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the big Q&A 2019

16. Which was the best foreign-language (i.e. non-English-speaking) movie you saw this year?

Amelia Harvey: Although Parasite is one of the most talked-about films of 2019, and is surely on the road to Academy Award glory, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is my 2019 pick. Céline Sciamma’s period drama stars Noémie Merlant and Adele Haenel star as a young countess and a painter tasked with creating a portrait of her. It’s breathtaking, immensely romantic, and emotionally devastating. Not just a beautiful piece of cinematography, but a beautiful queer love story.

Joey Shapiro: It’s a close tie between Parasite and Almodovar’s most recent film Pain and Glory. The former is getting plenty of attention, but I think Almodovar’s film is unjustly flying under the radar. It doesn’t have the outrageous melodrama of his earlier films but I’ve had few theatre experiences as enjoyable as settling in for that warm, thoughtful film.

Jono Simpson: Parasite. I had no expectations walking into this film and it blew me away. Well-written, well-performed, and the cinematography captures a metaphor in almost every scene. Similar to Jordan Peele’s Us, Joon-ho Bong tackled a poignant social issue horrifically.

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avengers: endgame

17. Did Avengers: Endgame deserve to become the highest-grossing film ever made?

Alexander: No. Titanic should have always kept that prize.

Amelia: As someone who fears the overtaking of multiplex cinemas and the Disney monopoly, I have to say yes. It had a huge task of bringing together a decade’s worth of character, plots, and emotion and it executed this with ease. Smartly letting each character shine, Endgame is a smartly crafted script that lived up to decades worth of fanboy hype. Not perfect, once you were caught up with the plight of the characters you have spent year forming a cinematic bond with, you barely cared that the time travel didn’t make much sense and the science was entirely implausible. I don’t think I’ve shed as many tears in any other films this year. That line up of female characters made me want to stand up and cheer.

Dan Owen, editor: Sure, people were excited to see it multiple times. I don’t think its accomplishment is anywhere near as remarkable as Titanic and Avatar below it, however, as it was a direct “sequel” to another film and was capping a decade of 21 other movies. It was more amazing how Titanic caught on with pop culture back in 1998, especially because everyone was anticipating a box office catastrophe.

Joey: After watching it just a week ago, my answer is a definite no, but I’m not surprised. When you have a 20-film franchise, it’s only natural that the culmination of it is going to draw half the world into theatres. I’m really just happy that it got people out of their homes and supporting movie theatres.

Jono: It was inevitable that either Avengers: Endgame or Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker would be the highest-grossing movie of 2019. Fans of Endgame had been emotionally invested in the story for over 10 years so it’s understandable. Whereas Rise of Skywalker has had a large fanbase since the originals.

Tom Trott: Yes. It’s a way better film than Avatar.

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gemini man

18. High Frame Rate (HFR)—any thoughts?

Alexander: I’m all for filmmakers who want to explore technological options, particularly if it has a purpose. I don’t know if HFR can work yet but I’m interested to see what people like Ang Lee (Gemini Man) will do with it.

Barnaby Page: As long as the industry doesn’t start feeling obliged to use it for everything, it’s all good. The more different ways there are to shoot (or show) film, the more different ways there are for film-makers to create what they really want.

Cole: I saw Gemini Man (photo above) with HFR 3D, the whole package. I didn’t dislike the HFR but I’m not sure what it contributed. So I guess it isn’t for me.

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4K Panasonic TV

19. Did you take the plunge with a 4K HDR TV this year?

Alexander: Yep, and it was a great decision. I don’t think they’re essential for everyone, but if you can get them cheap enough and you really care about how your films look then it’s a wise investment.

Jono: Unfortunately I didn’t. I did, however, purchase my first 4K Blu-Ray (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood). Maybe Santa can fit one in his sleigh, ha-ha.

Tom: No, I will do soon though.

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the big Q&A 2019

20. What scared you this year?

Alexander: No spoilers, but not-quite Will Poulter in Midsommar.

