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Best (and worst) of 2018: Film

by MARIA DUARTE

 

FROM dramas about racism to those about women battling sexism and discrimination and the why and how of Donald Trump, it's been a year where many films have reflected burning social and political issues of the day.

The comic-book hero film juggernaut rolled on, although on the plus side most of the super-heroes from the Marvel universe were killed off. Sadly, many will doubtless return in “final” sequels or prequels.

My top 10 films of the year begins with The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro's visually and emotionally sublime Oscar-winning homage to Old Hollywood and horror B-movies. Set against the backdrop of the cold war in the US of 1962, it has a mute cleaning lady falling in love with the doppelganger of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The Academy Award-winning masterpiece Coco follows a young Mexican boy who ventures into the Land of the Dead in search of his great-great-grandfather in a memorable film celebrating the importance of family, Mexican culture and respect for the dead.

John Krasinski's post-apocalyptic horror film A Quiet Place was an impressive and spine-chilling debut, in which a family of five's survival is dependent on them not uttering a sound because "if they (human-eating creatures) hear you, they hunt you.”

McQueen was one of the most visually explosive and unconventional documentaries — as evocative, provocative and unique as its subject matter, the iconic British fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen.

With BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee's provided a biting historical critique on current events in its extraordinary true story of a detective who in the 1970s infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan and became its first black member.

In dealing with race relations and exploring themes of inclusivity, Black Panther took the superhero film to exciting new heights and delivered a gripping story on the way while the charming, comic and totally disarming Love, Simon set the bar with Hollywood's first teenage gay rom com.

Three Identical Strangers was a surreal documentary about identical triplet brothers who, separated at birth, found each other 19 years later and became a media sensation. But, in a shocking twist, their fairy tale reunion uncovered an unimaginable secret.

The sublime black comedy drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri centred on a mother's fight for justice for her murdered daughter as she takes on the sexist and racist local police department in a film which drew award-winning and unforgettable performances from its veteran cast.

Finally, Lucky followed the bizarre and bitter-sweet spiritual journey of a 90-year-old atheist — an affecting love letter to the life and career of its leading man Harry Dean Stanton in what was his final film.

As for this year's turkeys, Mandy and Slaughterhouse Rulez vie for top spot, with the former a pretentious art-house horror flick in which Nicolas Cage is allowed to run amok at his most unhinged. The latter is a complete mess of a comedy horror with fracking thrown in and it's neither funny nor scary.

In Mile 22 director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg teamed up for the fourth time for the most confusing, nonsensical and thrill-less action drama of the year. The bullets flew as wildly as the plot.

Finding Your Feet, a typical British rom com drama, was condescending, predictable, sentimental and cliched. It may have a stellar veteran British cast but its over-sixties target audience deserved better.

Robin Hood was given the cor-blimey treatment a la Guy Richie in a pointless remake of the classic tale, set in the times of the Crusades but with visual overtones of the Gulf war, the nazis and modern times.

Style and mood ruled over substance in You Were Never Really Here in which a bearded Joaquin Phoenix plays a traumatised veteran who tracks down missing girls for a living in a film that loses its way in its confusing characters and plot, while The Lies We Tell is a lacklustre crime thriller set in West Yorkshire with Gabriel Byrne and Harvey Keitel both wasted in a ridiculous drama.

Escape Plan 2 made a formidable case for why sequels should be banned. It lacked the charm, charisma and watchability of the original film which starred Schwarzenegger and Stallone, but the latter was unable to save this unimaginative, piss-poor sequel.

Phantom Thread was a dull and pretentious drama full of loathsome and unsympathetic characters bordering on caricatures — it was like watching beautiful paint dry —  and, last and most probably least, Overboard was a fruitless remake of the hilarious classic comedy of the same name starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

Except for its gender-role reversal, it added nothing more to the mix.

 

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