2018 top movies

24 02 2019
Here are my top 10 favorite movies of the year, whether you want it or not.  Some are awards darlings, some are just good movies, and one (or more?) are just movies I really enjoyed and want to pump up a bit.  I like what I like, you can like what you like- movies are fun like that!

1. If Beale Street Could Talk – Full disclosure:  I didn’t like Moonlight.  This works for me though, a lot, and I’m not totally sure why.  Maybe the period piece (1970’s Harlem) nature of it sparks a bit more interest, or maybe the performances just lock it in more for me.  The score has a lot to do with it too- it’s honestly kind of mesmerizing.  Either way, this is a mostly slow-burning drama with moments of explosive emotion that I would recommend to everyone who’s into that kind of thing- but dim the lights and focus on it (don’t start watching it while folding laundry, like I did- you’ll never finish that laundry folding until the credits roll).

2. Roma – Possibly the best shot movie of the last… 10 years(?), which is pretty impressive since it’s entirely in black and white and has no discernible special effects or spectacle to it.  It’s a slow burn (or bleed, really) and has a natural and wholly immersive vibe to it that’s tough to find in movies (especially recent films).  I’d say that if this doesn’t win best cinematography, you might as well scrap the award entirely.  Probably my pick for winning Best Picture, but I wouldn’t say it’s hugely better than my other favorites this year.

3. Overlord – Even after seeing so many other films, this is still one of my favorites of the year.  It handles the zombie Nazi plot with absolutely straight seriousness and the cast of largely no-name actors really pull you in.  The characters have enough specificity to feel real and get you invested, but the plot doesn’t bog down in B stories or side work.  It’s pretty straightforward and would still work without the zombie element.  It’s expertly edited and soundmixed (the opening air drop scene is among one of the best I’ve seen in ANY war movie).  An original story and as good a war or horror movie as you’ll find lately.  Nobody went to see this movie.

4. Mission Impossible: Fallout – Yet another excellent installment in the series, and pretty easily the best action movie of the year.  The stunts are largely practical and it’s incredibly refreshing to see.  The plot is functional and makes sense, and the fine cast (Cruise, Cavill, Baldwin, Ferguson, Pegg, etc) keep it rolling with light humor and genuine teamwork.  But let’s be real- the plot just gets us to those amazing action parts.  I hope they make 10 more of these.

5. Bumblebee – Hailee Steinfeld shines in this heartfelt coming-of-age story about a teenage girl trying to connect with others after the tragic death of her father.  Also: transforming robot fights.  Seriously though, this is a very well-acted movie dramady with some action parts scattered in, but largely it’s a capable ET-like story with the aforementioned Steinfeld and the mute space robot she stumbles upon.  Excellently directed by Travis Knight whose previous film Kubo and the Two Strings is also well worth a watch.  I love it.

6. Green Book – Simple narrative really but everything feels very tight story-wise and, like other movies on my list, the performances elevate it to excellence.  Mahershala Ali works mainly in subtlety and plays incredibly well off of the more animated (but believable) Viggo Mortensen.  A very solid serious turn for director Peter Farrelly (who, similar to Adam McKay, is better known for wacky comedies).

7. BlacKKKlansman – Possibly Spike Lee’s best movie and easily one of his funniest, but at no times is it goofy or derivative.  A bit heavy-handed with the news footage stuff at the end, but with the benefit of some hindsight I realize that it was vital to draw some obvious parallels to our current racial and political climate.  Well-cast but not overly dynamic or hammy.  Never boring, and worth watching and rewatching.

8. The Favourite – So I normally don’t like Emma Stone because she whines a lot and always looks like her eyeballs are about to explode, but even she is great in this.  Of course, Olivia Colman is better (but not as good as she is in Peep Show, the greatest British sitcom of all time).  This was much funnier than expected and plays like Shakespeare as adapted by David O. Russell, or something.

9. Annihilation – The smart, female cast-led sci-fi movie that so many were hoping that Ghostbusters 2016 might be.  Visually stunning.  Philosophical without being heavy-handed or absorbed in its own message (which is largely undefined and left to the viewer).  A slowburning sci-fi mystery that doesn’t treat its audience like idiots or feel the need for over-the-top action or overacting to get a theme across.  Nobody went to see this movie.

10. American Animals – A fun but well-grounded heist film that pokes fun at heist films, but is also done in a half-documentary style that totally works.  Solid performances and really clever cinematography and camera work keep things lively, even during the fairly dull (but necessary) exposition dumps.  Nobody went to see this movie.