Amelia: When reality is so scary, cinema has a hard task to live up to. Us was the closest thing to scary this year, anchored by a superb performance from Lupita Nyong’o. The shot of the silhouetted family in the driveway one of the most chilling frames this year.

Barnaby: Pet Sematary scared me, but only because I consider the fundamental concept scary, and so I was ready to be terrified. If I’d come to it cold, I probably would’ve been left cold. I also found the end of Brightburn disturbing, even though the film wasn’t successful in achieving what it set out to do. I was also more than a little disturbed by a kind of giant wicker deer looming out of the dark at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Wakehurst, which brought back uncomfortable memories of The Ritual (2017). I doubt it was deliberate, though.

Cole: I’m not a big horror guy. I don’t like being scared. Her Smell was probably the most intense movie I saw all year. Like, the edge of my seat “please god let this go well for these characters” type feeling.

Dan: I’m hard to scare and there were no horrors that got under my skin in 2019, with most stuff being more entertaining than frightening (like It: Chapter Two). Apostle on Netflix probably came the closest to unnerving me.

Joey: Midsommar, as I expected, stunned me and creeped me out like no other movie since Hereditary. Was it flawed? Absolutely, but the slow-burn creepiness over nearly three hours was just what I look for in modern horror. Ari Aster is a godsend, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Jono: John Travolta’s actings in The Fanatic. It’s incredibly difficult to believe this is the same actor from Pulp Fiction. On reflection, he did star in Battlefield Earth I guess…

Tom: The dead baby in Doctor Sleep.

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the big Q&A 2019

21. Was there a particular piece of VFX or another example of ‘movie magic’ that impressed you in 2019?

Alexander: I was astonished to see just how much Pixar’s animation has progressed in Toy Story 4. The water, in particular, are shockingly life-like, and in one scene I almost expected to see a camera’s reflection in a window.

Cole: The de-ageing in The Irishman really worked for me. I was surprised at how well they used it. Something about De Niro’s performance felt calibrated to work just right with the technology. I thought that they took it well beyond the realm of gimmicks and really use it as an emotional tool.

Charing: The entirety of The Lion King remake.

Dan: I’ve become so numbed to VFX in the sense you almost expect every movie to have a ridiculously high standard of visuals. I didn’t realise how much of Spider-Man: Far From Home was done using digital environments, however, and The Mandalorian on Disney+ is pioneering a new form of greenscreen that actors can see on-set and adjusts to the perspective of the cameras through the lens. So that’s an amazing leap forward and could open up all sorts of possibilities as it gets cheaper.

Devon Elson: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark had incredible practical and digital effects to their monsters. Not only were they pushing how intense it could be for children but they nailed the accuracy of Stephen Gammell’s original book artwork.

Joey: I know it’s controversial, but I thought the de-ageing in The Irishman looked not only good but almost fully seamless. I forgot they de-aged everyone digitally until well into the movie, and that’s only because seeing De Niro with blue eyes can be jarring.

Tom: The set and shot recreations from The Shining (1980) in Doctor Sleep gave me goosebumps.

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the big Q&A 2019
top-to-bottom, left-to-right: Mickey Rourke, Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, Sigourney Weaver, Nicolas Cage & Uma Thurman.

22. Who should have starred in Gemini Man, considering Will Smith has barely aged?

Alexander: Mickey Rourke. His young self sees his older self and falls to his knees, weeping.

Amelia: A female action star like Linda Hamilton, Uma Thurman, or Sigourney Weaver, proving the may not look the same as they did in their twenties but looks aren’t everything. Imagine the rougher, bitter Hamilton from this year’s Terminator: Dark Fate taking on the younger, naive Hamilton from The Terminator (1984).

Cole: Tom Cruise?

Dan: Any of the big 1980s action heroes. I’d have loved to see Sylvester Stallone circa Creed II go up against Sylvester Stallone circa Rocky IV. Now that’s an event!

