Review of the year – Best Films of the Year 2018

This year has been a really amazing one in my personal life, with the birth of my first baby bringing a real joyous end to the year. I still had a very enjoyable year of film watching. Here’s my top ten films of the year (in alphabetical order).

A Simple Favor – “A film that oozes style, with a top-class plot and performances to match. The two leads – Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively – are at the top of their game. The story and its resolution was one of the most memorable of the year.”

Coco – “A return to form for Pixar and one of the best animated films I’ve seen this decade. They’ve worked out the magic formula to pull on the viewers’ heartstrings and they don’t shy from using it. It’s a beautiful concept executed to perfection.”

Cold War – “Director Paweł Pawlikowski has followed up Ida with a beautifully-shot film, again teaming him up with Łukasz Żal. The story is set over a number of years during the Cold War, dipping into a relationship between the young Joanna Kulig and her musical mentor Tomasz Kot. It plays out as a series of shorter vignettes, capturing a snapshot of their lives and how they come together and fall apart. It’s short, snappy and an extremely satisfying watch. I can’t recommend it enough.”

Hereditary – “Whilst Hereditary is one of the scariest horrors I’ve seen for a while, as typified by the long list of visually-arresting moments that have been swimming around my head for the few days since I watched it, at the heart of the film is a genuinely engaging story that would make for a very good film even without any of the horror leanings.”

Isle of Dogs – “The animation is beautiful and quirky, matching well with a bizarre storyline about a boy rescuing his dog from Trash Island. The voice cast are on top form. Another Wes Anderson five star from me.”

Lady Bird – “A joy to watch. From start to finish the balance between humorous dialogue and well-paced plot progression is very fine indeed.”

Mary and the Witch’s Flower – “The animation and character design is as breathtaking as you’d expect from Hiromasa Yonebayashi.”

Phantom Thread – “Script, acting, cinematography, lighting, score – everything is just right. A masterclass in film-making.”

The Shape of Water – “It looks absolutely beautiful and the story lives up to the visuals. The lead performances from Hawkins, Shannon and Jones are all top drawer. I managed to fight through the anticipation after the plaudits and find myself enjoying an excellent film, though I do wonder if people are now expecting too much of it.”

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri – “He’s created his first real masterpiece and it’s a wonder to see it unfold for the first time. It is every bit deserving of the praise and accolades it has received.”

Top films of 2017

Here’s a list of my top ten films of 2017.

20th Century Women

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“20th Century Woman avoids the usual cinematic tropes and instead explores how men are often defined by the women around them. With characters this believable and brilliant performances across the board, this is a film well worth seeing.”

Read the full review here.

Baby Driver

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“There aren’t many moments in cinema where you start to watch the opening scene and an uncontrollable giddy smile engulfs your face, such is the joy of what is unfolding on the screen. It needs to be a brilliant idea, executed to perfection and in a language that speaks to you. Baby Driver, Edgar Wright’s latest cinematic masterpiece, achieves just that. But the moment I knew it was a truly great film was when I realised the credits were rolling and my smile hadn’t left.”

Read the original review here

Dunkirk

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“Dunkirk is a film you have to see right now. It is the film you have to see right now.

Read the original review here

아가씨 / The Handmaiden

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“Park Chan-wook’s latest release is a twisting psychological thriller steeped in eroticism and oozing class that works its audience brilliantly. The only drawback was that I didn’t have time to see it a second time.”

Read the original review here

La La Land

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“Every once in a while you will go into a film knowing almost nothing about what you’re going to see and get absolutely blown away by a surprisingly perfect masterpiece. As you get further into your film-watching life, enjoying these moments becomes increasingly rare, so when a film like ‘La La Land’ comes along, you can’t help but be overcome by giddy excitement.”

Read the original review here

Lady Bird

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Lady Bird is, simply, a joy to watch. From start to finish the balance between humorous dialogue and well-paced plot progression is very fine indeed. The result puts it as a frontrunner for awards season next year.”

