My top 32 films of 2018

_640x480_104b513154b6396826936bb1fc0f5eade56e1c56a6f1cd6812dd0b302c6129c7In 2018, I watched 357 films; of the 219 I saw for the first time, here are my top 32 films of the year:

  1. A Fábrica de Nada/The Nothing Factory (Pedro Pinho 2017)
  2. Mandy (Panos Cosmatos 2018)
  3. Marlina Si Pembunuh Dalam Empat Babak/Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Mouly Surya 2017)
  4. La Pointe Courte (Agnès Varda 1955)
  5. Hrútar/Rams (Grímur Hákonarson 2015)
  6. Keanu (Peter Atencio 2016)

with the next 26 in alphabetical order
The Angels’ Share (Ken Loach 2012)
Arcadia (Paul Wright 2017)
L’aveu/The Confession (Costa-Gavras 1970)
Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako 2006)
Behind the Door (Irvin Willat 1919)
Black Panther (Ryan Coogler 2018)
Blackkklansman (Spike Lee 2018)
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (S Craig Zahler 2017)
Le couperet/The Ax (Costa-Gavras 2005)
Hausa/House (Nobuhiko Ôbayashi 1977)
Le jeune Karl Marx/The Young Karl Marx (Raoul Peck 2017)
Jupiter’s Moon (Kornél Mundruczó 2017)
The Mafu Cage (Karen Arthur 1978)
Nobi/Fires on the Plain (Tsukamoto Shinya 2014)
Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer 1955)
Populaire (Régis Roinsard 2012)
Le silence est d’or/Silence is Golden (René Clair 1947)
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro 2017)
Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi 2016)
Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley 2012)
Sweet Country (Warwick Thornton 2017)
Talk to Me (Kasi Lemmons 2007)
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh 2017)
Le Trou (Jacques Becker 1960)
Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes 2017)
You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay 2017)

For anyone interested, here is the complete list:
12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen 2013)
2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick 1968)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Alfred Werker 1939)
The Adventures of Tintin (Steven Spielberg 2011)
Ae Fond Kiss… (Ken Loach 2004)
A Fábrica de Nada/The Nothing Factory (Pedro Pinho 2017)
After Earth (M. Night Shyamalan 2013)
All the President’s Men (Alan J Pakula 1976)
American Mary (Jen and Sylvia Soska 2012)
American Sniper (Clint Eastwood 2015)
Amintiri din epoca de aur/Tales from the Golden Age (Hanno Höfer, Razvan Marculescu, Cristian Mungiu, Constantin Popescu and Ioana Uricaru 2009)
Amistad (Steven Spielberg 1997)
The Angels’ Share (Ken Loach 2012)
Animal Factory (Steve Buscemi 2000)
The Apartment (Billy Wilder 1960)
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola 1979)
Arcadia (Paul Wright 2017)
The Assignment aka Tomboy (Walter Hill 2016)
Atomic Blonde (David Leitch 2017)
Atomic Rulers of the World (Koreyoshi Akasaki, Teruo Ishii, Akira Mitsuwa 1965)
L’aveu/The Confession (Costa-Gavras 1970)
Away from Her (Sarah Polley 2006)

Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako 2006)
Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick 1975)
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Zack Snyder 2016)
Baywatch (Seth Gordon 2017)
Beau Travail (Claire Denis 1999)
Beauty and the Beast (Bill Condon 2017)
Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh 2013)
Behind the Door (Irvin Willat 1919)
Beloved (Jonathan Demme 1998)
Betrayed (Costa-Gavras 1988)
Beyond Skyline (Liam O’Donnell 2017)
Beyond the Black Rainbow (Panos Cosmatos 2010)
The BFG (Steven Spielberg 2016)
The Big Sick (Michael Showalter 2017)
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento 1970)
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento 1970)
Black Dynamite (Scott Sanders 2009)
Blackkklansman (Spike Lee 2018)
Blackkklansman (Spike Lee 2018)
Black Panther (Ryan Coogler 2018)
Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut (Ridley Scott 1991)
Body and Soul (Micheaux 1925)
The Body Snatcher (Robert Wise 1945)
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (S Craig Zahler 2017)
Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg 2015)
Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks 1938)
Bush Mama (Haile Gerima 1979)

