Well, here we are again. Sure, I’m a few months late, but we’ve all got things to do. Some of us have careers and things we care about... and I prioritize sleeping and eating, so cut me some slack. In terms of film, 2018 was a great follow-up to 2017. There were A LOT of great films. For once, when I watched all of the best picture nominations, I actually enjoyed watching all of them, even if they were problematic or just made terribly. Different from previous years, I let myself enter the horror, watched more documentaries and dug deeper into my bias, because this is editorial after all. Without further adieu, here are my top ten movies of 2018.
10. First Reformed
First Reformed is a particularly dark A24 film that revolves around the life of a troubled minister as he begins to question his faith after being struck with tragedy, all while operating a small congregation in the south. Paul Schrader invested heavily into the aesthetic and movement of this film, used to suggest subverted themes to sideline the films commentary on environmentalism and our role on today’s earth. Ethan Hawke gives a distilling performance as a man trying to do right by his beliefs while being subdued by his demons. With an end that leaves you grappling for more, its a film that you should definitely see.
9. Minding the Gap
Minding the Gap is a documentary that follows the the life of a group of low-income, skateboarding friends over the course of a couple of years as they transition into adulthood, parenthood, and real life. Filmed by one of the friends himself, the film is able to get beneath the skin of the people it follows, finding dynamics unreachable by a standard film crew. They explore their inability to transition into adulthood, the abuse from their past that has damaged their futures, and the vices they use to navigate growing up in a small and poor town without proper support systems. As an extremely privileged kid, it was a good reminder of how fortunate I am to have what I do have and to remember that their are an inordinate amount of others that have to fight for everything they have.
8. Game Night
Game Night was my favourite comedy of the year. With so many remakes, unneeded sequels, and formulaic ideas, it was refreshing to see an original comedy with ambition. Game Night features a fairly convoluted but hilarious story about a group of friends who get together every week for Game Night who get intertwined with a kidnapping by some dangerous gangsters. There is one line in this movie that I will likely cite for the rest of my life, as long as Tostito’s Scoops stay a thing.
7. Mission Impossible: Fallout
I know what you’re thinking… ‘wow Seth, you put a mainstream action movie in your list.’ ON the surface it may seem that way, but this movie was similar to Mad Max: Fury Road in that it brought innovative ways into achieving real action and real stunts, around a narrative that was fun and somewhat made sense. It was an incredibly enjoyable watch. People always wonder why I love Tom Cruise, all Scientology aside. Tom Cruise is 57 years old right now, and is still widely regarded as one of the most committed and dedicated actors in his craft. For this movie, he learned how to fly a helicopter on his own to film part of a scene, he skydived and packed his own chute during one of the best action sequences ever, and broke his foot during filming when he filming a stunt where he jumps across a 20 foot gap onto another building. Just watch these videos its just stupid.
6. A Quiet Place
This film was a beautiful reverie within the genre. Good horror films find a concept and work within it without stretching the bounds of their universe until said universe no longer make sense. A Quiet Place cleverly navigates this idea with ease as they primarily narrow the focus of this film to sound. This story follows the Abbott family in a post-apocalyptic world where monsters, who are unable to see yet have supersonic hearing, roam around the world in search of their next meal. Ergo, ‘A Quiet Place.’ The Abbott family, comprised of a mother, father, deaf daughter, son, and soon to be newborn, attempt to take back their own lives and find a balance of living within the principles they’ve established to survive,all while trying to raise a family. This film is fantastic because it knows exactly what it is and doesn’t waste time jump-scaring you to death. They keep the movie about surviving and sound. It's quite beautiful.
5. Eighth Grade
Considering I am at a time in my life where I constantly reflect on my adolescence and childhood, Eighth Grade is an extremely relatable and accurate interpretation of what it’s like to grow up surrounded with technology. This film centers on Kayla, a grade eight student who suffers, like most kids, from anxiety and uncertainty with herself. She’s constantly searching for validation from her peers and tries to explore who she really is, all elevated by the confusing world of social media and the interplay with technology. Bo Burnham, the film’s writer and director, is usually known as a comedian and mock songwriter, but if you look deeper, it's no surprise he produced something like this. Similar to that of Lady Bird and Boyhood, Eighth Grade taps into something genuinely authentic about adolescence and its a privilege to be able to watch something that encapsulates your inability to articulate your youth, and maybe even your entrance into adulthood.
4. If Beale Street Could Talk
Above all else, this is a film that you should watch because it tells an underrepresented story of a fairly common reality in many African-American lives and is a film that should have been nominated for Best Picture. Period. It revolves around the relationship between Tish and Fonny, a Harlem couple, as they struggle to exonerate Fonny from a crime he never committed, all in a time of racial tension. It’s a story worth telling and a story worth listening to. Substance aside, this is a cinematically a beautiful film. There are countless moments where the colours, shot selection, and camera movement come together to create something simply breathtaking to watch. Strong recommend.
3. Free Solo
I have a difficult time articulating how this documentary made me feel, because it made me feel such a variety of emotions in such a short period of time, often simultaneously. Fear, anxiety, empathy, confusion, inspiration, motivation, adoration, envy, etc. Free climbing is when an individual climbs a mountain with ropes, but by themselves, no help. Free soloing is when a person climbs a mountain with no ropes and no help. If you fall, you die. It’s as simple as that. Free Solo follows the world’s foremost and skilled Free Soloist, Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve a feat never before done: to free solo El Capitan, a 3200 ft mountain face in Yosemite Valley, without ropes. You would think that what I believe to be the greatest athletic achievement ever would be enough to make an interesting film on its own, but there is so much more. The filmmakers weave their own meta narrative into the story, discussing the ethics of making such a documentary and the consequences it could have on Alex as he attempts to fulfill his dream. The film discusses mortality and what living your own life truly means. Alex offers up such a unique perspective on life, that it is worth watching on that principle alone. I have watched this film four times now, and it becomes more interesting everytime I watch it. If you have the opportunity to see it in iMax, please do that.
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
For those who know me, they may find it hard to believe that I put an animated Marvel film this high on my list. I typically find myself to be more of a film purist from the perspective that I don’t like it when big corporations use a similar formula time and time again to create something passable. But god damn was this movie good. I legitimately saw it twice in theatres. First of all, the animation is amazing. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before, and for that, I have to give Sony Animation Studios some serious credit. Secondly, this film does an amazing job of involving an accurate representation of culture into this movie through music, character choice and balance, the visuals, and actually writing jokes that are relevant today. Thirdly, this film contains an overly stacked cast that each deliver fantastic performances. Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Liev Schreiber, John Mulaney, Nicholas Cage, Lily Tomlin, Zoe Kravitz, Chris Pine, etc. Its wild. Lastly, the film does a masterful job of following through on and developing themes that actually serve the plot and the story well. It's just so amazing and so funny and ahh I'm just blushing writing this.
1. A Star is Born
I mean, I already wrote an article on this film, so is it really a surprise? My roommates hate me because I learned how to play Shallow on guitar and I haven’t stopped playing it. I bought a denim jacket that makes me look like Jackson Maine. I saw the movie twice in theatres and twice out of theatres and have cried an amount of times I’m not comfortable sharing. I have a problem. All I will say is that the first half of this film is a masterclass on chemistry and tension. The scene where Ally comes on stage to sing Shallow for the first time may be one of the most rewatchable moments in film history. I need to stop myself. Watch the movie. Its good and stuff.