January 08, 2019

Cinema 2018: Top Modern English-Language Films

For this list I have considered all English-language films I watched for the first time in 2018 but not those which are more than five years old. About 70 movies were considered and this was a very difficult list to compile. Reason? Just consider movies not included in this list: 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri', 'The Florida Project', 'A Quiet Place', 'Hereditary', 'Call Me By Your Name', 'Moana', 'Incredibles 2', 'Searching', 'Isle of Dogs', 'Mandy', 'Thunder Road', 'Eighth Grade', 'The Death of Stalin', 'The Disaster Artist', 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs', 'Annihilation' and 'Cam'. Frankly, many of these can replace some of my top ten on any other day. What a year this has been for me as a film-buff!

Following are my top-ten, in alphabetical order:

'BlacKkKlansman' (2018) by Spike Lee: Super entertaining. Super fun. For all those who want to make a film with a strong message, especially political, this film can serve as a great example to follow. I wish I could write comedy like this. Definitely want to watch more of Spike Lee (have only watched 'Do the Right Thing'). '25th Hour', 'Malcolm X' and 'She's Gotta Have It' are top on my wishlist.

'Boy Erased' (2018) by Joel Edgerton: There are uncanny similarities between the plotline of this movie and that of 'The Miseducation of Cameron Post', and the biggest difference is the tone of both. But 'Boy Erased' for me worked like very few films do. It hit me emotionally. Joel Edgerton is another actor-turned-director who has done such a good job behind the camera. And 22-year old Lucas Hedges is already a powerhouse performer.

'Certain Women' (2016) by Kelly Reichardt: I had watched 'Old Joy' in 2017. But with 'Wendy and Lucy' and 'Certain Women' - both featuring in my top lists of the year - I now feel to have actually discovered Kelly Reichardt. Need to watch 'Meek's Cutoff' soon. Such a unique voice of realism. She is a creator of moments so true and turns their nothingness to something really moving and powerful.

'First Man' (2018) by Damien Chazelle: There is so much to talk about the craft, the cinematic language of this film when it could have easily been another Hollywood crowd-pleaser. Perhaps that is also the reason of its box-office failure. But this film really worked for me, especially because I saw it at a time when I was really low, the unpredictable nature of our industry having taken over my joys and sense of sanity. This film will also stand the test of time, I'm tempted to say.

'A Ghost Story' (2017) by David Lowery: A pure art-house film from America. It challenges you and amazes you in equal measure. I have only just discovered this director, and am aware of and excited about his upcoming film 'The Old Man & the Gun'. He seems like someone who keeps shifting genres. A definite filmmaker to follow.

'Green Book' (2018) by Peter Farrelly: Despite all the controversy around it, I really liked the film. Enjoyed it thoroughly. With the Golden Globe wins it has secured yesterday (Best Comedy Film, Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay) and the top award at Toronto and at National Board of Review last year, the film has a very strong chance to score big at the Oscars.

'Leave No Trace' (2018) by Debra Granik: When I started watching this film, I had no idea how good it is going to be. A lot of independent films, from around the world, start the way it started and never end up rising from the clutter of its clones. You end up impressed, slightly, and moved, rarely. But 'Leave No Trace' is an exceptional film, perhaps the best on this list. If I can make a film like this in the next twenty years, when I reach Debra Granik's current age, I don't think I will have much left to desire.

'Logan' (2017) by James Mangold: 2018 was the year when I introduced myself to the X-Men and the Avengers universe and watched all those movies, close to thirty. I did this mainly to orient myself to this strong cultural phenomenon and several of these movies were, frankly, very painful to watch. And then came 'Logan'. Such a nice surprise from its narrative to its tone to its performances. Really made the entire slogging worth it.

'mother!' (2017) by Darren Aronofsky: I know it is bizarre and may not work for most. But I expected no less. There was a time I worshiped Aronofsky. But after 'Black Swan' in 2010, that I loved, he made only one film - 'Noah' that didn't work for me at all. Finally, 'mother!' happened, perfectly the way only Aronofsky can craft a story. Excitedly waiting for his next now.

'The Tale' (2018) by Jennifer Fox: This is a drama that I remember working on me like a horror film. Without much expectation I played it on a digital platform (Hotstar, I think) and was totally blown by it. Since it is based on the true story of the writer-director herself, the pain was so much more real, and the perspectives so original.

Special Mention: I have to mention 'Annihilation' (2018) by Alex Garland for its suspenseful storytelling, 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs' (2018) by the Coen Brothers for giving us six different and diverse short stories so perfectly 'Coen' and 'Ready Player One' (2018) by Steven Spielberg for its audacious originality.