Matt's Top Fifteen Movies of 2018
What a year, huh? 2018 gave us some great films from major studios, indie darlings, and even streaming services. This was a year that not only gave us groundbreaking superhero films but also one picture that was thought to be lost to the sands of time. What a time to be alive indeed! The last few years I’ve highlighted five honorable mentions and my top ten but for 2018 there was just too much to love, so I’m going to take a page out of The Player’s handbook and put the spotlight on a few more. “Movies! Now More Than Ever!”
Best Non-2018 Film in 2018
2006 d. Mel Gibson
In all honesty this was the hardest category for me to settle on. In a year when I cleared a bunch of blindspots, from legendary Westerns to Paul Schrader’s Hardcore, I had to give it to Mel Gibson’s astounding 2006 achievement. So fast paced, with blink and you'll miss them sequences that will rock you to the core. A chase film at heart that's a whole lot more, with great performances by mostly non-actors, a camera that puts you right into the thick of things, terrific music by James Horner, and gore galore. This thing just moves and doesn't quit, two of the fastest paced hours I’ve experienced, Apocalypto is Gibson’s best film.
BlacKkKlansman (dir. Spike Lee)
Spike Lee’s latest is phenomenal. Truly powerful stuff, with a great turn by John David Washington, it's a pivotal role and without him the picture would collapse under the weight of it all. Oh and Topher Grace is scarily convincing as number one shithead David Duke.
The Old Man & The Gun (dir. David Lowery)
David Lowery's latest is an absolute delight featuring a warm Robert Redford performance with a terrific supporting cast. The cinematic equivalent of a big ol' hug, The Old Man & The Gun is a proper tribute to one of the best actors of his generation.
Love, Simon (dir. Greg Berlanti)
This is a vital, mainstream coming out story. Love, Simon is the kind of movie I wish existed when I was in high school. A film that shows how being a gay teen doesn't have to be ALL DOOM AND GLOOM. The type of movie that should be seen by anyone that's ever questioned themselves and needs a reaffirming hand. Everyone deserves to have their story told.
Halloween (dir. David Gordon Green)
David Gordon Green's Halloween sequel is one of the best slasher films in ages. This is how it's done; smart callbacks to the original while expanding on John Carpenter's classic. Jamie Lee Curtis is tremendous here, returning the role that made her famous. Destroyed by the events of 40 years ago, this Laurie Strode isn't here to mess around and neither is Halloween.
The Mule (dir. Clint Eastwood)
Clint Eastwood did a crazy thing in 2018, directing what is by all accounts one of the worst of the year (15:17 to Paris) and one of the best, The Mule. His latest reads more as an Apology Tour, bringing to the foreground all of his personal hang-ups and missteps throughout the years. Eastwood himself is great here as an octogenarian drug mule with hotshot FBI agent Bradley Cooper hot on his trail. It’s the filmmaker’s best movie in well over a decade.
15. First Reformed (dir. Paul Schrader)
I haven't seen much by Paul Schrader but this is one film I just can’t get out of my head. A quiet story of desolation amongst a small community, First Reformed features striking images and a devastating lead performance by Ethan Hawke. All would be moot however without Schrader’s screenplay, which is the glue that holds this entire thing together. A meditation on what it takes to live in this modern world, it’s a movie that sticks to its guns no matter the outcome.
14. Support The Girls (dir. Andrew Bujalski)
Regina Hall is without a doubt one of the best and most underutilized actresses of her generation. There's an honesty to her performance here and it propels an everyday hangout movie into something truly special. I loved every moment spent with her. As a server of over ten years, the connection between the staff here felt so real to me. If you've ever worked in the service industry, Support the Girls is essential viewing and will hit close to home. The camaraderie on display is so true to life that it almost hurts.
13. You Were Never Really Here (dir. Lynne Ramsey)
A series of impactful sequences that devastate the more you dwell on them, putting you right in Joaquin Phoenix’s shoes. This is some next level filmmaking on the part of Lynne Ramsey and one of the most intense experiences I had in all of 2018. Phoenix gives one of his best performances, one that’s equal parts brutal and introspective, the violence is more than earned as he lays waste to some of the most unsavory antagonists in recent memory.
12. Suspiria (dir. Luca Guadagnino)
Yes, Dario Argento’s 1977 Suspiria is a deserved classic with otherworldly colors and ghastly imagery. That said, count me in the “remake camp,” as Luca Guadagnino’s latest absolutely floored me and has a lot more to say than the original ever attempted to. Taking the main setting of a dance academy from Argento’s original and little else, here he’s crafted an ominous look at the power of obsession and control that those in power hold over the weak. Dakota Johnson goes toe to toe with Tilda Swinton in an insane blood orgy the likes of which haven’t been seen since 2013’s Evil Dead. Scary, powerful, and essential horror.
11. Bad Times at the El Royale (dir. Drew Goddard)
Drew Goddard knows exactly what he's doing and if there's another six year gap between features from him I'll be very disappointed. This is a slick character drama with huge genre overtones and a mean-streak that would make even Ridley Scott proud. Performances are terrific across the board but special note to Cynthia Erivo with a fantastic debut here. So natural and assured, I really latched onto her from the start, her story being the most relevant to the modern era. Also this is no surprise, but Jeff Bridges fashions a spectacularly sympathetic character and one of my favorites of his career. Oh and hey, bravo to Dakota Johnson for going in really interesting directions here and in Suspiria, quickly shedding herself of the stigma of the Fifty Shades trilogy.