Calamity Jane (David Butler 1953)
Le capital (Costa-Gavras 2012)
Il capitale umano/Human Capital (Paolo Virzí 2013)
Casablanca (Michael Curtiz 1942)
Chelovek s kino-apparatom/Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov 1929)
Classe tous risques (Claude Sautet 1960)
Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (Chuck Bail 1975)
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (Madeleine Olnek 2011)
Colossal (Nacho Vigalondon 2016)
Come on George! (Anthony Kimmins 1939)
Con Air (Simon West 1997)
A Corner in Wheat (DW Griffith 1909)
Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg 2012)
Le couperet/The Ax (Costa-Gavras 2005)
Cowboys & Aliens (Jon Favreau 2011)
Creed (Ryan Coogler 2015)
The Creeping Garden (Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp 2014)
Le Crime de Monsieur Lange (Jean Renoir 1936)
Cronos (Guillermo del Toro 1993)

A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg 2011)
A Dark Song (Liam Gavin 2016)
Daughters of Darkness (Harry Kümel 1971)
Daughters of Darkness (Harry Kümel 1971)
Daughters of the Dust (Dash 1991)
Dead Slow Ahead (Mauro Herce 2015)
Dead Slow Ahead (Mauro Herce 2015)
Derrida (Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman 2002)
Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa 1975)
Destry Rides Again (George Marshall 1939)
Deux jours, une nuit/Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne 2014)
Dinoshark (Kevin O’Neill 2010)
Doctor Strange (Scott Derickson 2016)
Domino (Tony Scott 2005)
Don’t Breathe (Fede Alvarez 2016)
Dope (Rick Famuyiwa 2015)
Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee 1989)
Double Indemnity (Wilder 1944)
Dressed to Kill (Roy William Neill 1946)
Drive Angry (Patrick Lussier 2011)
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Mamoulian 1931)
The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland 2015)
Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan 2017)
Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam (Çetin Inanç 1982)

Eden à l’Ouest/Eden is West (Costa-Gavras 2009)
Efter brylluppet/After the Wedding (Susanne Bier 2006)
Elena (Andrey Zvyagintsev 2011)
The Emperor Jones (Murphy 1933)
Enter the Dragon (Robert Clouse 1973)
Exit (Peter Lindmark 2006)

Fae yeung nin wa/In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai 2000)
Fae yeung nin wa/In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai 2000)
Die Fälscher/The Counterfeiters (Stefan Ruzowitzky 2007)
Family Life (Ken Loach 1971)
Fast & Furious (Justin Lin 2009)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam 1998)
The First Purge (Gerard McMurray 2018)
The Fits (Anna Rose Holmer 2015)
Flash Gordon (Mike Hodges 1980)
Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund 2014)
For Colored Girls (Tyler Perry 2010)
Friday Foster (Arthur Marks 1975)

Gamer (Neveldine/Taylor 2009)
The General (Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton 1926)
Get Carter (Mike Hodges 1971)
Ghost in the Shell (Rupert Sanders 2017)
Ghost Stories (Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman 2018)
The Girl Can’t Help It (Frank Tashlin 1956)
The Girl with All the Gifts (Colm McCarthy 2016)
Gloria (Sebastián Lelio 2013)
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola 1972)
The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola 1974)
Godzilla (Gareth Edwards 2014)
The Gold Rush (Charles Chaplin 1925)
Going in Style (Zach Braff 2017)
Gojira (Honda 1954)
Grand Hotel (Edmund Goulding 1932)
The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin 1940)
The Great Train Robbery (Edwin S. Porter 1903)
The Guard (John Michael McDonagh 2011)

Halloween (Carpenter 1978)
Hands Across the Table (Mitchell Leisen 1935)
Hard Times (Walter Hill 1975)
Hausa/House (Nobuhiko Ôbayashi 1977)
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (Eleanor Coppola, Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper 1991)
Hellboy (Guillermo del Toro 2004)
Hell is a City (Val Guest 1960)
Hereditary (Ari Aster 2018)
Hidden Figures (Thedore Melfi 2016)
His Wooden Wedding (Leo McCarey 1925)
His Wooden Wedding (Leo McCarey 1925)
Hostiles (Scott Cooper 2017)
The House of Fear (Roy William Neill 1945)
House on Bare Mountain (Lee Frost 1962)
Huo yuanjia/Fearless (Ronny Yu 2006)
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi 2016)
Hrútar/Rams (Grímur Hákonarson 2015)

