With pandemic restrictions being lifted, we saw 53 movies in a theatrical setting this year, along with 188 others on physical media or through streaming services. Overall, it was another solid year for filmmaking even though we found many of the hyped films to be underwhelming.
While many veteran filmmakers made our top 10 list, we had three feature film debuts this year with The Power, Censor and Saint Maud. This is the most we’ve ever had on our year-ending list. It should be noted that all of these films were directed by women who blew us away with their direction behind the camera. We cannot wait to see what’s next from Corinna Faith, Prano Bailey-Bond and Rose Glass.
As with any list, we have not viewed every film released in 2021, but these were the 10 that stood out above the rest. Like last year, we are only including each film’s synopsis. We hate spoilers and trailers that give everything away. We firmly believe not knowing too much is the best way to view most of these great films.
Disclaimer: This list is based on films we’ve seen as of Dec. 31, 2021. It could be adjusted in the future as we view other films from 2021 in early 2022.
1. Last Night In Soho (directed by Edgar Wright)
SYNOPOSIS: A young girl, passionate about fashion design, is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters her idol, a dazzling wannabe singer. But 1960s London is not what it seems, and time seems to be falling apart with shady consequences.
2. Come True (directed by Anthony Scott Burns)
SYNOPOSIS: Looking for an escape from her recurring nightmares, 18-year-old Sarah submits to a university sleep study, but soon realizes she’s become the conduit to a frightening new discovery.
3. Nightmare Alley (directed by Guillermo del Toro)
SYNOPOSIS: An ambitious young carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is.
4. The Power (directed by Corinna Faith)
SYNOPOSIS: London, 1974. As Britain prepares for electrical blackouts to sweep across the country, trainee nurse Val arrives for her first day at the crumbling East London Royal Infirmary. With most of the patients and staff evacuated to another hospital, Val is forced to work the night shift, finding herself in a dark, near empty building. Within these walls lies a deadly secret, forcing Val to face both her own traumatic past and deepest fears.
5. Censor (directed by Prano Bailey-Bond)
SYNOPOSIS: Film censor Enid takes pride in her meticulous work, guarding unsuspecting audiences from the deleterious effects of watching the gore-filled decapitations and eye gougings she pores over. Her sense of duty to protect is amplified by guilt over her inability to recall details of the long-ago disappearance of her sister, recently declared dead in absentia. When Enid is assigned to review a disturbing film from the archive that echoes her hazy childhood memories, she begins to unravel how this eerie work might be tied to her past.
6. Saint Maud (directed by Rose Glass)
SYNOPOSIS: Having recently found God, self-effacing young nurse Maud arrives at a plush home to care for Amanda, a hedonistic dancer left frail from a chronic illness. When a chance encounter with a former colleague throws up hints of a dark past, it becomes clear there is more to sweet Maud than meets the eye.
7. Don’t Look Up (directed by Adam McKay)
SYNOPOSIS: Two low-level astronomers, upon discovering that a meteor will strike the Earth in six months, go on a media tour to try to warn the world but find an unreceptive and unbelieving populace.
8. Nobody (directed by Ilya Naishuller)
SYNOPOSIS: Hutch Mansell, a suburban dad, overlooked husband, nothing neighbor — a “nobody.” When two thieves break into his home one night, Hutch’s unknown long-simmering rage is ignited and propels him on a brutal path that will uncover dark secrets he fought to leave behind.
9. Werewolves Within (directed by Josh Ruben)
SYNOPOSIS: When a proposed pipeline creates hostilities between residents of a small town, a newly-arrived forest ranger must keep the peace after a snowstorm confines the townspeople to an old lodge. But when a mysterious creature begins terrorizing the group, their worst tendencies and prejudices rise to the surface, and it is up to the ranger to keep the residents alive, both from each other and the monster which plagues them.
10. House of Gucci (directed by Ridley Scott)
SYNOPOSIS: The true story of how Patrizia Reggiani plotted to kill her husband Maurizio Gucci, the grandson of renowned fashion designer Guccio Gucci.
Alan Howarth’s sound designs are ingrained in pop culture.
