The Curzon Top Ten of 2018
And so it is that each December the staff here at Curzon get together to vote on their favourite films of the year. Some of us keep a record throughout the year in anticipation of this annual event. Others hurriedly scrawl a list in a moment of panic that, in defence of this method, often draws to the surface the most potent films that have lingered in the memory banks. One among us has even taken the time to write a poem about their No. 8 film (scroll down to the final list to read it in full). Now that is dedication to the cause.
As always there are a couple of rules that entrants must adhere to (or disregard, whatever you’re in to), and they go something like this:
Films must have been released in the UK in 2018, meaning that festival and industry previews are not allowed.
Restorations and theatrical re-releases are accepted, on condition that the voter saw the film for the first time in 2018.
We’ve employed a fairly simplistic method for calculating the overall winner, whereby each film is awarded points dependent on their ranking: 10 points for a 1st place, descending to 1 point for a 10th place. The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that not all the lists are ranked, but these commitment-phobes have unwittingly contributed despite this, as each film in their lists receives 1 participation point. But enough about that, it’s time to reveal the Curzon Top Ten Films of 2018.
1. Phantom Thread
It’s “not even his best film,” but PTA’s Phantom Thread has taken the top spot, make no mistake. 12 points ahead of 2nd place, this was a clear winner, and a firm favourite among voters, appearing on a grand total of 15 lists.
2. Cold War
Swoons and shucks, this one was a very popular choice with voters (it appears on 17 lists!) and the British public alike, the latter crowd having taken it to the top of the 2018 foreign language box office. Pawlikowski broke a lot of hearts this year.
It only showed up three weeks ago, but Kore-eda’s Palme d’Or winning film has clearly left a lasting impression on us all, putting to bed those “Burning should have got it” naysayers with its transparent heart and universal hope.
= You Were Never Really Here
Sharing 3rd place with Kore-eda is Lynne Ramsay, whose bravura fourth feature took things to a new level. Released back in March, You Were Never Really Here is a film of lasting impact thanks to a perfect marriage of visual, auditory and performative power. Yikes.
It may have finished mid-table, but Zvyagintsev’s film can proudly lay claim to the greatest number of *gasp* “that moment…” exclamations, coming from near enough everyone who saw the film. Apparently there’s a bit when a door swings open that. is. just. too. much.
Alfonso Cuarón’s ode to his hometown and the women who raised him has left a number of us irrevocably changed. It’s about life, you know, in the most explicit and focused of ways.
7. A Fantastic Woman
Sebastián Lelio became a firm ‘friend of Curzon’ this year with two major releases: the Oscar-winning A Fantastic Woman, which starred a most fantastic Daniela Vega, and his first English-language feature, Disobedience. Each film further cemented Lelio as a major filmmaking talent, but it was the revelatory A Fantastic Woman that announced him to the world.
8. 120 BPM
Hands up if ‘Smalltown Boy’ by Bronski Beat & Arnaud Rebotini made it onto your Spotify 2018 Wrapped playlist? 🙌 Robin Campillo’s 120 BPM, by turns devastating and elating, is destined to live on like that epic and evidently timeless tune.
9. Lady Bird
Unofficial winner of the best throwback chat of the year, Greta Gerwig’s (solo) director debut was a totally relatable vibe of a film that had us laughing, cringing, feeling and screaming for more from the millennial poster-girl, GG.
10. Summer 1993
While only a small number of voters saw Summer 1993, all who did rated it so highly that it landed a spot here in the top ten. What a delight it is to see such a relatively small, little-seen gem receive such an accolade. With the greatest respect to the nine films above, this is why these otherwise arbitrary lists matter; highlighting films that deserve a bit of the high life.
There we have it: the Curzon staff members’ favourite films of the year. Below you’ll find all the lists that made this possible, submitted by staff members from head office to the cinemas.
Thanks 2018, it’s been hella tight…
Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here is a piercing study of masculinity from one of our greatest filmmakers. It's a taut 85-minute dream which gets more expansive with each viewing, much in line with the intense physical presence of the film's star, Joaquin Phoenix. By turns ultraviolent and gently meditative, the action is always surreal.
