A cow wearing a crown is saying the words "good movie" and a banner above says All-Beefies

The 2019 Alleged Beef Awards

Is 2019 the best year for film since 1999? Maybe. It is certainly a deep year. I excluded four or five films that would have shaken the top 5 of other years.

The 2019 Alleged Beef Awards ceremony was held* at The Avalon Motel on scenic PA Route 65. No, we didn’t start that fire. Noémie Merlant did attempt* to microwave her Favorite Performance Award (this year’s statuette was made of black opal). Julia Fox held a candlight vigil* near some curtains. We also heard that Robert De Niro paints houses*, but didn’t get the reference.



Favorite Performances

Matthew McConaughey as Moondog, The Beach Bum

I go to bed in Havana thinking
about you.

Pissing a few moments ago
I looked down at my penis

Knowing it has been inside
you twice today makes me
feel beautiful.


Your Honor, I rest my case.


Noémie Merlant as Marianne, Portrait of a Lady on Fire

The painter. Marianne (Merlant) is the narrator, the audience surrogate, and the point-of-view character for much of Portrait. (The camera takes the point-of-view of Héloïse at times so we see the painter as she sees us.) We get a lifetime of buried heartache in the first scene and then Marianne shows us why over the course of the film. She has become a painter and we are told she has her father’s knack for it, but we don’t really understand her artistry until we see her see Héloïse, the subject of her portrait assignment. On this remote island away from the world, with a portrait deadline and a marriage announcement looming, the two fall in love so strongly that we don’t want the narrative to resume. The two actors make this brief moment the most important thing in the world.


Adèle Haenel as Héloïse, Portrait of a Lady on Fire

The painter’s subject. Héloïse is the flashier role of the two, the fiery nun pulled from a French convent for an arranged marriage to a Milanese man she has never met. Haenel is a great eye actor, a skill that seems essential in a movie with such minimal dialogue. From the first breathtaking reveal as her hood falls down to the breathtaking ending, Haenel makes us all captivated by Héloïse.


Favorite [___]…


A drunken lighthouse worker curses his coworker

Salty Dog Giving a Sea Curse: The Lighthouse

Damn ye! Let Neptune strike ye dead Winslow! HARK!

Hark Triton, hark! Bellow, bid our father the Sea King rise from the depths full foul in his fury! Black waves teeming with salt foam to smother this young mouth with pungent slime, to choke ye, engorging your organs til’ ye turn blue and bloated with bilge and brine and can scream no more—only when he, crowned in cockle shells with slitherin’ tentacle tail and steaming beard take up his fell be-finned arm, his coral-tine trident screeches banshee-like in the tempest and plunges right through yer gullet, bursting ye—a bulging bladder no more, but a blasted bloody film now and nothing for the harpies and the souls of dead sailors to peck and claw and feed upon only to be lapped up and swallowed by the infinite waters of the Dread Emperor himself—forgotten to any man, to any time, forgotten to any god or devil, forgotten even to the sea, for any stuff for part of Winslow, even any scantling of your soul is Winslow no more, but is now itself the sea!


Your Honor, I rest my case.


British soldiers stand in a trench in World War I

120-Minute Movie That Is Definitely Two Continous Takes <winks>: 1917

1917 is a cool piece of filmmaking, a two-hour film constructed to seem like two very long continuous takes. This manipulation goes a long way toward generating the tension on which the movie relies, as we get very little relief when the main characters are constantly moving through danger on their way to deliver their message.

My favorite section of the film is the nighttime scene in the burning town, as the cinematography here is showy and breathtaking. The scene moves between a candlit cellar, darkened streets, and streets overlit by burning buildings, and through these transitions we never lose detail or sense of space. I’m not the biggest Sam Mendes fan. He seems to make bad movies that look very good (Skyfall (2012), The Road to Perdition (2002), Spectre (2015), American Beauty (1999)), but 1917 is quite an achievement.



Racecar designed sits in racecar with rich owner of company, who is crying

Zoom Zooms: Ford -v- Ferrari

(Our previous review is here.)

It is cool that, 50 years after John Frankenheimer pioneered racecar cinenamtography in Grand Prix (1966), one can still be dazzled by a well-placed camera and microphone (see Top Gun: Maverick (2022) but for aviation). The sights and sound of Ford v. Ferrari are thrilling and elevate what might have otherwise been a bog-standard Hollywood prestige biopic. The scene of Shelby (Matt Damon) showing Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) the intensity of being inside a racecar has already become iconic. I hate driving but become an excited kid again whenever I watch scenes from this movie.