The sound you hear when the Starship Enterprise appears in the Star Trek films? That’s Howarth. When the little girl calls from within the television set in Poltergeist? Howarth. That musical sense of foreboding that overcomes you when Indiana Jones faces a cobra in Raiders of the Lost Ark? All Howarth.
And if you happened to see jazz fusion pioneers Weather Report in the late 70s, you might recall marveling at co-founder Joe Zawinul’s next-level keyboard setup. That, too, was Howarth’s magic, working as a touring technician to keep Zawinul’s complex array of synths in running order from night to night — no small feat in the pre-digital age.
As an adolescent, Howarth was always more interested in visual art, but music ended up in the driver’s seat. Eventually, he married the two things, creating music to soundtrack images. Nowadays, he’s also drawing sketches of some of the famed movie scenes he’s celebrated for scoring — an unexpected full-circle connection to his creative roots. Howarth will have some of his sketches for attendees to view when he performs a set to kick off the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s 20th Halloween Horror Marathon at 11 p.m. on Saturday, October 30th. Purchase tickets HERE.
“When we were approached about the idea of bringing out Alan Howarth for this event, we jumped at the chance, because it just worked perfectly,” said Mark Anastasio, a.k.a. ‘Midnight Mark,’ Program Manager and Director of Special Programming at Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre for over fifteen years. “And we were thrilled that he was willing to perform as part of this show. People love the scores that he’s created and to hear some of them live with a packed house full of horror fans is going to be quite something. Halloween III: Season of the Witch, [which he scored with John Carpenter], was already locked in as one of the two films we’d be revealing early, so it just made total sense.”
Howarth is best known for his spooky sound signatures at the intersection of sci-fi and horror, but his musical interests began with an accordion found in the attic of his Cleveland-area childhood home. Music became more than just a hobby after a one-off high school gig (playing sax) yielded an $80 payout—big money at that time.
So began a series of serendipitous events that shaped the trajectory of his career. Playing bass in popular Cleveland bands, one of which opened for The Who, eventually led him to Los Angeles. There, an earlier connection to the band Weather Report resulted in attaining the keyboard technician job that put him on the road for several years, beginning in 1976. Four years later, based on his job with Weather Report, an old Ohio friend working at Paramount Pictures recommended Howarth as a knowledgeable ‘synth guy’ for some work on the first Star Trek movie. In the wake of completing that project, Film Editor Todd Ramsay offhandedly put him in touch with John Carpenter, but Howarth was not expecting to become the tech-yin to Carpenter’s creative-yang.
Actually, at that time, Howarth was taking classes on film scoring at UCLA Extension. A lot of guys would’ve probably quit the classes, but for Howarth, working with Carpenter was like a dream internship on steroids.
“John and I are the same age,” Howarth said over the phone from Newport Beach, California. “He’s from Kentucky and I’m originally from Cleveland, so we’ve both experienced life through a Midwestern lens and on a similar timeline. But he’s John Carpenter, right? I mean, he’s a trained musician from his dad, his dad was a concert violinist and also taught music. In our first meeting, he came over to my house and we sat and just talked for about three hours. I showed him some stuff in my little dining room studio, and we were excited. And at the end of that meeting, he goes, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,” and so just like that, I’m now scoring with John Carpenter on Escape From New York. It was my first score! And I had all the gear, but John wasn’t interested in gear. Several times I tried explaining to him how something worked and he’d say ‘Alan, I don’t really want to know about that stuff. That’s your job’.”
In the forty years since, Howarth collaborated with Carpenter on a half dozen more genre classics (Christine, Halloween II, Halloween III, Big Trouble in Little China, Prince of Darkness, and They Live) while moving further into his own scoring career (another trio of Halloween films, amongst others).
When he’s not scoring, he’s often called on to create effects or sound designs — mini-themes — for specific moments in films. This is his specialty, taking visual cues and effectively representing them sonically— merging his passion for visual art with his musical abilities and technical chops. As a result, his designs have been featured in everything from National Lampoon’s Class Reunion to Beetlejuice, Phantasm II, and the Back to the Future sequels. Howarth’s team won Academy Awards for their sound effect work on The Hunt for Red October and Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
While the tone of his work remains largely ominous (but not solely—more on that later), how he creates it has shifted over time. Like most everyone involved in music production, Howarth has learned to use Digital Audio Workstations (Ableton Live, Garage Band, Logic Pro, Pro Tools, etc.), which have become an industry standard. As a tech-enthusiast, he’s stayed abreast of the changes from the very beginning, and he was even involved in the development of what we now know as “surround sound.” Most of the digital shift, he says, has been positive.
