Kev’s Ten Best Films Of 2018

It’s a bit late in coming, as I found it quite hard to pick the ten best because of the high quality of output for 2018. This doesn’t seem to be the general consensus but I’ve previously never rated as many films with 5 stars in the 9 years that I’ve been doing this. Here goes…

1/ You Were Never Really Here

The combination of filmmaker, Lynne Ramsey (We Need To Talk About Kevin) and on-form actor Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice) was always going to produce, at the very least, interesting results — she had him in mind for the part from day one. But when you add in a sublime score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and a story adapted for the screen from Johnathan Ame’s dark, demented crime/revenge novella of the same name, then you have what is one of the finest films of the year. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, with its art-house sensibilities, unflinchingly nasty violence and exceptionally dark themes, but there really is nothing that comes close to the innovation and originality of You Were Never Really Here in the action/thriller world. Wonderful stuff by Lynne Ramsey and Joaquin Phoenix.

2/ Shoplifters

There is so much to admire in Hirokazu Koreeda’s Shoplifters and yet it is a very difficult film to talk about without spoiling the amazingly intricate and deftly crafted storyline. Black and white sensibilities, in regards to how people behave and why they do things, are non-existent in Koreeda’s films, and none more so than in this. As with all of his films, Shoplifters is a gradual, deeply emotive, wonderfully humorous and highly intelligent tale that shows a side of Japan that is rarely seen with an empathetic eye. Koreeda might just have intricately pieced together his finest movie to date, which is a feat in itself, given the stunning body of work that he has already got under his belt.

3/ Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread is a sublimely made film by Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights), that has Daniel Day-Lewis — in his supposed final acting role — on fine form alongside Vicky Krieps (Hanna) and Leslie Manville (Mr Turner) as more than worthy co-stars, in a piece that has deviously subtle menace layered throughout its seemingly traditional and ‘proper’ exterior. It is a fantastically complex relationship drama that is centered around the dressmaking world, but with a venomous bite in its premise. Highly recommended but not a show for someone looking for instant gratification. This is a slow-burner that gradually gives up the goods, right until its final scene.

4/ Climax

There are not many films out there that leave you exasperated, yet exhilarated by the time the finale has played out. But with Gaspar Noé’s latest, Climax, you have a movie that does not let up from its initial dance scene, creating a gradual head-fuck that will suck you in with its energetic and fascinating performances and stomping soundtrack, even when you know the story is going South in epic proportions. Morbid curiosity will keep you involved — that, or maybe you’ll be stunned into submission. This is a one-of-kind that is a tough watch in its latter stages but strikes the balance between despair and exhilaration with an eye and resolve that few filmmakers can ever hope to achieve.

5/ Michael Inside

Writer/director Frank Berry has made the best Irish film that I’ve watched in some time. Set in Dublin, the level of detail and realism in how they portray the drugs trade and prison system in Ireland is second to none and they are represented in a manner that shows no glamour, whatsoever. The amazing performances from its mostly unknown cast — Dafhyd Flynn in particular in the lead role — are what really makes it, though. There’s some great Irish talent out there that needs more recognition! Very impressed.

6/ Cold War

Set just after World War 2, filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War charts the trials and tribulations in a relationship between a couple that spans the 50s and moves through a ruined Poland to Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris as regional politics and their musical careers interfere in their passionate relationship. With stunningly intense performances all round and amazing musical set pieces that exude realism— in particular with star Joanna Kulig — Cold War is a stark, yet beautifully shot in black and white, drama that is testament to the hardships and upheaval that many must have faced with the rise of the brutal Stalin regime, yet captures intimacy in a manner that nearly feels intrusive. Think Romeo and Juliet but so much more. Powerfully emotive filmmaking.

7/ The Wild Pear Tree

Writer/director Nuri Bilge Ceylanh’s (Once Upon A Time In Anatolia) latest is a coming of age drama that is like no other. Set in modern Turkey and very noticeably careful in how it critiques the upheavals since President Erdoghan took power, The Wild Pear Tree offers a subtle, yet incredibly poignant look at a young man’s journey into adulthood and his quest to become an author. Frustrated by what he perceives to be small-town attitudes after returning to his village from college, and a father who he sees as a chancer who shirks his responsibilities to his family, Ceylanh expertly uses symbolism, metaphors and analogies, along with some exceptional actors and stunning cinematography, to craft and weave a wonderful premise that had me pondering the film long after I left the cinema. It may be three hours long but it was the quickest three hours I’ve spent in a long time.