It's worth catching the film in a 7.1 Atmos cinema: I've not heard the audio format used with such deliberate precision before. Individual sounds are given a purposefully unnaturalistic spatial location, which combined with the odd phrasing of Jonny Greenwood's soundtrack create a sonically disorienting environment. And the promo t-shirts for the film are design classics, still very much in vogue at Curzon Soho. A sensory feast! I would like to add that I also like the other films in the following list.
Joe Harris (Curzon Sheffield)
2018 was a year for the visceral cinema experience - with a fractured mental state in You Were Never Really Here, the subverting of expectations in Hereditary, a nightmare LSD trip with Climax, and the tale of bloody vengeance in Mandy, but it was a film based on the true story of a man incarcerated in Thailand's notorious prison system that delivered a bruising and emotionally raw story: A Prayer Before Dawn.
A fight against personal demons as well as prison life, we witness a journey of self-acceptance and redemption through an unforgettable hell on earth, with lead actor Joe Cole's performance being a standout of the year. Filmed in an actual Thai prison with a cast of real inmates, we are made to feel right there with our protagonist, out of place and intimidated in this harsh and unforgiving environment. This is an outstanding film, with both the fight scenes and its story exhaustingly bruising.
1. A Prayer Before Dawn
2. You Were Never Really Here
4. Isle of Dogs
5. A Northern Soul
The Spy Gone North, directed by Yoon Jong-bin was released straight to VoD in the UK. It is one of the most intelligent thrillers I’ve ever seen, taking you deep into a labyrinth of Korean diplomacy in the ‘90s, seen through the eyes of a South Korean spy who progressively understands the trap he’s being led. Moving and brilliant.
1. The Square
As a former art student who’s interned at galleries, Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winning artworld spoof The Square was clearly made for me only and no one else. Aged 21 and desperate to avoid another summer in a Blackpool indoor market - horrifying tourists with Egon Schiele-inspired portraits of their beautiful pigtailed daughters - I talked my way into a job as a projectionist in a little Curzon in Knightsbridge (the Minema, now memorialised with a little screen at Curzon Bloomsbury). One glance at those gorgeous 35mm Cinemeccanica Victoria 5 projectors and I abandoned all thoughts of a career in art on the spot. It’s a decision that Östlund firmly validates with his excruciating and chilling portrayal of art gallery director Christian, played with perfect smugness by Claes Bang (who, incidentally, earns respect for having the best thespian name since ‘butter knife’ fighter Rip Torn or atomic bomb jockey Slim Pickens).
Even if you’ve never experienced the pomposity of a fine art institution, Östlund’s career study of the subject of human self-interest delivers universal appeal (see 2014’s Force Majeure) and a satirical approach that reaches deeper and is squirmier than the genius of Chris Morris or Armando Iannucci. From the sardonic artworks themselves, which are characters in their own right, to Nathan Barley-like marketing meetings, to Christian’s righteousness and unbearably awkward handling of every situation (a one-night stand with Elisabeth Moss that would make David Brent blush), Östlund’s gallery is a beehive of activity that allows satire to thrive and multiply, in a way that recalls Lindsay Anderson’s Britannia Hospital. It’s rammed with memorable cock-ups, most of which play on our appreciation, or the lack of, for contemporary art and what’s considered good taste in moral, educated society. Best of class!
2. You Were Never Really Here
5. A Fantastic Woman
6. The Favourite
7. Lady Bird
8. Cold War
9. Isle Of Dogs
10. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
In no order of preference.
A Fantastic Woman
Mandy Hitchborn (Curzon Ripon)
My top 10 of 2018 and quick reasons why:
The Shape of Water
My WOW film of this year. I really bought into the whole world created by del Toro, and believed in all the characters.
Brilliantly observant, from laugh out loud funny to deeply disturbing.
Stunning cinematography and evocative music.
The slow, gazing camera creates a film where every sequence is full of emotional depth.
Formulaic and safe but pure feel good entertainment.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
A fascinating story of an inspirational, unappreciated woman ahead of her time.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Disarming, gripping and thought provoking.
Another gripping drama with a feisty performance by Diane Kruger
If you have ever done a Northern working man’s comedy club?
