Firstly, thank you for every review you have read, liked, shared, commented on and even chatted to me about in person. Thanks to your support and the help from my wonderful co-writer Jell, I was able to experience another very productive year of film watching and reviewing.
In total, I personally watched 161 films officially released in Australia in 2018 alone, which is 20 more than I what I was able to see last year! And that isn’t even including movies that I’ve seen more than once (A STAR IS BORN, for instance) or releases from previous years!
It was a strong year. Thirty-four films received a minimum of 4 stars from me and just one was given 1 star or less. Therefore, I’ve now extended the top end competition to a ‘Best 22 of 2018’ list and simply named my worst movie of the year.
As I write this post from the cold, grey-skied but beautiful country Germany, I trust that you will thoroughly enjoy the read below. I also hope that after reading through, you will add a few movies to your watch list to view over the Christmas break very soon. As always, feel free to drop a comment once you do.
Jell and I have BIG plans for Moviedoc in 2019. We look forward to these coming to fruition soon and throughout the year, and thank each of you for your continued support in 2019!
My Best 22 of 2018
Each of the following films received 4 stars from me.
Let’s begin with a film that is surely a heavy favourite for many of you this year! At number 22 (yes, 22, that is how strong the world of cinema is in 2018!) is…
There is just no valid reason as to why BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY wouldn’t feature somewhere in everyone’s best-of list in 2018. It achieves exactly as intended more potently than most other movies, is exhilarating to watch and what about that outbreak of acting from Rami Malek!? WOW!!!
Why is SEARCHING in my top 20? SEARCHING deserves to be here due to the inventive and often innovative use of technology, screen imagery and social media to present and tell its utterly captivating and mystery-filled missing person story. Demands greater effort of its viewers than similar types of movies that is absolutely worth its while.
Drug addiction and death from drug overdose continues to worsen in numbers in the U.S, as well as in other parts of the world. This story, based on a pair of memoirs, is a tender, truthful and confronting journey through a young man’s battle with drug addiction and his father’s best endeavours to save him. BEAUTIFUL BOY is as heartbreaking as it is crucial and the performances from Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet are outstanding.
The first of a small handful of documentary feature films to make my best 21. In HUMAN FLOW, Ai Weiwei demonstrates that you just do not know what life is like in someone else’s shoes, until you wear them. This film literally adopts a ground-zero approach to document the stories of displaced refugees in twenty-three countries around the world. If you don’t feel an ounce of empathy for what they are forced to endure during Ai Weiwei’s unforgettable film, then I’m afraid you are devoid of this essential human characteristic.
You have never seen a man’s professional and personal life come undone in quite as bizarre and uniquely hilarious fashion as this. THE SQUARE is indisputably thinking outside of the square in its clear efforts to stun, enthral and unnerve its customers. A true arthouse great!
This is the most courageous film to be released in 2018. The most internationally awarded film in South African history, THE WOUND (INXEBA) tackles two very sensitive subject matters – the extremely private and traditional Xhosa initiation into manhood and the awakening of its gay male character‘s sexuality. If you admired Oscar-winning film MOONLIGHT, then you will appreciate THE WOUND (INXEBA).
When a movie is unique, brings something new to the genre and is excellent, you can expect that movie to always make my ‘best of’ final cut. This true story is no exception. A heist film quite unlike any other, AMERICAN ANIMALS is a seamless blend of feature film and documentary that is perfectly balanced, well thought-out and a cleverly executed film. It’s also a seriously entertaining one. Recommended viewing!
The second movie in my best 21 that will be a favourite of many this year and may also get some Oscar-love in February. The classic story of the simultaneous fall of one star as another rises is so engaging and involving and boasts beautiful performances from director Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, who share an immediately absorbing chemistry on screen. Here is Jell’s full review of A STAR IS BORN.
This gripping German dramatic thriller is inspired by actual events that tells of a fictional story about a woman who is seeking justice after losing her husband and young son in a targeted bomb attack. Diane Kruger gives a tour de force lead performance and IN THE FADE (AUS DEM NICHTS) is hugely accessible to a worldwide audience.
