Megan Wilson’s Top 10 Films of 2018

2018 has been a cracking year for film – I’m not sure I’ve had to add so many films to my mental list of all-time favourites as I have during this year. It’s been a particularly promising time for LGBTQ film; I’m so pleased to be able to put so many brilliant films featuring queer characters on my list, and with plenty more in mind that didn’t quite make the cut. I was lucky enough to attend four festivals; beginning with Ann Arbor Film Festival in April and rounding off with my third London Film Festival in October. There has been much laughter, many tears, and above all else, it’s been ridiculously exciting. Of course, there are so many more films that, had time been on my side, might have made it into my top 10, such as Cold War, Roma and If Beale Street Could Talk. But no time for dwelling on the past – there’ll be plenty of time to catch up in the new year! So, without further ado, here is my tentative and loosely ranked top ten films seen in 2018:

10. Shirkers (dir. Sandi Tan)

A last-minute entry, I only got round to watching Shirkers on Boxing Day, but it was absolutely worth squeezing in before the year was out. It also felt right to have a documentary represented on my list, as I have so much love for the genre. A pleasant surprise to round off the year, Sandi Tan’s Shirkers is an unexpectedly profound and stunningly presented amalgamation of film and memory, tracing the making and subsequent theft of one of the first feature films funded in Singapore. Told by the three women who made it, including Tan herself, the narrative is beautifully woven with interviews, shots from the film they made, and scribbled animation, to the effect of a cinephile scrapbook. The film spans a 20-year mystery that remains unsolved to some extent, shining a light on a curious but devastating piece of film history that many have likely never heard of, but is a story that begs to be told.

9. We the Animals (dir. Jeremiah Zagar)

Despite being one of the earlier films I saw this year, We the Animals has had a lasting effect that earns it a spot on this list. Its poignancy was also aided by the thought-provoking Q&A after the screening by producer Daniel Kitrosser. Quiet and unobtrusive in its cinematography, the film explores the coming of age of a young boy named Jonah and his two brothers, at once at loggerheads and inseparable, who are left to fend for themselves in their rural home when their parents’ marriage begins to crumble. Jonah’s point of view is embellished with beautiful pencilled animation that spills out of the sketchbook he draws in, visualising his deepest fears and desires. The film is a difficult but necessary portrayal of growing up in poverty, whilst also trying to navigate what it means to be a man and find a place within your family.

My review can be found here.

8. Capharnaüm (dir. Nadine Labaki)

After reading post-Cannes praise of Nadine Labaki’s Capharnaüm, I was excited to be able to finally catch it at LFF, and was thankfully not disappointed. With its provocative logline – a young Lebanese boy seeking to sue his parents for conceiving him – I was caught by the film’s star, Zain Al Rafeea. Playing the pint-sized but feisty Zain, he is rarely not on-screen, and takes on this huge role with nuance way beyond his years. When he is forced to take responsibility for a baby whose mother is threatened with deportation, Zain shows a remarkable sense of empathy and maturity, and most importantly, a will to survive when all the odds are against him. The film is everything from bleak, painful, to funny, but always puts its young protagonist in control, producing some of the most striking fledgling acting (not least the baby!) in recent years.

7. Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse (dir. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman)

Another relatively late addition to the list is Into the Spider-verse. The film looks back on Spider-man comics of the past and quite literally mashes them all up, creating a colourful new animated adventure that feels like a breath of fresh air in the suffocatingly saturated superhero genre. The focus is switches to Miles Morales, a plucky middle-schooler who discovers not only his new spider-powers, but that spider-people from other universes are glitching into his world thanks to a multi-dimensional portal built by villain Kingpin. This leads to a hilarious team-up of superheroes and a keenly self-aware manipulation of the original material. The animation itself is also brilliant, feeling modern and innovative whilst still utilising the nostalgia of the classic wham! and pow! comic book drawing style. What results is ridiculously enjoyable, and goes to show that animation has never been just for kids – why should we miss out on all the fun?

6. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (dir. Ol Parker)

Who would I be if I didn’t reserve a space in the 2018 pantheon for the greatest movie musical of the year? A highlight of the summer, I went to see Mamma Mia! with my mum and sister; we may not agree on much when it comes to films, but one thing that unites us on all fronts is ABBA. It was impossible not to enjoy – despite some controversial changes to the story since the first film – and I found myself skipping out of the cinema feeling lighter than air. I’m a big believer in films as pure feel-good entertainment; no amount of plot-holes and cheesy clichés (of course, there were many) could rain on my Mamma Mia parade. In fact, they’re what I adore about it. Above all, it’s a sequined, sashaying celebration of female friendship, and being able to lean on the women closest to you in times of hardship. And that, to me, is worth its weight in gold platform boots.

