by Ge Allan
You just want to know what you should watch. Well, as everyone's opinion is equal, we’ve drafted in the help of some completely random viewers to give you the lowdown on this year's most controversial releases.
As our society becomes more fractured, so does the way we watch films.
Today, we can access everyone's opinions online and even provide our own takes - while the critics just have to listen in. Although this democratises the way we talk about films, it complicates the way we consume them, as our viewing choices become tangled in a web of other people's opinions.
We can see the effect of this digital whirlwind in the last couple of years. In 2017, La La Land went from being lauded as a love note to classic Hollywood musicals, to an overprivileged vanity piece. Boots Riley raised questions over the politics of Spike Lee’s supposed liberal BlaKkKlansman in 2018, while Green Book won the Best Picture Oscar, despite being widely slated for tone deafness and racist overtones.
This year is no different, no siree. If you haven’t been on the internet recently, people are currently arguing about a film called Joker. A comic book origins story that won the Golden Lion, yet was directed by the same guy as The Hangover Trilogy, it has split critics and public opinion alike.
Has the infinite dripfeed of criticism and reactions to film disrupted the way we watch? Maybe. But that's something to worry about when you're not at the popcorn stand or deep into a Netflix scroll.
Instead, you just want to know what you should watch, and as everyone's opinion is equal, we’ve drafted in the help of some viewers to highlight just how divisive cinema this year has been. These wildly diverging opinions are all important and what makes film viewing fun. One person’s Citizen Kane is another’s Showgirls (We wholeheartedly love both).
Booksmart (2019) Dir. Olivia Wilde
Booksmart seemed to be a cultural hit this year, people loved the way it treats teenage girls and sexualities. However it was accused of ignoring the realities of Trump’s America.
“Booksmart was the best film I’ve ever seen. It was amazing - so inclusive. Had queer characters that didn’t die / have a shit time. I loved it. I cried for like four hours after." - Grainne
“Booksmart is liberal Hollywood's wet dream: references to Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, and a whole lot of white feminist yas kweening. The leads are unbearably smug middle-class girls who, while having convincing chemistry with one another, are fantastically un-relatable. The film fails to escape the Hollywood fantasy of teenagedom: loaded with extreme wealth, crazy pool parties, and bizarre (but ultimately arbitrary) social hierarchies.” - Will
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) Dir. Quentin Tarantino
"Here we go again," we chorused when Tarantino announced he was making another foot fetish film, this time about Charles Manson. But it was loved at Cannes and many critics thought it was a return to form.
“Tarantino doing something both very old and very new. I really enjoyed the weird pacing and diversionary nature of Leo and Brad hanging out. Brad has never been better and Leo is best playing a sort of universal punchbag.” - Sam
“Whilst it has some great moments, it was overhyped because Tarantino directed it. Basically nothing happens for the whole film.” - Ben
Joker (2019) Dir. Todd Phillips
Will it win an Oscar? Will it get put in a bargain bin of cancelled culture? Or is everyone just being too harsh to Todd Phillips? Poor Todd can’t even make comedy anymore, as we’re all too bloody sensitive and woke.
“It’s a cynical, pessimistic and wildly care-free film on a sensitive topic that is ultimately about nothing at all. It’s completely devoid of any real meaning or message and is the ultimate expression of ‘you can’t say anything these days so get a load of this’." - Ross
“A film where you fall awkwardly in love with a villain, uncomfortably understanding to his pseudo-political plight. It’s gory, awkward, poetic and gorgeous." - Heather
Midsommar (2019) Dir. Ari Astar
The new kid on the horror block, Aster was applauded for Hereditary which similarly did its turn on the opinion merry-go-round. He was back this summer with Midsommar. Many loved its madness but others said it was a repeat of old ideas.
“I saw Midsommar and I nearly vommited countless times but it was still the best film I saw this year!” - Connie
“When you take away the setting, all you're left with is a problematic camp slasher. The one-
dimensional supporting characters get picked off one by one in ways that don't give any
particular satisfaction. I also struggled to get past the gratuitous use of mental illness for shock factor; and otherwise inconsequential physical deformity.” - Molly
Vice (2018) Dir. Adam Mckay
A film that rips Cheney a new one or an Adam Mckay vehicle designed to hit us with a blunt, faux- postmodernist hammer?
“Adam McKay tricks the viewer into believing they're watching a biopic and then pulls the curtain to reveal a rip-roaring indictment of the last 50 years of American politics." - Rowan
“This film is gonna get Trump re-elected man. It saddens me how Adam McKay can't tell a story straight cos it's such an interesting part of history. And he needs to stop telling me how he hates Dick Cheney. I can’t remember watching such a tonally potholed film. At one point, they start quoting Shakespeare, I assume because some coked up exec was finding it too dry. It’s barely a film. There are ways of making films about power, war and corruption without using a blunt crayon to write it.” - Sam
Did you see a film this year? Did it enrage and / or delight you? Let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org
Ge Allan is the Film Editor of The Radical Art Review