Regardless of exactly how much you know about the three subjects of this documentary and their story, you will experience a rollercoaster of emotions watching THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS.
One of the greatest surprises and most underrated movies of 2018, LAST FLAG FLYING is one of those movies that will be liked immensely by almost every person who sees it. Yet somehow, you probably haven’t heard of it let alone watched it! The three lead actors work brilliantly together as former marines – Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) and alcoholic bar owner Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) who accompany Larry ‘Doc’ Shepherd (Steve Carell) as he prepares to bury his son who’s been killed in the Iraq War. This is not a heavy film, as it may sound, in the slightest. In fact, one of its great surprises is just how much hearty laughter is derived from the affectionately crafted script that makes every word and action matter. I could go on, but just see it for yourself already!
From Russia, without love. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s follow-up to the excellent 2014 drama LEVIATHAN could only be produced in Russia with international financial support after the Russian government disapproved of that film. In LOVELESS (NELYUBOV), the son of a bickering married couple who are finalising their divorce while selling their large apartment goes missing. As gripping to watch as it is a driven film. Not far from being of the highest quality of a very similar French film lodged within my top 4. Highly recommended!
Ok, this isn’t easy to watch. But for those of us who care enough to witness real footage featuring a group of volunteers known as ‘The White Helmets’ saving hundreds of lives in their city during the Syrian Civil War, it is essential viewing. A confronting, harrowing but utterly inspiring documentary that should be watched prior to Australian documentary CHASING ASYLUM.
The stand-alone stand-out in the animation genre for 2018. Wes Anderson’s near-masterpiece, ISLE OF DOGS features family-friendly animation work that is breathtakingly detailed, an intelligently conceived and written story and an outstanding score. All of which provide first class entertainment and are complimented by the iconic movie-making style of Wes Anderson. You will never, ever regret watching ISLE OF DOGS.
Each of the following films received 4 ½ stars from me.
Named after the neighbourhood in Mexico City it is set, ROMA is a semi-biographical journey into the upbringing of writer and director Alfonso Cuarón (GRAVITY). Patience is required as ROMA does take time to form a discernible narrative and is visually drawn-out. However, no other film released this year overwhelmed me with utmost appreciation post-credits quite like this one. Set in the early 1970s, filmed in black and white and available now on Netflix, allow yourself to fall under the irresistibly immersive spell cast by Cuarón. But please, do so in the right mood!
It’s not new news that Yorgos Lanthimos’s (THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER) period comedy/drama THE FAVOURITE boasts three outstanding performances from three outstanding actresses. Jell’s review also supports this. But what also elevates this ripping movie from being great to reigning supreme is its piercing writing, flawless character development and innovative score. THE FAVOURITE is just as fresh and jaw-dropping to the period drama genre as last year’s LADY MACBETH.
Released very early this year, award-winning indigenous filmmaker Warwick Thornton’s (SAMSON AND DELILAH) SWEET COUNTRY is a masterful work of striking authenticity and raw storytelling. Our country has home-grown a healthy number of films that boast these characteristics, but rarely at the consistently high standard so prevalent in this ‘meat-pie’ Western.
Well, well, well! Perhaps some of you expected MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT
to be as spectacular a movie, not just a spectacular action movie, as what it is. Credit to you if so. But for me, this, along with AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (which narrowly missed my best 21) were some of the most pleasing surprises of 2018. The secret to its success? Tom Cruise has sprinted a little over 24,000 feet on screen throughout his 37 years in the movies. In summary, the more Tom Cruise runs, the better his movies are. In summary, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT races towards the finish line a victorious movie in every possible way, with Cruise in first place. The best action film since MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.
The top 4 is so incredibly tight, you could just about consider each of these films equal for claiming best film of the year. I had to be VERY picky to not award 5 stars to these movies below.
I had knots in my stomach from beginning to end in this searing and utterly realistic fictional French drama about a mother and father’s bitter dispute over custody of their young son. The opening act, which is intentionally ambiguous in deciphering which parent is genuine, is immediately engrossing. Once this piece of detail has become completely clear, CUSTODY (JUSQU’À LA GARDE) casts an ominous tone and a stranglehold upon the viewer that leads to finale more heart-stopping than any other you will see on the screen this year. Riveting. Gut-wrenching. Unmissable French cinema at its finest.
