Oscar Nominations: Favourites and Bêtes Noires

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And so the race for the 91st Academy Awards begins.

The nominees for Best Picture are…

Black Panther (7 nominations)
BlacKkKlansman (6 nominations)
Bohemian Rhapsody (5 nominations)
The Favourite (10 nominations)
Green Book (5 nominations)
Roma (10 nominations)
A Star Is Born (8 nominations)
Vice (8 nominations)

You can see a full ballot list for printing here. My own round-up of 2018 films is here.

My first thoughts on this list? Extremely predictable—I actually said yesterday on Twitter that I thought there would only be 7 or 8 nominees and this is the list that I wrote up last night—and extremely depressing. The optimist in me was actually willing to get up at 5:20 this morning to watch the announcement live, but I should have known better.

I don’t know what planet these Academy voters live on, but apparently it’s one where you don’t watch a lot of movies. Any avid moviegoer who sat through 2018 would not come to the conclusion that Bohemian Rhapsody or Green Book were the best films of the year. I have serious doubts about Vice as well, but at least I know people who liked it. And, well, I’ve already made my thoughts on Black Panther clear—it’s a great entry in the Marvel universe, but Best Picture? No. At least not ahead of the likes of Leave No Trace, First Reformed, or You Were Never Really Here.

In short, overall, I am extremely disappointed in this list. I mean, sure, I was crushed to see that, yet again, no women were nominated for Best Director, but with a Best Picture list like this, who could be surprised? The Oscars certainly have their flaws, and their list seldom matches my own, but somehow I hoped for better this time around. It is hard to get excited for an Oscar blitz when you are pretty sure you have already seen most of the good ones.

Of course, I’m very happy to see three of my own top ten list on there, as well as The Favourite, which I saw earlier this month; however, I really don’t think either BlacKkKlansman or The Favourite should win “Best Picture” on the night. Roma probably wouldn’t be my pick either, but I don’t begrudge it a win; it’s a gorgeous film. Right now I’m rooting for A Star Is Born. Why? Three words: Pure. Movie. Magic.

And with that, let’s get up close and personal with the rest of the nominations, shall we?

The Good
What made me squee when the names were read?

In the acting categories, my biggest joy came from the fact that Yalitza Aparicio and Melissa McCarthy were both on the Best Actress list. That was the only acting category to not have a surprise nomination, but I was worried those two might not make it on, so I’m thrilled they did. I was also ecstatic to see Paul Schrader get recognition for his First Reformed screenplay.

Perhaps the biggest fulfillment of my Oscar hopes was the nomination of Shoplifters for Best Foreign-Language Film. In fact, that is a very solid list all around with Capernaum (Lebanon), Cold War (Poland), Never Look Away (Germany), Roma (Mexico), and Shoplifters (Japan). I haven’t yet seen Capernaum (but I’ve been meaning to since it has a female director) or Never Look Away (which isn’t out yet here but is by the director of the fantastic The Lives of Others), but I’m looking forward to both.

Speaking of foreign films, I was extremely pleased to see Cold War, which I saw this past Sunday, pick up nominations for both Cinematography and Directing. I love when foreign films break out into the other categories and, if I can’t have a female director with a nomination, at least Paweł Pawlikowski knocked Peter Farrelly off the Directing list. And, the cinematography of Cold War is gorgeous, the best-looking black and white film I’ve seen in years.

In fact, I’m pretty happy with how the Cinematography category shook out as a whole. The four films I’ve seen in this category (Cold War, The Favorite, Roma, and A Star Is Born) all really impressed me with their distinct looks and Never Look Away is lensed by Caleb Deschanel so I trust. I would be happy to see any of the nominees in this category win.

The Bad

Well, obviously, I’m mostly disappointed that some of the best films of the year weren’t even talked about as part of this conversation. And that is really the biggest problem with the Oscars these days. Word and, let’s face it, marketing, seems to coalesce around a few films and the guilds follow suit. While it has always been true that the Best Picture list does not necessarily represent the best pictures of the year, it really seems that the Oscars are floundering in this brave new world of tentpole releases and indie darlings. They don’t seem to want nominate indie darlings, but there are so few solid prestige films in the middle that we get things like Green Book in the mix.

In terms of specific nominations, in light of what was actually expected, I don’t have too many distinct disappointments. My biggest one is perhaps Ethan Hawke not getting an acting nod for First Reformed. I mean, I don’t begrudge Willem Dafoe for At Eternity’s Gate, since I love when nominations come from out of the blue, but Hawke was so good that I felt sure he was going to squeak by John David Washington for BlacKkKlansman (who was also very good). Instead, they both lost out.

In a similar vein, I thought Leave No Trace had a chance to steal a fifth spot from Black Panther for Best Adapted Screenplay, but instead they both lost out to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which seemed to come from nowhere. I liked the screenplay for Scruggs just fine, but I had no idea it was adapted so I hadn’t even considered it for that category. In the Original Screenplay category, I was hoping for Eighth Grade to make it in, but since I did get First Reformed, I can’t complain too much.

The biggest surprise of the morning for me was the Best Documentary category. I have actually seen a number of the shortlisted films and was certain that Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Three Identical Strangers would make it on there. I was less sure about Shirkers but wouldn’t have been surprised. Instead two longshots (Hale County This Morning, This Evening and Of Fathers and Sons) snuck in, along with RBG, which I found merely serviceable. I’m afraid of heights and therefore couldn’t bring myself to watch Free Solo, so at the moment I’m rooting for Minding the Gap, which was not what I expected, but I liked very much.

Finally, I would have liked to see the score of First Man nominated. I haven’t seen many of the films on the score shortlist, but I listened to the selections and that was my favorite (besides Annihilation, which I knew didn’t really have a chance). The First Man score was number one with the oddsmakers, so I don’t know exactly what happened there.

The Ugly

Once again, the Directors Branch has shown themselves to be the old boy network writ large. Get out of here with this nonsense. Also, I don’t want to hear any of these lame-ass excuses as to why Debra Granik, Marielle Heller, or Lynne Ramsay wasn’t nominated, when they nominate the director of a small, domestic picture like Roma or seriously consider first-time director Cooper for awards.

Oscar Blitz Plans
So, what will I be running out to see?