5. Widows (dir. Steve McQueen)

With Widows having been one of my most anticipated films of the year, I was thrilled by how just plain good this film is. McQueen’s expert direction crafts a story that is completely gripping, boundless fun, and downright terrifying. No other film this year had me on such tenterhooks; the generation and maintaining of suspense was enough to have me leaving the cinema feeling quite shaken. The film boasts a stellar ensemble cast that puts women to the forefront, with such power and unapologetic agency that you’ll be trying not to fist-pump every time they do something ridiculously badass. But not only are these women bold, they are allowed to simultaneously be mean, emotional, and deeply vulnerable. This kind of complexity is ill-afforded when it comes to female characters, and here we get four equally developed and calculated women to root for. Also, Elizabeth Debicki is 6’3.

My review can be found here.

4. Leave No Trace (dir. Debra Granik)

Another quiet surprise this year came along in the form of Debra Granik’s unassuming but profoundly affective Leave No Trace. I feel like it slipped under many people’s radars over the summer, but it immediately became one of the most touching films I had seen in a while. Focusing on the relationship between a father and daughter living undetected in one of Oregon’s national parks, the film examines what happens when the inseparable pair are forced to assimilate back into urban life. Based on a true story, the film has a frank approach to issues of mental health, isolation, and coming of age, whilst still being entirely empathetic towards its two central characters as they struggle to cope with their conflicting needs. Sensitive and minimalist in dialogue but always emotionally charged, it’s the kind of film that’ll make you want to call your dad afterwards.

My review can be found here.

3. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (dir. Marielle Heller)

The biggest and most pleasant surprise of London Film Festival for me, was grabbing a rush ticket to a last-minute screening of Can You Ever Forgive Me?, only the second feature directed by Marielle Heller. Taking a leap into the biopic genre, Heller tackles the story of Lee Israel, a jaded New York author struggling to make ends meet who takes to forging famous letters to fraudulently sell to collectors. Regardless of the serious subject matter, Heller’s film is rooted in comedy – though never at Lee’s expense. Instead, the film has a touching focus on the relationship between Lee, a lesbian, and her old friend Jack, a gay man. This friendship is the beating heart of the film, and is a wonderful representation of the solidarity between queer men and women in the throes of the AIDs crisis. Knowing little of the source material going in, I found myself deeply affected by Lee’s story, and I am excited to revisit the film again.

2. The Favourite (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)

An extremely close second this year ranks Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, one of my most highly-anticipated films since the announcement of its barmy period concept and star-studded cast. What Lanthimos delivers is expectedly ludicrous, and wickedly good fun. A lesbian love triangle against the backdrop of the court of Queen Anne, The Favourite is less romantic period drama and more screwball comedy of vicious manipulation and deceit, all in a bid to win the Queen’s affection. With one of the most original scripts this year, featuring some deliciously outrageous insults, the narrative is completely unpredictable and full of hilarious scandal. With three vivacious lead performances, it was a pure joy to just sit back and watch women simply behaving badly, in all their spite and petty violence. As Sarah says, sometimes a lady likes to have some fun!”

 

1. The Miseducation of Cameron Post (dir. Desiree Akhavan)

Probably the easiest part of writing this list was bestowing first place upon Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post. I saw it first at the Seattle International Film Festival, then twice more in cinemas back in the UK, and each viewing was as rewarding an experience as the last. Akhavan’s storytelling, as a young bisexual woman herself, speaks to a queer audience with an authenticity that sadly, many LGBTQ films lack. I found a deeply personal sense of affirmation in the film’s portrayal of queer youth, with both its sensitive honesty and acute sense of humour. Frank, funny, and utterly heart-breaking, Cameron Post is carried upon the shoulders of its young but brazen leads, who take the challenging subject matter and use it to tell an uplifting story of strength and friendship.

My review can be found here.

 

by Megan Wilson

Megan Wilson is a northerner currently studying film at King’s College London, and recently completed a semester at the University of Michigan. She is passionate about cats, old musicals, and turtleneck sweaters, but is not in fact an 80-year-old man. Her favourite films include CarolMoonlightSingin’ in the Rain, and Matilda. Find her on Twitter: @bertmacklln

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