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Spencer Hackett’s Films of 2018

The year has come to a close, and overall I think 2018 has been a pretty good year for films, better than I’d thought actually. I was underwhelmed by the few “Oscar pictures” (Shape of Water, 3 Billboards) I saw early this year and felt like that was an omen of things to come. I was very wrong. Many of the films on this list surmounted my expectations, being better than I could hope for and actually putting the films I’ve selected in order was a nightmare. I’ve already changed the order twice and I’ve been writing less than 5 minutes, along with already thinking of some other great films that haven’t made the cut for some reason or another. Also I haven’t seen everything this year, I haven’t got time for that. So you may scream at me for not putting Hereditary on the list  but that would be a bold faced lie. I will say this is a very personal list and these films aren’t perfect by any means, or some may technically be better than others but I’m mainly going by how these films have impacted me, have they played on my mind, have they inspired me etc etc. So here’s my list, and just take it that the top three would probably have swapped around by tomorrow.

10. BLACKkKLANSMAN (Spike Lee) 

BlackkKlansman Poster

How no one has made this film before is a shock to me. Based on the true story of how black police officer Ron Stallworth infiltrated the Klu Klux Klan, the film plays like a hybrid of biopic and blaxploitation film. Great performances help the film walk the line between being realistically tense and realistically absurd. Lee cleverly notes how weird the story is, working in some comic asides, but don’t expect the laugh riot of the year. This is an angry film and so it should be. No punches are pulled in terms of language, and a brief cameo from Harry Belafonte will leave you in cold sweats i’m sure. A small section at the end of the film makes it crystal clear that things have not moved on from the 70’s, if not gotten worse. Films like this are rare, politically charged and yet brilliantly enjoyable as a film by it’s own right.

9. Revenge (Coralie Fargeat)

Revenge Poster

I’d been so excited to see Revenge, having heard rave reviews about how it was a progressive rape revenge film (that may sound impossible). And to start with I was so confused, it just felt like some weird lad film, with lots of shots of our lead Jen (Matilda Lutz) in skimpy attire, often from the bum down. Knowing that something horrible would happen to her, this felt off putting. However after seeing the film through I realise this was a genius decision. Not only does the film flip images like this in its final act (don’t worry, no spoilers) but it also points the finger at the audience and film makers who’ve used these techniques before, as if pointing out the ridiculous nature of it. But past the subtext (feels to overt to be subtext really) this is a brilliant revenge thriller. It’s silly as any other exploitation film when it wants to be, but it’s gory to the max and uses its simple narrative to keep the pace up high. Jen is a resourceful hero, and her prey are absolutely detestable in every way, which means seeing her hunt them has some great cathartic moments. Also props to the cinematography and soundtrack by Rob (pulsing synths for days) which helps give the film a lot of polish.

8. Isle Of Dogs (Wes Anderson) 

Isle of Dogs Poster

Sarcastic stop motion dogs, what more do I need to say… Ok fine. I’ll open this with this is a Wes Anderson film through and through. If you don’t like his films, you wont like this. It’s also not really a kids film, its rated PG but its not. My partner and I saw this in the cinema and were the only people that laughed at all, whilst most of the children fidgeted, bored, so keep that in mind. But this film is brilliant. Visually its a marvel, with some of the best stop motion animation I’ve seen. The characters are expertly voiced by an all star cast (Tilda Swinton is a PUG!!!) and the story, whilst silly, is really heart warming in places. There’s plenty of Japanese cultural references in here too if you’re into that sort of thing. This is probably my favourite Wes Anderson film yet, so if you haven’t seen any of his stuff I’d start here and probably work backwards. If he’s your cup of tea, it’s more of the same in a good way, if you don’t, it’s more of the same in a bad way.

7. Halloween (David Gordon Green) 

Halloween Blu-Ray Cover

A very pleasant surprise with this, someone’s made a true follow up to the original Halloween. The film leans just close enough to the Carpenter original to be recognisable and deserving of the title, whilst being as much its own spin on the universe. Carpenter’s new score really helps sell the authenticity, but it’s Jamie Lee Curtis’s performance as an aged Laurie Strode that give the film legs beyond sheer fan appeal. Well along with the fact that Myers is still as bad-ass as ever and the kills come frequently enough that you’ll never get bored waiting for the next one. I have spoken to some people of my age (20’s) that haven’t liked it who haven’t seen the original, so nostalgia may be a factor, but in my opinion it would be great either way.

