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EMMA WESTWOOD

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

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 it. 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.  

Secret project… watch this space…

As the festive season descends, I feel it necessary to warn people that I’m locking myself in the ‘laboratory’ for a period of time while I work on a ‘secret’ writing project that needs to be hatched before the end of January.

This means my social life will be significantly curbed, except for the occasional seasonal gathering and media screening. After all, I don’t want to be a complete Xmas Grinch!

To my friends, please understand that my refusal of any social shenanigans is simply because, if I don’t be careful, I will go INSANE. And, I also risk being lynched by Jez Conolly, who is a very scary man indeed.

Looking forward to birthing this baby and announcing it to the world. Much love in classic cinema and writing…

SECRET PROJECT IS REVEALED HERE

WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT?: New DVD audio commentary

It’s official! Sally Christie and I have teamed up for our second audio commentary together, following Paul Schrader’s LIGHT SLEEPER – Eureka’s Blu-ray release of WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT?.

Directed by Clive Donner, WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT? is a rollicking, swinging ’60s slapstick jive with an awe-inspiring ensemble cast of Peter O’Toole, Peter Sellars, Paula Prentiss, Capucine, Romy Schneider, Woody Allen and Ursula Andress.

Get your Bacharach on!

Fangoria x Monster Fest: Behind the Screen

I’m going to be appearing on a panel at Fangoria x Monster Fest 2019, which means I get to hang out with some of my favourite people (Sally ChristieJohn HarrisonMichael Helms) and discuss how we stumbled into the film criticism and film programming business, and the realities of our ‘glamorous’ lifestyle.

Come along and hang with us – it’s free!

Cinemaniacs Presents DELIVERANCE

Few films send shivers down the spine in the same way as DELIVERANCE (1972) so it was an honour to introduce the Cinemaniacs’ screening of DELIVERANCE on Saturday 12th October at Backlot Studios in Melbourne, Australia.

Here’s the evidence…

Want to know more about the event? Visit the Cinemaniacs’ website and start a curated journey into cinema history…

THE FLY Book Review: FrightFest

I could not have asked for a better review of THE FLY book from FrightFest Gore in the Store. I don’t know the reviewer, John Upton, personally or professionally – but I need to buy him a drink one day.

International Women’s Day broadcast

It was International Women’s Day on 8th March 2019.

Programming and Content Manager at Triple R, Bec Hornsby, asked Cerise Howard and I from Plato’s Cave, and Megan McKeough from Zero-G, to talk about anything we wanted to talk about. So we chatted about women in film and we introduced our hour-long broadcast with the Duran Duran song, ‘Girls on Film’ (my personal highlight of the show).

One of the things we discussed was early women filmmakers, which meant the subject of Alice Guy-Blaché came up – one of (if not) the most criminally forgotten people in cinema. In talking about Alice, we were able to determine that cinema is not an industry that is new to female practitioners; it is one that was built by female practitioners. Somewhere along the way, the money men pushed the women out.

You can listen back to our broadcast here, and you can also find out more about Alice Guy-Blaché in a documentary that seeks to right a wrong, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché.

We owe a lot to Alice Guy-Blaché. Worship her.

Fatal Visions: The Golden Age

Anyone who lasted the distance listening to me on Bill Ackerman’s Supporting Characters podcast would have heard mention of my first steps into print with Fatal Visions.

The brainchild of editor/writer/legend Michael Helms, Fatal Visions is largely unknown by cineastes outside Australia but, I would say, is definitely something that should be sought out by anyone who loves films of a less-than-commercial nature from a bygone era.

The individual editions themselves are as rare as hen’s teeth. BUT, in his infinite wisdom, Michael has released two volumes as a ‘best of’ Fatal VisionsFatal Visions: The Wonder Years (1988-1989) and Fatal Visions: The Golden Age (1990-1998). I appear in the latter book, of which you can see the back cover and a couple of insider pages below.

The feature image for this blog post is the cover of The Golden Age – Michael Helms sporting a bullet to the head (fine title for a film).

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