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.

We The Animals

RATING: [B|🍅]

“For the law of sin is that brute force of habit whereby the mind is dragged along and held fast against its will, and deservedly so because it slipped into the habit willingly.”

[St. Augustine]

The division of innocence and the corruption of youth wrought by the failure of parents and economic insecurity; here, in the works of Jeremiah Zagar, we see a dazzling array of impeccable editing and sound mixing to bring an immensely profound work in child development. Malick-esque at its core, there is an almost immeasurable depth of beauty being displayed in the inner workings of a finely crafted screenplay matched by the competence of direction and sound.

We The Animals is the B-Side of Tree Of Life. Escaping grace, here is a film about the natural onset of sin and the moral desolation when unbridled human proclivity meets the imprisoned lights of starvation. “Prioritiz[ing] mood and moment over a more traditional story structure,” the film is textured in subtleties. We find three brothers, at one time unimpeachable in their bondage, beginning to slide apart as their parents  pave the direction through their own violence and surrender. While the mother struggles to retain her semblance of normalcy, she is too often overcome by the blistering forces of men’s all too human directions. Without their parents, the boys have only each other, which proves insufficient as their natural ends find only mired and sordid spaces for self-expression. Jeannette Catsoulis (NY Times) writes:

Fragile yet resilient, “We the Animals” has an elemental quality that’s hugely endearing, using air and water and the deep, damp earth to fashion a dreamworld where big changes occur in small, sometimes symbolic ways. Cocooned in this limbo, Jonah puzzles over adult behavior and the incipient sexuality that will finally cleave him from his brothers. Their path to manhood suddenly looks nothing like his own.

Where the Kings of Summer finds the bridging of friendship, in We The Animals we find the proverbial burning therein — we become strangers to ourselves as we become communities of exclusion to others. Noah, the young boy (fittingly named) struggles to escape the domestic creation of Nineveh, heads “West” to greener fields of tomorrow in a state of sexual confusion and rebellion in hopes that his drawing-memories could be found in the company of others. As Eric Kohn (IndieWire) rightly notes:

Each moment contributes to his developing perceptions of the world — telling glances and a ruminative voiceover transforms the movie into a poetic variation on the coming-of-age formula less fixated on exposition than the haunting beauty of growing up.

There is a parallel structure of melancholy driving this film: one based on the realization that time and nature re-invents the human core and our relation to one another. And, the second, based on the reoccupying respite that life offers in the midst of turmoil by way of momentary escapes.

There is much more to discuss: for now, go see the film and consider it for yourself.

RATING: B

August

Here is what we’re excited to see this month

IN THEATRES

NICO, 1998 – August 1

nico

For fans of Velvet Underground (like me), this is a film about the last year of singer Nico’s life, as she tours and grapples with addiction and personal demons.

Trailer.

THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST  – August 3

Education of Cameron

In 1993, a teenage girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center by her conservative guardians. Director Desiree Akhavan won the Grand Jury Prize for Drama at the Sundance Film Festival. Similar theme explored in another upcoming film premiering in Venice is Boy Erased, written and directed by Joel Edgerton.

Trailer.

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN – August 3

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 10.24.07 PM

A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh, who helps him to rediscover the joys of life.

Trailer.

BLACKkKLANSMAN – August 9

Klansman

Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer from Colorado, successfully managed to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan and became the head of the local chapter. Winner of the Grand Prize of the Jury and the Prize of the Economical Jury – Special Mention at Cannes. Spike Lee directed.

Trailer.

CHURCH & STATE – August 10

church

A surprise federal court ruling in 2013 legalized gay marriage for Utah–triggering a fierce battle in a state where Mormon church values control the Legislature and every aspect of public life. This documentary overlaps with a lot of my recent doctoral research so I am including it.

Trailer.

A PRAYER BEFORE DAWN – August 10

Prayer before

The true story of an English boxer incarcerated in one of Thailand’s most notorious prisons as he fights in Muay Thai tournaments to earn his freedom. Fans of Peaky Blinders should recognize the main actor, Joe Cole.

