Britnee’s Top 20 Films of the 2010s

1. Hereditary (2018) – I can’t rave about this movie enough. Not only is it my favorite film of the decade, it’s one of my favorite films of all time.

2. Call Me By Your Name (2017) – A film that will literally transport you to the summer of 1983 in Northern Italy. This is by far the best romantic film to come out over the past decade. I will forever be in love the the slow-motion dance scene of Armie Hammer dancing to “Love My Way” by The Psychedelic Furs. Elio + Oliver 4 Ever.

3. Dogtooth (2010) – This is first Greek film that I have ever seen as well as the first film I’ve seen by Yorgos Lanthimos. It’s a bizarre social experiment that is so damn dark. I hate that I love it so much, which is what I think Lanthimos was going for.

4. The Artist (2011) – A throwback to the silent, black and white era of filmmaking. This is proof that a film doesn’t need a whole lot of razzle-dazzle to achieve perfection.

5. The Queen of Versailles (2012) – Lauren Greenfield’s documentary about a disgustingly wealthy family’s journey to building the largest home in the USA during the 2008 economic crisis. This film shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of a broken family made up of garbage people.

6. Knife + Heart (2019) – Queer giallo set in the porn world of 1979 Paris. It’s all I ever wanted in a movie.

7. Mandy (2018) – How can one movie be so metal? It’s a jaw-dropping experience that left me extremely satisfied. This is proof that Nicolas Cage can seriously act.

8. Midsommar (2019) – Daytime cult horror that takes place in the beautiful open fields of Sweden. What’s not to love? Ari Aster is killing the movie game. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

9. Raw (2017) – Julia Ducournau’s debut feature film is a coming-of-age cannibal tale that I found to be strangely relatable. It has quite a few stomach-churning scenes that I still think about from time to time.

10. The Witch (2016) – The pinnacle of A24 horror. This is the film that gave us all the gift of Black Phillip, and I am forever grateful.

11. The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014) – When I don’t know what sort of movie I’m in the mood for, I pop in my DVD copy of The Hundred-Foot Journey and it always does the trick. This movie is always such a joy to watch and has a special place in my heart.

12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) – This film marked the end of the Harry Potter franchise, which is something that was a major part of my life since I was 9 years old. The standards for this movie were so high, and it exceeded every one of them.

13. The Shape of Water (2017) – I love that a romantic tale between a mute woman and a sexy fish man did so well at the 2018 Academy Awards.

14. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) – I love love love The Hobbit film trilogy. This is the one that started it all, and I still get goosebumps when I watch it.

15. Stranger by the Lake (2014) – I’ve only recently seen this within the past few months, but it immediately won me over. The majority of the film takes place on the side of a lake reserved for outdoor cruising, so it’s obviously a good time. What I loved the most is that it has some of the creepiest voyeuristic camera shots that I’ve ever seen in any film.

16. The Neon Demon (2016) – This movie is so stylish. I just want to wear it! It has quite a few disturbing scenes that I found to be unexpected. It’s fabulously fun trash.

17. Krisha (2015) – A heartbreaking film that takes place in the hell that is Thanksgiving with family. The director/writer, Trey Edward Shults, uses his real-life family and friends to play the characters in this film, so it feels extremely personal.

18. Souvenir (2016) – An older woman with a washed up singing career falls for a young, handsome boxer, and it all happens at a pâté factory! The story feels quite simple and nothing too insane happens, and I think that’s why I love it so much.

19. Black Swan (2010) – There’s nothing quite like a spooky ballerina movie. I still get full body chills when I watch Black Swan.

20. In Fabric (2019) – I love movies about killer inanimate objects. In Fabric gave me everything I could even want and more from a movie about a killer dress.

-Britnee Lombas

Episode #22 of The Swampflix Podcast: 2016’s Honorable Mentions & Videodrome (1983)

inaworld

Welcome to Episode #22 of The Swampflix Podcast! For our twenty-second episode, we’re doing a little tidying up. Brandon, CC, and James continue their discussion of the Top Films of 2016 with some Honorable Mentions. Also, Brandon makes CC watch David Cronenberg’s cult classic Videodrome (1983) for the first time, a viewing experience that’s been in the works for years. Enjoy!

