Rachael's Top Eleven Movies of 2018
I have to laugh at people saying 2018 was bad for film, because I found myself enjoying quite a bit from the year. Some blew me away, some were so-so, and some turned out to be duds, but I don’t believe any year is a ‘bad year’ when it comes to movies. Why was this a good year? Despite what larger media outlets and award ceremonies say, horror films are slowly becoming more accepted, women knocked it out of the park with their films, and we got freaking Kurt Russell as Santa. I can only hope 2019 is filled with surprises like we had in 2018!
This is a list of films that I would consider honorable mentions. This doesn’t mean I didn’t find these entertaining. Quite the opposite actually. I enjoy every film I will talk about in this write up. So to start my lists, here are the honorable mentions in no order:
Blindspotting (dir. Carlos López Estrada)
The Sister’s Brothers (dir. Jacques Audiard)
Mission: Impossible - Fallout (dir. Christopher McQuarrie)
Thunder Road (dir. Jim Cummings)
Shirkers (dir. Sandy Tan)
Support the Girls (dir. Andrew Bujalski)
Happy as Lazzaro (dir. Alice Rohrwacher)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (dir. Peter Ramsey, Robert Persichetti Jr., Rodney Rothman)
The Land of Steady Habits (dir. Nicole Holofcener)
Halloween (dir. David Gordon Green)
Widows (dir. Steve McQueen)
I’ve seen so many great films this year; it is hard to narrow them down to ten. There is one film that I haven’t seen yet that I was hoping to see before curating this list. Burning is the final film that I’m dying to see. Hopefully, I will be able to watch it soon. As I mentioned last year, I am a weak individual, so I made a top 11. Numbering them is nearly impossible so I’m going to just list them off in no order. However, I can solidify a favorite of the year which you will find out at the end!
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (dir. Marielle Heller): I’m pretty sure I have an undying love for this movie. I have never seen Melissa McCarthy so great in a film and I hope she does more of these rounded and serious roles like her portrayal of Lee Israel. Richard E. Grant is the perfect companion as he is a polar opposite to McCarthy’s character. If I had it my way, Grant would be winning a lot of awards for this performance. It’s hard to believe this even happened in real life, but Heller and crew make it so real that you almost feel like you’re next to the characters as they forge letters from celebrities to pawn for money. Heller is up to direct the Mr. Rogers biopic starring Tom Hanks and you can guarantee I will be there opening weekend to watch it!
Private Life (dir. Tamara Jenkins): Certain aspect of a couple’s life are rarely displayed in film and yet Tamara Jenkins went full throttle on a topic so difficult for people who want a family. I may not have a desire for children, but I couldn’t help feeling for the characters in this film as they struggle with trying to conceive. They try everything they can until they ask someone close to them to carry a child for them. This puts a wedge in their relationship and they grow tired of trying. Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti are stellar. Jenkins puts you right into their relationship and you wish you could help them out. I feel this is a tough watch for some, but it’s refreshing to see this topic being talked about in a movie.
Leave No Trace (dir. Debra Granik): Thomasin McKenzie deserves more recognition for her part in this film. Tom (McKenzie) and her father, played effortlessly by Ben Foster, live in parts of the forest in Oregon. After being swooped up by social services, they’re placed in a home by a friendly stranger and reintroduced to civilization. The film then follows the duo as they depart their home and head back to seclusion, but clashing opinions on what they should do set the two up for a tough decision to make. Simply, this film is beautiful. Not only visually, but the way the films works and its implications on how society treats veterans and how life in isolation and being off the grid would be like is presented so carefully and evenly paced.
Roma (dir. Alfonso Cuarón): Alfonso Cuarón has managed to create a riveting black and white drama about a servant named Cleo making her way through life after becoming pregnant by someone who doesn’t want anything to do with her. The film starts out with Cleo having a fairly simple life, but after the pregnancy and the separation in the family she serves, Cleo feels the weight of the world on her shoulders. There may not be a definitive narrative and more of a moment in time, but Cuarón displays how strong women can be with a heavy historical backdrop. Yalitza Aparicio, as an acting newcomer, couldn’t have done better.