They Shall not Grow Old
An effective and moving love letter to those that shall not grow old.
Romantic & seductive beyond belief. A film that stirs the soul.
Another romance, but the sassy American kind that transported me back to youthtime and reminded me why I always wanted to attend high school in the U.S rather than the drab UK where you never found Timothée Chalamet sitting on your car.
Women in science fiction? Whaaaaat? Time to update my Ripley & Connor tattoos. This was spooky and ethereal with a big theme at its core.
A beguiling study of that most threatened species - the white working class male.
Note to Golden Globes 2020. Charming duo Agnès Varda & JR have great chemistry for presenting. See for yourselves in this paean to village people (not that kind) across France.
Steve McQueen, Viola Davis, Liam Neeson and… Lynda La Plante. That sentence alone delights me. For fans of the original (me + my mum) transporting this to the U.S still works. Also, love Viola Davis’ wardrobe. Class.
This film has much to say about the metropolitan liberal elite of the art world It’s funny, sharp and subversive, and has a great performance from the absurdly handsome Claes Bang.
That scene. If you’ve watched it you know what I mean and if you haven’t then make sure you steel yourself.
Big themes about death, betrayal, ancestry and acceptance wrapped up in Pixar’s colourful day of the dead set.
A genuinely funny and fresh lead mostly failing at life in this gem of a French comedy.
This year, my broader feeling while dusting off the popcorn and leaving the cinema from some of my most anticipated was 'Yes, but...' It's still pleasurable to think through these films, to focus on the treats of equivocal recommendations. From what I was able to see (always a major caveat!), there were fewer films I felt confident dipping in gold and putting upon atop the trophy of Great Film. Phantom Thread, while using a lot of cues of Great Films of the past, made something genuinely modern. It's the film I've debated the most this year, simultaneously a definitive grand statement and also a slippery beast that can't be pinned down. I was also really glad to see women filmmakers owning female subjects (complex stories like Jeune Femme) but also shining new light on cracks in masculinity with The Rider and You Were Never Really Here.
But if there was one film in my unranked list I would really urge people to see above others, it's Steven Eastwood's Island (produced by human whirlwind Elhum Shakerifar). Death isn't really why we go to the cinema (if you were getting pretentious, you'd say we go to the cinema avoid it...), but no film this year turned my head around more than this one. Following four people as they approach the end of their lives (and notably showing the final moments of one of the participants), it cuts death down to an individual experience. It's full of humanity, and gives you new found respect for people who can help give the dying dignity to the end, including the filmmakers themselves.
And I never thought I'd say this, but a Gaspar Noé film had the best scene in any film this year (Climax's unbroken dance intro).
You Were Never Really Here
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Crazy Rich Asians
1. The House That Jack Built (dir Lars Von Trier)
I saw The House That Jack Built for the first time a couple of weeks before Cannes. If the average viewer finds it a difficult watch, imagine how discomforting it is for the person who will have to run the publicity campaign for the film!
About 60 minutes in I started to ask myself “how are we going to release this film?”, then about 30 minutes later, probably around the point when Matt Dillon’s character starts to praise the architectural genius of Albert Speer, another thought started to gnaw at me - ”should we release this film?”. I’ve been working at Curzon for nearly 10 years, covering a whole host of controversial films, and that thought has never impressed itself upon me before. Lars Von Trier’s unholy gamble, his twisted bid for forgiveness, relies on provoking our liberal sympathies. We say that anything can be the raw material and subject matter of great art but when confronted with the horrors of humanity and depths of the human psyche, can we stomach it? Of course, Von Trier presents this with his signature mocking tone which makes it all the more hard to swallow. I have to admit, I was genuinely provoked, a rare and unusual feeling in cinema today. I could actively feel my mind trying to grapple with the moral quandaries the film presented.
In many ways, the noose is tightening on what can and cannot be the subject matter for film. On the surface, we seem to be living in an extremely fertile time for cinema. Never before has there been such a variety of voices breaking through in front of and behind the camera. But the limitations, imposed by the market, on the content and form these films can take grows more onerous. How to find an audience for Lucrecia Martel’s Kafkaesque colonial dystopia Zama or Chloé Zhao’s heartbreaking tale of a rodeo rider dealing with the fall out from serious brain trauma? It probably goes without saying that they don’t lend themselves to lucrative brand partnerships and the cost of launching them into the ‘awards conversation’, with all the vital press attention that entails, is prohibitively expensive.
