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Favorite Films of 2018 (13-7)

2018 wasn’t the best year for blockbusters though movies like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians made history. The Oscar nominations are home to such dreck as Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book, which only goes to show how out of touch that institution is and how badly needs it to be overhauled. However, 2018 was a great year for documentaries, indie films, female directors and new talent in general, and I can easily see many of these films as the starts of long, fruitful careers or major influences on newer generations of filmmakers.

13. Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse

Dir. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Starring Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, et al

I firmly believe that the future generation of animators will look to this film as one of their defining influences. Or at least I hope they will. It is not only host to several different animation styles and boundless visual inventiveness, but it also has the benefit of a story by Phillip Lord and the irreverent, meta humor that he and Christopher Miller have become famous for. There is also a timely message about how the wish-fulfillment aspect of superhero movies should be extended to everyone and not just White boys, which already makes this miles better than most Marvel movies.

12. Wildlife

Dir. Paul Dano,Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould

Though it’s set in a time and place so different from mine, Wildlife hit me hard. I responded most to how, as an only child of a relatively poor family, you are always in the middle of your parents’ relationship to each other and when they fight, it’s the worst thing in the world since you feel so helpless. It’s important that Ed Oxenbould’s character has no one he can confide in about his problems, no relatives or close friends, which forces him to grow up so fast. It’s not only a well-told story about the failure of the American Dream but just how inequity and poverty can change your very mindset and make you do irrational things, which both Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan’s characters do.

11. Roma

Dir. Alfonso Cuaron, Starring Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, et al

It’s interesting that this is the film that has gotten the most hype, at least from critics. Black and White period pieces in Spanish and Mixteco do not scream accessibility, yet Cuaron pulls it off with so much visual flare and striking compositions that I admired this more than any flashy CGI mess that most blockbusters have become (I like those too). It’s clear that this personal subject matter of a maid who witnesses not only political turmoil but the breakdown of a family, which she has become the heart and glue of despite not being related by blood to them filled him with enough creative juice to last most directors several movies.

10. Cold War

Dir. Pawel Pawlikowski, Starring Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, et al

This is the musical about a doomed love that you should be watching, not so much A Star is Born (a movie I liked, but did not love.) I love a modern movie that knows how to shoot in Black and White, and the beautiful, dynamic cinematography of Lukasz Zal gives the story a mythic, timeless quality. The music spans a wide variety of genres and tells a story independent from the main narrative, which put the travails of most doomed romances to shame.

9. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Dir. Marielle Heller, Starring Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, et al

I am a sucker for movies about literature and writing, even if it’s the artform that is the inherently uncinematic. Marielle Heller and Melissa McCarthy work from the script by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty to make a sympathetic and detailed portrayal of Lee Israel, a writer who started forging correspondence from celebrities such as Fanny Brice, Dorothy Parker and so many others. It’s not dour, as McCarthy’s Israel has an acid wit, even if she definitely does not have her life together, and her interplay with the gay hustler that Richard E. Grant plays are some of the most oddly heartwarming and funny scenes that I have seen all year.

8. Tale, The

Dir. Jennifer Fox, Starring Laura Dern, Jason Ritter, Elizabeth Debicki, et al

The story told in this film is not told often enough, and it would have been timely even if it hadn’t come out last year, when the #MeToo movement seemed to be in full swing. The way that Fox explores her repressed memories about her rape and abuse are both artful and uncomfortable to watch, as she realizes just how much she has been constructing a narrative full of holes to deal with her trauma and just how deeply this has influenced her life in the negative. It’s a chilling tale and not easy to watch but too important to ignore, and it’s a shame that this movie has disappeared basically, although it never really registered in the public consciousness.

7. Shoplifters

Dir. Hirokazu Koreeda, Starring Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, et al

Koreeda is a director who insists on finding humanity in even the most unlikely subjects, and the makeshift family who adopts a girl who has definitely been abused by her parents definitely qualifies. They live on the fringes on society and much of their purpose in life is to survive and not draw attention to themselves. Many movies about them would have seemed condescending, but Koreeda miraculously manages to portray them in a way that does not hide any of their flaws but affords them dignity, even when they are clearly doing undignified things.

 

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