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TOP 10 FILMS OF 2018… So far…

With half of 2018 already sitting behind us in the rear vision mirror, X-PRESS looks at the films that amused, entertained, confronted, and awed us in the past months. From fish butt to cuddly bears, film stars to superheroes, Russian brutalism to the Australian outback – 2018 has certainly been a diverse year for films. DAVID O’CONNELL, NATALIE GILES, DAVID MORGAN-BROWN and LLOYD MARKEN take a look at the best 2018 has had to date.

Honourable Mentions: Hereditary, Deadpool 2, Isle of Dogs, Death of Stalin, Foxtrot, Unsane.

DOC: A perfect souffle of a film, Lady Bird‘s light airiness belies the craftsmanship that went into its creation. There is an economy of style about this “coming of age” film, that effortlessly conveys a lot in its short run time. Anchoring this are two incredible performances, the young sardonic grace of Saoirse Ronan, and the wearied pragmatism of Laurie Metcalf. An extremely funny film that doesn’t lack emotional depth.

LM: The winner of Best Picture for 2017, the latest of Guillermo Del Toro was his best American film so far and not surprisingly came from his heart. This is wonderfully layered, rich with metaphors about the changing face of America post war and how it speaks to our times. More than just a love story between a creature and a woman that would be usually forbidden it also covers other ideas about materialism, fear of other, changing demographics and healthy sexuality. In fact the love story feels a little underwritten but as a passionate statement from a master storyteller The Shape of Water is a classic that will endure.

DMB: Hard as nails, yet with a soft moral centre, Vince Vaughn dominates the screen as an unstoppable force of martyrdom, as he must put himself down and further down through the various levels of prison hell to save the life of his wife and unborn child. Writer-director S. Craig Zahler (following his excellent Western debut Bone Tomahawk) carefully crafts every single word in his scripts to maximum literary prowess, like a pressurised Quentin Tarantino. Given the events in the film’s last act, this is not for the squeamish, though it’s worth stomaching for such a memorably visceral movie experience.

DOC: It’s amazing to see a perfectly constructed script made into film. Rarer still to see it in a kid’s film about an already established brand, but that is exactly what Paddington 2 is. Here there is not a breath wasted, and everything finds a place. Add to this the inventive visually lyrical style of director Paul King, and this is something extraordinarily special. Being kid friendly and immensely entertaining, well, that’s just the crowning cherry on top.

NG: Definitely voted up for representation, this is one of the most exhilarating rides through super heroism in recent years. Featuring an extravagant visual spectacle, phenomenal performances, direction, set design and costuming throughout – and there’s a plethora of strong women of colour to boot!

LM:  A 2017 film released earlier this year, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool told the May/December romance of movie star Gloria Grahame with Liverpudlian Peter Turner, a local actor. They met in England in the late 1970s with her career slowed but her fame meaning something to fans of the Golden era of Hollywood. More than just a romance, the film captures a time and place effortlessly and how family can inform your morality and be relied upon in stress. The love story of Peter Turner’s family is almost as important as his one with the former Oscar winner. At the centre of the film are two great performances by Jaimie Bell and Annette Bening who has reached Meryl Streep status in her ability to always deliver and do some of her best work at this stage in her career.

DOC: Phenomenal storytelling and acting combine to give us a rare treat. We certainly started the year off right with this film’s brave narrative process. Anchored by three stunning performances (Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri constantly defies expectations, never giving audiences easy answers. The result is brave, moving, and surprisingly funny.

LM: Paul Thomas Anderson knows how to make movies so it is no surprise to find his latest a well-constructed period piece that looks fantastic and draws into this small world of a couture dress maker in 1950s England. It also no surprise to find towering performances from the cast of Daniel Day-Lewis, Lewis Manville and Vicky Krieps in a triumvirate of power dynamics and mutual need. What is surprising is the slight humour at the corners of this story of people who really take part in some toxic behaviour. A film that speaks to the current times of gender dynamics, it ends on a surprisingly hopeful note about co-existence.

DMB: The most acclaimed and powerfully dramatic films nowadays seem to be coming from Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev. Although his previous films seemed too engineered to really hit hard with an emotional punch, Loveless feels less like a satirical critique than the rest of his oeuvre and dedicates itself to mood and emotion, all brimming out of a simple tale of a missing runaway child. The parents enlist the help of a volunteer search group, but all of the couples’ efforts bring out more and more of their gruelling resentment and regrets, making this film a thoroughly gloomy and thoroughly Russian examination on this most fraught of romances.

NG: Possibly one of the most valuable, important Australian films ever made, Sweet Country is a violent, bloody and emotionally wrought period western which explores colonialism and cultural erasure. Set against the red dust and rawness of the Australian outback, this film defies you to not shed tears for our history.

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