As the film industry continues to reel from the Weinstein scandal, 2018 has been a reasonably strong year for movies but more importantly a particularly loud and triumphant one for women and our ongoing activism for equality at all levels. So far my current favourite films of the year boast real variety and demonstrate particularly strong work from female filmmakers and actors. In regards to foreign cinema, it was wonderful to see trans-cinema being given a platform in UK cinemas with the wonderful A Fantastic Woman storming into cinemas in March. Meanwhile my hunger for both European and Queer cinema were satisfied with the remarkable 120 Beats Per Minute an astonishing film which looks at the lives of those fighting the prejudice against AIDs sufferers and the gay community in late 1980s Paris. An unexpected delight came in the form of Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game, a blockbuster with more brains and brashness then I expected, and which provided yet another example of why Jessica Chastain remains one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors. A recent favourite of mine lived up to the graphic novel it’s adapted from; My Friend Dahmer reworked its source material to show things from its main subject’s perspective rather than the author’s. It captured the cruelty of high school and the sinister beginnings of one of America’s most infamous serial killers. Awards season was rather flat for me with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, I, Tonya and Ladybird proving fine but not quite living up to the hype. That was until the night of the Oscars when I found myself touched by the pure magic of cinema, reminded of just what a romantic art form it is. Yes, the rightful winner of Best Film is also high up on my list, as The Shape of Water left me suitably swooning. Lynne Ramsay’s triumphant return, You Were Never Really Here was an explosive delight and an explosive collaboration with both Joaquin Phoenix and composer Jonny Greenwood.
This year has been particularly strong for documentary, with June’s Sheffield International Documentary Festival boasting a remarkably stellar programme. Personal favourites included Minding the Gap, a heart-breaking tale of boyhood, manhood and the role of violence in the lives of a group of skateboarding friends. Meanwhile, a special preview of McQueen demonstrated the importance of true intimacy in bio-docs and Sandi Tan’s Shirkers proved an experimental love-letter to indie cinema of the 1990s. A Woman Captured, with its astonishing access to a victim of modern slavery, was equal parts enraging and uplifting. Similar astonishing access was present in Over The Limit, a shocking reveal of the mental torture experienced by a Russian Olympic rhythm gymnast. Luckily, my list of worst films of the year is joyfully short, with most simply proving underwhelming rather than altogether rubbish. I found Downsizing particularly irritating, whilst Unsane was desperately annoying from start to finish. The Post took home the award for dullest film of the award season with Hanks, Streep and Spielberg finally grinding to a halt in a calculated but unsuccessful bid for Academy Award glory. Finally, Netflix, and the freedom they famously award to their directors, proved misjudged with both Duncan Jones’ Mute and Alex Garland’s Annihilation feeling painfully self-indulgent and over-convoluted. All things considered, it’s been a pretty interesting and diverse year. With both the Me Too and Time’s Up campaigns continuing to positively impact on the industry I love so dearly, cinema does seem to very gradually be becoming more diverse, enriched by diverse stories and authentic storytellers. That said, I’m feeling rather optimistic about the next six months.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.