Despite that ubiquitous streaming service doing its level best to domineer all of my screen time, 2018 was still able to add several films to my vault of all time cinematic favourites. Looking over these ten I can’t say that there’s a particular throughline which binds them all together aside from an instant desire to rewatch and share them. And so, here they are…
Nancy, Coco, I, Tonya, BlacKkKlansman, Thunder Road, A Private War, Girl, Mandy, Black Panther, Isle of Dogs, The Load, A Quiet Place, Madeline’s Madeline, Lords of Chaos, Loveless, The Kindergarten Teacher, Dogman, and Custody.
10. ALL THE GODS IN THE SKY | Quarxx
France’s Quarxx brings his successful short A Nearly Perfect Blue Sky to feature film fruition in strange horror meets science fiction tale All the Gods in the Sky, melding sadness, guilt and the surreal visions of a fractured mind.
9. RAY & LIZ | Richard Billingham
Artist Richard Billingham reaches back to his memories of growing up in the Black Country with his alcoholic father and domineering, chain-smoking mother (regular muses for his work) in debut feature Ray & Liz. It’s an extremely personal and authentic portrait of lives eked out in poverty and mutual unhappiness.
8. ANGELO | Markus Schleinzer
It took seven years to see how Markus Schleinzer would follow up his deeply disturbing ‘banality of evil’ debut Michael and while an equally uncomfortable watch, Angelo is a follow up few would have predicted. Charting the true story of slave turned social experiment, Angelo Soliman, as he rises to and falls from the upper echelons of 18th-century Viennese aristocracy, Schleinzer’s sophomore outing has much to say about being forced to live in a society to which you’ll never truly belong.
7. BORDER | Abbasi Ali
Abbasi Ali’s dark folk fantasy reflects on the compromises we’re willing to accept to avoid loneliness and the liberation which comes from knowing and accepting our true selves, no matter how ‘strange’ that may be to others. With a transformative performance from Eva Melander and a sex scene unlike any onscreen coupling I’ve ever seen, Border is a film which has firmly lodged itself in my mind.
6. UTØYA: JULY 22 | Erik Poppe
Hands down the most intense viewing experience I had in 2018, made all the more unsettling due to its tragic base in reality. Erik Poppe’s Utøya: July 22 is a heart racing and emotionally rending real-time depiction of the 72 minutes during which a right-wing extremist gunned down teens attending a political summer camp on the Norwegian island of Utøya. It is also one of the few films whose one-shot format is an intrinsic and not simply stylistic element of its storytelling.
5. FIRST REFORMED | Paul Schrader
Ethan Hawk has long impressed with many a great performance in his storied career but his portrayal of the troubled priest at the centre of Paul Schrader’s First Reformed is arguably his best to date. A beautifully measured study of the infectious power of an idea metastasized into dangerous obsession.
4. HOLIDAY | Isabella Eklöf
The Turkish Rivera provides the sparkling backdrop for Isabella Eklöf’s (who also co-wrote Border) exploration of the violence of unchecked male power as a fledgeling gangster girlfriend navigates the treacherous waters of her new life of luxury and the whims of her drug lord boyfriend. An impressive takedown of capitalism and a reminder that destructive acts happen in pretty places too, I can’t wait to see what her next film brings us.
3. PHANTOM THREAD | Paul Thomas Anderson
“The tea is leaving, but the interruption is staying right here with me” is but one of a litany of brilliant lines in Paul Thomas Anderson’s exquisitely crafted story of creative perfection in need of loving disruption. It’s as gorgeous as a House of Woodcock dress, with performances to die for.
2. THE FAVOURITE | Yorgos Lanthimos
I’ve previously confessed my propensity for including any new Lanthimos film in my year-end roundup but damn does The Favourite belong here! Featuring Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone circling each other like acerbic sharks, vying for the bloody prize of being BFF to Olivia Coleman’s needy Id-driven Queen Anne, it’s definitely one of his best yet.
1. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE | Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti & Rodney Rothman
Of the countless onscreen interpretations of the Spider-Man has there ever been one as visually inventive, character-rich or just plain fun as Into the Spider-Verse? A definitive NO is the answer you’re looking for! While I was excited about Miles Morales taking up the friendly neighbourhood mantle, seeing him come into his own alongside, and with the help of, his multi-verse counterparts was an experience that threw into sharp relief how much more we should have demanded from our onscreen heroes. Plus that Stan Lee cameo was the perfect send-off.
You can check out the rest of team DN’s Top Ten picks here.