1. Multidisciplinary global project
As filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier and photographer Edward Burtynsky issued an environmental wake-up call, it was revelatory to see documentary film and art photography working together so powerfully in Anthropocene: The Human Epoch and the two accompanying exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario and National Gallery of Canada.
2-3. Retro pieces of animation
In creating Isle of Dogs, easily the most inventive animated film of the year, director Wes Anderson was inspired by the stop-motion films of his childhood, using fluffy puppets to play winsome dogs and wax dolls to represent their less-attractive human masters. Mary Poppins Returns also looked successfully backward. It pays tribute to the pioneering mix of live action and animation in the original 1964 Mary Poppins with a sequence where the live actors enter a dance hall filled with cartoon animals. To contemporary eyes, they look startlingly flat, like drawings come to life.
4-6. Wicked performances
In The Favourite, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone play off each other deliciously in the roles of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough and her poor relation Abigail Masham, two courtiers fighting for control of the 18th-century Queen Anne. Caught between them, Olivia Colman’s Anne is magnificently petulant and childlike – in between flashes of cunning and pathos.
7-10. ‘Foreign’ films
Categories can be misleading. The most impressive film I saw in 2018 was a title released the year before that arrived belatedly in Toronto: Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot, an Israeli drama about a family whose son dies doing his military service, uses a stylish blend of surreal form and courageous content to symbolize a country trapped in trauma.
And the term foreign film is an odd one in Canada – all U.S. films are foreign, after all, while French-language films from Quebec are domestic. Anyway, Australia is very far away and Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country, a tale of outback justice set amidst English settlers and aboriginal labourers, is a searing post-colonial classic.
Add Transit to the list of 2018 highlights: Christian Petzold’s German-and-French-language drama cunningly transports a story of Second World War refugees to a place that looks like contemporary France.
The cut-off is arbitrary but for number four, try one of the most overlooked foreign titles to show up here in 2018: Mouly Surya’s Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is an Indonesian drama that is simultaneously grisly, charming and touched by the supernatural. It follows a determined widow travelling the countryside carrying her rapist’s severed head in a bag.