Cape Town - It’s been a fantastic year at the box office: A lot of records were broken and history was made.
We enlisted our reviewers to choose their top three movies of the year.
The list is made up of movies released in South Africa in 2018 that our film critics watched. The selection is based purely on personal choice and is not influenced by awards received or box office numbers achieved. These are just the movies that we loved to watch.
HERE ARE OUR REVIEWER’S TOP 3 MOVIES OF THE YEAR:
Aside from a few fallow periods between seasons, it was a fairly strong year at the cinema. Even so, nothing released over the past twelve months beats Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, which was released towards the end of last year overseas but only reached our shores towards the end of February of this year. Martin McDonagh already proved himself to be a master at mixing caustic but hilariously funny dialogue with real pathos in his under-seen 2008 masterpiece, In Bruges, and Three Billboards is no less powerful, no less moving and no less blackly comic. Bolstered by exceptional performances by Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, this stunning tale of revenge and redemption is about as good as auteur cinema gets and, all these months later, still stands as the must-see film of 2018.
Unlike Martin Mcdonagh, I’ve never been a huge fan of Spike Lee, whose literal black and white view of racial politics makes him and his films a bit tough to take at times. His latest film, BlacKkKlansman, may be as racially charged as ever but Lee matches a more subtle and interesting take on the subject with wit, smarts and plenty of bravado to tell the astonishing true story of a pair of cops, one black and one Jewish, who infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan so successfully that they reach the upper echelons of the Klan and even win the trust of Grand Wizard David Duke. The film is as polemical as any other Spike Lee “joint” but he has seldom been this entertaining, this funny or this resonant. Boasting fantastic turns from John David Washington and Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman is Lee’s best film in decades and is easily one of 2018’s best and most important movies.
The idea that Avengers: Infinity War isn’t the best superhero film of the year is shocking enough but that it was beat to the post, with just weeks to spare, by the studio that brought you Venom and the Emoji Movie seems like someone’s idea of a particularly weird joke. And yet, here we are. Into the Spider-Verse is the best superhero film in a year that included Black Panther, Infinity War and Deadpool 2; the best mainstream animated film in a year that included the Incredibles 2 and Isle of Dogs; and is the best crowd-pleaser in a year that included A Quiet Place and Mission Impossible: Fallout. It’s a work of art on every level with animation the likes of which you have never seen before. We’ve had a lot of superhero films over the past decade – a large number of which, incidentally, happen to feature Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s most famous creation – but Into the Spider-Verse is truly something special and sets a new standard for the superhero genre.
Say what you want about the Marvel franchise, but the dedication seen in their films from both the directors and the cast is an example of pure passion for their work, and Infinity War as a culmination of over a decade of that passion was truly a masterpiece - despite putting its fans through severe emotional trauma.
For the second time, a Christiaan Olwagen film made it onto my list of best movies of the year, and it always warms my cinephile heart when a local production is so good it can compete with the behemoths from Hollywood. His ability to weave a certain magic into ordinary life, while at the same time delivering powerful messages of acceptance of oneself, is magic in itself.
Now this horror-drama really came out of nowhere this year, making critics (myself included) swoon with its simple use of sound to convey both dread and a hard-hitting family saga of love and survival. It was one of the most intense cinematic experiences I've ever had, where a whole audience was too scared to even munch on popcorn. A Quiet Place proves yet again why horror has its place among the top acclaimed movies.
Whilst putting together my list of favourite films of 2018, I had a hard time trying to remember what I watched. One film kept popping up, but I continuously dismissed it – who’d want to put a Tom Cruise action flick as one of their favourites of the year? Well, me. I’m that guy. I’m not going to lie, I thoroughly enjoyed this adrenaline pumping action flick starring the hunky Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill’s marvellous moustache. I was transported into another world and for two-and-a-half hours forgot about life outside the cinema. It was a welcome escape from reality, and isn’t that what movies are all about?
This film about finding love and finding yourself makes it onto my list because of the importance of it. Simon’s story is the story of many gay teens and it finally openly got told on the big screen. The film is definitely not flawless. It has its mistakes. But it serves a greater purpose. It’s telling a story that very few films are willing to tell in mainstream cinema. For some this high school teen flick might be mundane, but for others it was the long-awaited recognition that their love stories also deserve to be told. Here’s to many more minorities getting the opportunity to be proudly represented on a global stage.
Call Me by Your Name, based on the novel with the same name by André Aciman, draws on all the senses to explore the reality that love is as painful as it is beautiful. It takes as much as it gives. This coming-of-age drama, directed by Luca Guadagnino, is a graceful love letter to experiencing your first true yearning to give yourself completely to someone else. It explores through delicate imagery the frailness of romance and the uncontrollable hunger of lust. I’m thankful for films like Call Me by Your Name for reminding us that love, despite its cutthroat demands, is worth us embracing it with total abandonment. Because, even if it’s just for a brief moment, we all deserve to love and be loved.
