With my blog, Parker & The Picture Shows, beginning in January, I had the unique chance to spend a lot of time in cinemas this year. Through the big blockbusters, beautiful indies and gut-busting comedies, I weaved my way through one of the best years for cinema in a decade.
Here are my pics for the best of the year:
15. Mary Poppins Returns
This sequel to the 1964 Disney classic pops and sparkles just as much as the original did. It's a magical, unbelievable film, with a standout performance from Emily Blunt as Poppins. The whimsical blending of animation and live-action from seasoned musical director Rob Marshall will leave you spellbound. It's a toe-tapping, jaw-dropping film, and the feel-good of 2018.
14. Avengers: Infinity War
As I grow weary and succumb to superhero fatigue, I have less patience every day for men in tights saving the universe. But this culmination film put every character, every hero in the Marvel universe in one film, and made a comprehensive, spectacular action masterpiece. The set-pieces and battle sequences are fantastic and robust, but the true reason the film makes the list was its ability to turn superheroes into living, breathing, emotional characters, and the human element stands strong. Kudos to Josh Brolin as villain Thanos, with his sympathetic portrayal. He brings the film more depth than it ever had any right to possess.
This FIN film festival selection was a brisk, beautiful story of a lonely man who will do anything to fit in. Dog groomer Marcello finds himself in deep with violent crimes in a small town as he tries to protect and provide for his young daughter. This foreign-language film is a gut-wrenching endeavour with a pitch-perfect ending, and a transcendent performance from star Marcello Fonte.
12. You Were Never Really Here
In 2018, Joaquin Phoenix fully reemerged from his bizarre, dark personal years as a performing threat. He was in four films this year alone, and this is the first of three to land on this list. In a role reminiscent and comparable to Robert DeNiro's in Taxi Driver, Phoenix is a war veteran who tracks down girls kidnapped for human trafficking purposes. With the direction of Lynne Ramsay -- responsible for We Need To Talk About Kevin, one of the most visceral films I've bore witness to -- Phoenix goes full bore. He disappears into this despondent character in a film that, at times, is suffocating in its portrayal of violence and difficult subject matter. It was the most disturbing film I saw this year, but a fully necessary watch.
This savagely funny Spike Lee joint marks the filmmaker's best work in a decade, and it's a stinging condemnation of the current American climate. Lee uses this (semi) true story of an African American police officer who infiltrates the local KKK with the help of a white surrogate cop. It's a visceral film with a career-defining performance from Adam Driver, and it's a pure arrival for John David Washington, son of the legendary Denzel. It's a true, blue satire with some real teeth, and it's one of the most dynamic films of the year.
10. Black Panther
This Marvel film was the best from the studio this year, and it's the best showcase there's been for actors of colour in a long time. It follows heir T'Challa, who must push the people of kingdom Wakanda forward as he battles a foe with a chip on his shoulder. Directed by Creed auteur Ryan Coogler, it re-teams him with supporting star Michael B. Jordan in a magnetic, villainous role, and allows a star showcase for protagonist Chadwick Boseman. It's action packed, and the supporting performances from Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya, Lupita Nyong'o and Sterling K. Brown, this is a comic book film that showcases some of the best talent in the industry.
9. Beautiful Boy
Jarring as it may be, this story of a father trying to help his drug-addicted teen son is one of the most affecting of 2018. It comes from the memoirs of real-life father-son pair David and Nic Scheff, and follows Nic's difficulties with hitting bottom, rehab, relapse, recovery and struggles over a series of years. Steve Carell has never been more spellbinding than he is here, and his uncertain, desperate portrayal of a father trying to do right by his boy is gut-wrenching. But he's outdone by Timothee Chamalet, who manages to improve upon his near-flawless Call Me By Your Name turn. He brings a Jeckyl & Hyde demeanour to his performance, and it proves he's going to be a force for years to come.
Ah, here we are. This story of widows who inherit their husbands' debts to the mob after a robbery gone wrong was one of the most criminally underrated of the year. Tensely directed by Steve McQueen and featuring a flawless screenplay from Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, this is the most intelligent adult thriller of the year. Viola Davis gives an Oscar-worthy performances as a woman who rallies the troops to finish off their husband's final job. She pushes to women to move forward as she faces down a bullet for her husband's misdeeds. Bolstered by incredible performances from Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, and Brian Tyree Henry, this is one of the best-acted flicks I've seen in a long time. But honestly, watch it for Brit Daniel Kaluuya's turn as a ruthless thug trying to retrieve his boss's dough. He, and this film, will blow you away.
7. Love, Simon
Years growing up as a gay kid in movie theatres with no characters on the silver screen to look up to made my ability to relate to films hard. But with Nick Robinson's flawless, impeccable portrayal of closeted gay teenage Simon, I finally felt like I had an on-screen romance worth rooting for. Robinson gives a beautiful performance as a young man willing to do anything to keep his secret in a small town. I laughed, I cried, and this is my most rewatched film of 2018, or any of the last five years. It's a film that not only changed the landscape of LGBTQ+ portrayal for young teens in cinema, but served as a way to connect and bond with my family, friends and co-workers. The sure hand of director Greg Berlanti ensured the lived experience of gay teens was on full, refreshingly honest display here. I love Simon, and you will too.
