Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

91st Academy Awards: Predictions

Today, after a plethora of controversies and U-turns, this awards season will be brought to a close as we celebrate the 91st Academy Awards. From the short-lived Most Popular Award, to the decisions to present some awards during the commercial breaks, only to (sensibly) go back on that, after a huge public outcry. I think many will be glad to put this award season behind us, but before we do, there are 24 golden statues to give out, and so I will now gaze into my crystal ball and predict who will be clutching one of those golden men come the end of the night, whilst also giving my own thoughts on each category (minus the documentaries and the shorts as I have not seen those).

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Christian BaleVice 
  • Bradley CooperA Star Is Born 
  • Willem DafoeAt Eternity’s Gate 
  • Rami Malek Bohemian Rhapsody 
  • Viggo MortensenGreen Book 

Rami Malek’s transformative turn as the iconic Queen front man has won plaudits left, right and centre, and he has scooped pretty much every prize going so far. His performance completely elevates Bohemian Rhapsody, and if you took that and Queen’s music away, you’re left with a pretty by-the-numbers biopic. For Cooper, this is his fourth acting nomination and he’s mighty unlucky that his arguably career best performance in A Star is Born, will more than likely leave him going home empty-handed. Bale could spring an upset for his work in Vice but Malek will more than likely be the champion here.

Click here for a Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor collaboration post.

Will Win: Rami Malek

Should Win: Bradley Cooper

Should have been nominated: John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Yalitza AparicioRoma 
  • Glenn CloseThe Wife
  • Olivia Colman The Favourite 
  • Lady GagaA Star Is Born
  • Melissa McCarthyCan You Ever Forgive Me?

Despite a glittering career across several decades, Glenn Close has never tasted Oscar glory despite SEVEN nominations, so expect the Academy to right this wrong this year. That being said, all of these performances are excellent with Yalitza Aparicio getting her first nomination despite having never acted before. Lady Gaga brilliantly held her own opposite Bradley Cooper and Melissa McCarthy made a welcome switch to a more dramatic role, and it got a career best performance out of her in the process. I would love to see Olivia Colman, the Queen herself, scoop the prize as her performance in The Favourite was utterly hilarious, but this award belongs to Close.

Click here for a Best Actress collaboration post.

Will Win: Glenn Close

Should Win: Olivia Colman

Should have been nominated: Viola Davis (Widows)

Best Supporting Actor

  • Mahershala AliGreen Book
  • Adam DriverBlacKkKlansman 
  • Sam ElliottA Star Is Born
  • Richard E. GrantCan You Ever Forgive Me?
  • Sam RockwellVice

Sam Rockwell’s nomination here really sticks out like a sore thumb, he’s a very talented actor but his performance in Vice was nothing special. Sam Elliot, Adam Driver and Richard E Grant all (somehow) score their first nominations (hopefully the first of many for Driver).  Though it was hard to understand him at times, Sam Elliot’s performance was so raw and emotional. Both Driver’s and Grant’s required a deft combination of humour, mixed in with some very serious drama, and both pulled this off with seemingly effortless ease. It has been impossible not to just fall in love with Grant as he has been such a delightful breath of fresh air across this campaign, and so a win for him would be a joyous moment. However, it seems unlikely that anyone will stop Mahershala Ali from taking his second Oscar for a refined performance in Green Book.

Will Win: Mahershala Ali

Should Win: Adam Driver

Should have been nominated: Daniel Kaluuya (Widows)

Best Supporting Actress 

  • Amy AdamsVice
  • Marina de TaviraRoma 
  • Regina KingIf Beale Street Could Talk 
  • Emma StoneThe Favourite
  • Rachel WeiszThe Favourite

Another crop of very strong performances across the board from all of these ladies makes picking a winner very hard, especially considering the amount of people who could have been nominated. Adams’s mission to land Oscar gold should be over already (see Arrival) but seeing as how I don’t run the Academy, her wait is likely to go on. Marina De Tavira’s performance was a very warm and charming one, but she doesn’t really stand a chance, as this is very much a battle between The Favourite ladies vs Ms Regina King. King has been taking the majority of the but a Rachel Weisz victory at the BAFTAs could sway it in her favour.