“The editorial aspect of digital is a huge improvement,” he said, explaining that the cut-and-paste nature of digital recording ends up requiring less musical skill, but it makes his job easier. When he and Carpenter did Escape from New York, they couldn’t synchronize the videotape with the audio recorder. Literally, it was just a matter of pushing play on both consoles at the same time, letting them freewheel and the pair would work on the score that way. The other thing Howarth would sometimes do is record the dialogue from the video to one track of his multi-track tape recorder, so he could turn the video off and still know where he was in the movie.
Lately, an appreciation for analog sound is fueling a revival of sorts. Howarth says that the sound of analog synths and analog tape that he and his contemporaries were using forty years ago — emulating avant-garde artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze — has become sought after. As a result, popular software has emerged to recreate those textures. What’s more, he’s now being asked to work on vintage equipment.
“The last two scores I’ve done—one was a movie called Hoax (2019) and the other is Cosmic Dawn, which will be out in the spring—both directors asked me to do what I used to do in the 80s with analog synthesizers,” he said. “So, it was technically somewhat limited, but now it’s a style. Back then, we got the most out of the technology because that’s all we had. Now, with digital, the possibilities are limitless, which can actually make things more difficult. I had lunch with Brian Eno one time and he was talking about producing records for other artists and he said that what he does now is limit the use of technology. Before he starts work on an album, he sets parameters, like real drums only or only analog synths or… anything to make the universe of digital possibilities more finite. He said it provides a sense of direction because the limits of the past have proved to be a good way to go, artistically.”
No doubt, the folks at the Coolidge Corner Theatre would wholeheartedly agree with Eno: they prefer to run 35mm film prints. As a registered NFP for over thirty years, Anastasio says it’s one of the main factors in keeping the venue’s programming unique. But staying true to an analog vision in the digital age comes with challenges.
“The main challenge with that, in this day and age, is the expense,” he said. “Shipping rates across the world have increased. And 35mm prints are heavy. So it’s more expensive than ever to show 35mm, but it’s something we still do here and we do it well so that we’re able to maintain relationships with studios and archives in order to borrow what is becoming increasingly rare. Film on film has become a rarity. But I think a lot of our audience comes out to watch these movies in their original format and they appreciate it.”
Anastasio says the Halloween Horror Marathon is a 100% 35mm program right down to the trailers that will run between films. He explained that a distributor who owns the rights to a film they might want to license won’t necessarily have a 35mm print of the film in stock, forcing the Coolidge to have to go to a private archive or to private collectors — folks that have salvaged these 35mm prints from destruction. That process fetches an additional fee.
For the Marathon, five of the seven films will remain a secret until they’re actually up on the screen. Anastasio also points to the challenging endurance test involved for his projection team, led by Nick Lazarro, formerly of Kaiju Big Battel, and Thomas Welch.
“But it’s also a ton of fun,” he said. “And I do think that there’s something really special for our audience members, to be able to spend an entire night inside of a place that they love so much. This is a way of reminding our audiences that this is their theater. It’s such a beloved community space and they support us by coming to our shows, and by donating. So having a night where they can sleep over and feel as though it’s truly home is special.”
If there’s something that (thankfully!) isn’t particularly challenging for the Coolidge, it’s making sure that patrons have the safest possible environment to enjoy their unique programming.
“We’re not messing around when it comes to the safety of our guests,” Anastasio said, and he’s not kidding. In addition to requiring masks and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within a 72-hour window, he explained that the Coolidge went a step further, upgraded their HVAC with high MERV-rated filters and new, state-of-the-art Continuous Infectious Microbial Reduction (CIMR) Systems technology. In the most basic terms, the CIMR system scrubs the air, “creating charged, ionized compounds of safe, self-regulating ultra-low level hydrogen peroxide,” that kills airborne pathogens. Apparently, it’s the same system used at the Pentagon and the Department of Defense. Additionally, they’re blasting their ventilation ducts with UV light, which also works to kill pathogens. All told, it seems like spending the night at the Coolidge is a safer bet than most hotels.
