is an adaptation from the graphic novel of the same name by Joff Winterhart. A story of a teenage boy and his mum navigating a long summer holiday together. The cast includes British favourites Alice Lowe, Monica Dolan and Tamsin Greig, with Earl Cave (Nick’s son) in the central role.
Family Romance LLC– A Werner Herzog documentary exploring a business in Japan that rents out actors to substitute in others’ lives, like a nonfiction rendering of Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2011 film Alps. That film was strange enough and I’m interested to see how the real version might work. From the trailer and bits I’ve read online, it’s going to be an odd one.
With a programme
that offers such a variety and by giving myself the freedom to take some risks,
the LIFF experience to date has dramatically expanded my cinematic horizons.
Before discovering them in the cinema, I probably would have skirted all sorts
of excellent foreign-language films because they felt like too much of a
challenge and I definitely wouldn’t have gone out to see many documentaries on
the big screen. These days the reluctance has vanished and recent years have
been a feast of the weird and wonderful.
Taking an afternoon off work to go to the cinema feels like a decadent treat, something you can file under ‘self care’ and spoil yourself rotten at a matinee. Take a whole day off to go to the pictures and it might start to feel strange – more than one film at this time of year and you’ll barely see daylight. Take a few more and step out of your day-to-day life, disconnect from rolling news and immerse yourself in the moving image. There in the dark, you might learn something new, experience something you wouldn’t have otherwise, and lose yourself in other people’s imaginations. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.
LIFF 2019 starts on
Wednesday. I’ll see you in the cinema!
In the run up to the Leeds International Film Festival we’ll be taking a look at some of the films making up this years programme. First up is Stephen…
I wasn’t sure what to expect in this years selection of films but after last year’s late addition of Roma I was hopeful we’d get a chance to see The Irishman on a big screen. Disappointingly it wasn’t in the launch programme but that big gap on Thursday 7th was soon to be filled with Scorsese’s latest. This feels like the real opening film of the festival for me and I just hope the Town Hall seats aren’t too uncomfortable for the three and half hour running time. Netflix seem to making more effort to get this in cinemas and it should also be playing at the Picture House after the festival.
I love the variety of films shown at the festival and often find myself drawn towards the weirder sounding films. There don’t seem to be that many oddities in this year’s programme but perhaps that because the strangeness has gone into the mainstream with Jojo Rabbit. I’ve loved all of Taika Waititi’s films so far (Boy, What We Do In The Shadows, The Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok – I still haven’t seen Eagle vs Shark) and I’m sure this won’t disappoint although the trailer left me a little cold.
In between those opening and closing films I’m currently planning on seeing around 50 films (and therefore really grateful that the Gold Explorer pass was introduced). Over the years I’ve come to trust the programming team and think there’s usually a good reason to see any of the films in the programme. I’ve tried to take a more practical approach to my schedule this year, trying to avoid dashes across town or upturning my entire plan to fit in films I assume I’ll be able to see elsewhere e.g The Cave, The Two Popes, Ordinary Love and Matthias & Maxime (by the way isn’t it strange that there are two films called The Cave as well as Marriage Story and A Marriage Story in the programme). If you are still making your plans and want to see a better view of when films are showing you may find this Clashfinder useful.
Most of the films I’m looking forward to are from directors I already know and have been praised at other film festivals. All of the following have headline slots and are likely to be popular:
The Lighthouse– I wasn’t a fan of The VVitch (2015) but keen to see what Robert Eggers has done with this.
Portrait of A Lady On Fire– Girlhood (2014) and Tomboy (2011) are fantastic and Céline Sciamma’s latest film very different from those, she was also screenplay consultant on one of my favourite ‘forgotten’ LIFF films Bird People (2014).
Some of the lesser known films I’m looking forward to include:
Patrick– Really not sure what to expect from this but it was one film in the trailer reel that really stood out as a typical WTF LIFF film.
I’m disappointed I haven’t been able to fit in more of the classic films, the Mother Cutter strand is a great idea and a wonderful selection of films. I do have some free time so I may be able to fit some of these films in as well. I’m also glad that the short films are getting more screenings, I’ve not been able to get to many of these in the last few years but this year it seemed easier to fit them around other films.