Click here for a Best Supporting Actress collaboration post. 

Will Win: Regina King

Should Win: Emma Stone or Rachel Weisz

Could have been nominated: Elizabeth Debicki (Widows) or Claire Foy (First Man)

Best Director

  • Spike LeeBlacKkKlansman
  • Paweł PawlikowskiCold War
  • Yorgos LanthimosThe Favourite
  • Alfonso CuarónRoma
  • Adam McKayVice

Spike Lee’s first ever directing nomination comes after making what is for me perhaps the most important film of the last twelve months so for this I would like to see him win. Lanthimos’s eccentric style of directing carried over to The Favourite, and there was a definite amount of visual flair and very interesting stylistic choices in his direction. The same cannot be said for Adam McKay. However, it seems certain that Cuaron will pick up his second directing Oscar this decade. Which, when you think about the two one take scenes that he so masterfully directed in Roma, it would be a richly deserved triumph for the Mexican maestro.

Will Win:  Alfonso Cuarón

Should Win: Spike Lee

Should have been nominated: Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born)

Best Original Screenplay 

  • Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara – The Favourite
  • Paul Schrader – First Reformed
  • Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly – Green Book
  • Alfonso Cuarón – Roma
  • Adam McKay – Vice

I make no apologies for bashing Vice again, but its presence in this awards season just bothers me something fierce. It had some good intentions, but it just came across as too full of itself and was just infuriating to watch. Cuaron crafted something so personal and so moving with Roma and The Favourite was just wickedly funny from start to finish. A Green Book triumph seems unlikely given the backlash the film has received from the relatives of Dr Shirley.

Will Win:  The Favourite

Should Win: The Favourite

Should have been nominated: Isle of Dogs

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Joel Coen & Ethan CoenThe Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  • Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike LeeBlacKkKlansman
  • Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty Can You Ever Forgive Me? 
  • Barry JenkinsIf Beale Street Could Talk
  • Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper & Will FettersA Star Is Born

If directing is going to be out of his reach, then this is the one category that Spike Lee, and his team of co-writers have GOT TO be victorious. BlacKkKlansman struck a fine balance between being when it wanted a very funny film, but it did not shy away from the hard-hitting heavy subject matter, and got extremely fierce and angry when it wanted to, and for good reason. The Coens are Academy favourites but the Ballad of Buster Scruggs was a bit hit or miss with some of its stories. Barry Jenkins seems unlikely to repeat his triumph in this category in 2017 and Can You Ever Forgive Me? may yet sneak an upset but this should be Spike Lee’s long overdue moment.

Will Win: BlacKkKlansman 

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

Could have been nominated: Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn (Widows)

Best Animated Feature Film 

  • Brad Bird, John Walker and Nicole Paradis Grindle Incredibles 2 
  • Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy DawsonIsle of Dogs
  • Mamoru Hosoda and Yūichirō Saitō Mirai 
  • Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Clark Spencer Ralph Breaks the Internet 
  • Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller –  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Unlike last year, this is a much stronger selection of animated films. The power of Pixar so often prevails here, but it seems as though everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man of the animated variety will seize the crown away from Disney. I think I’m one of the few who is championing Wes Anderson’s charming Isle of Dogs, but a win seems unlikely as my spider sense is telling me that Miles Morales and his crew of Spider-beings will swing home with Oscar gold.

Will Win:  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Should Win: Isle of Dogs

Best Original Score 

  • Ludwig GöranssonBlack Panther
  • Terence Blanchard – BlacKkKlansman
  • Nicholas Britell If Beale Street Could Talk  
  • Alexandre Desplat Isle of Dogs 
  • Marc ShaimanMary Poppins Returns

Re-teaming with Barry Jenkins after his Oscar nominated work in Moonlight, Nicholas Britell did it again creating a score that was both beautiful and melancholic, capturing the joy and despair of the main characters beautifully. But by far one of the biggest snubs here was for Justin Hurwitz’s First Man score, which had it been nominated would surely have come back down to earth to win the statue. Ludwig Göransson’s wonderful work for Black Panther is also very much worthy of the gong, as it was grounded in the beauty of the continent of Africa.