When a movie makes bank at the box office it rarely makes it onto critics’ favourite films of the year lists. Blockbusters are usually reviled as beneath someone who loves cinema, but for me, Black Panther is the film of the year. With a powerful, talented cast and brilliant direction from Ryan Coogler, it’s the one movie that I hope changes superhero cinema forever. I also really want to see it clean up at the Oscars this year because it would be great to see lots more people of colour scoop up the big awards.
I am a big fan of risk-taking cinema, because there’s nothing better than a breath of fresh air and with a majority female cast (in a male dominated industry) Ocean’s 8 is exactly that. With stars like Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling and more this heist flick is funny, smart and fantastically led by women who know how to carry a film. The only wish I have for its legacy is that the people who make big studio films realise, as a recent study showed, that people want to see women in leading roles at the movies.
Love, drama, angst and comedy are all the characteristics that make a good rom-com and literary adaption, TATBILB, gave me exactly that. With the smouldering Lana Condor and Noah Centineo as the two leads this Netflix flick got the internet talking and made me want to go straight to the library and get the second book in the series because I needed more Lara Jean in my life. It did not disappointment and I cannot wait to stream the sequel because I loved the first one so much.
We waited 14 years to see the Incredible family kick butt on the big screen again and well, it was so worth the wait. More action, more witty jokes and a lot more super powers. It was really a joy to watch Incredibles 2 not only because I watched the first one and loved it, but also because director Brad Bird delivered such a colourful, eye-catching and entertaining production, and not to mention the storyline was an absolute blast, too! It’s hilarious, relatable to all ages, jam-packed with action and provides entertainment that will long be discussed in the future. Definitely my animation of the year.
Why, oh why did Jennifer Garner ever leave action movies? Just thinking back to watching Peppermint makes me question her decision to play the suburban parent in just about every other project she has taken on since her Alias and Elektra days. Nevertheless, in this action thriller Jen makes up for lost time while still playing the mom role. Given the fact that this movie is a massive package of ‘skop, skiet, en donder’, if director Pierre Morel’s (Taken, The Gunman) aim was to keep people on the edge of their seat, then he did his job. For a non-action lover, this is my action movie of the year.
I just loved Set It Up. As a newcomer to Netflix at the time of its release (June) the rom-com was the perfect light-hearted movie I needed to ease into the hours and hours of binge-worthy content on the internet TV platform. The flick was cast perfectly with Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell sharing a great onscreen connection and Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs feeding off each other’s personalities while still maintaining the strong traits each of their characters have. Sure it’s a semi-predictable love story but its funny and sweet and will make your heart feel all warm and fuzzy. Set It Up is my rom-com of the year.
I watched this movie twice in the cinema, so it should come as no surprise that it is at the top of my list. The true life story of Ellen Pakkies stayed with me long after the credits rolled. 14 years later the story of Ellen is more relevant than ever, drug addiction and what it does to families - particularly low income families - is a scourge in our society. It was not an easy film to watch but it is an important story that needed to be told. Jill Levenberg and Jarrid Geduld’s award-winning performances were simply magnificent, they brought humanity to the news headlines. A top notch local production with a talented cast and crew, Ellen Pakkies is one of the must-see movies of the year.
This was one of the most anticipated movies of the year. It was the first movie to have a predominately Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club in 1993. This movie is a big deal so, imagine my disappointment when I discovered that it was only screening in 3 cinemas in the whole of Cape Town. How can movies like this do well if cinemas don’t get on board? But man did this movie rock the local box office, despite that. Crazy Rich Asians is a cinematic delight - it ticks all the right boxes – a great storyline, charming leads and the perfect amount of both comedy and heart. And, dare I say it one of the best movie weddings scenes ever! After seeing this movie I walked out of the cinema in a bubble of happiness, and isn’t that what movies are supposed to do?
I don’t think any favourite movie list this year would be complete without A Star is Born. This film had a lot of stop-and-go’s but it was definitely worth the wait. I know Lady Gaga was amazing and everyone can’t stop talking about her performance but the standout for me was Bradley Cooper. His nuanced performance of a man struggling with his inner demons has made him one of my favourite actors. And not to mention he learnt to play both the piano and the guitar. He put his heart and soul into the role and I felt that. As far as musical soundtracks go this one hits all the right notes, in fact it is the most played on my Spotify account. As Ilan said in his review, “It’s simply a marvellous, uplifting and heart-breaking piece of work.”
(Photos: Disney, Warner Bros, AP)