Trailer.

WE THE ANIMALS – August 17

We the Animals

Manny, Joel, and Jonah tear their way through childhood and push against the volatile love of their parents. As Manny and Joel grow into versions of their father and Ma dreams of escape, Jonah embraces an imagined world all on his own. Winner of the Grand Jury Award at L.A. Outfest, Future/Now Award at the Montclair Film Festival, and the NEXT Innovator Award at Sundance. Director Jeremiah Zagar is a newcomer, but I have a feeling he may be a name we hear going forward.

Trailer.

BLAZE – August 17

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BLAZE is inspired by the life of Blaze Foley, the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas outlaw music movement that spawned the likes of Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. The film weaves together three different periods of time, braiding re-imagined versions of Blaze’s past, present and future. Ethan Hawke directed. Alia Shawkat is also in Duck Butter – certainly an actress to watch going forward.

Trailer.

OPERATION FINALE – August 29

Operation

15 years after World War II, a team of secret agents are brought together to track down Adolf Eichmann, the infamous Nazi architect of the Holocaust. Hard to tell how good this film will be but I know that Oscar Isaac, Mélanie Laurent, Ben Kingsley (playing Adolf Eichmann), and Haley Lu Richardson (less confident in her Support the Girls film – August 24) tend to pick pretty good scripts.

Trailer.

THE LITTLE STRANGER – August 31

Stranger

Film tells the story of Dr. Faraday, the son of a housemaid, who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. During the long hot summer of 1948, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked. The Hall has been home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries. But it is now in decline and its inhabitants – mother, son and daughter – are haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life. From director Lenny Abrahamson (Room, Frank).

Trailer.

KIN – August 31

Kin

Chased by a vengeful criminal, the feds and a gang of otherworldly soldiers, a recently released ex-con and his adopted teenage brother are forced to go on the run with a weapon of mysterious origin as their only protection. First time directors, time to show us what you can do.

Trailer.

STREAMING

Disenchantment (August 17 on Netflix)

Matt Groening (Simpsons/Futurama) makes his way back to a cartoon series which looks like it could at the very least be likable amongst fans of Groening. The Simpson and Futurama had their place in my childhood but I’m not sure could keep pace with other cartoon shows of today, most notably, Bojack comes to mind.

Trailer.


Jack Ryan (August 31 on Amazon Prime)

Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland (obviously becoming friends on the show Lost) are teaming up to bring Top Clancy’s books to life on the television screen. Jack Ryan has been on the big screen before in a series of movies and has become a fan favorite for wannabe clandestine viewers. I will say I do not have the highest of hopes for Krasinski in the action-packed thriller, but I am sure that this one will please the masses.

Trailer.


Netflix:

  • Batman Begins (August 1) (84% RT 🍎) (8.3 IMDb)
  • Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (August 1) (91% RT 🍎) (8.8 IMDb)
  • No Country For Old Men (August 11) (93% RT 🍎) (8.1 IMDb)

Amazon Prime

  • Watchmen (August 1) (64% RT 🍎) (7.6 IMDb)
  • The Usual Suspects (August 1) (89% RT 🍎) (8.6 IMDb)

Hulu

  • Lost in Translation (August 1) (95% RT 🍎) (7.8 IMDb)
  • Baby Driver (August 11) (74% RT 🍎)
  • Gangs of New York (August 26) (74% RT 🍎) (7.5 IMDb)

HBO

  • Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (August 1) (85% RT 🍎) (7.6 IMDb)
  • Fargo (August 1) (93% RT 🍎) (8.1 IMDb)
  • The Fugitive (August 1) (96% RT 🍎) (7.8 IMDb)
  • U.S. Marshalls (August 1) (26% RT) (6.5 IMDb)
  • Super Troopers (August 1) (35% RT) (7.1 IMDb)
  • The Hunted (August 1) (29% RT) (6.0 IMDb)
  • The Terminal (August 1) (61% RT 🍎) (7.3 IMDb)
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (August 4) (92% RT 🍎) (8.2 IMDb)