Established in 2016, Electric Ghost Magazine is an independent online film publication dedicated to heterodox opinion on transformative cinema. 

 

It is run by cinephiles educated in aesthetic evaluation, averse to elitist groupthink and fawning "fan" discourse. We heed the medium's message, see the film object as it really is, and show how cinema can function as a humanist guide to life.

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    2018 IN REVIEW: ON THE SUFFERING OF THE WORLD & THE BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR

    Electric Ghost Magazine reviews cinema in the year 2018, including our list of the top ten films of the year



    Last year in cinema, it was the humanism of an anthropomorphic bear, the rousing naïveté of an Amazonian Warrior Princess, and the heroic sacrifices of your everyday Spitfire and iconic Jedi warrior that inspired the imagination — extolling the need for hope, empathy, humanity, and goodness in a world turning sour. This year in cinema, we saw that hope turn to despair, the world gone sour.

    When we consider the films that most impressed us from this past year, we notice a trend: reminders of human fallibility, inherent loss and suffering, or outright malevolence. Paul Schrader’s brooding transcendental masterpiece, First Reformed, questioned the role of faith in the face of an environmental Hell on Earth. Lars von Trier’s confessional serial-killer film, The House That Jack Built, “invites us to enter at our own risk and abandon all hope,” re-appropriating Dante and (supposedly) portraying the Devil in human form. Gustav Möller’s nail-biting Danish thriller, The Guilty, was equally theological in its concerns, albeit under a secular sheen, depicting the psychological distress of guilt and suffering and the need for absolution. Even the blockbuster entertainment this year concerned immeasurable loss and pain: The Russo Brothers’ operatic Avengers: Infinity War concerned the destruction of all one holds dear, of watching formerly invincible heroes take a mighty beating by the cold fist of calculated cynicism, what our review described as “the greatest castration spectacle the cinema has ever seen.”

    Loss continues to be the central theme in Damien Chazelle’s immediate and affective blockbuster First Man, which takes one of the most iconic and triumphant events in human history and turns it into an introspective portrayal of what we described as “the harsh reality of trauma and loss”, a Dad determined to go to the Moon so that he may get as close to Heaven as possible and see off his deceased daughter personally. Steve McQueen’s Widows was also about the process of mourning and how effectively one can recover, showcasing four women whose world collapses when their beloved husbands die. Rather than shoot for the moon, they shoot their way into a vault, dealing with grief, much like Neil Armstrong, by jumping into action. Loss is also what kick starts Alex Garland’s psychedelic adventure film, Annihilation, in which a group of women must venture into their own unconscious and wrestle with their innermost demons - grief, despair, illness. Likewise in the terrifying Hereditary, the devastating loss of a loved one brings all sorts of (literal) demons into the traditional family household.

    The depiction of familial disintegration does not stop there. In Paul Dano’s psychologically perspicacious debut Wildlife, we witness the heart-wrenching process of a divorce from the perspective of a child. In Debra Granik’s survivalist drama, Leave No Trace, the utopian Father-Daughter relationship begins to crumble as we realise that, as the women of Widows also come to know, sometimes you have to kill your darlings. In Nadine Labaki’s Lebanese drama, Capernaum, a young boy sues his parents for giving birth to him. The appropriateness of bringing a child into a world of suffering was likewise questioned in First Reformed, Amanda Seyfried’s pre-apocalyptic pregnancy (who was also with child in Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again) provoking deep existential questions for all the characters. But the theme of pregnancy and parenthood manifested itself even more concretely in post-apocalyptic worlds: John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place and Susanne Bier’s Bird Box, two films that functioned as tributes to the heroism of parenthood in a world gone wrong, when losses in sound and sight respectively bring forth actions of the selfless kind. In contrast, we see the toxic nature of Motherhood in Luca Guadagnino's shocking Suspiria.