Devon: Nicolas Cage is a man who’s aged less like a fine wine and more a potato. He’s still safe to eat, just wrinkled and with weird stuff sprouting out of him. Mandy-era Cage versus Con Air-era Cage are two entirely different warriors and because he’s already acted with himself in Adaptation, we know he can do it.

Joey: I’m not sure, but I would probably eliminate Rob Lowe and Paul Rudd from the running if we’re keeping a list.

Tom: Paul Rudd? Only joking. The long-mooted Clint Eastwood version would have been great back in the day.

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game of thrones - the bells

23. Was the negative reaction to Game of Thrones’ final season warranted?

Amelia: Absolutely. The last three episodes are some of the most disappointing in TV history.

Jono: Personally, I wasn’t disappointed. The ending tied everything up neatly. I believe many of the viewers had set an expectation from the series that the writers could never meet. No matter the outcome, they wouldn’t be able to please all of their fans.

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the big Q&A 2019

24. What interesting film or TV show was cruelly overlooked?

Amelia: Whilst the film festivals couldn’t stop raving about Jojo Rabbit, Chris Morris’ The Day Shall Come was overlooked.

Barnaby: Elizabeth Chomko’s What They Had came and went almost without anyone noticing, but I thought it was an accomplished low-budget indie.

Cole: Her Smell was cruelly overlooked. I couldn’t believe it! I really thought it was the finest movie of the year and hardly anyone saw it.

Charing: I was pretty upset when American Princess on Lifetime was cancelled because it was a weird silly show that deserved to go for at least two seasons.

Dan: The OA. I had issues with season 1 and season 2 got weirder, but it was also astonishingly unique and overlooked enough for Netflix to cancel it. A tough one to get into and stick with, admittedly, as it’s just so strange.

Devon: I’m unsure if it was missed, but given it’s a documentary and on the subject of horror, maybe the mainstream doesn’t know about Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. A fantastic look through the progression of cinema and the back and forth influences with the black community which led me to watch a number of films I hadn’t seen. The only downside is it’s lean run-time as it moves through entire eras at a quick pace which makes it more a visual companion to the book of the same title. But I finally watched Blacula and that’s actually really good.

Joey: Tuca & Bertie was at least as good as Bojack Horsemen, but Netflix cancelled it after one hilarious, near-perfect season. Hoping and praying someone picks it up again for a second (and third, and fourth…) season.

Jono: What We Do In The Shadows’ TV series. The original movie by Taika Waititi was hilarious and the mockumentary is just as hilarious.

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the big Q&A 2019

25. Dumbo, Aladdin, or The Lion King? Which was the best new version from Disney this year?

Amelia: None of the three will go down in history well. Dumbo was aesthetically pleasing but a general miss, while The Lion King fell into the uncanny valley. Aladdin remade a ’90s classic in a generally entertaining way. Will Smith filled Robin Williams’ blue Genie shoes with unexpected ease and the Bollywood influenced musical numbers worked well. It wasn’t perfect but it was an entertaining family film that brought something new without deviating too much from the original.

Charing: The Lion King. At least most of the songs were good.

Dan: Oh, Dumbo! Lion King was too much of a copy and Aladdin was a pale imitation. Dumbo at least made bold changes and improvements to the original, and I thought it worked rather well.

Jeff: The Lion King… but none of these films was necessary.

Jono: Dumbo. Tim Burton added something extra to his version. A unique twist to the story that I welcomed happily. Aladdin and The Lion King are inferior versions of the originals, in my opinion. Still enjoyable, however, there was no originality, nothing new. If I wanted to watch the story of Aladdin or Simba then I’d happily choose the animations over the 2019 releases.

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the big Q&A 2019

26. Is there a streaming-exclusive film you loved that could’ve been a bigger deal if released in cinemas?

Alexander: High Flying Bird comes to mind, one of Steven Soderbergh’s most riveting and intelligent films in years. It sort of suits the small screen with its iPhone cinematography and its sense of immediacy.

Cole: I don’t know. Maybe High Flying Bird. That was a fun one, I thought, that I feel like could’ve done perfectly well in cinemas.