Anastasio also clarified that the smaller theatres will be open for guests to enter should the big room begin to feel too full.
For his part, after a long period of performing very little, Alan Howarth is excited to bring his stage show to an appreciative group of genre fans, particularly on mischief night and in celebrating 20 years of Halloween marathons at the Coolidge. When he performs live, he creates an amalgam of his most famous scores and sound designs with cleverly edited visual accompaniment from the related movies.
Of his most recent work, a project with Oliver Stone’s son Sean Stone on a politically charged docuseries, The Best Kept Secret, sounds most riveting. Amusingly, Howarth was told to dial back the dark, menacing score he initially provided because it made the series too heavy. In the end, he used lighter tones to set up an interesting contrast, which reveals his other side: there’s more to Howarth than witches, ghosts, and goblins and spaceships.
“I’m really into meditation and spiritual things, and I’ve done two meditation CDs, Paradise Within and Indigo Ra,” he said. “I also collaborated with a jazz buddy of mine named John Novello who has a very famous band called Niacin. That project is called Luna Tech. All of that stuff is up on Youtube, so folks can check it out for free. I want to do more work like that, that’s not all dark and black. These are the sunshine and flowers and beauty projects, y’know?. One of my clients for many years, before the internet, was Scripps Institution of Oceanography,” based in San Diego. “They had an annual video that they would distribute to the donors showing what they were doing each year, and I scored all that stuff… the fish in the reefs, and the oceans and the winds and the climate. I have a whole other part of me and my work that nobody knows about.”
The Coolidge Corner Theatre is located at 290 Harvard Street in Brookline, MA. Tickets for the 20th Annual Horror Marathon with Alan Howarth live can be purchased HERE.
Every year, I set a goal to see at least 100 films in a theatrical setting. Prior to the start of the pandemic, I saw 23 films and was well on my way to achieving my goal. However, when movie theaters were forced to close and screens went dark in mid-March, it was clear that my goal would not be met this year.
While I was fortunate that drive-ins and movie theaters reopened in a limited capacity in the region where I live during the summer, this was the first year I resorted to online streaming to see fresh content when a film wasn’t available on physical media.
As a result, I concluded the year by seeing 46 films in theatrical setting and approximately 250 more on physical media or streaming. While my year end list is always diverse from all genres, my favorite films are all horror related this year.
As with any list, I have not viewed every film released in 2020, but these were the 15 that stood out above the rest. Unlike my top 10 albums list of 2020 where I reviewed each one, I am only including the film’s synopsis below. I hate spoilers and trailers that give everything away and I firmly believe not knowing too much is the best way to view most of these gems.
For those who are interested, you can also view my favorite horror films of 2020 on our Letterboxd account. So far, we ranked our favorite 46 films. This wasn’t easy to do as every film on this list is solid from start to finish. Click HERE to view the list.
Disclaimer: This list is based on films I’ve seen as of Dec. 30, 2020. It could be adjusted in the future as I view other films from 2020 in early 2021.
Synchronic (Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead)
SYNOPSIS: Two New Orleans paramedics’ lives are ripped apart after encountering a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects.
2. 1BR (Directed by David Marmor)
SYNOPSIS: When Sarah lucks into a sweet one-bedroom at Asilo Del Mar Apartments in Los Angeles, she think she’s hit the jackpot. It’s got plenty of space, friendly tenants, group BBQs and even a cute neighbour next door. All is not what it seems: loud noises start keeping her awake at night; her cat is missing; everyone seems to be a little too helpful and friendly, except for the weirdo, Lester. Soon, Sarah learns she didn’t choose this apartment — it chose her.
3. The Lodge (Directed by Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala)
SYNOPSIS: A soon-to-be stepmom is snowed in with her fiancé’s two children at a remote holiday village. Just as relations begin to thaw between the trio, some strange and frightening events take place.
4. Hunter Hunter (Directed by Shawn Linden)
SYNOPSIS: Joseph and his family live in the remote wilderness as fur trappers but their tranquility starts to be threatened when they think are being hunted by the return of a rogue wolf and Joseph leaves them behind to track it.