The next 10 best:
11. Mandy – Nic Cage shouting at things while drunk and covered in blood- what’s not to like?  There’s a freaking chainsaw fight.  Seriously though, this is like if Death Wish was made by David Lynch and Stuart Gordon, while on acid.  The visuals are surreal but never baffling, and the sound quirks are similarly creative (though a bit overdone at times, I think).  Cage’s best performance since… ever?
12. Game Night – A shockingly good comedy in a landscape full of similar-feeling “Jason Bateman”-like comedies that have been coming out in piles over the past decade or so.  Fantastically cast with Bateman, Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons, and Rachel McAdams, who is particularly great and has comedic acting chops that I’d say rival any other comedic actress working today (her delivery on this makes me laugh every time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMIpVrz7v9k).  Credit to my friends for recommending this, as I don’t always seek these kinds of movies out on my own.
13. Widows – A heist movie that somehow works, with very little heisting.  Strong female leads in a fantastically cast (Daniel Kaluuya is, like, 8th or 9th billed?  Wow.  And he crushes it!), well-paced, tightly-written, and very well-directed movie from the director of 12 Years a Slave.  Nobody went to see this movie.
14. Black Panther / Avengers: Infinity War – Both of these are really fun and exciting comic book movies with some heavier ethical (for BP also racial and socioeconomic) elements that come off really well.  These are both favorites of the year but I won’t bog this down in repetitive praise that have already been heaped on them by others.  But rest assured, I like them and you should see them.
15. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse – A fresh take on a character that has been done and redone and redone and redone already.  The unique animation style captures what makes comic books so captivating and unique.  It moves at a breakneck pace but never feels too messy or schizophrenic.  It’s just weird enough to be fun without getting schlocky or silly, but it has humor in all the right spots and a stellar voice cast (Hailee Steinfeld, Nic Cage, and Mahershala Ali show up on this list again!) cement this as one of the best animated movies (and certainly one of the best Spider-man movies) I’ve ever seen.
16. Private Life – Feels like it’s trying to be an “indie film” in a way that I normally dislike, but the really strong performances by Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn bring it way, way up for me.  A simple story but with rich enough characters that it works.  Stream it on Netflix!
17. Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far On Foot – Joaquin Phoenix had a good 2018 with this, The Sisters Brothers, and You Were Never Really Here (though I thought that movie was kind of meh), but this was my favorite performance of his by far.  The character is complicated, tortured, but most of all FUN, in a story that is sometimes anything but.  It’s about an alcoholic paraplegic.
18. 22 July – A cold and realistic dramatization of the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway that is really about the nature of fear and the process of building a life when your plans for yours are collapsed and seem impossible to reassemble.
19. The Other Side of the Wind – I didn’t totally love it but I think it’s great that we actually got a new Orson Welles-directed movie in 2018, 33 years after he freaking died.  It feels autobiographical, sure, but with the benefit of three decades of hindsight, it has an extra layer of sadness to it.  Sigh… miss you, Orson.
20. Venom – Oh, you didn’t think I’d get through this list without mentioning Venom, did you?  Hear me out… Wow… where to start?  I have seen this movie 5 times and I notice more and more weird stuff every time.  It’s an accidental schlock masterpiece, even with a $100 million budget.  It totally works because the lead actor is fine with being capable of pretty much anything.  The Venom stuff is good but not even the best stuff in the movie really.  It feels like a comic book movie in the truest sense- it’s fine with its own oddness and willing to ham it up a bit.  Sure, some very cool visuals and some memorable action scenes.  But overall, yeah, Tom Hardy makes this movie really work.  Ask me about it sometime- I will give you an hour-long analysis on how weird and great it is.
Quick hits… you should see these:
-Old Man & the Gun – Likely Redford’s final role.  It’s solid.
-Bohemian Rhapsody – It’s good.  There’s a ton of bullshit around it, but it’s fine.
-Stan & Ollie – Story is meh but performances are great.
-Sorry To Bother You – Takes a weird, weird turn that mostly doesn’t work for me, but it’s overall pretty good.
-Won’t You Be My Neighbor – It’s a Mr. Rogers biopic.  Didn’t blow me away but sure… it’s really good.
-Solo – It’s a good space heist movie.  But it’s part of the Star Wars universe so expectations were crazy high.
-Upgrade – A funky sci-fi (body horror too?) flick that is super fun to watch.
-Apostle – Dan Stevens is my new favorite actor.  A good, weird cult movie on Netflix.
-Ballad of Buster Scruggs – A Cohen brothers joint in 6 parts.  I think that 3 or maybe 4 are very good.
-Isle of Dogs – I went in expecting one thing, and finished it with that exact same thing.  It’s a fun watch but I’m not the biggest Wes Anderson fan.  When you say “Isle of Dogs” it sounds like “I love dogs”, so that’s neat too.
-First Reformed – Very good Ethan Hawke performance in a somewhat heavy-handed but very good movie.
-They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead – And we do!  Miss you, Orson.
-Hereditary – Falls apart at the end.  For me at least.  Put it’s disturbing as hell.  I like it!
-A Star Is Born – I… didn’t hate it!
Disappointments:
-First Man – It’s booooring.  I love the Apollo missions and all moon landing stuff, but this is so dull that it’s a struggle to get through.  Gosling mostly does his Gosling thing where he makes a serious face and looks around (like in Blade Runner 2049, which is a much better movie).  Honestly, Armstrong is a largely uncontroversial figure and the story is so well-known that there isn’t much tension.  There’s a tiny bit with his wife (the movie’s clear attempt at an “Oscar” scene, where they argue) but that’s about it.  The visuals in the landing scene look neat (and looked great in IMAX), but damn… this was pretty disappointing.
-Eighth Grade – Good but I think a bit overrated, but I really like Bo Burnham and I think this solidifies him as a strong new voice not only comedically but as a filmmaker.  Very curious to see what he does from here.
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2 responses

21 06 2019
samantha

DP! It’s SBC! I Miss u! CACTUS

21 06 2019
danport

Oh my gawwwwwd! Hey hey! Miss you too- come to LA and visit me!

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