Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The 10 Best Films of 2018

It's that time of the year! One of my favorite times of the year, where film critics and cinephiles alike all create lists of the 10 best movies of the year, and then spend the remainder of the year telling each other why they are wrong. It's a joyous time.

This year may have been the most difficult Top 10 list I've ever made. I pored over the countless films I'd seen this year, and wracked my brain trying to assign numbers. Even still, there are films I would have loved deeply to include that I just couldn't find space for on the list. There are films that have, as of yet, been unavailable to me. So, with all that in mind, let's get this thing started.

10. Leave No Trace

Unquestionably one of the most well directed films of 2018, this one very nearly passed me by. Directed by Debra Granik, it is the story of a veteran suffering from PTSD, and the life he forces his daughter to live as a way of coping with his illness. Ben Foster continues his run of fantastic roles, and relative newcomer Thomasin McKenzie also makes a lasting impression as his daughter.

9. Happy as Lazzaro

A total end-of-the-year surprise, unceremoniously and quietly dropped onto Netflix. Director Alice Rohrwacher hearkens back to the days of Italian neorealism in this tale, with a glorious touch of the surreal. Despite tackling some very serious things, Happy as Lazzaro is a warm and inviting delight that also makes you think. First time actor Adriano Tardiolo is totally charming and entrancing as the titular Lazzaro, and he is a presence that you can't look away from. Bafflingly, this is not Italy's submission for Best Foreign Film at the upcoming Academy Awards, and that is a damn shame.

8. The Favourite

There was a point where I thought this would have been much higher. But the fact of the matter is, as fantastic as this film is, it also feels the least personal for director Yorgos Lanthimos. He is much more reserved here, shying away from the batshit-insane conceptualizations of The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Dear. That is why it is so low on this list. However, it is still tremendous, and Olivia ColmanEmma Stone, and Rachel Weisz all give some of the year's best performances.

7. Suspiria

Director Luca Guadagnino returns to the list of my favorites for the second consecutive year. Suspiria is an uncompromising dark dream. Having only seen it twice, I feel as if I could watch it a dozen more times and not totally grasp everything that is has to offer. To me, that is almost better than a well made, straight-forward film. I like things that sit and fester in the back of my head, and Suspiria is definitely that.

6. A Star is Born

Probably the most basic of my choices this year, but one that deserves the merit despite that. A Star is Born is remarkable for so many reasons. It is Bradley Cooper's directorial debut, and to come out of the gate with something so powerful and beloved is a rare thing. His performance is also entirely transformative. Lady Gaga's transition into acting in such a moving dramatic role is inspiring. And, even two months later I can't get the film's music out of my head.

5. Annihilation

Alex Garland returned this year with Annihilation, loosely based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer. Borrowing only choice elements of the book, Garland structured one of the most visually innovative and terrifying films of the year. Much like Cam earlier in this list, it is a film about identity; who you are being in conflict with who you want to be. An utterly underrated performance by Natalie Portman is surrounded by a totally stacked supporting cast. It's a total shame that Paramount so totally botched the film's release, because it deserves to be in awards conversations this year, and it just doesn't seem to be.

4. First Man

After enormous acclaim and several awards for his film La La Land, director Damien Chazelle's next film was highly anticipated. Especially for me; not only was La La Land one of my favorite films of that year, it firmly cemented itself as one of my all time favorite films. When it was announced that he would be tackling the story of Neil Armstrong, it was met with some confusion. But the end result is a tremendous film. It is a cold film, purposefully so, but on the shoulders of Ryan Gosling's Armstrong it is a hell of a ride. Despite being a true story, and one almost everyone knows the story of, First Man builds and holds on to tension better than any other film this year. All of that, paired with Justin Hurwitz's incredible score, this was must-see theater experience that, unfortunately, no one came out to see.

3. Paddington 2

In tumultuous times, it is becoming more important to practice self-care, to find something that puts you in a happy place, and if even for a moment, can take your cares away. Paddington is a balm for all evil. The wholesome young bear returned this year in one of the most touching, most whole-hearted films to perhaps ever be made. Paddington 2 is a four-quadrant film without any of the shortcomings that usually accompany films of that nature, and thus is undoubtedly one of the best of the year.

2. Eighth Grade

I have long been a fan of comedian Bo Burnham. I am roughly the same age as he is, and based on his work, we share a lot of anxieties. Few creative people working today share his penchant for aggressive introspection. So, when it was revealed that he had a film coming out this year, I was overjoyed. And, when I finally had the opportunity to see Eighth Grade, I was so blown away by this unapologetically honest masterpiece. Written and directed by Burham, and starring Elsie Fisher in one of the best performances of 2018, Eighth Grade is largely a slice of life film following eighth-grader Kayla on the tail end of her middle school career. There isn't another film in existence right now that understands, but more importantly empathizes, with today's young people, and the tidal wave of troubles that plague them at every turn.

1, First Reformed

Once in a while a film comes around that delivers a devastating gut punch to your psyche, one that burns imagery into your mind that might never leave. First Reformed is one of those movies. It's a film that tackles faith in a way I don't think I've ever seen before on film, and one that tackles the dichotomy of being a believer in God, but also in science and reason. Ethan Hawke delivers the best performance of his career, and undoubtedly deserves any and all acting awards available this year.