5. Run (Directed by Aneesh Chaganty)
SYNOPSIS: Chloe, a teenager who is confined to a wheelchair, is home schooled by her mother, However, her mother’s strange behavior doesn’t go unnoticed and when Chloe pries into some private papers, she discovers a Change of Name Certificate document with her mother’s name, Diane Sherman, on it. When Chloe googles “Diane Sherman,” the internet suddenly disconnects. Chloe becomes suspicious of all that her mother does, suspecting her of something sinister. She decides to go on the run in her wheelchair in a desperate attempt to get away from her.
6. Darkness (a.k.a. Buio) (Directed by Emanuela Rossi)
SYNOPSIS: It’s the story of Stella, a young girl living with her father and two little sisters in an isolated house with bolted windows. Because of a solar explosion occurred years before, the man is the only one able to get out of the house. But his version of the truth seems to hide a huge lie.
7. Zombi Child (Directed by Bertrand Bonello)
SYNOPSIS: Haiti, 1962: A man is brought back from the dead only to be sent to the living hell of the sugarcane fields. In Paris, 55 years later, at the prestigious Légion d’honneur boarding school, a Haitian girl confesses an old family secret to a group of new friends – never imagining that this strange tale will convince a heartbroken classmate to do the unthinkable.
8. Possessor (Directed by Brandon Cronenberg)
SYNOPSIS: Tasya Vos, an elite corporate assassin, uses brain-implant technology to take control of other people’s bodies to terminate high profile targets. As she sinks deeper into her latest assignment, Vos becomes trapped inside a mind that threatens to obliterate her.
9. Anything for Jackson (Directed by Justin G. Dyck)
10. A Good Woman Is Hard To Find (Directed by Abner Pastoll)
SYNOPSIS: The recently widowed mother of two, Sarah, is desperate to know who murdered her husband in front of her young son, rendering him mute. Coerced into helping a low-life drug dealer stash narcotics stolen from the local Mr. Big, she’s forced into taking drastic action to protect her children, evolving from downtrodden submissive to take-charge vigilante.
11. Alone (Directed by John Hyams)
SYNOPSIS: A recently widowed traveler is kidnapped by a cold blooded killer, only to escape into the wilderness where she is forced to battle against the elements as her pursuer closes in on her.
12. Unhinged (Directed by Derrick Borte)
SYNOPSIS: A divorced mother honks impatiently at a deranged middle-aged stranger at a red light while running late on her way to work. His road rage escalates to horrifyingly psychotic proportions as he becomes single-mindedly determined to teach her a deadly lesson for provoking him.
13. Becky (Directed by Cary Murnion & Jonathan Miliott)
SYNOPSIS: A teenager’s weekend at a lake house with her father takes a turn for the worse when a group of convicts wreaks havoc on their lives.
14. Swallow (Directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis)
SYNOPSIS: Hunter, a newly pregnant housewife, finds herself increasingly compelled to consume dangerous objects. As her husband and his family tighten their control over her life, she must confront the dark secret behind her new obsession.
15. Host (Directed by Rob Savage)
SYNOPSIS: Six friends hire a medium to hold a séance via Zoom during lockdown — but they get far more than they bargained for as things quickly go wrong. When an evil spirit starts invading their homes, they begin to realize they might not survive the night.
Every October Limelight Magazine focuses its attention on horror films. This year, we decided to rank our favorite 31 horror movies directed by females. While Hollywood is still predominately male driven with its offerings, women are increasingly making a name for themselves in the horror genre, especially during the past decade.
Despite the critical praise and positive audience response to many of the films on this list, most of these female directors don’t have same name recognition in the genre as John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Brian DePalma, and George A. Romero or even more contemporary male directors like Mike Flanagan, Eli Roth or James Wan.
What these female filmmakers have done is tip the horror movie genre upside down by offering a different perspective for the viewer. In the stomach-churning Revenge, for instance, French director Corlalie Fargeat takes the rape-revenge formula to a whole new level with the multi-layered performance from lead actress Matilda Lutz.
