There seems to be a generally positive consensus that 2017 was a great year for film. I find it hard to disagree with the majority, personally, I rarely left the cinema in disappointment. Looking forward into 2018 and it looks to be another great year for film, with the tumultuous state of the industry following some pretty horrific revelations last year. As the year develops hopefully we will see the much-needed change in the industry, and along with it some stellar films. So before we look forward to film in 2018, allow me a brief moment of reflection to indulge myself with a list of my favorite films of last year.
- Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017) – Believe the hype, Timothee Chalamet is phenomenal and Michael Stuhlbarg is a strong contender for the ‘Greatest film Dad’. The ending speech, with a lingering shot on Chalamet accompanied by Sufjan Stevens dulcet tones, were two of the most beautiful cinematic moments of the year.
2. Ladybird (Greta Gerwig, 2018) – I am not sure how, as a nearly 30-year old man, I related to Ladybird, but through a flawless Saoirse Ronan performance, Gerwig has made a phenomenal debut with a very personal coming of age story.
3. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2016) – One of the most important films of the year, and easily the best cinema experience. One hell of an impressive debut.
4. The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017) – Dafoe might walk away with one, but it is a travesty that Brooklynn Prince didn’t get a nomination. Hopefully, her parents buy her a toy or something.
5. Mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017) – Barring the crowd surfing baby, this is a masterpiece, and credit must go to J-Law and the studio for taking the risk. Without them, the multiplex would be a domain strictly for superheroes.
6. Good Time (Benny & Josh Safdie, 2017) – Goodbye Edward Cullen, hello Connie Nikas. The Safdie’s, along with Baker, are flying the flag for the underbelly of America.
7. A Ghost Story (David Lowery, 2017) – One third Ming-Liang Tsai, another third ambiguous horror and the final third an arthouse version of Ghost.
8. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-Wook, 2016) – The Korean master blends eroticism with multiple twists and turns to create yet another gem.
9. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017) – Amidst all of its criticism’s we seem to forget how daunting a task this sequel was, Denis Villeneuve, can be extremely proud of an excellent sequel. You will be hard fought to beat Deakins Cinematography in 2017, perhaps he will finally walk away with an Oscar.
10. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonaugh, 2018) – He might just one of the best writers out there. His creation of anti-heroes drawn out of the darkness of humanity has led to many a debate, but he always leaves it in the eye of the beholder.
There was also Dunkirk, Logan, The Love Witch, Logan Lucky, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Okja, The Disaster Artist, Jim and Andy, Icarus, The Kingdom of Us, Last Flag Flying, Personal Shopper and Raw, just to name a few that I loved but missed the list. Unfortunately, one big release I have yet to see will miss out on the gravitas (serious gravitas) that comes with being on the list; The Shape of Water is one I feel could, given the hype, break into the top 10.
But the past is the past, and there are many exciting projects ahead of us in 2018. What effect will the current political climate have on the industry? Will the #Metoo movement have the positive effect it deserves? And will Kathleen Kennedy’s trigger-happy hiring/firing policy work in Star Wars favor? I wanted to take a look ahead month by month to see what we should be looking out for, what is likely to top the box office and perhaps we can finally confirm that Chris Pratt is not the second coming of Harrison Ford. Here it goes for January to March.
January is a strange month for film. In the UK it is often where we finally get our chance to see some of the (technically) previous years best. For example, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Post will be released this month. In the US, however, this is affectionally known as the ‘dumping ground’. A month where due to buzz around the potential Oscar nominees, the studios drop releases to take a small hit critically at the cost of the box office. Vying for this title in 2018 is the Gerard Butler vehicle; Den of Thieves. Who remembers when there was a genuine buzz around Butler?
It’s competitor is 12 Strong starring Chris Hemsworth who off the back of his best performance yet in Thor: Ragnarok decided a horse riding soldier in post 9/11 Afghanistan was a smart move. The trailer is by the numbers stuff for an American war film. Establish our lead and his squad as family men. Check. Hardened and grizzled American actor (William Fichtner) as their superior. Check. Slowed down helicopter sound effect. Check. And what in the hell is ‘based on a declassified true story’ meant to mean? The only major surprise is that Michael Shannon is in this, surely he could just glare America to victory?
However, perhaps I am being too critical, maybe one of them could be this year’s Taken? But in all likelihood neither of them will because you’ll have to pry it out of Neeson’s cold dead hands in his latest film, The Commuter. Without going into the plot, let me just quote a few of the numerous taglines. ‘Lives are on the line‘, nice I see what they did there. ‘Every passenger is a piece of the puzzle‘, wait, I thought we’d already seen this one? And finally, ‘They’re watching every move you make‘ after he fought a pack of wolves, we have been too. We’ve come a long way since Neeson turned down the role of Lincoln in 2010, how different it could have been. Supposedly The Commuter is one of his best action roles, but it may be one of his last if he follows through on his ‘geriatric hero’ retirement. But don’t worry too much, we still have him as a vengeful snowplow driver to come later this year.