With The House That Jack Built Lars Von Trier thoroughly rejects the logic of the market. We as an audience, even if being trolled, are treated as adults. We might turn away from the film in disgust but Von Trier never fears that we might be corrupted by it. In doing so, in such confrontational terms, he underscores the terms all other filmmakers labour under. Art can and should be about the unpleasant, the unpalatable, the unnerving, not just the empowering, the cosy and the agreeable (though god help us we need that now too). But we as an audience need to be brave in our choices or this side of cinema will be lost. Of course, one also has to acknowledge that Von Trier might just be taking the piss.
2. Western (dir Valeska Grisebach)
3. Zama (dir Lucrecia Martel)
4. The Rider (dir Chloé Zhao)
5. Summer 1993 (dir Carla Simón)
6. The Wild Pear Tree (dir Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
7. Leave No Trace (dir Debra Granik)
8. The Square (dir Ruben Östlund)
9. Phantom Thread (dir Paul Thomas Anderson)
10. 120 BPM (dir Robin Campillo)
David Ward (Curzon Ripon)
1. The House that Jack Built
I’ve been looking forward to this film for the majority of the year. And it didn’t let me down. Matt Dillon is incredible as Jack. I’ve not enjoyed a film this much for a while!
I’m a fan of The Wicker Man, to which this bears similarities. A good message. Can be watched and delved into deeper. Or watched just for the thrill of some gory fun!
3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Just wow. Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, that was some of the best acting I’ve seen for a long time.
4. The Shape of Water
This film gave me feelings...
It’s Alex Garland... It leaves more questions than it answers, but in a positive way. I was left talking about it afterwards, and still am months later.
6. 22 July
The film does a brilliant job of conveying the emotions of everyone in the situation it depicts, from a family to the government, and the person responsible for such a monstrous attack. A must see for the year.
Nic Cage. Chainsaws. What a trip.
Seems to be you either love it or hate it. I was engrossed. It was creepy all while somehow being hilarious. Just an utterly bizarre film.
Stays pure to the stalker horror of the 1978 original.
10. The Ritual
I respect horrors that have lifelike characters and that try different things with their plot, and this certainly did.
If I had to pick a favourite and seeing that The Favourite isn’t technically out until next year, this is it. RIP Harry Dean Stanton <3
I hate football. I’m not a fan of dogs. But the two together, with a sprinkling of pink candy-floss clouds, makes for a winning combo.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
I saw this in 2017, at the IMAX with the director and cast doing a Q&A and I was so enthralled, I went straight to the bookies… and ultimately lost a tenner.
Yet again, trying real hard to not make all of the films in my list Curzon films, but I really loved this so much, I wanted to marry it (with Dogman, A Fantastic Woman, The House That Jack Built and Le Bonheur as bridesmaids).
I watch so many films, that I rarely watch things more than once. This one I watched thrice on the big screen – and the year isn’t over yet!
You Were Never Really Here
I’d say this was a perfectly formed film, nothing wasted – boom, bang, bosh. Job done. But what do I know?
A Quiet Place
It’s a toss up between this is and Blackkklansman… hmm, I’m still not sure? Neither are masterpieces, both are surprisingly enjoyable.
Leave No Trace
Like a camouflaged Ninja, this creeps up behind you and performs the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.
They Shall Not Grow Old
This was unbearable. Almost unwatchable. Everyone has to see it.
Three Identical Strangers
Such a good documentary, with more twists than Chubby Checker and the Fat Boys; I’m so happy that Netflix kept it’s mitts off and it wasn’t turned into a 10 part series.
Maya Sfakianaki (Curzon Soho)
A film about the small, the often unnoticed, the easy to miss.
2. The Square
A square, straight male. A perspective of middle class. An artistic niche. You identify because it’s you. It’s a film made for the ones that know. Or don’t know what actually matters.
Utterly eerie and strangely humane. A grim(m) fairytale about human kindness.
