Film is everything we desire and we strive to recognise ourselves in it in a bid to be desired ourselves. It is the light in the dark. It is the whisper in the silence. It bequeathes us an infinity of lives. And so our band of film worshippers honour its divine power and cast an eye over the year that was 2018, delivering their highlights served with the occasional turkey. 

Behold the end of year list…

“The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


Davide Abbatescianni


On My Skin (Alessio Cremonini)

Alessio Cremonini’s film is a brave, moving, and incredibly shocking film that revolves around the last days of Stefano Cucchi, a 31-year-old Italian building surveyor who died in unclear circumstances during preventive custody. Alessandro Borghi’s interpretation is simply astonishing here. Now available on Netflix.


Woman at War (Benedikt Erlingsson)

Winner of Cannes’ SACD award and recipient of the prestigious Lux Prize, Benedikt Erlingsson’s feature presents the story of an intrepid woman and is a touching message of civil resistance that viewers cannot ignore.


Rosie (Paddy Breathnach)

Paddy Breathnach’s film treats the Irish homelessness crisis, one of the most discussed topics. A well crafted cinematography and the two lead characters’ interpretations (Sarah Greene and Moe Dunford) are rich of realism and tenderness.


1983 (Rou Siva)

The best from the East. It is a Polish TV series but with the same dignity of every good European film. Set in Communist Poland during the early 2000s, it is a bright example of what a good alternate history-based series should be. It also disrupts the stereotype that all Soviet-influenced countries should look like poor, depressing, and outdated places to live. 1983’s Warsaw is a feast for the eyes.


The Belly of the Whale (Morgan Bushe)

A very enjoyable Irish film, premiered in Galway and marks the directorial debut of Morgan Bushe. Excellent acting, beautiful soundtrack, and a very intriguing original plot. Definitely recommended.

Andrew Carroll

Suspiria (Luca Guadagino)

A feverish nightmare. A study in Nazi culpability. A film about witches. Suspiria is all of these things and more. It is a starkly beautiful, achingly powerful and graphically violent effort by Luca Guadagino with career best performances from Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton and Mia Goth. Suspiria isn’t just a great homage to the 1977 original it’s a genre-defining horror film in its own right.


First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

Ethan Hawke’s best performance since Linklater’s Before Trilogy anchors Paul Schrader’s modern day Taxi Driver. Cough syrup in whiskey and a barbed-wire crucifixion echo the film’s themes of religious faith and stewardship as well as personal pain. First Reformed acknowledges that when everything else is gone faith – no matter what it’s in – will be all we have left.


Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie)

The greatest Western action film ever made. Tom Cruise’s willingness to die for our entertainment makes this film a necessity. No other movie superstar does this kind of thing on this level. Scientology and long running times be damned Mission: Impossible – Fallout never backs away from the edge, it jumps right off.


Mandy (Panos Cosmatos)

The newly crowned King of the midnight movie. Cage howls and roars his way through axe-forging and chainsaw duels in his most Nicolas Cage and most affecting performance ever. Panos Cosmatos conjures up dreamscapes with a dedication rarely seen outside of a heavy-metal album cover all while the late Johan Johansson saws at guitars and coaxes midnight blue melodies out of synthesisers. All hail the Children of the New Dawn!


Kissing Candice (Aoife McArdle)

A weird mood piece in the often realist landscape of Irish cinema but one that shines bright, nonetheless. It is a beautiful and gritty indictment of the culture that created a violent, wayward, disaffected youth across Ireland. Director Aoife McArdle’s dreamy, grounded direction makes Kissing Candice a Discover Ireland ad for those caught between the mire of the past and a future already out of reach.


Worst of the Year

Red Sparrow (Francis Lawrence)

By far the most disappointing movie of 2018. Full to the brim with needless sexual violence and grim torture Red Sparrow is nowhere near as clever or provocative as it thinks it is. Perhaps worse is that it’s euthanasia inducingly boring. And that is the worst crime a movie can commit in this day and age. A waste of a great cast is the final nail in Red Sparrow’s coffin.

Sarah Cullen 

Overall I’m satisfied with 2018. While there were some disappointments there were also some very pleasant surprises. Once again my top 5 is horror-heavy but at this point I’ve accepted it as my lot in life. In no particular order…

Unsane (Steven Soderbergh)

I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt quite as sick and claustrophobic at a film before. Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane takes on the classic gothic tropes of entrapment and hysteria and reworks them for the twenty-first century in this scathing attack of the American health system and American misogyny. There has been little more cathartic this year than Claire Foy’s vicious and devastating take-down of her relentless stalker. And it’s all shot on a camera phone, to put all those fancy-schmancy filmmakers in their place.


A Sicilian Ghost Story (Fabio Grassadonia, Antonio Piazza)

Based on the horrific real-life abduction Giuseppe de Matteo, the son of an informant, by the Sicilian mafia, Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s adult fairy tale turns a nightmare into an aspirational tale of love and hope. Following the detective work of a local girl who is determined to discover the truth behind the kidnapping, Sicilian Ghost Story permits its child protagonists agency through fantasy, enabling them to transcend the bounds of their complicit adult society. Haunting yet strangely uplifting, the film becomes a way of exorcising the ghosts of Giuseppe’s unimaginable ordeal.


The Little Stranger (Lenny Abrahamson)

Did Lenny Abrahamson’s chilling tale of toxic masculinity just reinvent the ghost story? At the risk of sounding naive, I’m going to say yes, and also that I love it. The often mundane relationship between Domhnall Gleeson’s affable doctor and Ruth Wilson’s lonely impoverished patrician lulls the viewer into a false sense of security before Abrahamson ingeniously reveals (or does he?) the mysterious force at the centre of the film, Wilson’s crumbling family estate. It’s a thinker for sure.


