Dear USE readers and visitors,
Where did 2019 go to? The year just seems to have whooshed by and already I am writing another round-up review of the films I saw in the past twelve months. I feel I’ve seen more films than I did in the previous two years but that may be because I’ve gone out of my way to see quite a variety of films from many different countries and cultures.
The more interesting films I saw at cinemas have tended to be independently made films from outside the mainstream culture or from individuals still committed to a belief system in which social justice and achieving it are important values. In this respect, the best films I saw are Michael Leigh’s “Peterloo”, Joonho Bong’s “Parasite”, Gallego and Guerra’s “Birds of Passage” and Gavin Hood’s “Official Secrets”.
Significantly the most overrated films, or the worst films I saw, happened to be British-made films. These days the British film industry substitutes for Hollywood – many if not most British films are made with American money now – and the culture that is reflected in most British films (apart from the ones made by socially conscious directors like Leigh and his compatriot Ken Loach) is an increasingly immature one with shallow values shot through with an obsession with identity politics and a concern bordering on neurosis with controlling a narrative about British culture and history. British culture is always to be seen as orderly, polite and civilised, and its darker aspects, while acknowledged, are portrayed as the doings of a few bad apples rather than inherent in the culture because they suit the needs and requirements of a controlling elite.
Of the documentaries I saw in 2019, these made the greatest impression on me:
Francis Plourde, “Operation Mr Chen: The Hidden Face of Quebec’s Golden Visas” – for the connection it discovers between Canadian Federal and provincial encouragement of foreign investment and money-laundering by Chinese billionaires leading to property speculation and bubbles in Vancouver and Toronto;
Caolan Robertson and George Llewellyn-John, “Borderless” – for its account of the refugee crisis affecting Europe and how some NGOs actually benefit financially from encouraging refugees to submit false papers;
Artyom Somov, “Dying Alone: Kodokushi, Japan’s epidemic of isolation through the eyes of a ‘lonely death’ cleaner” – for what it says about the fragmentation of Japanese society;
Jos van Dongen, “Victim of the World Wildlife Fund” – for demonstrating how an organisation supposedly dedicated to animal conservation has a hidden sinister agenda of eugenics and racial hygiene that influences the way it deals with poor people whose properties it wants.
In recent months I have been watching animated short films by Gobelins animation students and science fiction shorts on the DUST channel. These have all been of mixed quality.
I don’t see that mainstream cinematic film culture will improve in 2020 – if anything, Hollywood will continue its slow collapse which it will try to stave off by importing more foreign directors and actors (at the expense of their own countries’ film industries that need them to tell their own stories to their own audiences), remaking classic (and not so classic) films of the past, and churning out more superhero films that require you to see all of them to understand their self-references. These trends all indicate a society in stagnation: as governments try to flog more consumer spending yet refuse to spend more money on education, healthcare and other public services, and impose austerity policies on the public, so the middle class continues to collapse and decrease. Poor people generally spend all their money on food, rent or mortgages, any other debt repayments and generally just trying to survive, and don’t usually watch movies at the cinema. Other countries’ film cultures are also struggling to survive even with government subsidies which may be dwindling. The quality of films is steadily getting worse and the culture they reflect is becoming more and more shallow, and obsessed with surface appearance.
Nevertheless I’ll continue to search for what I think may be potential gems even if I may not see as many films in 2020 as I did in 2019.
Thanks for reading my reviews and following my blog. Onwards we go into 2020!