Director: Morgan Neville
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? follows the narrative of Fred Rogers – a man who worked to make the lives of kids just a little bit easier in an ever changing world. It’s hard to believe that there ever was someone as pure as Rogers living in the world, especially as we further our strides into darkness and cynicism, but this documentary shows that yes, he existed, and yes, he was as good a man as the stories suggest. If only we had another Fred Rogers in the world to bring some kind of stability for the kids out there.
Director: Sandi Tan
Shirkers is a bittersweet celebration of filmmaking and friendship. It’s a film about a lost film and the effects it had on those who made it. Sandi Tan’s misfortune in the nineties is our gain today as this is one of the most engaging and entertaining documentaries of 2018. The announcement of Sandi Tan as a filmmaker may have come 25 years too late, but at least she’s here now. More of this please.
38. The Insult
Director: Ziad Doueiri
The gradually escalating tension that drives the narrative of The Insult plays out like the butterfly effect in Lebanon. A brief moment of aggravation between two strangers tumbles into a court case that tears a city apart. What seems like a simple issue that could be resolved easily unfolds to explore the antagonism directed towards Palestinian refugees, all the while exploring the cause of that antagonism. A deep exploration into the way anger cements itself in society and rears its ugly head in disturbing ways.
37. The Shape of Water
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar winning ode to those who live on the fringes of society is a harmonious, fantastical and, like its subjects, kind of feels like an anomaly in this filmic landscape. Ever the romantic, del Toro’s direction is at peak del Toro – he embraces everything that makes him the filmmaker he is, all the while accentuating it with clear affection for the characters whose story he is telling. Obviously a personal film for del Toro, while also a clear invitation from del Toro to come and sit beside him on the couch to dance a little together.
36. Faces Places
Director: Agnes Varda
It’s easy to forget that documentaries aren’t always serious fare about exposing the unknown truth about a story. They can be joyous, smile inducing affairs that warm your heart in just the right way. Thanks to Agnes Varda and her sidekick JR, Faces Places is the cure to your woes, as the two travel the countryside taking photos of people and sticking their faces onto buildings. It’s deceptively simple stuff but by gosh you’ll be positively beaming come the end.
Director: Steve McQueen
Widows is a film positively dripping in subtext. Everything from the exploration of the way women are trapped in society by the hands of men, through to the corruption that permeates through politics – this is a film that takes no prisoners, moving like a ten hour miniseries condensed into a tight two and a half hours. Powerhouse performances from Elizabeth Debicki, Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Cynthia Ervio, make this more than just a heist flick.
Kogonada’s immaculately composed debut feature film is at once an ode to architecture, while at the same time an ode to the relationships that guide our lives in different ways. It’s rare to see a genuine, plutonic connection between two people like the one that John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson have in Columbus, and the narrative is all the better off for it. John Cho once again proves why he’s one of the most undervalued actors working today, and it’s roles like this that will hopefully one day guide him towards even greater things. Subtle filmmaking like this is not easy, but filmmakers like Kogonada make it look effortless, and actors like John Cho make it seem like a walk in the park.
33. Let the Corpses Tan
Directors: Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani
The term ‘style over substance’ is usually used in a derogatory manner, except when it comes to Let the Corpses Tan where the style is the substance. Co-directors Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani have created a meticulous, visually manic piece of art that exists to dazzle and stun. One sequence that involves explosions of gold contrasted with a gun being fired is seared into my mind forever. A lurid dive into hypercolour.
Director: Sari Braithwaite
Sari Braithwaite’s thesis in Australian film censorship is like cinematic crack for me. It’s everything I look for in cinema – an engaging exploration into the form of cinema, as well as a glimpse into film history, all the while shining a light on a little known part of Australian history. Informative and enraging, [CENSORED] is a film that shines a light on the male gaze and forces us to reconcile with what we’re seeing in a very uncomfortable manner.
31. Lady Bird
Director: Greta Gerwig
When I think of Lady Bird, I don’t immediately think of the superb central performance by Saorise Ronan, or the energetic direction by Greta Gerwig, or the empathetic mother figure that is Laurie Metcalf, but instead, I think of the editing by Nick Houy that works to amplify and accentuate all of these excellent elements into one exceptionally relatable film. Playing like the bratty older sibling to Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade, Lady Bird is an ode to growing up and expecting privilege to fall in your lap and being disappointed when it doesn’t.