Now that we're at the halfway point of the year, it's time to take stock of what's been in the cinema so far and see what's what.
Commercially speaking, the year has been undoubtedly dominated by Disney and 'Infinity War' crossing the $2 billion mark with relative ease is just evidence of that. The early part of the year saw Oscar contenders like 'The Shape Of Water' and 'Lady Bird' wow audiences whilst Irish drama 'Michael Inside' became the critical darling of the year - so it shouldn't come as any surprise where it ends up on our list.
Ari Aster's directorial debut crashed into cinemas and utterly terrified audiences with its enthralling mixture of supernatural frights and deep-seated emotional horror. Toni Collette's powerhouse performance is already expected to play a part in the awards race later in the year, whilst Aster's marked himself out as a director to watch.
Few movies can shape popular culture like a blockbuster can and 'Infinity War' and its downer / cliffhanger ending reminded critics of 'The Empire Strikes Back' back in 1980. Josh Brolin, a relative novice at motion-capture acting, took to the role of Thanos like a duck to water whilst the ensemble cast was juggled effectively by Anthony and Joe Russo to create the crossover event of the decade. Well, until the second part next year.
'Black Panther' was as much an influence - maybe even more so - on popular culture as 'Infinity War' - an almost entirely black cast with a black director, set predominantly in Africa and with easily the best villain of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Michael B. Jordan's portrayal of Killmonger. When was the last time you saw a villain that you weren't entirely sure you wanted to lose, never mind seeing them in a comic book movie like this?
Jaoquin Phoenix's unhinged, intense performance in Lynne Ramsay's razor-sharp arthouse thriller had more in common with horrors than anything else. The sharp cuts, the sound design, even the violence on screen was directed in such a way so as to unnerve and unsettle you from the very get-go. It's not for everyone, but it's the kind of movie that leaves an impact long after the credits have rolled.
Wes Anderson's tale (sorry) of adventure and companionship was bolstered by an impressive and eclectic cast that included internet boyfriend Jeff Goldblum, Bryan Cranston, frequent Anderson collaborators Bob Balaban and Bill Murray, and Yoko Ono in a minor but important role. You also had Anderson's sharp wit and a genuinely compassionate story about dogs that couldn't not get you right between the ribs.
Picking up the gong for Best Picture, Guillermo del Toro's affecting and romantic tale of love in all its forms - even if it does involve something not unlike the Creature from the Black Lagoon - was the perfect antidote to everything going on in the world today. A beautiful soundtrack from Alexandre Desplat and a deeply heartfelt script from del Toro and Vanessa Taylor made this one of the most enjoyable experiences at the cinema this year.
John Krasinski may have seemed like an unlikely choice to both direct and star in the best horror of 2018, but the sheer level of talent and promise that he displayed with 'A Quiet Place' means he's now a director to watch out for. Fusing family drama with conventional horror thrills, Krasinski and on-and-off screen wife Emily Blunt just oozed chemistry together whilst sumptuous cinematography from Charlotte Bruus Christensen made it one of the best-looking horrors of the decade.
‘Tully’ went fairly under the radar this year, but there really is something very special about it. Charlize Theron gives the performance of her career and Mackenzie Davis proves one to watch in the heart-breaking story about a mother of three who hires a night nanny to look after her newborn. Never has motherhood been brought to the screen in such a brutal yet moving way. The writer-director team behind ‘Tully’ previously worked on ‘Juno’ and ‘Young Adult’, and this film brings together and finalises the themes of its predecessors.
Greta Gerwig's incredible debut as director featured Saoirse Ronan giving the performance of her still-young career with the affecting, all-too-relatable Christine 'Lady Bird' McPherson, and a reminder that Laurie Metcalf is probably the most underrated female actors working today. Its subtle use of production design and camerawork places it so effectively in memory, whilst the dynamic between Metcalf and Ronan is so real and so raw that it's almost tough to watch in parts.
Frank Berry's command and understanding of drama, tension and story was on full display in every scene of 'Michael Inside', and while it may not have travelled beyond our shores as well as it should have, there's no denying that the themes and motifs it deals with are universal and can be easily understood by anyone. Beyond that, 'Michael Inside' featured sharp and focused performances from its cast, particularly Dafhyd Flynn and Lalor Roddy, who anchored the film with a humanity and compassion that could have been easily lost in the darkness of its prison setting. Essential, required viewing.