Shoplifters (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda): In 2018, I dug more into the works of Kore-eda and I am beyond glad I did. The way this man films relationships is unlike any other and one of the key components that I love about his films. After a little girl is left outside, a father and son take her to their home to nourish her with the rest of their family. They care for her more than her own family and do not consider it a kidnapping because they’re not asking for anything is return if they give her back. We follow this family and love them until dark secrets unravel leaving you pondering everything you were previously introduced to. Kore-eda is a mastermind and though this movie is heartbreaking, it is equally beautiful. Everyone in the family is wonderful down to the legendary and sorely missed, Kirin Kiki.
The Rider (dir. Chloe Zhao): I saw this in January of 2018 and it still pops into my mind every now and then. Zhao creates a beautiful simple tale of never giving up on your dreams. After we see Brady remove staples from his head, we learn that he suffered a life threatening injury while rodeo riding and is trying to figure out what he should do with his life since he shouldn’t be on the saddle anymore. Not only that, but his friend is permanently damaged from the same sort of incident. Though there is a story, Brady’s onscreen family and friends are his family and friends in real life and his off-screen skills make it into the film. The Rider borders the line of documentary and drama while fooling the viewers in this fascinating film.
If Beale Street Could Talk (dir. Barry Jenkins): To say Beale Street is layered would be an understatement. Adapted from a James Baldwin book, Jenkins shows the difficulties of teenage motherhood, family drama, racism, and being incarcerated for a rape crime one did not commit. Homages to the style of Wong Kar-wai in its filming, Beale Street is visually stunning with vibrant colors. Regina King does such a fabulous job in her supporting role and she’s the kind of mother that exudes all the love and support in the world. There’s a lot that unfolds in the film, but trust me when I say you should see it.
First Reformed (dir. Paul Schrader): Ethan Hawke. That’s it, that’s the review. Just kidding. However, Hawke nails it as an alcoholic pastor having a personal and religious crisis after encountering an environmental activist who wants his pregnant wife to abort their child and is on the verge of self destruction. From there, there is a downward spiral Hawke rides into. It’s fairly warranted yet sad to see a man crumble with his thoughts and depression. Masterfully crafted, Schrader emulates works of Bresson and Bergman throughout the film which makes First Reformed a piece of art you shouldn’t miss.
The Favourite (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos): I was beyond excited to see this and it did not disappoint AT ALL! Besides the fact that I adore Yorgos and his wild mind, the female leads in this are by far some of the best set of women together in a film I’ve seen in awhile. Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone duke it out for Olivia Colman’s affection and attention in this 18th century dramatic comedy. There is a hint of “anything you can do, I can do better” between Weisz and Stone and you can’t help but hysterically laugh at their antics paired with the witty script. If you want some lavish banter and some eroticism, this is the movie for you. Actually, you should just watch it because it’s simply great.
Paddington 2 (dir. Paul King): If there was any sequel that I swooned hard over in 2018, it was Paddington 2. Marmalade sandwiches never looked so good! Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) steals a pop-up book that Paddington wants to buy for Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday and sadly gets framed by Buchanan for the crime and incarcerated. My heart is filled with happiness every time I think about this movie and the whimsical nature of watching Paddington and Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson) cook in a pink and black prison uniform. The best thing about this film, and its predecessor, is that Paddington stays true to who he is. If you’re nice to others, everything will be ok. With a motto to live by, Paddington 2 is a joyous little film with gorgeous colors, amazing animation, and a sweet message implied.
Cold War (dir. Paweł Pawlikowski): I went into this film completely blind. Never heard of it nor have I really heard of the director. After my viewing, I was so engulfed in everything I saw that from then on I had a feeling it would be my favorite of the year. The film lightly emulates the real life turbulent relationship of Pawlikowski’s own parents as their affair stretched over many years. Set with a backdrop of post World War II Poland, Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Zula (Joanna Kulig) meet after Wiktor is putting together talent for a choral ensemble to record his music. Zula white lies a little bit in order to be in the group. Wiktor finds her fiery demeanor enticing and the two end up forming a relationship. From then, we take a deep dive into the tumultuous love affair of highs and lows, betrayal, and love. Your heart will grow when their love is strong, and will immediately break when something goes awry. Filmed in black and white, Cold War holds tight onto its tale of love and pain while historically the world crumble behind them. It is beautiful, profound, and my favorite film of 2018.