A hipster horror with a voyeuristic inclination towards its cast.
Mysterious and melancholic. Like watching a greenhouse on fire.
A boy lost in the abyss of indifference or a series of mistakes that led to misery.
A greatly detailed film that took a good amount of effort to be made, and it shows.
8. Cold War
A beauty peeking behind the broken faces,
the torn clothes, the dirty hands of a destructive war.
A pain that stems from songs of negligence
for a land of thick white snow
Which, falling, covers the soldiers’ breath.
The peasant sings about Maja’s skirt,
about her pink ankles, he watches them dancing underneath it.
Miniature villages hide angelic voices.
The melancholic colourless images of rural grounds
And the heartbreaking singing that introduce the film
Immediately remind one of Bela Tarr’s Damnation.
But soon enough, the plot starts to to follow a more linear narrative path.
When Wictor and Irena make their
They emerge as a couple of nonconformists,
Set out to collect and train the rustic voices of Poland.
It’s this simplicity and purity of the peasant,
The cornerstone of their music academy
They take him by the hand and teach him how to dance
Teach her how to sing
In front of crowds of thrill and passion.
But as the academy grows and prospers,
The Communist regime becomes stronger
Amid this cheering crowd stands powerful, the threat.
An agricultural Poland, saved by Nazi rule,
Is pushed now to a different dance macabre.
A threat of an oppressive establishment that is about to turn their purity into propaganda.
While Wiktor tries to fight for his liberal ideas,
and save the school from serving as a tool for the spread of communism
He finds himself singing about Zula’s skirt,
his brave, yet audacious student, who gives herself completely into his charm and seductive authority.
While their love grows larger,
the school’s liberty and autonomy grows smaller and smaller
until it can’t fit into Wiktor’s heart.
He goes to Paris.
Where is she?
Lukasz Zal’s cinematography accompanies their characters to their utter humiliation
Through heartbreaking deliveries of traditional Polish melodies
a love story untangles and then tangles again.
It slips from a painted red Poland
to a multicoloured Paris where jazz and swing dominate the cabarets,
and from obstacles that go beyond their passionate nature
to always arrive in a state of political oppression.
Pawel Pawlikowski makes us wonder if the title of the film bypasses its seemingly political essence
to actually refer to its main protagonists.
their fate seems inevitable, almost… necessary.
Even in their sweetest moments, that find their completion
in the dangerous Paris of the West
they both seem to drown into their weaknesses
and spit them towards one another.
9. Phantom Thread
Elegant and emotionally sadomasochistic. Yet, it works.
10. The Shape of Water
Del Toro is the Santa Claus of films, for kids like me.
First Place goes to Jean Cocteau Orphée. Admittedly I’m late by 68 years and there’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said, but even sadder is that I’ll never get to see if for the first time again.
2. Cold War
3. A Fantastic Woman
7. Jeune Femme
10. Last Flag Flying
Honourable mention to Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s Diamantino. Sadly I can’t include this in my top ten, but it is the film I’d recommend the most. It has everything from evils twins, to Eurosceptic conspiracies, giant fluffy puppies, pink clouds and the ethics of genetic modification all wrapped up in a Ronaldo-esque package. Diamantino is an odyssey of absurd proportion and endless charm. Think Forrest Gump meets The Dance of Reality, with a dash of Dogtooth for good measure.
A director making use of all the tools of filmmaking to create a wondrous, hypnotic hex of a film. No small feat.
Nothing this year came close to topping the experience of watching PTA’s Phantom Thread on a huge screen in 70mm. The cinematography; Jonny Greenwood’s score; Daniel Day-Lewis’s style; the Woodcock’s Fitzrovia townhouse; that breakfast order - total, perfectly coiffed bliss. It’s also responsible for the instantly iconic line “The tea is leaving, but the interruption is staying right here with me.” Pure unfettered sass.
You Were Never Really Here
Isle of Dogs
1. Phantom Thread
It was back in February, but nothing else this year, for me, has topped Daniel Day Lewis "admiring his own gallantry" for eating Alma's asparagus with butter instead of olive oil in PTA's masterpiece, Phantom Thread.
