Weekend Binge: From Black Panther to Hereditary, the top 10 films of 2018 so far
From Black Panther and Hereditary to A Quiet Place and Annihilation, here’s a (very personal) list of the top 10 films of the year so far, including a surprise or two.Updated: Jun 30, 2018 11:48 IST
Life has a tendency of being disappointing, but for peace of mind, all you need to do is go to the movies - unless, of course, you find yourself with your cousin’s hand-me-down Race 3 tickets.
2018 has been a particularly strong year for movies - both original stories and sequels. While, on one hand, we saw auteurs such as Armando Iannucci and Wes Anderson working at the peak of their powers - only they could have made The Death of Stalin and Isle of Dogs - we also saw the Hollywood machine crank out winner after winner - including but not limited to Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One and the Russo Brothers’ Avengers: Infinity War.
Notably, none of these movies find spots on this list - not because they’re not great (they are), but that’s just how strong this year has been.
Of course, with the phenomenal growth of online streaming, several films that we wouldn’t normally have been exposed to - the third world country that we are - are now very much a part of the conversation - in fact, you’ll find two of them down below.
So without further ado, here’s a (very personal) list of the top 10 films of the year so far, in no particular order. Keep in mind, lists are subjective, and the only real purpose this one should serve is to spread the word about some great movies. Especially this first one. Boy, did it vanish from the screens.
Black Panther is Marvel operating with the brazen freedom only 18 blockbuster films can earn you. It’s a bold, risky movie, almost unbelievably so, considering the scale and stakes involved. But as much as we’ve complained about Marvel’s tendency to play within the sandbox, Black Panther wouldn’t have existed had they not built a strong foundation over the last 10 years. It manages to be familiar enough for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it also offers more layers and cultural commentary than any of their previous films. And as great as Avengers: Infinity War was, it had a lot of boxes to check - which Black Panther did not.
It’s slightly bittersweet what transpired behind the scenes on Alex Garland’s visionary science-fiction film. Had it not been for Paramount Pictures piss-poor handling of the project - they got cold feet at the last moment and ‘dumped’ the film onto Netflix - we’d never have been able to see it with the rest of the world, we’d never have been able to discuss it and appreciate it. And as things stand, it doesn’t seem as if things are going to change anytime soon - films such as Annihilation are becoming rarer by the day, but isn’t it better to watch them on a small screen instead of not watching them at all?
Even director Sally Potter’s minor work is worth paying attention to - and The Party, at barely 70 minutes long (you really have no excuses), is very much one of her smaller films. It’s a dark comedy about a group of middle-aged ‘friends’ who meet up for a dinner party to celebrate the host’s victory in an election. The film has been interpreted as everything from a Brexit allegory to a tragedy about idealism. Just look at the cast Potter has assembled - Timothy Spall as the materialist husband to Kristen Scott Thomas’ idealist politician, Patricia Clarkson and Bruno Ganz playing a bickering couple, Cillian Murphy and Emily Mortimer. This is the sort of cast filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese can assemble on a whim.
A Quiet Place
What director John Krasinski managed to achieve with his debut horror picture, A Quiet Place, is nothing short of extraordinary. He straddled that microscopic line between mainstream horror and more arthouse fare - which neither the Conjuring series nor Hereditary could do. Instead of relying on empty jump scares, A Quiet Place earned the right to go ‘boo’ at you because the rest of the time, it spent on developing characters. It made you care about them, which is almost unheard of in modern horror.
The biggest misconception about R-rated American comedies is that they’re crass, they’re demeaning to women and they’re aimed largely at teenage boys. Blockers is none of the above. In a year when Veere Di Wedding was celebrated for ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ - Sonam Kapoor’s words not mine - here is a film that truly champions women, their emotions and their right to express themselves in whichever way they please. And it does so without ever being preachy about it or patting itself on the back. Ironic, isn’t it, that a sex comedy like Blockers could teach us a thing or two about class.
You Were Never Really Here
So it was between this and Revenge, the lurid French exploitation movie that was released in India on Netflix. In the end, director Lynne Ramsay’s ethereal thriller nudged past Coralie Fargeat’s rape-revenge shocker - mostly because it made its point with a little more elegance. Which isn’t to say Revenge isn’t a terrific example of the sort of movie it is, but You Were Never Really Here is significantly elevated by a phenomenal Joaquin Phoenix performance, and a more patient approach to the brutal material.
Even director Ari Aster was surprised by how polarised the reactions to his debut feature were. “I knew it was going to be divisive in many respects,” he told Huffington Post, “but I’ll admit that I’ve been surprised by just how deeply some viewers hate the thing.” And yes, it takes barely a minute to understand that Hereditary isn’t not going to please anyone, but that’s sort of the point. It isn’t in the business of pandering to the audience. It respects you too much to do that. But if you’re the sort of person who adores films like The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby, Hereditary can be a delightfully disturbing experience.
It’s bittersweet that The Tale was released on HBO and not in movie theatres because Laura Dern was robbed of what would have been a sure-shot (and thoroughly deserved) Oscar nomination. It might even be one of the finest performances of her career. And it couldn’t have belonged to a more heartbreakingly terrific film. Director Jennifer Fox reveals her demons for the whole world to see, and in doing so, exorcises them in this uncompromising self-portrait of a film. You’ll need to prepare yourselves mentally, but it’s the most rewarding cinematic experience of the year.
Ironically in a year that gave us an actual Heathers reboot - the stunningly tone-deaf TV show - Thoroughbreds was the one that came the closest to evoking the 1988 cult classic. It’s an aggressively strange film, and an even stranger viewing experience. And in director Cory Finley, Hereditary’s Ari Aster has tough competition for the best debut of 2018. Like Aster, Finley’s film has a bold visual style and a wicked sense of humour, both signs of a most singular directorial voice. It is also a stunning showcase for the talents of Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke, who are destined for greatness.
As excellent as this year has been for horror cinema - honestly, The Ritual could have very easily found a spot here, but then this list would’ve been more skewed than it already is - pound for pound there is no better scary movie than Demon House. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that no horror film has been this effective since 2007’s first Paranormal Activity. Of course, it’s easy to read this and simply dismiss it as the rambling of someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but you must understand, like this list, horror is a very subjective genre. What you like your friends probably don’t. Clearly, faux documentaries about real-life haunting are my jam.