In this Lebanese drama, two men – a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee – have a heated exchange that lands them both in court in a case that gets national attention. THE INSULT (L’INSULTE) conveys its story and messages so precisely and powerfully. This outstanding movie is a prime example of how to take an issue that is more personal and specific to the country it hails from and extract essential key themes to make the film pertinent and hugely involving to people belonging to every race, religion and ethnicity.
For those of you who don’t (ordinarily) watch subtitled films, I guarantee you that the stories told in THE INSULT, CUSTODY, LOVELESS and IN THE FADE are far from being foreign and will immediately arouse your interest. Give them each a go, at the very least. You’ll thank me later!
From scenes very early in this film, it is obvious that Joan Castleman’s (Glenn Close) calm exterior is harbouring tension that is gradually rising. Tensions triggered by long-time husband, Joe (Jonathan Pryce) that rise furthermore during a business trip to Stockholm. The build-up and revelations to follow are sublimely structured and written in this riveting and outstanding drama that features impeccable acting performances from Pryce and Close. I left the cinema in such awe of what I just saw and was moved emotionally for days after. Do not miss THE WIFE, which I believe is Glenn Close’s greatest opportunity yet to win her a very first Academy Award.
THE BEST MOVIE OF 2018
I’ve selected PHANTOM THREAD my best movie of 2018, partially on the basis of being bias. It is the epitome of the exact type of character-driven drama that is right up my alley. This film maintained a certain unparalleled connection with me that was last achieved by 2012 Danish drama, THE HUNT. A story set in 1950s London featuring multi-layered and psychologically complex characters at its fore, PHANTOM THREAD is about a male dressmaker (played by Daniel Day Lewis in his typically finest form) whose very particular habits and structured living of life undergoes drastic and unpredictable change when he meets a younger woman and romantic interest (played by an electrifying Vicky Krieps). This outstanding film’s production is as flawless as its narrative. Production design, cinematography and the score are of the highest possible quality, just to name a few. A treasure to every sense for cinema aficionado’s and fans of this genre especially.
Some films that I am yet to see that are/will be released in 2018, which may occupy a place in my best of list are:
THE WILD PEAR TREE
As they say, what goes up must come down. Now, let’s get right to the bottom of my list. Here is….
THE WORST MOVIE OF 2018
How did one of my most anticipated films of the year result in easily being the worst? How is it even possible that director Luca Guadagnino hits rock bottom with this SUSPIRIA “remake” after his five-star masterpiece still sitting at the top of my “Best Films of 2017 List”, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME? This intentionally grotesque and absurd film is the most divisive and the most pretentious movie of 2018. The fleeting moments of impressive imagery and whispers of a comprehensible plot never make so many of the dreadful scenes you must endure and cannot unsee over a painstaking two and a half hours worth their while. On a positive note, at least the poster for the film isn’t misleading – SUSPIRIA really is as big a mess as it suggests! Read (or re-read) Jell’s hilarious review of SUSPIRIA and watch the Italian original from 1977 instead.
