Fade Out: The Best films of 2018

25. Ghost stories (Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, UK, 2017)

I know some didn't like this but I thought it came very close to understanding how horror and comedy derive from the same irrational place.

24. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, US, 2018)

The year's surprise entry, perhaps fittingly given we've lost both Steve Ditko and Stan Lee in recent months. Personally I'm not a fan of the 'Spider-Verse' comics but the story is told with visual panache.

23. Loveless [Nelyubov] (Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia, 2017)

This tale of a young boy's disappearance from Andrey Zvyagintsev (Leviathan, et al) is an acerbic allegory about the sorry state of Russia today.

22. Cold War (Pawel Pawilkowski, Poland/UK/France, 2018)

There's no doubting it looks absolutely gorgeous although I find Pawel Pawlikowski's perfectly executed formalism, as in previous work such as Ida, leaves me a little... well... cold.

21. Faces Places (Agnes Varda and JR, France, 2017)

Agnes Varda's unconventional road movie, travelling around rural France with mural artist JR. A bit gutted we didn't get a Jean-Luc Godard cameo though... the bastard.

20. Ex Libris: The New York Public Library (Frederick Wiseman, US, 2017)

Another veteran documentarian, Frederick Wiseman, with a sprawling, ruminative look at a venerated institution.

19. Pajaros de Verano (Birds of Passage) (Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, Colombia, 2018)

Ciro Guerra's follow-up to the sublime Embrace of the Serprent doesn't quite reach the same dizzy heights but is an absorbing account of the early days of the Colombian drug trade. Shades of The Godfather and Scarface but rendered in an altogether more oneiric sensibility.

18. A Ciambra (Jonas Carpignano, Italy, 2017)

Italian rites of passage story with just a touch of The Bicycle Thieves to it.

17. The Guilty (Gustav Möller, Denmark, 2018)

Clever little 'single location' Danish pic about an emergency call dispatcher. I saw the twist coming a mile off but it's still riveting.

16. 3 Days in Quiberon (Emily Atef, Germany/Austria/France, 2018)

I like biopics when they take an oblique approach rather than trying to cram in the whole life story. This account of the circumstances surrounding an infamous interview actress Romy Schneider gave to the German magazine Stern in 1981, a year before her death, doesn't pull any punches and yet, thanks in no small part to Marie Bäumer's powerful interpretation of Schneider, leaves its subject with some dignity restored.

15. The Old Man and the Gun (David Lowery, US, 2018)

David Lowery is a director with whom I often feel on the same wavelength. Last year's Ghost Story was a haunting experience, both literally and emotionally, and while this gentle crime caper doesn't have the same pretensions he perfectly captures the look and feel of the early 80's. Robert Redford is pretty good too.

14. In Fabric (Peter Strickland, UK, 2018)

Got an early look at Peter Strickland's latest at London Film Festival. Not up there with Berberian Sound Studio but dark, weird and very funny.

13. BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, US, 2018)

Spike Lee returns to form with a film that's as much a tribute to blaxploitation as a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction yarn.

12. Mirai (Mamoru Hosodo, Japan, 2018)

Beautifully realised anime by Mamoru Hosoda about a little boy adjusting to the arrival of his baby sister.

11. Apostasy (Daniel Kokotajlo, UK, 2017)

This tale of family discord among Jehovah's Witnesses is one of those bleak little realist stories that British cinema still does better than anywhere. Brilliantly pulls the rug from under the audience's feet halfway through.

10. Leave No Trace (Debra Granik, US, 2018)

Debra Granik's exploration of the relationship between a war veteran and his teenage daughter trying to find their place in the world. Great performances from Ben Foster and Tomasin McKenzie.

9. Love, Simon (Greg Berlanti, US, 2018)

Witty, thoughtful tale about a boy's coming out that restores some credibility to American teen comedies.

8. Summer 1993 (Carla Simón, France, 2017)

The final scene alone is enough to leap this one up several places. One can only marvel at the performances debutante director Carla Simón drew from the child actors

7. A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, US, 2018)

Sometimes, quite regularly in fact, I lose faith in American horror movies. Yet it's a genre of simple pleasures and all that's ever really needed is a dash of imagination. Glad this one did good business.

6. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico, 2018)

More Amarcord really, as Alfonso Cuarón's autobiographical latest owes a debt to Fellini. But there are some fabulous set pieces here, such as the student protests and climactic beach scene, not to mention a wealth of incidental details. My only reservation is, like Cold War, I wonder if digital cinematography doesn't make things a little too crisp and perfect.

5. Blindspotting (Carlos Lopez Estrada, US, 2018)

This Oakland-set comedy drama seems to have passed most people by, but I thought it was a terrific piece of social commentary with a commanding performance by Daveed Diggs.

4. Skate Kitchen (Crystal Moselle, US, 2018)

I have a real soft spot for New York indie filmmaking and this docudrama about sisterhood among girl skateboarders is an absolute gem.

3. First Reformed (Paul Schrader, US, 2017)

A back-to-form Paul Schrader channels Bergman's WINTER LIGHT before taking things a bit TAXI DRIVER. Great performance from Ethan Hawke.

2. Shoplifters (Hirokazu Koreeda, Japan, 2018)

In which Hirokazu Koreeda clarifies why he sees himself as closer to Ken Loach than Yasujiro Ozu. Yet the societal critique never detracts from his gentle style, reassuringly back in tune after the strange anomaly that was THE THIRD MURDER.

1. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, US, 2017)

Paul Thomas Anderson's dreamlike tale, a twisted romance and elegy to 1950's London haute couture, improves with repeat viewings like There Will Be Blood did. But as much as Anderson, or Day-Lewis's (supposed) swansong as Reynolds Woodcock, the film belongs to Jonny Greenwood's entrancing score.


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