2018’s mind-boggling award season finishes tonight with the 91st Academy Awards. Considering that the festival circuit has been a scattershot of one-off wins, the team at Wylie Writes is eager to see what happens at the Oscars. However, before that ceremony, some of our critics want to shine a spotlight on the movies they thought were the very best – including some festival favourites that will hopefully be released wider this year.
Don’t forget: click on those highlighted titles to read the writer’s full-length review!
#10. Lu Over the Wall
Masaaki Yuasa’s celebrates music and unity in this fantastic animated fantasy. While it may appear to be a Ponyo knock-off, Lu Over the Wall separates itself by being its own whirlwind of vivd tenacity and entertaining fun.
Searching gives the thriller genre a modernized spin that’s highly effective. John Cho and Debra Messing give career-best performances as they take the viewer on an unpredictable ride of “whodunit” mystery and unflinching social commentary.
Speaking of career-best accolades, Chloë Grace Moritz gives one of the year’s best leading performances in Desiree Akhavan’s humanizing film. While Akhavan certainly wants the audience to side with specific characters, she offers movie goers a full realized story about those caught up in the horrible web of gay conversion therapy.
#7. Indian Horse
Indian Horse is not only the best Canadian film of 2018, but it’s also a new Canadian classic. It’s a harrowing movie about a disturbing history that reflects the prejudice that Canada’s indigenous people still experience. Much like the Academy-Award nominated Green Book, Indian Horse has the power to make people think differently.
#6. Paddington 2
Meanwhile, Paddington 2 also has a power – it makes you want to be a better person. It’s a modest, genuine movie – with moments of glitz and glamour – that reminds audiences of the importance of optimism and kindness.
#5. A Star is Born
Bradley Cooper’s powerhouse filmmaking gives a fresh take on stories about musicians trying to discover their own destiny. It doesn’t put down artists or musical genres to progress the plot, but still finds a way to move forward by rewarding the strength and integrity of up-and-comers as well as limelight entertainers.
#4. The Favourite
A hilarious romp disguised as a dry period piece. While writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos uses this tactic to make a disarming movie, his ability to immaculately immerse audiences into 18th century England using groundbreaking methods of filmmaking makes the film even more unique.
#3. Isle of Dogs
Isle of Dogs is practically a cinematic miracle. Flawless stop-motion animation is paired perfectly with wry observational humour and deadpan dialogue, along with beautiful cultural infusions.
Maysaloun Hamoud’s remarkable debut is a confrontational, empowering film about fighting against unfit traditions.
Alfonso Cuarón’s personal drama Roma is a game changer for historical dramas and family dynamics. Featuring phenomenal performances captured by breathtaking and carefully choreographed cinematography, Cuarón’s movie displays – through a sensitive scope – that smaller stories in the midst of epic events hold significance.
Honourable Mentions: Cam, Roma, Unfriended: Dark Web
#10. First Reformed
#9. A Simple Favour
#8. Eighth Grade
#6. A Star is Born
#5. A Quiet Place
#2. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
#1. The Favourite
#5. Deadpool 2
Like most movie-goers, 2016’s Deadpool blew me away – mocking superhero movies right around the time superhero fatigue had begun to set in. While the sequel borrows a lot from the first film and features a bloated narrative, Deadpool 2 keeps that same spirit alive and, surprisingly, adds a lot of heart and soul to the character of our favorite mercenary. Also, the addition of Peter to the MCU is an absolute blessing.
#4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
With incredible action sequences and stunts, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a non-stop thrill ride. A typical summer blockbuster with just enough story twists and turns, this movie is downright fun to watch.
#3. Three Identical Strangers
Three Identical Strangers is a documentary that appears – at first – to be a light-hearted look at an intriguing coincidence. Soon however, a much more sinister plot is revealed regarding three triplets separated at birth. An extremely well-executed documentary, Three Identical Strangers is edited with precision pacing as it eases viewers down the path of a shocking true story.
#2. First Man
Slow-moving and calculated, First Man is an impressive character study and a visual masterpiece. Ryan Gosling and his costars all prove their talent in this film, as they have countless times before. The film shows incredible visual restraint, with the majority of the lunar training sequences shot only from the limited view of the cockpit. Suspense builds until we finally see that initial liftoff, and the cockpit-only visual restraints are removed. The journey to the moon that follows is downright breathtaking.
