PRINT December 2019


John Waters

Filmmaker John Waters’s sixteen-city spoken-word tour “A John Waters Christmas” begins December 2 in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Gaspar Noé, Climax, 2018, 2K video, color, sound, 96 minutes.

CLIMAX (Gaspar Noé)

The best movie of the year gives new meaning to the term “bad trip.” Frenzied dance numbers combined with LSD, mental breakdowns, and childhood trauma turn this nutcase drama into The Red Shoes meets Hallucination Generation. Freak out, baby, freak out!

Bruno Dumont, Joan of Arc, 2019, 3K video, color, sound, 138 minutes. Jeanne d’Arc (Lise Leplat Prudhomme).

JOAN OF ARC (Bruno Dumont)

There is a God and his name is Bruno Dumont. His piously poisonous sequel to last year’s best film, Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc, is artier, holier, and will give you Catholic goose bumps. The ten-year-old star stares nobly and defiantly through the camera lens right into your soul and doesn’t even wait for the church authorities—she burns herself at the stake.

Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood, 2019, 35 mm, color and black-and-white, sound, 161 minutes. Center: Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio). Production still. Photo: Andrew Cooper.

ONCE UPON A TIME . . . IN HOLLYWOOD (Quentin Tarantino)

A real crowd-pleaser that deserves every bit of its critical and financial success for pulling the rug out from under America’s true-crime obsession and daring to give the Manson murders a feel-good happy ending that manages to be both shocking and terribly funny. 

Ali Abbasi, Gräns (Border), 2018, HD video, color, sound, 108 minutes. Vore (Eero Milonoff).

BORDER (Ali Abbasi)

If Eraserhead had cousins, this transgressive troll couple would have welcomed them into their jaw-droppingly bizarre world of over-developed noses, maggot-eating diets, and pedophile-hunting duties. You won’t believe this one!

AMAZING GRACE (realized and produced by Alan Elliott)

Top-notch doc about the 1972 making of Aretha Franklin’s gospel album made all the more powerful by its drab church setting and the empty seats inside. Aretha never looked so talented or so lost, almost like an alien who is stunned by her own talents.

Penny Lane, Hail Satan?, 2019, 4K video, color, sound, 95 minutes.

HAIL SATAN? (Penny Lane)

Not since the Yippies have we seen such a hilarious pack of militant activists as the Satanic Temple. Their real-life pro-separation-of-church-and-state cult leader, Lucien Greaves, makes Anton LaVey look like Pat Boone. Don’t send money to Toys for Tots this Xmas; give it to these heretics.

PAIN AND GLORY (Pedro Almodóvar)

The first Almodóvar movie to shock me—it’s not one bit funny or melodramatic and even the colors are muted, yet it goes beyond the valley of maturity and over the top of riveting self-reflection to gay mental health. You’re not dying, Pedro, independent cinema is.

Faith Akin, Der goldene Handschuh (The Golden Glove), 2019, 2K video, color, sound, 110 minutes. Fritz Honka (Jonas Dassler).


Even its own American distributor called this film reprehensible, and I agree, yet it’s so appalling, so grotesque, so well made and bravely acted that dare I suggest you give this serial-killer movie a watch? Shame on you, Fatih Akin, for making it. Shame on me for putting it on this Top Ten list. Shame on you if you like it.

THE SOUVENIR (Joanna Hogg)

An ugly-to-look-at but beautifully shot high-class art film based on the director’s disastrous first love affair with a junkie. If Marguerite Duras and Philippe Garrel had sex and Martin Scorsese adopted their cinematic offspring, this might have been what their film baby would look like.

Todd Phillips, Joker, 2019, 35 mm, color, sound, 122 minutes. Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix).

JOKER (Todd Phillips)

Irresponsible? Maybe. Dangerous? We’ll see. The first big-budget Hollywood movie to gleefully inspire anarchy. Bravo, Todd Phillips! Only you could get away with it.