    Love, as usual, continues to showcase itself in spite of all the suffering. Perhaps that is why stories of love on the sidelines, forbidden love, even love tinged by melancholy, loneliness, oppression, and taboo have thrived. Religion showcases itself again here, but this time as an opposition force to love’s expression: we saw Sebastián Lelio’s Disobedience, a film that depicts homosexual desire within the strict confines of a Jewish community. There was Desiree Akhavan’s heartfelt The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which likewise placed homosexuality within a strictly religious setting - a gay-conversion therapy camp. But then, once more, there was parental love in opposition to the world, only this time contending with forces social and not of nature — the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ of Daniel Kokotajlo debut film, Apostasy. Ali Abbasi’s “seductively vexing” Swedish fantastical-drama, Border, was as unconventional a love story as you can hope to see: icky, graphic, horrendous, beautiful and sensual all at the same time. Then there was Claire Denis’ High Life, embracing the taboo of incest as a new path in space, asking questions about the rigidity of social conventions and the intense repression of sexuality. Hedonistic dramas, Knife + Heart and Gaspar Noé’s Climax simply told us to indulge in ecstatic pleasures.

    Cinema this past year has offered us a palette of images and stories to contend with and reflect upon for a long time to come, but it has reflected an unfortunate reality: a collective unconscious burdened by a sense of loss, grief, and impending apocalypse. This has manifested in themes of unrequited love, oppressed love, and a fear of procreation. We are in a tempestuous reality, and cinema has explored the emotional contours of the landscape we find ourselves in. We at Electric Ghost value films that showcase a truth of a situation, offer light in darkness. Here we present the list of films that have made us think about ourselves and our world, challenged our presumptions, offered us a light... or maybe even a whole path.

    On a final note concerning our work at Electric Ghost, we have continued to go from strength to strength over the last year. We’ve introduced a number of new talented writers, increased our content output dramatically, worked on our website design and brand identity, and covered more festivals than other before. This year we attended Cannes, Ghent and London, and next year looks even more promising with Berlin and Rotterdam already scheduled. As the founder and editor-in-chief, I’d like to extend warm gratitude towards the people who share their thoughts and reflections on film as a guide to life, the contributors who offer their time and energy towards an ideal of film appreciation. ​



    Electric Ghost' Top Ten Films of 2018


    10. The Guilty, Dir. Gustav Möller



    A daring debut by Danish director Gustav Möller, The Guilty stages an action thriller in a blind spot. Bound to an emergency telephone line, protagonist Asger (Jakob Cedergen) is an exemplary figure of guilty conscience that goes to great lengths to vindicate his demons. With fine mastery, first-time director Moller orchestrates a spectacle with minimal visuals, as Asger undergoes a rescue operation over the phone. The film spirals into subconscious fears, feeding into a reality that is more audible than tangible. Afflicting, affective, and misplacing - The Guilty exhibits all three in turn under the hard-boiled cover of the thriller genre. By denying a physical space for the narrative action to take place, the film pulls the strings of affect and skilfully appeals to all senses, bringing imagination to the foreground. — Savina Petkova


    9. Wildlife, Dir. Paul Dano



    Director Paul Dano displays such psychological perspicacity in his debut feature about the incremental collapse of an American family that we can only assume it is autobiographical. But the particulars and extent of any personal foundation of the film are somewhat incidental when situated within the unfortunate universality of the themes - self-destructive masculinity, toxic femininity - uncontrollable impulses that dictate our actions and bring about collapse. We witness a family separate, but we never quite know why. Anyone who has ever experienced divorce or familial separation will likely find something touching, heart-wrenching, and truthful in this tender and beautifully understated film about the emotional complexity of ordinary lives. — David G. Hughes



