CINEMAPS' BEST OF 2018: Journey of the Unrest

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First Man
What a mess of a year. And in all that white noise, there were a number of important films that do not get duly recognized. One of the most unfortunate film victims of this changing time in Hollywood was perhaps First Man, a biopic about a white stoic man being sent to the Moon. It's a tremendous technical marvel, and a deeply emotional film that only hits at the very end (so it appears for the most part to be cold and distant, reflecting the man that he was). There were other gems swept aside as well, but I suppose I should celebrate the success of some unexpected films, namely Spiderman and A quiet place. It took a while to get around to writing, but here it is. I hope to give some internet love to the ones that deserve to be heard here, and that years from now one can look back at 2018 as a year of the greats.

The Wild Pear Tree
01. Ahlat Ağacı (The wild pear tree; Ceylan) ****1/2 Tree comes off the screen as dense as literature, and as a visually spectacular and expansive film as any moving epic. Time does past, and it's as unexpectedly surreal as life at times. A film for troubled times, and for those who struggle to change and find themselves back where they started for brand new lessons.

02. First Man (Chazelle) ****1/2 I saw this in IMAX and it was worth every penny. The experience of watching it was so, so tense that I found myself being literally physically stressed at times. Gosling's acting is precise, as usual, and Foy carries her part well. Damien's best seems to also be most ignored, which is a shame because the film really is deeply moving and an important account of the risks these amazing people put themselves in to push beyond the bounds of our obvious limits.

03. Roma (Cuarón) ****1/2 What a marvelous time capsule for Cuarón and all those who had the nurturing love of a supposed stranger growing up - be it a nanny or a babysitter. Beautifully and sensitively rendered - it is big time epic. Beware though, lots of dog crap!

04. Annihilation (Garland) **** Part Aliens, part psychedelic psy-fi, all Garland. It's simultaneously a story about a personal journey of a woman into herself, and a story of humanity struggling to right itself in the world. Everything here is startlingly darker and more beautiful than you'd expect. There's a sequence with a particular beast that is the stuff of total nightmares. You've been warned.

05. Widows (McQueen) **** Unlike Ocean's 8, Widows delivers on the promise of a proper action film that treats women like people who matter. It is exciting, tense, and dangerous in all the right ways. McQueen outlines the women's relegated characters in broad strokes, and gives them space to fill the screen with their character's anger, anguish, and determination. This has become one of my favourite heist films, regardless of the gender of the protagonist. That's such a pleasure to say.

06. Beoning (Burning; Lee) **** Expect Lynchian-like throughline, if you're not familiar with the strange metaphysical world of Haruki Murakami. It's a lot of fun to dissect the many mysteries it offers, and viewers are asked to be patient as it lucidly moves through unexpected turns. Steven Yeun is an inspired casting choice here.

07. Mademoiselle de Joncquieres (Mouret) ***1/2 A fun and breathtakingly beautiful tapestry of romance and revenge. The story is beside the point - the storytelling is the point. If you delight in witty bantering, this is a delicious feast for you.

08. The Favourite (Lanthimos) ***1/2 This is the most straight forward Lanthimos film yet, and another great outing for one of his regulars, the wonderful Rachel Weisz. This time, he adds the heartbreaking Olivia Colman, and the spunky Emma Stone for good measures. Tremendous fun - expect a generous helping of woozy fish eye lens shots and pointed physical (if not a little juvenile) comedy.

09. Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse (Ramsey, Persichetti, & Rothman) ***1/2 An unexpectedly on-point interpretation of the Spiderman spirit - a distinct sweetness colours both its dramatic and comedic turns, imbuing emotional heft that belies an animated superhero film such as this. In other words, I cried and laughed a lot.

10. A quiet place (Krasinski) ***1/2 Oh Emily Blunt. Is there any genre you can't do? I had such a fun time waiting to be scared at the theatre. To its credit, the 'silence' gimmick seems to be a starting point rather than the whole story. This is an affirming film for loving parents everywhere.

