02nd Jan2019

Rupert’s Ten Best: Films of 2018

by Rupert Harvey

top-10-ten-best-films

It’s that time of year again. Let’s not pretend we don’t all love ranking things.

Honourable mentions go to A Quiet Place, which made no sense but offered a truly unique cinema experience; Sicario 2, which, against the odds, turned out to be better than the original; the very pleasant surprise that was Bohemian Rhapsody; Ralph Breaks the Internet, particularly its scary, weirdly affecting, self-reflexive final act; and Ready Player One, where Steven Spielberg turned Ernest Cline’s flimsy whimsy into a joyous pop culture treasure trove.

And now the top ten, in no particular order. It turns out that it was a very good year for horror…

The House That Jack Built

Both a must-watch yet virtually unwatchable, Lars Von Trier’s most uncompromising film to date (quite an accolade) is the story of a self-justifying, self-aggrandising, woman-hating serial killer nicknamed “Mr Sophistication”, played with chilly brilliance by Matt Dillon. This is Von Trier’s meandering, evasive treatise on the toxic white masculinity of our age. The great Dane is sometimes dismissed by critics as a trickster, but I think he’s merely highlighting the absurdity at the heart of those who do evil, and for me that makes his voice essential.

Butterfly Kisses

Erik Myers’ meta-horror is as wonderfully confounding as Shane Carruth’s Primer. It’s a found footage horror of multiple layers. Myers plays himself, making a documentary about a filmmaker, who is completing the film of another filmmaker, who themselves may have been playing a prank all along. The monster is a ridiculously contrived creature called Peeping Tom, whose elaborate rules make him virtually unsummonable – and that’s all part of the twisted joke. It’s a rabbit hole of a movie, as much about exploring authenticity as it is providing conventional scares. It feels like a classic in a flagging subgenre.

Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson takes on the sorry, divided state of the world today in inimitable style. What starts as a simple story about a Japanese boy trying to find his lost dog on an island of garbage turns into a sweet and moving odyssey. It has a warmth and (despite the strange setting) an accessibility I feel has been lacking in the auteur’s work for some time. As such, it’s a perfect route into Wes’s weird, whimsical world.

Assassination Nation

The consummate modern fable, and a sensory shotgun blast to the face. Assassination Nation is an update of the Salem witch trials story, except now the witches are high school not-so-sweethearts, and this time they get the chance to fight back. With guns. Channelling the most lurid – and the technically proficient – excesses of Brian DePalma, Sam Levinson’s film is beautifully made, fairly flawed and unforgettable. I can’t wait to see what Levinson does next.

Possum

Pitch dark, funny, scary and humane – those are just some of the adjectives one might attribute to Matthew Holness’s suffocating, slow-burning existential horror. But mostly it defies description. Ostensibly it’s about a very disturbed man (the incomparable Sean Harris) wandering around Norfolk carrying a bag containing an awful, awful puppet. Occasionally he returns home to his ghastly, chain-smoking stepfather, played with equal brilliance by Alun Armstrong. I think it’s about the way that abuse flows through generations like poison, possibly, but in the end it feels hopeful.

I, Tonya

I’ve always felt that the best biopics focus not on hugely famous icons, but on flawed celebrities on the margins; those on the periphery of fame or infamy. Margot Robbie excels as the outrageous, foul-mouthed, heartbreakingly wounded ice-skating legend Tonya Harding. Allison Janney’s performance as Tonya’s ferocious mother got her the Oscar. But the real movie magic is in their relationship: the most toxic interplay since… well, since I just mentioned Possum.

Incredibles 2

Pixar is a studio that consistently makes sequels that are better than their predecessors, and this is no exception. The original Incredibles was a relatively conventional caper, but the focus here is on intricate storytelling told through characterisation. It works wonderfully. And, in the slapstick interplay between Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) and his father (Craig T. Nelson), it also happens to be uproariously funny.

Tully

The fact that Tully – a refreshingly honest story about tribulations and anxieties of motherhood – should feel so unusual, and be relatively ignored by audiences, suggests that its themes are still a taboo. Or perhaps simply not marketable. Re-teaming with Jason Reitman after 2011’s Young Adult, Charlize Theron once again does great, stereotype-smashing work here. It was written, excellently, by Juno’s Diablo Cody. Some found the twist frustrating, but I thought it was elegant and moving.

Love, Simon

Apart from being an important milestone in the normalisation of gay characters in the mainstream, Love, Simon is simply a wonderfully well-made, warm and life-affirming crowd-pleaser. Nick Robinson puts his boring Jurassic World role behind him and delivers a lovely performance, capturing the agony, ecstasy and fragility of teenagehood. It’s bound to become a romance classic – it’s written in the stars.

Hereditary

A truly distressing work of horror. Toni Collette should receive an Oscar for her depiction of a woman living with a debilitating mental illness – and all the frustration and humour and contradictory behaviour that it brings to her fracturing family. It’s also scary as hell; director Ari Aster makes use of lurking shapes in the dark in a way I’ve never seen on screen. Sure, it falls into genre convention toward its somewhat neat ending – but I feel it has been earned by that point.
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That’s all, folks! Best wishes, and I’ll see you on the other side.

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