Skip to main content

If we don't drown, I'm gonna strangle you myself. I don't care how many exploding teeth you try to spit out at me.

Top 10 Films
2018

I don't usually do an annual Top Ten, mainly because I invariably catch up on many of the films that make my list in the subsequent six to twelve months. Nevertheless, here's the current incarnation, subject to considerable change. Included are movies that had their wide release in the UK during 2018, hence several of them may appear quite passé to US readers. 

10. Journey’s End

Saul Dibbs brings a compelling and superbly performed – by Paul Bettany in particular – adaptation of RC Sherriff's World War I play to the screen in time for the hundredth anniversary of the armistice. I could quibble at a few of the choices made, but for the most part, what has long-since become a rather stuffy set text gets a welcome shot in the arm. (2.10.18)


9. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Even non-vintage Coen Brothers fare is never less than essential viewing, and this scrappy anthology picture – what anthology isn't scrappy? – yields several pearls, not least Tim Blake Nelson's titular crooner in the opening segment and Zoe Kazan's rattle in the longest and most affecting, The Girl Who Got Rattled.  (9.11.18)


8. The Shape of Water

Just like Superman, kind of, you'll believe a woman can have a consenting relationship with a fish. As with most cases of Oscar glory, the filmmaker's best work (Pan's Labyrinth) was previously passed over for the big prize, a lesser echo instead garlanded down the line, but Guillermo del Toro's period fantasy is still a rewarding patchwork of his great obsessions, and blessed by a fine (and Oscar-worthy) central performance from Sally Hawkins. (14.02.18)


7. Isle of Dogs

I was definitely a doubter regarding Wes Anderson's second animated feature, mostly because I previously resisted fully falling for his fast-and-loose adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox. But Isle of Dogs finds him putting his best foot forward to offbeat and highly engaging effect; random, blackly humorous and absurd, but anchored by a canine-centric storyline that draws you in and pays off in inimitably satisfying fashion. (30.03.18)


6. A Star is Born

Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut isn't perfect – the third act in particular flounders through repositioning itself to focus on his alcoholic fading country singer at the expense of the star he has made – but what it gets right very nearly compensates. He and Lady Gaga have palpable chemistry, and the tried-and-tested rise/fall template proves itself ever serviceable. (03.10.18)


5. Phantom Thread

That Paul Thomas Anderson and his wilfully auteurish ways. So much so, he can entice Daniel Day-Lewis out of semi-retirement whenever he puts pen to paper. His tale of an indulged dressmaker (Day-Lewis' Mr Woodcock) whose latest conquest (Vicky Krieps) rather sets the cat among his pigeons is told at a leisurely but irresistible pace, such that the perverse relish it takes in its plot twists is all the more striking. Nevertheless, it's undoubtedly Krieps who takes the laurels. (10.02.18)


4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Not the superhero movie I expected to finish up in my Top Ten of the year – actually, I didn't expect one to make it this time – this Lord and Miller crafted animation, following a host of Spider-Man alts as a means to an origin story for the latest, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), is endlessly inventive, funny, touching and visually stunning. (12.12.18)


3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Perhaps John Woo can be persuaded to do a salvaging re-edit on Mission: Impossible 2? As it stands, it's the only entry in the two-decades-plus spanning franchise thus far that has been less than satisfying. Since the fallout from Oprah's couch jumping that rather dented the prospects of the (underrated) third instalment, Tom Cruise has returned to keeping his mouth shut about scientology and presenting that impossibly nice guy persona to the world. And it’s worked. If I couldn't say Fallout is the best in the series so far, that's only because the last three sequels have been embarrassment of action riches. (25.07.18)


2. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

My pick for the Best Picture Oscar of those nominated sees Martin McDonagh return to unbeatable In Bruges form after the very slight hiccup of Seven Psychopaths (most filmmakers can only dream of having a hiccup so enjoyable, though). Naturally, it stirred some controversy, since McDonagh's not the kind of writer to curtsy and make his excuses; it's his head-on approach to subject matter and character that make him one of the best filmmakers around right now (in which respect, he has the edge on his also very talented brother), and it's no coincidence that headlining with Frances McDormand puts one in mind of the skillset that is second nature to the Coen Brothers. (12.01.18)


1. Bad Times at the El Royale

There was a fair degree of anticipation for Drew Goddard's second feature (the first being genre-busting The Cabin in the Woods) that rather fizzled when it arrived to merely respectable notices and less than rapturous box office. On the plus side, that makes it instant cult movie material. On the minus, Goddard ought to have carte blanche to make whatever he so fancies in the future, which means he needs to be bankable.

