Review 2018:

Film This past year, because of my working patterns, my time has been relatively limited, certainly more limited than it usually is. So at a certain point choices had to be made about what to prioritize, how to spend my leisure time. Reading has become a rare pleasure. Music's drifted into the background and my ability to concentrate increases without it in any case. Television consumption has been reduced to a few regular shows. But the one constant, the one activity which has remained because it gives me so much pleasure, is that I continue to watch a film every night after tea (US translation: dinner).

Which explains why, when you glance at my Letterboxd diary you'll see the total of three hundred and eighty (380) films so far this year, well over one per day.  Of those, thirty-seven (37) were rewatched which means three hundred and forty-three were entire new to me.  Which is less than the average film critic but far more than is probably usual.  Was it worth it?  Yes.  But it's also meant that for the most part I won't have seen the shiny television series you're all talking about.  Sharp Objects? Yes.  The Haunting of Hill House? No.  Others have been posting their entire lists to their blogs, but its all there on Letterboxd if you want to have a look along with often overly generous star ratings.

Choosing ten films from that lot has been a trial.  Having those star ratings to work from is useful, but honestly I've seen so many great movies this year that even as I glance downwards at this list, I'm still not convinced about the choices.  Why not Black Panther or Avengers: Infinity War?  Why not Tully or Thoroughbreds or Game Night?  Dark River?  Or Leave No Trace?  I honestly can't say.  Four of these films are Netflix releases and another one is from Amazon Studios.  What does that mean?  Plus there are all the films I haven't seen, especially released theatrically later in the year which I probably won't see until Cinema Paradiso or a streaming service adds it to their collection in 2019.

In other words, take these choices with a pinch of salt in terms of them being my actual favourite films of the year.  Lady Bird should probably be here.  So should The Cloverfield Paradox (which is brilliantly daft), A Ghost Story, Wind River and Mother!  I Am Not A Witch.  Whitney.  The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.  Cam.  Lucky.  Permission.  The Happy Prince!  When I saw The Happy Prince I was convinced it would be in this end of year list and then Roma popped up and smacked me around the eyeballs.  Does The Other Side of the Wind count as a 2018 release?  In the end I decided not to hold the extended post-production process against it.  So in no particular order:

Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
Anchor and Hope
The Other Side of the Wind
Molly’s Game
A Quiet Place
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
The Square

The completely ignored Anchor and Hope is a funny, poignant romance featuring Oona Chaplin and Natalia Tena as a couple living on a narrow boat trundling around London, who ask their friend (David Verdaguer) to offer up some sperm so they can gave a baby together.  But they're drawn apart by the effort and their insecurities.  Despite the city setting, director Carlos Marques-Marcet develops a bucolic atmosphere during the extended shots of the boat passing through office areas and high rise housing estates.  It's notable for featuring Chaplin's own mother Geraldine (daughter of Charlie) as her character's mum.

What'll actually end up becoming part of the canon and on film school syllabuses can't really be predicted, but Roma. The Other Side of the Wind and Annihilation all seem like probables.  Anything by Welles is a sure thing and even if this is just a best guess about his intentions, and so has a similar veracity in analytical terms as some of the apparently posthumous reconstructions in the Shakespeare Folios.  But Annihilation in particular feels like a decedent of Kubrick, Tarkovsky and Resnais in allowing the audience's imagination to infer part of the narrative as well as offering an extraordinary visual feast.

The Square is my favourite film of the year.  Over the past few years my appreciation of contemporary art has waned and Ruben Östlund's satirical fuck you has enunciated exactly why.  You will have noticed that I didn't review the Liverpool Biennial this year due to the Thumper rule and it's largely because so much of what was on display had a mediocrity which was indistinguishable from the material created for The Square in which the audience is either provided with a meaningless explanation for amateurish objects or no explanation at all, which is even worse.  The material surround the titular street furniture of the film is especially cutting.

But it's also the portrayal of the art world in general.  The lack of thought about how installation art will be interacted with by the public or as is hilariously the case, the gallery maintenance staff.  The insular nature of curatorial choice putting audience perception low on the priories list under selecting exhibition subjects because of their prestigious name over the work they've more recently produced.  The shocking realistic performance art section in which the sponsors and grandees of the gallery are confronted with something genuinely interesting but are embarrassed or take dislike to it because its so far outside their expectations.  Oh and pretentiousness.  Oh the pretentiousness.

The performances are extraordinary, especially from Claes Bang, the gallery curator with a far too high opinion of himself and A demonstration of white men failing upwards.  He's the sort of chap I've been either tried to be or fight with all my heart not to be across the years depending on the social circles I was trying to join (eventually giving in to Groucho's maxim).  Some reviews have suggested the wallet related subplot is the weakest element, but it offers a glimpse of how some people, despite what's being professed through the artworks are unable to appreciate the mechanics of the world outside their particular circle.

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