|Alfonso Cuaron's Roma|
UPDATE on Jan 17th: In December, I indicated I still had more films to see and that could impact on this list. But today, I can confirm that no new films will enter my Top 10 for 2018, but I have moved Green Book up from 10 to 8 upon more reflection. In addition, I decided to move If Beale Street Could Talk down from 3 to 6 as it resonated less for me on a second viewing.
MY TOP 10 FAVOURITES OF 2018:
1. Roma: Director Alfonso Cuarón returns to his roots with this sensitive, unbelievably beautiful epic. Told mostly from the perspective of Cleo, a nanny who accidentally becomes pregnant and is abandoned by her lover, this film is a stunning achievement, so sweet and intimate, with moments that exhilarate, titillate, as well as devastate emotionally. Cuarón was also his own cinematographer on this, delivering shimmering black and white photography that is unforgettable, including many long takes that will shock you with their perfect execution. Roma is Cuarón's best and most emotionally resonant film by far and deserves to be watched over and over.
2. BlacKkKlansman: This is director Spike Lee's best film since Do The Right Thing, confirming a mastery of his filmmaking craft that is satisfying and exhilarating to behold. The direction, the performances, the script, the music, everything about this film, is perfection. While the subject matter focuses on events in the 1970s, it's horrifyingly relevant to today and the perfect antidote for our troubled times, giving voice to those misunderstood folks still demonized today by racist elements that have even taken over the White House.
3. First Man: Yes, this is another biopic about a white hero we already know much about and there have been several films in recent years about the struggles of the U.S. space program in the 60s. Some felt this film was emotionally vacant. I'd call it an authentic story about emotionally muted people. This movie succeeds because of its focus on the fine details: the tight quarters into which the astronauts cram their bodies, the tiny windows out of which they peer as their rockets surge into the sky amid pounding and disorienting noise, the small piece of jewelry that Armstrong leaves on the moon. Director Damien Chazelle foregoes the tropes of the genre and produces something original here, a space flick that physics/aerodynamics nerds will adore. Plus the score by Justin Hurwitz is the most beautiful music I've heard in a movie this year!
4. First Reformed: Wow! While so many films this year lacked originality or guts, this little masterpiece by director and writer Paul Schrader truly got under my skin and challenged me in ways I was happy to be challenged. This quiet yet disturbing film delves into the soul of a troubled man of God whose spiritual world unravels following a tragedy he couldn't prevent. The story goes places I never imagined at the outset, yet never goes over the top, and remains nuanced to the beautiful end while still quietly shocking. Actor Ethan Hawke has never been better in a role and truly deserves a Best Actor nomination, if not the top prize.
5. RBG: As Gloria Steinem quips in this documentary, the 'Notorious RBG' is the closest thing we have to a super-hero alive today. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a remarkable human being: quiet, unassuming, calm, measured, and deeply effective. Watching her in this film actually has taught me how to be a better human being. And now I'm joining so many millions in hoping that she stays healthy and lives to outlast the monster in the White House who would no doubt replace her with some other right-wing monster on the Supreme Court if he had the chance.
6. If Beale Street Could Talk: Director Barry Jenkins proves the magic he created in 2016's Moonlight was no fluke. This is a director who knows how to authentically give voice to his community and characters in ways we so need to see these days. The story follows a young woman's struggle to exonerate her husband and father of her unborn child after he's unjustly accused of a rape. Tragically honest, engaging and sometimes funny, no one else is making movies like this today. (Originally I listed this movie at #3 on this list, but upon a second viewing, I've re-evaluated it down to #6 as it is a bit slow and less engaging than I remembered.)
8. Green Book: A wonderfully entertaining two-hander between great actors Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali working with lovely material. Foregoing melodrama and the tropes we might expect from this story, this was an enjoyable if somewhat uneventful ride. Perhaps I was expecting a bit more after all the hype.
9. Black Panther: Director Ryan Coogler and everyone else who worked on this knocked it out of the park, producing not only an immensely entertaining super hero flick, but also an intensely socially relevant film that'll resonate with many for years to come.
10. A Star Is Born: Bradley Cooper's talent knows no bounds. He pulls off a great directing job here while also pulling off a completely believable performance as a fading rock star. He also gives all of his actors the opportunity to shine in great performances, including his leading actress Lady Gaga who is perfect in her role. The first hour of this is pure magic, if you ask me. The rest is well-done but unremarkable. Overall, this is highly entertaining. Does Lady Gaga deserve Best Actress? Probably not. Will she win it? Probably yes. (UPDATE: Actually, no, with Glenn Close's very well deserved win at the Globes, she looks well placed to finally win for The Wife.)
FOLLOWED BY IN ORDER OF EXCELLENCE:
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Avengers: Infinity War
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
At Eternity’s Gate
Sorry to Bother You
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Life of the Party
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
The Front Runner
Crazy Rich Asians
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
The Spy Who Dumped Me
Ready Player One
STILL NEED TO SEE, IN ORDER OF PRIORITY:
On The Basis of Sex
Mary Poppins Returns
Tea With the Dames
Mary Queen of Scots
A Quiet Place
The Sister Brothers
The Hate You Give
Solo: A Star Wars Story
A Wrinkle In Time
How to Talk to Girls at Parties
CRAPPY, PLEASE AVOID:
Truth or Dare