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Black Ribbon’s Best Films of 2018: Part Two

Best Films of 2018: 10-1

With murderous extraterrestrials, art-house horror remakes and purple megalomaniacal super villains, 2018 has indeed been an eclectic mix of cinematic pleasures, and with independant, low-key and low budget releases once again toeing the line with the biggest of Hollywood blockbusters, the boldest and best from the past twelve months is finally put into the most definitive list you’ll see this year, at least on this website. With 20-11 of the best in film from the past twelve months already revealed, please take the time to admire the top ten cinematic releases of the year below according to Black Ribbon, a blog, which of course, is always the best place to come for movie reviews. On we go…

10. Mission:Impossible – Fallout

With the Mission: Impossible franchise one of those rare cases where each subsequent release seems to be better than its’ predecessor, aside from John Woo’s attempt perhaps, Fallout pushed the series to levels of excellence many couldn’t believe was possible, and with the stunts more extreme, the screenplay increasingly barmy and Henry Cavill doing that muscle pump thing during one of the most impressive set pieces of the year, the sixth installment in the ongoing Cruise-led franchise was the summer action movie to end all summer action movies. With an almost two and a half hour runtime, subsequent viewings failed to reduce the enjoyment factor of a film which more than anything bloated out loud, “hey, Mr. Bond. Think you can beat me?” Good luck.

9. BlackKklansman

Whilst renowned for his skill as a politically savvy and outspoken filmmaker, Spike Lee seemed to have disappeared into the ether of the unknown after the release of Inside Man back in 2006, but with BlackKklansman, the American undoubtedly returned to the top of his game. Based upon the memoir of the same name by Ron Stallworth, Lee’s scorchingly entertaining crime drama managed to embed the familiar outspoken cries of injustice within one of the best screenplays of the year, and with the likes of Adam Driver, Laura Harrier and John David Washington all deserving of rapturous plaudits in an acting sense, BlackKklansman proves that when given the opportunity to be at his best, Spike Lee continues to be a valuable asset to the world of cinema.

8. Avengers: Infinity War

With ten years of buildup behind it, Avengers: Infinity War undoubtedly had a planet’s worth of anticipation and hype surrounding its’ release, but thanks to the keen eye and skill of the Russo brothers, what a delirious and devastating blockbuster Infinity War ultimately was. Featuring a galaxy of well developed superheroes, a central genocidal and conflicted purple villain and one of the most iconic final acts in the history of comic based cinema, the biggest MCU movie so far was also the darkest and most complex, a cinematic landmark which featured a genuine case of expert fan service where although many were fully aware of the final endgame (massive pun intended), the ride in getting there was simply spectacular to behold. The question now remains whether the second half next year can continue the incredibly high bar set. We await anxiously…

7. You Were Never Really Here

Scottish director, Lynne Ramsay, doesn’t exactly pop films out as often as many would like, but each and every time she does, they seem to be absolute stone cold classics. Following on from the brutal desperation of We Need To Talk About Kevin, You Were Never Really Here, based on Jonathan Ames’ novel of the same name, was a movie of equal toughness and intrigue, a Taxi Driver esque vision of one man plagued with inner turmoil and regret and set all amidst the backdrop of a narrative seething with notions of revenge and redemption. With Joaquin Phoenix bringing home one of the most powerhouse leading performances of the year and featuring a riveting synthesiser-heavy musical score from Jonny Greenwood, Ramsay’s latest superbly blended style with substance for a movie which demanded eyes were not taken off it at any time.

6. Suspiria

Whilst it was inevitable that anyone who attempted to re-imagine and dissect the ancient texts of Dario Argento’s 1977 classic, Suspiria, were always going to be the subject of much heated discussion,  Luca Guadagnino’s complete turnover of one of horror cinema’s most iconic pictures was ironically in some ways much more intriguing and art-house in its’ creation than the Argento original. Whilst a fan of the original Suspiria, it was never a movie which managed to embrace me in ways which many horror fans claim it could do, yet with the 2018 version, Guadagnino’s vision was everything I hoped it would be, a dark, twisted, hallucinatory nightmare with some superb central performances and an absolutely brilliant debut score from Thom Yorke. Suspiria is undoubtedly not for everyone, but for me, it really, really worked.