I Am Legend (Francis Lawrence 2007)
I Am Not a Witch (Rungano Nyoni 2017)
In Bruges (Martin McDonagh 2008)
Independence Day: Resurgence (Roland Emmerich 2016)
The Iron Giant (Brad Bird 1999)
I See Ice (Anthony Kimmins 1938)
It (Andy Muschietti 2017)
It Comes at Night (Trey Edward Shults 2017)
It’s in the Air (Anthony Kimmins 1938)
I Walked with a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur 1943)

Jane Got a Gun (Gavin O’Connor 2015)
Le jeune Karl Marx/The Young Karl Marx (Raoul Peck 2017)
Jägarna 2/False Trail (Kjell Sundvall 2011)
Jigokumon/Gate of Hell (Teinosuke Kinugasa 1953)
Jimmy’s Hall (Ken Loach 2014)
John Wick: Chapter 2 (Chad Stahelski 2017)
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Jake Kasdan 2017)
Jupiter’s Moon (Kornél Mundruczó 2017)
Just Another Girl on the IRT (Leslie Harries 1992)
Justice League (Zack Snyder 2017)

Katalin Varga (Peter Strickland 2009)
Keanu (Peter Atencio 2016)
Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett 1978)
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Matthew Vaughn 2017)

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig 2017)
The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges 1941)
Låt den rätte komma in/Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson 2008)
Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean 1962)
The League of Gentlemen (Basil Dearden 1960)
The Lego Movie (Phil Lord and Chris Miller 2014)
Let George Do It! (Marcel Varnel 1940)
Leviafan/Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev 2014)
Limbo (John Sayles 1999)
Lincoln (Steven Spielberg 2012)
Logan (James Mangold 2017)
Logan Lucky (Steven Soderbergh 2017)
Long men kezhan/Dragon Inn (King Hu 1967)
Looking for Eric (Ken Loach 2009)
Losing Ground (Kathleen Collins 1982)
Louise-Michel (Benoît Délepine and Gustacve Keverne 2008)
Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman 2016)
Love Before Breakfast (Walter Lang 1936)

The Mafu Cage (Karen Arthur 1978)
The Magnificent Seven (Antoine Fuqua 2016)
Ma Loute/Slack Bay (Bruno Dumont 2016)
Mad City (Costa-Gavras 1997)
Mandingo (Richard Fleischer 1975)
Mandy (Panos Cosmatos 2018)
The Man in Grey (Leslie Arliss 1943)
Man of Steel (Zack Snyder 2013)
Man of the World (Richard Wallace and Edward Goodman 1931)
Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg 2014)
Marlina Si Pembunuh Dalam Empat Babak/Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Mouly Surya 2017)
Maurice (James Ivory 1988)
The Meg (Jon Turteltaub 2018)
Memento (Christopher Nolan 2000)
Miami Vice (Michael Mann 2006)
Michael Kohlhaas/Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas (Arnaud des Pallières 2013)
Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz 1945)
Missing (Costa-Gavras 1982)
The Missing Person (Noah Buschel 2009)
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Christopher McQuarrie 2015)
Mom and Dad (Brian Taylor 2017)
Monsters: Dark Continent (Tom Green 2014)
Monsters, Inc. (Pete Docter, David Silverman and Lee Unkrich 2001)
Monsters vs. Aliens (Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon 2009)
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins 2016)
A Moving Image (Shola Amoo 2016)
Mugen no jûnin/Blade of the Immortal (Takashi Miike 2017)
Una Mujer Fantástica/A Fantastic Woman (Sebastián Lelio 2017)
The Mummy (Alex Kurtzman 2017)
Munich (Steven Spielberg 2005)
Music Box (Costa-Gavras 1989)
My Darling Clementine (Ford 1946)
My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Liv Corfixen 2014)

National Treasure (Jon Turteltaub 2004)
Nelyubov/Loveless (Andrei Zvyagintsev 2017)
Nelyubov/Loveless (Andrei Zvyagintsev 2017)
New Town Utopia (Christopher Ian Smith 2017)
Night Catches Us (Tanya Hamilton 2010)
Night of the Comet (Thom Eberhardt 1984)
Nina (Cynthia Mort 2016)
Nobi/Fires on the Plain (Tsukamoto Shinya 2014)
Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford 2016)
Nosferatu the Vampyre (Herzog 1979)

Oblivion (Joseph Kosinski 2013)
One Week (Edward F Cline, Buster Keaton 1920)
Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer 1955)

