It’s that time of year when every single media blogger and their monkey are compiling lists of the Best and Worst of 2018. I’m sorry to say that I, my friends, am no different.
However, if you’ll permit me, before I give you a little countdown of what 2018 had to offer, I thought I’d try something a trifle different. Stripping away films released in 2018 that I’ve caught, I thought I might provide you with what I consider to be *my* cinematic best of the year. Films which I managed to see for the first time – some new, some old, some perhaps a little unexpected.
To follow will be, in opposition, my 10 Worst experiences, but this is #10 to #5 of my best, non-2018 released cinematic experiences of this year.
10 – The Remains of the Day (1993)
Perhaps the key Isaiah Merchant / James Ivory collaboration of the 1990’s, The Remains of the Day, adapted from Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, stands in jeopardy of being the great Sir Anthony Hopkins performance we forget, consumed as we are by his take on Hannibal Lecter, as the long-serving butler of Darlington Hall, Stevens, in the wake of the Great War.
Hopkins is the centre of gravity amidst a measured, languorous piece of drama which covers pre-WW2 fascism, class, nobility, unrequited love and the spectre of a changing world on fast approach. Ably supported by the ever dependable Emma Thompson, Hopkins thoroughly deserved his Oscar nomination and really should have won.
9 – Marty (1955)
You know a Marty. I guarantee it. Sixty three years since Delbert Mann’s picture became one of the breakout hits of 1955, and you still know a Marty. That slightly overweight guy in the club, standing on the sidelines with his beer watching slicker, more confident men pick up the attractive young women. Would he be as kindly and sweet natured as Ernest Borgnine’s titular character? Who knows? But you know a Marty, or you knew one at some point. Which is why this film, unexpectedly, resonates across the decades.
Originally a TV play from the great Paddy Chayefsky, who would later go down in greater legend for his Oscar-winning screenplay for 1976’s powerful satire Network, Marty was also originally directed by Mann in that same broadcast from 1953, starring a young Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand rather than Borgnine and Betsy Blair in the cinematic version. The script, nonetheless, remains much the same; set over one day, Marty is a heartfelt examination of loneliness in sprawling post-war New York City, with a disenfranchised generation of men and women struggling against the social constraints of expectation when it comes to their gender roles.
I expound a bit on Marty here but, suffice to say, it’s a gem.
8 – All Is Lost (2013)
You may have noticed recently that Robert Redford has planned to hang up his acting shoes following David Lowery’s The Old Man and the Gun, which I haven’t yet seen but I hear from many sources is a lovely picture. One of Redford’s last great movies, if as he enters his 80’s he *is* indeed retiring, has to be All Is Lost. Directed by J. C. Chandor, this is a rare film with the boldness and bravery to deliver a one man Robert Redford show.
Telling the story of Redford’s unnamed mariner, travelling the Indian Ocean, who is forced to try and survive after his boat collides with a drifting shipping container, All Is Lost becomes a remarkable and gripping story of man vs nature. Redford barely speaks throughout the duration (the script is only just over 30 pages) but his actions, Chandor’s careful yet gripping direction, some incredible sound design and cinematography, all of these elements draw you into an emotional and thrilling piece of art.
For a man of 77, Redford is remarkable in this and it’s a real showcase to remind you just what a great actor he is.
7 – Toni Erdmann (2016)
Probably the biggest curio on my list and a film I remember watching at the very beginning of the year, whilst laid up with a nasty bug, after spending over a year hearing Film Twitter all abuzz about it. A German picture from Marin Ade, Toni Erdmann is almost 3 hours in length, often sprawling and freewheeling, and for a time feels oddly documentarian in its understatement, but it also happens to be one of the most funny and heartfelt films of recent years.
Peter Simonischek is Winifried, the layabout father of Sandra Huller’s driven corporate worker Ines, who after the death of his dog decides to try and reconnect with his daughter by inventing a life coach, dynamic alter-ego… Toni Erdmann. Simonischek is a delight throughout and though on the surface bitter, Ade’s film hides a heart which never tips into schmaltz. By the end you will be charmed and warmed.
Hollywood had threatened a remake with Jack Nicholson and Kristen Wiig (Nicholson later dropped out with Bill Murray maybe now in the frame), but they’ll find it hard to top Ade’s original.
6 – 13th (2016)
While she went on to less than dazzle with A Wrinkle in Time, and may now regret having passed on Black Panther, there is no denying Ava DuVernay is one of the most important new voices in modern cinema, and with 13th she rises up and proves that in the most striking way. 13th is not just one of the most harrowing and thought provoking films of recent years, it may also be one of the finest documentaries ever made.
Shining a light on the United States prison system, DuVernay’s film delivers a brace of terrifying statistics about the astronomical rise of prison numbers in the US over the last fifty years and ties it into America’s stark history of racial inequality. Few stones are left unturned as DuVernay unpicks some of the still festering scabs on the American historical journey when it comes to civil rights.
A stunning, timely piece of work everyone in the Western world should see.
Check back in soon for My Cinematic Worst of 2018 #10-5. Prepare for some real stinkers.