Favorite Films of 2018 (6-1)
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.
6. Night is Short, Walk on Girl, dir. Masaaki Yuasa, starring Gen Hoshino, Kana Hanazawa, et al
I truly have seen very few films as visually outrageous and experimental as this film. The story is rather simple and maybe even rather reductive about gender roles: an extremely awkward college student tries to muster up the courage to even just talk to the titular girl, but the night comes with many, many obstacles including, but not limited to, a guerrilla theater troupe, a spicy food competition, and a group of incels devoted to the philosophy of solipsism. And it’s all great fun to watch.
5. Revenge, dir. Coralie Fargeat, starring Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Kevin Janssens, et al
A woman who most would dismiss as the paramour of a wealthy, young criminal is raped and left for dead. Because a woman directed this, the movie does not shy away from the horror of the men she decides to hunt down and kill, and it plays as a truly thrilling revenge flick, mainly because Lutz’s character is not a trained assassin from the start but is learning as she gets closer to her goal, which means there are real stakes as opposed to just relaxing in the reassurance of her competence.
4. You Were Never Really Here, dir. Lynne Ramsay, starring Joaquin Phoenix, et al
Many movies follow the Taxi Driver formula of a hitman who must deal with his personal demons, but Phoenix’s hitman is a broken down shell of a man, whose vocation is merely that and not one that he does elegantly. So much of this movie is dedicated to subverting the tropes of this genre that has involuntarily (maybe) entitled too many confused, young men into misogynistic, entitled behavior that it has to be part of the conversation for this type of story.
3. Madeline’s Madeline, dir. Josephine Decker, starring Helena Howard, Molly Parker, Miranda July, et al
Give Helena Howard every acting award and role in a crappy YA novel adaptation possible. Her performances as a young woman with an immense acting talent and a mental illness is so arresting that it is totally believable that an avant-garde experimental theater troupe and its manipulative director would feature her prominently in its work. Josephine Decker is an extremely talented director who knows how to create compelling female characters and relationships that are rarely seen on screen.
2. First Reformed, dir. Paul Schrader, starring Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer, et al
Paul Schrader is 72 years old, so it is no wonder that his most recent (and possibly best work as a director), would meditate so deeply on mortality and the state of the world. This movie dwells on the anxiety over the tenuousness of our existence, which is a gloomy subject admittedly, but Schrader makes it a compelling subject nevertheless with his tight visual storytelling influenced by his own transcendental auteurs, Bresson and Dreyer especially, and, of course, with one of the best performances of the year in Ethan Hawke, who is equal measures intense vulnerability and seething resentment all under a quiet demeanor.
1. Burning, dir. Lee Chang dong, starring Yoo Ah In, Jeon Jeong-seo, Steven Yeun
Burning almost works as a horror film along the lines of Dracula since Yoo Ah-In’s Jong-seo is trying to collect information about the emotional vampire who is Ben to (Steven Yeun) find out about a young woman who may or may not have been a victim of Ben’s. Of course, it is way more than just a genre picture. When I heard about this movie, I knew it was going to be my favorite of the year. Lee Chang-dong is easily one of my favorite directors and Haruki Murakami one of my favorite writers, and somehow, Lee made a really opaque and bare story an existential noir that tears apart toxic masculinity and entitlement because of social class.