GFT Blog: The Best of 2018

2018 has been another great year of cinema. With a wealth of fantastic film to choose from, the Glasgow Film team talk about their favourites from the past 12 months. Tell us yours in the comments below, or e-mail!

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Hearts Beat Loud

There are some films that I absolutely love and then there are those that I am in love with. Many excellent titles fall into the former category; just a few make it to the latter. Right now, add Hearts Beat Loud to that select few. It has its soundtrack still playing in my ears, its film poster sitting proudly on my wall and its joy still warming my heart.

And yet, for a film billed as a comedy, it isn't even that funny. Yes, I laughed a few times, but I was smiling pretty much the rest of the time too. That's because the whole film oozes likability. Indeed, all the characters aren't just likable, they are utterly adorable - from Nick Offerman's pragmatic-but-still-a-dreamer dad and Kiersey Clemons' confident-yet-still-insecure daughter to Ted Danson's wonderful cameo as a stoner Sam Malone. Every cast member is quietly fantastic, every character is beautifully constructed, every relationship – especially that between Offerman and Clemons – is recognisable and affectionate. All this, and the four songs written by the father/daughter “band-that-is-not” turn out to be genuinely great too (hat tip to Keegan DeWitt).

Honourable Mention: Blindspotting

David Gattens
Finance/Commercial Director

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Cold War

Starting in 1949, Cold War traces the love affair between a musician and a younger woman, both Poles, over a span of 15 years. Poland, divided Berlin, Croatia and Paris provide the backdrop for their frequently turbulent encounters as they simultaneously seek to cope with other happenings in their lives in a changing Europe. The film portrays, sensitively and completely convincingly, the manner in which political and economic circumstances impinge on individuals, alter them and affect their relationships. Cold War is shot in stunning black and white and contains many arresting images, the two main roles are superbly acted and the supporting cast is strong.

Malcolm Pender
GFT Volunteer

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Adapted from Lynda La Plante’s ITV series of the same name, Steve McQueen’s Widows follows a group of women attempting to pull off an audacious heist in order to repay a crime boss crossed by their late husbands, who have been killed during a botched job. Relocating the story to modern day Chicago, McQueen delves seriously into issues of class, race and gender, whilst also providing us with a classic heist narrative which is pulled off with genuine style and aplomb. Its dramatic stakes outweigh A Star is Born, and it’s far more thrilling than Mission: Impossible - Fallout. Aptly for 2018, Widows is pure escapism and absolute realism at the same time. People will try to persuade you that Daniel Kaluuya steals the show, but they’re wrong - as far as I’m concerned this film belongs to Viola Davis.

Honourable Mentions: American Animals, Sorry to Bother You

Alice Smith
GFF Marketing Assistant

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You Were Never Really Here

A brilliantly woozy and visceral film from Lynne Ramsey, You Were Never Really Here centred around Joaquin Phoenix painfully inhabiting the role of the emotionally-stunted avenging ‘angel’ at its centre. It’s a film that’s about violence but manages that rare balancing of showing brutality without glorifying or fetishising the act; there are crippling emotional repercussions to the physical horrors these character inflict upon each other. It’s a visual tour-de-force that uses the full box of cinematic tricks to full effect and it’s fused at an atomic-level to a crunching score from Jonny Greenwood. It’s a film where all parties involved are at the top of their game; the result is masterpiece.

Sambrooke Scott
Film Hub Scotland Manager

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I saw Zama at this years’ GFF, battling the flurries of snow and bitter temperatures to reach the cinema. The film was a rich reward: Lucrecia Martel’s adaptation of Antonio Di Benedetto’s novel about a Spanish magistrate doggedly trying to win leave from his position somewhere on the Paraguayan coastline (probably Asunción) is my film of 2018. 

In another time and place, our eponymous emissary sweats his days away, entrapped at a decaying outpost, beleaguered by bureaucracy and attempting to maintain a fading facade of civility. The indigenous population look on in bemusement as their colonisers fall prey to lunacy and sickness, with Zama driven demented in his search for Vicuna Porto, a demonic foe who may or may not exist. The abject ridiculousness of his plight provides some levity; a scene-stealing llama is one of the film’s best supporting characters. 

Lucrecia Martel’s long-awaited fourth feature drips with blood and seawater; every frame is a sensual masterpiece, soundtracked with a mind-melting symphony of discordant drones and Shepard tones. The second half of the film takes us deep into a verdant, living jungle filled with ghosts where Zama reckons with his fate in a shockingly violent denouement that rouses him (and us) from a sort of dreamlike stupor. I wish that this film had been more widely seen or that it somehow returns to our screens in 2019. Stranger things have happened. 

Charlotte Ashcroft
Film Hub Scotland Programme & Marketing Coordinator

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I had been told beforehand that Roma was a film that will sweep you up and capture you. That it had to be seen in the cinema and that it was a technical masterclass. All that is true. It is a masterclass in direction, sound design, cinematography and more. Alfonso Cuarón has crafted an amazing piece of cinema. And it absolutely demands to be seen in the cinema (and not on a home TV). But I was not prepared for its emotional heft. It’s never melodramatic and it’s never banging a door. It consistently eats away at your heart until you have to give in. As close to flawless as any film this year.

