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  • Denise Breen

It's that time of the year - my Top Ten films of 2018


Yes, it's a list.

I'm sure you will be seeing lots of lists over the next few weeks as 2018 draws to a close. This is mine - my top ten films of the year. Over 690 films received theatrical release in 2018. I have not seen all of them, as I suspect, neither have you, dear reader. Compiling my top ten is hard. I write it, then realise the great films I've left out. I revisit every film, my review and see how my opinion may have changed over time. Trust me, it does.

So, here they are, from number 10 to my top film of 2018. Let the conversation begin!

10. A Star is Born

This was the third retelling of A Star is Born. We had the 1937 original remade in 1954, 1976 and now 2018. In his feature film directorial debut, I wondered what Bradley Cooper could bring to audiences that felt fresh and compelling? The answer was plenty.

I've gave this film a 4.5 out of 5 - high marks indeed - simply because of the charm and on-screen chemistry between the two leads. The strong cast also included grounded, emotional performances by Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chappelle. It is a simple story, told simply with warmth and humanity.

9. BlacKkKlansman

As with all Lee's films, BlacKkKlansman is of our time and deeply relevant. He has created an almost unimaginably uneven career in films, but it has never been in doubt, that he is one of the most talented American filmmakers of his generation. Should you have forgotten that, now you can remind yourself by watching the amazing "BlacKkKlansman", which won the Grand Prix at Cannes in May.

8. Annihilation

This is the first and only Netflix production in my Top Ten. Another one, Cargo and the animation Angela's Christmas get honourable mentions below.

Natalie Portman plays a biologist whose husband, a marine disappears on a secret mission. She puts her name forward for an expedition into an environmental disaster zone, but does not find what she's expecting. The expedition team is made up of a biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, a surveyor and a linguist. Along the way they encounter a myriad of mysteries which challenge them, their beliefs and their understanding of the world around them.

Yes, it's uneven but it is worth seeing as in a world of limited good science fiction films, this is a good one. It's written by Alex Garland to boot!

7. Black 47

Director Lance Daly has created something we have never seen before, a revenge Western set in Connemara in the west of Ireland. This is no ordinary Western, it is in the same category as Clint Eastwood's 1992 "Unforgiven". It is every bit as brutal and violent. What adds a grave sense of realism is the setting of the summer of 1847 - the height of The Great Famine in Ireland.

Delving into a nation's dark history - be that Irish or English - is never easy and Daly does so while providing the rarest of creations - an Irish Western.

6. Green Book

Green Book tells the story of working-class Italian American bouncer Frank Anthony “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and his unexpected friendship with Jamaican American pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) that began in 1962. Shirley hires Vallelonga to be his chauffeur and unofficial bodyguard during a tour of the US deep South with his jazz trio. Vallelonga is racist, but he needs the money to get his family through the holidays. Shirley is turned off by Vallelonga’s crassness, but he needs to be able to safely travel without fear of abusive discrimination.

For all its faults, and there are many, I laughed and cried at the right moments. It's not as disarming as Driving Miss Daisy but it tries to do the same without the subtlety and delight. It has already started to pick up rewards and will no doubt feature in the Oscars next year.

5. The Shape of Water

In a previous review I stated that Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh's offering was, without doubt my favourite film of 2018 and that I'd be surprised if I saw anything to better it. Well, forgive me as I munch my way through a large helping of humble pie.

It has made it into my top ten while Billboards has not.

Sally Hawkins leads a tight, well-cast ensemble as a lone, mute janitor working in a top-secret 1960s research facility. Michael Shannon stars as a stereotypical G-man determined to learn all that is learnable even if that includes torturing the subject in the lab. As Hawkins' character discovers the Amphibian Man in the lab, feeds him boiled eggs and introduces him to Benny Goodman, she develops feelings for the character, so alien to our world. Does it end in tears or does love triumph over all? Go see the film.

4. Hereditary

If I had not watched the last ten minutes of this film I would have scored it almost 5 out of 5. My advice is to leave the cinema ten minutes before the end and make up your own ending. Trust me, it will be more satisfying than what is on the screen.