Black 47 (Lance Daly)

Perhaps there’s a reason we’ve never had a film about the Irish famine until now: with the year (and even the week) that’s in it, it feels eerily prescient. Either way, Lance Daly’s western revenge thriller is chock-a-block with fantastic action and excellent performances. In particular, it should be praised for its sophisticated stunt choreography which ensures that the narrative never flags. Ultimately, Black 47 demonstrates how a film’s subject matter can add much-needed pathos and nuance to a genre.


Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley)

It’s nice to see a slacker film really putting in the work. An almost pitch-perfect response to last year’s Get Out, Boots Riley’s absurdist comedy takes off where Jordan Peele left off in its examination of commodification and race in the United States, except this time we also get Danny Glover explaining double-consciousness to Lakeith Stanfield. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we might get a third film in the same vein next year and make it an unofficial trilogy. (Anyone know if Ava DuVernay has a gap in her schedule?)



Red Sparrow

While there are a bunch of movies I would consider nominating here, I think I’m going to go with the one that was most watchable in a trainwreck sort of way, which would be Red Sparrow. If you really wanted to see Jennifer Lawrence and the director of the Hunger Games franchise back together to make a new version of the Hunger Games but this time about sexual assault rather than violence, then you’re in luck. But also, what in the heck were you thinking?

David Deignan

Custody (Xavier Legrand)

A masterpiece. I did Custody the disservice of watching it during a long-haul flight but that didn’t stop it from being the best cinema experience of my year. This terrifically tense family drama follows the destructive divorce of a hellish couple and the horrific toll it takes on them and on their two children. It’s almost overbearingly intense at times but remains absolutely engaging from the very first frame to the last – a testament to the sheer strength of the writing, direction and the performances of the key cast. This is faultless filmmaking across the board, and it is extremely hard to believe that this is only Xavier Legrand’s first feature. I can’t wait to see what he does next. If Custody is any indication, it’s going to be special.


Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)

Spectacular in every sense of the word. Roma marks Alfonso Cuarón’s first Spanish-language feature since 2001’s Y Tu Mamá También and is a sprawling, heartfelt snapshot of a tumultuous time in the life of Cleo – a young, live-in housekeeper for a middle-class family – and the city that she lives in. Set in the Roma district of Mexico City in the early 1970s, this film boasts a gorgeous visual palette. Beautifully shot (with cinematography also by Cuarón) in black and white, every individual frame is carefully curated by a filmmaker at the absolute top of his game. It surprised nobody by winning the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival and, while no foreign language film has ever won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Roma will undoubtedly be in the picture come February. Although it’ll soon be available for streaming on Netflix, this sweeping behemoth begs to be seen on a big screen.


You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)

Lynne Ramsay’s powerful fourth feature is deeply intricate, deftly subtle and stirringly affecting, confirming her place as one of contemporary cinema’s most exciting filmmakers. Based on the 2013 novella of the same name, the film’s narrative is essentially a character study of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joe, an unstable hired gun who is tasked with rescuing trafficked girls from their captors. Phoenix is in fantastic form, delivering his best performance to date as a character who may be the most captivating of the year. Ramsay’s clever staging and misdirection drives the electrically charged narrative forward, her confident storytelling coupling with Jonny Greenwood’s dissonant score to create a jittery atmosphere perfect for this film. I couldn’t get this out of my head for weeks after watching.


Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda)

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest is a beautiful ode to the families we choose, rather than the ones we are born into. Winner of this year’s Palme D’Or in Cannes, the narrative follows a tight-knit family who are forced to shoplift in order to survive their life of extreme poverty. To tell much more than that here would be unfair, as this is a subtly complex story which deserves to be experienced by an audience going in blind. All I’ll do is reserve special praise for Kore-eda and his stellar cast, with the younger members in particular stealing the show.


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsay, Rodney Pothman)

Hot take: this is the best comic-book movie ever made. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is chiefly a love letter addressed to the turbulent history of its titular hero as well as the array of creatives who have brought his stories to life both on the page and onscreen. It’s a brilliantly silly caper full of heart and whip-smart humour, and the gorgeously varied visual palette can be held up as an A+ example of what animation as a form can achieve. This was the most fun film of the year for me. The late Stan Lee would undoubtedly have been proud.


Surprise of the Year

Blockers (Kay Cannon)

I didn’t expect much at all from this inversion of the typical teen sex comedy. The trailers and inconspicuous title did the film no favours in marketing, serving to disguise the surprisingly sweet and refreshingly open-minded story buried beneath the dick jokes. The film is hilarious when it wants to be and touching when it needs to be, smartly exploring the teen angst of sexual exploration and the parental fear of growing apart with your children. It has well-drawn characters with highly effective individual arcs and deserves real credit for representing minorities in a way that doesn’t feel tacked on. And John Cena is outstanding, announcing himself as a seriously funny comedic talent. Wow, I never thought I’d say that.


Christmas Turkey

Peterloo (Mike Leigh)

Alfred Hitchcock famously once said that “drama is life with the dull bits cut out”. Peterloo is based on real-life events, but writer/director Mike Leigh has left in the the dull parts and forgotten to add any excitement. Whatsoever. Stuffy, bloated and outstandingly boring. I love Christmas Turkey, but I hated Peterloo.


Most Anticipated 2019

The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent) / Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi)

The Nightingale – Jennifer Kent’s long awaited second feature following 2014’s acclaimed The Babadook – was my personal favourite at this year’s Venice Film Festival. It is a brutally violent, intensely provoking and unflinchingly honest revenge story guaranteed to polarise audiences upon releasing next year. Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, meanwhile, is an unapologetically funny anti-war film. The story follows lonely and confused young German boy Jojo, whose only goal in life is to become the best Nazi the world has ever seen. In order to achieve this aim, he calls upon the help of his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler – goofily played by the half-Jewish, half-Maori Waititi. The filmmaker has proudly stated that his latest is going to “piss off a lot of racists.” It’s also going to be a strong awards contender this time next year.


