10., ON HER SHOULDERS
Documentary featuring Nadia Murad Basee Taha the reluctant spokesperson for the Yazidis people whose village in Northern Iraq was wiped out by Isis. She was repeatedy raped as a captive up in the mountains actually saying that she was thankful it happened to her instead of the girls younger than her in the group. She tells her story around the world to anyone who will listen at rallies in community centres and on radio stations. She builds her strength up to tell of her ordeal drained, shaking and sobbing at the end of each interview. She addressed the United Nations on the plight of her people. When not advocating she is visiting refugee camps bringing toys for the children optimistic that her scattered people will one day be able to return home.
After the filming of the documentary ended Nadia went on to win the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for speaking out against wartime sexual violence bringing more attention to the non-Muslim Yazidi people of Northern Iraq.
9., PADDINGTON 2
A delightful feature that has lessons pointing to the strength of family, being true to your friends and that kindness can triumph over cruelness. Paddington is literally plucked out of a Peruvian jungle set of river rapids ending up in London England with the Brown family. The CGI effects are subtle and not overwhelming. Paddington and the Browns get into a bit of an adventure, our hero has plenty of his favourite marmalade sandwiches to keep his belly full and best of all you do not need to see the first film to follow and be entertained fully by this one.
Hiokazu Koreeda's Palme d'Or winner follows the exploits of a group of hustlers thrown together to form a family. Shibata ( Lily Franky) is the patriarch passing along his thieving ways to middle schooler Shota ( Kairi Jyo) who in turn introduces neglected 6 -year-old Juri (MijuSasaki) that the group take in to the ropes of stealing from stores. Koreeda's goal with the film is to bring attention to the section of Japanese society that is the working poor who don't earn a living wage forcing them into personal jeopardy to survive.
7., COLD WAR
Director Pawel Pawlikowski's follow up to Ida again finds the director working in black and white telling a story about Poles in the Iron Curtain years. Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Thomas Kot) are star-crossed lovers who just can't get their timing right. He flees to the west but she balks at the last minute and dosen't go. Their paths continue to cross but their love seems to be so intense that they can't be in each others presence for too long. The film features my favourite sequence of the year as Zula perched at a Paris bar hears Rock Around The Clock strike up compelling her to move to the dance floor while an oblivious Wiktor continues on with his conversation in the smoke-filled lounge.
6., IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
James Baldwin the author of the 1974 novel of the same name believed that if you were black and grew up in a black neighbourhood in any America city you grow up on Beale Street. The actual street is in Memphis declared to be the birthplace of Memphis Blues. Growing up on Beale Street is to face a real possibility of police and legal injustice that can lead to children losing their dads, parents losing their son's, wife's losing their husbands and young black men losing their lives. Barry Jenkins focuses is story on the central complete love between Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) they are optimistic despite their circumstance with Tish's mother Sharon (Regina King) fighting for justice in a rape case against the father of her future grandchild that occurred in a location that he could not possibly have been at.
5., THE FAVOURITE
Palace intrigue abound in this period piece absurd romp at the court of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). England is winning a war against France to the financial benefit of the cities but financed by the purse of the country landowners. Tory leader Harley (Nicholas Hoult) wants the war to end while Prime Minister Godolphin (James Smith) Whigs whose power base is in the cities wants it to continue. The unfirm Queen Anne has ceded her power to Lady Sara (Rachel Weisz) her childhood friend and most trusted advisor whose husband leads the English fores is hawkish on the war. Enter Abigail (Emma Stone) a fallen cousin of Lady Sarah who's father lost her in a bet. Abigail quickly wins favour at court, alinging herself with Harley becoming a real problem for Lady Sarah and Godolphin. The film features three superior female performaces that could see three female Oscar acting nominations from the same film since All About Eve.
4., BLACK PANTHER
Wakanda jumps off the screen fueled by vibranium in director Ryan Coogler's Black Panther. Wakanda has had the alien technology for generations but kept their society cloaked. New King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) wants to change that but must also face a challenger to the throne his long-lost first cousin who goes by the name of Eric Killmonger (Michael B Jordan). Letitia Wright cranks the comedy as T'Challa's little sister/ master of Wakanda's alien technology. The film explores the real world topic of isolation vs globalization that is centre stage fueled by recent actions in Britain and comments and actions of the American President.
Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) is able to take a ceremonial post of Vice President and use his deft political skills flanked by his inner circle Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), his lawyer David Addington (Don McManus) and his Chief of Staff Scooter Libby (Justin Kirk) take control of the Presidency for 8 years arguing that because of the VP's role in both the executive and the Legislative branches he does not answer to either. Cheney power was so consolidated that during 9-11 while Dubya was circling in the air he was giving shoot down orders and consulting with Addington and his wilfe Lynne (Amy Adams) on next steps. Director Adam McKay continues his celebrity cameos to handle exposition which is as effective here as in his last feature The Big Short. The dialogue is sarcastic the narrative full-on satire with another How Could We Have Let This Happen subject matter explored by the director.
2., PHANTOM THREAD
Daniel Day Lewis' retirement film that had its wide release at the beginning of the year and stayed in front of mind into the summer months. The inner working of London high fashion houses and the eccentricities of creative directors are explored to the fullest in the film. Director Paul Thomas Anderson immerses himself in all things mid 19th century from the cars, to the fabrics to the dependent relationships between men and women of the day. Reynolds Woodcock (Lewis) is a petulant child that lets his business partner his sister Cyril (Leslie Manville) do all of the mundane and dirty work of the Fashion house including telling Reynolds muse of the day it's time to leave when Reynolds tires of how she eats toast. He meets Alma (Vicky Kripis) while she waitresses in a country restaurant during a jaunt out of town. He has to dress her, making the willing Alma stand for hours as he pokes and prods. Jonny Greenwood's score rolls over the audience as the fabrics are crafted into works of art on screen. Not to forget the bonus of Reynolds obliterating the term "chic" with a clinical precision strike.
Simply put this is a 5-star film. Alfonso Cuaron semi-autobiographical story of an upper-middle -class family in early 70's Mexico City. The film is built around two women. The matriarch of the family Sofia (Marina de Tavira) and the indigenous housekeeper Celo (Yalitza Aparicio) who lives in an apartment behind the family home with the other family housekeeper. She is family but she is also not. Cuaron takes the audience on a monochromatic journey around the city and out to the country side, into poor villages and out to the sea. The viewer experiences the politics of the day, an insane Christmas and New Year's at a lavish estate in the forest with parents, children, dogs, and guns. Woven into the plot is failed relationship between Cleo and her one time boyfriend Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) and a failing one between Sofia and her husband Dr. Antonio (Fernando Grediaga) However the doctor does make the introduction of the year announcing his arrival rolling into the tight fit family garage in a full-sized gas guzzling Ford Galaxy.