Each week the Before The Cyborgs staff comes together to answer one question relating to the current events of that particular week. This week’s question is a simple one: A third of the way through 2018. What has been your favorite movie of this year (so far)?
Between Early Man and Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, the first quarter of 2018 has been unusually strong for stop-motion animated films. Anderson as a director is known for his meticulously crafted settings and his attention to detail, nowhere are those filmmaking talents more necessary than in stop-motion animation. While it might not be nearly as great as his previous stop-motion effort, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs is still another charming addition to Anderson’s filmography. Populated with a lovable assortment of eccentric pups, the film is filled to the brim with just as much quick wit and humor that you could expect to find in an Anderson film. The film has received its fair share of criticism regarding its usage of Japanese culture, and whether the film deserves it or not, it doesn’t detract from the lighthearted, enjoyable adventure that it takes us on.
In looking at the history of films, it’s obvious that very few titles actually have the distinction of being able to please everyone; and while truly pleasing 100% of an audience can’t ever be done, Paddington 2 is likely one of the closest to do so. Putting aside its perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes, this is an absolute treat of a movie. Warmhearted, funny, emotional, mischievous, fantastic and whimsical, these traits of the movie also belong most importantly to the title hero Paddington Bear.
There are thrills and laughs for adults of all ages and great lessons for children too, and this film further reminds us of the power of kindness. Paddington 2 (and its predecessor) are fine examples of an art form tailored to satisfy as many as possible and through its loveable namesake delivers a wonderful movie-going experience.
I’ve spent most of this year catching up with last year’s late releases so I haven’t seen too many films from this year yet, nor any that I’ve been completely enamored by. My pick would likely be the flawed but visually inventive and conceptually challenging Annihilation, the sci-fi follow up to Alex Garland’s feature debut Ex Machina. Much of the media attention on this side of the pond (the UK) was swamped by the film’s controversial distribution – straight to Netflix with no theatrical release because Paramount believed the movie to be “too intellectual’ for general audiences, perhaps incited by the backlash around Darren Aronofsky’s mother! which was an unsuccessful endeavor for the studio. With a predominantly all-female cast of Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez, Annihilation is a functional sci-fi thriller with some questionable writing and character development, but stands out through its mesmerising, surrealist imagery, diverse and talented cast, and an experimental, jaw-dropping final act that is astoundingly bold and risky for a film of Annihilation’s budget. A wordless sequence of wonder and terror towards the end of the film will undoubtedly one of the most memorable cinematic moments of the year.
Comparisons to Scorsese’s Taxi Driver as well as the standard of excellence established by Lynn Ramsey in her career has created lofty expectations for her latest feature You Were Never Really Here.Contrasting Annihilation which as Ethan mentioned sees its finest moment in its last 30 minutes, You Were Never Really Here peaks in its opening 30 minutes. However, even an average Ramsey film is a great film by anyone else’s standard and thus is my pick for favorite movie of the year (thus far).
A spectacle in its unflinching visceral display of violence and turmoil, Ramsey’s acumen for composition and visual storytelling is evident from the outset (that title card is stunning). Where other films have become overly reliant on clunky exposition, Ramsey has faith in the sound of silence. Utilizing the effectiveness of Joaquin Phoenix’s solemn face and arguably a career-best score from Jonny Greenwood to drive home the film’s emotional beats.Narratively speaking it is perhaps not as comprehensive nor as original as one would like but there are only a few filmmakers working today capable of producing a film like You Were Never Really Here. Lynne Ramsey is one of them.