Top 20 films of 2018
The unlucky few which deserve a special mention: The bizarre headtrip Mandy, the muted excellence of Leave No Trace, Saulnier’s moody Hold the Dark, the pulpy brilliant first hour of Bad Times at the El Royale, the brutal beat-em-up The Night comes for us.
And equally the ones i missed that would have seriously challenged: Shoplifters, BlacKkKlansman, The House that Jack Built, The Wild Pear Tree and many others.
Back to basics in this much- anticipated return to Haddonfield, Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode, for a final showdown with the legendary Michael Myers, some four decades after their initial encounter. Great fun to be had here and time to bask in the nostalgia.
“I always knew he’d come back. In this town, Michael Myers is a myth. He’s the Boogeyman. A ghost story to scare kids. But this Boogeyman is real. An evil like his never stops, it just grows older. Darker. More determined.”
19. Avengers: Infinity War
Marvel epic that showcases the very best of the universe. Finally, in Josh Brolin’s Thanos, there’s an enemy to truly reckon with. A whirlwind of epic action and that bold, emotionally charged ending that shocked and set the pulses racing for. Avengers: Endgame due out in April 2019.
“Peter Quill: I’m gonna ask you this one time, where is Gamora? Tony Stark: Yeah, I’ll do you one better – WHO is Gamora? Drax: I’ll do YOU one better! WHY is Gamora?”
18. The Third Murder
A compelling courtroom drama that never real its hand, Koreeda has created an enigma that is constantly changing course and mutating. A seemingly straightforward murder case proves to be tinged in mystery as the elusive Shigemori never lays bare his true intentions in a struggle to avoid the death penalty.
“Our lives get decided despite our wishes.. unfairly”
17. A Quiet Place
Yes there are plot holes but nevertheless the sound of silence is given new meaning in John Krasinski’s nerve-shredding sci-fi thriller. The story of a family seeking to evade a mysterious alien species is suffocating and tense in its sharp 80 minute running time. The unrelenting pressure is built from a single-minded and innovative concept that is followed through with religious intent. Attracted by anything that makes a sound, these extraterrestrials prey on the most instinctive aspect of being human. Communication. If you are heard, you are hunted.
For the full review: click here
“Who are we if we can’t protect them?”
16. Phantom Thread
Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day Lewis, in his final film, put on a masterclass of characterisation. Phantom Thread is set in the glamour of 1950’s post-war London and follows famous dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock in his misfiring love life and obsessive nature. It’s a character so complete that he could easily walk off the screen and sit next to you. A razor sharp script and oddball occurrences make this a fitting end to an outstanding career.
“What the hell is it about? Are you a special agent sent here to ruin my evening and possibly my entire life?”
15. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
A grieving mother seeks justice for her murdered daughter and with no progress or arrests after seven months, Mildred (the outstanding Mcdormand) launches a campaign to spark the police chief into action. Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson play the police figures who are tremendous in this dark comedy with a hard-hitting social message. Carter Burwell’s mesmeric score deserves a special mention.
“You’re still culpable, by the very act of joining those Crips, or those Bloods, in the first place. Which got me thinking, Father, that whole type of situation is kinda like your Church boys, ain’t it? You’ve got your colors, you’ve got your clubhouse, you’re, for want of a better word, a gang. And if you’re upstairs smoking a pipe and reading a bible while one of your fellow gang members is downstairs with an altar boy then, Father, just like those Crips, and just like those Bloods, you’re culpable.”
14. They shall not grow old
This remarkable documentary transforms archive footage over a century old and restores it to magnificent colour. Peter Jackson has bought world war one soldiers back to life in the most intimate and personal film on war i’ve ever seen. I can’t think of anything closer to being in the trenches, no biased narrative but just the men themselves telling their incredible stories. It’s sombering to hear the muted reaction to these men (many boys of only 17) as they wandered quietly back to normality after their ordeals. The moment the grainy black and white shifts to colours is a visual miracle.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.”
Steve Mcqueen partnered with Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn to pen the script to this topsy turvy heist thriller which is grounded by terrific lead performances from a stellar cast led by Viola Davis and Michelle Rodriguez. When husbands are killed during a raid, the widows assemble to continue their work and rid themselves of debt. A terrific score by Hans Zimmer and thunderous #metoo powered action lift this above run of the mill fare. Look out for the fine turn by Colin Farrell who continues to impress in each outing and that piercing look from Daniel Kaluuya.
“What I’ve learned from men like my father and your husband is that you reap what you sow.”
12. The Square
Ruben Östlund’s surreal Palme d’Or winner follows enigmatic, Christian, a curator at a leading edge art museum pulling together a provocative new exhibition. It’s an unclassifiable work that pushes boundaries and sparks a line of existential thinking.Brilliantly funny and includes perhaps the scene of the year which will make your skin crawl with discomfort (see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwbSMIuVdLM)
“The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.”
For all its sudden shriek inducing terror; Hereditary spawns a far deeper well of psychological trauma. Aster looks in through the looking glass on to the prickly embers of grief and how a family is paralysed by its force. External powers and occult rituals expend fierce energy to permeate through familial cracks. There’s a voodooist vibe to a family’s plight as each member plays a distinct role in its impending implosion. Once the pressure intensifies and those weary cracks are laid open to ghosts of the past, a thunderous deluge is unleashed. It’s a fearsome shift in tone and pace that unmasks the face of true horror. This is heavy going stuff that is anchored by a tremendous lead turn by Toni Collette.
For the full review: click here
“you can always build a shrine to all the terrible things in the world, but it doesn’t mean that you have to destroy anything that is good.”
