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EMMA WESTWOOD

Writing about movies, monsters, cinematic events and other wild trips

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Top 10 films of the decade

The final Plato’s Cave show on Triple R for 2019 heard Paul Anthony Nelson, Flick Ford and Thomas Caldwell pay tribute to the cinema of the twenty-tens with their 10 favourite films from the last 10 years.

Fellow spelunker Sally Christie and I were not on-air for this salubrious occasion; however, we still submitted our lists for the tally, which our co-hosts then ably presented in our absence.

Here’s what I chose (in alphabetical order)…

ARRIVAL (2016)
Profoundly original science fiction that rivals Close Encounters in the immensity of its concept and its cinematic clout. Big, beautiful, moving, important. And it even creates its own language.

DOGTOOTH (2010)
Released on the cusp of 2009/2010, this deserves inclusion on the ‘best film’ lists of both decades. At once horrifying and hilarious, with an unforgettable psychopath and an equally unforgettable dance sequence. And it even creates its own language.

DRIVE (2011)
The action film you get when you’re not getting an action film. Brilliant in its infuriatingly protracted moments of silence (and long, lingering looks), punctuated with explosive scenes of violence. Also features the best opening sequence of the decade.

DUKE OF BURGUNDY (2014)
Writer-director Peter Strickland’s genius climaxes in this velvety, ’70s Euro dive into butterflies, lesbianism and dom-sub fantasy. Super seductive, visually sumptuous and strikingly unique.

ELLE (2016)
Utterly audacious in its depiction of sexual fetishism. It’s still hard to believe Paul Verhoeven and his team ‘got away with’ this film. But we’re oh-so lucky they did. All hail Isabelle Huppert – the most fearless actor on the planet!

GET OUT (2017)
Proof that horror is still one of the most important film genres. A game-changer in social commentary that had something new to say about liberalism and race relations. For that it deserves inclusion.

LA LA LAND (2016)
The revival of the musical? Maybe not, but still proof that cynicism in a cynical age can be powerfully undermined, screen magic is still possible and there’s nothing better than a love story well-told.

MELANCHOLIA (2011)
Just when you want to hate Lars Von Trier, he comes up with this apocalyptic masterstroke. Impressively vivid and spine-tingling, brought to life by stratospheric performances from Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017)
A valentine to mid-20th century American popular culture that bursts with sweetness, despite its flagrant sexuality. Finally, a heroine that does not need saving, a beast that is brutally sexy, and a film that is truly beautiful.

WHIPLASH (2014)
Damien La La Land Chazelle’s second inclusion on my list, a high voltage ride into jazz drumming and bullying that plays like an action film. Tense, tight and punchy. Gets my vote for the best finale of the decade.

Top 10 films of 2019

On 2nd December, on Plato’s Cave on Triple R – a show in which I’m lucky to be involved – we counted down our collective Top 10 films of 2019, the criteria being that any film nominated had to be in general release in Australia for that given year (i.e. no festival exclusives, etc.).

Interestingly, no film received a unanimous vote from the five co-hosts on Plato’s Cave; however two films received four votes each: THE CLOCK and PARASITE. Both of these films also appear on my individual list.

So what other films did I choose? Detailed below are my Top 10 Films of 2019 (up to December releases), listed in alphabetical order (much to the chagrin of my co-host, Paul Anthony Nelson) who really wanted ranked lists to break ties. Apologies, Paul, my brain would have exploded…

APOLLO 11
A bonafide marvel of documentary filmmaking and archival assemblage that pitch-perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the Moon landing event, without the need for narration or unnecessary exposition. Weep-worthy.

BURNING
Electrically charged South Korean slow-burner, stunningly directed by Lee Chang-dong that, despite its two-and-a-half hour running time, holds you transfixed until its devastating final moments. Taps into a deep vein of inherent evilness. 

THE CLOCK
24 hours of timepiece footage, in real time, from 100 years of cinema around the world screened in ACMI’s gallery space – what’s not to love? Both a wondrous celebration of screen art and a cunning play on our temporal existence. An experience to lose yourself in.

EIGHTH GRADE
Comedian-musician-poet and now filmmaker, Bo Burnham, jumps out of the gates with this unassuming little stunner that magically captures the awkwardness of being a girl and being 13. Massive props to Elsie Fisher who is the heart of the film.

THE GUILTY
A gritty and rollicking Danish thriller, ostensibly taking place in the one room, proves that all you need is a good story and solid performers to make a truly excellent film. Essential viewing for all wannabe filmmakers (and lovers of Nordic Noir).  

