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2018 in film and a look ahead to 2019

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Film stars and icons are household names the world over – I’d  find it very difficult to believe that even Amish settlements and those in underground bunkers are oblivious to the Toms (Hanks and Cruise), Meryl and Dame Judy. However, every so often, another thespian hoists their wagon onto the fame train and joins the glitterati, securing their status of immortality in the age of expanding social media.

Which is why we’re going to take a look at the individuals we expect to rise exponentially (if not within the year, then in the next few) and outline the big projects that will be responsible for spring-boarding them.

First-time, stand-out performances

This year saw a number of first-time and stand-out performances from those on the outskirts of the big leagues that deserve honourable mentions. Olivia Colman proved herself on the world stage and showed Hollywood what the UK has known for a number of years, with her devilish turn as Queen Anne in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite.

Lakeith Stanfield followed up his supporting role in Get Out with an assured lead performance in Boots Riley’s bonkers Sorry to Bother You. Lady Gaga spread her acting wings as the delightful and gut-wrenching Ally in A Star is Born and John David Washington has well and truly stepped out of his father’s long shadow (Denzel, if you were unaware) in the form of Spike Lee’s best film in years, Blakkklansman.

This year also saw directing achievements from those blinking into the spotlight that deserve much-needed acknowledgement. Ryan Coogler is very much paving his path to superstardom, following up the heartbreaking Fruitvale Station and the franchise-saving Creed with the behemoth of the year, Marvel’s Black Panther.

And bringing it home for the female directors this year (albeit criminally under-appreciated), we have Marielle Heller with the fatally human Can You Ever Forgive Me? and the latest from Debra Granik, following up the chilly Winter’s Bone (eight years ago!) with the gorgeous and inspiring Leave no Trace.

Lastly, special recognition for a first-time director, plucked from an already burgeoning career as a comedian, to lend a fresh and unique perspective to life as a teen as they navigate the increasingly-difficult journey of high school survival and peer acceptance, Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade – the Lady Bird of 2018.

What to look forward to in 2019

I’ve enjoyed compiling this list so much, I’ve set a reminder in my phone to release the next incarnation a year later – I’m just hoping that next year’s crop of films give me reason to keep to my schedule.

January sees the release of the vastly awaited final piece in the trilogy nobody saw coming. M Night Shyamalan’s opus, Unbreakable was followed up 16 years later by the brilliant Split and now we get the final bow in the form of Glass.

While this film is chocked full of talent already in the clouds, it made me increasingly-aware that Anya Taylor-Joy has five projects out this year. Having made her initial break in The Witch, then her turn in Split, we’ll see her reach new heights.

She joins the superhero universes in The New Mutants, which might be fun… it might be fun guys! She also has two films that certainly caught my eye: a film based on a graphic novel about the early family life of Marie Curie ironically called Radioactive and Here are the Young Men – an Irish coming-of-age drama.

Pushing the boundaries of orthodox filmmaking

This year saw films that, through a lack of better phrasing, ‘pushed the boundaries’ of conventional filmmaking and narrative structure. One example is the anachronistic, counter-factual rollercoaster ride that was Julius Avery’s, Overlord. Flipping the war narrative and hammering in a surrealist horror thread was certainly a risk, but for shock value and gory aesthetics, you can’t go far wrong.

Overlord starred American actor and former hockey player, Wyatt Russell who will be seen in 2019’s very starry production from Joe Wright: The Woman in the Window. Now, let’s play ‘Drop the biggest name’:

  • director: Joe Wright
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning writer: Tracy Letts
  • produced by: Scott Rudin
  • music by: Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor
  • starring:
    • Amy Adams
    • Julianne Moore
    • Brian Tyree Henry
    • Anthony Mackie
    • Gary Oldman

It would take a colossally-misjudged film to outshine this array of stars, so let’s hope Russell rises to the challenge.

The year of (little) women

Greta Gerwig was the toast of Hollywood last year when she churned out her love letter to her hometown in Lady Bird and in the process, effortlessly depicted teen angst and small-town alienation all in one neat little package.

Gerwig returns to the big screen with an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s seminal novel Little Women. With a cast as starry as Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, Emma Watson, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep, it would stand to reason that you had almost free rein to cast at your will.

However, Gerwig and her clever entourage of production peeps have opted for a relative newcomer in the prime role of Beth March. 19-year-old Australian actress, Eliza Scanlen. Seen in this years HBO miniseries Sharp Objects, this is Scanlen’s film debut. Brave casting, but fortune favours the bold, I’m sure you would agree.

Let’s talk about Tom

This next one might seem like a stretch, but I’m going to talk about Tom Hanks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware I’m passing off a seasoned star as an up-and-comer but hear me out.

In 1996, Tom Hanks wrote, starred and directed That Thing You Do! – a film that went down largely as a Hanks acting feature. Hanks has the chance this year to cement himself back among the writing elites, following his very successful series of short stories Uncommon Type released in 2017. Hanks writes and stars in Greyhound, a war drama set during the early involvement of the United States during the Second World War. Sound familiar guys?

And lastly on the directing front, while his feature debut was certainly a game changer for unique storytelling, the trailer for his next feature has just been released and it appears that Jordan Peele is showing further signs that his filmmaking portfolio will be a diverse and thought-provoking one.

Us is another psychological thriller in the vein of his feature debut Get Out, starring Lupita Nyongo, Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss. Dripping with visceral energy and stunning visuals, the trailer alone got me excited – and trailers rarely do that these days.

So there you have it, a list that I’ll no doubt have to probably walk back a few times over the next year, but I am happy to do so if it means that we get a whole lot of surprise performances and filmmaking achievements that I didn’t catch in my research.

What are you looking forward to this year? Who’s caught your eye as we enter a new year and a new set of visual treats? Comment if you are so compelled and let’s see if we can rouse an exciting debate.

I’ll try to get this started… I think a film adaptation of The Goldfinch this year sounds potentially boring. GO!

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