2. A Quiet Place
3. American Animals
4. Cold War
6. 120 BPM
7. A Fantastic Woman
9. Jeune Femme
1. Summer 1993
3. A Fantastic Woman
4. 120 BPM
6. The Breadwinner
7. A Quiet Place
8. Isle of Dogs
9. Leave No Trace
10. First Reformed
A heart-wrenching film that really stayed with me. Beautifully composed and achingly raw, Andrey Zvyagintsev's film is quite simply a masterpiece.
2. Cold War
Gorgeous, heartbreaking and mesmerising. No, I'm not talking about myself, I'm talking about Cold War, a miracle of a film.
3. Avengers: Infinity War
Pure cinematic spectacle, the Russo brothers took 10 years worth of storytelling and upped the ante by creating a simple, compelling narrative and throwing it on an epic canvas. Blockbusters rarely get better than this.
4. Phantom Thread
A truly brilliant and surprisingly funny film that I'm dying to rewatch.
A Powder-keg of a film that needs to be watched now.
6. Lady Bird
A perfect American indie, the kind that aren't made too much anymore.
Beautifully shot and with impeccable sound design, Roma really is a treat to behold.
Now this is what horror should be. An unnerving experience featuring superb performances that diverts expectations throughout.
9. Isle of Dogs
Another brilliant example of why we love Wes.
10. The Rider
The word I would use to describe this film would be authentic. Go and watch it.
What do a 90 year old French filmmaker, a Disney musical and the streets of Moscow have in common? All feature in my top 10 films, and whether bleak or empowering my choices all share an impression that lingered long after, and no doubt will stay with me through 2019 and beyond.
I went into many films with no strong expectations and left surprised, uplifted or provoked. A special shout out to all the incredible films from women directors this year - including my first viewing of Jane Campion’s re-released The Piano, and legend Lynne Ramsey's latest. Other notable features from female filmmakers, which just missed my list, include Leave No Trace, The Breadwinner, The Rider and Zama. 2019, the bar has been raised!
A Fantastic Woman
You Were Never Really Here
Faces Places (+ Gleaning Truths Varda Season)
The Piano (re-release)
Christina Flourentzou (Curzon Soho)
In no particular order, except for my top 2: You Were Never Really Here and Cold War. Both were beautifully shot and are films you can watch again and again. I Loved the very subtle hint of humour in each of them, despite the brutal subject matter. Great soundtrack on both.
1. You Were Never Really Here
2. Cold War
5. A Prayer Before Dawn
8. 120 BPM
10. Lady Bird
Podcast host Jake Cunningham has already shared his thoughts on the films in his top ten. Click the links below to hear his reviews on the Curzon Podcast.
PERSONALLY, I wasn't finding 2018 to be the strongest vintage at the start of the year, settling on the euphemism "missed opportunity" for a huge number of films I saw (that probably shouldn't be named and shamed here). I also didn't bother with certain tent-pole Oscar films or musicals.
Phantom Thread was very good, but not top-tier PTA for me, so if e.g. The Master had come out this year it could have easily been my fave, again demonstrating the paucity of other titles it would be up against.
To my shame I still haven't seen 120 BPM, and by all accounts Western is another one that got away, so there are some DVDs for the Christmas wish list sorted.
Like an arthouse version of Twitter user @tumilediga, I was only reminded the captivating and opaque Loveless was this year over the course of compiling this list. I feel like that film was a lifetime ago, before the heatwave summer, before inevitable World Cup glory, before Pete Doherty's man vs food triumph.
ANYWAY, during said heatwave I saw two of my faves of the year within a week of each other: Leave No Trace and Summer 1993. Thematically they both cover the grief at the loss of a mother (this isn't a spoiler I promise) and as a result feature excellent performances from very young actors. I know that doesn't make a film good in and of itself, but trust me they are.
And that I thought would be my end-of-year top two sewn up, but Shoplifters was so full of wonderful cinematic moments that - despite not being a perfect movie - it has to take the top spot in a middling year.