Will Win:  If Beale Street Could Talk 

Should Win: Black Panther

Could have been nominated: Justin Hurwitz for First Man

Best Original Song 

  • “All the Stars” from Black Panther – Music by Mark Spears, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth and Anthony Tiffith; Lyrics by Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith and Solána Rowe
  • “I’ll Fight” from RBG – Music and Lyrics by Diane Warren
  • “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns – Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
  • “Shallow” from A Star Is Born – Music and Lyrics by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt
  • “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Music and Lyrics by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Though I love “All the Stars”, nothing is stopping Lady Gaga here. Given that the Best Actress statue will likely be out of her reach, this is one award Gaga will be deservedly holding at the end of the night. The moment in ASIB when she sings “Shallow” with Cooper in the film, chills down my spine.

Will Win:  “Shallow” from A Star is Born

Should Win: “Shallow” from A Star is Born

Should have been nominated: “Always Remember Us This Way” from A Star is Born

Best Sound Editing

  • Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve BoeddekerBlack Panther
  • John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone  – Bohemian Rhapsody 
  • Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou MorganFirst Man
  • Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik AadahlA Quiet Place
  • Sergio Díaz and Skip Lievsay – Roma 

For a film that has its central premise based on sound, it would be nice to see the brilliant work of the A Quiet Place team get rewarded, considering it was such a key aspect of the film that it should be sneaking away quietly with the gold. However, it faces stiff competition from First Man as those space scenes were stunningly recreated. A Bohemian triumph could be on the cards also as that Live Aid scene was stunning to behold.

Will Win:  First Man

Should Win: A Quiet Place

Best Sound Mixing

  • Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor and Peter J. Devlin – Black Panther
  • Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin and John Casali – Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee and Mary H. EllisFirst Man
  • Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan and José Antonio Garcia Roma
  • Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder and Steve A. Morrow A Star is Born

The absence of A Quiet Place here is quite perplexing. Therefore, like with Sound editing, this is likely to be a battle between Queen and their iconic Live Aid performance and the sound wizardry that made the space scenes in First Man such so utterly captivating to watch.

Will Win:  Bohemian Rhapsody

Should Win: First Man

Should have been nominated: A Quiet Place

Best Production Design 

  • Black Panther – Production Design: Hannah Beachler; Set Decoration: Jay Hart
  • The Favourite – Production Design: Fiona Crombie; Set Decoration: Alice Felton
  • First Man – Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas
  • Mary Poppins Returns – Production Design: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
  • Roma – Production Design: Eugenio Caballero; Set Decoration: Bárbara Enríquez

To make Wakanda, this wonderful futuristic utopia feel like a place on this Earth is a credit to the wonderful production design. By a similar token, to capture 18th century England with such authenticity gives The Favourite a very strong shot. Expect this to be a battle between the two Best Picture nominees, with the period drama emerging victorious.

Will Win: The Favourite

Should Win: Black Panther

Could have been nominated: Bad Times at the El Royale

Best Cinematography

  • Łukasz Żal – Cold War
  • Robbie Ryan – The Favourite
  • Caleb Deschanel – Never Look Away 
  • Alfonso Cuarón – Roma  
  • Matthew Libatique – A Star Is Born 

To make a black and white film feel like it was full of colour is credit to the brilliant work that Cuaron did as cinematographer as well as the director, so as well as a likely Director triumph, I expect to see a Cuaron victory here. The Favourite also boasted some absolutely gorgeous visuals and a very unique visual aesthetic, but Roma is Cuaron’s personal masterpiece and it deserves the accolade.

Will Win: Roma

Should Win: Roma

Should have been nominated: Rachel Morrison for Black Panther

Best Makeup and Hairstyling 

  • Göran Lundström and Pamela GoldammerBorder 
  • Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica BrooksMary – Queen of Scots 
  • Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney – Vice

The one thing I can give give Vice credit for, is the make up. Much like last year with Gary Oldman, Christian Bale disappeared under all that make up and it gave his performance so much authenticity, that I can begrudgingly accept Vice’s probable triumph here, though Mary Queen of Scots could yet pull off an unlikely upset.

