Wrapping 2019 and the 2010s

Mame Bineta Sane in Mati Diop’s Atlantics (2019)

Everyone’s talking about Barack Obama’s lists of his favorite movies,books, and music of the year—including Jia Zhangke. Josh Martin, who keeps a close watch on Chinese-language cinema, tweets word that Jia has expressed his appreciation to the former president for including Ash Is Purest White on his movies list and has suggested that Obama might want to keep an eye out for his forthcoming documentary, Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue. The film, billed as “a seventy-year spiritual history of the Chinese people,” has reportedly been cleared by censors and is slated to premiere in 2020.

In the meantime, while we still have the Golden Globes and the Oscars ahead of us, we’re now well into the final round of list-making and just about ready to wrap up 2019 and the 2010s. Argentine critic Roger Koza conducts one of the most anticipated annual polls of curators and programmers, including Nicole Brenez and the Berlinale’s new artistic director, Carlo Chatrian; critics such as Jonathan Rosenbaum and Adrian Martin; and filmmakers, including Radu Jude, Denis Côté, and João Pedro Rodrigues. In all, 163 dedicated cinephiles have cast votes for the best film of the year, and Pedro Costa’s Vitalina Varela has come out on top. Mati Diop’s Atlantics scores the most votes for best debut feature, and Hong Sang-soo is the clear favorite for director of the decade.

IndieWire has asked thirty-five directors for a few words on their favorites of 2019, and some of them, such as Bong Joon-ho and Guillermo del Toro, have turned in simple yet intriguing lists. Others, such as Josephine Decker and Ciro Guerra, add a bit of commentary, and still others, such as David Lowery and Alex Ross Perry, offer a little more. No one, though, goes all out with the anecdote-spinning quite like Peter Strickland.

For the twelfth year running, Notebook editor Daniel Kasman has invited an illustrious round of writers to create fantasy double features, creatively combining one new and one old film seen in 2019. Contributors to VCinema are looking back on the year in Asian films, while the staff at ScreenAnarchy has put together a collective top ten. And David Davidson has asked dozens of friends of his Toronto Film Review for their top tens.

You can watch Art of the Title’s selections of the ten best title sequences and read Steven Shaviro on the year’s best music videos. Philip Concannon, who caught 217 repertory screenings in 2019, draws up an annotated list of his top fifty. More recent, notable, and more traditional best-of-the-year lists come from Lukas Foerster,Roderick Heath,Robert Horton,Glenn Kenny,Mark Kermode,Leonard Maltin, and Jeffrey St. Clair.


Introducing “This is what defined cinema in the 2010s,” a walloping dossier in the most recent issue of Senses of Cinema, Mark Freeman and César Albarrán-Torres note that this has been “a decade of revision, where ideologies have shifted, priorities have been reordered, and our relationship with the cinema has grown both more simple and more complex.” For all the instantaneous availability now assured new releases, too many fine films get lost in the deluge. So we’ve asked some of our filmmaking friends to help us find a few from the past ten years that deserve another look.

Back in the Notebook, Daniel Kasman has asked another round of contributors to think of a film “he or she wants to remember from the 2010s, select one image from that film to remember it by, and write one sentence to supplement their selection.” The overall effect of this cascading stream is more than a little haunting.

At Filmmaker, Soheil Rezayazdi presents his best-of-the-decade list as a series of ten double features, and our own Hillary Weston has programmed sixteen double bills. David Carter’s annotated list is comprised entirely of films he’s seen at Indiana University Cinema. BOMB Magazine has asked writers and artists for their views on a decade of moving images, and the editors at frieze have been discussing the “artists, collectives, movements and tendencies that shaped art in the 2010s.”

Ty Burr (Boston Globe), Jonathan Rosenbaum,Michael Smith,Nicky Smith (Splice Today), filmmaker and programmer Blake Williams,Norman Wilner (Now Toronto), and friends of the Toronto Film Review have all drawn up lists, and then there are the long views of the 2010s put together by the teams at Hyperallergic, Little White Lies, Slant, and Time Out. Let the new year—and the new decade—begin!

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