5. Phantom Thread

Reuniting with Paul Thomas Anderson for his self-proclaimed final on-screen role, Daniel Day-Lewis picked one of the strangest and most richly intriguing characters in his entire career to potentially bow out on within Phantom Thread, a gloriously oddball period drama with a touch of Hitchcock, a major slice of Daphne du Maurier and featuring a duo of excellent supporting performances from Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville. Boasting the second Jonny Greenwood led score in the top ten alone, Anderson’s movie may not have been as splashy and exuberant as There Will Be Blood or have the dramatic epic sweep of Magnolia, but like any naturally talented filmmaker, Phantom Thread, was undoubtedly a movie in which Anderson made sure breathed a life of its’ own, resulting in one of the most expertly articulated movies of the decade, let alone the past year.

4. A Quiet Place

Just wait a second, that curly haired chap from The Office has managed to do what? That’s right you self-righteous cynics, John Krasinski beefed up, grew a beard and married Emily Blunt in order to make A Quiet Place, and whilst the latter of those statements might not exactly be one hundred percent true, the American’s third directorial feature was without question a real pleasant surprise, a fist-pumping, riotously entertaining creature feature with scares aplenty and the most impressive runtime I can remember in recent history. With Krasinski teaming up with life partner, Mary Poppins, for their first live action movie as a married couple, A Quiet Place managed to succeed in completing one of the hardest challenges in modern society by keeping its’ audience absolutely stone cold silent from beginning to end, and with a screenplay riddled with tension and genuine threat, it’s not really that hard to see why.

3. Hereditary

Coined by one critic as the “this generation’s The Exorcist“, Ari Aster’s directorial debut burst onto the cinema screen with a rather sizeable horror hype train behind it, and even with the most open of minds heading in, nobody in the world could have prepared me for one of the most terrifying and genuinely unnerving cinematic experiences I have ever had the pleasure to sit through thanks to the groundbreaking brilliance of Hereditary. With startling twists, a ominous and lingering sense of dread throughout and one of the most impressive horror genre lead performances in recent history from a radically different Toni Collette, Aster’s movie balanced genre literary homage with his own wicked, nightmarish touch which even on repeat viewings manages to successfully leave you hoping the days take a little while longer to end before disappearing into the darkness of night. The ultimate Christmas movie. Sort of.

2. Lady Bird

With Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig used her own personal experiences of growing up within the culturally radical confines of Sacramento, California as the basis for a simply perfect coming-of-age comedic drama featuring the rather brilliant Saoirse Ronan as the titular troubled angst-fuelled teen. With a short and sweet ninety minute runtime, Gerwig successfully managed to bring to life a depiction of a family in crisis which reeked with authenticity, and by blending in a rafter of themes and genuine moments of laugh out loud comedy and romance, Lady Bird is one of the most impressive John Hughes inspired portraits of youth in recent history which sets Gerwig off to her directorial career with a real corker.

1. A Star Is Born

For a film which acts the third remake of one of the most well worn, age-old tales in Hollywood, A Star is Born, the directorial debut of the annoyingly talented, Bradley Cooper, just happened to be a full blown cinematic masterpiece, an emotionally draining and expertly devised portrayal of one of the most convincing on-screen romances of the 21st century which deservedly is already being touted as the big hitter heading into next year’s Academy Awards. With Cooper and the completely unrecognisable Lady Gaga offering outstanding central performances, every element of A Star is Born was made with absolute perfection, ranging from the smokey, sweaty cinematography to the absolutely brilliant soundtrack, and with a heartbreaking conclusion which made even the sternest of audience members wipe a tear from their eye, Cooper’s opening account into his filmmaking career is undoubtedly Black Ribbon’s film of the year.