Five films that stick in my mind, in no particular order:
A very stylish Italian film directed by Paolo Sorrentino and starring Toni Servillo as Silvio Berlusconi. This is the ultimate cinema-goer’s guide to bunga-bunga parties, ostentation and (alleged … to protect me from the mafia 😎 ) corruption in Italian politics. It’s surely no coincidence that l’oro is Italian for gold.
Director Samuel Moaz. A powerful anti war film set in a remote military outpost where four soldiers are spending their military service in the Israeli Defence Forces. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Venice Film Festival.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos. Great fun with Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz in C18 England. I doubt that Queen Anne would approve. A positive F-rating (highlighting what women contribute to film) for lead characters, and writer Deborah Davis (co-writer with Tony McNamara).
A documentary about American Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What a woman! What a career! Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen also score highly on the F-rating.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Based on the James Baldwin novel, directed by Barry Jenkins. A well told struggle for life and a struggle for justice in 1970’s New York.
So once again the Picture House has offered us a great variety of films from around the world. And I didn’t even mention Burning (South Korea), or Happy as Lazzaro (Italy).
As we enter the second half of the year it seems like a good time to look back over all the films shown at the Picture House so far. 2019 started strong for me with The Favourite and I confidently claimed it would be the best film of the year. I loved how it took something quite familiar but presented it in such a unique way by mixing together humour, tenderness and some ridiculousness.
The Favourite remained at the top of my favourites list until very recently when I caught up with Minding The Gap (unfortunately I didn’t get to see it in the cinema). This is one of those brilliant documentaries that starts telling one wonderfully engaging story but as events unfold becomes a film about something else completely. I found it incredibly moving and if you missed it it’s currently available on iPlayer.
Something I’ve noticed this year is that here in the UK we’re having to wait a long time to see some really acclaimed American films. Minding The Gap was one of these but we had to wait the best part of a year to see Support The Girls (out this week and coming to Hyde Park later this month), Madeline’s Madeline and my third choice Eighth Grade. I’ve never been a teenage girl but I found Bo Burnham’s film so relatable. It manages to capture so much about hope and despair and all of life’s anxieties whilst being terrifying and funny in equal measures.
We didn’t have to wait quite as long to see If Beale Street Could Talk, a truly beautiful and moving film with an even better soundtrack and my fourth choice. Finally to keep this selection to only five films I’m going to include US. US didn’t quite live up to my expectations when I was watching it but it really hooked me in and it was a film I kept thinking about days later.
There we have it, my top 5 films shown at the Hyde Park Picture House so far this year are:
Minding The Gap
If Beale Street Could Talk
I should also mention there are quite a few other films that I really liked but saw them last year at film festivals before their 2019 release including: Pond Life, Colette, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Beautiful Boy, Border, One Cut Of The Dead and probably others I’m forgetting about now.
Now it’s over to you, do share your highlights of the year in the comments or if you want to say a bit more we’re still looking for contributors so get in touch.
Bill was going to encourage you to go and see BlackkKlansman, but he realised that Spike Lee himself does a much better job in this video:
Blackkklansman is already been called one of the most important films of the year and should provide plenty to talk about so The Picture House is excited to welcome representatives of the Leeds Black Film Club and the Racial Justice Network to participate in a post film discussion after our screening of BlacKkKlansman on Sunday 2nd September. The discussion will be not be limited to the panel and audience members are invited to share thoughts/questions and ideas about topics raised in the film including the relevance of Lee’s 1970s set American drama to contemporary British culture.
If you see the film and want to talk about it before the panel, why not leave a comment below. Or even better why not send us a review and become a contributor to this blog.
Continuing our look at some of the highlights of the year, here are my thoughts on 2018 so far. I’ve not been to see as many films this year but not because of a lack of choice. Many of the best films shown at Hyde Park this year were ones I was lucky enough to see at LIFF or other festivals, so my list doesn’t included the likes of Three Billboards…, You Were Never Really Here, The Breadwinner or Journeyman.
Leaving me with the following:
Leave No Trace
A Quiet Place
The Shape Of Water
Lean on Pete
It saddens me a little that these are all American films but look out for the Icelandic film Heartstone if that shows up in a programme down the line. I saw it at Keswick Film Festival in February and remains one of my favourite films of the year.