10. Mission: Impossible - Fallout (dir. Christopher McQuarrie)
An astounding achievement from all involved, McQuarrie & Cruise are a modern Dream Team. Yes this is indeed the best pure action film since Mad Max: Fury Road. Like a pack of firecrackers, Fallout burns its fuse quick and doesn't stop popping until the credits roll. This is a series known for crazy stunts and this time around they've truly outdone themselves. Every action set-piece is more audacious than the last and only adds to the story at hand. Action scenes as character development? Yes, please.
9. The Favourite (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
What a nice surprise to get three of the best performances of the year in one film. Yorgos Lanthimos channels his inner Barry Lyndon by way of Heathers to give us one of the funniest films in many years. Everything you’ve heard is true, Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz are a trio made in heaven, throwing barbs at each other at every opportunity and each holding their own. A poison tinged love triangle within the trappings of a period costume drama, I couldn’t imagine this being more on my level.
8. First Man (dir. Damien Chazelle)
In which Damien Chazelle finally made a film I love. First Man is anxiety inducing and a truly towering picture. Gosling is expectedly terrific as the closed off Armstrong, bringing a fierce determination and respect to the trip to the moon. Leaving an entire planet to escape all of your baggage ala Dr Manhattan is something I relate to on a deep level. On a technical level, I loved how a lot of this was shot like the Armstrong home movies, lots of handheld, and it works so damn well. Always heartfelt and yes, out of this world, it's one of the best space race stories to come along in ages.
7. A Simple Favor (dir. Paul Feig)
A pulpy trashterpiece of the highest order, Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor is just the kind of twist-laden story I crave. Sharp as knife and willing to cut like one, this is top-tier all around. Blake Lively is fantastic in what is probably her best role yet and Anna Kendrick is terrific as the concerned best friend. A Simple Favor doesn’t pull any punches and features some of the craziest plot turns of 2018. Feig hasn’t let me down yet and if this is any indication, he’s got a lot more tricks up his sleeve.
6. The House That Jack Built (dir. Lars von Trier)
Lars Von Trier’s latest really is a very, very fine house. A darkly comic look at twelve years in the life of a vicious serial killer, The House That Jack Built is my favorite work from the provocative auteur yet. Matt Dillon gives one of the best performances of the year in a role that asks him to go places that most actors wouldn’t dare approach. Can it be a little on the nose with its opinions on modern America? Of course it can. One pivotal scene involving a hunting rifle and a family wearing red baseball caps is proof of that, but with a film as sprawling as this, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
5. Upgrade (dir. Leigh Whannell)
Leigh Whannell crafts a positively brutal sci-fi treasure with great action scenes, some fascinating lore, a showstopping lead performance by Logan Marshall-Green, and some choice gore. The best genre exercise of 2018, Upgrade didn’t light up the box office but every time I’ve seen it my admiration for what was achieved has just grown more and more. Endlessly rewatchable, this modern take on Robocop has thrills to spare and some of the best production design of 2018.
4. The Other Side of the Wind (dir. Orson Welles)
Orson Welles spent the last fifteen years of his life working on The Other Side of the Wind, editing it in between other unrealized projects and it remained unfinished at the time of his death. The fact that we even got this film is nothing short of miraculous. A picture that many thought would never exist, indeed does, and fans of Welles should rejoice. The Other Side of the Wind shockingly lives up to decades of intrigue and hype, and if you're on its level, is another masterwork by one of the original legends of cinema.
3. A Star is Born (dir. Bradley Cooper)
Impressive from start to finish, Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born is one of the most assured debut features in a long time. Featuring a career best turn by Cooper, along with an outstanding breakout performance by Lady Gaga, this is the best big studio picture of the year. Gaga really does have it all. This might not be her first rodeo but it might as well be, I’m nothing but impressed by her as Ally, the ingenue who’s far more than the sum of her parts. The chemistry between the leads is next-level and when you add in a terrific supporting cast that includes Sam Elliott, Dave Chappelle, and Andrew Dice Clay, you have something special.
2. Thunder Road (dir. Jim Cummings)
Writer/Director/Star Jim Cummings’s feature adaptation of his previous short film is nothing less than astounding. He’s able to elicit tears and laughs, sometimes in the same scene, to great effect. Thunder Road is a fascinating look at grief and just trying to get by with all the cards stacked against you, it left me an absolute wreck. His use of long takes during sequences of devastating emotional clarity were unmatched in 2018. Comedy is eternally linked to personal trauma, in order to survive we just have to laugh at ourselves and this film puts that on shocking display. I’d expect great things from Cummings in the future, because if Thunder Road is any indication, we’ll get nothing less.
1. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (dir. Marielle Heller)
This has everything I look for in a movie; pitch perfect performances, an amazing sense of space, crime elements, the forming and dissolving of a friendship, early 90s New York City, and a terrific jazzy soundtrack. The rumours are true, Melissa McCarthy has never been better than she is here. Having read the book on which Can You Ever Forgive Me? is based, I can say that she truly embodies Lee Israel here; a baudy, larger than life curmudgeon with a sick sense of humor and pride to spare. Richard E. Grant gives the most fun, yet still tragic performance of the year as her second hand, in one of the best performances of his storied career. Absolutely loved Marielle Heller's direction as well, she frames things perfectly, escalating tension with the best of them when the story kicks into gear. People joke with me all the time, saying certain films are “Matt Movies” and Can You Ever Forgive Me? most certainly is that and it’s also my favorite movie of 2018.