As film critic Christy Lemire noted in her positive review of the movie on robertebert.com, Revenge is “intense and often excruciating to watch, but it’s also extremely satisfying as it allows us to live vicariously through a woman who delivers payback and then some to the men who viewed her as disposable. Fargeat displays a masterful balance of tone and pacing, as well as a super-stylish visual flair and a heightened ear for sound design. Revenge is shocking but not gratuitously so; surprisingly, it ends up becoming a feel-good tale of a woman enduring a series of horrific abuses and triumphantly coming into her own.”
It should be noted that we have not seen every horror movie directed by a female but we’ve definitely tried to see as many as possible. By our most recent count, we’ve seen close to 100 and this list could easily change as we view more films. However, this is what we came up with and we hope you take the time to check these films out.
The Babadook (2014) – Directed by Jennifer Kent
Raw (2017) – Julia Ducournau
Revenge (2018) – Coralie Fargeat
The Invitation (2015) – Karyn Kusama
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2015) – Ana Lily Amirpour
The Lodge (2019) – Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala
The Nightingale (2019) – Jennifer Kent
Near Dark (1987) – Kathryn Bigelow
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) – Lynne Ramsay
Pet Semetary (1989) – Mary Lambert
You Were Never Really Here (2018) – Lynne Ramsay
American Psycho (2000) – Mary Harron
Rust Creek (2019) – Jen McGowan
Prevenge (2016) – Alice Lowe
Goodnight Mommy (2015) – Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala
It’s Oscar night 2020! Since we screened all of the films in the major categories this year, we are going to make our predictions for who will win and who should win. We also noted who should have been nominated but was snubbed by the Academy. The last time we did this was 2017 and we did surprisingly well with our predictions. However, this year was much more difficult with some categories having no clear cut winners in our opinion. For those four categories we didn’t view all of the films (Documentary-Short & Feature, Animated-Short & Feature), we didn’t make a prediction.
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”
Who will win? 1917
Who should win? Parasite
Who should have been nominated? Uncut Gems
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell”
Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”
Florence Pugh, “Little Women”
Margot Robbie, “Bombshell”
Who will win? Laura Dern
Who should win? Kathy Bates
Who should have been nominated? Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”
Al Pacino, “The Irishman”
Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”
Who will win? Brad Pitt
Who should win? Joe Pesci
Who should have been nominated? Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
South Korea, “Parasite”
Spain, “Pain and Glory”
France, “Les Misérables”
North Macedonia, “Honeyland”
Poland, “Corpus Christi”
Who will win? Parasite
Who should win? Parasite
Who should have been nominated? Never Look Away
“In the Absence”
“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”
“Life Overtakes Me”
“St. Louis Superman”
“Walk Run Cha-Cha”
We did not view any films in this category.
“The Edge of Democracy”
We did not view any films in this category.
“I’m Standing With You,” “Breakthrough”
“Into the Unknown,” “Frozen II”
“Stand Up,” “Harriet”
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” “Rocketman”
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” “Toy Story 4”
Who will win?“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”
Who should win? “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
“I Lost My Body”
“Toy Story 4”
We did not view any films in this category.
“The Two Popes”
Who will win? JoJo Rabbit
Who should win? Little Women
Who should have been nominated: Mike Flanagan, Doctor Sleep
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Who will win? Parasite
Who should win? Parasite
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”
Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
Jonathan Pryce, “The Two Popes”
Who will win? Joaquin Phoenix
Who should win? Joaquin Phoenix
Who should have been nominated? Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”
Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”
Renée Zellweger, “Judy”
Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
Who will win? Renee Zellweger
Who should win? Renee Zellweger
Who should have been nominated? Lupita Nyong’o, Us
Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”
Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite”
Sam Mendes, “1917”
Todd Phillips, “Joker”
Who will win? Sam Menders
Who should win? Bong Joon-ho
Who should have been nominated? Greta Gerwig, Little Women
Limelight Magazine viewed 77 films theatrically in 2019. Of these films, 67 were first run, while the rest were retro screenings of horror classics such as Jaws and Halloween 2. While this decade contained some of the best films in cinematic history, 2019 had the most films that were consistently solid. As with any list, we have not screened every film released in 2019, including Stars Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Pain and Glory and 1917. We plan to see those films at the start of the new year.