Sean Dooley 

Deadpool 2 (David Leitch)

I thought Infinity War would have been my favourite movie of the year for sheer size alone but Deadpool 2 lived up to the high standards from the first movie and blew it out of the park. Ryan Reynolds can do no wrong and just keeps getting better and better with the likes of Deadpool (we don’t mention Green Lantern) my personal favourite of the year.


Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo)

The must-see movie of the year for not just Marvel fans but everyone. A huge collaboration of the Marvel universe finally coming to fruition, one of the biggest and best Marvel movies.


A Star is Born (Bradley Cooper)

Another man that can do no wrong it seems is Bradley Cooper, one of my favourite actors, and he plays a famous junkie. Lady Gaga is a revelation and was probably a surprise to everyone how well she could act. We all knew Cooper’s acting skills but I was blown away by his musical ability and vice versa with Gaga and her acting ability. A fantastic version of the movie that brings you in and pulls on your emotions to the end.


Christopher Robin (Marc Forster)

A feel-good family movie that appeals to all ages. Taps into a nostalgia but beyond that never fails to pull on your heart strings.


Incredibles 2 (Brad Bird)

Another nostalgic throwback for everyone, this one had been long awaited by myself and I am sure millions of others still wondering what happened at the end of the first movie with the Underminer. A relief that we finally got the movie, and not just get it, but live up to the standards of the first, which most sequels find extremely hard to do.

Richard Drumm

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)
It’s difficult to put into words what this film is or how deeply under your skin it can get. A thoroughly affecting exploration of PTSD, violence and the darkest concerns of the soul. You couldn’t call it a fun watch but everything from the editing, sound design and cinematography   to a highly impressively crafted and suffocating atmosphere of dread.


Assassination Nation (Sam Levinson)


One of the most intense horror sequences of the year, a superb score, believable lead characters and some of the most satisfyingly righteous anger to emerge so far in the post #MeToo era.


Cam (Daniel Goldhaber)


Another film to add to the growing list of impressive Netflix originals. Gorgeously shot and anchored by a great central performance, it’s a clever, sex positive horror that’s an unsettling mirror to our digital lives.


Upgrade (Leigh Whannell)


Aka Good Venom. A tightly constructed, inventive and thoroughly satisfying low-budget action thriller that’s able to see its concept through to its logical conclusion.


Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie)


For all intents and purposes, this year’s Fury Road. We can argue all day if it’s a good thing to let Cruise have this much good will given his, ahem, affiliations, or if maybe its too long, but those concerns largely melt away given the sheer quality of the staging of the nearly 100% practical stunt work on display. Staggering that no one was killed making it.




Final Score


Or as it’s more affectionately known; ‘Die Hard at a Football Match’. Stupid beyond words, it’s a film clearly made by Brits with an eye for the American market so includes every football stereotype imaginable. Evil Soviet types take a stadium hostage in order to capture Pierce Brosnan where the day is ultimately saved by racism and not Dave Bautista ramping his motorbike over a still happening football game. Grade-A shite.


Ilsa Flynn

Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley)

Surrealism at its finest. This film is a landmark. It is not only a statement on racism in the US, it is a statement on capitalism and how it is consuming us beyond comprehension. There are no words to encompass this film accurately. It is completely bizarre but oh so brilliant. You must see this film before you die.


Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham)

It’s a raw, yet ironic look at the life of an introverted girl who comes to accept herself for who she is. I was touched by how on the nose this movie is. It doesn’t idealise or pretend. It contains the gritty details of early adolescence with care and brute honesty. I honestly couldn’t love this film more


Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson)

A heartwarming story to the core. Wes Anderson puts an interesting spin on his style with his first original stop motion picture. A trust is formed and justice is sought. There is a beautiful look at barriers and comprehension. This ultimately is a very human and heartwarming story. Beautiful in aesthetic and story.


Hereditary (Ari Aster)

This film is unsettling to say the least. The originality was astounding and the story took turns no one could have foreseen. Slow moving, and ominous for a spine-chilling first act with a jolt into the second act that shocks you until the end and continues to build to unforeseen heights. I was terrified in the true sense of the word. This is honestly the most terrifying film I have ever seen.


Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo)

The most anticipated film of the year did not disappoint. Many entered the theatres like myself, unaware of what to expect and whatever expectation we did have was risen with this action packed, hilarious, yet somehow devastating instalment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


Irish Film

Cellar Door

Small budget independent that blew me away. You will be disillusioned but engrossed from the first second. This film is magnificently written and put together. The story of a young mother who is brought to a mother and baby home quickly becomes a psychological thriller on a level of pure brilliance.  

Shauna Fox 

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody (Bryan Singer)

An amazing film with, obviously, the best soundtrack. This is an absolute job to watch, capturing the highs and lows of Freddie Mercury’s career. Rami Malek is a revelation; and the last twenty minutes of the film…it’s a kind of magic.


Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo)

I am total Marvel nerd, and this was the holy grail of Marvel films! The acting, the CGI, the action, the soundtrack, the cinematography all just everything came together to make this the most ambitious Marvel film yet. And if you haven’t checked out the new trailer for Avengers: Endgame…where have you been hiding?!


Black Panther (Ryan Coogler)

Slick, stylish, and modern, Black Panther was everything that was hinted for us when we first met T’Challa in Civil War. This was one of Marvel’s more contemporary feeling films.


Crazy Rich Asians (Jon M. Chu)

Hilarious and romantic, this is a film about finding the strength to love. Great costumes, fantastic soundtrack; this was the comedy of the year for me.


Deadpool 2

Violent, gory, and hilarious! Everything that is expected of the Deadpool franchise. Perfection!


Notable mentions:

A Star is BornAnt-man & the Wasp Mamma Mia 2


Cian Geoghegan

The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles)

Orson Welles’ phantom masterpiece finally sees the light of day, and reaches it gargantuan potential. A daring film, serving chiefly to deconstruct the cult of personality around Welles, and demolish the church of the iconoclast film director.


Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda)

At once the most wholesome and tragic film of the year, chronicling a family bonded not by blood but by illegal living space. Its beauty is neat and subtle. Its heart is gigantic.


BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee)

Bounding with immediacy and passion. Spike Lee has made the most mainstream-friendly film of his career, while still holding nothing back.


Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie)

Impeccably plotted, staged, shot, scored. The action highlight of the year. Pure functional filmmaking at its best.


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)

A collage of stories ranging from the farcical to the melancholic, all of which sink their teeth into the mind of the viewer. Tom Waits as a lonely prospector is the most beautiful sequence of the year.


Liam Hanlon 

Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Everything from the remarkable Vicky Krieps performance to Lesley Manville’s cutting glances help make Daniel Day-Lewis’s ‘final’ performance a standout. Paul Thomas Anderson helms a film, much like Reynolds Woodcock’s dressmaking, that is elegant, refined, and has an alluring sense of mystery, intrigue, enchantment. I loved it.


120 BPM (Robin Campillo)

This film offers an exploration of Parisian Act Up activists in the early ‘90s and offers hope despite some of the activists inevitably surrendering to AIDS. There is such a joie de vivre here, especially in nightclub sequences with the incredible Arnaud Rebotini soundtrack, and there is life in these characters, despite what lies ahead for them. The film is packed with emotion and the final act is powerful. It was also released on the same week as Love, Simon; a great week for queer cinema.


Lean On Pete (Andrew Haigh)

I adored 45 Years and was eagerly-anticipating Andrew Haigh’s next film. Lean On Pete makes the ordinary extraordinary and Charlie Plummer’s performance is captivating. Haigh possesses a deft touch at capturing relationships and interactions on-screen and I can’t wait for what he has in store next.


Lucky (John Carroll Lynch)

Harry Dean Stanton, in one of his final roles, is mesmerising as Lucky. It’s a film about one man’s daily routine and sounds lifeless on paper. Yet, one accident forces him to consider his own mortality and the film ironically becomes full of life. The sequence with Lucky singing at a Spanish birthday party is truly beautiful and then there’s David Lynch’s character who laments his runaway tortoise called President Roosevelt. What’s not to love?


Michael Inside (Frank Berry)

This film had elements of Loachian social realism and is a moving piece of cinema. Dafhyd Flynn as Michael is one of the performances of the year and Michael is a character you can support and sympathise with. It’s a film that deserves much more acclaim and Berry and Flynn will undoubtedly further assist in the promising future of Irish cinema.


Honourable Mentions

 Dublin Oldschool, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Love, Simon, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, BlacKkKlansman, Brad’s Status, Widows


Turkey of the Year

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I feel sorry for J.A Bayona for putting his name to a mishandled franchise reboot like this. He deserves better and the few good things about this are all Bayona-influenced. Not Trevorrow/Connolly.


Dakota Hevron

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald

While leaving something to be desired as a sequel to the highly successful Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the film is a solid second installment in the series, visually marvellous and brilliantly acted.


Black Panther (Ryan Coogler)

Black Panther is a phenomenal film, fast-paced and enthralling, a worthy installment in the Marvel film franchise with incredible performances from the cast.


Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo)

Absolutely worth all of its hype, the film is more than successful in its ambitious task of bringing so many heroes and storylines together, one of the must-sees of the year.


BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee)

A hard-hitting must-see. BlacKkKlansman is a vastly entertaining and utterly unapologetic film, one that is unfortunately still all too relevant today.


Bohemian Rhapsody (Bryan Singer)

The brilliantly-told story of a legend, an entertaining and poignant biopic with an award-worthy performance by Rami Malek.

Niall James Holohan 


Filmworker (Tony Zierra)

I was lucky enough to see Tony Zierra’s Filmworker alongside Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon on the same weekend this summer as The Lighthouse cinema in Dublin made the ingenious decision to screen several Kubrick films key in Filmworker’s narrative the same weekend that the documentary was released. This meant seeing Leon Vitali at both ends of the burning candle, as it were. First, as Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon, a performance which seemed set to propel him into a long and illustrious career as a character actor and then as the man obsessed with being Kubrick’s assistant, at the end of the road which Vitali chose instead. On the face of it, this might seem like a movie for Kubrick enthusiasts only but in fact, it tells a profound heart-wrenching story of unerring commitment to a mentor and their work which demystifies the filmmaking process and, as a result, resonates far beyond the unending conceptualization and conspiracy theories which usually accompany any discussion on Stanley.


24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami)

Also originally released in Iran in 2017 but distributed throughout Europe in 2018, this experimental film by Abbas Kiarostami was his last before he passed away in 2016. Essentially, 24 Frames is series of shots holding for 270 seconds on what first appear to be still images, photographs, and paintings which slowly come to life. It’s an experience which is highly diminished through its description but its uncompromising dedication to the power of the arresting image makes it a film which I would highly recommend to any fellow cinéaste.


You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)

The parallels with Taxi Driver and to a lesser extent, Tony Scott’s Man On Fire, notwithstanding, this was probably the best experience I’ve had in a cinema this year. Lynne Ramsay’s films to date could be described as pure cinema in that there is often little overly said but so much going on by way of the art of visual storytelling. Amazing performances all around, typically sensitive direction from Lynne Ramsay and a shoo-in for Best Sound Mixing at the Oscars in March (I am a PTSD survivor and some of the soundscapes shook me to my very core), You Were Never Really Here is highly likely to be the 2018 film that stays with us the longest.


BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee)

When Trump was elected, I sat with an American friend in London and searching for something positive to say, I suggested that maybe, just maybe we might see the best of America in response to Trump’s warped vision of the world. BlacKkKlansman, for my money, is the finest artistic response we’ve had yet from a visionary auteur who is sliding smoothly toward becoming one of the greatest American filmmakers of all time, and arguably the one that matters most. Not a masterpiece but a timely slice of entertainment acting as a Trojan horse for big ideas and so, a unique film in 2018.