Pacific Rim: Uprising (Steven S DeKnight 2018)
The Pearl of Death (Roy William Neill )
Peterloo (Mike Leigh 2018)
Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson 2017)
Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard 1965)
Pillow Talk (Michael Gordon 1959)
Pitch Perfect 3 (Trish Sie 2017)
Pitfall (André De Toth 1948)
La Pointe Courte (Agnès Varda 1955)
Populaire (Régis Roinsard 2012)
The Post (Steven Spielberg 2017)
Prevenge (Alice Lowe 2016)
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Angela Robinson 2017)
Proud Mary (Babak Najafi 2018)
The Purge (James DeMonaco 2013)
The Purge (James DeMonaco 2013)
The Purge: Anarchy (James DeMonaco 2014)
The Purge: Election Year (James DeMonaco 2016)
Pursuit to Algiers (Roy William Neill 1945)

A Quiet Place (Jon Krasinski 2018)

A Raisin in the Sun (Petrie 1961)
Raising Arizona (Joel and Ethan Coen 1987)
Rampage (Brad Peyton 2018)
Relatos salvajes/Wild Tales (Damián Szifron 2014)
Requiem for a Village (David Gladwell 1976)
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Paul W.S. Anderson 2016)
River’s Edge (Tim Hunter 1986)
Robots (Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha 2005)
Rosa Luxemburg (Margarethe von Trotta 1986)
Route Irish (Ken Loach 2010)

Sabita naifu/Rusty Knife (Toshio Masuda 1958)
The Salvation (Kristian Levring 2014)
Sankofa (Haile Gerima 1993)
Save the Green Planet! (Joon Hwan-Jang 2003)
The Scarlet Claw (Roy William Neill 1944)
The Sealed Room (DW Griffith 1909)
Serbuan maut/The Raid (Gareth Huw Evans 2011)
Shanty Tramp (José Prieto 1967)
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro 2017)
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro 2017)
Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (Roy William Neill 1942)
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (John Rawlins 1942)
Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (Roy William Neill 1943)
Sherlock Holmes in Washington (Roy William Neill 1943)
Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi 2016)
Shiraz: A Romance of India (Franz Osten 1928)
Le silence est d’or/Silence is Golden (René Clair 1947)
The Silence of the Lambs (Demme 1991)
Singin’ in the Rain (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen 1952)
Skyline (Colin and Greg Strause 2010)
Skyscraper (Rawson Marshall Thurber 2018)
Solo: A Stars Wars Story (Ron Howard 2018)
Sono otoko, kyôbô ni tsuki/Violent Cop (Takeshi Kitano 1989)
Spare a Copper (John Paddy Carstairs 1940)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (Jon Watts 2017)
The Spider Woman (Roy William Neill 1943)
The Spook Who Sat By the Door (Ivan Dixon 1973)
The Square (Ruben Östlund 2017)
Stand By Me (Rob Reiner 1986)
Star Trek Beyond (Justin Lin 2016)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (JJ Abrams 2015)
Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley 2012)
Straight Outta Compton (F Gary Gray 2015)
Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock 1951)
Suburbicon (George Clooney 2017)
Suffragette (Sarah Gavron 2015)
The Sugarland Express (Steven Spielberg 1974)
Super 8 (JJ Abrams 2011)
Suspicion (Alfred Hitchcock 1941)
Suspiria (Dario Argento 1977)
Suspiria (Dario Argento 1977)
Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino 2018)
Sweet Country (Warwick Thornton 2017)
Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song (Melvin Van Peebles 1971)

Talk to Me (Kasi Lemmons 2007)
Tarzan Escapes (Richard Thorpe 1936)
Tarzan the Ape Man (W.S. Van Dyke 1932)
The Terminal (Steven Spielberg 2004)
The Terminal Man (Mike Hodges 1974)
Terror By Night (Roy William Neill 1946)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper 1974)
They Live (John Carpenter 1988)
The Thing (John Carpenter 1982)
Thoroughbreds (Cory Finley 2017)
Those Awful Hats (DW Griffith 1909)
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh 2017)
T Men (Anthony Mann 1947)
Tokyo Sonata (Kiyoshi Kurosawa 2008)
To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (Beeban Kidron 1995)
Toy Story (John Lasseter 1995)
Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich 1999)
Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich 2010)
Le Trou (Jacques Becker 1960)
Turned Out Nice Again (Marcel Varnel 1941)