What January also brings is Sundance, the first major film festival of the year and one which as I have detailed here, is sure to start the hype machine up for a slew of titles. Following last years festival where Netflix acquired numerous large titles such as I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore and Mudbound, Sundance has become a key strategic ground for the streaming giant along with its hungry rival; Amazon. Many titles have already been acquired by both of them, but it is likely that they will leave Sundance with many more. We’re currently in the midst of the festival and it has become clear what the films to watch out for will be this year, even the general consensus is that the festival was underwhelming at best.
- Hereditary, Ari Aster – Slashfilm have already put a flag in the sand that this Toni Colette starring horror film could be ‘An early contender for the best horror film of 2018‘ and Variety have declared that Colette deserves an Oscar. The plot follows The Graham family as they begin to unravel following the death of their reclusive grandmother. As an overwhelming terror takes over their household, their peaceful existence is ripped apart, forcing their mother to explore a darker realm in order to escape the unfortunate fate they’ve inherited. A24 are the distributors here, currently, there is no release date, but expect them to take this wide.
- Blindspotting, Carlos López Estrada – Daveed Diggs is going to be a star. That much is true following the premiere of Blindspotting. The Hamilton star has been receiving all the plaudits from the film that he also co-wrote with his co-star Rafael Casal. They play down on their luck friends who work for a moving company in Oakland, California, which brings them into contact with the 1% nouveau rich of Cali. Slowly tensions start to rise between the two that threatens to take the buddy out of buddy movie. Following a bidding war, Lionsgate won the rights to the film and seeing that Variety stated that it is ‘the most exciting cinematic take on contemporary race relations since ‘Do the Right Thing’, I expect that they will push this for a wide release with Diggs at the forefront.
- The Tale, Jennifer Fox – After the curtain dropped on the sexual misconduct that is so prevalent in the film industry and beyond, it was only a matter of time before a film would be released which would be representative of the current state of affairs. The Tale is that film. Laura Dern stars as a woman who is forced to re-examine here memory of her first sexual relationship and the how she has suppressed them to survive. It is an extremely personal film for writer-director Jennifer Fox who aged 13 was abused by her running coach. Dern plays Fox and the great Ellen Burstyn plays her mother, their performances have been lavished with praise, but it is the message of the film with has reverberated beyond Sundance. HBO Films have bought the rights to the film for seven figures to release on its platform. But most importantly they will break the fourth wall of cinema by supporting the film with community outreach for abuse victims. This will be an extremely important film in 2018.
Outside of Sundance and cinema, we will also get a highly dramatized look at the murder of Gianni Versace in the American Crime Story follow up to The People vs. OJ Simpson. I was sold as soon as I saw that Penelope Cruz had signed on as Donatella Versace, but then they gave us this and all of a sudden I had bought shares in it. And finally, the Golden Globes. In fact, the only thing of note I want to say about the Globes (they’re becoming less and less relevant) is this. God bless Natalie Portman.
First, there was Abar, otherwise known as the first Black Superman, a 1977 Blaxploitation film that, as far as my research tells me, is the first Black superhero movie. Then came Blade, the first (ignoring Howard the Duck) Marvel film to be released all the way back in 1998. It was a huge success, but how that trilogy ended left a sour taste in the mouth. Taking away screen time from our Black hero to give more to two white up and coming actors (Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds) was a move that lacked any kind of tact. Although it has been documented that Snipes did not articulate himself in the right way, his overall sentiment might have been right. But the year is now 2018, and thankfully in some ways, we have made significant progress (at least in cinema).
After a small but impressive role in Captain America: Civil War, Chadwick Boseman will get to take the center stage in his own solo outing; Black Panther. The superb cast is almost solely made up of black actors, from legends such as Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker to stars in the making Michael B Jordan and Daniel Kaluuya, oh and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o. From the look of the latest and most impressive trailer, we’re in for a treat as King T’Challa protects his home Wakanda from the exiled ‘Killmonger’ played by Jordan. Ticket sales have been nothing short of extraordinary. Perhaps it won’t just break records, it might just go and break the system as well.
February also brings us the end of the critically maligned Fifty Shades trilogy, with Fifty Shades Freed finally freeing Dakota Johnson of the franchise’ furry handcuffs. And as a result, she might just have her best performance this year as the lead in Luca Guadagnino’s take on the Argento classic; Suspiria. Off the back of the wonderful Call Me By Your Name, this is definitely one to pique my interest. Another director looking to follow up brilliance is Andrey Zvyagintsev. The Russian director will finally get to show the world Loveless, a film which left Cannes with the Jury prize, best film at the London Film Festival and just got a nomination for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars. The plot concerns separated parents who must come together as their only young child becomes a missing person. I expect this to be a great follow up to the beautifully filmed Leviathan. We will also have Yeon Sang-hom’s follow up to the brilliant zombie film Train to Busan. Psychokinesis looks to be another high-concept film from the talented South Korean director.