Charing: Always Be My Maybe. It’s Randall Park from Fresh Off the Boat and Ali Wong the stand-up comedian! With Keanu Reeves!

Dan: Probably Apostle on Netflix. Or I Am Mother.

Joey: I would have loved to have seen Beyonce’s Homecoming in theatres. It’s such a huge movie, it’s a shame it was only available on the small screen.

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the big Q&A 2019

27. What was your biggest summer blockbuster disappointment?

Alexander: It: Chapter Two made me question whether I liked the first one that much!

Amelia: June 2019 was a month of summer blockbuster disappointment. Godzilla: King of the Monsters looked like a child playing with toys in the bath. Then came Men in Black: International, a concept that looked so good on paper yet lacked any jokes. Dark Phoenix again ended an X-Men trilogy with a whimper. Spider-Man: Far From Home was probably the biggest disappointment. The trailer promised multiverses, jumping on Into the Spider-verse’s hype, yet delivered diet Inception (2010) and one of the worst bad guys. When the best bit of the film is in the post-credit scenes, you know it’s a disappointment.

Dan: Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The 2014 Godzilla was excellent, so I expected more of the same, but with monsters galore. I got plenty of monsters and fights, but nothing else to latch onto, so that was a big problem. And the trailers were pitching something far more spine-tingling and creative.

Joey: Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood really didn’t do it for me. I appreciate Tarantino moving ever so slightly into more mature dramatic territory, but it felt overblown, overlong, and overly focused on Margaret Qualley’s bare feet.

Tom: The Lion King. The trailer almost made me cry, but the final film was hamfisted.

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the big Q&A 2019

28. Of the sequels, remakes, and reboots, which one was the most welcome surprise?

Alexander: Child’s Play was that rare horror remake with the audacity to do something different with the source material and improve on it. Nasty, funny and sweet.

Amelia: John Wick: Chapter 3. The first John Wick’s were a repetitive series of gunshots to the head with Keanu Reeves taking himself all too seriously. John Wick 3 finally understood its audience, with cheesy Schwarzenegger-style delivery and the best murder via household items. The third instalment finally understood how to break up the repetitive, stunt-heavy fight scenes, using horses, dogs and a mirror room. Concentrating on The Continental is the way to go for the future of this franchise.

Cole: I really like Toy Story 4 and you wouldn’t think there’d be any need for a fourth Toy Story, but it’s got to be one of the most consistent movie franchises around. I genuinely love all of them.

Charing: Charlies’ Angels was great. I even went against the grain and gave it 4 and a half stars!

Dan: Terminator: Dark Fate. Shame it tanked with people who felt burned too many times, as it’s a sequel to the first two I can accept and would have liked to see more.

Joey: John Wick: Chapter 3. There hasn’t been a single dud in the franchise yet and I hope it never ends. Now that the Avengers franchise is (mostly) over, I wouldn’t say no to a 20-film John Wick cinematic universe…

Jono: Pet Sematary and Doctor Sleep. Apart from being disappointed that Pet Sematary didn’t feature Jud’s infamous line “it’s a bad road that road”, I thoroughly enjoyed both of these Stephen King adaptations. Doctor Sleep had some great moments. Certain scenes paid homage to The Shining and it added moments from the book that Stanley Kubrick avoided.

Tom: Avengers: Endgame. It managed to surprise me every 10-minutes. I think the finished film is a minor miracle.

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dvd vs streaming (SVOD)

29. Do you still buy physical media, or are you a full-on streamer now? Do discs still have a future?

Alexander: Thanks to being more widely available in the UK, this is the year I’ve finally started collecting Criterion Collection films—as well as continuing my Arrow Video, Eureka, and BFI collections. Physical media won’t die if we don’t let it. Preservation is more important now than ever.

Amelia: I’ve been a full-on streamer for a while. I move around quite a lot and find my choice of clutter to be books, there’s still satisfaction to having a physical copy of a book, unlike discs where streaming offers the same experience as putting a disc in.