THE IRISHMAN
Just when you thought you knew what to expect from a Martin Scorsese gangster film, this one comes along. Proof of Scorsese’s genius (if there was ever a doubt), as well as his command over tone and performance. Joe Pesci steals the show.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER THREE – PARABELLUM
The most fun to be had in a cinema in 2019! John Wick’s filmic legacy just gets richer, more visceral and more beautiful. Takes fight sequences to even higher balletic standards, and turns horses and books into weaponry. Amazing.

JOKER
Balls-to-the-wall ballsiness – how this film managed to get made, we’ll never know. But we should be grateful because we need. All hail Todd Phillips!

MID 90S
Actor Jonah Hill’s writing and directing debut is really something else. A skateboarding ride back into the 1990s, with a killer soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and magnificent performances from predominantly non-actors that will have you crying with both laughter and pathos.

PARASITE
Filmmaker Bong Joon-ho returns to South Korea (yay!) to deliver this incredible, incendiary comment on class division. Lots of Bong-at-his-best moments – beautifully directed ensemble cast, delicate balance of humour and drama, and a conclusion that will leave you reeling.  

Monstrously Yours, Larry: An Interview by Emma Westwood

It was sad to hear Larry Cohen had died on 23rd March 2019. Thank you to Diabolique for allowing me to honour him.

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The do-over fantasy

Film critic extraordinaire Stephen A. Russell let me bang on about the recent trend in time-loop entertainment in his article for The New Daily published on 15th February 2019 called ‘The do-over fantasy: Netflix’s Russian Doll and Happy Death Day 2U’.

It was nice to appear on the roster again with my former Inpress compadre and film reviewer, Craig Mathieson, who now runs the website BINGE-R, among other things.

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Science Fiction Theatre

Science Fiction Theatre in the UK is a monthly film club dedicated to the exploration and celebration of classic science fiction cinema.

Launched in 2013, SFT has hosted over 50 events at different venues across London. Its founder, Graham Ainsley, decided that was a bloody good reason to produce a book so, accordingly, he assembled a team of writers and graphic designers to run through the first 50 films, accompanied by original poster art for each one.

I was lucky to write about this beauty…

Screen Shot 2019-01-08 at 1.22.51 pm.png Continue reading “Science Fiction Theatre”

The Act of Seeing

I’m chuffed, to say the least, that Screen Education has chosen my piece, The Act of Seeing: Cinema, Ethics and Responsibility, as one of the feature articles on their website for edition No. 91 of the magazine.

This was a mind-twister of an article and, given the breadth of subject matter, I enlisted a number of expert interviewees to put forward their opinions. Huge thanks to Matthew Beard, Steve Thomas, Stuart Richards and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas for lending their voices to this ongoing debate. Their contributions have helped make this particular article a work of which I can be very proud.

‘The Act of Seeing’ also functions as a partner piece to my previous article, ‘To Watch or Not to Watch, That is the Question’, examining similar ethical considerations on watching cinema but from a different angle, which you can read online at Diabolique.

I urge you to subscribe to Screen or purchase a copy so you can share in the many other insightful film articles this edition has to offer.

The great southern creature feature

Once upon a time, in the summer of 2017, I wrote a story for Metro called ‘The Great Southern Creature Feature’ that used the release of the independent monster movie, Red Billabong, as a launching pad to talk about Australia’s proclivity for eco-horror.

While I was contractually unable to share this story with you until now, I’d like to point out that this particular edition of Metro is still available for purchase online, where you can enjoy this story (and many more) in all its colourful, printed glory.

Otherwise, here’s a plain text version for your reading pleasure… Continue reading “The great southern creature feature”

The 25 greatest Australian films of the 21st century

The brief was ambitious (and contentious) but Luke Buckmaster from Flicks.com.au approached over 50 Australian film critics and asked us to vote for the greatest Australian films since the year 2000. The clincher was: we needed to rank them in order of best to worst, with number one being our choice for the best film of the century so far.

As you can appreciate, this was a very challenging task, and I speak for myself in saying that the inclusions and running order changed several times. However, when all the votes were tallied, the top ten looked like this… Continue reading “The 25 greatest Australian films of the 21st century”

To watch or not to watch, that is the question

This was a difficult article to write and, while it’s impossible to answer, I’m hoping it provides some means for people to navigate a challenging ethical landscape.

Thanks to Kat and Lee at Diabolique for having the editorial balls to run with me…

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