Well, at the moment, the only movies I’m excited about seeing are Can You Ever Forgive Me? and If Beale Street Could Talk as well as the two foreign films (Capernaum and Never Look Away) that I mention above. I suppose I will try to see Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, Mary Poppins, and Vice, but I don’t know about Green Book.

Wow, looking this list over, they really didn’t spread the nominations very wide did they? I actually have a number of categories almost covered. And, as previously noted, I’ve seen quite a few of the documentaries and foreign films already. As always, I will try to catch the animation and live-action short programs, which I highly recommend in general if they are playing near you.

What are your thoughts on this morning’s announcement? Add your thoughts below and stay tuned over the next month for my Oscar Blitz series with more details on all the major categories.

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A New Year and Blogging Resolutions

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Happy New Year!

I have never been a big fan of New Year’s Eve, but I am a big fan of New Year’s Day and the feeling of optimism I always seem to have on January 1.

This morning I drove to the East Bay to a friend’s open house and, returning over the Bay Bridge, the sun was shining, the city of San Francisco was spread out before me, and I just had that feeling, you know? Of course, it helped that for once there was almost no traffic, even at the toll booths!

Remarkably, this optimism continued as I walked home through the somewhat industrial, somewhat gritty neighborhoods between dropping off my car and my apartment downtown. I’m not sure how long it will last, but for now I am looking forward to 2019.

It reminded me of a quote I usually post on Facebook on January 1.

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.

—E. L. Pierce

Of course, since I scheduled my Facebook account for deletion yesterday, I’m putting it here instead. Lately, I’ve seen a lot of people on Twitter lamenting what many social media outlets have become and wishing out loud that people would go back to blogging, and I guess that is partly why my primary blogging resolution is just to be more regularly active here. Not in any regimented way, as I’ve always let my posts be guided by my cultural whims and activities of the moment, but as part of my overall need to be better about scheduling as a whole. In short, I tend to fall into the classic self-employment trap of not setting boundaries to my work day, frittering away time when I should be working, and then not really having down time for reading or music or movies in the evening because I still have deadlines to meet. (And, yes, I realize the parents out there are probably laughing about now.) Luckily, I am going into 2019 with a few stable projects lined up so I should be able to plan my time better than last year, which was a bit of a mess in that regard (though somewhat more lucrative at least).

In any case, what can you expect to see at Sly Wit over the next year?

Films, of course, with Oscar coverage starting with the nominations on January 22 until the ceremony on February 24 and then a return to quarterly reports on film throughout the year. I may do something on female directors to coincide with my Women 101 series in March (where I have plans to finally give Zenobia her due) and I will almost certainly do a full series on noir this November to coincide with the celebration of #Noirvember on Twitter. I’d like to do another film series in the summer, either a genre or a director, but, as I attempt to write up thoughts on the 250 films I watched this past year, I feel like I have skewed too far in that direction of late and hope to give more time instead to reading and reporting on books. Or at least get back to writing up the (Half) Year in Books that I used to do. As I wrote in The Year in Podcasts, I attended the Readers Retreat here in San Francisco in September, which made me realize how much I had fallen off the book wagon, even if I just managed to make my Goodreads goal by the skin of my teeth (and with the help of a number of short books). I’m mulling over trying once again to read War & Peace but I’m not quite convinced of the feasibility of that plan. Last, but not least, there will be opera in the summer and fall, with hopefully a smattering of music and dance performances throughout the year. Mostly, when something strikes me, whether it be a book, film, or musical performance, I hope to be in a place where I can write it up individually and share my thoughts in the moment.

Regardless of whether any of this actually happens, at least I am starting 2019 in the right frame of mind.

the Zach Stewart mural at the intersection of Folsom and 11th streets, San Francisco, New Year’s Day, 2019

Jane Got Her Gun: The Year in Film, Part 2

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Natalie Portman in Alex Garland’s Annihilation

After struggling to come up with a top ten list in 2015, I had thought that both 2016 and 2017 were very good cinema years. But I never would have predicted they would be so trounced by 2018. Not only did I have no trouble coming up with a top ten, but there are a further eighteen films at the bottom of this post that I still want to see, many of which could easily be “top ten” material from what I’ve heard about them.

What’s more, it was a great year for the normalization of the film landscape. What do I mean by that? Well, seeing a broader range of characters and experiences up on the screen for one. You know, like the world we actually live in? More blockbusters and critical darlings than ever before seem to be centered on women and/or people of color, and, while there is still a long way to go, especially behind the scenes of film production, this is a significant step. I hope the trend continues—mainly because it makes for better stories.

In short, boys, I hope you are finally ready to accept that you are not the universal human experience you think you are.

Top Ten 2018 Films (So Far*)
Annihilation
Leave No Trace
A Star Is Born
First Reformed
BlacKkKlansman
You Were Never Really Here
Paddington 2
Revenge
Roma
Eighth Grade

Best Film Seen in a Theater: Annihilation by Alex Garland. I couldn’t stop thinking about this one for a long time after I saw it. It even got me to watch Stalker, as noted in Be Kind, Please Rewind: The Year in Film, Part 1. I like to say I’m not a huge science fiction person, but then I also loved Arrival so maybe I need to stop saying that. This film was gorgeous, thought-provoking, unsettling and even terrifying at times, and built to one of the best final acts I’ve seen in some time. And the sound design, my god, the sound design. Fantastic.

Natalie Portman in Alex Garland’s Annihilation

Best Theater Experience: A Star Is Born by Bradley Cooper. It is hard to beat the theater experience of seeing this film at the Dolby Laboratories theater with a post-screening interview of Bradley Cooper by Metallica’s Lars Ulrich. So much of this movie is the music that it was thrilling to see it in a theater with such fantastic sound. But even if that hadn’t been the case, I think I would have loved this film. The story is pure movie magic, the camerawork was extremely effective in making you feel you were on stage, and the performances were rock solid. Now that I have seen the three previous versions, I think Cooper did an excellent job in bringing the story up to date.

Best Remake That’s Not a Remake: First Reformed by Paul Schrader. After coming home from the theater following a screening of First Reformed, the Math Greek immediately suggested watching Winter Light by Ingmar Bergman. I thought this was because he is often trying (unsuccessfully) to get me to watch Bergman, but actually it was because the basic plot of First Reformed is so similar. Like, really, really, similar. Not that I have a problem with that, rather, I find it fascinating how we can interpret and appreciate similar material differently in different eras and at different times of our lives. Despite any similarity to previous works, this film (and Ethan Hawke’s exceptional performance) stands on its own. In fact, First Reformed would probably be ranked number one on my list above were it not for the “fantasy” sequence in the middle. If you’ve seen it, you know the one. I hated that scene.