The Unchanging Sea (DW Griffith 1910)
Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer 2013)
Unleashed (Louis Leterrier 2005)

Vestern/Western (Valeska Grisebach 2017)
Vivacious Lady (George Stevens 1938)
The Visit: An Alien Encounter (Michael Madsen 2015)

War for the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves 2017)
War Horse (Steven Spielberg 2011)
War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg 2005)
The Watermelon Woman (Dunye 1996)
We’re Not Dressing (Norman Taurog 1934)
The Wicked Lady (Leslie Arliss 1945)
The Wicker Man (Hardy 1973)
Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders 1988)
Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves 1968)
The Woman in Green (Roy William Neill 1945)
The Women (George Cukor 1939)
Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes 2017)
Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins 2017)
The Wrong Man (Alfred Hitchcock 1956)
Wuxia/Dragon (Peter Ho-Sun Chan 2011)

X-Men: Apocalypse (Bryan Singer 2015)
xXx: Return of Xander Cage (DJ Caruso 2017)

Yip Man/Ip Man (Wilson Yip 2008)
Yip Man 2/Ip Man 2 (Wilson Yip 2010)
You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay 2017)

Z (Costa-Gavras 1969)
Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow 2012)
Zouzou (Marc Allégret 1934)
Zwartboek/Black Book (Paul Verhoeven 2006)

The Girl with All the Gifts (Colm McCarthy 2016)

girland so anyway it turns out that the best thing about The Girl with All the Gifts (2016) is not the absence of Sean Pertwee in a scenery-chewing Sean Pertwee role, because if there is one thing this movie needs it is Sean Pertwee in a scenery-chewing Sean Pertwee role, no, the best thing about this movie is one or other of these two slowly dawning realisations: either a) that Gemma Arterton is gradually transmuting into Mads Mikkelsen, who, by the way, was fabulous in his unexpected turns as Tamara Drewe and Gemma Bovery; or b) that what people actually mean when they say that The Girl with All the Gifts is unlike any other zombie movie is that The Girl with All the Gifts is, more than any other zombie movie, almost precisely identical to an underdeveloped, poorly plotted, British ‘not actually sf’ sf drama mini-series…

Atomic Blonde (David Leitch 2017)

Atomic-Blonde-2017-movie-posterand so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Atomic Blonde (2017) is not the weird disjuncture between the parts of the film that want to be John le Carré (but aren’t), the bits that want to be exciting (but aren’t) and the bits that want to be sleazy (but can’t even manage that) and the bit that wants to be really cool by using George Michael’s ‘Father Figure’ in an unexpected way (but comes a very distant second to Keanu (Atencio 2016)), no, the best thing about Atomic Blonde is the complex set of emotions when you suddenly realise that the bald bloke playing C is a rather dour Peter Wyngarde and that this must have been his last film, and then when you get to the credits and discover it was actually James Faulkner impersonating a rather dour Peter Wyngarde and you kind of feel sorry for him but relieved that at least Peter Wyngarde, dour or otherwise, was spared the indignity of appearing in this piece of shit…

American Sniper (Clint Eastwood 2014)

41kcZZlsC2Land so anyway it turns out that the best thing about American Sniper (2014), Clint Eastwood’s po-faced remake of Stolz der Nation, is how it perfectly captures – both formally and narratively – the precise experience of getting bogged down in a fundamentally mistaken venture with no clear exit strategy…

Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson 2017)

imagesand so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Phantom Thread (2017), Paul Thomas “No Daddy Issues Whatsoever” Anderson’s latest paean – albeit ambivalent – to men who are monstrous pricks is not the fabrics or the frocks or the fungi, nor is it the way in which the relationship between Edward Christian Reynolds and Bella Anastasia Alma deconstructs the myth of romantic love, revealing the way it works as ideological cover for the toxicity of heteronormativity under a patriarchal class system, no, the best thing about Fifty Shades Posher is the scene at the fancy-pants New Year’s party in which there is literally an elephant in the room – and no one talks about…

Logan Lucky (Steven Soderbergh 2017)