Toni Collette deserves an Oscar nod for her performance. It is simply astounding. Gabriel Byrne gives a fantastic performance too as the husband who is trying to keep it all together. He is calm and protective of his family and Byrne plays the role brilliantly with a natural screen presence.

Ari Aster has created a debut feature that takes many horror tropes of the 60s and 70s and builds them into a modern horror story. This is an emotional horror story. Yes, there are some jumpy-scary moments but its true horror lies in the story-telling, in the human condition and the stages of grief. It is a modern story with echoes of the past including early references to the mythology of Iphigenia. To be honest, Aster has a lot of ideas. He throws them all at the screen and enough of them stick to make this film worth seeing.

Suffice to say - there is a moment in the film, which if you have seen it, you will know what I'm talking about, that will remain with you for some time.

3. Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name, is the new film by Luca Guadagnino and is a sensual and transcendent tale of first love, based on the acclaimed novel by André Aciman. It's the summer of 1983 in the north of Italy, and Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), a precocious 17-year-old young man, spends his days in his family's 17th century villa transcribing and playing classical music, reading, and flirting with his friend Marzia (Esther Garrel). Elio enjoys a close relationship with his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an eminent professor specializing in Greco-Roman culture, and his mother Annella (Amira Casar), a translator, who favor him with the fruits of high culture in a setting that overflows with natural delights. One day, Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old American college graduate student working on his doctorate, arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio's father. Amid the sun-drenched splendor of the setting, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.

Pour yourself a glass of something nice, light the fire and enjoy this.

2. A Fantastic Woman

I'm biased. Marina, a transgender woman who works as a waitress and moonlights as a nightclub singer, is bowled over by the death of her older boyfriend. The reaction of his family is a struggle. Daniela Vega is outstanding in the lead role. Sebastian Lelio directs. This will feature in the the Oscars in February. You heard it here.

1. A Quiet Place

Emily Blunt starred in this science-fiction/horror tale directed by her husband John Krasinski. It's Krasinki's first time behind the camera and he works wonders with this simple tale.

In an 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 takes the Number 1 spot because of its unique, simple story. The acting, directing and story are all stand-out performances.

More from Krasinki and Blunt please!

All reviewers seem to have a section for honourable mentions, and here is mine. Black Panther was a film that caused some debate in 2018. A black action hero with a largely black cast. Such an enterprise had never been undertaken before. It worked and is a better film that Avengers: Infinity War.

Lady Bird almost made it into the top ten but something about it didn't fly work for me, as I explained in my review.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri - I loved Martin McDonough's film. I'm gutted that it did not make the top ten. Can I have a joint Number 10?

The Death of Stalin It is not a spoiler to say that Stalin dies in this film. 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.

Angela's Christmas

This half hour animated film is based on Irish author Frank McCourt’s only children’s book, inspired by a story his mother Angela told him as a child. McCourt won the Pulitzer Prize for his best-selling memoir, 'Angela’s Ashes'. It's tale of simple morality and goodwill is perfect for the season.Watch it and you will laugh, cry and be filled with warmth.

Widows

Coco

Pixar's latest film focuses on family and the traditions around the celebrations of Dia de los Muertos. It is a warm, tender film that will leave you cherishing your loved ones and remembering those who have left this world. It is by far, Pixar's best in some time. The animation is magical, of the standard we have come to expect from Pixar. The songs are all instantly loveable.

Cargo

And lastly, Cargo our second Netflix production. It's directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke (who also wrote the script) and tells the story of a father in the expansive, desolate Australian outback trying to find safe haven for his family in a very unsafe place. The always likable Martin Freeman stars as Andy Rose. Andy and his wife Kay (Susie Porter) spend their days in a boat making its way up a lazy river in an attempt to outrun a violent pandemic. After tragedy befalls both of them (one quicker than the other), Andy has 48 hours to traverse an unfriendly landscape in search of a new life for his infant daughter, Rosie.

So there you have it, my Top Ten of 2018. I'd appreciate your opinions and thoughts. Do you agree? What did I miss?


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