Experiencing Roma is wandering through the corridors of Alfonso Cuarón’s mind and living his memories. A personal story that took the Mexican years to green-light is a tender tale viewed through the eyes of a maid supporting a family going through a period of turmoil. Her story is affecting and heartbreaking showcasing the fragility of life and the lies we tell ourselves. Majestic in black and white, this tearjerker has stayed with me.
“We are alone. No matter what they tell you, we women are always alone.”
Dreamy and dystopian sci-fi from the visionary Alex Garland that is brimming with dread and strangeness. An all female crew launch an expedition deep into an environmental disaster zone called “the shimmer” which lays a canvas for Garland craft a universe of danger and wild unpredictability. A gritty mix of body horror and the environment morphing into our greatest fears. There’s much to admire here. Sci-fi that is packed with mind-bending imagery that asks more questions than it answers.
“It’s not like us… it’s unlike us. I don’t know what it wants, or if it wants, but it’ll grow until it encompasses everything. Our bodies and our minds will be fragmented into their smallest parts until not one part remains… Annihilation.”
8. Mission Impossible: Fallout
One of the most pulsating and jaw-dropping action films of the past decade. Fallout is Tom Cruise’s crowning montage of death-defying stunts. A remarkable helicopter chase at the end is one of many breathtaking sequences. Henry Cavill makes a worthy addition to the platinum series.
“There cannot be peace without first, a great suffering. The greater the suffering, the greater the peace. The end you’ve always feared is coming. It’s coming, and the blood will be on your hands.”
A blend of hilarity doused in burning social critique, all power to Daveed Diggs who is the soul of this fiery drama. The amazing thing about Blindspotting is how it is incessantly funny but is able to effortlessly transition to throw verbal grenades at social ills like police brutality, racial stereotyping, gun crime and the broken prison system. For fans of rap music, make seeing this a priority. A final scene for the ages and very much a film of our times that plays at the intersection of culture and politics and makes it relevant.
“How come every time you come around you monsters got me feeling like a monster in my own town? “
6. First Man
Damien Chazelle’s voyage to the moon is an exhilarating and surprisingly poignant biopic on the trials and tribulations of Neil Armstrong. Chazelle unmasks the man behind one of humankind’s greatest achievements and delves into Armstrong as a grieving, detached father and distant husband. All the while, his mission to get to the moon planting the eyes of the world .Justin Horowitz’s soundtrack has produced one of the epic OSTs of the year.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
5. You were never really here
A feverish headtrip that dances on the tightrope between reality and nightmare. A traumatised war veteran (the superb Joaquin Phoenix) is a hired gun given the task of recovering a teenage girl from the criminal ring of high level politicians. A brutal mission ensues that throws Joe into facing the horrors that haunt him while desperately searching for meaning by rescuing the innocent girl. Lynne Ramsay is at the peak of her powers .
“I heard you were brutal… I can be… I want you to hurt them.”
4. Three Identical Strangers
Tim Wardle’s documentary is proof that reality is stranger than fiction. You couldn’t write this It’s a staggering true story of triplets separated at birth who are reunited at the age of nineteen through sheer coincidence (or blind fate?). An emotional reunion of identical siblings played out in a media frenzy tells only part of the story as Wardle unmasks the unthinkable truth. It’s a fantastic piece of filmmaking brought to life by the open and frank interviews from the families involves that shine a light on several weighty issues: the nature vs. nurture debate, complexities of child psychology, managing mental health issues and conflicting parenting styles. Wardle builds a solid argument with a strong POV which make this a thought-provoking watch.
“They were more like clones than they were brothers”.
3. The Shape of Water
The scaly spirit of the creature from the black lagoon lives on in Guillermo Del Toro’s spellbinding tale of forbidden love. Beautifully titled, The Shape of Water, feels like a spiritual sequel to Jack Arnold’s 1954 film and owes a great debt to Jean Cocteau’s original La Belle et la Bête. It’s an adult fairytale that swims against the current. An underwater odyssey that celebrates the universal and transcendent power of love amidst a backdrop of human evil. The Mexican auteur pays homage to the beauty of the monster.
For the full review: click here
“The only thing that comes to mind is a poem, whispered by someone in love, hundreds of years ago: “Unable to perceive the shape of You, I find You all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with Your love, It humbles my heart, For You are everywhere.”
2. The Breadwinner
This Angelina Jolie produced animated tale based on Deborah Ellis’ bestselling novel eloquently tells the story of Parvana, an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana is forced to dress like a boy to work to support her family and co-exist under the watchful paranoia of the Taliban rule. Her courageous effort to rescue her father from a remote jail is filled with danger and captures the fighting spirit of a community under siege. There’s a wonderful array of fables beautifully animated to showcase her trials and tribulations, she garners strength from these tales of bravery and enchantment. A must see.
“Raise your hearts, not your voice. It is rain that makes the flowers grow, not thunder.”
1. First Reformed
Paul Schrader’s First Reformed is a brutally honest personal expression of despair. A powerful worldly outcry taps into the hopelessness of the pressing environmental crisis. First Reformed unmasks the raging hypocrisy, corporate gluttony and shady morality that has left us on the ravines of extinction. Schrader’s remarkable feat here is to channel these existential themes into an intimate tale of loneliness and depression. It’s a fable of man being plundered by political/planetary sins while battling with the demons of grief and depression.
For the full review: click here
“Courage is the solution to despair, reason provides no answers. I can’t know what the future will bring, We have to choose despite uncertainty. Wisdom is holding two contradictory truths in our mind, simultaneously, Hope and despair. A life without despair is a life without hope. Holding these two ideas in our head is life itself.”
Disclaimer: I do not own any copyright to any of the cinematic posters/images in this blog post.