Best Film by a Female Director: Leave No Trace by Debra Granik. This film was simply a stunning achievement for a director whose last feature (Winter’s Bone) was released eight years ago and nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but somehow wasn’t flooded with offers to direct something else. Hmm, I wonder why that is? [Side note: I don’t actually wonder.] Not many directors could pull off such a “quiet” film—the script, performances, sound, and editing have to be pitch perfect to make something like this work. Granik makes it look easy. If she is not up for Best Director this year, it will tell you everything you need to know about how little progress Hollywood has made.

Most Shocking Ending (tie): BlacKkKlansman by Spike Lee and A Star Is Born. I normally hate spoilers of any kind, but in the case of BlacKkKlansman, I wish I had been warned of what was to come. In fact, I’m still not sure how I feel about that particular directorial decision by Lee. It certainly had an effect, but I don’t think it was necessary. Which is sort of my main quibble with this excellent film—its message is quite clear without the obvious references and linkages to contemporary events scattered throughout. Trust your audience, Spike. As for A Star Is Born, I am so happy I wasn’t spoiled for where that was going, because, man, I did not see that coming at all. I know that many people see this film as having a split personality, and don’t like the second half, but that’s kind of baked in to the story, isn’t it? In any case, the second half is completely worth watching if only for that one look by Sam Elliott.

Laura Harrier and John David Washington in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman

Most Improved on Rewatch: You Were Never Really Here by Lynne Ramsay. Mostly because I watched this at home with only half an eye and wasn’t that impressed, but when I actually focused on it the second time around was blown away. Because there is so much below the surface of this tale of a gun for hire (or hammer, as the case may be). A violent movie, but one that focuses on the results and impact of violence, rather than showing the violence itself. The trauma of abuse and military service are highlighted, but not presented as an excuse for Joe’s actions. Nor is he put on a pedestal for his “rescues” of young girls. Come to think of it, while they are very different films, this would make an excellent pairing with Leave No Trace.

Favorite Sequel: Paddington 2 by Paul King. I can’t tell you the number of people who have given me the “Really?” look when I recommend Paddington 2. Yes, I do like bears very much, but that is not the reason I love this film. Because there are so many other reasons to love it: the message, the visual design, the characters, the script—which is just straight up appealing and doesn’t resort to the “wink wink nudge nudge” common to many family films that try to appeal to adults. There’s a reason it is the only major release along with Leave No Trace to maintain a 100% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. [Side note: For maximum impact, it does help if you have seen Paddington (2015), but luckily that is also an excellent film, so just make it a double feature when you’ve had a hard day.]

Most Squirm-Inducing Realism: Eighth Grade by Bo Burnham. I went to see this movie on a whim with my sister and niece and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I mean, a movie about an eighth-grade girl made by a dude? A father-daughter relationship depicted by a dude without kids? Actually, I thought I knew what to expect, and that was the absolute worst. But instead I got this sensitive and insightful portrait of teen life in the age of social media, parenting at a difficult age, and dealing with social anxiety.  The accuracy of Burnham’s observations are cringe-worthy in the best way possible. His direction of Elsie Fisher’s YouTube videos alone is a remarkable achievement. And Fisher is a revelation.

Most Deceptively Ranked: Roma by Alfonso Cuarón. Roma seems to be headed to Oscar glory and it is well deserved to be sure. Its placement at number nine on my list is a true testament to what an incredible year it has been for films of all shapes and sizes. And again, with the number of films I have left to see, it may even fall off my top ten! Which is insane because this film is gorgeous. And the sound design is amazing as well, so if you have a chance to see it in a theater, you should really make the effort. It just didn’t hit me in the gut like some of the other films on my list, perhaps because I lacked the background to appreciate the nuances of some of the historical and cultural elements. But I will say that it is one of the few films I’ve seen to make me think about Latinxs as colonizers.

Most Underrated: Revenge by Coralie Fargeat. Revenge is surely the most controversial choice for inclusion in a top ten. In fact, it is a movie I myself avoided watching for some time because I really didn’t want to see yet another rape-as-plot-motivator on screen. I should have trusted the difference a female director makes. Fargeat turns the rape-revenge subgenre on its head to make for an incredibly satisfying action horror film. Yes, there were parts of this film that were hard for me to watch and it is not for the faint of heart, but the rape was not one of those parts. Plus, a bonus cameo for my little pink iPod nano!

Matilda Lutz in Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge

The Next Fifteen (So Far*)
Three Identical Strangers
The Rider
The Death of Stalin
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
A Simple Favor
Black Panther
The Oath
American Animals
Game Night
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Hearts Beat Loud
Crazy Rich Asians
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Shirkers

Rather than go into detail on each of these selections or any of the other 2018 films I have seen, let’s just get to the awards, shall we?

Standout Performance (Female): Helena Howard in Madeline’s Madeline

Standout Performance (Female) (runner-up): Blake Lively in A Simple Favor

Standout Performance (Male): Ethan Hawke in First Reformed

Standout Performance (Male) (runner-up): Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here

Standout Performance (Teen) (tie): Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade and Thomasin McKenzie in Leave No Trace

Best Supporting Performance (Female): Michelle Yeoh in Crazy Rich Asians

Best Supporting Performance (Male): Adam Driver in BlacKkKlansman

Best Supporting Performance (Male) (runner-up): Sam Elliott in A Star Is Born

Best Ensemble (drama): Annihilation

Best Ensemble (comedy): Game Night

Best Debut: Helena Howard in Madeline’s Madeline

Best Villain: Hugh Grant as Phoenix Buchanan in Paddington 2

Favorite Scene: Jackson and Ally singing “Shallow” on stage in A Star Is Born

Best Scene Stealer: Rachel McAdams in Game Night

Rachel McAdams in John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s Game Night

Best Documentary: Three Identical Strangers. There were a number of excellent documentaries put out this year, and the three in my top twenty-five have all made the Oscar shortlist, along with RBG, which I also saw and liked, but is more run-of-the-mill than the others. I watched Three Identical Strangers on a plane and found it fascinating. I didn’t know much about the story going into it, which is probably a good thing. An astonishing tale well told.