Will Win:  Vice

Should Win: Vice

Best Costume Design 

  • Mary ZophresThe Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  • Ruth E. CarterBlack Panther 
  • Sandy PowellThe Favourite
  • Sandy Powell – Mary Poppins Returns
  • Alexandra ByrneMary – Queen of Scots  

The Oscars do love a good period drama, which would suggest this is a battle between Queen Anne and Mary Stuart. Both period dramas did have sumptous costumes but its Best Picture status gives The Favourite the edge in this respect, but the bright and colourful wardrobe of Black Panther gives it a fighting chance of usurping the English (and Scottish) royalty and taking the trophy.

Will Win:  The Favourite

Should Win: Black Panther

Best Film Editing

  • Barry Alexander Brown BlacKkKlansman 
  • John OttmanBlack Panther 
  • Yorgos Mavropsaridis The Favourite
  • Patrick J. Don Vito – Green Book
  • Hank CorwinVice

The nominations here are just confusing, really really confusing. Vice and Bohemian Rhapsody??!! Say what now? This makes First Man’s exclusion all the more baffling given how so well-edited that was. Its absence therefore makes me pine for a victory for either BlacKkKlansman or The Favourite as the editing in those two was actually worthy of the nomination. One of the best edited films of 2018 was Mission Impossible: Fallout but it is nowhere to be seen in this year’s nominations.

Will Win:  Vice

Should Win: The Favourite

Should have been nominated: First Man AND Mission Impossible: Fallout

Best Visual Effects

  • Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl and Dan Sudick –  Avengers: Infinity War
  • Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones and Chris CorbouldChristopher Robin
  • Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and J. D. SchwalmFirst Man 
  • Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler and David ShirkReady Player One
  • Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Dominic Tuohy –  Solo: A Star Wars Story

The juggernaut that was Avengers: Infinity War was a visual effects extravaganza and the effects on display are such an essential part of the film and were so well done that they should be clutching that trophy come the end of the night. However, it does have some stiff competition from the also very effects heavy Ready Player One, and the utterly magnificent Lunar landing scene in First Man should also put that into contention. The power of the Infinity Stones propels Infinity War to success and turn the competitors into dust.

Will Win:  Avengers: Infinity War

Should Win: Avengers: Infinity War

Should have been nominated: Black Panther

And last but certainly not least….

Best Picture

  • Black PantherKevin Feige
  • BlacKkKlansmanSean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele and Spike Lee
  • Bohemian RhapsodyGraham King
  • The FavouriteCeci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday and Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Green BookJim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga
  • RomaGabriela Rodriguez and Alfonso Cuarón
  • A Star Is BornBill Gerber, Bradley Cooper and Lynette Howell Taylor
  • ViceDede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay and Kevin J. Messick

Click here to see my ranking of the Best Picture contenders.

As I laid out in my ranking of the Best Picture nominees, three of these films really don’t belong on this list (can you work out which three?) The thought of any of those aforementioned three winning is an utterly horrifying one that doesn’t bear thinking about, but they could do it, which would not make me a happy bunny. But, rather than dwell on that, let’s talk about the five that I want to win.

Though it shone brightly when it arrived in cinemas last year, the star power of A Star is Born has dimmed somewhat, and in doing so has likely hampered its chances of Best Picture glory. Though its nomination is historic, Black Panther and his vibranium is unlikely to win the top award. The themes and the power of the story give BlacKkKlansman maybe a fighting chance. The Favourite has indeed been a favourite (ha ha!) across this awards season so it could be a battle between that and Roma. Though Roma’s status as a Netflix film could potentially cause problems with some members of the Academy, so who knows but given its likely directing triumph, I see this one going to Roma, which will definitely cause a ripple or two, given how some directors have poured scorn on the idea of a Netflix film competing for Oscar glory. Though BlacKkKlansman is the film I want to see triumph, Roma would be richly deserving of the accolade.