Several parents stand in the doorway to a gymnasium where cheerleaders and basketball players are on the floor

Debut Film and Spielbergian SciFi Thriller: The Vast of Night

(Our previous review is here)

The Vast of Night is a remarkble debut from writer/director/editor Andrew Patterson. The film feels like an extended Twilight Zone feature if done by Steven Spielberg, with dread and unease wrung from beautiful camerawork, visual and spatial coherence, and excellent performances from the two leads. I’ve been singing the praise of The Vast of Night for three years and I will continue to do so.


Favorite Films


A Floria poet sleeps awkwardly on the beam of a bridge

The Beach Bum

I’ve been wrestling with the idea that we only see the real MoonDog as the burnout drifting in a john boat in Biscayne Bay. The rest of the movie is comprised of his tall tales and outlandish, Tom Robbins/Kinky Friedman style mythmaking: no blind pilots, no Pulitzer, no escape from court-mandated rehab with zero repercussions, just another parrothead who moved to Florida and baked their brains out in the sun. This perspective on the film is far less fun than it being a neon funhouse of eccentrics and rich weirdos. Regardless of how one views it, The Beach Bum is a tremendous film. It is hilarious and sad and dumb and brilliant, there are scenes that play in my head on repeat for days on end. There are moments when the improv isn’t working and I can see actors waiting for McConaughey to start riffing so they can deliver their line, and I don’t care. It all works for me.


A painter in a red dress examines the subject of a portrait assignment, who is wearing a green dress

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

The closing shot of this movie is the most rapturous in recent memory. The lead performances are magnetic, the high-definition cameras capture every texture and color in the costumes. The location is stunning, and I didn’t want the movie to end.

Like the best moments in Wong Kar Wai’s ouevre, Portrait captures what it feels like to fall in and out of love in a short period of time, to feel like nothing in the world matters except for this moment in time… right up until that moment ends.


A jewely saleman presents a large necklace to three potential customers

Uncut Gems

The Safdie Brothers’ films feel like a counterpoint to Harmony Korine’s recent efforts. Uncut Gems (and Good Time (2017) even more so) has an eye for overwhelming color palettes and casual cruelty just like The Beach Bum or Spring Breakers (2013). But Uncut Gems is a bear trap and we spend the entire movie waiting for it to spring, whereas The Beach Bum has us shaking our heads in bemusement as MoonDog always avoids the consequences of his actions.

Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is a career bullshitter, a fast-talker and big dreamer who once created a good life for himself but is now drowning in debts. He wants to leave his family for his much-younger girlfriend, but we can tell from minute one that Julia is in his life because she hasn’t soured yet on his hollow charms, unlike his wife and family and friends.

I can’t recommend Uncut Gems if you have a low tolerance for anxiety and discomfort, but this is a brilliant film if you can handle it.


Bob Dylan wears a light hat and signs autographs for a young Sharon Stone

The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorcese

My favorite period of Dylan’s career is covered here, and it is a joy to see Sharon Stone and Patti Smith and Ronee Blakely as well as the usual folk around Dylan at this time. I also like that some of the interviews in Scorcese’s film are outright bullshit. Seeing that sorta-calculated, sorta-mirthful behavior on film jibes with Dylan’s reputation as no stranger to manipulating interviewers or manufacturing backstory.

Dylan had resumed touring after an eight-year hiatus, and the venues are pretty intimate given Dylan’s megastardom at the time, allowing for some excellent concert footage. Martin Scorcese is no stranger to the concert film and this is one of his finest.


A bearded lighthouse keeper and a mustachioed keeper chug bottles of liquor

The Lighthouse

I like Robert Eggers, the writer/director of The Lighthouse, The Northman (2022), and The VVitch (2015). He has a morbid sense of humor and a knack for making well-worn ideas seem fresh (in order: lovecraftian horror, Hamlet, religious terror). I maintain that The VVitch is the scariest film that I’ve ever seen, although I was equally on edge for my entire theatrical experience of The Lighthouse despite the amount of comedy that Eggers works into the film. It helps when one’s entire cast is two fearless performers in Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe.

The aged lighthouse keeper and the new employee find it difficult to get into a good routine during their seemingly eternal stint as keepers, what with Thomas Wake assigning all of the manual labor to Winslow. Wake’s only duties appear to be cooking lobster and tending to the lantern room, which he has made off-limits to Winslow. This taboo makes the lantern room irresistible on this desolate rock, and creates a friction between the two keepers that will clearly end in tragedy.


* allegedly