    8. The House that Jack Built, Dir. Lars von Trier



    Framed as a film about the inside workings of a serial killer’s mind, von Trier’s latest is more sincere, painful, and visceral to the notion of ‘personal’ art than we expected. With surprisingly great ease, the film communicates the incommunicable: pain and inspiration, heightened with the controversy of murder. Yet, von Trier has a lot more to say about himself inarticulately and the unbridgeable distance to his fellow man, than to justify the acts of a mass murderer. Ornamented with poetic and mythological references from Renaissance, Medieval times, and Antiquity, The House That Jack Built is a lonely orphan to a rich cultural heritage, trapped in emotional dissonance between self-pity and self-irony. We praise the aching cry for help in art, as Atlas at its weakest, since confirmation of strength and resistance lies precisely in allowing oneself a step back - to reflect, to concede, to take a leap. — Savina Petkova


    7. Zama, Dir. Lucrecia Martel



    Out of Antonio di Benedetto’s disorientating, subjective novel, Lucrecia Martel has a spun a chorus of perspectives centred on one conflicted aria; the eponymous corregidor (Daniel Giménez Cacho) and his desperate attempts at escaping his 18th century colonial backwater and securing a position of better social standing elsewhere. It is a milieu and a psychology governed by the rot of colonialism and machismo. Yet despite the detachment of the character this an epic soaked in materialism. In the sweat, blood and mud that make up this darkly funny trek into a man’s incompetence and inertia. — Ruairi McCann


    6. Shoplifters, Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda



    Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Palme D’Or winning family story, Shoplifters, is a quintessential summary of how simple and how complicated the human situation is. The unflattering image of a family held together by habit and endurance is put to the test when a little girl (you will fall in love with Lily Franky) becomes a part of a family of strays. Working and shoplifting, hiding family secrets and duplicity, the family shares high spirits and floats above the water as if guided by magic.The hardship of living poorly is countered by stunningly affective shots framing sexuality (noodle sauce dripping on the floor) or grief (a single tear on a girl’s thigh) in a single detail. Kore-eda does not spare his characters the joys and the pains of hard life, while remaining benevolent and forgiving, forging a tale of a whole prodigal family. — Savina Petkova


    5. Eighth Grade, Dir. Bo Burnham



    We applaud comedian Bo Burnham’s (age 27) directorial debut, Eighth Grade, which respectfully guides protagonist Kayla (breakout teen star Elsie Fisher) through her coming of age. A depiction of the most disquieting moments of young adult anxieties, the slow and painful process of self-formation and self-acceptance in a world that does not exactly make it easy. The lightness Burnham uses to convey Kayla’s doubts and courageous decisions over her transition to eighth grade can only be compared to his confessional approach to stand-up comedy. Performance, either for Instagram likes, or in front of an audience, is what haunts our generation. Burnham is brave enough to dissect the way we all (himself and Kayla included) perform our everyday life. Eighth Grade is borderline agonising in its honesty, touching with its clumsy parenting, and empathetic to its core. It confronts our own imperfect journey through adulthood and life; this earnest introspection is a reassurance for the anxious teenager that lives inside each of us. — Savina Petkova


    4. Hereditary, Dir. Ari Aster



    We all come to learn the hard truth that family is fucked up, that dysfunction and the unsaid is the norm, and that we inherit this in more ways than we like to acknowledge. Hereditary dramatises the horror of the normal family in a shocking, exasperating, and truly scary way, comparable to the likes of Kubrick and Roeg. An unsettling air of depression, dourness, ennui, repression, and impending doom lurks under every beautiful composition; debut director Ari Aster has complete classical control, working expertly with light and frame for maximum impact. And he never loses conviction in the horror of his world, pushing it to its logical and most ballsy conclusion, taking you to a place you’d never thought you’d go. — David G. Hughes


    3. High Life, Dir. Claire Denis



    With High Life, director Claire Denis has reached a point of culmination in an already storied career, simultaneously breaking new ground as the violence and sexuality reaches new emotional and visceral heights. Denis reigns in collaborators new (Robert Pattinson, André 3000) and old (frequent writer Jean-Pol Fargeau, the Tindersticks, Juliette Binoche), tackling science-fiction with pessimism and philosophy in equal quantity: a crew of death-row and life sentence inmates hurtle along on a suicide mission to harness the energy of a black hole, as they find themselves ensnared in an on-board reproductive experiment that brings primal behavior to the surface. High Life continues deeper into the void as it continues, and Denis is more than content to see it through to its very finish. — Patrick Preziosi