Best Documentary That’s Not a Documentary: The Rider. Director Chloé Zhao was already planning to make a movie with Brady Jandreau when he had the accident that inspired The Rider. While a complete fiction, the film stars Jandreau as a rodeo star whose accident prevents him from competing again on the circuit and his real-life father and sister play his father and sister. Rather than follow what might be a typical sports film trajectory of a road to recovery, this story instead tells a tale of survival, the hard choices we must sometimes make, and the family dynamics that may or may not help us along the way—all against the incredible backdrop of the South Dakota badlands. Despite his lack of acting experience, Jandreau is utterly compelling and I hope to see more of him in the future.

Best Documentary That’s Not a Documentary (runner-up): American Animals. This film uses a mix of interviews with the real protagonists of a rare-book heist interwoven with a fictional re-telling of that heist for an interesting look at memory, truth, and the consequences of one’s actions.

Most Heartwarming Documentary: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Most Heartwarming Fiction Film: Hearts Beat Loud

Hardest to Categorize: A Simple Favor. It’s a comedy! It’s a noir! It’s a thriller! It’s an ode to French pop! In short, I’m not quite sure what I saw, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Anna Kendrick in Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor

Best Use of French Pop: A Simple Favor

Most Existential Ennui (aka Frenchiest): Un beau soleil intérieur (Let the Sunshine In)

The Rupert Giles Award (aka Mathiest): A Wrinkle in Time

“Every Frame a Painting” Award for Special Achievement in Cinematography: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Best Would-Be Double Feature: The Snake Pit (1948) and Unsane. Unsane didn’t make it into my top ranks mostly because it hit so close to home with its horror: from the stalker, to the insurance fraud, to the fear of being trapped in a mental institution. But it did make me want to watch The Snake Pit again.

Most Relevant Premise: The Oath

Most “Out There”: Sorry to Bother You

Most “Out” There: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Best Romantic Comedy: Crazy Rich Asians

Best Franchise Film: Black Panther

Best Action Sequences: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Rebecca Ferguson in Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Most Overrated: Black Panther by Ryan Coogler. I liked Black Panther, and it is certainly one of the better Marvel movies, but I do not think it’s a “film” that should be competing for major Oscar categories. Especially this year.

Biggest Disappointment: The Sisters Brothers. I love westerns, I love Jacques Audiard, but, much like the book, this story just fell flat. I had really been hoping this would be one of those cases where the visual medium would make up for the book’s deficits.

Biggest Surprise: Never Goin’ Back. This movie just missed out on my top twenty-five. A raunchy comedy about two young down-on-their-luck waitresses who just want to get to the beach in Galveston. The characters aren’t particularly likable but they are somehow charming as hell.

Better Than Reviews Would Imply: Red Sparrow. I think people went into Red Sparrow thinking it was going to be more of a Mission: Impossible action film than the John Le Carré deliberate slow burn that it turned out to be. It has problematic elements to be sure, but I still found it entertaining.

Best Bear (three-way tie): Annihilation, Christopher Robin, and Paddington 2

Worst Abuse of Geography: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Best Use of a Major U.S. Tourist Attraction: Lombard Street in Ant-Man and the Wasp

Most Coveted Outfits (tie): Cate Blanchett in Ocean’s 8 and Blake Lively in A Simple Favor

Best Backstabbing (tie): The Death of Stalin and Mary Queen of Scots

Saoirse Ronan in Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen of Scots

Most Effective Trailer: A Star Is Born

Top 18 2018 Movies I Haven’t Yet Seen But Want To
Blockers
Burning
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Capernaum
Cold War
The Favourite
Hereditary
If Beale Street Could Talk
Minding the Gap
The Old Man and the Gun
Private Life
A Quiet Place
Shoplifters
Skate Kitchen
Support the Girls
Widows
Wildlife
Zama

Rachel Weisz in Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite


A big thanks to some of my favorite film podcasts (Fighting in the War Room, Movie Geeks United, Movies Now and Then, and Top 5 Film) for calling my attention to many of these films, especially American AnimalsMadeline’s Madeline, and Shirkers.

What are your favorite movies of 2018? What did I miss that I absolutely must see? Let me know in the comment box below.

*The 2018 movies I saw this year include: American Animals, Annihilation, Ant-Man and the Wasp, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Beautiful Boy, Black Panther, BlackkKlansman, Christopher Robin, Crazy Rich Asians, The Death of Stalin, Eighth Grade, First Reformed, Game Night, The Hate U Give, Hearts Beat Loud, Incredibles 2, Leave No Trace, Madeline’s Madeline, Mary Queen of Scots, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Never Goin’ Back, The Oath, Ocean’s 8, Paddington 2, RBG, Red Sparrow, Revenge, The Rider, Roma, Shirkers, A Simple Favor, The Sisters Brothers, Sorry to Bother You, A Star Is Born, Three Identical Strangers, Un beau soleil intérieur (Let the Sunshine In), Unsane, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, A Wrinkle in Time, You Were Never Really Here

Note to email subscribers, there is embedded video in this post that may not appear in your email. Please click through to the actual post to see the complete list of selections.

Be Kind, Please Rewind: The Year in Film, Part 1

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Dorothy McGuire as Helen in Robert Siodmak’s The Spiral Staircase

Since I watched 250 films this year, with more than 200 of those being prior to 2018, I decided to break this year-end wrap-up into two parts. This post will focus on those films released prior to 2018* and the next will feature 2018 releases.

First, some stats on my 2018 viewing (both new and old films):
Films watched in the theater: 15%
Films watched on DVD: 55%
Films watched via streaming: 30%
Most used streaming service: Mubi (33 films)

Films released in the silent era: 6
Films released in the 1930s: 10
Films released in the 1940s: 53
Films released in the 1950s: 22
Films released in the 1960s: 13
Films released in the 1970s: 20
Films released in the 1980s: 10
Films released in the 1990s: 19
Films released in the 2000s: 15
Films released in the 2010s: 82

Most watched genre: film noir (40 films)

Most watched director: Alexander Mackendrick (5 films)
Runners-up: Jacques Audiard, Fritz Lang, Claude Sautet, Jacques Tourneur

Films directed by women: 30 (12%)

Nothing too surprising given that my main focuses for the year were classic horror and #Noirvember. I had pledged to watch #52FilmsByWomen but that ended up taking a back seat to my other projects. In fact, the only reason I even watched as many films directed by women as I did is because so many appeared on year-end critic lists and I caught up with them in my traditional December blitz.