Generation Wealth (Lauren Greenfield)

Lauren Greenfield may not be a household name, but for the past 25 years, she has found a unique artistic voice in analyzing significant cultural shifts with a fine-tooth comb. It is a key conceit of her new film, Generation Wealth, that all of these explorations, however diverse, have led to one monolithic phenomenon: wealth culture. In Generation Wealth, Greenfield presents the best of her previous work to create an entertaining fable about the wealthiest social class in human history, almost as if told from the point of view of a historian detailing the follies that inevitably precede the fall of every ill-conceived empire. It gave me vertigo. See it.


Worst Films of the Year

American statesman and 26th President of the U.S. Theodore Roosevelt once famously said “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”. Still, The 15:17 to Paris, Death WishSherlock Gnomes and sadly, A Wrinkle in Time left me wondering WTF.


Michael Lee


First Reformed (Paul Shrader)

Paul Shrader fearlessly stares eternal spiritual questions straight in the face and doesn’t so much as blink, and Ethan Hawke gives the performance of his career.


The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos)

Yorgos Lanthimos offers us his opus, a  biting period satire told through a wildly absurdist lens akin to Beckett.


Hereditary (Ari Aster)

A horror that elevates itself above the genre, it’s classic and fresh at the same time,  writer/director Ari Aster richly captures the intensity of a disintegrating family as they step closer and closer to damnation,  and Toni Collette’s manic performance is nothing short of electric.


Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley)

Boots Riley made the bestest, weirdest, wackiest satire since Putney Swope or Candy.


Phantom Thread (P.T Anderson)

P.T Anderson’s period drama hypnotizes with befitting decorum.

John McGarr 

buster scrubs
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)


The best film of the year. It’s beautifully shot, spans a wide range of genres and emotions and doesn’t have a single weak performance.


 Climax (Gaspar Noé)


The closest thing there is to a waking nightmare. Includes some of the best cinematography of the year.

Hereditary (Ari Aster)


A subtly terrifying film; Toni Colette gives the performance of the year. The modern version of The Shining.


Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson)


Aesthetically pleasing with some fantastic character designs, set designs and music.


Annihilation (Alex Garland)


A complex film that’s a slow burn on the viewer. The final 30 minutes are outstanding with one of my favourite endings to a film.


Conor McMahon

One Cut of the Dead (Shinichirou Uedaone)


This Japanese low-budget hit was made for 27,000 and has grossed 27 million. It’s hard to talk about this film without spoiling the really clever premise. It’s enough to say it starts with a 35 minute one-take zombie scene, before the film takes a sharp twist. It’s a film that leaves you with a feeling of pure joy for the making of low-budget horror.


A Quiet Place (John Krasinski)


One of the most tense and clever horror films for a long time. And if nothing else it got people to shut up talking in the cinema.


8th Grade (Bo Burnham)


Elsie Fisher gives an amazing and awkward central performance of what feels like a very authentic portrayal of life as an 8th Grader. Directed by YouTube star Bo Burnham


Hereditary (Ari Aster)


Sold as the scariest film since The Exorcist, this film has some genuinely shocking moments and a great performance by Toni Colette. Also stars Gabriel Byrne.


Halloween (David Gordon Green)


Made as a sequel to the original Halloween, I thought this film set the right tone of horror diffused with some very funny moments. It re-established Michael Myers as someone to be feared. A new score by John Carpenter and with Jamie Lee Curtis back in the lead role made for a 77 million dollar opening weekend. The film clearly hitting the mark with fans.


Jack O’Dwyer 

eight grade

Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham)

YouTube star Bo Burnham’s debut feature-length film is perhaps the only coming-of-age film in recent years which accurately depicts the milieu in which adolescents are growing up in the late-2010s. Burnham brilliantly captures the ways in which the joys, heartbreaks, jealousies and paranoias of teenage life have been displaced from the physical world to the virtual world of Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram. Unlike most films of its type which are largely out-of-touch in their efforts to portray social media etiquette, Burnham is meticulous in his rendering of the digital age; a clear reflection of his 12-year long spell as an internet celebrity. In addition to this well-needed timeliness, the film features an emotional central performance by Elsie Fisher as the painfully awkward and pessimistic Kayla Day, a thirteen-year-old eighth grader attempting to cope with the loneliness and pressures of high school life.


Utoya: 22 July (Erik Poppe)

Erik Poppe’s Utøya July 22, through the precise co-ordination of its actors and the sheer ambition of its cinematographic acrobatics, asserts itself as perhaps the most visceral and affecting film ever made about mass murder or terrorism. While the specific characters at its centre are developed effectively, the unbroken long take which presents this film also acquires its own sense of agency, which plunges the viewer into the horror of the situation in the most totalizing way possible. The killer’s presence is established through adept sound design and restrained glimpses, in a way which creates a sustained sense of fear without glorifying or legitimizing his hateful actions. The film’s structure is skilfully mapped onto the actual events of the 2011 Norwegian tragedy, with this verisimilitude leading to a palpable sense of time ticking agonizingly by throughout the shooting’s seventy-two minutes. This harrowing yet respectful depiction of a modern European tragedy is one of the year’s best films.

Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher)

A unique assemblage of allegory, fable, fantasy and dream, Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy as Lazzaro deserves praise and recognition for its temporal undulations, strange internal logic, and abstract approach towards important themes such as class, modernity and nostalgia. Through the timeless, saintly figure of Lazzaro, the film raises powerful questions relating to the place of absolute goodness in a world which is built perpetually on inequality and exploitation. The film does well to remain consistent both tonally and logically despite the loose and often shocking events which constitute its plot, most notably the daring mid-film pivot which entirely refocuses the script’s direction and context. While the film may be accused of losing focus and devolving into predictability during its second half, it must be admired for stubbornly maintaining its own unique vision. Its dual portrayal of a Europe which is beset by lasting societal issues renders the film essential viewing for fans of art-house cinema.   

Puzzle (Marc Turtletaub)

Marc Turtletaub’s Puzzle is one of the year’s most emotionally powerful films. Deceptively simple, it centres on a shy, middle-aged housewife, Agnes, who finds solace in the activity of solving jigsaw puzzles. Upon meeting a partner in her new hobby, Robert, with whom she enters a puzzle-solving competition, Agnes begins to lead a secret life away from her family, which crumbles the bedrock of her mundane, submissive existence. This is a film with much conflict but no villains; each argument is so fairly written that every character onscreen becomes equally deserving of viewer sympathy. Above all, the film proves that anyone’s life can be transformed at any time, and often in the unlikeliest of ways.

Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz)

Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot is a film which succeeds on every level. The film’s thematic density is subtly enriched throughout by its elegant yet disorientating three-piece structure. The film ranges in tone from a distant and surreal examination of war’s absurdity to an intensely claustrophobic portrayal of how a family copes with sudden grief, yet each tonal and temporal shift satisfyingly reinforces the film’s structural integrity. Its complex portrayal of the role of causality and chance within the realm of war is particularly powerful, both on a human level and in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during which it takes place. While the film often feels numb on the surface, as viewers we can infer a great deal of emotional and thematic heft which goes far beyond the boundaries of the script. It is varied yet controlled, reserved yet inventive; for these reasons, Foxtrot is a masterpiece.

Sean O’Rourke

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsey)

Director Lynne Ramsey again proves herself an expert at forcing her viewer into a mind split apart by trauma. Her direction and Joaquin Phoenix’s central performance lead us through a world so dark that the empathy and hope we find there is utterly unexpected and all the more captivating.


The Silver Branch (Katrina Costello)

The Silver Branch is a moving tribute to the interlocking, mutually generative forces of art and the natural world. That the film is able to blend these concepts so well, exploring life in The Burren in such a way that shows the concepts to be intertwined and, perhaps, inextricable, speaks to the amazing craft on display.


Hereditary (Ari Aster)

Though I could imagine Hereditary being near unwatchable for many people for many reasons, the film was completely compelling to me. It was not easy going and watching it often felt like being a dog having his face pushed into a recently-soiled carpet, but its insightfulness about collective family trauma, its exploration of the isolation caused by that collective trauma, and its eye for the visceral and the uncanny brought me through every torturous (in the best possible way) minute.


Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowski)

Cold War is, at its core, the story of a fundamentally destructive relationship. The tale, which spans both sides of the Iron Curtain, sees love, hate, art, and politics merge, piling more and more pressure on this already flawed relationship, tearing it slowly at its seams. The film examines in detail the resulting ugly and beautiful atrophy that these characters unavoidably bring on each other.


First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

A kind of Taxi Driver for the age of climate change, First Reformed centres on a pastor who comes to find a horrifying purpose in response to the apathy and outright malevolence of his fellow man. Much like You Were Never Really Here, the film has a beautiful and unsettling way of combining a grimy, cynical vision of the world with empathy for those people who do or plan to do rather terrible things. On a more personal, selfish note, you should also see First Reformed because I need more people to discuss its ending with – it is gorgeous and baffling in equal measure.


James Phelan 

you-were-never really here

Just to clarify the criteria I apply to this list, I deliberately exclude the year’s crop of Oscar contenders. Regardless of their actual release date; spiritually and contextually they already feel like the previous year’s films.

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsey)

Here we have a brutal rumbling beast of a film. At once harrowing in its’ depiction of revenge but also curiously subtle in where the camera doesn’t venture. Yet it grows all the more devastating and graphic for its’ relative restraint.  The plot sits on ostensibly clichéd ground but Lynne Ramsey churns it all up and finds fresh blood and visuals to stain our memories with. The mesmeric audio is award worthy too.


A Simple Favour (Paul Feig)

I’m so far out on a limb here that I can barely see the tree of critical consensus anymore. No one else seemed to react to this zesty, zany thriller comedy but it provided one of precious few real surprises at the cinema this year. Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively are the beating heart of a hybrid that elicited gasps and giggles at intoxicatingly invigorating levels.


A Quiet Place (John Krasinski)

It’s sign of the times stuff when A Quiet Place feels like a small over-achieving film. Yet among the dull bombast of incessant blockbusters, it did feel like a stealthy skilful intruder. Apparently a whole ‘War of Worlds’ first act was jettisoned so there were excellent instincts at play here on the writing side. It was similarly assured in its’ direction. Reducing human pain down to a nail on the stairs continues to evoke more wincing empathy in audiences than entire cities falling over.


Tully (Diablo Cody)

I should be breaching my Oscar rule for this but Charlize Theron was not on any shortlist for this sweet, sharp and sour take on motherhood. But heck, super tired mums don’t expect any recognition. The film’s own internal identity crisis makes sense by the end as Diablo Cody’s fairytale unravelled into achingly poignant reality.


Teen Titans Go To The Movies/Into the Spider-Verse

Yup I know. Trying to be cool to ingratiate myself to the arthouse crowd again. While also sneaking in a sixth film. Sue me. Animation revenue is propping up the movies and we should acknowledge it once in a while.

Teen Titans was the best superhero satire of the year, expertly extending its episodic madness to a really pleasing, really funny feature. Spider-Verse proved yet again that the application of imagination and humour can enliven even a franchise that is being served up to us with what should be boredom inducing frequency.



I have love in my heart for Thoroughbreds. Its’ theatrical trappings poke through too much in the finale but in the main, it’s an icily performed if imperfect thriller. BlacKkKlansman is rightly receiving plenty of praise. However for me, it’s more an important film than a good film. Perhaps following the vagaries of actual fact hurts it, because it never fulfilled the promise of its giddy and gripping trailer. This opinion may suggest it belongs in the overrated category but I merely hope this film is underrated by just me and will blossom on further viewings.



