Maciej Kasperowicz is one of the Josie Woods/Chicago Bears east pole crew and while we often do not agree on particular movies (which, like, who cares), his opinions are often inspired. (He’s the only person I can text about Macedonian documentaries.) He sees EVERYTHING and I’m thrilled to share his look at the films of 2019 here today.
Movies are mostly good, okay?
Or I should say that if you’re not forced to watch movies for work (or a crippling desire to have opinions on the Oscars) and do some modicum of research before going the theater or pressing play, the large majority of movies you see will probably be enjoyable. So I was thrilled when my friend Jeff asked me write a few hundred words here about the movies of 2019, many of which I loved and am excited to share with you.
Before we get to that, however, I do believe Jeff would like me to talk a bit about JoJo Rabbit, a movie I don’t like. There exists a world in which I went into JoJo Rabbit before hearing it described (by its own advertising) as an “anti-hate satire,” mildly excited to see a Taika Waititi movie. Afterwards, I might have just thought the humor didn’t work for me (hell, the guy next to me in the theater thought it was hilarious). But “an anti-hate satire?” I hate it. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the worst stereotypes of Hollywood: self-congratulatory, ineffectual, meaningless. It’s a rejection of any political reality for the safest stance you could possibly take. Who wouldn’t be anti-hate? Even Joker, which in many ways I dislike even more, has the guts to be anti-austerity.
I think Jeff might want me to talk about Richard Jewell too but, man. For a movie about the press dragging someone’s name through the dirt to drag a dead journalist’s name through the dirt, that’s some shit, huh? (It’s also, aside from Sam Rockwell’s normcore conspiracy cargo shorts and I guess the big Kathy Bates speech, an extremely boring movie).
Anyways, most movies are good, and two especially good ones this year were Mati Diop’s Atlantics and Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire. I mention them together because they were somehow shot by the same cinematographer, Claire Mathon, in what surely has to be one of my favorite one-two same-year punches for a cinematographer in movie history. It’s especially impressive considering how different the movies look from each other. Atlantics leaves you with ghostly visions of laser-filled beach-side bars in Senegal, while Portrait is full of painterly French landscapes. They’re both set against the backgrounds of remote oppression (patriarchy in the case of Portrait; global capitalism, and, yes, also patriarchy, in the case of Atlantics) and they’re both beautifully haunted love stories. Atlantics is on Netflix, and Portrait comes back to theaters this month after a brief qualifying run in December. They’re both extremely worth your time.