Ready Player One – Tully – Isle of Dogs – Black Panther – Cold War – Hereditary – Annihilation

2018: World Premieres
2018: U.S. Releases
2018: The Fifties
2018: Cannes Festival

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The Fifties of 2018: U.S. Releases
 My annual tribute to the best work in the first 50 U.S. releases I saw in a given year.
 Here is a screenshot of the movies that were eligible for this feature. Your thoughts?

Best Picture

A Ciambra - Fiery peak in child-centered cinema that inexplicably got shrugged off
Ava - First-timer Foroughi grasps her characters and their complex culture in detail
Black Panther - Enlivens franchise cinema with energy, ideas, welcome paradoxes
First Reformed - Homage to master auteurs still speaks potently to modern world
Hereditary - Horrific, inventive, fully committed to a family's emotional free fall
Isle of Dogs - Classic tale of heroic outcasts made odd and indelible via execution
Lean on Pete - Emotions no less powerful for being conjured with such delicacy
Tully - So many critics blew this one; audacious, crafty, and bracingly observant
Western - Reprises a genre without enslaving itself to tropes; brilliant study of Europe
Zama - Critique of imperial power doubles as gallery show of cutting-edge style

Best Director

Wes Anderson, Isle of Dogs - Brilliantly orchestrates his most challenging world yet
Jonas Carpignano, A Ciambra - Infuses neo-realist techniques with timely urgency
Valeska Grisebach, Western - Attains novelistic depth via ace on-the-fly instincts
Andrew Haigh, Lean on Pete - Treats U.S. Northwest with soul of Japanese masters
Lucrecia Martel, Zama - Puts idiosyncratic formal gifts to politically intricate tests

Runners Up: Foroughi (Ava), Reitman (Tully), Coogler (Panther), Aster (Hereditary)

Best Actress

Toni Collette, Hereditary - From caustic speeches to mute terror, she nails it all
Mahour Jabbari, Ava - Connects with Ava's core; immune to begging for sympathy
Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace - Trusts the power in her soft-spoken mien
Charlotte Rampling, Hannah - Advances our grasp of Hannah one micron at a time
Charlize Theron, Tully - Face, voice, body evoke shifting and complicated inner life

Runners Up: Weisz (Disobedience), McAdams (Disobedience), Binoche (Sunshine)

Best Actor

Simon Russell Beale, The Death of Stalin - Light touch with sad, tricky character
Ben Foster, Leave No Trace - Tender new spin on Foster's tightly-wound outsiders
Meinhard Neumann, Western - That stare! Skillful at withhlolding and modulation
Charlie Plummer, Lean on Pete - Candid, simple playing keeps sentiment at bay
Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here - A black hole shaped like a man

Runners Up: Giménez Cacho (Zama), Hawke (Reformed), Amato (Ciambra)

Best Supporting Actress

Mackenzie Davis, Tully - Such shadings; Tully is never just a crutch or conceit
Danai Gurira, Black Panther - Vocally and physically authoritative; sly humor
Bahar Noohian, Ava - Convincing rifts with her daughter and, subtly, her husband
Sara Sevigny, Rogers Park - Makes the case for her character even at low points
Alexandra Shipp, Love, Simon - Palpably empathetic, so you resent her deception

Runners Up: Seyfried (Reformed), Roberts (You Were Never...), Hawa (In Between)

Best Supporting Actor

Steve Buscemi, Lean on Pete - Irascible mentor without heart-of-gold clichés
Philip Ettinger, First Reformed - Lays out the film's stakes in one bravura scene
Alessandro Nivola, Disobedience - Layers and layers of ambivalence and dismay
Koudous Seihon, A Ciambra - Ally? Threat? Easygoing charm keeps riddles alive
Alex Wolff, Hereditary - Takes Peter's devastation seriously, amplifying its impact

Runners Up: Jordan (Panther), Miller (Simon), Grant (Paddington), Tambor (Stalin),
Plemons (Game Night), Wetrek (Western)

Best Ensemble Cast

Black Panther - Everyone's invested in character while keeping the pop saga popping
Gemini - Central friendship duet is convincing, with sparkling gems in subsidiary roles
Isle of Dogs - At last, a starry voice cast that doesn't feel immured in separate booths
Leave No Trace - Deep, delicate two-hander enriched by wider, rotating communities
Western - With few trained actors, the cast evokes a split, very contemporary township

Runners Up: Lean on Pete, First Reformed, Game Night, Ava

Best Original Screenplay

A Ciambra (Jonas Carpignano) - Expands prior film's complex world, yet stands alone
Ava (Sadaf Foroughi) - Flinty character study where nothing and nobody are simple
Isle of Dogs (W. Anderson, et al.) - Funny; adventurous structure; sobering undertows
On Body and Soul (I. Enyedi) - Expands an eccentric encounter into evocative allegory
Tully (Diablo Cody) - Smart and sensitive with every theme; keeps revealing new folds

Runners Up: First Reformed (Schrader), Hereditary (Aster), Gemini (Katz), Western (Grisebach)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Black Panther (R. Coogler, J.R. Cole) - Nervy ideas, compressed with folkloric clarity
The Death of Stalin (A. Iannucci, et al.) - Ambitious in plot, history, tragicomic tone
Disobedience (S. Lelio, R. Lenkiewicz) - Intimate distillation with artful alterations
Lean on Pete (Andrew Haigh) - Poignantly episodic; exquisitely gauges point of view
Zama (Lucrecia Martel) - Preserves the novel's secrets, layers, and affected style