6. Hostiles (Scott Cooper)

Hostiles Poster

I love that westerns have made a comeback without being entirely just self referential homages. Hostiles has been banded around as a revisionist western, meaning rather than being super racist like half the westerns you’ll find on tele every afternoon, it is tackling the theme of race with some actual intelligence. Following Christian Bale’s mustachioed Captain as he is forced to transport an enemy native American chief (expertly played by Wes Studi) back to his home land, the film almost works as vignettes of their journey. We see the relationship between these two bitter enemies evolve and change, sometimes for better sometimes for worse. All of the performances really sell this as being grounded and there are genuinely moving moments here.  Whilst the film opens with an intense action sequence, this is a masterfully slow film in places, with much of the film being watching the ever fluctuating group travel across beautiful and harsh landscapes. but it can be brutal when it wants to be, but not to a degree that should put people off.

5. Incredibles 2 (Brad Bird) 

Incredibles 2 Poster

The original Incredibles was one of my favourites as a child, and that cliffhanger ending always did my head in. but the child in me got what he wanted and more with the return of the Parr family. This is a film that knows exactly why the original worked so well, seeing the superhero family as a real family. Yes this has gorgeous animation and some cracking action set pieces but its the heart of the characters that makes this film so great. I started smiling from about the first minute and that smile never left my face for the rest of the film. Proof that Pixar haven’t lost their touch at all.

4. Annihilation (Alex Garland) 

Annihilation Poster

Ex-Machina is a hard debut to follow, but Garland has somehow managed it here. Ever so vaguely based on the novel by Jeff Vandermeer, it tells the tale of an expedition into the shimmer, and otherworldly area slowly expanding across the USA. The films perfectly pitches its tone right between sci-fi and horror, with enough musing about life and change that you’ll be thinking about it for weeks. There are shocks and gore when the film needs it, but there is also much beauty to be found here, including a visually stunning final sequence that’s bound to divide its audience. Geoff Barrow and Ben Sailsbury deliver a fantastic score along side that mimics the films themes so perfectly. My only gripe is that I couldn’t see this on the big screen thanks to a bailing Paramount who feared it was too smart for its audience. But thankfully if you have Netflix you have this already this thanks to their intervention, so you don’t have an excuse not to watch it.

3. Mandy (Panos Cosmatos) 

Mandy Poster

Nic Cage goes full Cage-rage in a heavy metal nightmare. If that isn’t enough reason to see this I don’t know what is, but I’ll try and convince you. Mandy is stunning, and probably the most visually striking film on this list, throwing reality out of the window in every way possible from colour to set design to the narrative itself. This is film is bursting at the seem’s with fantastic imagery that I don’t want to ruin here, if you’ve got a strong stomach you should do yourself a favour and watch this. Another soundtrack shout out should go to the late Johann Johnannsson who delivers a perfectly pitched final composition. This film shouldn’t gel together but it does and it’s brilliant. Go watch it, and long live Cheddar Goblin.

2. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)

You Were Never Really Here Poster

 It’s been 7 Years since Ramsay released “We Need To Talk About Kevin” but the wait has certainly been worth it. Here we have one of the most cerebrally brilliant contemplations on both violence and masculinity I’ve ever seen. Yes that’s me being a ponce but I’m entitled to. But back down on earth the films just amazing. Gloriously shot in New York the film tells the story of Joe, an ex marine who now tracks down missing girls. Joe is expertly played by Joaquin Phoenix in a career defining role. He’s played unstable characters before, but this is that role done with both physicality and empathy. This is a discordant film, wrong footing its audience with Ramsay’s usual non linear structuring along with brilliant diversions from the source text that make this a film truly better than the book. Also props to Jonny Greenwood’s score that perfectly memes the beauty of the film with its clear exportation roots.

1. Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) 

Suspiria Poster

Who’d of thunk it, the best film of the year is a film that last year I’d have happily seen thrown in a fire. I think that’s partly why I know its so good, its turned my opinion right around. Guadagnino’s Suspiria is the antithesis of the original, it’s a sombre, quiet and its horror hits you in the pit of your stomach, rather than square in the jaw. Shot with real tactility, the film has a great deal of style, that’s completely dreary in the best way (I know that’s contradictory). It helps that we have some fantastic performances to shoot here with Tilda Swinton the usual standout, she needs to win at awards season or someone deserves a telling off. There is so much to love here, Thom Yorke’s Debut score is too die for, melancholy in the way he does so brilliantly, along with some brilliant effects, editing and a nice twisting of the original narrative. I’ll also have to give this film the award for most uncomfortable reviewer having made me feel genuinely uncomfortable, something that hasn’t happened in a long time. This film’s love it or hate it, and I love it.