Our 20 Must See Films of 2018

Here is the first working list of the 20 most important films (excluding documentaries) of 2018, selected for their innovation, quality, & depth. Not all are considered to be “best films” per se, but instead carry the day with their cultural impact & utility for understanding the human material.

Some selections are subjectively driven, although I never ignore my objective grid to better hone the quality of my palate.

Some pack the indelible swords of emotion that leaves leaves unfurled and the test of maturity to be discovered by posterity.

Some are simply technical masterpieces of pace & direction: unbending in its resolve to piece together the prerequisite elements for artistry.

Discussion & disagreement welcome.

And so, without further ado . . .

Roma

Peterloo

First Reformed

The Other Side of the Wind

Cold War

Tully 

Annihilation 

Mandy

November

Eighth Grade

The Endless

We The Animals

Scarred Hearts

Blaze

First Man

Burning

Madeline’s Madeline

Wind Traces

Hereditary 

Thunder Road

*list subject to change


HONORABLE MENTIONS: Vazante, You Were Never Really Here, Wildlife, The House That Jack Built, Nancy, At Eternity’s Gate, Galveston, & Happy as Lazzaro.

The Endless

RATING: [B-|🍅]

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the Unknown.”

[H.P. Lovecraft]

A trilogy of horror and sci-fi that puts Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson alongside Shane Carruth, Brit Marling (w/ Mike Cahill & Zal Batmanglij), and Alex Garland as the pioneering indie American filmmakers of the genre.

The first is Spring (2014): showing glimmers of potential in place of setting and writing (notwithstanding the farfetched City of Angels narrative), the combination of Benson and Moorhead delivered a worthwhile indie romantic body horror that showed future promise fully realized in their recent installment.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 2.10.31 AM.png

This latest film takes along the continuum of Resolution (2012), where the two main characters (Michael Danube and Chris Daniels) find themselves in a Blair Witch Project-type cabin haunted by a devil of determinancy who shows them their present and future recorded paths in an offer of escape that they appear to never reach.

Resolution

And, yet they reappear in The Endless, confined by the horsewhip of space and time in the same house, seeking to escape the perpetual cycle of events (“Life’s Rubik’s Cube”) begun in the previous film and finding comfort in the repeating forms of suicide as a means to restart the cycle, on their own terms.

As for the others, the two main characters (Moorhead and Benson) find themselves, in the vein of Resolution, called back to a cult-camp by a strange video from an undisclosed sender. Once arrived, one of them is drawn to the allure of the supernatural presence in the camp; while the other, confused and wary, is seeking for an escape. The struggle for self-identity in the atmospheric location that exudes mystery speaks to the repetitive struggle in their own lives and the process of breaking free from their day-to-day “miserable” existence. A powerful concept that could have been fleshed out further concerning our own vocational loops.

endless

The critics have embraced this film and for good reason. Overcoming past budgeting struggles, the combination of Moorhead and Benson have placed themselves alongside other independent filmmakers whose films richly delve into textured storytelling, proving that creative films can be just as effective as studio productions. Sure the acting and the writing is at times ineffectual, but the creativity and ability to paint a tantalizing narrative turns out to be more important.

Phil De Semlyen (Time Out) really nails this: “[t]his impressive low-budget indie starts slowly but gets better and better as it weaves a genre-defying tapestry of weirdness, atmospherics and cultish horrors across a dusty American setting.” This is a special film and certainly a promising start to a much-needed genre in independent filmmaking.

RATING: B-

March

Here is what we’re excited to see this month

The first major month of 2018, let’s begin . . . 


 

FOXTROT – March 2

foxtrot

The foreign film winners from last year continue their slow voyage over with the best film at the Venice Film Festival finally reaching our shores, but not into the Oscars after the Israeli entry was cut during final selections. [Check out the full list of 92 countries and their submissions]

The film opens with an affluent Tel Aviv couple learning that their son, a soldier, has died in the line of duty. The film initially follows the parents in the hours after they learn of his death. It then follows their son’s experiences during his military service as one of four soldiers manning a checkpoint. Finally, the film follows the parents six months after his death.

Trailer.

A WRINKLE IN TIME – March 9

A WRINKLE IN TIME

The great Ava DuVernay (Selma, 13th) brings this new Disney science fiction, action-adventure based on the novel by Madeleine L’Engle. The film brings to life the story of Meg Murry, a gangly adolescent who travels across dimensions to rescue her scientist father, guided by a trio of guardian angels collectively called “the Mrs.” The book, and the movie, is about what it means to be a source of light in a world in which darkness seems only to proliferate. It also makes the case for thinking independently when conformity is the norm.

Trailer.

THOROUGHBREDS – March 9

thoroughbreds

Written and directed by newcomers Cory Finley, the film has fallen largely under-the-radar through the award season after being screened at Sundance in 2017. The film is about two upper-class teenage girls in suburban Connecticut who rekindle their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. Together, they hatch a plan to solve both of their problems-no matter what the cost. For what its worth, seeing Anton Yelchin one last time may be worth it.

Trailer.

DEATH OF STALIN – March 9

stalin

This controversial comedy film banned in Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan is a political satire from director and co-writer Armando Iannucci (Veepis based on the French graphic novel and depicts the Soviet power struggles following the death of dictator Joseph Stalin in 1953. Nadezhda Usmanova, head of the Russian Military-Historical Society’s department of information, told Reuters that the film was “despicable.”

“It’s a bad film, it’s a boring film, and it’s vile, repugnant and insulting,” Usmanova said.

Anything that pisses off the Russians should be worth watching.

Trailer.

THE FORGIVEN – March 9

The Forgiven

New Roland Joffé (The Mission, The Killing Fields) installment is hard to ignore given his two best directing nomination Oscars and his Palme d’Or at Cannes. The plot is simple: during his life sentence in post-apartheid South Africa, brutal murderer Piet Blomfield seeks redemption through meetings with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Trailer.

MAINELAND – March 16

maineland

This documentary from Miao Wang tells the story of two affluent, cosmopolitan teenagers who are part of the enormous wave of “parachute students” from Mainland China enrolling in U.S. private schools. Shot over three years in China and the U.S., the film tells a multi-layered coming-of-age tale, following this buoyant, fun-loving girl and introspective boy as they settle into a boarding school in blue-collar small-town rural Maine.

Trailer.

THE ENDLESS – March 23

endless

The science-fiction horror film from filmmakers Moorhead and Benson follows two brothers who receive a cryptic video message inspiring them to revisit the UFO death cult they escaped a decade earlier. Hoping to find the closure that they couldn’t as young men, they’re forced to reconsider the cult’s beliefs when confronted with unexplainable phenomena surrounding the camp.

Trailer.

ISLE OF DOGS – March 23

Isle of Dogs

Needless to say, after winning Best Director in Berlin, this next installment from Wes Anderson about a boy’s odyssey in search of his dog is a must see.

Trailer.

READY PLAYER ONE – March 30

RP1

Spielberg’s new film is a sci-fi action flick set in the near future, where gamers compete inside a massive video game universe to find an “Easter egg” hidden by the network’s recently deceased creator which promises real life riches.

Trailer.

 


Yes, a new Steven Soderbergh film, UNSANE, is also coming out, but I can’t generate any level of excitement given Soderbergh’s record of selling interesting concepts that turn into average films.  Trailer.