Will Win:  Roma 

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

Should have been nominated: Widows and First Man

——————————————

Final counts

Will win:

  • Roma: 3
  • The Favourite: 3
  • Bohemian Rhapsody: 2
  • Vice: 2
  • If Beale Street Could Talk: 2
  • Avengers: Infinity War: 1 
  • A Star is Born: 1
  • BlacKkKlansman: 1 
  • First Man: 1
  • Green Book: 1
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: 1
  • The Wife: 1

Should win:

  • BlacKkKlansman: 4
  • The Favourite: 4
  • Black Panther: 3
  • A Star is Born: 2
  • A Quiet Place: 1
  • Avengers: Infinity War: 1 
  • First Man: 1
  • Isle of Dogs: 1
  • Roma: 1
  • Vice: 1
Posted in 2010-2019, Ranking

Best Films of 2018

Another twelve months of film (or so) have whizzed by, and with that turn of the Earth’s cycle has come another plethora of exciting films. The culmination of the MCU, a fascinatingly beautiful love story, a black and white masterpiece, some incredible true stories, the sixth entry of a franchise that continues to deliver the thrills and excitement, a remake done good, and another Pixar masterpiece. It was quite the year for cinema in 2018, and it is time for me to give you my opinion as to what was the best of the best. Much as I would want to, I have not seen every film that came out this year, so if your favourite isn’t on here, I might not have seen it.

Now, to explain my somewhat unusual method of ranking these films. Rather than going by UK release date, I try to rank these films per their IMDB date. So if a film is marketed as a 2018 release, I strive to include it here. This gives me the chance to catch some 2018 films that are released in the early weeks of the year, so that they can be eligible for this list. However, some 2017 films were not released in the UK till later on in the year, hence why some films that are listed as 2017 films on IMDB are included here, as they came to UK cinemas well into 2018.  Similarly, the UK doesn’t get some films that are marketed as 2018 releases until well into 2019. Hence, anything that is released and reviewed after this post, will be deferred for the best of 2019.

Second, the grade that these films received does not dictate where they will rank. One film may get a higher grade or the perfect grade, it will not necessarily mean that film will be the best film of the year. This is, as is the case for all of us who review films, our one chance to be completely biased about the films that we enjoyed the most, and these are the films that I will remember from 2018.  Before I get into the main list, some honourable mentions need to have their time to shine. These films were very enjoyable that didn’t quite make the list, but were still very good that you should check out. First up…

The Favourite [review] Yorgos Lanthimos makes peculiar films, and he continues that trend with his latest film that fuses a period piece drama with some very black comedy about a frail Queen and the two women who are competing for her affection. The trio of mesmerising performances from the leading ladies, namely Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, makes for some fascinating dialogue and a vast of amount of conniving and backstabbing.

First Man [review] First came Whiplash, then La La Land, and now this superb film telling the true story of how Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, Damien Chazelle completed his hat-trick in quite some style. On a technical film, the work that Chazelle accomplishes with the space scenes, especially the all important moon landing scene is simply breath-taking. Ryan Gosling is on excellent form as Armstrong, but it’s Claire Foy who steals the show as his wife Janet.

Creed II [review], After Ryan Coogler came in and produced an absolute belter with the first Creed film, following in the wake of that was always going to be tough. But new director Steven Caple Jr does a sterling job to deliver a worthy sequel that focuses on Adonis’s deeply personal battle with Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan, the man who killed his father. For sure, it is a little by-the-numbers in terms of its plot, but the trio of performances from Sly Stallone, Michael B Jordan and Tessa Thompson ensure that it retains the heart of its predecessor.

Bumblebee [review] After five films directed by Michael Bay, things were starting to get a bit stale (or should that be rusty?) for this franchise. An injection of new blood and metal was needed, and that’s what we got with this film courtesy of Travis Knight, and in so doing gave us the best film of the series. Knight significantly dialled back the action, instead going for more emotion and 80s nostalgia, and combined that with an excellent performance from Hailee Steinfield.

Roma [review] As I mentioned, though I gave this film the highest grade I can give it, it just doesn’t quite get a spot on this list. Alfonso Cuaron’s latest film is a very personal one, that in part examines the director’s early years growing up in the Roma district of Mexico City. Though it is shot in black and white, Cuaron’s cinematography just feels so colourful and his direction is nothing short of exquisite. This film did pretty much everything it could have done perfectly, but (for me at least) it has a lack of rewatchability that just holds it back. But this is a wonderful, technically magnificent piece of cinema that I encourage you to visit if you haven’t already.

