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)

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