by Ge Allan
“Well done Quentin. In 2019 you got away with being best mates with a serial abuser, then committing even more violence against women on screen and masking it as a happy ending.”
Welcome one and all to that hellishly enjoyable time of year for film: awards season. Full of snubs, speeches, and declaring a film the winner when it wasn't because you read the card wrong.
We talked about the controversies of 2019 releases - now for the online outrage when a film does or doesn’t get an irrelevant medal from the film industry. And we’re only just emerging from the suffocating pile of end of year lists!
While so much of film criticism is focused on new releases, we thought it would be a good time to refer you to some similar, better or earlier titles. And if you’ve seen recent nominations there is little, if any, diversity in the line ups, so we’ve tried our best to highlight titles that go against this grain.
So why don’t you try something new, step outside your cinematic box, and perhaps your new favourite film will be something old.
We all know Scorsese is the master. His influences can be seen throughout a multitude of films. But he doesn’t change his tune much does he? Just look at Marty’s stats and see how many times he’s been up on the podium accepting awards or putting Robert De Niro back in the limelight with another Rotten Tomatoes shit show.
If you want to try a different kind of crime epic, explore Takeshi Kitano and his many films based around yakuza and Japanese culture. Start with Violent Cop (1989) or Sonatine (1993).
Alternatively, if you want to spend a similarly hefty amount of time watching a film, why not go for the Arabian Nights trilogy by Miguel Gomes or The Great Beauty (2013) by Paulo Sorrentino. Both are lengthy forays exploring vivid, unusual ideas without a mafia hitman in sight.
However, there are a wealth of relationship dramas to plough through. Joe Swanberg’s work feels less arch and more real than Baumbach’s. Try Digging For Fire (2015), where a couple who discover a gun in their backyard begin to feel themselves drifting apart. Tamara Jenkins’ A Private Life (2018) is as prickly as Marriage Story, and its central couple are much more relatable.
A sugary but emotive watch is Take This Waltz (2011), directed by the underrated Sarah Polley and starring Michelle Williams. And don’t forget the gut-punching Blue Valentine (2010).
For more diverse picks (because my god, don’t straight white couples get a lot of screen time), Appropriate Behaviour (2014) by the fabulous Desiree Akhavan is a good choice: a suitably bittersweet exploration of sexuality in the midst of a break up. Wong Kar Wai’s output always involves a moping couple or two, or watch award-winning Iranian drama A Separation (2011).
Easy pickings here for influences/straight-up stolen scenes. Something violent happens while Nat King Cole plays in the soundtrack? Yeah, that’s happened before. Want to see some dark cityscapes in jarring monochromatic colour? Fincher does that, mate. The most obvious homage is to Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1982). De Niro gives an unexpected turn as Rupert Pupkin and it was almost too harmonious to put him into Joker, playing the adversary role which Jerry Lewis played against him in the original.
The most outrageous lack of recognition award, however, goes to Lynne Ramsey’s amazingly taut You Were Never Really Here (2017). Joaquin’s character in this could almost be Arthur Fleck’s twin, albeit one that is a much more believable and complex character. At 89 mins, it is a feat in swift storytelling, showing the seediness and corruption of the New York elite.
Or hey, maybe watch something not focused on another male anti-hero whose relationships to women are incredibly troublesome? Here is a very incomplete list of some modern, bigger budget films that feature complex, nearing on irredeemable, women:
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)
Isabelle Huppert in most things
The Last Seduction (1994)
any film by Andrea Arnold or Josephine Decker