82d829ff1bb81c97c8a5092c0db9dddeand so anyway it turn out that the best thing about the oddly lifeless Logan Lucky (2017) is not the spectacle of Soderbergh blaming its poor box-office on the marketing campaign rather than the odd lifelessness of it all, nor is it the tremendously funny I swear gag of beating the Disney juggernaut to cutting off the arm of the latest Skywalker, nor is it the actually quite amusing (though I think it is meant to be touching) scene in which Channing Tatum’s little girl tricks an auditorium full of West Virginians to sing ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ out of key, no,  the best thing about Logan Lucky is Daniel Craig’s very first scene in which, with an eye on his post-Bond future and the mortality of older actors, he auditions for every scenery-chewing role that, after their deaths, would previously have been offered to Steven Berkoff, Anthony Hopkins or Malcolm McDowell…

All the President’s meh: a post about The Post (Spielberg 2017)

post_xxlgEarly in The Post, Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) finds herself in a boardroom full of men. Borrowing a trick from Jonathan Demme, Spielberg isolates and diminishes her. We have already seen her waking up in a bed covered in files and folders; we have seen her nervously rehearsing the key points she must make; we have seen her struggle with a massive document-stuffed briefcase containing all the papers for the meeting; we have seen her remain unreassured when Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) says that she will be the only person in the room who has read, let alone mastered, all the documentation, even though we believe him cos it is Tom Hanks saying it.

Kay is the owner of The Washington Post, a role she neither wants nor relishes. Her father passed the paper on to her husband, and she only inherited it when widowed. And as she lugs her briefcase into the boardroom and sits down at the table, sure enough, each of the dark-suited men surrounding her, confident in his privilege and at ease in this company, has maybe a single folder and a notepad already placed neatly by some minion before his seat. A man cracks wise about doing his homework.

When it is Kay’s turn to speak about the decision to sell stock in her paper for the first time, she loses her nerve, fumbles. When she does manage to give a precise number to the amount of journalists they will be able to employ if they sell shares at the lower price being considered, she is ignored. The men prefer to do their own arithmetic – loudly and less accurately.

This opening passage establishes the film’s attitude to the current conjuncture in US politics. Rushed into production less than a year ago, it was released in time for Oscar eligibility and with half an eye on this November’s mid-terms. Nixon clearly functions as a cipher for Trump (and less intentionally Weinstein). The decline of investigative journalism and of a (supposedly) free press in the Faux News era is appropriately bemoaned. But The Post really imagines itself as an extension of the 2017 Women’s March.[1]

While Kay gathers the strength to resist the men who run her businesses for her (in their own interest), and the gendered (and class) restraints on her behaviour, The Post introduces several other female characters.

While it is not entirely clear what Debbie Regan (Deirdre Lovejoy) does in the newsroom, Meg Greenfield (Carrie Coon) gets to be one of the journalists working on the leaked Pentagon Papers. (But when she is relaying to her hushed colleagues the Supreme Court decision that will keep them in business and out of jail, some random bloke bursts out of his office shouting the news, drowning her out.)

Ben Bradlee’s long-suffering – and/or quietly independent – wife Tony (Sarah Paulson) gets one major scene, in which she powerfully rebukes her husband. She puts his self-described bravery in perspective by explaining just how much courage Kay needs every day to navigate the man’s world into which she has been thrust.

A Latina intern (Coral Peña) helps Kay find her way to the Supreme Court hearing. And even though she works for the Attorney General, she makes it clear that – and why – she wants Kay and The Post to win. A point underlined when the intern’s boss promptly and unreasonably berates her for doing her job.

After the victory, as the male NYT editors address the crowd about their court victory, Kay quietly leads her team away. Through rows of women – young, not all white, not all middle class – who have turned their backs on the yaddering men to form a kind of honour guard. As with Kay’s conversations with her daughter, Lally (Alison Brie), and the intern, it is supposed to signal the passing on of a feminist torch from one generation to another, and to women of other classes and colours.

But in all its clunkiness, that scene on the steps captures the problem with the film. The women’s story is kept to one side (and feminism remains the self-congratulatory province of exceptional middle class white women)

For all that Kay is key, The Post is not the film about women it pretends or aspires to be. This newspaper drama with occasional thriller-like and women’s-picture elements is mostly about men doing men things. Women-centred scenes feel pasted in from another movie.[2] Occasionally, female characters pop up to ventriloquise mansplanations of the significance of it all for women.[3]

And this is, of course, entirely in tune with the film’s conservatism, so typical of liberal Hollywood. American institutions, we are once more told, are basically sound and will always, eventually, do the right thing. The same goes for patriarchy.

