Final Round-Up: The Best Films of the Year

Before the year ends, I would like to highlight the latest good movies of the year I have seen. I have written about the rest of my best movie picks here, with the mention that La enfermedad del domingo (Sunday’s Illness) remains my favourite so far, and with the regret I haven’t yet had the chance to watch Free Solo, The Favourite and Capharnaüm.

Shoplifters | AOI Promotion, Fuji Television Network, GAGA

Shoplifters, directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s films, through their simplicity, gentleness, quiet beauty and family portrayals, always remind me of Yasujirō Ozu’s. And this year’s Palme d’Or winner, “Shoplifters”, reminded me once again that there is a sensibility to Japanese cinema that you will not encounter anywhere else in the world. The way Kore-eda observes family life, his approach both intensive and humane, both acute and amusing, you feel an instant connection with his characters. Because the emotions they transmit are instantly and universally comprehensible. Petty theft is the main source of income of Osamu Shibata (Lily Franky) and his family. They are all liars and cheats and thieves to some degree. They live crowded together in a ramshackle house in Tokyo. It’s a family that society has forgotten and shoplifting seems to be their way to pay back the society for all their wrongs. But there is something else about this film that lingers. The warmth and nurturing love this far from perfect family are capable of questions the very notion of what makes a family. It is devastating, without being melodramatic, and uplifting at the same time.

The Sisters Brothers | Why Not Productions, Page 114, Annapurna Pictures

The Sisters Brothers, directed by Jacques Audiard

I have to admit that what raised my interest in this film, a Western set in 1851, starring Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly (the standout of the film), Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed, was the fact that it was directed by a French auteur, Jacques Audiard. This is his first film in English. And it’s a Western. I was expecting it to be different. Good different. And it is. First of all, the movie looks good (they made use of a lot of natural light), thanks in part to the director of photography, Benoît Debie, and to the beautiful scenery (it was filmed in Romania and Spain). Secondly, it’s a character-rich Western; interesting characters with imperfect souls. There’s an offbeat tone, and the dream of the Old West, and greed, for sure (the backdrop is the Gold Rush), and dark comedy in it.

Widows | Regency Enterprises, See-Saw Films, Film4

Widows, directed by Steve McQueen
After a heist goes catastrophically wrong, killing all the men involved in it, their wives (Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, plus Cynthia Erivo as a woman pulled into their midst) are forced to pull off their own robbery to settle their late husbands’ debts. Steve McQueen’s Widows is not your typical heist, mere genre movie though. But it is not a rallying cry for female empowerment either. I liked that. A lot. It focuses on the job that needs to be done, while at the same time not letting go of important issues such as politics, race, class, gender, religion, violence, grief. There is one particular scene, for example, when, in a single take, the camera follows a car from the outside as it carries a white politician, Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), from a campaign event in the center of his primarily black district to his home which doubles as campaign headquarters on the residential part of the same district. In that one shot, depicting the rapidly changing neighborhood along the commute, you have a clear view of the reality in Chicago (where the story is set), and in modern-day America, as a matter of fact, of the racial and economical differences. Widows, which McQueen co-wrote with “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn, is intense, stark, challenging, and has enough surprises to keep it interesting from start to finish. My favourite kind of action film: one that has something to say, too.
If you are in search of inspiration for living a meaningful and well-cultured life this month and year-round, check all our December stories:

If on a Winter’s Night…: December Playlist

The Most Thoughtful Gift: Pay It Forward with a Book

A Lesson in Style (and Life) from Sissy Spacek

A Passion for Plant Based Food (Just in Time for Christmas): Interview with Therese Elgquist

Living Life as a Conscient Choice: Style Talk with Photographer Nadya Zim

Of course, you can always visit our online shop, inspired by the fascinating world of cinema and by the never-fading beauty of the tangible.

And here is some more movie talk and our film recommendations for the end of the year: Watch A Non-Christmas Christmas Movie This December / The First Good Film of the Year / My Favourite Films of 2018 (Part One)

Wishing you happy holidays! See you in the new year!

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