Honourable Mention: Mandy for being absolutely unforgettable too

Gavin Crosby
Design and Digital Coordinator

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Avengers: Infinity War

10 years and 18 films in the making – some great (Captain America Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok), some not so great (Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World) – the payoff finally came this year with the third Avengers film, Infinity War.

Any fears I had about it being over crowded with too much plot to squeeze in were misplaced, with the writers keeping it streamlined by resisting the idea of explaining things again – save for a brief exposition about Infinity Stones.

We launch straight into a world in which familiarity of characters is required and rewarded. For those of us who committed to this project years ago, we have been given the satisfying sequel our patience has deserved.

Honourable Mention: Creed II

Bryan Wilson
Finance Officer

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As beautiful and provocative as his fashion, McQueen presents a well-threaded tale of a rags to riches kind of journey. Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui weave an emotional story of bravery, determination and audacity. In documentary form, friends and family shine deep and insightful lights on to the brilliant and tortured design of Alexander McQueen. Seamlessly shifting montages from McQueen to stunning visuals of artwork to recordings of his live work and catwalks, I watched with awe as the story unfolded. A great respect in me grew for the impact he had despite the mounting internal sadness he felt. A powerful punch of a film that I can only imagine could be matched by being lucky enough to have experienced his work live.

Jodie Wilkinson
Public Engagement Coordinator

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The Night Comes For Us

The Night Comes For Us would be the perfect late night screening. Unfortunately as it was released straight to Netflix we have all been deprived the chance to see it on the big screen so I encourage you to invite some friends round, get some drinks and snacks in and enjoy this absolute belter. Go wild and clap and cheer because I genuinely have not seen a movie more exhilarating this year. Any fans of The Raid will recognise our two leading men (Iko Uwais  and Joe Taslim) and it is great to see Iko stray from his previous roles and showcase his badass side as the calm and collected but skilled martial arts kingpin and Joe Taslima is great in the role as the beaten down hero who continuously battles back despite everything and everyone getting in his way. Julie Estelle, previously seen in Headshot, excels as "The Operator" to the point that I am begging for a spin off with her as the lead. I have seen a lot of good movies this year but I don’t think any of them have left me as breathless by the end as this one did. 

Chris Kumar
GFF Programme Coordinator

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My film of the year is Mandy. If I were to sum it up in a sentence, I would say: “Nicolas Cage is back, and he’s Cagier than ever!”

I came for some cinematic over the top violence and the freak outs that only Nicolas Cage can deliver, and while I wasn't disappointed, I was also pleasantly surprised (or perturbed?) by the quieter moments of this strange, beautiful film. It’s visually stunning, unashamedly surreal, and very, very memorable.

But it is important to note that Mandy isn't a one man show. Andrea Risborough plays the title character, and she does so with an understated oddness, showing a quiet artistic spirit that is the catalyst for the loud craziness that is to come in the film’s second half.

I accept that Mandy isn't for everyone, but for fans of Nicolas Cage this is a real treat. 

Coolvin Stewart
GFT Volunteer

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You Were Never Really Here

Joaquin Phoenix' performance as Joe, a hired hitman who specialises in freeing young girls from sex trafficking rings, in Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here, is mesmerising.  The psychological intensity of this film had me hooked from the start. The film lets you draw your own understanding of the main character through impressionistic flashbacks that add emotional texture. I love that as a viewer you get to know Joe through Phoenix' body language: Joe barely speaks; he rarely smiles. Joe's hulking, menacing presence is conveyed through Pheonix' physical stature - and his wild beard and scars - while his gentler side comes through in small gestures. I absolutely adore this film.

Caroline Rice
Office Manager

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The following comes with the proviso that I saw a ludicrously small number of features this year (shorts til I die, baby), and of those I saw, Roma was unquestionably the greatest achievement by any standard. However I’d like to put in a vote for Valeska Grisbach’s third feature Western. In an echo of the frontier stories reflected in its title, the film portrays a crew of chauvinistic German construction workers stationed outside a Bulgarian village. One of them (the rangy, compelling Meinhard Neumann) forms a connection with the locals, but the spontaneous backstory he fabricates comes back to bite him. Touching on grand themes of sovereignty and empire, this is nonetheless a beautifully observed story of awkwardly formed friendship, misunderstanding and betrayal, played brilliantly by a cast of non-actors. And a horse.

Matt Lloyd
GSFF Director

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Cold War

Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War is like a Czech New Wave version of La La Land, an epic story about being true to yourself and being authentic as an artist set against the backdrop of the rise of communism in post war Poland. It’s also the best love story of the year, a musical played to be sounds of Polish folk music and cool jazz and is a mere 88 minutes long. Stunningly photographed in crisp black-and-white, swooningly romantic and emotionally devastating - this is a perfect film. 