February will also see two extremely intriguing sci-fi films released, and by coincidence, on the same day; February 23rd. Duncan Jones will finally, after nearly 15 years, show us his passion project Mute. Alexander Skarsgård will play the protagonist, a mute bartender in a neo-noir Berlin, as he tries to track down his missing lover with the help of two American surgeons. Released on Netflix, this has been declared as a companion piece to his brilliant debut Moon and with Clint Mansell doing the score, this could be more than worth the wait.
Alex Garland will also follow up his brilliant debut Ex Machina with an adaptation of the sci-fi novel Annihilation. Starring Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac, the film revolves around an area of the States that has become uninhabitable, taken back by nature. Known as Area X, many teams have been sent in to investigate including Isaac playing Portman’s husband. When he returns unexpectedly with an illness, Portman’s character, a biologist volunteers to enter Area X. It sounds decidedly Sci-fi, and with Portman’s involvement, I am sold, even if there have been numerous reports of tension behind the scenes.
After last years infamous fuck up of a ceremony, you would think that this year the Oscars would be a nice calm and harmonious affair. But then the curtain came down on the prevalent sexual assault within the industry and with it came a much-needed assessment of women’s role in the industry (Give this a read). It seems that the wearing of black will continue on from the Golden Globes, and I expect we will see more than our share of rousing and emotional speeches. Just try playing music to force off Frances McDormand. So without going into too much detail, here I go with some predictions in the major categories. Italics is who I believe will win it, and bold is who I believe deserves the golden statue.
Best Picture: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Ladybird)
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro (Jordan Peele)
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (Timothee Chalamet)
Best Actress: Frances McDormand (Frances McDormand/Brooklynn Prince)
Best Supporting Actress: Alison Janney (Laurie Metcalf)
Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe (Willem Dafoe)
Best Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory (James Ivory)
Best Original Screenplay: Kumail Nanjiani/Emily Gordon (Jordan Peele)
The ultimate cinematic hipster, Wes Anderson returns with another stop-motion outing, the Japanese set Isle of Dogs, released March 23rd. A Whimsical dystopian tale, where all dogs have been quarantined on a remote island due to a ‘Canine Flu’. However, five local dogs, band together to help a young boy find his pet dog; Spots. The usual Anderson crew will help with voiceovers, but Bryan Cranston, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Greta Gerwig round out what might just be one of the most talented voiceovers casts of all time. I will put money on this being Anderson’s best film ever at the box office.
March will also bring us one of the biggest releases of the year, Ava DuVernay’s, A Wrinkle in Time. Based on the fantasy novel of the same name the film begins with the disappearance of Meg’s (Storm Reid) scientist father, which is the catalyst for three magical beings (Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, and Mindy Kaling) to send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him. Having turned down Black Panther, DuVernay clearly impressed Disney as she was then handed the keys to one of their biggest projects. In doing so she has become the first woman of color to direct a film with a $100m budget, which will hopefully open the door up for others. For me, the trailer, unfortunately, hits similar beats to the critically maligned Tomorrowland. But that didn’t have the power of Oprah behind it. THE POWER OF OPRAH COMPELS YOU.
Steven Soderbergh is not only one of the greatest living American filmmakers, underrated amongst the greats in my opinion, but he is also the cinematic equivalent of Jay Z. Having threatened to retire to explore painting more than once, he returned last year with Logan Lucky and this year has proven he can’t sit still without filming something with Unsane, a Claire Foy starring horror film shot entirely on an iPhone. Jay Pharoah previously described the film as a “reality-type horror — almost Get Out-ish, but different If the hype is to be believed”, I didn’t need convincing, but fair play.
Supposedly the next great TV show of the year will arrive in March: The Looming Tower. Starring Jeff Daniels and the brilliant Michael Stuhlbarg, it will trace the threat of Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden through the prism of a rivalry between the CIA and FBI. Based on a book by Lawerence Wright, superb documentarian Alex Gibney has signed on as a producer which can only be a good thing. Premiering on Hulu February 28th, in March we will know the barometer for addiction.
I’ll also put my neck out there and say that we can expect two of 2018’s biggest flops to arrive in March. In a reboot we never requested, Alicia Vilkander will play Tomb Raider, obviously jealous of how much her partner butchered the mysticism of Assasin’s Creed. And although it means well Pacific Rim: Uprising looks likely to struggle at the box office. The reason it exists is almost solely down to its performance in China with the domestic box office accounting for less than 25% of the box office. Del Toro’s involvement has also dwindled here, he’s not directing and does not have a writing credit. So as much as the cast and crew claim the whereabouts of his fingerprints, I’m not a believer.