Honourable mentions have been honoured, time to crack on with the main list and we begin with…

10. Widows

Widows review

When you combine the talents of Academy Award winners Steve McQueen and Viola Davis, the chances of producing something pretty special are pretty much nailed on. When a heist goes awry, a group of women are left widowed and in a precarious predicament and must carry out their own heist to secure their own futures. In what is perhaps the best ensemble cast of the year, Viola Davis is unsurprisingly excellent but the performances of Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki deserve special mention. In this era of Me Too and Time’s Up, this story of some powerful women taking control of their own destinies is timely, and absolutely thrilling to watch, just as a heist film should be.

9. Black Panther

Black Panther review

The first (and not the last) MCU entry to make this list, and a landmark moment for the MCU and for superhero films in general as this was the first superhero film to feature a predominantly Black cast. Director Ryan Coogler brought the world of Wakanda to life in incredible fashion. From the costumes, to the production design, it all made Wakanda feel like a place that exists on this planet. Coogler stamps his own style firmly on this story, with themes of family, country, pride beating at the core of this emotional and personal journey for our titular hero.

Chadwick Boseman continued where he left off from Civil War, excelling once again as the titular hero. It is though the supporting cast, especially the ladies that end up stealing the show. Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Guira as the whizzkid Shuri, the fearless Nakia and Okoye, the absolute badass General of the Dora Milaje respectively. And once again, Michael B Jordan delivering an excellent performance as Killmonger, a villain you can really sympathise with.

8. A Star is Born

A Star is Born review

A remake, of a remake, of a remake. One would wonder if this latest edition of this story had anything new to really say, but Bradley Cooper’s work with this latest adaptation wonderfully hits all the right notes, and makes it extremely relevant for modern audiences. Telling the story of Cooper’s rock star whose career is winding down, while he meets Lady Gaga’s up and coming singer, whose career is rapidly on the rise.

How Cooper writes, directs, produces, stars in and sings all in one film is quite remarkable, but he does all so well that you just have got to take your hat off to him. The chemistry between these two is excellent, and both give extremely emotional and powerful performances, and yes the music involved is absolutely wonderful with arguably the best soundtrack of the year, and maybe, just maybe (read probably) the next Best Original Song winner in “Shallow.”

7. A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place review

A world in which if you make even the slightest peep, and you’re more than likely doomed is the fascinating premise of this directorial debut from John Krasinski. The film zeroes in on the lives of the Abbott family with Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt as his on screen wife and mother to their children, who must live in absolute silence in order not to become food for the terrifying creatures that have caused society to collapse.

Much like Cooper, Krasinski’s direction for his debut film is excellent. There’s barely a line of dialogue in the first half of the film, and there’s not much more in the second half too. Within the first ten minutes, the audience is immersed in the harshness and brutality of this world. Furthermore, to say this is tense would be something of an understatement, as this family desperately try to stay alive whilst these ruthless creatures are hunting them. If ever there was a film that compelled you to keep your mouth shut while the film was playing, this would be that film.

6. Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs review

No one really makes films like Wes Anderson. After he made Fantastic Mr Fox back in 2009, the eccentric director goes back into the world of stop motion animation to tell a story about man’s best friend(s). In a futuristic Japan, the anti-dog mayor has banished our canine friends to a remote island. However, until a boy rocks up looking for his beloved mutt, and an intriguing adventure unfolds.

Packed with an excellent voice cast including some of Anderson’s regular collaborators, the story is smart and humorous, and the animation is just exquisite in its detail. For all those who love our canine friends, this is one to definitely get your paws into, and even if you’re not a dog person, you will fall in love with this particular group of canines.

