The Trial of the Chicago 7

– a fantastic and fantastically timely piece of cinema. Sorkin’s script is characteristically sharp and pacy, and the cast are at the top of their game. Rarely do I feel so animated by a film, but this is certainly stirring. A must watch.

Waves (2019)

– hesitant to award the Smiley not because it’s undeserving, but because it’s like having boiling hot water splashed on your face for two hours. It’s emotionally scolding, furious and furiously intense, with a soundtrack that’s as dominant as the powerhouse performances it lifts. I felt damaged after watching it, but somehow a little bit stronger too.

One Cut of the Dead

– I started watching this on the basis of none other than Edgar Wright’s recommendation, and after 20 minutes I was honestly wondering if he was doing a student a favour or something, it was so bad. But this epitomises why I always try to watch a movie to its end. In a heartbeat, it went from one of the worst B-movie attempts at a horror movie looking like a school project, to an actual masterpiece of meta-comedy-horror, and a wonderful show-not-tell of the film-making process, complete with jabs at egos, method actors and the big shot suits demanding the impossible. I can’t think of anything else that illustrates the passion and love behind cinema so well as the second half of this film. I was grinning like a goon. Stick it out.

Better Call Saul S05 (TV)

– when brilliant writing meets convincing acting and memorable cinematography is cut with creative direction, you end up with a show as consistently compelling as Better Call Saul. Jimmy has come a long way since we were first introduced to his origin story, but Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould pace his development just right, with barely a foot wrong. Unfortunately, the wrong foot in this season falls in the final episode, which is a real clanger given the deliberate realism of the series so far. This might well be the best show currently on TV though, and over 50 episodes, the occasional misstep can be forgiven.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

– a masterpiece of creativity and a reminder of why superhero movies ever became popular in the first place. This is a self-referential, hilariously witty and inspiring animated genre mash-up that leaves every other superhero movie looking tired and tropid. A pleasure from start to finish.

The Gentlemen

– it is a relief to see such a proficient return to form from Guy Ritchie who delivers an innovative, irreverently funny and fast paced helter-skelter ride featuring his by now trademark one-liner quips, slickly stylised direction, and an hilariously addled narration by Hugh Grant’s oleaginous private investigator. Everyone is at the top of their ham game, and this is an absolute riot.

Free Solo

– documentary about climber Alex Honnold scaling El Capitan in Yosemite without ropes is nail-biting, edge of the seat, stress-saturated brilliance. The vistas, the personalities, his philosophy and, of course, the feat itself are all profoundly affecting, and together make for an introspective and inspiring piece of cinema.

Joker

– where Heath Ledger’s Joker exploded on screen in a dazzling spectacle and jolt of adrenaline, Joaquin Phoenix’ character deteriorates like rot, until sympathetically unhinged becomes fully detached and he sucks chaos towards him like a black hole. It’s a masterful performance. Kudos, too, to Scott Silver and Todd Phillips, who have dared to introduce shades of grey to a genre dominated by black and white, added enough social commentary to stir up the zeitgeist, and still crafted an utterly compelling origin story for one of the most loathed and adored villains in the superhero catalogue. It’s only appropriate to award the smiley…

Time Lapse

– refreshingly original and thought provoking take on the time travel genre, where time and its nature is the centrepiece rather than a cheap plot device. Things escalate a little too fast, but overall this is fairly excellent, and has flown remarkably low under the radar. Deserves more attention.

Parasite

– this unique Korean masterpiece is first and foremost an hilarious black comedy, but more than that, it’s also a searing critique of class and capitalism, stacked full of metaphors and insightful dialogue, that feels simultaneously both horrifyingly prescient and reflective. Genius.

Chernobyl (TV)

– brilliantly crafted historical drama depicts the harrowing tragedy informatively and ungratuitously whilst remaining utterly engaging. A rare feat that more than deserves the acclaim and audience recognition it has received.

The Matrix

– Wow. How a film can continue to conjure such immediate wonder, excitement and hope after 20 years defies explanation. An absolute thrill ride, every bit as fresh as when I first viewed it all those years ago. A once in a generation, maybe even once in a lifetime masterpiece.

The Wolf’s Call

– Wonderfully dramatic French thriller – such a refreshing surprise. Yes, it’s full of absurdly Hollywoodised moments, but they have a kind of hammy charm, and the overall suspense and tension is terrific throughout. Thoroughly enjoyed this one!

Booksmart

– Contender for best film of 2019, certainly best comedy. It’s a straight up female Superbad, shamelessly so – if you wrote the scenes in chronological order next to each other they’d probably line up perfectly – but it succeeds in all the same ways while raising the IQ and bringing the humour more inline with modern standards. Brilliant soundtrack, brilliant acting, brilliant script. Top marks.

The Square

– Endlessly intriguing and hilariously, wonderfully weird. Every time you think it’s reached peak strange, it gets a little stranger still. Unique.