- 07 Dec 18
From our Hot Press Annual, Roe McDermott looks back on a year in Irish and international film.
Surprising nobody, in 2018 we were looking for someone to save the world. But seeing as Trump is still in power, Brexit is apparently going ahead, the Earth is ending because we can’t be bothered to protect the environment, our own Presidential election was tainted by racism and prejudice, women’s underwear are being held up in court to prove they were asking for it, and Westlife are getting back together – well, we may be too late.
But when we couldn’t find any real superheroes to swoop in and save the day (no Elon Musk, you don’t count, sit down), we paid to see them onscreen. The Marvel Cinematic Universe became the first film franchise to release six billion-dollar grossing films, with Black Panther joining the esteemed ranks of The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Captain America: Civil War. Not to be outdone, Avengers: Infinity War promptly earned over $2 billion, and MCU ended the year with the release of Ant-Man And The Wasp, making it the first film franchise to earn over $17 billion.
Off course, Black Panther wasn’t just notable for its gross; Ryan Coogler’s film not only marked the first time that a black protagonist took centre-stage in a superhero blockbuster, but it was also the first mainstream film to imagine a world where black people triumph over the influences of capitalism and colonisation. Think of the amount of films you’ve seen about black suffering. Black Panther is one of the first ever stories about black privilege. But while the groundbreaking nature of the movie was obvious to all, and justifiably rewarded, other films were also proved revolutionary when it came to the portrayal of race onscreen.
The diverse casting of the young adult fantasy A Wrinkle In Time and the heist thriller Widows both took important steps in normalising girls and women of colour as heroines of their own stories, while Widows also showed that dark-skinned black women could be love interests to white men – a still all-too-rare sight onscreen. Casting was also crucial to the decadent rom-com Crazy Rich Asians, which became the first Hollywood-backed film in over two decades to feature an almost entirely Asian cast.
And then, of course, there was Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman. The astonishing true story of an undercover police investigation that saw a black detective being granted membership into the Ku Klux Klan – yes, you read that right – saw the director’s compelling social observations and satirical brilliance shine. Blackklansman ends with a montage of recent white supremacist marches in America, including the horrific violence in Charlottesville in 2017, where dozens of anti-racism protesters were injured and Heather Heyer was killed, reuniting past and present in an uncomfortable truth: racism isn’t just persisting, but reigniting. And it asks us the question that needs to be asked: who are the ordinary people who are going to take a stand?
It’s a question we’ll continue to grapple with in life, though many films did show people willing to stand up for their own sexuality and gender, as Love, Simon became the first studio-backed teen rom-com to feature a gay teenager as its protagonist. The Miseducation Of Cameron Post took a more complex and hard-hitting approach to teen sexuality, showing the dangers of so-called “gay conversion camps” which are in fact growing in the States, and are abusing LGBTQ youth. And the beautiful, Oscar-nominated drama A Fantastic Woman tackled the experience of a trans woman with grace, sensitivity, and most importantly authenticity, as trans actress and singer Daniela Vega Hernandez gave an emotionally nuanced performance.
THE IRISH AUTEURS
But in 2018, it wasn’t just onscreen characters who were finding their voice; this year, Irish filmmakers have produced an unprecedented amount of new, exciting and thoroughly original work. Societal issues were tackled by a variety of genre movies, documentaries and award-winning animation. Indeed, the Irish film industry is taking more risks, supporting new and fresh voices – and we are reaping the cinematic rewards. Our Film Of The Year, Dublin Oldschool, examines drugs, friendships and the party scene in Dublin in ways that are both evocative and effervescent, and has justifiably made the politically-minded poet, performer and writer Emmet Kirwan a household name. Irish women are also making a name for themselves behind the camera, with directors such as Rebecca Daly (Good Favour) and Aoife McArdle (Kissing Candice) both making incredible films this year. Nora Twomey, meanwhile, received an Oscar nomination for her solo directorial debut, the stunning animated film, The Breadwinner.
Social issues were front and centre in Irish films and of course this year, homelessness was a topic on every Irish person’s mind. Homelessness was a major concern for the character of Daniel in Dublin Oldschool, while Roddy Doyle’s immersive, heartwrenching drama Rosie captured the pain and struggle of finding yourself with nowhere to go. Michael Inside is a devastating portrait of class, drugs and how the criminal justice system is biased against young working class men, while Alan Gilsenan’s incredible true drama The Meeting tackles rape culture and restorative justice.
The increasingly xenophobic, prejudiced and anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been festering in this country, and which was on full display during the Presidential election, was perfectly tackled through metaphor in David Freyne’s excellent zombie film The Cured, showing that Irish writers and directors can do socially conscious horror with the best of them. And it wasn’t the only excellent genre film doing the rounds – Brian O’Malley’s gothic horror The Lodgers and Lenny Abrahamson’s adaptation The Little Stranger captured a particularly Irish fascination with history, land and family.
But as we know, sometimes horror in Ireland is all too real. The shocking documentary A Mother Brings Her Son To Be Shot examines life in a Derry housing estate that is still devastated by ripple effects of the Troubles, resulting in murder, suicide and gang violence. And of course, the violence, struggle and oppression in Ireland’s history was captured onscreen in Black 47 – unbelievably, the first ever feature film set during the Famine. Lance Daly’s film earned over €1 million at the Irish box office, and its success, along with the critical acclaim and consistent audience support earned by other Irish films this year, proves that not only is this country overflowing with talent, but audiences are hungry for representation, and eager to support good work. Long may this continue.
But without further ado, here is the list of Hot Press’ top ten films of the year – feel free to passionately disagree with our selections with friends. But keep it friendly – after all, it’s nearly Christmas. To read our coverage of all these films and more, you can buy the Hot Press 2019 Annual here: https://shop.hotpress.com/collections/hot-press-annual-2019
1. DUBLIN OLDSCHOOL
2. MICHAEL INSIDE
3. THE SHAPE OF WATER
4. FIRST MAN
5. FANTASTIC WOMAN
6. A QUIET PLACE
7. FIRST REFORMED
8. I, TONYA
9. AMERICAN ANIMALS
10. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU