2018 in Movies

This year I caught 41 new releases and this list won’t be complete until I see some of the other films that I missed in theaters and am waiting to see online or haven’t dropped in Milwaukee or online yet (e.g., Cold War, If Beale Street Could Talk, Burning, Ollie and Stan). So this list will be updated in another month

Top Twelve So Far

  • BlackKklansman Spike Lee blends drama, suspense, comedy, and politics in a powerful film that connected the past with our present in its coda. And yet the film, despite its darkness, offered some hope.
  • Black Panther was the best Marvel film I’ve seen, both the story and the performances. Wakanda!
  • Blindspotting Daveed Diggs gives a great performance in a story about race, gentrification, justice, and friendship. The African American character Colin wants to turn his life around, live healthy, and get his girlfriend back. His oldest friend who is white, Miles, keeps pulling him off track. The scene in the garage with the police officer was incredible.
  • The Death of Stalin. I had just finished two volumes on Stalin’s life and was in the middle of a Krushchev biography when I saw this so it was fresh. I was amazed at how much was true about the history and the characters, even in their zany, comedic interpretations. it really was that crazy.
  • Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot. A film about alcoholism and recovery with an emphasis on the spiritual steps of forgiving one’s self, forgiving others, and turning one’s life over. Joachim Phoenix captured John Callahan well as a man disabled by an accident that rendered him quadriplegic, but even more disabled by his drinking. Jonah Hill also great as the gay wealthy heir sponsor.
  • The Favourite: Amazed to see yet another scandalous story about the British crown. This time in the early 1700s when Queen Anne had two women lovers, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, competing for her favour. Olvia Coleman as Queen (who will be Elizabeth on next season of Crown). All three women leads all were great, and the drama compelling.
  • Happy as Lazzaro (Netflix): This one really made me think. A modern Lazarus story about a young farmworker who seems purely good and is exploited by his fellow sharecroppers who in turn are exploited by the tobacco queen of Italy. The film seems timeless at first, then it takes a magical realism leap into the present and becomes something else.
  • Leave No Trace: A father and daughter live off the grid and are discovered by child family services, compassionately helped, but must make their own decisions. The father’s mental illness and PTSD make functioning in the day to day world too hard, while his daughter truly loves her dad, but yearns for a normal childhood.
  • Roma (Netflix) Every scene could be stopped and photographed and hung on a wall. The story slowly builds and then comes together. A tribute to two women, to resilience, perseverance, and love. I found it so beautiful.
  • Shoplifters: Japanese film about an impoverished “family” whose shoplifting and freeloading helps it survive until it all unravels and the definition of family and its nature itself are called into question.
  • Sorry to Bother You, Lakeith Stanfield, a favorite from Atlanta and Get Out, is great at being both cool and vulnerable. Tessa Thompson also great. Boots Riley’s Marxism creates a contemporary dystopia where the largest corporation indentures, and even genetically modifies workers to produce more profits for the profligate owner (who of course has a self help book). The film twists in surprising ways behind Stanfield’s compelling performance
  • Wild Nights with Emily. OMG. Molly Shannon’s portrayal of Emily Dickinson is so charming, she and the cast are so funny, and the plot appears almost absurd until we learn it is all true. A period film in which the actors bring a contemproray vibe to the past (not unlike The Death of Stalin), and quite an unexpected delight.

For Documentaries, RBG and Won’t You be My Neighbor were both inspirations. Active Measures led me to think that there may be a lot of fire where there is smoke with our President. The Zen Diaries of Gary Shandling demonstrated the power of meditation and mentorship through his extensive journals dealing with past pain how he built and shared his gifts. Quincy was also a great, intimate portrait of a legend. Three Identical Strangers was a powerful, sad story about the unethical use of science.

Other films I enjoyed this year year include:

  • At Eternity’s Gate: Beautiful acting, scenery, and vision
  • Avengers: Infinity War: Wow, what an end.
  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: Great characters and unique stories as always from the Cohen Brothers.
  • Beautiful Boy: Powerful performances demonstrating there are never easy answers with addiction.
  • Can You Ever Forgive Me: Melissa McCarthy and Richard Grant marvelous
  • Crazy Rich Asians: I was skeptical but enjoyed.
  • First Reformed: Intense, great acting, still struggling with the end
  • Hearts Beat Loud: Nice story and a Jeff Tweedy cameo
  • Hereditary: freaky but great performances
  • Incredibles 2: Welcome back, always wanted more Jack Jack
  • Isle of Dogs: Another whimsical, witty, wonderful, gorgeous Wes Anderson film, and another debate about cultural appropriation
  • Juliet, Naked: What meanings we make of music and how we project ourselves onto the musicians we love,
  • Mid-90s: Surprised I liked this as much as I did, appreciated there were consequences
  • Mission Impossible: Fallout: Fun escape.
  • Private Lives: Great performances by Paul Giamatti and Jessica Hahn
  • Quiet Place: Can’t believe a film with no words could be so good.
  • Spiderman Into the Spiderverse: Innovative animation, great story, great character in Miles Morales
  • The Wife: Great acting and plot twist