2018 has been a wild year for film, from wildly entertaining sequels (see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again and Paddington 2) to Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest in dry, yet tragic, humor to a horror film featuring tongue clicking, a nut allergy, and dead pigeons. It has been year for powerful women, both in front of and behind the camera, from the women of Annihilation to Crystal Moselle and her look into the world of women skateboarders. It has been a year to interrogate representations of masculinity, from Joe in You Were Never Really Here to Reverend Toller in First Reformed. It has been a year of terror, love, laughter, and exhaustion, both literally and cinematically. The films of 2018 truly captured the strange and turbulent atmosphere that has thrown us all into a state of near-constant anxiety.
The Much Ado team has relished in this anxiety, seeing many of 2018’s best, and worst films with the help of film festivals such as Cannes, NYFF, and BFI, MoviePass (RIP), and AMC Stubs A-List. After much deliberation, Letterboxd rankings, and last-minute trips to the cinema, we present Much Ado’s top 25 films of the year.
Achieving financial stability in the film journalism industry is a difficult feat for anybody. With regular gigs few and far between, ridiculous amounts of competition and low rates of pay, it’s pretty much an accepted fact that even the best of freelancers will struggle to make ends meet. As a community we joke about this frequently: we should have specialised in STEM subjects, we’re the disappointing creatives of the family, we’ll never pay off our student loans, and so on and so forth.
As a working class freelancer, financial insecurity is something that has plagued my attempts to crack the industry from the very beginning. Whilst I am incredibly privileged in some areas – my family are emotionally supportive, my workplace is flexible (something which is rare in working class environments) and I have a university education – the feeling that I am ridiculously out of my depth remains. The fact that I, as a relatively privileged (and white) working class person, still struggle, opens up a plethora of questions on the exclusive nature of our work. How can a person on a zero hours contract, living without the luxuries of university connections or familial support possibly engage in film criticism in the same way that a comfortable middle class person can?
Artist-turned-director Steve McQueen has a certain flair for the insightful. His previous works, Hunger (2008), Shame (2011) and 12 Years a Slave (2013) have focused upon singular characters, fixating on the intimate details of an individual’s life and creating a display which feels almost private. With Widows (2018), however, McQueen branches out from this intimate filmmaking, to establish a world which feels colossal in its realism, and painfully current in its observations of today’s racial, sexual and class politics.
The widows in question – Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) – represent women from across various different social circles and spectrums. Veronica is a teacher’s union delegate and lives a lavish lifestyle, but remains acutely aware of the racism entrenched within her surroundings, especially as a black woman married to a white man. Considerably worse off financially is Linda, who juggles a business and two young children. With lived knowledge of the prison system, Linda is naturally more cautious than her contemporaries, illuminating a class difference that is essential to McQueen’s depiction of an intersectional environment. Alice, on the other hand, works as a high-end escort and experiences the daily struggles of male egocentrism. After suffering abuse at the hands of her husband, her journey is one of rediscovering her own independence – and it just so happens that a $5 million heist is the perfect way to pull this off.
The 62nd BFI London Film Festival ended just under a week ago, but many films from the festival’s expansive lineup are still lingering on our minds. We loved the buzz-worthy titles including The Favourite, Beautiful Boy and Rafiki, but we also caught a few gems hidden in the mix. Iana and Megan make their picks from the lesser known films from the festival.
The lives of teenage girls are increasingly entangled with various forms of violence. Whether it be through the sinister undercurrents of body shaming amplified by the internet, the very literal brutality at the hands of boys and men, or the obsessive hatred of their typical interests by the media, young women have a lot to struggle with as they grow up. Directed by Sam Levinson in only his second directorial output, Assassination Nation takes this theoretical violence and manifests it in a gory, stylised take on the revenge of a generation bombarded with gendered hate.
Lily (Odessa Young) is a high schooler obsessed with so-called ‘selfie culture’. Her life revolves around the attention she gains both from her teenage boyfriend Mark, and from the grown man she calls ‘Daddy’ behind Mark’s back. Her best friend, Bex (Hari Nef) has her own relationship issues; the boy she likes is insisting they keep their sexual relationship private due to the fact that Bex is transgender. Together with Em (Abra) and Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), the girls form a refreshingly diverse and positive friendship group in a world where teenage girls are expected to view each other as competition for male attention.
It starts with a whisper, then a murmur, then a joyous shout. Spreading across the screening like waves disturbing still water, the chanting begins. Sapphics hold hands as they begin to activate their power, absorbing gay energy from the very presence of Rachel Weisz in a hunting outfit. They will now live forever, to spread a message of plaid and emotional detachment across the world.
“Let’s go lesbians,” yells the theatre, and all heterosexuality evaporates into dust.
I’m joking, of course, but that’s kinda what watching The Favourite felt like.
Women on screen are so rarely allowed to be bad people. Redeemable qualities must be injected into even the most abhorrent of female characters, and this is only amplified when the character in question is a mother. Neglect of a child is a role that any fictional father may take up, but as a woman, the mother must ultimately soften even when her dedication is in doubt.
Destroyer avoids these pitfalls in its depiction of detective Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman), a grizzled LAPD cop with a dark past and a difficult nature. Bell, in all aspects but her gender, is the stereotypical protagonist of every police procedural ever created. She has an awful relationship with her family, works alone wherever possible, and goes off the books to the dismay of her superiors — but through it all, she is exceptionally talented at what she does. It is fantastic, from a representation perspective, to see this familiar trope be transported into the body of an older woman, with all the wrinkles and blemished skin that comes with aging. Kidman is reliably incredible within the role, as piercing and intimidating as any lone wolf officer should be. Here we have a woman over the age of fifty, who is so often dismissed by the media, take centre stage —and she is permitted to be irredeemable.