Romy Schneider and Michel Piccoli in Claude Sautet’s Les Choses de la vie

Since I didn’t write up quarterly reports this year, let’s start by finalizing my thoughts on 2017 films. Did I see anything in 2018 that changed my original Top Ten posted in early January? Yes! Phantom Thread and Brigsby Bear both made their way onto the list, edging off Blade Runner 2049 and Logan Lucky.

Final Top Ten of 2017
Lady Bird
A Ghost Story
The Florida Project
Phantom Thread
Ingrid Goes West
Brigsby Bear
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Get Out
Bacalaureat (Graduation)
Wind River

But those ten films weren’t the only movies from 2017 worth watching. If you are looking for something beyond the excellent films above, here are some ideas.

If You Have a Cinematographer’s Eye:
Atomic Blonde
Blade Runner 2049
Columbus
Lady Macbeth
Mudbound

The wonders of architecture and framing are on display in Columbus.

If You Want a Film that Crushes the Bechdel-Wallace Test:
Landline
Novitiate
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Their Finest
Wonder Woman

Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Holdo has no patience for your bullsh*t.

If You Want a Movie That Keeps You Guessing:
Atomic Blonde
Before I Fall
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (February)
Molly’s Game
Wind River

Before I Fall is Heathers, wrapped in Groundhog Day, inside of Looper.

If You Want to Laugh:
The Big Sick
Landline
Logan Lucky

Gillian Robespierre teams up again with Jenny Slate for Landline.

If You Want Something to Warm Your Heart:
Brigsby Bear
Victoria & Abdul
The Zookeeper’s Wife

Kyle Mooney breaks your heart in the best way possible in Brigsby Bear.

If You Think Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Cold:
I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.
Moka
Wind River

Emmanuelle Devos walks the fine line between grief and vengeance in Moka.

If You Don’t Mind Something Disturbing:
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (February)
Detroit
Lady Macbeth

If You Want to See Things That (Literally) Go Bump in the Night:
A Ghost Story
It Comes at Night
Personal Shopper

A Ghost Story is the most haunting and affecting film I saw last year.

If You Want to See America’s Gritty Underbelly:
Beach Rats
The Florida Project
Good Time

If You Want to Travel in Time:
Professor Marston & the Wonder Women
Victoria & Abdul
Wonder Woman

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women tie their relationship up in knots for decades.

If You Want to Relive World War II:
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Their Finest
The Zookeeper’s Wife

If You Want to Relive the 1960s:
Detroit
Novitiate
The Post
The Shape of Water

If You Want to Relive the 1990s:
120 battements par minute (BPM)
I, Tonya
Landline

If You Want to Travel Vicariously:
Call Me By Your Name
Queen of the Desert
Visages, Villages (Faces Places)

Queen of the Desert follows the incredible life of British explorer, cartographer, and political officer Gertrude Bell.

If You Want a Science Fiction Triple Feature:
Blade Runner 2049
Colossal
War for the Planet of the Apes

If You Want a Wild Ride:
Baby Driver
John Wick: Chapter 2
Kidnap

If You Want to Get Back to the Land:
God’s Own Country
Lady Macbeth
Mudbound

God’s Own Country explores immigration, masculinity, and the rural-urban divide in contemporary Yorkshire.

If You Are Holding Out for a Hero(ine):
Battle of the Sexes
Coco
Thor: Ragnarok

The Kids Are Alright (Star Performances by the Underage Set):
Ava
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (February)
Logan

Noée Abita as the eponymous heroine of Léa Mysius’s Ava

And that does it for 2017 recommendations. Now, on to even older films!

Best of “The Great Unseen”: Dog Day Afternoon (1975). The early part of the year saw me complete the final phase of my project to fill in the biggest gaps in my cinéphile life, The Great Unseen. While Dog Day Afternoon wasn’t quite what I expected and probably not something I would choose to rewatch, you should definitely check it out if you haven’t seen it.

Favorite of “The Great Unseen”: Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). While not technically part of my original “Great Unseen” list, I watched Assault on Precinct 13 as a companion piece to The Thing (1982) and never looked back. One of my favorite discoveries of the year and a film I suspect I will return to more than once.

Laurie Zimmer and Austin Stoker in Assault on Precinct 13

Best New-to-Me Classic Horror: The Innocents (1961). I watched a lot of horror in an effort to complete my series on classic horror (“It’s in the trees! It’s coming!” I swear). However, many of these films were actually rewatches from when I started the original series so they didn’t impress me quite as much as this gorgeous take on The Turn of the Screw. The use of dissolves and other framing choices are absolutely stunning, and there is one moment that is one of the creepiest things I have ever seen on screen.

Favorite New-to-Me Classic Horror: Them! (1954). I was expecting something pretty cheesy when I started this film about radiated ants for my post on Creature Features, but it turned out to be so much better than I expected. It is hard to find but definitely worth catching if you can.

Probably a good thing I didn’t watch Them! before visiting White Sands National Monument.

I once again watched thirty films as part of the #Noirvember celebration on Twitter. All thirty were new to me. This year I am hoping to rewatch a few of the greats throughout the year and when November rolls around again come up with a definitive list of my favorites. In the meantime, here are my ten favorites from those I watched in 2018.

Top Ten #Noirvember Films
The Spiral Staircase (1946)
Clash by Night (1952)
The Unsuspected (1947)
Criss Cross (1949)
The Woman in the Window (1944)
Ride the Pink Horse (1947)
The Big Steal (1949)
The Lineup (1958)
Cry Danger (1951)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Robert Ryan as Earl Pfeiffer, projectionist, in Clash by Night

Best Movie by a Female Director: Wanda (1971). This was one of those films that appears on every list of must-see women directors but I thought looked incredibly dreary, a study in coal-mining poverty and depression. However, when it turned up on the program of the Castro Theatre, I decided to “force” myself to sit through it. Needless to say, I was quite surprised when it turned into a sort of road-trip heist film. It’s definitely indie fare, and not a joyride by any means, but still far more enjoyable than I thought it would be.