Also, it would be much better if rich individuals ran the media because they can surely be trusted to act in the interests of us all.[4]

Notes
[1] And as a corrective to All the President’s Men (Pakula 1976), from which women are almost entirely absent. Kay is mentioned when Attorney General John S Mitchell (John Randolph) yells at Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), ‘You tell your publisher … she’s gonna get her tit caught in a big wringer if that’s published’. A female journalist, Kay Eddy (Lindsay Crouse), is briefly included in the Watergate investigation but only because she used to date a guy who worked for CREEP, and Bernstein bullies, cajoles, manipulates and tricks an unnamed CREEP bookkeeper (Jane Alexander) into revealing information. And that’s pretty much it.

[2] Speaking of which. There is a painfully inept moment in which Ben and Tony Bradlee look with great poignancy at an old photograph of the Tom Hanks and Sarah Paulson larking around on a sofa with John and Jackie Kennedy. It was all I could do not to shout “Run, Forrest, run!” But at least since The Post is by Spielberg rather than Zemeckis we are spared the digital insertion of Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman into the background of the newspaper offices.

[3] This tendency has one reward: the dreadfully written ‘inspiring’ moment near the end when Kay mansplains journalism to Ben Bradlee.

[4] Sadly, the film broaches but has no idea what to think about the impact on news media of being shareholder-owned.

Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan 2017)

410yY+U925Land so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Christopher Nolan’s latest clunkily structured storm und drang indulgence, Dunroamin’ (2017), which is all about his bungalow in Weymouth, is the emotional rollercoaster of the last few minutes, which starts you thinking that leaving Europe might actually be worth it if we get to abandon Kenneth Branagh on the beaches, but then moments later it turns out that losing Tom Hardy to the Germans is the true cost of Brexit…

Three thoughts about Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (McDonagh 2017)

Three-Billboards-poster1. All those comparisons of McDonagh to Tarantino and the Coen brothers are as lazy as they are wrong.
Yes, all three/four directors combine violence, black comedy and relishable dialogue being relished, but they all make films that are tonally very distinct. Tarantino and the Coens are, in their different ways, entirely superficial. Which is not necessarily an insult – and especially not in the first half of the Coens’ filmography. However, Three Billboards is a story of sexual violence, in which a woman who is not supposed to have a voice finds a way to speak out, and everyone tells her to shut up. That we now need to keep hold of Three Billboards‘ relevance (however unintentional) to the #MeToo conjuncture, while also needing to hear the growing criticism of the film’s treatment of race, suggests something deeper than mere surface. (As does, more trivially, its relative absence of obvious intertextual allusions.)

Also, Tarantino and the Coen brothers write, albeit in different ways, one-dimensional characters. They might be dazzling and memorable – again, especially in the first half of the Coens’ filmography – but they are fixed and incapable of change. McDonagh’s characters might not be fully rounded, but they do at least possess multiple conflicting aspects. They are little bundles of wrongfooting dialectical energy – which is why the coughing-blood-in-the-face scene works so well – unless they are dentists or priests. Or black. Particularly not if they are black.

2. Complaints about narrative incoherence miss the point.
Awww, diddums. Baby want a bottle? McDonagh repeatedly sets up formulaic situations then refuses the easy pay-off. You’d probably have been delighted if there had been a police cover-up, or if Dixon (Sam Rockwell) had accidentally overheard the killer in the bar, or if he had shot himself, or his mum, or his mum and then himself. (I suspect this is why people keep misdescribing his story as one of redemption. They want it to be as tediously familiar as that.)

3. This is yet another American film about lynchings that cannot bring itself to be about lynchings.
Like Fritz Lang’s Fury (1936), Mervyn Le Roy’s They Won’t Forget (1937) and Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night (1967), among others. Despite all the violent crimes committed in the film, the only person to go to jail is black. On a petty charge trumped up by a racist cop. A racist cop who recently got away with torturing a black suspect in custody, and continues to get away with violent assaults. And Mildred (Frances McDormand) gets away with all manner of shit in relation to the rape-murder-incineration – but not quite lynching – of her daughter. Try doing that while being black. Hell, try quietly refusing to stand for the national anthem.

Meanwhile the three black characters are just there to signify moral dignity (Clarke Peters channeling The Wire‘s Lester Freamon as the new police chief) or to accessorise Mildred and thus deflect from, while also complicating, her racist language. (I’d like to think that when Denise (Amanda Warren) and Jerome (Darrell Britt-Gibson) inevitably hook up, it’s because they’re the only people in town who aren’t assholes. But that is not the reason.)