Kieran Smyth
GFT Volunteer

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The late, great Harry Dean Stanton could not have asked for a greater swan song than Lucky, the directorial debut from actor John Carroll Lynch. Stanton plays the titular character, a veteran living in a dusty small desert town. His days are slow and uneventful, revolving around the diner, the bar, the crossword puzzle and countless cigarettes. The beauty of this film for me is that nothing much really happens in the 90 minutes. Lucky is a leisurely paced delight, exploring the joy of routine and the minutae of daily life with dry and witty humour. It is also a wistful and emotional journey of acceptance that moved me to tears. Frankly, if you haven't seen David Lynch shout at Harry Dean Stanton about a 100 year old missing tortoise called President Roosevelt, you haven't lived. Cinematic gold.

Honourable Mention: Thoroughbreds

Margaret Smith
Press & Marketing Coordinator

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A scathing blacker-than-black comedy written by Efthimis Filippou (Dogtooth, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer), I began Pity with expectations of another high-calibre product bourne from the Greek New Wave. I wasn’t disappointed. Following a depressed lawyer going about his life whilst awaiting news of his comatose wife, who struggles to get through a full day without breaking into tears. Pity is thrust upon him in all directions, from the dry cleaner to a supportive neighbour, who feels the need to supply him with an abundance of cake. The pity is comforting; the attention and emotional connection fuels his fragile male ego. When all this is pulled out from under him upon his wife’s awakening, his desperate attempts to cling onto the pity he once took for granted become ever more volatile. An incredible allegory on the male psyche with one of the affecting endings in known memory; at once traumatic, then uncomfortably hilarious. 

Iain Canning 
Festival Programme Manager

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Black Mother

Khalik Allah is most widely known for working on Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade, which he considered a purely commercial job. He's a wildly exciting and distinctive filmmaker and photographer to keep an eye on, as proven by his latest work Black Mother, a stunning, poetic documentary focusing on the multi-faceted communities in Jamaica (his mother’s home country), exploring identity, family, history, landscape and more. Rather than following any of its subjects’ narratives, it slowly pieces together a transcendent portrait of the island and its people.

Honourable Mentions: Roma, Sorry To Bother You, You Were Never Really Here

Sanne Jehoul 
GSFF Producer 

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Outlaw King

Got to be Outlaw King. Big performances from the top six players well supported by the cast . The difficult terrain added an earthy feel to the production enhancing the believability. Throw in a couple of one liners that caught the mood. The capacity partisan crowd showed their appreciation by applause throughout the credits. Good film.

Charles McErlean
GFT Volunteer

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Beast was very loosely based on the real Beast of Jersey. I knew quite a bit about the true crime story beforehand so I thought I knew what was going to happen and how it would end, I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed how the female lead Moll (Jessie Buckley) was the main focus of the film: her family struggles; her mental health issues; her trust issues; her shame; her sense of worth and sense of self. I completely understand how hard it would be to think Johnny Flynn (Lovesick) could be a murderer, he is too cute. This film was so beautiful, the cinematography and locations were superb! 

Jasmine Lindemann
GFF Events Assistant

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Leave No Trace

Debra Granik’s low-key return to narrative filmmaking, following Winter’s Bone in 2010, has stayed with me since I saw it in June. 

It opens in the lush greenery of a forest in Portland, where Will and his daughter Tom live off the grid. Granik is a master at giving the sense of a place, and we see all the sights and hear the sounds of this forest so clearly. We also quickly understand that Will has chosen this life, and is training his daughter to live the same way, and she is really happy – they enjoy life together. As the film progresses various circumstances test that bond between them, and also draw out some of the problems that come with the choices that Will has made. It’s a gentle film; I didn’t realise how much it was working on me, until I was hit by the emotional wallop of its conclusion.

Leave No Trace is a film of rare depth, and offers a really compelling and nuanced portrait of genuine outsider characters. It’s also continually surprising, as over and again it highlights positive aspects of humanity, a sense of shared community and understanding – in ways that feel authentic and relatively uncommon in cinema. 

Honourable Mentions: Mission Impossible – Fallout, First Reformed, Phantom Thread, Coco, Isle of Dogs, Loveless, The Square

Paul Gallagher
Programme Manager

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Sorry to Bother You

Sorry to Bother You was a hyped film in 2018 and, as we all know, that can mean expectations run too high and there’s an inevitable disappointment. But not with this film. It’s hilarious, inventive, playful and completely off its head. It’s the debut feature from Boots Riley and the world he’s created feels very realised and complete. It explores heavy and complicated issues like race, politics, power, elitism, slavery, art with irreverence and pointed surrealist humour. It took turns that I couldn’t have anticipated and had me howling with laughter. A 10/10 film that’s important and encapsulates this weird time we’re in.

Georgia Stride
Film Hub Scotland Knowledge & Network Coordinator

Tell us yours in the comments below, or e-mail!

As per Scottish Government restrictions, seats available for all shows from 27 December to 23 January will be capped to meet the 1m social distancing requirement.

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