Read the original review here

Logan

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“A wisely-timed and fitting ending to the franchise and Jackman’s input into the character. It’s hard to believe it but this is the tenth time we’ve seen the character – seven X-Men films have now been made, along with three Wolverine-focussed standalone films. It seems impossible to think anyone will fill the role, meaning this could be the last time we see the character for many years, possibly ever. It could well be the best superhero/mutant-hero film ever made.”

Read the original review here

Okja

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“Given so many people have Netflix and can watch this film at no extra cost, it’s a no-brainer to seek it out and watch it. It might be the start of a new era of high quality original cinema heading first to home streaming platforms. Given the state of the year-to-date box office, it’s a movement everyone should be supporting.”

Read the original review here

レッドタートル ある島の物語 / The Red Turtle

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“A genuine triumph. For anyone with a passing interest in the future of the planet, beautiful animation or engrossing stories, this is a must-see.”

Read the original review here

Thelma

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“The culmination of the film hits like a crescendo, and Trier plays the audience perfectly with a balanced build up to the final pay-off.”

Read the original review here

Cinema Etc. – Most Popular Film Reviews 2015

There have been quite a few reviews posted here this year, so I thought it would be of interest to frequent visitors to find out which were the most popular posts on the website for the year. These are all reviews of new films release in 2015, counting down from ten to one.

10. Into The Woods (Rob Marshall, 2015)

9. Big Hero 6 (Don Hall and Chris Williams, 2014)

8. No Manifesto (Elizabeth Marcus, 2015)

7. Spy (Paul Fieg, 2015)

6. My Dad (Marcus Armitage, 2015)

5. Fußball, Wie Noch Nie / Football as Never Before (Hellmuth Costard, 1971)

4. Tiger Orange (Wade Gasque, 2014)

3. Esio Trot (Dearbhla Welsh, 2015)

2. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)

1. Elstree 76 (Jon Spira, 2015)

I suppose the thing about all these films is that they are slightly less covered in popular media so searches would place each review higher. Football as Never Before has picked up a huge amount of interest over the last couple of months after an article was published about it on a popular British news website. City Lights is a strange one as it’s one of Chaplin’s most popular films, though it was recently rereleased on Blu-ray, which could explain it.

Enjoy catching up on those articles if you missed any of them this year!

Academy Awards 2015 – Full List of Winners

Here’s a simple list of all the winners of Oscars at the 87th Academy Awards last night. I’ve not included the other nominees as I think the lists elsewhere have become cumbersome. Keep it simple!

Best picture
Birdman

Best director
Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman

Best actor
Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything

Best actress
Julianne Moore for Still Alice

Best supporting actor
J. K. Simmons for Whiplash

Best supporting actress
Patricia Arquette for Boyhood

Original screenplay
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo – Birdman

Adapted screenplay
Graham Moore – The Imitation Game

Best documentary feature
Citizenfour – Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky

Best foreign-language film
Ida – Paweł Pawlikowski

Best animated feature film
Disney’s Big Hero 6

Best animated short film
Disney’s Feast – Patrick Osborne, Kristina Reed

Best live-action short film
The Phone Call – Mat Kirkby, James Lucas

Best documentary short subject
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 – Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Dana Perry

Best production design
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock

Best original song
Glory from Selma – Lonnie Lynn (Common), John Stephens (John Legend)

Best original score
Alexandre Desplat – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Achievement in sound mixing
Whiplash – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, Thomas Curley

Achievement in sound editing
American Sniper – Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman

Achievement in costume design
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Milena Canonero

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Frances Hannon, Mark Coulier

Achievement in visual effects
Interstellar – Paul J Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, Scott R Fisher

Achievement in cinematography
Birdman: Emmanuel Lubezki

Achievement in film editing
Whiplash – Tom Cross

So there you go. I was really disappointed that “Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie didn’t win Best Song, not least because the eventual winner was pretty dreadful (I talk about them here). I was happy about the Disney double of Big Hero 6 and Feast – both are excellent and I’ll no doubt be reviewing them on here when I get around to it. The really obvious ones won, of which for me there was only three: Eddie Redmayne for Best Actor, J. K. Simmons for Best Supporting Actor and Birdman for Achievement in Cinematography. That’s how tight it was elsewhere.