When a critical tide sweeps in behind certain films, it seems that all film reviewers worldwide have entered an omerta pact. We all know the type of film that gets universal five star status upon release and three months later, it all gets dialled back to its’ true rating.  This herd mentality leads to films as deeply flawed as Hereditary, Widows and Incredibles 2 being anointed as instant classics.

For the record, the second Incredibles got some bounce from moving Elastigirl centrally but thereafter – it’s the same film as the first. Like the exact same. With an ending randomly set on a boat that rouses long dormant memories of Speed 2.

Widows also has virtues but by god, it has plenty of problems too. It did achieve the impossible by feeling simultaneously too fast moving and too slow in its storytelling. It’s not a dead loss but in my opinion, it is all awfully unconvincing.

Hereditary also has powerful emotive sequences and honourable ambition but rather than concentrate on being one thing, it tried to do everything. And in doing so, diffused its potency. As the story piled on a myriad of motivations, the plot turned into a game of buckaroo. By the time narcoleptic arson was mentioned, my arse was out the door.



Red Sparrow

There were probably plenty of inferior films than this alleged ‘spy’ alleged ‘yarn’. I don’t even particularly hate it. In fact it was often accidentally entertaining as the two worst spies in cinematic history insisted on cavorting and conducting their secretive spy craft in front of room-height unobscured windows. They clearly missed the class on how the intelligent deployment of curtains and blinds might enhance the chances of their espionage endeavours remaining you know….. secret.  

Stephen Porzio

mission impossible fallout

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie)

A sixth entry in a franchise has no right being this good. That said, most franchises don’t have a lead who seems willing to die for people’s entertainment. With a deliberately stripped back but sharp script, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie chose wisely not to focus too heavily on plot, devoting all his energy to action. At nearly 150 minutes, Fallout is like a berserk Asian action film à la The Night Comes for Us (narrowly missing my top five), featuring bone-crunching violence and mind-blowing set pieces that just keep topping themselves in terms of OTT glory. Early on, the movie shows Tom Cruise literally jumping out of a plane at 25,000 feet and that isn’t even the most exhilarating moment.

However, what makes Fallout feel like a classic blockbuster is the mega-wattage charisma of Cruise, backed by an unbelievable supporting cast including Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris and Vanessa Kirby as well as a never better Henry Cavill.  On top of all this, the film’s more haunted and doomed tone than previous entries in the franchise feels timely and the central theme of Cruise’s agent petrified that his heroism will end up destroying everybody he loves, manages to tie the franchise together in a way that makes even its predecessors look better. Thus, my mission (and I chose to accept it) is to put this as my number one movie of the year.


You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsey)

Narrowly missing the top spot for me is You Were Never Really Here, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Joe, a former FBI agent/soldier and victim of child abuse turned hitman. He is tasked with rescuing a young girl from prostitution.

Not a single frame is wasted in this 90-minute masterpiece, which plunges viewers into Joe’s past through trauma-induced memory shards which jarringly jut into his present. Director Lynne Ramsey and editor Joe Bini create an unbelievably evocative portrayal of extreme PTSD and how trauma can impact our lives as we go forward. As Joe is asked by tourists to take a photo, he is immediately back to when he discovered a warehouse full of drowned illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, one frame of Joe’s dad wielding a hammer makes viewers understand why it’s now the hitman’s weapon of choice.

However, despite the grimness of the story, Ramsey makes You Were Never Really Here ultimately hopeful. All violence is shown off-screen, with viewers only seeing the aftermath. The relationship between Joe and his elderly mother is oddly sweet and the final moments, which see two victims of abuse coming together to help each other through the darkness, is utterly beautiful.


First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

Ethan Hawke excels as a grieving reverend whose counselling of a radical-environmentalist leads him on a path of self-destruction. A renowned scholar in religious cinema, writer-director Paul Schrader remixes Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Light with his Taxi Driver script in this haunting, quietly angry drama about life in the 21st century. In many ways it feels like the film his career (featuring other Scorsese collaborations The Last Temptation of Christ and Bringing Out the Dead) was leading up to. In making it, he has created his best work in nearly 20 years.


Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Early in 2018, came the deliciously fiendish latest from Paul Thomas Anderson. Set in 1950s London, Daniel Day Lewis stars as a genius if fiercely controlling fashion designer who starts a relationship with a mysterious muse (a bewitching Vicky Krieps).

Beginning as a story featuring the common trope of the creative genius and the woman who stands by his side, Phantom Thread mutates as it goes into something unbelievably exciting. Part romance, part Gothic psychological thriller – the drama comedically lampoons the notion that one must be a jerk to be creative. While it does so, Anderson crafts a film so luscious, so sartorially elegant even the obsessive fashionista at its centre would be proud.


Mandy (Panos Cosmatos)/Revenge (Coralie Fargeat)

2018 gave us two phenomenally original takes on the vengeance genre and I can’t pick between the two.

Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge is a fiercely stylish stripped back thriller about a woman named Jen left for dead in the desert. Bolstered by mesmerizing visuals – which both feel realistic but also ultra-stylised, one must admire the clean, tight script. It begins with its central character being sexualised by her eventual attackers (with Fargeat queasily mimicking the male gazes with her camera), before her reincarnation as unkillable destroyer of toxic masculinity. Revenge then ends with a showdown for the ages, in which previously established roles are reversed as Jen chases her nude male oppressor around a house wielding a shotgun.

Where Mandy fails in clear narrative storytelling, it more than makes up for with its crazed LSD trip atmosphere which manages the impossible task of being on the same mental wave length as Nicolas Cage. The screen legend stars as quiet logger in the Shadow Mountains whose life falls apart when his wife (Andrea Riseborough) is kidnapped by a hallucinogenic loving hippie cult. Ingesting many drugs, the husband launches a one-man war on the gang. Writer-director Panos Cosmatos makes literally every frame of Mandy a work of art, drenching the movie in neon and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson menacing, eclectic score.