Next Time: Looking Forward to 2019 in Film

Film Review: Suspiria

“When You Dance The Dance Of Another, You Make Yourself In The Image Of Its Creator…”

Considered as one of the staple examples of horror cinema since its’ release in 1977, Dario Argento’s Suspiria continues to bewilder, bemuse and bewitch audiences both observing for the first time and avid returners still hooked in the enchanting spell cast by the Italian, with the iconic neon colour palette utilised for the film’s signature style and the extravagantly overblown score by Goblin the standout elements forty one years on. Whilst I can consider myself a stern admirer of the Argento classic, repeat viewings have failed to alter my opinion that even with all the outstanding elements within its’ genetic makeup, there also sits a few major ills, particularly in its’ longevity regarding certain special effects and awfully hammy acting, and whilst the thought of ever treading on such sacred ground for a remake, reboot or re-imagining seems fundamentally blasphemous, Suspiria circa 2018 is project which I have been gleefully looking forward to since the first whispers surfaced into the ears of cinema fans across the world. Directed by fellow Italian, Luca Guadagnino, (A Bigger Splash, Call Me By Your Name) who refers to his latest project as a homage to the Argento original rather than a fully blown remake, Suspiria sees Dakota Johnson (Bad Times as the El Royale) as Susie Bannion, a seemingly repressed yet mysterious American dancer who travels into the heart of a war torn West Berlin in order to be admitted into the world renowned Markos Dance Academy and fall under the wing of Tilda Swinton’s (Doctor Strange) lead choreographer, Madame Blanc.

Taking place in 1977, the release year and setting of the original, Guadagnino’s interpretation follows Argento’s original screenplay only to particular extents, using familiar characters and settings only in name as the Italian reunites with A Bigger Splash screenwriter, David Kajganich, for a script which is determined to offer something completely radical as it plunges headfirst into an array of themes and mythological exploration, setting the tone for a remake which doesn’t care how much you may love the original as it seeks to present a subversive, differing tale of events which sits at the opposite end of the cinematic spectrum in terms of its’ filmic genetic makeup. Of the more obvious changes, Guadagnino completely strips the neon embers of the Argento version for a more traditional, classic horror movie aesthetic, choosing to gloss the film in a grim, grainy colour palette and incorporating familiar B-movie genre tropes including quickfire camera zooms, schizophrenic editing and detailed facial shots similar to the likes of Don’t Look Now and more crucially, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. Whilst the original thrived on the central twist regarding the secretive coven of witches embedded within the heart of the school’s grounds, Kajganich’s script openly embraces such a fact from the outset, presenting the presence of evil as somewhat natural as we see Johnson’s Bannion quickly become the centre of a scheming plot to sacrifice her bewildering power to the unseen force of the school’s titular matriarchal figure, Helena Markos, and whilst the openness of such evil forces seemed a strange narrative choice heading into the movie, the decision does ultimately make absolute sense, saving an even bigger reveal for its’ own terrifying final act and understanding that most audiences heading in are original Suspiria fans anyway and therefore already well versed with the film’s central horror.

Synchronising deliciously with the purposeful intention to oppose pretty much everything within the original, Thom Yorke’s score beautifully and hauntingly glides hand in hand with the story, utilising a primarily piano led catalogue of tracks which matches the best work produced by Yorke both in a solo capacity and with Radiohead, with lead track, “Suspirium”, particularly impressive, encompassing the radical difference to the rather barmy but highly memorable Goblin score utilised in Argento’s film. At two and a half hours, the run-time does seem rather off-putting for some audiences who will undoubtedly find the slow burn nature of the pacing tortuously boring and irksome, but in a similar vein to Blade Runner 2049, the slower pace never felt much of an issue, building up dramatically to flashes of brutal, stylistic violence and a final act which when arrives feels particularly well earned. Among the many standout set pieces, the central dance sequences are incredibly well choreographed, with Guadagnino’s version emphasising the art of movement much more then the original ever did, and with added thematic notions regarding motherhood, the effect of war and a rather contemporary commentary on the abuse of power, Suspiria circa 2018 almost falls into the category of epic cinema, even when particular narrative arcs seem slightly tacked on to the extent that they either could have been shortened or removed completely. With Johnson and Swinton both absolutely superb in the central roles as they willingly buy into the vision created by a director they have both worked with in the past, Suspiria is a bold, beautiful and at times, genuinely unnerving work of art-house cinema which took the genetic code of a horror genre classic and redefined it from top to bottom.

Overall Score: 9/10