Grin and Pulse
The most fun I had watching a movie this past year
First Man
Avengers: Infinity war
Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse
A quiet place

Impressive, memorable staging of a shot or series of shots
Cruising and descending on the moon, First Man
The 'confrontation', Burning
New York battle, Avengers: infinity war / Washroom brawl, Mission impossible: Fallout / the heist, Widows
Hatice meeting Sinan, talking shots interspersed with silence, The Wild Pear Tree
Through-the-window, framed by rustling trees shot of the artist looking at his canvas, Never look away

Confident storytelling, with a touch of "wow"
Nuri Bilge Ceylan, The wild pear tree
Damien Chazelle, First Man
Lee Chang-Dong, Burning
Alex Garland, Annihilation
Alfonso Cuaron,  Roma

Olivia Colman in The Favourite
I feel you

Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Bradley Cooper, A star is born  
Ryan Gosling, First Man
Viggo Mortensen, Green book
Mahershala Ali, Green book

Zain al Rafeea, Capernaum
Matej Zemljic, Consequences
Emily Blunt, A quiet place   
Joanna Kulig, Cold War
Regina King, If Beale street could talk

Special mention: not an acting performance, but made me feel so much anyway
Fred Rogers, Won't you be my neighbor?

Create interesting, layered, cohesive universe; would make for a great read on its own
Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ebru Ceylan & Akin Aksu, The wild pear tree
Emmanuel Mouret, Mademoiselle de Joncquieres
Alex Garland, Annihilation
Oh Jung-mi & Lee Chang-dong, Burning
Olivier Assayas, Non-fiction 

Interesting, effective cuts and stitches that support and move the story visually
First man
The wild pear tree
Monrovia, Indiana

Takes my breath away
The Wild Pear Tree 
Mademoiselle de Joncquieres
Cold War
First reformed

Mademoiselle de Joncquieres
Art Direction / Production Design
Transportive, impactful set design
The Favourite
Black Panther
Mademoiselle de Joncquieres

Movie Magic
First man
Avengers: Infinity War
Ant man and the Wasp
Isle of Dogs

Amplify the visuals and enrich my sensory experience
First Man
A quiet place
A star is born

Was it memorable?
First Man
Cold War
Isle of dogs

Stray comments:
- Buckets of tears ranking: Won't you be my neighbor, Spiderman: into the Spiderverse, First Man, A star is born, Roma
- So glad to see such a weird sci-fi picture featuring black protagonists in Sorry to Bother You
- Cooper bested Gaga
- The action films this past year were on point - Henry Caville in Mission Impossible was just impeccable.
- Man, do I hate Ocean's 8.

Films I'm intending to see that could make a dent on the list above
The rider
Eight grade
Can you ever forgive me?
Vox Lux
Paddington 2
Leave no trace
Minding the gap
The sisters brothers

Ranked out of *****
The wild pear tree (Ceylan)
First Man (Chazelle)
Roma (Cuarón)

Annihilation (Garland)
Widows (McQueen)
Burning (Lee)
Mademoiselle de Joncquieres (Mouret)
The Favourite (Lanthimos)

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse (Ramsey, Persichetti, & Rothman)
A quiet place (Krasinski)
Shoplifters (Kore-eda)
Mission Impossible: Fallout (McQuarrie)
Avengers: Infinity war (Russo)
Sorry to bother you (Riley)
First reformed (Schrader)
Hereditary (Aster)
Cold war (Pawlikowski) 
The ballad of Buster Scruggs (Coen)
If Beale street could talk (Jenkins)
Monrovia, Indiana (Wiseman)
Hold the dark (Saulnier)
Border (Abbasi)
Consequences (Štante)
Free Solo (Chin &Vasarhelyi) 

A star is born (Cooper)
Won't you be my neighbor? (Neville)
Non-fiction (Assayas)
High life (Denis)
Green book (Farelly)
BlacKkKlansman (Lee)
Isle of dogs (Anderson)
Black Panther (Coogler)
Solo: a Star Wars story (Howard)

Incredibles 2 (Bird)
Deadpool 2 (Leitch)
Antman and the Wasp (Reed)
Loro (Sorrentino)
Bad times at the El Royal (Godard)
Red sparrow (Lawrence)
3 faces (Panahi)
Museo (Ruizpalacios)
Capernaüm (Labaki)
The hate u give (Tillman, Jr.)
Tomb raider (Uthaug)

Game night (Daley & Goldstein)
Werk ohne Autor (Never look away; von Donnersmarck) 
The spy who dumped me (Fogel)
Ready player one (Spielberg)
Ash is purest white (Jia)
Winchester (Spierig & Spierig)
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Bayona)
Vice (McKay)

Ocean's 8 (Ross)


Oscars 2019 Winners Prediction: the American crisis

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The following prediction depends on one version of the night, the one in which Green Book's controversies catch up to it and it loses all that it's up for. The film should have had this in the bag, but we're in a different time, and this version is going to mark this change in the sand. The other version brings us back to more a more aw-shucks Oscars year, so brace yourself for a very bad time if it wins. It'll be better for everyone if it loses, including for the film itself. I would really hate to read anything follow up on that alternate universe version of the night. My friend Griz's predictions in purple.