Anything rigorously written and vaguely in the crime genre these days instantly attracts comparisons to Tarantino, which is fair enough, but Bad Times satisfies on a character level in a manner Tarantino hasn't in years, while offering plot twists that elicit applause for the sheer bravura with which they're executed. Marvellous performances from the ensemble cast too, led by Cynthia Erivo, Jeff Bridges and Jon Hamm. I've said my list will likely look very different in six months’ time, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if Bad Times still tops it. (12.10.18)


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

He’s probably paranoid, high-strung, doesn’t like daylight. You know, has a lot of crumbs in his beard, if he has a beard.

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) (SPOILERS) I’d like to report I had a blast with Godzilla vs. Kong . It’s lighter on its oversized, city-stomping feet than its slog of a MonsterVerse predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters , and there are flashes of visual inspiration along with several engaging core ideas (which, to be fair, the series had already laid the seeds for). But this sequel still stumbles in its chief task: assembling an engaging, lively story that successfully integrates both tiny humans and towering titans.

It's Dark Age, by Jupiter!

The Dig (2021) (SPOILERS) An account of the greatest archaeological find Britain would know until Professor Horner opened the barrow at Devil’s End. And should you scoff at such “ fiction ”, that’s nothing on this adaptation of John Preston’s 2007 novel concerning the Sutton Hoo excavations of the late 1930s. The Dig , as is the onus of any compelling fictional account, takes liberties with the source material, but the erring from the straight and narrow in this case is less an issue than the shift in focus from characters and elements successfully established during the first hour.

You stink, my friend.

Mulan (2020) (SPOILERS) Let that be a lesson to Disney. It’s a fool’s errand to try and beat the Chinese at their own game, no matter how painstakingly respectful – or rather, pandering – you are. Indeed, Mulan ’s abysmal $40m box office take in the country – where it did get a proper release, so no plandemic excuses can be cited – feels like a direct rebuke; don’t try and tell us how to suck eggs. There’s an additional explanation too, of course. That Mulan sucks.

Our "Bullshit!" team has unearthed spectacular new evidence, which suggests, that Jack the Ripper was, in fact, the Loch Ness Monster.

Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) Cheeseburger Film Sandwich . Apparently, that’s what the French call Amazon Women on the Moon . Except that it probably sounds a little more elegant, since they’d be saying it in French (I hope so, anyway). Given the title, it should be no surprise that it is regarded as a sequel to Kentucky Fried Movie . Which, in some respects, it is. John Landis originally planned to direct the whole of Amazon Women himself, but brought in other directors due to scheduling issues. The finished film is as much of a mess as Kentucky Fried Movie , arrayed with more miss sketches than hit ones, although it’s decidedly less crude and haphazard than the earlier picture. Some have attempted to reclaim Amazon Women as a dazzling satire on TV’s takeover of our lives, but that’s stretching it. There is a fair bit of satire in there, but the filmmakers were just trying to be funny; there’s no polemic or express commentary. But even on such moderate t

Roswell was a smokescreen, we've had a half a dozen better salvage operations.

The X-Files 1.24: The Erlenmeyer Flask The Erlenmeyer Flask makes for a fast-paced, tense and eventful ride, but does it make any sense? That less than mattered at the time, but revisiting the mythology arc (for probably the fourth or fifth time) reveals increasingly tenuous internal coherence as the various conspiracy elements begin to pile up and the situations become ever-more convoluted. This will become the Chris Carter’s signature: don’t examine the details too closely, go with the flow. Trust Chris implicitly.