Barbara Loden as Wanda Goronski in her groundbreaking film, Wanda

Best Math Greek Selection: Stalker (1979). There were a number of great films that I watched this year that I may never have seen without the Math Greek’s coaxing—Kieślowski’s Przypadek (Blind Chance) (1987), P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia (1999), Donnie Darko (2001), Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987), among others—but the best of these was Stalker, which also holds a special place in my heart because it hearkens back to my first extended conversation with the MG, almost nine years ago, when I was more than a little tipsy and decided to argue with him about how much I hated his favorite Russian director, the whole time confusing Tarkovsky with Sokurov. Good times.

Given my love of Annihilation, it is perhaps not surprising I liked Stalker.

Best “Worst” Math Greek Selection: Mac and Me (1988). Given that Mac and Me features prominently on many “Worst Movies Ever” lists, I was dubious when the Math Greek suggested we watch the MST2K version currently streaming on Netflix. It certainly deserves its place on those lists, but I have to admit it was fun to watch that way.

Another fantastic suggestion from the Math Greek was watching all the A Star Is Born movies before Filmstruck disappeared (RIP Filmstruck). SPOILER ALERT for Part 2 of The Year in Film: I loved the most recent version, which is the first one I watched. To consider them all a bit more objectively, I ranked them from 1 to 4 on ten different story elements they had in common (for example, how they handled the discovery/big break moment). Interestingly enough, they all scored both 1s and 4s in at least one category. Here is how they fared overall.

A Star Is Born Ranked
2018
1937
1954
1976

I do think my assessment of the 1954 version suffered from the fact that the version I saw was the fuller version reconstructed with stills and existing audio, which made for an odd viewing experience to say the least. However, that aside, the songs in the 1954 version just aren’t good enough for me to embrace it the way that others do. Sorry!

A Star Is Born (1937) wins out over the 1954 version by a hair.

And that is it for projects and mini-projects for the year. But how about the other seventy-five or so older films I watched during the year? Well, here are some highlights…

Best on Rewatch: Pulp Fiction (1994). What can I say? After all these years, this film still holds up for me. The dialogue, visuals, and editing represent a masterclass in filmmaking.

Best on Rewatch (runner-up): Gosford Park (2001)

Best New-to-Me Film: Pleins feux sur l’assassin (Spotlight on a Murderer) (1961). If you read the Old Dark House post in my horror series, you know how much I love an old dark house mystery. Throw in an Agatha Christie–like plot twist by the writers of Les Diaboliques and Jean-Louis Trintignant, and, really, how can I resist? This is probably where I should talk about MUBI, because otherwise I never would have seen this gem.

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Pascale Audret investigate in Pleins feux sur l’assassin by Georges Franju.

One reason I watched so many older films this year is that I decided to subscribe to MUBI, a film website that integrates a streaming subscription, a film database, and an online magazine. The site features classic arthouse fare, including series on specific filmmakers, genres, and national cinemas. For example, right now, you could watch Andrew Bujalski’s debut Funny Ha Ha, Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mamá también, a double feature from Carol Reed (including The Third Man), the ethnographic films of Jean Rouch, or Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse. Two series I loved from this past year were one on comedies from the Ealing Studios (The Ladykillers, The Lavender Hill Mob, The Maggie, The Man in the White Suit, Whisky Galore!) and another on Claude Sautet, a French filmmaker from the 1970s and 1980s whose films are hard to find on DVD. The subscription’s unusual conceit, which works very well for someone like me who has a tendency to add things to a queue and then never watch them, is that a new movie is added to the “now showing” list every day, but it streams for only a month before disappearing. Use it or lose it, as the case may be. All I can say is that it prompts me to actually watch many films I wouldn’t otherwise and that I’ve made some fantastic discoveries via the service, especially foreign films.

Favorite MUBI Discovery: Went the Day Well? (1942). This is a British propaganda film adapted from a story by Graham Greene. Though it came out of Ealing Studios, it was not part of the comedy series listed above, but rather part of a filmmaker series on the works of Italian director Alberto Cavalcanti. It tells the story of an English village being taken over by German paratroopers disguised as British soldiers. As the movie unfolds, it gradually dawns on the villagers that all is not what it seems with the soldiers they are housing and they realize they must take action to save themselves.

Top Ten Foreign-Language Films
Stalker (1979)
Pleins feux sur l’assassin (Spotlight on a Murderer) (1961)
Fuk Sau (Vengeance) (2009)
De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté (The Beat That My Heart Skipped) (2005)
Un prophète (A Prophet) (2010)
Przypadek (Blind Chance) (1987)
César et Rosalie (1972)
Struktura kryształu (The Structure of Crystals) (1969)
Un héros très discret  (A Self-Made Hero) (1997)
Les Choses de la vie (The Things of Life) (1970)

Johnny Hallyday stars as father seeking to avenge his daughter in the Hong Kong thriller Fuk Sau (Vengeance).

Best Film Seen in a Theater (tie): The Accused (1949) and Quiet Please, Murder (1943). Both these films played at the Castro Theatre as part of the annual Noir City film festival. The Accused, starring Loretta Young, is a noir with a feminist slant; Quiet Please, Murder takes place in the Los Angeles Public Library—what’s not to love?

Best Silent Film: Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928). One of Lon Chaney’s greatest performances.

Best Silent Film (runner-up): Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920). John Barrymore’s transformations from Jekyll to Hyde and back again are impressive.

Best Rom Com Rewatch: Moonstruck (1987)

Best New-to-Me Rom Com: Vivacious Lady (1938)

—Are you going to mind your own businesses, or must I really give you a piece of my mind?
—Oh, I couldn’t take the last piece.

—Helen to Francey in Vivacious Lady

Most Heartwarming: Paddington (2015)

Best Heist Rewatch: The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

Best New-to-Me Heist Film: Ad ogni costo (Grand Slam) (1968)

Edward G. Robinson and Janet Leigh try to hang on to their loot in Ad ogni costo (Grand Slam).