Alt. BlacKkKlansman

Once upon a time, The Favourite had a chance. That was before people got to the bunny ending. Sadly, the mass is not ready for that, and most importantly, neither is the Academy. Admired and respected, yes. Awarded best pic? What's that Spike Lee film?

Green Book
Alt. Roma

Alfonso Cuaron
Alt. Spike Lee

It's possible for Spike to strike here, depending on how American leaning the Academy is going to go. I wouldn't be too surprised, as Cuaron already got an Oscar recently.

Alfonso Cuaron - Roma
Alt. Spike Lee - BlacKkKlansman

Glenn Close - The Wife
Alt. Olivia Colman

So sad that Glenn Close is going to win this for being due and Olivia is going to lose it for not being due (and actually being amazing and memorable in a great role). Nonetheless, I'm glad Olivia had her time in the sun before tomorrow. What a gal.

Glenn Close - The Wife
Alt. Olivia Colman - The Favourite

Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody
Alt. Christian Bale

I guess it's a forgone conclusion. Rami is a sweet guy, but who would've thunk he'd be where he's at today, a shoo-in for best actor?

Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody
Alt. Christian Bale - Vice

Regina King - If Beale Street Could Win
Alt. Rachel Weisz - The Favourite

A hard category to favour, but I'm going to give it to King for a beautiful motherly portrayal.

Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk
Alt. Rachel Weisz - The Favourite

Mahershala Ali - Green Book
Alt. Richard E. Grant - Can you ever forgive me?

I can't believe Ali is about to have two statues. He's got some very productive roles in the past few years huh?

Mahershala Ali - Green Book
Alt. Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The Favourite
Alt. Green Book

The Favourite should win this, and it would be bad for Green Book to win here. But obviously without a win here, the film would be less likely to win Best Picture with just one other win (Ali)? I guess it means if you're going to ride Green Book, you're going to ignore the favourite here (haha pun).

Green Book
Alt. The Favourite

Alt. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

A place to award Spike Lee if they don't give him Director.

Alt. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Roma (Mexico)
Alt. Cold War (Poland)

It'd be weird if anything else wins this category but Roma.

Roma (Mexico)
Alt. Cold War (Poland)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Alt. The Incredibles 2

There's no other way.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Alt. Incredibles 2

Free Solo
Alt. Minding the gap

The incredible shots from Free Solo should help it win this field.

Free Solo
Alt. RBG

Bohemian Rhapsody
Alt. Vice

I know Vice is all like, I'M HERE, but I loathe to put it down for anything. Which probably means it'll win. Hm.

Alt: Bohemian Rhapsody

Alt. Cold War

Battle of the black and white foreign films, from foreign land, where they still like black and white.

Alt. Cold War

The Favourite
Alt. Black Panther

There's a huge American threat in this line up.

The Favourite
Alt. Mary Poppins Returns

Avengers: Infinity War
Alt. First Man

Although I do quite like the Avengers' effects, they don't need this! If there's an Oscars god, please let First Man win everything it's up for. *prays*

First Man
Alt. Avengers: Infinity War

Bohemian Rhapsody
Alt. A Star is Born

Battle of the musicals - I'm giving the edge to Bohemian simply because it seems to have more support, sight unseen.

Bohemian Rhapsody
Alt. A Star Is Born

Bohemian Rhapsody
Alt. First Man

This is surprisingly the most fierce battle for the win - A quiet place is not that far behind.

Bohemian Rhapsody
Alt. First Man

Alt. Mary Queen of Scots

How did The Favourite not get in?

Alt. Border 

The Favourite
Alt. Black Panther

Panther is a real threat here, and it would be a travesty if it should pull an upset at the expense of the deserving Favourite.

The Favourite
Alt. Black Panther

Black Panther
Alt. If Beale Street Could Talk

I don't care, they did not nominate First Man. This category is dead to me. Awards-race wise, this would be the one category they could award Beale Street with.

Black Panther
Alt. Mary Poppins Returns

A star is born
Alt. Black Panther

I'd love for a surprise Black Panther win here. Just for this one though. Please.

A Star Is Born
Alt. Black Panther



Recently Seen (out of *****)

  • One night in Miami (King, 2020) ***
  • Mank (Fincher, 2020) ***1/2
  • Coming 2 America (Brewer, 2021) **1/2
  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Wolfe, 2020) ***1/2
  • I care a lot (Blakeson, 2020) **

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