The Independent Critic's 2018 Film Awards - Individual Achievements
It's difficult to describe just how much I loved the year 2018 in cinema. From Paddington 2, a practically perfect family film, to the emotional resonance and life-changing You Were Never Really Here, this was a year that offered nearly everything I want from a cinematic experience.
I laughed. I cried. I felt my entire being shift. I grew. I felt. I healed. I let go. I loved.
2018 was simply an amazing year, though for me it was often the smaller indies that satisfied me rather than a lot of the films currently receiving awards buzz. I have zero doubt that I'll completely cringe when the Academy Award nominations are announced and the likes of the nearly dreadful Vice and the criminally overrated Green Book are announced alongside other films that are more representative of Hollywood's desire to pat itself on the back than of actually being the best in the year's cinema.
But, here we go anyway.
Having published my "Top 10 of 2018 in Film," here's my picks for the best individual achievements during 2018 in film!
Best Filmmaker of the Year
The Winner: Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here
Though Ramsay's filmography is small, it's mighty and You Were Never Really Here is one of the year's true masterpieces, the kind of bold and original cinema that Hollywood seldom makes these days. For me, the Filmmaker of the Year isn't just the filmmaker who has the best film - it's the filmmaker whose directorial efforts are largely responsible for that result. While I can't imagine You Were Never Really Here without Joaquin Phoenix, this film could have collapsed in a million ways and it doesn't because of Ramsay's boldness, discipline, vision and ability to pull artistic mastery out of everyone working on the film. Debra Granik's got all the Oscar buzz, but for 2018 Lynne Ramsay is the best filmmaker of the year.
Debra Granik, Leave No Trace
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Paul King, Paddington 2
Paul Schrader, First Reformed
Best Actor of the Year
Winner: Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here
I've never quite been on the Joaquin Phoenix bandwagon and I found myself nearly devastated by the underwhelming Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot earlier this year, a film I'd waited for years to see. However, there's simply no denying that Phoenix's work in You Were Never Really Here is the best acting of the year by a wide margin. He owns the role of Joe. He inhabits it. He's so deeply immersed that you can't help but wonder how he ever pulled out of it. He doesn't just say the right words, he wears Joe in every fiber of his being and it comes out with every breath, every movement, every facial expression and every moment of painful, revealing silence. I'm on the bandwagon now.
Jim Cummings, Thunder Road
Ben Foster, Leave No Trace
Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
John C. Reilly, Stan & Ollie
Special Mention: Dave Payton, Thy Neighbor, offers a truly unique performance in the faith-based film Thy Neighbor, a low-budget psychological thriller that manages to remain true to its faith-based roots while providing genuine thrills and chills. Payton, a relative newcomer, provides one of the most disturbing character portraits ever captured in a faith-based film yet does so within the necessary faith-based framework that is devoid of the usual graphic content. It's an exceptional performance that has received multiple fest awards throughout 2018, deservedly so, and warrants a special mention here as one of the best performances of 2018.
Best Actress of the Year
Winner: Helena Howard, Madeline's Madeline
By the time I was finished watching Madeline's Madeline, I was embarrassed that the film hadn't been anywhere on my radar. I found the film simultaneously devastating and exhilarating, both largely due to Helena Howard's remarkable performance as Madeline. I think it's nearly impossible to watch the film once and actually "get it," so complex is Josephine Decker's filmmaking and so magnificently layered is Howard's performance. By the time this film was over, I was asking two questions - "Where has Helena Howard been?" and "Where is Helena Howard going?"
Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Carey Mulligan, Wildlife
Amendla Stenberg, The Hate U Give
Best Supporting Actor of the Year
Winner: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
I had my issues with Can You Ever Forgive Me? and while I'm thrilled with Melissa McCarthy's Oscar buzz her performance falls just outside my five best performances of 2018 for a leadidng actress. However, when I look back over the year at the supporting performances there's two that consistently stand out - Grant's and that of Adam Driver in BlacKkKlansman. It's a close call, but I'm giving the slight nod to Grant as Jack, the friend and confidante to McCarthy's Lee Israel.
Raul Castillo, We The Animals
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star is Born
John David Washington, Monsters and Men
Best Supporting Actress of the Year
Winner: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress, Regina King gives a performance that is so consuming that you feel the love right alongside her in this magnificent, brilliant film from Barry Jenkins. There's very little I have left to say about King's performance, because more than anything King leaves it all on the screen and there's simply nothing else to be said.
Kayli Carter, Private Life
Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Leave No Trace
Natalie Portman, Vox Lux
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Best Screenplay of the Year (Adapted or Original)
Winner: Paul Schrader, First Reformed
I watched First Reformed a second time before putting together my year-end awards; upon a second viewing, I confirmed for myself the mastery of Schrader's work here. First Reformed is brilliantly intelligent and emotionally honest, a piece of writing that feels both personally revealing and universal in its scope. The character of Reverend Ernst Toller is one of the best characters written for the screen this year, a character brought vividly to life by Ethan Hawke. There will be people who fault the end - nonsense, if you've watched everything leading up to it then the ending is absolutely perfect. First Reformed is the best screenplay of 2018.
Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
Tamara Jenkins, Private Life
Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You
Audrey Wells, The Hate U Give
Best Cinematographer of the Year
Winner: Lukasz Zal, Cold War
This is another category where there's an obvious frontrunner in Roma's Alfonso Cuarón. This isn't a category I'd fight over and I'll be perfectly fine with Roma's expected nomination in this category, but for my money Zal has crafted a more visually arresting and cohesive lensing package that serves the story rather than stands out. There's been some terrific lensing this year, but Cold War stands out as the absolute best.
Ashley Connor, Madeline's Madeline
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
James Laxton, If Beale Street Could Talk
Rachel Morrison, Black Panther
Tom Townend, You Were Never Really Here
Best Editor of the Year
Winner: Joe Bini, You Were Never Really Here
It's simply astounding how much is packed into You Were Never Really Here's 89-Minute Running Time. While there's no denying that much of this is due to Ramsay's vision, I can't help but think that even Ramsay would give credit to Joe Bini for the year's best editing work.
Barry Alexander Brown, BlacKkKlansman
Peter Lambert, The Death of Stalin
Yorgos Mavropsaridis, The Favourite
Benjamin Rodriguez Jr., First Reformed
Best Original Score of the Year
Winner: Jonny Greenwood, You Were Never Really Here
Greenwood's score for You Were Never Really Here envelopes you without ever dominating the story. It's a companion for the film and yet it bathes you in Ramsay's vision and Phoenix's performance. It takes you where you need to go, sometimes dangling you over the edge tauntingly and with such vibrance that you wonder if it's going to let you go. When I reflect on this film, I hear Greenwood's score within that reflection.
Nicholas Brittel, If Beale Street Could Talk
Ludwig Göransson, Black Panther
Jóhann Jóhannsson, Mandy
Thom Yorke, Suspiria
Best Original Song for the Year
Winner: Troye Sivan, Strawberries and Cigarettes from Love, Simon
Listen, I can't help but think that the Academy has already engraved the trophy for A Star is Born. That doesn't mean I have to agree. Ten years from now, the soundtrack to A Star is Born is going to be long forgotten but Sivan's Strawberries and Cigarettes will always be an amazing, infectious love song. While I'm not going to list it as a runner-up, Sivan really strikes twice here with his Jonsi pairing from the Boy Erased soundtrack, Revelation.
Arlissa, We Won't Move from The Hate U Give
Kesha, Here Comes the Change from RBG
Bradley Cooper, Black Eyes from A Star is Born
Kendrick Lamar and SZA, All the Stars from Black Panther
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic