An Elephant Sitting Still (Bo Hu, Drama, 230 mins)
The young Bo Hu’s first feature film is glacially slow, delicately surreal and heart-wrenchingly sad. We were in China as the film was released and were surprised to not hear much about it there. But someone suggested that the bleak portrayal of the greying, decaying, Chinese cityscapes made it lucky to find production at all.
A student of filmmakers such as Hungary’s Bela Tarr, Bo Hu’s film was perhaps always going to be best-received in Europe. We feel that it will go down as a classic. Not least because it is the director’s last proclamation to the world before killing himself aged 29.
Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, Drama, 131 mins)
The master Paul Thomas Anderson employs Daniel Day-Lewis in his last ever acting role for this latest addition to his catalogue of modern American classics.
The sumptuous production and costume design is savagely offset by the ugliness, bitterness and obsessiveness that seems to rule the glamorous fashion world of 1950s London.
A true love story emerges, nonetheless, from the delirium of the postwar West. It demonstrates once again P.T. Anderson’s ability to direct historical dramas without any of the primness, nostalgia or sentimentality which you normally find in the genre.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (The Coen Brothers, Western, 133 mins)
Netflix has been attempting to shed its reputation as a producer of trash TV by giving large grants to talented film directors with very few restrictions on creative direction.
One such project is ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’, a six-part anthology of tales from the Wild West. Ice-cool gun slingers lead us through a world upheld by frantic and lethal violence as the United States struggles to define its identity.
Jazz singer Tom Waits shines as the cheery, growly gold prospector persistently digging up an entire hill somewhere in the Deep South. James Franco, Jeff Bridges and Liam Neeson also feature in the all-star cast.
Annihilation (Alex Garland, Sci-Fi, 120 mins)
Having turned his hand from novels to screenplays with ’28 Days Later’ in 2002, and from screenwriting to directing with ‘Ex Machina’ in 2014, the Englishman Alex Garland produced his best work yet earlier this year.
A mix between Jonathan Glazer’s ‘Under the Skin’ and Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’, this strange, terrifying, cerebral piece was fortunate to attain the services of superstar Oscar-winner Natalie Portman, who gave the project a shred of marketability.
It imagines brilliantly all the features of an alien which we as humans may not be able to comprehend. It finds a place on our list for its fearlessness and originality.
Leave No Trace (Debra Granik, Drama, 119 mins)
Debra Granik, who made a star out of Jennifer Lawrence with the 2010 film ‘Rust and Bone’, returns to the American wilderness for this romantic drama set in an Oregon nature reserve.
The threat of ecological collapse is sensitively mapped out in terms of human relationships – in terms of guilt, fear and caution.
It was described by Peter Bradshaw as “the film Captain Fantastic should have been”.
Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, Sci-Fi, 111 mins)
Rapper Boots Riley set Sundance alight with this hilarious, eye-popping, genre-bending look at black culture in white society.
It is exactly the kind of film which we prioritise when selecting films for streaming on LiveTree. We like to see artists who approach filmmaking as if no rules or conventions had yet been made.
‘Sorry to Bother You’ has to be seen to be believed.
Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Drama, 121 mins)
Director Hirokazu kore-eda has had a passionate fanbase in his native Japan for some years, but it has taken more time to finally get recognised internationally.
The specialist in turning out unexpectedly heartwarming films from tales of broken, dysfunctional or reconstituted families, won the prestigious Palme d’Or for this look at a family of petty thieves who adopt a homeless child.
Apparently, he flew directly to Ethan Hawke’s office from Cannes, laid the award on his desk and told him he would star in his next film. So watch this space!
They Shall Not Grow Old (Peter Jackson, Documentary, 99 mins)
Recolourisation of historical photographs has become something of a trend in recent years, with pictures of Victorian ladies, 19th-century samurais and cowboys of the Wild West probably showing up in full colour on your news feed.
However, the effect of colourising video footage of WWI for the centenary of the Great War’s end is utterly overwhelming. Narrated by veterans interviewed decades ago before they all passed away, it is being widely named the best documentary of the year.
On LiveTree, we really appreciate documentaries which show the world in a new light and which uncover buried stories from around the world. However, it is a very special film which uses 100-year-old footage and produces a new way of seeing the world.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh, Drama, 115 mins)
The Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, known for his savage black comedies like ‘In Bruges’, turns out a (slightly!) more mannered and sensitive drama in ‘Three Billboards’, thanks largely to the Oscar-winning performance of Frances McDormand.
The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, Comedy, 121 mins)
OK, so technically this isn’t released in the UK until 1 January 2019, but it just has to be on the list. Lanthimos’ penchant for disturbing, affectless, high-concept black comedies becomes totally unhinged in this bombastic display from 18th-century England.
It features career-best performances from three actresses at the top of their game. We love films like this on LiveTree, which approach stories as though they have never been told before.
Get in touch and tell us your favourite films of 2018. You might be lucky enough to see them on LiveTree in 2019!
To see the amazing catalogue we have available for streaming at just £4.99 per month, visit our website here.