If we talk about moments that stay with us from films, the most memorable ones from the previous year (among the films I watched) would be the fatal jarring moment from “The Hate U Give,” the final shots of “Private Life” and “If Beale Street Could Talk,” the sustained strangeness of lingering shots in “Burning,” and the moving story as well as the moving camera in “Roma.”
As the new year arrived, I realised—given in part due to the care of our young son—there were several acclaimed films that I or we hadn’t got round to watching yet—including “Roma.”
There are at least five honourable mentions, as well, that I can think of: “Searching,” which is an excellent use of the computer screen-only style, yet the twist (both my wife and I felt) had not really been foreshadowed and so came as a total shock (yet saying that, I still found the ending quite moving); also, “Leave No Trace,” which was well-made and had moments of interesting, almost random, eccentricity, but I felt remote from the cold choice at the ending; the critically lauded “A Star is Born,” which drifted to the acutely ugly strangeness of the closing awards show; “The Favourite,” and its unusual approach to history; and lastly “First Man,” whose ending I discovered was, as moving as it was in enlivening the cool figure of Neil Armstrong, hopeful artistic license rather than history.
With another year gone by, writing this post got me thinking about scenes from older movies that just pop into my head—while we were having pancakes this morning it reminded me of all the times we ordered breakfast at a cafe near the hospital we visited for monthly checkups with our son in Bangkok, where one day an elderly American couple asked us if we knew where the nearest pharmacy was, saying with relief, “We heard you were speaking in English!” This reminded me of the moment in “Barry Lyndon” (perhaps Kubrick’s most underrated film in terms of a general viewer seeking it out among his films, if you leave off my favourite of his, “Paths of Glory”) where the Irishman overseas breaks down, even while undercover, at meeting his fellow countryman so far from home.
Life is paved and seemingly consolidated in certain ways with these kinds of moments. Any kind of grief or thought of mortality reminds me of Vada and Thomas J. in “My Girl” and Emma Thompson’s (as well as others’) moving performance in “Wit,” or the haunting beauty of the ending of “Ikiru” (or stark conclusion of “Ashes and Diamonds”), and the moment Mr. Banks, accompanied by stirring music, walks to the bank knowing he will be fired in “Mary Poppins.” Whenever I think of philosophy, I’m afraid I don’t think of Kieślowski or Tarkovsky, but several poignant moments in “Groundhog Day.” My father told me that every time he shaves (which is to say every day), he thinks of lyrics from The Monkees.
Like the parts and moments of books, songs, plays, and other artworks and pieces of entertainment we like (or even just that we strongly remember) it would be impossible to share even one tiny fraction of the things that have affected us and shaped, as well as in some unknown degree our conduct and imagination and tastes, our enjoyment and our memories in life. So we mention little things here and there, and the vastest iceberg of experience below must remain forever undiscovered between parents and children, lovers and friends.
So 2018 was the year of these films, but there were others we enjoyed as well—the brutal frankness of Australian history as depicted in “The Nightingale,” and one more of the fast-coming plant-based documentaries we’ve admired in “The Game Changers”—and I read some terrific books this year. See last year’s list here (and well as, through an incredible alchemy that time makes possible, next year’s list here). One film in this new year has already made it to the list that will come this time next year: “Fyre.”
The Hate U Give
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Quiet Place