Wow. Asteroids are made of farts. Okay. I got it.

Greenland (2020) (SPOILERS) Global terror porn for overpopulation adherents as Gerard Butler and his family do their darnedest to reach the safety of a bunker in the titular country in the face of an imminent comet impact. Basically, what if 2012 were played straight? These things come to test cinemas in cycles, of course. Sean Connery struggled with a duff rug and a stack of mud in Meteor , while Deep Impact plumbed for another dread comet and Armageddon an asteroid. The former, owing to the combined forces of Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin, was a – relatively – more meditative fare. The latter was directed by Michael Bay. And then there’s Roland Emmerich, who having hoisted a big freeze on us in The Day After Tomorrow then wreaked a relatively original source of devastation in the form of 2012 ’s overheating Earth’s core. Greenland , meanwhile, is pretty much what you’d expect from the director of Angel Has Fallen .

UFO IN MOSSINGHAM?

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2020) (SPOILERS) One might reasonably suggest the recourse of the ailing or desperate franchise is to resort, seemingly out of nowhere, to space aliens. Even Police Academy didn’t go that far (to Moscow, yes, but not to space). Perhaps animators think kids have no skills of discernment and will swallow any old sugar-coated crap. Perhaps they don’t, and they will. Ice Age had been enjoying absurd success until Collision Course sent Scrat spinning into the cosmos and grosses tumbled. Shaun the Sheep has been around for a quarter of a century, but this is only his second movie outing and already he’s pulling an E.T. on us. Of course, this may all be part of the grand scheme, and Nick Park is simply doing his bit to familiarise the tots in time for Project Blue Beam.

Careful how much boat you’re eating.

Onward (2020) (SPOILERS) Pixar’s Bright , or thereabouts. The interesting thing – perhaps the only interesting thing – about Onward is that it’s almost indiscernible from a DreamWorks Animation effort, where once they cocked a snook at such cheap-seats fare, seeing themselves as better class of animation house altogether. Just about everything in Onward is shamelessly derivative, from the Harry Potter /fantasy genre cash-in to the use of the standard Pixar formula whereby any scenario remotely eccentric or exotic is buried beneath the banal signifiers of modern society: because anything you can imagine must be dragged down to tangible everyday reference points or kids won’t be able to assimilate it. And then there’s the choice of lead voices, in-Disney star-slaves Chris Pratt and Tom Holland.

By heaven, I’d thrash the life out of you… if I didn’t have to read the Nine O’Clock News.

The Green Man (1956) (SPOILERS) The Green movie from Launder and Gilliat starring Alastair Sim that isn’t Green for Danger. Which is to say, The Green Man can’t quite scale the heady heights of that decade-earlier murder mystery triumph, but neither is it any slouch. Sim is the antagonist this time – albeit a very affable, Sim-ish one – and his sometime protégée, a young George Cole, the hero. If the plot is entirely absurd, Robert Day’s movie wastes no time probing such insufficiencies, ensuring it is very funny, lively and beautifully performed.

Well, I’ll be damned. It’s the gentleman guppy.

Waterworld (1995) (SPOILERS) The production and budgetary woes of “ Kevin’s Gate ” will forever overshadow the movie’s content (and while it may have been the most expensive movie ever to that point – adjusted for inflation, it seems only Cleopatra came close – it has since turned a profit). However, should you somehow manage to avoid the distraction of those legendary problems, the real qualitative concerns are sure to come sailing over the cognitive horizon eventually; Waterworld is just so damned derivative. It’s a seafaring Mad Max. Peter Rader, who first came up with the idea in 1986, admitted as much. David Twohy, who later came aboard, also cited Mad Max 2 ; that kind of rip-off aspect – Jaws birthing Piranha – makes it unsurprising Waterworld was once under consideration by Roger Corman (he couldn’t cost it cheaply enough). Ultimately, there’s never a sufficient sense the movie has managed to become its own thing. Which is a bummer, because it’s frequently quite good fun.