Top 10 films of the first half of 2018
We are fast approaching the end of June and half-way through this year's cinematic releases. What have been your favourites or are there films you saw that feel as though they stole two hours of your life from you? Here I focus on the best of 2018. It has been an unusual half-year. The usual Oscar-fodder was presented together with more comic-book sequels and prequels. It has by no means been a disappointing year but there is yet to be a standout "film of the year". Maybe the second half of 2018 will be better. In no particular order then, my best mainstream films of 2018 are as follows:
A Quiet Place
Emily Blunt starred in this science-fiction/horror tale directed by her husband John Krasinski. In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing. For some reason I did not review this film when it came out but it is definitely in my top ten of the year so far. It has a unique story which must be experienced in a cinema. The acting, directing and story are all stand-out.
This is the only Marvel film to make my top ten. It is here not just because of the social and cultural importance of a film with a central black hero, immersed in African culture but because it also has a chance of making the Best Picture list at the 2019 Oscars. Chadwick Boseman plays the titular hero in a standalone film that does not require you to have watched the previous dozen films. It is self-contained and wonderful.
This has already picked up Oscars, most notably and deservedly for Frances McDormand. At times difficult to watch, it is a wonderful film by MArtin McDonagh
Master Storyteller Stephen Spielberg had two films in the first half of this year; The Post and Ready Player One. The former, while winning plaudits and having a stellar cast is the weaker of the two. Ready Player One pushes the envelope of what can be done on the big screen. The temptation is to drown in the technology but Spielberg keeps a tight-rein on proceedings and remembers the golden rule: tell a good story.
This film by Luca Guadagnino is a sensual and transcendent tale of first love, based on the acclaimed novel by André Aciman. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, however if you want to understand your own teenager, this film is a good place to start. The main character, Elio plays out the angst, the doubt, the exploration, the guilt and the joy of finding oneself. It will break your heart.
Christine "Lady Bird" MacPherson is a high school senior from the "wrong side of the tracks." She longs for adventure, sophistication, and opportunity, but finds none of that in her Sacramento Catholic high school. LADY BIRD follows the title character's senior year in high school, including her first romance, her participation in the school play, and most importantly, her applying for college.
I didn't dislike the film, it just seemed less than the sum of its parts and I wanted more.
The story concerns a ballerina Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) who suffers an apparent accident that ends her career as a Prima Ballerina. In order to support her sick mother (a tired film trope), she is recruited to 'Sparrow School,' a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon.
Lawrence has made some very brave choices in her career to date and she is to be lauded for that. Given her status, she could have sat on her successful laurels and done the ubiquitous rom-coms. We should all be grateful that she continues to choose roles that stretch her talents and move her out of her comfort zone. Who can forget last year's mother!, Darren Aronofsky's opus. That introduced us to a new dimension in Lawrence's performance. Here, the challenge is her body and what she has to do on screen. Her character is asked to give everything to the cause and on film, Lawrence does likewise.
You know you are in safe hands with Aardman Animation. Nick Park, Peter Lord and the rest of the team have rarely missed a step since Wallace and Gromit starred in 1989's Oscar-winning "A Grand Day Out". Early Man is the latest offering from director Nick Park. It's a delightful, warm-hearted, funny and the film with eh shortest running time on this list.
The Death of Stalin is Armando Iannucci's latest big screen offering which he co-writes and directs. Anyone familiar with his oeuvre (In The Loop, The Thick of It, VEEP, etc) will know his ability to write and direct in an honest, no-holds-barred, irreverent, bleak and black fashion with a sharp understanding of politics and what makes politician's tick. This film is all of those things.
Director Joe Wright and writer Anthony McCarren not only bring us tension and drama, we also see the eccentricities of Winston Churchill - his propensity for wandering around naked or dictating letters while in the bath. We see Churchill's dry sense of humour and most importantly we see his dark side, his struggles with self-doubt and his Black Dog. It is a human story.