Best Documentary Rewatch: Finding Vivian Maier (2014)

Best New-to-Me Documentary: Weiner (2016)

Best Would-Be Double Feature: Black Christmas (1974) and The Spiral Staircase (1946)

Best Use of Black and White: Struktura kryształu (The Structure of Crystals) (1969)

Best First-Half: Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Film That Wasn’t As Good as I Remembered: 3:10 to Yuma (1957)

Most Oddly Relevant for Today: Fight Club (1999)

Most Existential Ennui (aka Frenchiest): L’Eau froide (Cold Water) (1994)

The Rupert Giles Award (aka Mathiest): Struktura kryształu (The Structure of Crystals) (1969)

Best Use of Plumbing as Plot Point: Cluny Brown (1946)

Worst Abuse of Geography: Fog Over Frisco (1934)

Best Movie to Transition from Noirvember into the Christmas Season: Remember the Night (1940), starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray of Double Indemnity

Best Christmas Movie (tie): Black Christmas (1974) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman trying to enjoy an innocent Christmas party in Eyes Wide Shut.

Creepiest Use of Masks (tie): Black Sunday (1960) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Creepiest Dolls: Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965)

Carol Lynley visits a doll hospital in Bunny Lake Is Missing.

Top Five Films I Can’t Recommend
The Black Cat
White Zombie
Phantom Ship (The Mystery of the Mary Celeste)
The End
Mac and Me

Sadly, Mac and Me is every bit as bad as it looks in this image.

How many films did you watch at home this year? What was your greatest discovery? What was your favorite rewatch? Let me know in the comment box below.

*The movies I saw or rewatched that were released prior to 2018 include:

2017: Ava, Battle of the Sexes, Beach Rats, Beauty and the Beast, Before I Fall, Brigsby Bear, 120 battements par minute (BPM), Coco, Darkest Hour, A Ghost Story, God’s Own Country, It Comes at Night, Landline, Logan Lucky, Maison du bonheur, Molly’s Game, Mudbound, Oscar Shorts: Animated, Oscar Shorts: Live Action, Phantom Thread, The Post, Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, Queen of the Desert, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Victoria & Abdul

Released prior to 2017: The Accused, The Ace of Hearts, Act of Violence, Ad ogni costo (Grand Slam), The Anderson Tapes, Assault on Precinct 13, The Bad Seed, Barry Lyndon, The Beast with Five Fingers, Beau travail, Bedlam, Ben-Hur (1926), Ben-Hur (1959), The Big Steal, The Black Cat, Black Christmas, Black Sunday, Body Double, Boy, Brighton Rock, Brute Force, Bunny Lake Is Missing, Call Northside 777, Captain America: Civil War, Cat People, César et Rosalie, Les Choses de la vie (The Things of Life), Le Clan des Siciliens (The Sicilian Clan), Clash by Night, Cluny Brown, Le Concert (The Concert), Conflict, Cool Hand Luke, Copie Conforme (Certified Copy), Criss Cross, Cry Danger, The Curse of the Cat People, The Dark Mirror, Daughters of the Dust, De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté (The Beat That My Heart Skipped), Dead Reckoning, Defending Your Life, The Devil Rides Out, Le Dîner de cons (The Dinner Game), Doctor Strange, The Doctor Takes a Wife, Dog Day Afternoon, Donnie Darko, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, L’Eau froide (Cold Water), The End, Eyes Wide Shut, Les Femmes du 6e étage (The Women of the 6th Floor), Fight Club, Finding Vivian Maier, The Fly (1958), Fog Over Frisco, Following, The French Connection, Fuk Sau (Vengeance), Full Metal Jacket, Gap-Toothed Women, Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers, The Ghost Ship, The Glass Key, Gosford Park, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, Hak se wui yi wo wai kwai (Triad Election), He Walked by Night, High Sierra, House of Usher, The House on 92nd Street, The Hudsucker Proxy, I Know Where I’m Going!, I Walked with a Zombie, If You Could Only Cook, Impact, In a World…, The Innocents, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Isle of the Dead, It’s a Wonderful World, Johnny Eager, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Kiss of Death, L.627, The Ladykillers, Laugh, Clown, Laugh, The Lavender Hill Mob, Legally Blonde, The Leopard Man, The Letter, The Lineup, A Little Romance, Looker, Mac and Me, The Maggie, Magnolia, The Man in the White Suit, The Man Who Cheated Himself, The Matador, Maverick, Max et les ferrailleurs (Max and the Junkmen), Medicine for Melancholy, Meshes of the Afternoon, Mimì metallurgico ferito nell’onore (The Seduction of Mimi), Ministry of Fear, Moonstruck, Murder by Death, Murder Party, My Sister Eileen, Mystery Street, Nattvardsgästerna (Winter Light), Night of the Demon, A Night to Remember, One A.M., Orlacs Hände (The Hands of Orlac), Orlando, Out of the Fog, Paddington, Phantom Ship (The Mystery of the Mary Celeste), Pleins feux sur l’assassin (Spotlight on a Murderer), Police Python 357, Przypadek (Blind Chance), Pulp Fiction, Quiet Please, Murder, The Racket, Raising Arizona, The Raven, Remember the Night, Ride the Pink Horse, Rings on Her Fingers, Såsom i en spegel (Through a Glass Darkly), Scarlet Street, 711 Ocean Drive, The Seventh Victim, The Shanghai Gesture, She Wouldn’t Say Yes, The Silent Partner, Six Shooter, Sleeping Beauty, The Sniper, Sliding Doors, Sous le sable (Under the Sand), The Spaghetti West, The Spiral Staircase, Stalker, A Star Is Born (1937), A Star Is Born (1954), A Star is Born (1976), The Stranger, Stranger on the Third Floor, Struktura kryształu (The Structure of Crystals), Sweet Smell of Success, Tais-toi! (Shut Up!), Taxi Driver, Them!, Theodora Goes Wild, They Drive by Night, The Thing, The Thomas Crown Affair, 3:10 to Yuma, Together Again, Too Many Husbands, Un prophète (A Prophet), Un héros très discret (A Self-Made Hero), Una pura formalità (A Pure Formality), The Uninvited, The Unsuspected, Victoria (In Bed with Victoria), Vincent, François, Paul et les autres, Vivacious Lady, Wanda, Weiner, Went the Day Well?, Where Danger Lives, Whisky Galore!, White Zombie, Wild at Heart, The Woman in the Window, Z, ZIPPER: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride

Opera 101—2018 Figaro Awards

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Sans la liberté de blâmer, il n’est point d’éloge flatteur.
(Without the freedom to criticize, there is no true praise.)

