Guide to Cinematic and Critically Acclaimed Films of 2018
Many might consider 2018 as an inadequate year for cinema, but I would add that they weren’t looking in the right places. We all know about the grand Box Office record-breaking superhero and blockbuster material films such as Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther and Mission: Impossible – Fallout but I want to focus on the films which were ground-breaking, cinematically pleasing and contemplative of reality.
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Director: Morgan Neville
Five minutes into the movie and Fred Rogers says, referring to television programs, "This could be a wonderful tool, why is it being used this way?" and I'm immediately drawn in as he explained the majority of children's television programs in some of the most simplest words.
Fred Rogers is a Christian Republican straight man who focused on child rearing and psychology, and preached about love and empathy. The concept behind the character sounds absurd and unreal considering the current social and political climate. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood started airing since 1968 and covered all sorts of topics from racism to depression and disabilities, and this documentary showed the behind the scenes of the show and what led Rogers to talk about such issues and reflects on children’s television programs and how they perceive it. I don't know about most people but I do think that I grew up too fast, so did my generation and so are the upcoming generations. We grow up and enter different thresholds of life without understanding empathy, love, grief, tragedy and mostly ourselves, therefore learning and feeling things on the go or never at all. That's exactly what Rogers was trying to solve and his show was a beacon of openness, togetherness, love and hope.
Director: Paul Schrader
Toller (Ethan Hawke) is a pastor of a small church in New York, but after meeting an environmentalist and his wife, he undergoes an uncanny reckoning.
Similar to Paul Schrader’s previous work on Taxi Driver (directed by Martin Scorsese), First Reformed is an incredibly moving film. The film covered torment, loneliness, depression, political awakening and religious conflicts, which have so much relevance in recent times. The reckonings that Ethan Hawke's character Toller endures are some of the most common questions we stumble across. Toller is an introspecting character and can be considered from multiple perspectives, thus making the film very engaging as each of Toller’s thoughts and actions lingers with the viewers. The moody, cool-toned cinematography and the way the film captures each moment are remarkable, making the still frames and slow camera movements haunting at times.
Sorry to Bother You
Director: Boots Riley
Based on an alternative reality in Oakland California, Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is a telemarketer trying to make ends meet, and after learning a trick that grants him glory, he finds himself trapped within the grasp of a CEO’s (Armie Hammer) conniving plan.
Sorry to Bother You is a dark comedy with underlying social commentary reflected through bits of science fiction. A film like no other, it has different layers, stages and thresholds contemplating specific topics with multiple perspectives. Although it is being compared to 2017’s award-winning Get Out, the two films have different approaches when it comes to portraying social issues. Sorry to Bother You is more subtle with its references and often hides it under bizarre situations and far-fetched humour. The film sticks its landing with the shocking third act and jumps across scenes smoothly with its unorthodox editing throughout the film.
Cold War (Zimna Wojna)
Director: Paweł Pawlikowski
In war-torn Poland during the 1950s, two people with differences fall in love.
A period piece tragic love story can never go wrong if done properly and Paweł Pawlikowski surpassed all expectations from that genre. The film’s mixture of tragedy and jazz together is such an incredible blend and a graceful harmony that takes you on a surreal experience. It captures the dynamic of a relationship and the importance of communication, time and location and how each of those acts as a barrier when neglected. The clear and crisp cinematography looks like the film was actually made in the 50s and keeps the audience focused and blurs everything else which makes the film seem like a mere 20 minutes long.
You Were Never Really Here
Director: Lynne Ramsay
The story is about a war veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who makes a living by finding missing girls, but when one case goes out of control, he uncovers signs of corruption along the way.
The whole film is established on grief and suffering with a whole bunch of gore. It’s safe to say that Ramsay’s latest mind-bending film might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s close to being a cinematic masterpiece. This film has the tropes of any other action-packed film but achieves this coherent loneliness through its score by Jonny Greenwood, cinematography by Thomas Townend, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance and Ramsay’s unique screenplay which makes it feel like no other film.