In reflecting back on the highlights of 2019, these were our top 10 favorites followed by an honorable mention list. Rather than go into detail about each film, we’re only going to list them so you can discover these movies for yourself. (Disclaimer: This list is based on films I’ve seen as of Dec. 31, 2019. It could be adjusted in the future as I view other films from 2019 in early 2020).
3. The Nightingale
5. Doctor Sleep
6. The Nighshifter
8. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
9. Uncut Gems
10. Happy Death Day 2U
Honorable Mentions (11-20)
11. Freaks 12. Glass 13. Richard Jewell 14. Little Women 15. Yesterday 16. Luce 17. Climax 18. Rust Creek 19. Knives Out 20. Bombshell
2019 was another great year for horror movies, capping off what is arguably the best decade for this genre in cinematic history. While there were a number of great films that could be classified as horror based on their content, such as Jennifer Kent’s sophomore feature The Nightingale and Jen McGowan’s Rust Creek, this list will only include those classified as horror films. 18 of these films we were fortunate enough to see theatrically with an audience, while the other three we had to either watch on physical media or streaming. Please note that this is not a “best of” list like other publications have done but rather a list of our 25 personal favorites. (As we always note when creating a list like this, we haven’t seen every horror film this year but these are our favorites as of today’s posting date).
Limelight Magazine viewed 83 films theatrically in 2018. This is the most films we’ve ever seen in a theater in any given year. Of these films, 74 were first run, while the rest were retro screenings of cult or modern horror classics such as It’s Alive and Ms. 45. It’s interesting to note that we viewed more female-directed features this year than at any other time. Films such as Blockers (Kay Cannon), Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller), Leave No Trace (Debra Granik), The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan), The Ranger (Jenn Wexler), Revenge (Coralie Fargeat), Mary Queen of Scots (Josie Rourke) and You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) all had females at the helm. Unfortunately, we have not seen Karen Kusuma’s The Destroyer because it was only screened in three theaters in Los Angeles and New York before the deadline for this article.
Other film highlights this year included a return to form for director Paul Schrader with First Reformed, film legends Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood giving their best performances in years in The Old Man and the Gun and The Mule respectively, and award buzz worthy documentaries (Free Solo and Will You Be My Neighbor?).
In reflecting back on the cinematic highlights of 2018, these were our top 10 favorites. Rather than go into detail about each film, we’re only going to list them so you can discover these movies for yourself. (Disclaimer: This list is based on films I’ve seen as of Dec. 31, 2018. It could be adjusted in the future as I view other films from 2018 in early 2019).
During the month of October in 2017, Limelight Magazine counted down our favorite 31 horror movies since 2000. This year we decided to go back to the 1980’s which was the peak of the slasher film genre. While almost everyone knows the Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Child’s Play franchises, there were a number of slasher films that were released between 1980 and 1989 that have become neglected or overlooked. So, we decided to go through our extensive DVD and Blu-ray collection and feature a slasher film from this time period that we don’t hear a lot about anymore. While not all of these are great films, they are worth checking out if you are a fan of this horror sub genre.
It should be noted that we are referencing one obscure slasher movie per day alphabetically during October. We are only featuring those films we actually own. There are three letters of the alphabet (Q, Y & Z) where we don’t own a film title to match that letter. Please check back daily for the next featured film.
With the closing of the Cable Car Cinema and Cafe in Providence, R.I., after 42 years, we had planned to write an editorial about it. We have so many memories of going there. In fact, the past couple of years the owners really raised the bar with their programming. We also featured them in Limelight Magazine two years ago when the indie cinema celebrated their 40th anniversary. (Click HERE to read the story). However, we noticed a post on Sara Archambault’s Facebook page that expressed our thoughts exactly. Instead of rewriting essentially what she posted, we asked for her permission to share this on our page with our readers and she graciously accepted. So long, Cable Car Cinema and Cafe. You were a gem in the Providence community and a cultural institution!
To Whom It May Concern:
As a filmmaker, an arts sector worker, and a life-long RI resident (with about 20 years in Providence), I want to add a line to the recent debates about the closing of the Cable Car Cinema.