#1. Creed II
There’s something intriguing about the Rocky franchise in that despite each movie following the exact same formula, the films are consistently surprising and unpredictable. Between the family drama and boxing matches – our lead character will always face trials and setbacks, will train, and then will either win or lose in the final match (there’s always an ‘emotional win,’ of course). So if they are all so similar, why does Creed II make this list? Because frankly, they do it so damn well each time. I’m always on the edge of my seat during those final boxing matches. The outcome is never certain and, with great performances and high emotional stakes, Creed II does an incredible job getting viewers rooting for its protagonist, much like other entries in this franchise.
#10. I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians/Styx
These two films are incredibly different, but they are ultimately both concerned with the myth that racism is over. The former follows the production of a re-enactment of an anti-Semitic event in Romania, and the latter follows a woman who finds herself in international waters trying to get aid for a group of stranded refugees. Both films end with desolation, just like 2018.
#9. El Angel
This serial killer film deserves a proper release. It is beautiful, it is queer, and it somehow manages to be fun and morbid at the same time.
#8. The Favourite
Yorgos Lanthimos’ record continues with this lesbian period drama. Lanthimos is one of a very small number of filmmakers who can make a compelling love triangle film.
#7. Sorry to Bother You
Boots Riley’s first feature is maybe the most fascinating film of the year. Some argue that it lacks coherence, but that is exactly why it’s brilliant!
This film has the distinction of leaving my jaw dropped for a solid ten minutes. Of course, anyone who has seen it will be able to guess which scene caused this reaction, but that is not the only moment that will lead to this. This deeply inventive film is easily the best horror film of the year, and in the running for the best of all-time.
Finally netting Hirokazu Koreeda a Palme d’Or, Shoplifters follows a family of sorts who get through life by stealing to support themselves and their various adopted thieving family members. Koreeda’s beautiful style of humanism is on full display here.
#4. Terror Nullius
New York-based, Australian video pirate duo Soda Jerk tell the history of Australia and their colonialist history through the use of established Australian cinema. Both well-made and deeply entertaining, this video is a must-see.
#3. 3 Faces
Jafar Panahi’s fourth film since being banned from filmmaking is a study of the truth of cinema in an age of lies. A suicide video leads to the director and a popular actor travelling to find the individual who committed suicide, but was the suicide real? The actors playing themselves adds a further level of reality which has become Panahi’s style in recent years.
3 Faces opens in Toronto on Saturday, March 9. The film opens in Ottawa on Friday, March 15.
#2. 24 Frames
Abbas Kiarostami’s later output involved a lot of slow cinema, so it is only fitting that his final film would consist of 24 singular takes, taking photographs and returning them to life. This film is practically an act of meditation and a great gift from the late, great filmmaker.
In this sure-to-be-controversial study of the Palestinian crisis, Bassam Jarbawi beautifully points out the absurdity of politics in a broken system, told through the story of a young man’s release from prison for a crime that was technically never committed.
Nick van Dinther
Honourable Mentions: Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Christopher Robin, Creed II, Green Book, Hereditary
#5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
I actually had little interest in this film, and only saw it because of the overwhelming acclaim it received. Not only is the praise deserved, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a visually stunning piece of work that brings a whole new type of animated film to the screen – it’s a game changer!
#4. Bohemian Rhapsody
Regardless of people’s thoughts about the lack of edginess of the film, it’s worth it just to see Rami Malek’s transformation. I was entertained throughout Bohemian Rhapsody, and the closing scene is a cinematic spectacle.
#3. Avengers: Infinity War
After 18 preceding films, the pressure to live up to the built-up hype was enormous, and yet Marvel did just that. As a franchise that’s historically struggled with its villains, this movie gave the audience an all-time great with Josh Broil’s Thanos. The character alone left fans craving the sequel.
I was lucky enough to see this at TIFF, and it was my favourite release of the festival. Jason Sudeikis and Lee Pace are excellent, and create a great mix of laughs and drama. I can’t wait for its wide release so I can watch it again.
#1. A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place is fantastic. It’s a great story that’s expertly executed – it draws us in and never lets go. I’m still surprised about its lack of award recognition this year.
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