8 / Wajib

Palestinian filmmaker, Annemarie Jacir has made a wonderful film that gives a highly enlightening and thought-provoking view of life for a community of Christian Arabs in Nazareth, living under the glare and pressure of the Israeli government. But it is one that is filled with subtle humour and fascinating comparisons of western and Palestinian life that you glean from the bickering father and son protagonists — the latter of whom has returned home from Rome for the week — as they deliver wedding invitations around family and friends for the marriage of the daughter of the family. There are so many lovely touches, like the background narration of radio reports of local news, highlighting issues of the surrounding conflicts; the visiting of elders that still live very traditionally, and scenes that confront, with balance, the frustration and anger that is held towards the presence of Israeli soldiers in everyday life. But, for me, it is the impeccable acting that is allowed to flourish in the long shots of dialogue that really makes this work.

9 / Sorry To Bother You

This has to be one of the most innovative, yet absurdly funny films that I’ve watched in some time. Sorry To Bother You lampoons the world of telemarketing in the most devious, highly intelligent manner that you’re likely to witness, ever, but it is so much more than that. Once all the layers start to peel back, baring the critiques of racial stereotypes and unbridled capitalism, greed and facetiousness that no one escapes, and all leading into a finale that you’ll never see coming… I’m simply in awe of the type of brain that has the audacity to even pitch this to a film studio, never mind make it. The film has a great cast, top-notch acting, script, visual concepts and a seriously devious sense of humour, congealing in a manner that easily makes it one of my faves of the year. Wonderful stuff from new filmmaker on the block, Boots Riley. An undoubted talent.

10/ A Cambodian Spring

Irish filmmaker Chris Kelly has made a fine documentary set in Phnom Penh that will shock you to the core in its final stages. Shot and pieced together with admirable respect for the subjects over 9 years, A Cambodian Spring is an essential watch for anyone with an interest in the region. It gives the viewer an amazing glimpse into the rife corruption within the halls of power and organised religion, while documenting the brave struggle of a group of villagers and a monk that leads to a national movement. Steely camerawork by Kelly amidst the chaos is key to the narrative, giving you a near front row seat to the scandalous behaviour of the government. And to top it all off, the great electronic musician, James Holden pulls off a synth-based score that is amazing! Impressive stuff from Kelly!

Some other films that are worthy of your attention. I’ve highlighted the essential ones.

The Old Man And The Gun, Ghost Stories, Suspiria, Lean On Pete, Avengers: Infinity War, Mountain, Blakkklansman, Hereditary, Three Identical Strangers, Molly’s Game, Downsizing, Free Solo, Journey’s End, Blakkklansman, Loveless, Spiderman: Enter The Spiderverse, Glory, Western, I Tonya, A Fantastic Woman, Dark River, Bombshell, While You Live, Shine, Sweet Country, The Square, The Third Murder, Journey Man, Thoroughbreds, The Workshop, Beast, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, Custody, Funny Cow, Tully, Deadpool 2, Redoubtable, Filmworker, Even When I Fall, Zama, The Ciambra, All The Wild Horses, Hold The Dark, Arcadia, Into The Fade, The Happy Prince, Leave No Trace, Hostiles, The Silver Branch, Mom And Dad, The Eyes Of Orson Welles, The Ballymurphy Precedent, Searching, First Reformed, American Animals, The Miseducation Of Cameron Post, First Man, King Of Thieves, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A., A Simple Favour, The Rider, A Star Is Born, Northern Soul, Dogman, Fahrenheit 11/9, Faces Places, Ready Player One, The Hate You Give, Mandy, Jupiters Moon, Utøya: July 22, Widows, Halloween, Microhabitat, The Meeting, Little Forest, A Mother Brings Her Son To Be Shot, The Lonely Battle Of Thomas Reid, Happy New Year Colin Burstead, The Return, At War, Wildlife, Mug, Rosie, Mission Impossible:Fallout