A Star is Born – Ryan Norman
‘Are you happy in this modern world?’ asks Bradley Cooper in Shallow, the lead track from A Star Is Born. Despite this being the film’s fourth iteration, Cooper’s directorial execution gives it the contemporary impact it needed. The film tackles mental illness, transgender representation, modern celebrity culture and the changing face of popular music through Cooper’s problematic Jack Maine and Lady Gaga’s up-and-coming star Ally. Aside from some slightly on-the-nose cinematography, the film is skilfully shot, and although the quality of Cooper’s (unedited) vocals is a pleasant surprise, Gaga’s singing is the musical centrepiece. An all-round triumph.
BlacKkKlansman – Oscar Huckle
BlacKkKlansman recounts the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, and his successful infiltratration of his local Ku Klux Klan division by putting on a convincing portrayal of a white supremacist over the phone and then getting his Jewish colleague to assume his identity whenever his physical presence was required. This Spike Lee ‘joint’ is a most gripping and infectious account of these fascinating events that interrogates themes of racism and dualities, particularly within the current political climate in America. Lee’s ability to balance weighty subject matter with multiple laugh-out-loud moments makes this a film deserving of attention this Awards season.
Black Panther – Gus Edgar-Chan
Most Marvel films are fun, but few manage to reach the status of cultural icon. Black Panther is a far more nuanced, considered film than its tights-donning brethren, examining the dynamics between African-American citizens and their native homeland, studying the limits of technological advancement, and revelling in the mish-mash of high-tech gizmos and cultural tradition. It helps that Marvel finally gets the villain right, Michael B. Jordan’s antagonist a welcome injection of political pathos, and that the score is killer. Did I mention the war rhinos? It has war rhinos.
Bohemian Rhapsody – Abi Steer
Bohemian Rhapsody is the perfect example of why a film should be nominated for the Oscars. It is the story of Queen, but becomes inherently wrapped up in depictions of sexuality, race, and eventually the cultural discussion of AIDs in the 80s and 90s. It discusses these themes without derision or scorn, introducing them predominately through lead-singer Freddie Mercury, played outstandingly by Rami Malek, who brings this entire film together. The genuine development of the characters paired with the nostalgia of the frequent musical montages tugs at the heartstrings and cements this film as the best 2018 can offer.
The Favourite – Maya Coomarasamy
The Favourite takes the classic period drama and adds a punk flair, an expletive riddled script and a lesbian love triangle. In this heavily embellished portrayal of the relations between Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and her two lovers, cousins Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone), audiences see the devious ways in which the women fought for the Queen’s attention, in order to get the coveted role of her ‘favourite’. Whilst the story focuses on the latter ladies, Colman steals the limelight away from the quarrelling cousins in her award-winning depiction of the childish and irrational queen.
Roma – Laura Venning
Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma is the bookie’s favourite to win Best Picture for a reason. 1970s Mexico City seems to come to life before us as seen through the eyes of Cleo (a quietly magnificent performance from first time actress Yalitza Aparicio), a young maid for an upper-middle class family. While the naturalistic street scenes and black and white cinematography are reminiscent of Italian Neo-Realism, the film possesses a strange magic that renders even the most ordinary domestic tasks extraordinary. A heart-wrenching climax makes Roma a truly unforgettable experience, whether seen on Netflix or on the big screen.