With these next five, they all could honestly be #1, but as this is a top 10 list, there must be an order and so, on we go with…

5. BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman review

It is hard to get away from the fact that right now in the USA, there is something of a problem with race, which is no small part due to the current White House incumbent. That fact makes this astonishingly true story about a black police officer infiltrating the KKK in the 1970s feel so relevant to today’s society, and all the more frightening. But that’s exactly what the latest film from Spike Lee is, a man who is not afraid to let the world know what he really thinks of the current US President. With this film he unleashes that anger, which when you see some of the stuff we have seen in the USA, is understandable rage.

Anchored by a remarkable lead performance from John David Washington, with an equally terrific turn from Adam Driver as the duo who make up the combined policeman who bravely infiltrates the KKK. It seems unlikely that a film like this would find room for any humour, but Lee manages to weave it into this powerful drama tremendously well. This is until what is undoubtedly the most powerful ending of 2018, that holds nothing back drawing a comparison between the events depicted in the film, and some of the horrific events of recent times.

4. Coco

Coco review

When it comes to making animated movies that really pull hard on your heartstrings, there isn’t really anyone who does it better than Pixar. And with their 19th feature, they produced yet another animated masterpiece. Telling the story of an aspiring musician, who, in spite of his family banning music, desperately wants to pursue it. This desire takes him to the Land of the Dead, in search of his ancestor who was himself a musician. This film ventures into territory that could very easily be just a bit too macabre for kids, but as they so often do, Pixar just make it work an absolute treat.

Pixar so often fill their films with wonderful animation, however the detail in the animation is quite simply extraordinary particularly when it comes to the Land of the Dead. Themes of family, pursuing of one’s dreams, and the sheer power that music has on our lives are themes we can all relate to. The characters, whether they’re living or dead, are wonderfully brought to life. If by the time all that emotion comes to the fore in the closing moments of this wonderful work of art, you are not sobbing your eyes out, please check to see if you still have a pulse/soul.

3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout 

Mission: Impossible – Fallout review

Tom Cruise at the age of 56, is somehow still working wonders in a franchise that with its sixth entry now is finding new ways to blow audiences away with some truly breath-taking stunts and action scenes. With the severe threat of global nuclear devastation hanging over the world, the IMF must stop the impending catastrophe. That plot is familiar yes but Christopher McQuarrie once again directs this film to absolute perfection with absolutely brilliant work done on the numerous action scenes that just leave the audience breathless.

Of course the action is just one facet of what makes this film, and indeed this franchise so great, it marries that up with intriguing political and social subtext, and agendas flying back and forth. Cruise once again leads the way in an excellent cast, with able support from the usual crew of Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames, with Rebecca Ferguson once again on top form as Ilsa. It is however Henry Cavill and his well publicised moustache that generated the most headlines. ‘Tache and all, Cavill’s performance alongside Cruise is just one of the many aspects that make this exhilarating mission one that you should definitely accept. One of the best action films ever made.

2. Avengers: Infinity War 

Avengers: Infinity War review

10 years in the making, it was all building towards this. The expectations were sky high, and the Russo brothers definitely did not disappoint in delivering a grand spectacle that features just about every MCU hero we have met so far go up against the formidable Thanos and to stop him getting his hands on the Infinity Stones. There were fears before hand that with so many characters that it would just be too crowded. Fortunately all those fears were put to rest once the film finally arrived, and the fact that it does all flow together pretty seamlessly is something of a miracle. However, the film does a tremendous job of giving everyone a stand out moment, though some of those moments are more epic than others (looking at you God of Thunder.)

However the real revelation of this film was Josh Brolin’s brilliant work as Thanos. Though the MCU has certainly suffered from its fair share of poor villains, Thanos was anything but. You understood where he was coming from, and he proved to be a truly formidable foe, with one or two moments in particular that fleshed out his character perfectly. And yes, that ending, oh that ending that left audiences stunned into just utter shock at what just happened. Fans of the MCU couldn’t have asked for much more, and yes as Dr Strange said, we are most definitely in the endgame now.

