Traditionally, as we all know, I should pit these four incredible women together in a battle to eliminate down to the best 2, and then determine the final winner from that. And I thought about it, I really, really did. And you know what I realized?
I DON'T FUCKING WANT TO.
While I think I may have picked a few different women for the Elite Eight, these are the exact women I would choose to be in the Final Four, and honestly, their films perfectly encapsulate the 4 major elements of what I really look for and love in an excellent film:
Is it compelling?
Exceptional use of language and dialogue, or lack thereof. Is the story "good," meaning: is there a sense of urgency or importance? Do I give a shit about this? Are we headed somewhere? What are we fighting for? It can be a subtle or internal fight, but there has to be some chutzpah.
Is it worthwhile?
Are the characters - especially the female ones - compelling, detailed, & believable? Are they fully fleshed out, with enough detailed, meaningful, or pertinent information that I am invested in them? Do I care about what they care about; do I care what happens to them? Regardless of morality or ethics, do I believe that THEY believe in what they are fighting for?
Is it surprising?
I do not require shocks or twist endings, but I ought to be surprised at least once. Not necessarily by the plot, but perhaps by how they choose to tell the story: for example, I was surprised in Birds of Prey by how the director chose to let the women get bruised and sweaty in a believable manner, and I was surprised again by how deftly she avoided luxuriating in the moments when they were the victims of violence. Deciding to include the harsh reality without exploiting/desensitizing the gaze was a surprising and well-executed choice.
Is it beautiful?
Exceptional Cinematography, Production Design, & Costumes; bonus points for an element of whimsy that serves the story: folklore, fantasy, or parable.
AND THE MOTHER FUCKING WINNER IS...
Ultimately, I don't want to choose. And I don't have to. I have known who the winner was going to be about 20 minutes into watching her. She stood out, quietly, and rose above the rest, affecting me in a way that I have not been by a film in years. Truly unparalleled, exceptionally executed, and pristinely flawless. She is, without a doubt, an absolutely perfect film. BEHOLD YOUR MATRIARCH!!!!!!!
Portrait of a Lady on Fire was, without a doubt, the most flawless film of this entire bracket. Sciamma deftly shaped and executed every detail with meticulous genius and I simply cannot recommend it enough. Over two hours long, a cast of FOUR, sparse dialogue, no music, in a foreign language, and I was on the edge of my seat and holding my breath for every single minute of it. It is not an exaggeration to say that this film changed me, and changed the way I will view film forever.
Other Honorable Mentions...
Who Should've Been in the Elite Eight: 1. Sciamma, Portrait of a Lady on Fire 2. Babbit, But I'm A Cheerleader 3. Campion, The Piano 4. Matsoukas, Queen & Slim 5. Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night 6. Caro, Whale Rider 7. de Wilde, Emma 8. Wilde, Booksmart
Best Aesthetics: Production Design & Costumes
1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire 2. But I'm A Cheerleader 3. Emma 4. Clueless 5. Birds of Prey 6. Queen & Slim 7. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night 8. Jennifer's Body
1. Noémie Merlant & Adèle Haenel, Portrait of a Lady on Fire 2. Hilary Swank & Chloë Sevigny, Boys Don't Cry 3. Holly Hunter, The Piano 4. Melissa McCarthy & Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me 5. Daniel Kaluuya & Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen & Slim 6. Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin 7. Keisha Castle-Hughes, Whale Rider 8. Kaitlyn Dever & Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart
BOW BEFORE ALL THESE HOLY MATRIARCHS, AND MAY WE SEE YOU ALL BEHIND THE CAMERA AGAIN SOON!