As I did yesterday with my #11-20 best movies from 2018, I present my Top 10 here in alphabetical order (with one exception). If you want to know a bit more about my tastes, my Top 4 movies are shown in the picture above. (You can guess the order.)
Once again, these are the films that stuck with me most, the movies I meditated on and had good conversations about with others. I saw them each only once and hope to see them all at least one more time. One of these films has received almost universal acclaim and I’m placing it in my Top 10 despite having some real reservations about it. Perhaps it needs a re-watch before I get around to revisiting the other nine.
And just for fun, perhaps you’d like to compare my picks with the Oscar nominees.
So here we go with my Top 10 movies from 2018… Let the conversations begin!
Annihilation (Alex Garland)
Regal Waugh Chapel Stadium 12 & IMAX, Crofton, MD
Annihilation, based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, is the best science fiction movie of the year, but it’s so much more, touching on love, loss, and what it means to be alien and human. Watch the movie, then read the book, or better yet, the entire Southern Reach trilogy.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
BlackKklansman (Spike Lee)
Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley)
BlackKklansman and Sorry to Bother You are certainly not the only films from 2018 to address racism in America, but they’re probably the best of them. Both contain similar themes, but they’re quite different from one another. BlackKklansman is based on based on a 2014 memoir by Colorado Springs Police Officer Ron Stallworth, while Sorry to Bother You is, according to first-time director Boots Riley, “an absurdist dark comedy with aspects of magical realism and science fiction inspired by the world of telemarketing.” You should see them both, perhaps as a double feature.
Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowski)
Landmark’s E Street Cinema, Washington DC
Cold War is the story of two lovers in post-WWII Poland and France, but that’s too vague a description. Tomasz Kot plays a musical director who sets his eye on a young singer (Joanna Kulig) seeking to join his music/dance company. Loosely based on the story of director Paweł Pawlikowski’s parents, Cold War is filled with absolutely gorgeous black-and-white cinematography (by Łukasz Żal) and an amazing soundtrack (Marcin Masecki). If you saw Pawlikowski’s Oscar-winning film Ida (2013) and enjoyed it, you must see Cold War, currently playing in a limited release in the U.S.
The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos)
Bowtie Harbour 9, Annapolis, MD
The trailer I saw (over and over during the course of Noir City DC) for The Favourite made the film appear to be a historical costume/comic farce, but it’s really a brilliantly crafted power struggle. Yet it’s much more than that. Variety calls it “Barry Lyndon meets Dangerous Liaisons meets All About Eve” at the court of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) during early 18th century England. Rachel Weisz as Lady Sarah Churchill and Emma Stone as her distant, lower-class cousin Abigail, are excellent as Lady Sarah seeks to hold her highly valued position as the queen’s confidant against the upstart Abigail. The ending will keep you thinking for a long time.
First Reformed (Paul Schrader)
Bowtie Harbour 9, Annapolis, MD
The Rider (Chloé Zhao)
Once a star of the rodeo circuit, Brady Blackburn (Brady Jandreau) is hoping to recover from a riding injury that resulted in seizures and problems in motor functions in his right hand. In a quiet, mostly understated way, The Rider addresses the problem of masculine identity in a way most films ignore. Perhaps that has something to do with the powerful story-behind-the-story, which includes the casting: Brady Blackburn’s family in the film is his real-life family, and Lane Scott, who plays another rider suffering brain damage from an accident, is actually playing himself, not acting at all. The film is in no way gimmicky, but almost a documentary on the search for masculinity when the normal signs of masculinity have been taken away.
Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)
Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) serves as a maid for a family in Mexico City in the 1970s, a family going through many changes as is Cleo herself. There’s much more to the story, of course, and as much as I admired and loved many aspects of Roma, other aspects drove me crazy. I’ll need to delve into these further in a full review (which demands a second viewing), but without giving away spoilers, I think I see what Cuarón is trying to accomplish, but the biggest problem (at least in my mind) is in presenting an overarching concept of character through a child’s point-of-view via the lens of an adult point-of-view. Yalitza Aparicio is tremendous in the film and should get an Oscar nomination (and thankfully she did). Although I have reservations about the film, Roma works masterfully on a small, intimate scale but also contains scenes of epic grandeur. Again, I’ll have more to say about this one soon.
Zama (Lucrecia Martel)
Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) is a mid-level magistrate serving imperial Spain in a remote outpost in Paraguay, desperate for a transfer to a position more worthy of his station. That’s really all I want to tell you about Zama, other than the fact that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film so filled with tragedy, humor (just look at the above photo), justice and injustice, amazing performances, and brilliant cinematography. Zama is only Lucrecia Martel’s fourth feature in 18 years and I decided about 10 minutes into the film that I must see them all.
So there we have it. Agreements, disagreements? I'd love to hear your comments.
Photos: Rotten Tomatoes, Variety, Rolling Stone, Film School Rejects, Hollywood Reporter, New York Times, True View Reviews, Roger Ebert, NOLA