I’m thrilled that Birdman won Best Film over Boyhood and American Sniper. Birdman is a seriously effective piece of cinema and a work of art. It has things that appeal to the Academy: the struggling actor struggling to cope with his own relevance, a technically excellent piece of cinematography that (sort of) uses one shot, some fantastic performances from a range of excellent actors and actresses.

So today is for everyone to digest the results and look back on a fantastic year for cinema. Here’s to the next one.

Best Films 2014

Here’s the countdown of my favourite films of 2014. I didn’t review all of them originally, but where I did I’ve included a link.

10. Gone Girl
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Ben Affleck is going from strength to strength and Gillian Flynn has given us a completely gripping story and one that offers plenty of promise for her future writing output. With the mighty David Fincher at the helm and adding another top quality title to his catalogue of first class films, seeing it is a no brainer.
Read original review here

9. Under The Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014)Scarlett Johansson Under the Skin
An erotic sci-fi thriller, with Scarlett Johansson starring as an alien at large in Glasgow, seducing unsuspecting men before murdering them in the most bizarre of fashions. With a description like that, what’s not to like? Subtly effective, it kept my intrigue on edge throughout. 

8. Giovanni’s Island / ジョバンニの島 (Mizuho Nishikubo, 2014)
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It is overall a very depressing subject matter. By this I’m talking Grave of the Fireflies sort of level of depressing. There were many teary eyes as the film reached its conclusion, and that is testament to what a fantastic job Nishikubo has done here.
Read original review here

7. Marvellous (Julian Farino, 2014)
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A late entry into this list (so late so I haven’t got as far as reviewing it yet). A moving BBC biopic of cult legend Neil Baldwin, former kit-man at Stoke City FC, with English actor Toby Jones in the lead role. It was at times hilarious, at times devastating. Well worth watching (and it might be on iPlayer if you’re quick about it). The most entertaining 90 minutes of TV concerning Stoke City FC in a long time.

6. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 2014)
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The soundtrack is clearly the driving force behind the storyline. One of the greatest achievements the Coens manage is to allow our attention to be fully dedicated to the music. It’s never a case of starting a song and cutting away to a montage or separate conversation whilst the song goes through the motions of a second verse or middle 8. It is clear they are truly passionate about the music that drives the story and in almost every case the song is uninterrupted from start to finish. It could well be the greatest Coen Brothers soundtrack yet, and if you’ve heard the O Brother Where Art Thou? OST then you know what a compliment that is.
Read original review here

5. ’71
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Despite his frequenting of the tabloids, Jack O’Connell keeps on proving himself to be an actor with plenty of natural talent and it’s fantastic to see him building on his excellent performance in last year’s Starred Up. With a fantastic support cast (Sean Harris stands out as Captain Sandy Browning), this is a solid film worthy of your attention. Seek it out.
Read original review here

4. Guardians of the Galaxy
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A breath of fresh air for the still thriving but bordering on repetitive superhero film market, finally Guardians of the Galaxy has given us all some great new characters to enjoy on the big screen… and the lunchbox manufacturers some new faces to stick on their products. Hilarious, fast-paced and an awesome soundtrack to boot, this is a great start to an inevitable franchise.

3. Nightcrawler

Gyllenhaal is a wonder to watch in a film like this. He has chosen his films wisely over the years and has a body of work he can already be very proud of, including Donnie Darko, Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain, Zodiac and Source Code. This is definitely amongst his best overall, and I’d go as far as say that Lou is his most defined character yet. He plays sinister very well and clearly knows how to make his audiences tick. At times it’s a real joy to watch, at times it made me want to cover my eyes; both responses indicative that I was hooked.
Read original review here

2. Lilting
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Hong Khaou’s Lilting is one of the best films I’ve seen this year. It’s a stunning study of the emotions people go through when someone they are close to dies with a secret, and the difficult resolutions they find to deal with the loss. If you get a chance to see it, then grasp it with both hands. Watching it is a deeply moving experience.
Read original review here

1. The Imitation Game
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Every so often I see a new film that absolutely blows my socks off, where the storyline sits perfectly with my mood and I get totally enthralled in the joyous and rare occasion of seeing what could be one of my favourite films of all time. The Imitation Game was one of those films.
Read the original review here.