-Brandon Ledet, CC Chapman, and James Cohn

Krisha (2016)

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As I mentioned in my less-than-thrilled review of Knight of Cups, I just don’t have the capacity within me to fall in love with a Terrence Malick flick. Yet, I keep returning to the director’s work because there’s so much promise in his raw material. Turns out the answer to this self-conflict might actually be to follow the career of Malick’s collaborators rather than to keep returning to a director that continually burns me. Tree of Life was one of my all-time most disappointing trips to the theater, but it did introduce me to the wonderful talents of actor Jessica Chastain & cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, both of whom I have been keeping a close eye on ever since. What’s even more surprising, though, is the out of nowhere talent of young writer/director Trey Edward Shults, who had worked on the sets of Malick productions Tree of Life, Weightless, Voyage of Time, To the Wonder, and *shudder* Knight of Cups, but just made his own debut film Krisha. In his very first feature film effort the young talent has, in my my mind, beaten Malick at his own game. Malick has an undeniable talent at constructing an image & a hypnotic tone, but his intensifying disinterest in narrative has left his films dull & meaningless experiences for me. Trey Edward Shults obviously paid close attention to how to evoke the potency of Malick’s raw material, but repurposes it for a clear, deeply personal narrative that makes its impact count for something. Krisha doesn’t always resembles the tone poem hypnosis of a Malick work, but when it chooses to use that cinematic mode as a storytelling tool it makes the impact count for more than any 30 seconds of a Malick film ever has in the past.

A lot of what drives home the impact of Krisha is the heart aching sincerity. The film’s central story is based on a real life tragedy in Shults’s family, stars his family, and is filmed in his parent’s home. This is an undeniably cheap-looking production, but the pain & anguish it reveals transcends its means. A woman returns to the cautiously open arms of her anxious family after a ten year separation & estrangement. There’s a mystery to the past trauma that has kept the estranged family member, Krisha, as an arm’s length black sheep, an ambiguous separation represented by the image of a deformed finger & the occasional tense accusation of her “selfishness” & “abandonment.” Although the exact circumstances of Krisha’s departure are never made explicitly clear, she does carry the faux-spiritual air of a recovering addict, calling her GPS “a lying bitch” in one breath & then claiming that she’s “working on becoming a more spiritual person” in the next. As the mounting tension of her tentative return to the fold escalates along with the stress inherent to orchestrating even the most congenial Thanksgiving meal, Krisha seems to be slowly barreling towards a relapse into abuse (both substance & familial), like a turkey slowly reaching the right temperature on an oven rack. The layering of tension in Krisha is methodical & deceptively casual. Once the pressure is released, however, it’s difficult to think back to a moment when the film felt at all civil or tightly contained. The Malickian looseness of the film’s final act is lightly suggested throughout, but once the Shults goes for broke with the tactic it almost feels as if the film had always been that way, just as its titular antagonist had never truly been “spiritual” or reformed.

Besides Shults’s strong command of image & tone, a lot of what makes Krisha stand out is the titular performance from his real-life aunt, Krisha Fairchild. Her stressed-out addict’s faux hippie costume of serenity & acceptance is a bravely difficult balance to toe, especially considering the metatextual factoid that she’s portraying a real-life member of her family. Krisha’s pathetic attempts to make herself useful in the kitchen or to personally connect with individual members of a family she does not know would be absolutely devastating if it weren’t coming from such a phony, selfish place. Other non-actors in the film give memorably great, effective performances, most notably a grandmother figure who makes the horrors of dementia feel way too real, but this is undeniably Krisha Fairchild’s show. The film opens with her starkly framed & vulnerably staring down the audience, somewhat similar to Thomasin in The Witch, and the performance gets no more vain or glamorous from there. It’s a truly unique mode of self-effacement for grim, unblinking, deeply personal art.

I may have been overselling the Malick vibes of Krisha a little too hard in my opening screed here, mostly based on the fact that I watched it so soon after Knight of Cups, a film it surpasses in intensity & impact with so few brushstrokes, not to mention that Shults had worked on both films. Without that connection you could surely find other works for easy comparison points. The arrhythmic score & cacophonous soundtrack of dogs barking & familial chattering recalls the insufferable sonic tension Paul Thomas Anderson punishes his audience with in Punch Drunk Love. The mood-evoking images of a turkey grotesquely getting prepared for the oven & general search for an open-ended, eerie tone brought me back to the terror in the ordinary established in this year’s surprise knockout punch The Fits. If you go into Krisha expecting a Malick derivative you’re going to be severely underwhelmed & agitated. Instead of copying the director’s feature length search of tone poem submersion in pure, disjointed imagery, Krisha uses that narrative approach as one of many tools in its back pocket, only to be wielded when it’s most useful.

For a first time filmmaker with an obvious eye for powerful imagery, Trey Edward Shults shows a surprising amount of restraint, saving his showier moments of technical prowess for when they best serve the story he’s telling. That story is a familial drama turned into a psychological horror of ambiguous, tension, one Shults & his family apparently had already lived through once off-camera. It’s a fascinating debut that far exceeds its obvious financial limitations and I’d much rather watch whatever the young talent has lined up next then another navel gazer of a slog like Knight of Cups, a film that’s only proven its value by inspiring better art in other works.

-Brandon Ledet