Le Mariage de Figaro by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

After falling off the bandwagon last year, I am once again presenting my annual Figaro awards for the best (and worst) operatic moments of the year. All operas seen at the San Francisco Opera in 2018, both the four operas of the Ring Cycle in the summer (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung) and the five operas I attended in the fall (Cavalleria rusticana, Pagliacci, Roberto Devereux, Arabella, and Tosca) are eligible for these beauties.

Production I would most readily see again: Roberto Devereux. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this opera as in the past I have been underwhelmed by the San Francisco Opera’s bel canto productions, however, they really came through on this one. Sonya Radvanovsky led a great ensemble cast and, while the bare-bones theater set didn’t always work for me, I thought the prologue was a creative solution to provide a basic understanding of the plot (I’m looking at you, Mary Queen of Scots).

Best ensemble: The Ring Cycle. While I didn’t necessarily agree with all the production choices made by Francesca Zambello for this version, the singing across the board was so incredible that it made me forget I was listening to a fifteen-hour opera in German. I suppose it might be considered cheating to consider these four operas as one ensemble but I don’t care. Besides, I already listed Roberto Devereux above.

Most disappointing production: Tosca. This “new” production had a lot to live up to considering the previous one was my favorite opera of the 2012 fall season. Unfortunately, despite a great performance by Carmen Giannattasio as Tosca, I am at a loss as to why San Francisco Opera felt the need to stage this warhorse again so soon after replaying it in the 2014 season, especially when the overall set design didn’t seem very different from the previous one.

Best production/set design: Benoît Dugardyn for Roberto Devereux. Not everything Dugardyn created for Devereux worked for me, but I admire the chances he took and the creativity he displayed with this vision.

Best costumes: Tobias Hoheisel for Arabella. While I thought there could have been a bit more color overall, the costumes underscored the understated elegance of this production.

Outstanding performance (orchestral): Donald Runnicles leading The Ring Cycle. I almost always like when Runnicles conducts (see also Les Troyens), but he was masterful with his pacing of this behemoth.

Outstanding performance (male lead): Marco Berti as Canio in Pagliacci. Berti won over all my doubts with his delivery of “Vesta la giubba” when it counted. Plus his acting was first rate throughout—despite his heavy makeup and mask, I really felt his anger.

Outstanding performance (female lead): Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabeth in Roberto Devereux. Both singing and acting came together for this incredible performance.

Outstanding aria (male): Russell Thomas’s “Come uno spirito angelico” in Roberto Devereux. Although somewhat overshadowed by Radvanovsky, Thomas delivered the goods from behind the bars of the Tower of London.

Outstanding aria (female): Carmen Giannattasio’s “Vissi d’arte” in Tosca. As mentioned above, I was rather disappointed by this production as a whole, but Giannattasio was not the reason.

Outstanding performance in a supporting role (male): Štefan Margita as Loge in Das Rheingold. A small role but beautifully sung; Margita made me sit up and take notice.

Outstanding performance in a supporting role (female): Jamie Barton as Fricka in Die Walkure. I liked Barton in Roberto Devereux, but her work in The Ring Cycle could have easily been overshadowed and it wasn’t.

Outstanding performance (female playing a woman playing a man): Heidi Stober as Zdenka/Zdenko in Arabella. I always love Stober and she was a highlight in this otherwise fairly uninteresting opera.

Outstanding performance (pinch hitter): Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde in The Ring Cycle. A lot of the weight of The Ring Cycle is on Brünnhilde’s shoulders and Theorin (last seen as the icy Turandot in Turandot and who was announced as the replacement for Evelyn Herlitzius just a month before performances started) carried the role off with ease and had fantastic chemistry with her costar Daniel Brenna to boot.

Outstanding performance (couples skate): Lianna Haroutounian as Nedda and David Pershall as Silvio in Pagliacci. These crazy kids sang the sweetest love duet of the season.

Outstanding performance (Adler Fellow): Amitai Pati as Lord Cecil in Roberto Devereux. I didn’t seem to notice the Adler Fellows as much as in years past, but Pati stood out in this small role.

Favorite program cover: Tosca. Though I was somewhat tempted by the portrait of Elizabeth I on the cover of Roberto Devereux, ultimately I went with the photograph of the statue of the Archangel Michael on the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, which plays such a critical role in the finale of Tosca.

Reservoir Dogs award for best entrance: the parachuting Valkyrie in Die Walküre

Big Sleep award for most nonsensical plot (tie): Siegfried and Götterdämmerung

Bart Simpson award for creepiest clown: Canio in Pagliacci

Plato award for best shadow puppets: Tosca

Jon Bon Jovi “blaze of glory” award (tie): Die Walküre and Götterdämmerung

Gigli award for worst chemistry: Ellie Dehn as Arabella and Brian Mulligan as Mandryka in Arabella. I’ve enjoyed both leads in the past, and they sang well here, but unfortunately the couple remained fairly stiff throughout their performance and ultimately just weren’t very convincing as the lovers in this semi-comic opera.

Best imitation of Mike Tyson: Turridu in Cavalleria rusticana

Best imitation of Jenny Gump: Nedda in Pagliacci

Best use of a whip: Hye Jung Lee as The Fiakermilli in Arabella

Most lacking in Argentine tango: the Intermezzo of Cavalleria rusticana

Most lacking in actual dragons: Siegfried

Most lacking in actual bears (tie): Arabella and Siegfried

The WeRateDogs™ “Who’s a good dog?” award (tie): Finn and Fubar in Die Walküre

Outstanding performance (bird): Stacey Tappan in Siegfried

Daniel Brenna and Stacey Tappan in Siegfried. Photo by Cory Weaver.*

Finally, a shout out to the tweeps who know far more than me about all things opera and make all of these performances that much more interesting, whether in person or online: @Aspasia_1, @ilana_wb, @JamesJetsOften, @operatattler, @phibetakitten, @revgirrl.

And so the clock runs down on another year and another round of Figaros. I look forward to attending Orlando and Rusalka during the summer season and seeing what the 2019-2020 season will bring.

Feel free to comment or argue for your favorite (and not-so-favorite) moments of the season below.

*Note: All photos in this post except the Tosca cover were taken by Cory Weaver for San Francisco Opera.