I am fortunate to work at a regional arts funding organization called the LEF Foundation. LEF supports documentary filmmakers who reside in New England but make films around the world. Each year, we gather a jury of film professionals from all over the country to make the grant decisions and in the last few years, we have moved these deliberations from where the foundation is centered, in Harvard Square, to Providence.
I helped to orchestrate this move. I have what is possibly an absurd amount of Providence Pride. I revel in showing off this city’s historic and crafty features. I love the people here; our DIY spirit; the fierce call to create and forge our own paths with nothing but some good ideas and a little sweat. You can see this manifested all over the city in myriad ways.
In the mornings, I walk the jury from where they stay at the Dean Hotel over to Small Point Café for breakfast. At the end of the day, I bring them out to see art or shop some craft stores after a hard day’s work.
Significantly, I always send this jury to the Cable Car, one of this city’s most important cultural institutions. This is a place dedicated to showing the best of independent film, and intentionally building community around cinema. After a day of watching emerging films in progress, it’s satisfying to send the jury to the “cinema with couches” to see what one of these films might look like when it reaches the big screen.
But this year was different.
I knew I was sending this group of film industry leaders to the Cable Car for the last time, and I was heartbroken.
But it’s not only the Cable Car closing that pains my heart. Walking down Westminster, the jury encountered closed storefronts on each block. Every new construction boasted signs for hotels or luxury apartments. But what is it that will draw people to our city? Or make them stay? I’m heartened by the cool little shops and restaurants I see sprouting up downtown, but I worry the new construction signals a stripping away of this city’s beating heart.
Why am I so worried? Until recently, the LEF Foundation was located in Harvard Square, where it had been since 1992. I witnessed the Square morph from a funky, eclectic space to a corporate white wash of familiar franchises. The building LEF was in for more than 25 years was sold and the rent doubled. Down the block the Brattle Theatre, an independent cinema, is a remnant of what the Square once was. It’s all the more treasured for this reason but it too has a wealthy landlord–Harvard University–and ongoing challenges remain.
What I saw happen in Harvard Square, I see happening here.
And so I ask: What do we value, Providence? What do we want this place to be?
Providence is well known around the world for its arts scene. The culture of this place is directly tied to its creative character. Anchors like AS220, Trinity Rep, and PPAC, helped spur this growth we see. Places like the Cable Car, Craftland, Thee Red Fez, the Columbus Theater, Haven Brothers, Armageddon Shop, the Dirt Palace, and Frog N Toad, to just mention a handful, are what give Providence its flavor. Our success as a place is, was and will always be tied to the fates of the determined artists, storytellers, and entrepreneurs who bring our city its cultural life.
RI artist Hilary Treadwell (now famous for her “Don’t Mess with RI Either” t-shirts) was quoted in local media when there was speculation that the Crook Point Bascule Bridge was to be taken down. She said, “The soul of a place is diminished when we dismantle its strange things.”
In our city’s pursuit of growth, I fear we may be dismantling our strange things. And it is, indeed, these same strange things that provide the bedrock to why people want to come here in the first place. What is the vision for nurturing and protecting the local while planning for this growth?
In the case of the Cable Car, it is important to note that one of the largest arts institutions in our city took a primary role in the elimination of one of the smallest. RISD receives tax benefits from our city. What is their commitment to being a community partner?
On the state level, instead of giant tax breaks for one or two large corporations, what about incentives for 40 small businesses? What can we do to help grow the Cable Cars – people committed to this city, with roots here – into mid-size or large businesses with more jobs? Where is that vision for advancement? Finally, how can the giant behemoths of the universities create meaningful partnerships with the business and cultural sector that service a more useful set of values than an asset on a spreadsheet?
What do we want to be, Providence?
I am inviting those of us who are so lucky to live in this wonderful little city to think creatively and challenge our leaders to think with us. Think of sitting on those comfy couches discovering a new movie or maybe going on a first date. What does Providence become without the Cable Cars?
I will mourn the loss of this theater for a long time. I wish the owners (my friends – full transparency) well and I hope they find it within them to recreate somewhere else in town.
Finally, I implore our city, state and institutional leaders, please don’t dismantle our strange things in the pursuit of profit and growth. They are the very pillars that hold us up. Including you.
Respectfully submitted, Sara Archambault
Bringing great entertainment to New England since 2011!