6. The Sisters Brothers
This energetic western was by far the crowning film of the FIN festival here in Halifax in September. Writer-director Jacques Audiard won Best Director at the prestigious Venice Film Festival, and for good reason. This beautiful, animated, bold film is an instant classic. It follows two brothers who chase down a gold prospector in 1850's Oregon. The Sisters brothers -- played in magnificent fashion by John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix -- are rough-and-tumble killers who couldn't be further apart. One wishes for a new life, while the other can't escape the bottle. With supporting performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed, this is one of the funniest, most entertaining films of the year, and a personal favourite.
5. Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot
This final film on the list starring Joaquin Phoenix sees him embody John Callahan, an alcoholic who gets sober after a car accident leaves him wheelchair-bound. Callahan, a cartoonist with a sarcastic wit and controversial pen-stroke, learns to live and love again following his accident. Gus Van Sant, the man responsible for classics like Good Will Hunting and Milk, makes his best film in 10 years. Phoenix gives his best performance since Walk The Line, and the fact he's not in line for an Oscar nomination is dumbfounding. Featuring a career-best performance from Jonah Hill as an AA counselor, and Jack Black in an emotional, turning-point supporting role, this one is a can't-miss.
Vice has received middle-of-the-line reviews, but this whacky, razor-sharp satire about the life and loose morals of Vice-President Dick Cheney is one of my most cherished this year. In fact, I held off writing this list so I could see it Dec. 27, as it was my most anticipated of the year. With Christian Bale in a transformative role as the robust Cheney, he doesn't disappoint, giving the best performance of his respectable career. Amy Adams -- who has done two previous films with Bale -- is an unbelievable power as Cheney's wife. Steve Carell is also fantastic, but newly-minted Oscar winner Sam Rockwell is worth the price of admission alone as George W. Bush. Director Adam McKay isn't everyone's cup of tea, and there's a clear Liberal bias, but if you're open, this is one of the most darkly funny, scathing indictments of American politics to ever be put to screen.
3. Green Book
This odd-couple film from gross-out comedy director Peter Farrelly is one of the funniest, most enriching films of the year. Farrelly, previously responsible for Dumb & Dumber and There's Something About Mary -- shows more depth here than I ever thought he had. The film is based on the pairing of Italian-American bouncer and tough guy Tony Lip and African-American pianist Dr. Don Shirley, who hires the former to drive him and protect him on a concert tour through the south in the 1960s. Viggo Mortensen is a revelation as Lip, a casually racist, air-headed man who gets by on street smarts and a tough demeanour. We watch the character soften as he gets to know Shirley, played by Moonlight standout Mahershala Ali, who gives a tender, beautiful supporting performance also. It's an in-depth commentary on race relations and the power of friendship, and it's one of the most re-watchable films of 2018.
2. A Star Is Born
Bradley Cooper's writer-director-acting effort to bring this reimagining into a new era is the runner-up for the year. The tried-and-true tale of an alcoholic musician who meets, and falls in love with, a young songstress, may be predictable, but the execution is flawless. Cooper proves he can direct as well as he can act, which is no small feat. Lady Gaga proves she can shine on the silver screen with a vulnerable, emotional performance, and the chemistry between the two leads is the stuff of Hollywood legend. The score and music are endlessly catchy and intense, and supporting performances from Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chapelle help bolster this near-perfect picture. It's a beautiful musical showcase, love story and it's the most romantic, emotional film of the year. It's bound to be a classic for years to come.
Words can hardly describe how much I loved this summer indie that absolutely no one saw. It's about a recently-paroled man who witnesses a white cop shoot a black man point-blank while he's on his way home to make curfew. Stuck between getting through the last three days of probation or turning in an officer and opening himself to scrutiny, the man fights his own demons as he tries to battle his guilty conscience. All the while, his relationship with his volatile, violent best friend threatens to send his world spiralling again. Blindspotting is savage in its raw contempt for police brutality in the days of Trayvon Martin. It's a film that doesn't shy away from harsh truths, and it was one of the most indignant, intoxicating films I've seen in quite some time. You will be uncomfortable and you will shift in your chair a few times, but in a time where race relations should be top of mind, it's a must-see feature, and my favourite of the year.
- Three Identical Strangers
- Leave No Trace
- A Quiet Place
- Boy Erased
- The Guilty
- Can You Ever Forgive Me?
- The Happy Prince
- Cold War
- Mission Impossible: Fallout
- First Reformed
- Bohemian Rhapsody
- Bad Times at the El Royale
- Ready Player One
- The Rider
Ones I Missed:
Journey's End, Lean On Pete,The Death of Stalin, A Private War, The Front Runner, The Favourite, Free Solo, Mary Queen Of Scots, Ben is Back, Vox Lux, If Beale Street Could Talk, Capernaum, Shoplifters, Destroyer, On The Basis Of Sex.