I must confess that after a good start, my film-going waned somewhat, so at the time of writing I haven’t seen Suspiria, Widows or Overlord, all of which I like the look of. But hey, it’s not like I’m a Guardian film critic. So, in no particular order here are 10 films this year that I feel merit special attention:
- Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig’s coming of age tale was by turns cool, funny, insightful and touching. Saoirse Ronan’s Lady Bird is the kind of realistic character that once you see them portrayed, you feel every other teen representation to be fake. I would’ve given this beautifully crafted film all the Oscars.
- Black Panther – first of all, Black Panther is just straight up good fun and a very effective superhero movie. It has to work at that level first. There’s a moment when T’Challa emerges to take the role of king, and he looks up at all the tribes assembled on the cliff and it’s full of rich colour and a sense of African heritage that makes the absence of this in nearly all mainstream cinema painfully apparent. More than any other film this year, Black Panther was also a cultural moment, and it bore that burden with such ease and relish.
- You were never really here – Lynne Ramsey’s tale of troubled war vet, Joe is a characteristically bleak offering. Phoenix in the central role is quietly menacing, and broken. It always stays above the traditional revenge fare, through the captivating central performance and relentless authenticity.
- The Florida Project – Sean Baker’s lo-fi movie about 6 year old Moonee and her mum living in a motel on the edges of Disneyland was laden with social messages in 2018. But it was also delightful, moving and caring. Life on the edges of society is still a rich life.
- Blackkklansman – I loved Spike Lee’s film about detective Ron Stallworth who infiltrates the Klan. It is laugh out loud funny, on the edge of your seat tense, and start a riot anger inducing. It brings together all of Lee’s best film making qualities and is damn near perfect.
- Mandy – some things are made for each other. Panos Cosmatos’s deranged, psychedelic horror with it’s trippy scenes and soaked palette could only have been led by the wild eyed Cage in full wild-eyed Cage mode. This film is bonkers and the type of movie that 15 year old me would have loved.
- Sorry to Bother You – if I had to pick one movie of the year, it would probably be Boots Riley’s pitch perfect comedy on race and capitalism in America. It has so many great scenes, so many themes and perfectly executed lines that it feels like three great movies in one amazing one.
- A Quiet Place – the simple premise of John Krasinski’s post apocalyptic horror was that sound = death. This was surprisingly effective at creating scenes of incredible tension. When someone in the cinema coughed, I nearly had a heart attack, which is a sign of the absorption you have in the film.
- Coco – Pixar’s latest offering was a bold, brightly coloured take on the Mexican day of the dead. As well as having all the trademark Pixar humour and tunes, it also dealt with issues of borders, family and belonging so deftly that you hardly realised you’d just seen one of the most political films of the year.
- Leave No Trace – I enjoyed the unsentimental nature of Debra Granik’s film about survivalist father Will & his 13 yr old daughter Tom. It is a film full of tenderness as father and daughter try to establish lives that are meaningful for them, without histrionics.
Honourable mentions also to Lean on Pete, Hereditary and Infinity War. Films this year that I liked more than most other people include Tomb Raider, Ghost Stories and Terminal. Those I liked less than most others include 3 Billboards, Shape of Water, Ant Man & the Wasp. The real turkeys of the year for me were The Predator and Tag, the latter in particular was a special kind of offensively awful, and I’m still angry about it.