Now, we move along to plenty of additional stand-outs, highlights and low-lights in cinema throughout 2018…
THE BEST 3 FILMS OF 2018 AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX
ROMA (4 ½ stars)
ON MY SKIN (SULLA MIA PELLA) (4 stars)
THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS (4 stars)
The acting stand-outs
*OF refers to being my Oscar favourite
*OW refers to being Oscar worthy
Best Actress and/or Supporting Actress Performances
Glenn Close – THE WIFE (OF)
Sonia Kruger – IN THE FADE (AUS DEM NICHTS)
Lady Gaga – A STAR IS BORN (OW)
Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone – THE FAVOURITE (All OW)
Emma Thompson – THE CHILDREN ACT (OW)
Daniela Vega – A FANTASTIC WOMAN (UNA MUJER FANTÁSTICA)
Millicent Simmonds – for her debut performance in WONDERSTRUCK
Joanna Kulig – COLD WAR (ZIMNA WOJNA)
Thomasin McKenzie – LEAVE NO TRACE
Keira Knightley – COLETTE (OW)
Saoirse Ronan – ON CHESIL BEACH, THE SEAGULL and LADY BIRD
Amy Adams – VICE (OW)
Best Actor and/or Supporting Actor Performances
Rami Malek – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (OF)
Jonathan Pryce – THE WIFE (OW)
Denis Menochet – CUSTODY (JUSQU’À LA GARDE)
Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carell – LAST FLAG FLYING
Bradley Cooper – A STAR IS BORN (OW)
Nick Robinson – LOVE, SIMON
Timothée Chalamet – BEAUTIFUL BOY (OW)
Jonah Hill – DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT
Charlie Plummer – LEAN ON PETE
Tim Blake Nelson – THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
Christian Bale and Sam Rockwell – VICE (OW)
These movies might have missed out on a spot in my best 22, but they are each very good, deserve a mention and you might like to check these out further…
WONDERSTRUCK (4 stars)
A QUIET PLACE (A very strong 3 ½ stars)
LADY BIRD (A very strong 3 ½ stars)
LADIES IN BLACK (3 ½ stars and perfect to watch this Christmas!)
UPGRADE (3 ½ stars)
THE CHILDREN ACT (3 ½ stars)
WHAT WOULD PEOPLE SAY? (HVA VIL FOLK SI) (A very strong 3 stars)
TWO IS A FAMILY (DEMAIN TOUT COMMENCE) (A very strong 3 stars)
These films also missed my best 22, but were much better than I had expected…
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (4 stars)
DEN OF THIEVES (4 stars)
BLOCKERS (3 ½ stars)
GRINGO (3 ½ stars)
GAME NIGHT (3 ½ stars)
And these movies ended up being some of the biggest let downs and/or are the most overrated films of 2018…
SUSPIRIA (1 star and I just had to mention it once more!)
THE BREAKER UPPERERS (1 ½ stars)
MY FRIEND DAHMER (1 ½ stars)
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST(2 stars)
THE 15:17 TO PARIS (2 stars)
RED SPARROW (2 ½ stars)
BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE(2 ½ stars)
A SIMPLE FAVOUR (3 stars)
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (3 stars)
HEREDITARY (3 stars)
Without spoilers, here are just some of the most memorable and/or greatest moments and highlights in cinema in 2018…
A couple of heated verbal exchanges inside the hotel room in THE WIFE
The finale of CUSTODY
The set-piece sequences, chase and fight scenes in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT
Two harrowing sequences involving the main protagonist that I cannot describe without including spoilers in ROMA (but you will know of which ones I speak of once you’ve seen the film!)
The conversation and laughter shared by the three lead actors of LAST FLAG FLYING during a loss of virginity discussion
The utterly bizarre sexual encounter and the performance artist “entertainment” sequence in THE SQUARE
The breaking of new ground in mainstream cinema by LOVE, SIMON
The depiction of drug addiction, the diner scene and the final scene in BEAUTIFUL BOY
The final performance sequence at Wembley in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
The mathematical whiz chicken from the “Meal Ticket” story & the imagery, location and music scored for the “All Gold Canyon” story in the film THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
The more frequent appearance of black & white cinematography used to perfection in ROMA, COLD WAR and WONDERSTRUCK
The depiction of motherhood in TULLY
The appearance of Cher in MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN
The brothel sequence filmed via security cameras in YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
And some low-lights of cinema that I’d like back please…
143 of the 152 minutes of SUSPIRIA
Anne Heche’s horrible attempt at acting in MY FRIEND DAHMER
The bodily sensations and dispensing of bodily fluids from Muppets in THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS
All of the excruciating and lame performances in IN LIKE FLYNN
All of the awkward and poor acting on display in
The nun in THE NUN
The lack of promised genuine scares and the laughable ending of HEREDITARY
For some fun to compare opinions, here are five films that I nominate Jell to watch and rate sometime in 2019…
ISLE OF DOGS
IN THE FADE (AUS DEM NICHTS)
Highest grossing film – Worldwide
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ($2,048,815,482)
Highest grossing film – In Australia
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ($46,825,158)
Compiled by Leigh for Moviedoc
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