Sunday, December 23, 2018

let's talk about my 15 favourite films of 2018 (so far)

2018 was something of a film renaissance for me. This could come down to a few things: a) I restarted my Letterboxd account after three years forgetting about the site, which helped keep me accountable for what I was watching; b) I moved cities and suddenly had triple the access to films (Academy Cinemas in Auckland CBD is a blessing); or c) I started working in film distribution in August, which gave me even more access to (free) films and has taught me a lot about the fact that you really have to see a film in the first weekend because cinemas have to churn through the content quickly (unless you're Bohemian Rhapsody, which after eight weeks is still getting the pick of the plum session times). A bonus reason could be that I'm no longer studying film, so I feel like I can watch a film without thinking about semiotics and hidden meanings and Aristotelean rhetoric. That's bliss.

I've gone back to my classic Hollywood roots, I've watched all of the versions of A Star is Born, I've watched two too many trashy Netflix Christmas has been a wildly unpredictable year as to what I liked and what I thought I would like. Weirdly, I've only given one film from 2018 a 5/5 rating (which'll obviously be number one on this list), but there's been plenty of films I wanna scream from the rooftops about.

As per, I haven't nearly seen enough (due to my own laziness or the fact that NZ won't get most 2018 films until 2020) but I kinda like this list because it isn't what I expected it to be. Nevertheless, these films deserve a little shoutout!

15. SUSPIRIA (dir. Luca Guadagnino)

I'll be the first to tell you that I wasn't completely sold with this film as a whole (I wasn't entirely sure about the Doctor's storyline) but I'm not sure that any film rocked me to my core this year the way that this one did. Guadagnino's approach to horror is intoxicating in the way that you absolutely do not want to be intoxicated, and it is glorious. Plus, as my Instagram bio says, 'i just want the best for dakota johnson's career' - this is it, chief.

14. JULIET, NAKED (dir. Jesse Peretz)

Possibly the most light-hearted film I saw at the film festival, this was the perfect antidote to a cold, rainy winter night. I love Rose Byrne as a comedic actress, and this film is yet another showcase of her talents. While it is quite a simple love story, I loved what the film had to say about mega-fans and how their idols don't necessarily live up to what they want them to be. I can see that I'll be rewatching this charmer a lot in the future.

13. YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (dir. Lynne Ramsay)

I feel like I don't really need to tell you how good this film is, because you'll already know that. Lynne Ramsay knows her way around a camera and a good story. This is an expertly crafted thriller by way of existential drama, with a strong central performance from unlikely hero Joaquin Phoenix. Was definitely worth the neck ache I got from sitting in the front row of a sold out session!

12. PRIVATE LIFE (dir. Tamara Jenkins)

Private Life was unexpectedly unlike anything that I've seen before - a very honest, yet fully fleshed out narrative about a couple's struggle to have a baby. The characters in this film are its greatest asset, as you genuinely believe the situation that they're in because of the way their anxieties are pulled into it.

11. A QUIET PLACE (dir. John Krasinki)

I'm quietly lol'n about the backlash this film is now privy to, but was there a better experience to have at the cinema this year? I don't think so. A ballsy move to make a film that relies on silence in 2018 - yet, I didn't hear a peep out of the audience during the entire film. That's rare.

10. CRAZY RICH ASIANS (dir. Jon M. Chu)

This was the only film I saw more than once in theatres this year. What can I say, your girl loves her romantic comedies with instant-rewatch-appeal, and this film is perfect for that. It is funny, it is dramatic, it made me cry a few times, and Henry Golding is...ugh, I can't with that man. If you need me, I'll be holed up on my couch rewatching this 20 times a month.

9. THE FAVOURITE (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)

I only watched this a week ago, but the more time I've had to mull it over, the more I love it - I can envision it being a lot higher in another iteration of this list. It is probably the funniest movie I've seen all year, with vintage Lanthimos staging and a fascinating dynamic between three actresses on the top of their game - Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. The thing I weirdly loved the most was that the men in this film are so secondary to the women, and the film has fun with that.

8. AMERICAN ANIMALS (dir. Bart Layton)

This was one of the most consistently entertaining films I saw this year. It was also a genius approach to retelling a story of people who made some poor decisions, playing with perception and form to make you both revile and root for the guys at the centre of the film.

7. MCQUEEN (dir. Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui)

Alexander McQueen had a life plagued with tragedy, which could have easily been sensationalised in a documentary focused on the drama that shaped him. McQueen, instead, uses Alexander's unique fashion designs as the driving force of this film, and weaves the key points of his life into the fabric of the film. What results is a moving, full celebration of a fashion maestro who had an incredible ability to put his life into his art.

6. WILDLIFE (dir. Paul Dano)

For some reason, I'm particularly drawn to films about failing marriages, and Wildlife does it exceptionally well. The failing marriage is that of Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal's characters, but it is seen entirely through the perspective of their 14 year old son who is old enough to understand, but still naive enough to not fully grasp the rift between his parents. Mulligan absolutely commands this film as a difficult, impulsive woman longing for her youth.

5. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (dir. Boots Riley)

It took a hot minute to get this showing in NZ (I bought tickets six weeks in advance for the first screening at the end of November), but it was worth the wait. This film is alive. I couldn't even explain it if I tried, as it is went to some very unexpected places while still possibly being better than I expected it to be (I had high expectations). Also, where can we sign up Lakeith Stanfield to be in everything?

4. A STAR IS BORN (dir. Bradley Cooper)

This was possibly my most anticipated film for the year, with the original 1937 film being the first film that ever made me cry - I needed a good, emotional film at this point of the year. Despite knowing exactly what was around the corner, A Star is Born still hit those emotional high notes, mostly due to a couple of stellar performances from Bradley Cooper (who I have believed in all these years and he is delivering) and Lady Gaga.

3. ROMA (dir. Alfonso Cuaron)

Every man and his dog has been hyping this movie up and I'm not about to ignite the Netflix vs. big screen experience debate but this movie. I didn't expect it to absolutely wreck me in the way it did. This is an immersive film in every sense of the world - you become embroiled in Cleo's world, which makes the final act all the more of a rollercoaster.

2. WIDOWS (dir. Steve McQueen)

A movie directed by Steve McQueen with a script he co-wrote with Gillian Flynn with a cast like that? I was sold well before the movie even hit theatres. Even though my expectations were high, I didn't expect to spend the final act with my jaw dropped. This is an expertly made, extremely well-performed (FYC Elizabeth Debicki thank you very much), tensely crafted thriller that almost doesn't let up. It's like five movies in one.

1. LEAVE NO TRACE (dir. Debra Granik)

I was fortunate enough to see Leave No Trace with a sell-out crowd at Auckland's Civic Theatre, followed by a Q&A with Debra Granik and actress Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie. I knew from the moment the film ended that I had just seen the best movie of the year. Granik's commitment to capturing the life of people on the edges of society has never been more eloquent and rich than it is here. This is a film that doesn't offer any easy answers and lets its characters go through the motions, trying to assimilate to a normal life at different paces. Leave No Trace is a striking, complex work of art that truly doesn't get the love it deserves.

So what do we think? Any recommendations for films I should catch up on? What films have you been screaming from the rooftops about?!


  1. I've only seen 2 films on this list so far. Still, it's impressive.

  2. Wildlife! I'm so happy to see that here considering no one else is talking about it and that film was perfect. I've seen quite a few from your list, My theater is getting The Favourite next week and I can't wait.

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