And so my #1 film of 2018 is

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1. The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water review

The Best Picture winner at last year’s 90th Academy Awards, and fully deserving of the accolade, which also saw Guillermo del Toro nab the Best Director gong (also very well deserved). He dips back into the realm of fantasy with this gorgeous tale of a mute woman who falls in love with an Amphibian God being held at a covert US facility. The word beautiful really doesn’t quite do it justice but it with absolutely wonderful cinematography, the film is just awash with gorgeous visuals that just leap off the screen, combined with a moving screenplay that goes deep with its social commentary on a number of different subjects, there is so much more to the film than just “woman falls in love with a fish.”

Led by an astonishing performance from Sally Hawkins who, without saying a word, captures such raw emotion with her performance. She leads an impeccably acted cast including the likes of Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg, as well as Doug Jones as the mysterious creature, all of whom are equally magnificent in their performances. Alexandre Desplat’s Oscar winning score only adds to the sheer beauty and romance of the story. A very different kind of fairytale, but one that just as majestic and magical as anything that the fine folks at the Mouse House have produced in recent years. A worthy film to claim the title of my favourite film of 2018.

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Well there you have it my picks for the best films of 2018. Thank you for reading, especially if you read all the way through! What were your favourite films of 2018. Let me know in the comments below or you can find me on the following platforms: TwitterFacebook or Letterbox’d.

For my picks for my most anticipated films of 2019, please click here!  

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

First Man (2018)

Image is property of Universal and Dreamworks

First Man  – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciarán Hinds

Director: Damien Chazelle

Synopsis: Telling the true story of astronaut Neil Armstrong and how, through many years of intense training at NASA, he became the first man to walk on the surface of the Moon.

Review: In terms of the greatest historical moments of the 20th century, there is perhaps few that could rival the moment where for the very first time, the world watched as the human race set foot upon the surface of the moon. The man who took that very first step, and uttered the immortal line “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for Mankind,” was Neil Armstrong.  It is this man’s remarkable life and journey that incredibly hasn’t really been explored to such an extent on the big screen before, this is until Damien Chazelle came along.

After working together so successfully on La La Land, Gosling re-teams with Chazelle to play Armstrong, and Gosling once again excels. Right from when we meet him, you get the impression that this guy is focused and determined, something that has run through both of Chazelle’s last two films. He’s much more stoic here, but no less resolute in his mission, except there’s no jazz clubs involved this time. Josh Singer’s script goes into some quite personal detail that people might know about Armstrong including his family life, and the deeply personal tragedy that he goes through in the early stages, whilst also focusing on his NASA training, and all the perils that he faced on his journey to becoming the first man to walk on the moon.

Claire Foy, having donned the crown of Queen Elizabeth II, steps into a very different role as Armstrong’s wife Janet. A role that is quite clichéd for sure, yet it’s one she absolutely shines in alongside Gosling to be there as his figure of support, and at the same time, when it comes to the eve of his lunar mission, to voice her fury at the very real possibility that her husband might never see their kids again. Their relationship is the fierce beating heart of this story, and while the rest of the cast all give solid performances to complete a solid ensemble cast, no one else apart from Foy really has enough time to shine alongside Gosling.

For a director who’s only 33, he has already had a remarkable run of success with his previous two films Whiplash and La La Land, both garnering critical praise and awards aplenty, including the Best Director Oscar for Chazelle for the latter. The ambition for a film like this almost goes without saying, but Chazelle rises to the challenge and delivers another immensely well crafted film. Re-teaming with some of his frequent collaborators in the cinematography (Linus Sandgren), score (Justin Hurwitz) and editing (Tom Cross) departments, the film is crafted to perfection. The space scenes, especially the final lunar landing are so masterfully executed, it feels so real and authentic, and Hurwitz’s score is just superb.

Given the scope of this story, spanning almost over a decade into just over two hours, seems like an impossible task but Singer manages to streamline it as effectively as he can. Yet the pacing does suffer around the second act, especially when there is not a great deal happening down on Earth. However once, we gear up for the all important third act, the spectacle is turned up to ten, and never ceases for the rest of the film. For a director as young as Chazelle, to have an absolutely stellar hat-trick of films already under his belt is a remarkable accomplishment.

A remarkable and fascinating look at the mission to the moon and the man at the centre of it, with superb performances from Foy and Gosling. Another out of this world addition to the stellar filmography of Damien Chazelle.