Runners Up: Leave No Trace (Granik, Rosellini), Double Lover (Ozon, Piazzo), You Were
Never...
(Ramsay), Paddington 2 (King, Farnaby)

Best Cinematography

Ava (Sina Kermanizadeh) - Clever, unsettling framing; dramatic play with depth of field
First Reformed (Alexander Dynan) - Cold austerity, embers of warmth in boxy frame
November (Mart Taniel) - Eerie, lithogaphic precision with blacks, whites, silvery grays
You Were Never Really Here (Thomas Townend) - Funereal, yet varied and vivid
Zama (Rui Poças) - Light feels both natural and synthetic; frames never predictable

Runners Up: 12 Days (Depardon), Good Luck (Russell), Leave No Trace (McDonough),
Lean on Pete (Jønck), Hereditary (Pogorzelski), Hannah (Irvin), A Ciambra (Curtin)

Best Film Editing

A Ciambra (Affonso Gonçalves) - Strands forcefully entwined by a modern master
Ava (Kiarash Anvari) - Gambles on in medias res starts and stops; taut escalation
Sweet Country (Nick Meyers) - Inventive cuts make linear story feel cyclical, eternal
Western (Bettina Böhler) - Grisebach barely scripts; Böhler achieves shape, control
You Were Never Really Here (Joe Bini) - Jagged, confronting; risky hints and gaps

Runners Up: Zama (Harley, Schwerdfinger), Tully (Grube), Lean on Pete (Alberts),
Let the Sun Shine In (Lecorne), First Reformed (Rodriguez), Isle of Dogs (Weisblum, et al.),
Hereditary (Johnston, Lame), Black Panther (Berman, Shawver), Game Night (Egan, et al.),
The Green Fog (Johnson, Johnson), Disobedience (Nugent)

Best Sound Mixing

A Ciambra (Giuseppe Tripodi, et al.) - Rich, rumbling mix feeds the overall tensions
Gemini (Z. Seivers, G. Pereyra, et al.) - Bold experiments, braided to nutty music
Hereditary (Lewis Goldstein, et al.) - Ambient effects even creepier than big shocks
You Were Never Really Here (Paul Davies, et al.) - Florid, semi-subjective creativity
Zama (Guido Berenblum, et al.) - Defamiliarizing every shot with utterly unique mix

Runners Up: Ready Player One (Mate, Hymns, et al.), Black Panther (Hughes, Burtt, et al.),
Isle of Dogs (Lemmer, Scarabosio, et al.)

Best Production Design

Annihilation (Mark Digby) - Most of the unnerving set-pieces cast an impressive spell
Black Panther (Hannah Beachler) - Excels at opulent ceremony, differentiated worlds
Hereditary (Grace Yun) - Builds domestic spaces that also feel like ghoulish dioramas
Isle of Dogs (A. Stockhausen, P. Harrod) - Retro-futurist faux-Japanese imaginarium
Paddington 2 (Gary Williamson) - Children's-book templates brought to habitable life

Runners Up: Zama (Pinheiro), Tully (Masaro), A Quiet Place (Beecroft)

Best Costume Design

Black Panther (Ruth Carter) - Seizes a big canvas to luxuriate in colors, patterns, cuts
Disobedience (Odile Dicks-Mireaux) - Knows how many layers folks hide beneath
Paddington 2 (Lindy Hemming) - Jaunty, creative storybook palettes and silhouettes
The Seagull (Ann Roth) - Whatever went wrong here, Ann Roth is not (ever) to blame
Zama (Julio Suárez) - Spikes historical realism with perverse and dreamlike touches

Runners Up: Isle of Dogs (Staal)

Best Original Score

Annihilation (G. Barrow, B. Salisbury) - Reliably added uncanny textures to the film
Disobedience (Matthew Herbert) - Eclectic, seductive; deploys instruments smartly
Gemini (Keegan DeWitt) - Score is the film's key takeaway, but also serves its story
Isle of Dogs (Alexandre Desplat) - Again approaches pastiche with rich, snazzy craft
Ocean's Eight (Daniel Pemberton) - If only the whole film were as winningly strange

Runners Up: Leave No Trace (Hinchliffe), Hereditary (Stetson), Black Panther (Göransson)

Best Documentary Feature

12 Days (Raymond Depardon) - Moving use of Depardon's nuanced, unblinking gaze
Good Luck (Ben Russell) - Immersive experience in lives both different and similar
Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami (Sophie Fiennes) - Blissfully weirder as it goes
The Judge (Erika Cohn) - Imagine RBG with even higher stakes and tougher questions
RBG (Julie Cohen, Betsy West) - ...though I admit the real RBG has its moments

Runners Up: Won't You Be My Neighbor?, though in general I'm eager for better options

Worth a Second Try

Annihilation - Garland's and Portman's talents have their limits, but this has lingered
The Day After - Hong's disciples have got me questioning my mystified response
November - Such a weird, wild ride that I might have missed more granular details
On Body and Soul - The film on this list that suffered most from my festival fatigue
Ready Player One - I veered from love to boredom and sense there may be more layers

Runners Up: Let the Sun Shine In, The Rider, Paddington 2