1. Phantom Thread
Looking like a stuffy period drama on the surface, Paul Thomas Anderson has secretly made the funniest film of the year (you don’t call your lead character ‘Reynolds Woodcock’ if you’re taking it completely seriously). If it’s Daniel-Day Lewis’s last performance, it’s an astounding one to bow out on, delivering some incredibly quotable lines and the best movie swearing in years, accompanied by two actresses who do more than hold their own against him; a sharp-tongued Lesley Manville and a revelatory Vicki Krieps. Now, no more confrontation in the morning please!
Cuarón has made his fourth masterpiece. A triumph of pace and camerawork, Roma is poetically simple and it’s impact has yet to leave me.
Unafraid to embrace its genre, the third best film of the year is the best horror film of the year. Ari Aster delivers enough unsettling images to burn their way into your eyes for years to come, and Toni Collette gives the most intensely powerful performance of her career.
4. You Were Never Really Here
A complex thriller with the baggy complexities removed, leaving us with a skeletal structure of a film. A quick-paced, raw experience made all the more brutal by a hulking, hammer-wielding Joaquin Phoenix.
5. First Reformed
Heavy themes of religion, guilt and environmental apocalypse are pulled together by dexterous directing from Paul Schrader and a career-best performance from Ethan Hawke.
6. A Star Is Born
What Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut lacks in nuance, it makes up for with unapologetic sincerity and sappiness; an old-school star-driven melodrama with two actors fully committing to the genre.
7. Cold War
Portraying a decades long romance in under 90 minutes is no easy task, but Pawel Pawlikowski pulls it off with style. A black and white beauty with a gut-punch ending.
8. The Old Man & The Gun
Nostalgic without being overly sentimental, David Lowery’s light hearted love-letter to New Hollywood is endlessly charming, while Robert Redford reminds us once again why he’s the best in the business.
9. First Man
The best biopic of the year: tense, taught and with an emotional kick to finish. Gosling and Chazelle are an actor-director paring to watch.
10. Avengers Infinity War / Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Big, loud and over-the-top: I couldn’t decide which of these to put in my ‘blockbuster slot’, so I cheated and went with both.
1. Cold War
3. Phantom Thread
It’s Christmas, 1985, and Adrian has returned to his childhood home for the holidays, somewhere in suburban Texas. Having spent the past few years living it up as a yuppie ad exec in New York City, it’s a total change of step and a retreat to his former, closeted self, harangued by his macho father and maybe a little mollycoddled by his doting mother. For Adrian lives a double life: one that’s performed here, over the festive period for the sake of his conservative parents, and one that is free and true but altogether more tragic. Back in New York, the city has been struck by the HIV/AIDS crisis and a number of Adrian’s friends have already succumbed to AIDS-related illnesses. Adrian, too, may be dying. This could be his last Christmas. He embarrasses his family with expensive gifts, spends precious time with his younger brother, and makes amends with a spurned ex-girlfriend. But he cannot tell them the truth.
Writer and director, Yen Tan, described 1985 as a “cold blanket.” It projects a melancholy feeling throughout, but there’s comfort in it. Despite the circumstances of these characters’ lives, it is not a depressing nor overly sentimental film, but touching and universally profound, filled with disruptive truths about identity. For Adrian, telling his family about his diagnosis means revealing to them so much more about his life, about who he is and about why he has kept so much of himself a secret.
Through his aesthetic and tonal decisions, and a number of oh-so-subtle references to pop culture, Tan has crafted a film that feels of its period but that could never have existed before now. Camera movements and compositions nod to independent films of ’80s, and the performances are tinged with a self-consciousness reminiscent of Gregg Araki’s more sedate work. And that black & white Super 16mm Kodak film stock tells us not only are we looking into the past, but that there is an ever present tragedy beneath. Yet the film is not a piece of nostalgia; the wisdom of 2018 colours everything we see and hear. 1985‘s audience knows the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS crisis, but also understands the destructive myths and scaremongering prevalent at the time in part thanks to naiveté, in part driven by an odious agenda. 1985’s audience knows that the world has moved on in the decades that followed, but there’s an ever present sense of the modern world reflected back at us and it not being all that different.
The film ends with a dignified cry, reminding us of what was lost, reminding us that a generation of young boys came of age among a community in mourning, reminding us that we are more understood that we often realise. As Adrian’s mother tells him: “you know, you don’t have to tell me until you’re ready”