Barnaby: I do buy discs, though I always check Netflix and Amazon to see if I can buy something digitally first. As for the future, it’s entirely down to the distributors. The issues are how much back catalogue is migrated onto streaming, how quickly, and whether anyone carries on maintaining a disc-only release window. If those two advantages of discs (you can get obscure old stuff, and occasionally you get new stuff sooner) disappear, I can’t see them lasting long. It’s much more similar to the situation with music than with books; watching a streaming movie and a disc movie is almost exactly the same experience, whereas reading a paperback and a Kindle is very different.

Cole: I buy Blu-ray. It gives me anxiety when I love a movie and only have access to it digitally. I want to be able to watch the movies I love when the grid fails us. If more people feel the same way as me, then I guess discs have a future.

Charing: I don’t even own a DVD player now…

Dan: I’m big into physical media. You can’t beat owning a disc and having it on a shelf, proudly displayed. The artwork, the inserts, posters, the extra features, the optimum picture and sound… unbeatable. It’s just a shame about the price!

Joey: I buy Blu-ray for films I can see myself rewatching, but rarely for ones that don’t have as much replay value. I think discs do have a future, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking because I love being able to hold my movies in my hands. Somebody needs to start a revival of DVDs and Blu-rays for nostalgia value, that seemed to work out pretty well for vinyl records.

Jono: I’m possibly one of the few that still find enjoyment in purchasing physical media. It’s nice to have something to hold when you’ve spent money. The extra features are always welcomed which you don’t get when purchasing digital media. A prime example of doing physical media correctly is the Blu-ray release of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, as not only does it contain two Blu-rays with the feature and extra features, but it also contains a Rick Dalton movie poster, a special edition of MAD Magazine created for the movie, and a vinyl of two songs. It sits nicely on my Blu-Ray shelf.

Tom: Discs are still the best viewing experience, by a long way. Even with 4K streaming the file is heavily compressed and results in hideous artefacts.

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cinema audience

30. Any tips for the optimum experience at a cinema?

Alexander: Don’t fear the ‘shush’. Embrace the shush. If someone needs the shush, you give it to them. Don’t be irresponsible with it, but don’t ignore its power. Learn the art of the shush.

Amelia: Get a cinema pass to your favourite or closest brand, they offer exclusive screenings or early previews that only attract people who really care about cinema. Or skip the multiplex and go to your indie cinemas, more cinephiles and fewer people who want background noise to their conversation.

Barnaby: A good seat for a small screen will give you a better viewing experience than a crappy seat for a huge screen.

Cole: If you can, find a local theatre, one that isn’t a national chain, that you love, and support them.

Charing: Spring for the expensive tickets and the good seats, especially if it’s a long movie!

Dan: Empty your bladder beforehand. Get a seat on the aisle for a quick mid-film toilet break, positioned around the middle so your eye-line naturally falls on the screen. And arrive 10 minutes “late” so you can skip the adverts and enjoy the trailers. Pre-book if you can. And don’t be afraid to move to a premium seat when the film starts, if the cinema’s empty. Nobody cares and those seats are a lot more comfortable.

Devon: A friend and I had a solid 6 or 7 pints each before a midday viewing of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, we were sober enough to enjoy the movie on its own merits but it gave a slightly new experience to buying the tickets and finding the seats. Especially when one of us sits in the wrong screen for the twenty or so minutes of trailers while the other one searches for them…

Joey: Center seat of the row just in front of the aisle between sections. You can put your legs up and nobody’s big head can block your view!

Jono: Maybe I’m slowly turning in to an old man, but choose your screening times wisely. There’s nothing worse than going to see a horror when the theatre is filled with teenagers laughing at the most inappropriate scenes. Completely ruins the experience. Oh, and IMAX.

Tom: Sit in the horizontal middle, a third of the way from the front. Turn off your phone. Don’t talk. Do tell off people who check their phones or talk more than once. Try different cinemas and reward the best one with your money.

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