While the events which occur in Revenge and Mandy often defy realism, both masterfully create their own distinct worlds and feature elements which tie them to reality. In Mandy, it’s Cage’s raw, incredibly dialled in performance (his bathroom breakdown scene would get the actor an Oscar in a more conventional movie). Meanwhile, in Revenge, it’s Fargeat’s unfiltered onslaught against misogyny.

David Prendeville 


In Fabric (Peter Strickland)

Peter Strickland wowed me once more with this incredibly seductive mesh of Walerian Borowczyk, 70s Euro-horror, and kitchen-sink drama. A film obsessed with objects and sounds, it also sees Strickland branch out into a new realm of off-the-wall humour that has shades of Luis Bunuel and Chris Morris. Features a superb central turn by Marianne Jean-Baptiste.


The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier)

I know I’m in the minority on this but I found it to be an extraordinarily visceral and scathing genre deconstruction, as well as a hugely imaginative and satirical summation/self-critique of von Trier’s work. Matt Dillon has never been better, in what is a uniformly excellent cast.


First Reformed  (Paul Schrader)

What a surprise this was. After spending the last number of years stuck in below standard fare, Paul Schrader returned to triumphant form with this autumnal masterpiece. The influences of Bergman and Bresson loom large but this retains its own singular, distinctly Schraderian quality. By turns austere, bleak, playful and moving. Powered by a supreme central performance from Ethan Hawke.


Climax (Gaspar Noe)

Another surprise, in the sense that Gaspar Noe has here made a film that didn’t prove divisive, this being almost universally admired. Noe again showcases his formidable command of the medium to create an overwhelming experience. Anchored by a great Sofia Boutella and a relentless, pulsating soundtrack.


You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)

No surprise to see Lynne Ramsay deliver yet another directorial masterclass here. Her formal audacity and imagination elevates the pulpy source material to a higher plane. There isn’t a single shot wasted in the film’s remarkably concise 89 minutes. Features another terrific performance by Joaquin Phoenix.


Honourable Mentions

 Loveless, The Favourite, The Square, Zama, Phantom Thread, Hereditary, The Wild Pear Tree.


Brian Quinn

First Reformed  (Paul Schrader)

For all First Reformed’s quiet fury it’s the perforated moments of intimate wonder which gnaw against our subconscious, a divine sweetness blossoming between bruises.


Faces Places (Agnès Varda, JR)

Varda’s charming curiosity is as infectious as ever in this documentary. Through a road trip full of giddy joys we’re left with a thoughtful self portrait of the artist herself. Faces Places is all kinds of lovely.


Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

As if one of Woodcock’s own creations come to life, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is sleek, soft and delectably sophisticated from start to finish.


Michael Inside (Frank Berry)

Michael Inside shrugs off sentiment at every turn and manages to sidestep cliches with a potent simplicity.


Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson)

Stunning animation, wonderful voice acting, and my one weakness: Talking dogs.


You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)

A collaboration between Ramsay and Phoenix was always going to be an affair to remember. Phoenix’s physical acting style blossoms like a beast under Ramsay’s direction, it’s shocking to think it’s been 7 years since her last feature.


Hereditary (Ari Aster)

My favourite horror since The Witch (2015), Hereditary couples strong performances with a menacing visual style.


Jeune Femme (Léonor Serraille)

In what might be my favourite performance of the year, Laetitia Dosch is a refreshing screen presence, dangerous and daft in equal measure she carries this film to dizzying heights.


Zama (Lucrecia Martel)

Zama is a delicate brew, one which Martel stirs into a cosmic cocktail inviting our senses to unfurl in ways both delirious and delightful.


Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev)

Zvyagintsev’s follow up to Leviathan (2014) is truly suffocating. Its overwhelming atmosphere of dread never gives its audience a chance to catch their breath. It may not be subtle in its attack but is expertly crafted from the outset.

Gabrielle Ulubay 

Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley)

Boots Riley’s directorial debut is worth all the hype and more. It’s true that this film is an important commentary on race, class, capitalism, and protest culture in America–but it’s also hilarious. Additionally, the film is spectacularly made, with shots, camera movement, and attention to detail that comprise any film buff’s dream. I was stunned by the sound design (Riley’s previous work on film soundtracks is quite evident) and clever dialogue, but was perhaps most impressed by the film’s immediacy: For a surrealist film, Sorry to Bother You’s themes, visuals, and events were startlingly familiar.


The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan)

This film did not get the attention or the positive reviews that it deserves. Not only is it timely and important, but it is beautifully filmed, with well-composed shots that convey its physical and temporal setting. Director Desiree Akhavan also uses sound and music in a memorable way, while her nuanced, artistic visual depiction of intimacy and sexuality underscores our need for more female directors. This film is heartbreaking, poignant, and even funny at times, and I highly recommend it.


Leto (Kirill Serebrennikov)

It’s been nearly a month, and still I remain captivated by Kirill Serebrennikov’s Leto, a depiction of Leningrad’s punk rock scene during the early 1980s. Leto’s plot summary claims that it is about a love triangle, but this is an infinitesimally small aspect of the film compared to its meditation on authority, freedom, rebellion, and youth. Nothing particularly sad happens during the main narrative, yet its soundtrack still summons feelings of melancholy–a deep sense of loss over old friends, lost innocence, and time passed.


Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher)

Alice Rohrwacher’s latest film beautifully integrates folktale storytelling traditions with contemporary socio-political observation. The film is a journey through the undercurrents of modern Italian society, with dreamlike audiovisual characteristics that come back to mind with incredible clarity.


Burning (Lee Chang-dong)

Lee Chang-dong’s Burning is a mysterious exploration of not only a love triangle, but of the rattled psyche of its protagonist, Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in). I was utterly engrossed by this film from start to finish, as it escalated from a relatively straightforward narrative to an ethereal web that left me questioning the line between reality and hallucination.


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