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.

Wildlife

RATING: [B-|🍅]

“And what there is to learn from almost any human experience is that your own interests usually do not come first where other people are concerned–even the people who love you–and that is all right. It can be lived with.”

[Richard Ford]

Among some of the better directorial debut from 2018 (Hereditary, Eighth Grade, Blindspotting) comes one deserving of Paul Dano. A complex and rich story centered on a single woman’s seeming affair to move along the boundaries of her existence in the measures she deems necessary. Wildlife is not going to be a favorite for most people with its measured pace and unsteady characters. But it’s full of rich nuance that makes for an intensely satisfying film to discuss.

The father (Jake Gyllenhaal) removes himself from the family to go fight a fire without any seeming rhyme or reason aside, perhaps, because of an underlying sense he feels at home of being a vocational disappointment and wanting a break from feeling of failure. This one strand informs much of the relational dynamic of the film and must be understood within the context of who the mother is.

The son (Ed Oxenbould), the single strand of good intention and stability, seeking to bridge the family disconnect as illustrated in the fine last photo he takes. Being subjected to the burning in the forest, he is overcome by the sheer destruction of a conflagration with the capacity to destroy the wildlife with no one able to control the consequences except nature (or another Force Majorie) itself. In that moment, he sees his own family. He sees his own position in the burning. And, his face says it all.

And then there’s the mother, played brilliantly by Carey Mulligan as the final manifestation of the family dynamic and a sense of her own inability to control the dying flames of her marriage. Her disconnect and communication with her son spells of a mother who was placed in her position perhaps unwittingly.  Her constant references to her age and youth suggests some unbridged insecurities that remain dormant while she moves from place to place in hopes of fulfilling the patriarchal norms of her position. She seems to live in a single moment of her past and everything after is a dream she remains inside just waiting to wake up. “I feel like I need to wake up,” she confesses to her son. “But I don’t know what from, or to.” Eventually, her own undoing becomes clear. As the father leaves, she becomes distant and self-consumed. She becomes the symbolic conflagration in her own home without a sense of propriety as she takes her son from one forest into another (i.e. man’s home) as the fulfillment of a broken act as though survival was her most basic need. Mulligan plays her role to a tee: subdued and yet remarkably dynamic in the glances and choices of language. Unwilling to even see her husband as she drives past the camp into the fire.

Dano selects an appropriate film to begin a career in directing given his complicated career and fine craftsmanship as an actor. A film well adapted by him and Zoe Kazan in its ability to nuance the complications of Richard Ford’s book. An incredibly well-balanced film that speaks about the struggles and consequences of family life and our inability to become the products that we once envisioned for our children. A film that speaks about the beauty and defeat of marriage and parenting, and perhaps captures some of that divide in that brilliant last photo. Not since Blue Valentine has there been an American film with the impact felt here.

A film that sends a warning: parenting may not come naturally.

RATING: B-

October

Here is what we’re excited to see this month

IN THEATRES

VENOM – October 5

Venom

When Eddie Brock acquires the powers of a symbiote, he will have to release his alter-ego “Venom” to save his life. Wouldn’t be on my radar but for Tom Hardy.

Trailer.

A STAR IS BORN – October 5

star is born

A musician helps a young singer and actress find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral. Major buzz for this movie after it picked up momentum at the Venice Film Festival.

Trailer.

THE GREAT BUSTER – October 5

Buster

Documentary from Pete Bogdonavich about the great silent era comedian and innovator, Buster Keaton.

Trailer.

FIRST MAN – October 12

First Man

A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969. From the young director of Whiplash and La La Land. Overheard someone at Telluride Film Festival saying that Damien Chazelle told them that the movie needs to be seen in IMAX, so if you’ve got the money, go do that.

Trailer.

BEAUTIFUL BOY – October 12

Beautiful Boy

Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years. I’d trust this more if it was from Linklater, but could be immensely impactful.

Trailer.

WILDLIFE – October 19

Wildlife

In 1960, a boy watches his parents’ marriage fall apart after the three of them move to Montana and his mother falls in love with another man. Directed by Paul Dano.

Trailer.

HALLOWEEN – October 19

Halloween

Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.

Trailer.

SERENITY – October 19

Serenity

The mysterious past of a fishing boat captain comes back to haunt him, when his ex-wife tracks him down with a desperate plea for help, ensnaring his life in a new reality that may not be all that it seems. I like Steven Knight as a writer (Locke, Peaky Blinders) so anything he does, I will consider.

Trailer.

MID90s – October 19

mid90s

Follows Stevie, a thirteen-year-old in 90s-era LA who spends his summer navigating between his troubled home life and a group of new friends that he meets at a Motor Avenue skate shop.

Trailer.

BURNING – October 26

Burning

Jong-su, a part-time worker, bumps into Hae-mi while delivering, who used to live in the same neighborhood. Hae-mi asks him to look after her cat while she’s on a trip to Africa. When Hae-mi comes back, she introduces Ben, a mysterious guy she met in Africa, to Jong-su. One day, Ben visits Jong-su’s with Hae-mi and confesses his own secret hobby. Very excited for this film.

Trailer.

SUSPIRIA – October 26

Suspiria

A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.

Trailer.

STREAMING

Making A Murderer: Part 2 – October 19 On Netflix

landscape-1496604817-making-a-murderer-main

We know it has been a few years since the 10 episode of this first season came on the scene, and maybe you have forgotten some things. Here is a link to a Forbes article with some great reminders. Netflix will release another 10 episodes this month, that will focus on what has happened after the conviction.

Trailer.

Netflix:

  • Mystic River (October 1) (88% RT 🍎) (8.0 IMDb) – Clint Eastwood (director)
  • V for Vendetta (October 1) (73% RT 🍎) (8.2 IMDb) – The Wachowskis (writers)
  • The Shining (October 1) (86% RT 🍎) (8.4 IMDb) – Stanley Kubrick (director)

Amazon Prime

  • The Illusionist (October 1) (73% RT 🍎) (7.6 IMDb)
  • The Man In The High Castle Season 3 (October 5) (8.1 IMDb)
  • Mr. Robot Season 3 (October 11) (8.6 IMDb)
  • The Romanoffs Season 1 (October 12) (NA IMDb) – creators of Mad Men

Hulu

  • Raging Bull (October 1) (95% RT 🍎) (8.2 IMDb) – Martin Scorsese (director)
  • Mulholland Drive (October 1) (83% RT 🍎) (8.0 IMDb) – David Lynch (director)
  • Ace Ventura Pet Detective (October 1) (46% RT) (6.9 IMDb)
  • Ace Ventura When Nature Calls (October 1) (33% RT) (6.3 IMDb)
  • RBG (October 3) (94% RT 🍎) (7.5 IMDb) – Ruth Bader Ginsburg as herself

HBO

  • Fantastic Mr. Fox (October 1) (92% RT 🍎) (7.8 IMDb) – Wes Anderson (director)
  • Dances With Wolves (October 1) (82% RT 🍎) (8.0 IMDb) – Kevin Costner (director)
  • Man On Fire (October 1) (39% RT ) (7.7 IMDb) – Tony Scott (director)
  • Inherent Vice (October 1) (73% RT) (6.7 IMDb) – Paul Thomas Anderson (director)