    2. The Favourite, Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos



    Fierce, hilarious, and tragic, The Favourite tackles with the period genre in a proper Lanthimosian manner. Testifying to the fact that the director’s name is now an epithet, we have given our praise to his comedy of dark unrest in 2017. With Robbie Ryan’s remarkable cinematography and Sandy Powell’s exquisite costume design, topping the cake with three outstanding performances by Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone, the eighteenth century courtroom film guides our imagination ever so tenderly into the spirals of personal tragedy, rivalry, and sexual domination. Whether an Ancient Greek dramaturg, or an architect of female desire, Lanthimos has a lot to say about social hierarchy, sex/power dynamics, and political state of exception. He just chooses to do so in a shocking or therapeutic manner: making us laugh until we feel like crying. — Savina Petkova


    1. First Reformed, Dir. Paul Schrader



    Renegade filmmaker Paul Schrader unites the reprobate and the religious, finding God in the filth of the world, the sublime in squalor. Schrader's deviant penchant for the outré ensures his outsider status to an industry he has perpetually struggled with, but his work is the better for it. First Reformed is his crowning achievement, an ambiguous, visceral, and sublime peak into the most religious of themes via the ethically soiled path of environmental catastrophe: human struggle. Ethan Hawke makes the pain real in a surprising performance, but it’s Schrader’s formal sophistication that makes this our top film of the year. It deserves its crown, furnished in thorns of the most uncomfortable but, ultimately, transcendental kind. — David G. Hughes


    EG Contributor's Top Five Films of 2018

    David G. Hughes


    1. Dragged Across Concrete, Dir. S. Craig Zahler

    2. First Reformed, Dir. Paul Schrader

    3. Hereditary, Dir. Ari Aster

    4. The Guilty, Dir. Gustav Möller

    5. Wildlife, Dir. Paul Dano

    Savina Petkova


    1. First Reformed, Dir. Paul Schrader

    2. The Favourite, Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

    3. Suspiria, Dir. Luca Guadagnino

    4. High Life, Dir. Claire Denis

    5. Hereditary, Dir. Ari Aster

    Max Redmond Smith


    1. Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Dir. Marielle Heller

    2. The Favourite, Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

    3. Eighth Grade, Dir. Bo Burnham

    4. Support the Girls, Dir. Andrew Bujalski

    5. First Reformed, Dir. Paul Schrader

    Patrick Preziosi


    1. Western, Dir. Valeska Grisebach 2. High Life, Dir. Claire Denis

    3. Shoplifters, Dir. Hirokazu Kore-ada

    4. Zama, Dir. Lucrecia Martel

    5. Burning, Dir. Lee Chang-dong

    Lizzi Sandell


    1. Roma, Dir. Alfonso Cuarón

    2. Eighth Grade, Dir. Bo Burnham

    3. Whitney: Can I Be Me, Dir. Nick Broomfield

    4. The Favourite, Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

    5. Skate Kitchen, Dir. Crystal Moselle

    Ruari McCann


    1. Zama, Dir. Lucrecia Martel

    2. Ash is the Purest White, Dir. Jia Zhangke

    3. High Life, Dir. Claire Denis

    4. The Other Side of the Wind, Dir. Orson Welles

    5. Dead Souls, Dir. Wang Bing

    Manon Girault


    1. Dogman, Dir. Matteo Garrone 2. Wildlife, Dir. Paul Dano

    3. Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-ada

    4. Sorry to Bother You, Dir. Boots Riley

    5. Madeleine's Madeleine, Dir. Josephine Decker

    Benjamin Brown


    1. You Were Never Really Here, Dir. Lynne Ramsay

    2. Roma, Dir. Alfonso Cuarón

    3. Phantom Thread, Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

    4. First Reformed, Dir. Paul Schrader

    5. Faces, Places, Dir. Agnes Varda & JR