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.

You Were Never Really Here

RATING: [C+|👎]

“Though a man be a slave, he is the same flesh as thyself; for no one has ever been born a slave by nature; but fortune subjected his body to servitude”     

The dark, brooding 90-minute intermission that looks to ride the wave of momentary brilliance was supposed to be a confirmed addition to our best films of 2018. And yet, somehow, Lynne Ramsay does just enough to keep herself out by delivering an aimless project with a mumbling array of characters that do about as much as the plot does to weave together a three-dimensional film.

You Were Never Really Here (“YWNRH”) tells the story of hit man suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder—a survivor of war and child abuse—who specializes in delivering young women from evil using rudimentary Home Depot weaponry and blanket animosity. As A.O. Scott writes: “[t]he title gestures toward emptiness and absence . . . but what  [it] delivers is less the promised dose of existential alienation than a thematic void.” When the events in the film suddenly escalate, it does so without laying out a foundation for the characters or sufficiently developing the background for the story to make the audience truly care. Ramsay wasn’t going to bore herself with such tedious storytelling so instead she stumbles into the genre using gimmicks and cheesy lines (e.g. “I hear you can be brutal”) in hopes her few brilliant moments and the loudness of Jonny Greenwood’s installments would distract the audience from the aimless and overall underwhelming quality of the film. Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle) summarizes the essence of the problem better than most:

There are just some filmmakers who, when presented a haystack of exciting, will find that lonely needle of dull. Adapting the screenplay herself, Ramsay makes the story ponderous and mysterious. In a case of trying to run before knowing how to walk, Ramsay tries to make a different kind of action movie without bothering to master the rudiments of the form. The result is like any other Lynne Ramsay movie, whether it’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin” or “Ratcatcher” — slow, soporific and, here and there, wonderful.

As a director, Ramsay remains unsteady, but improving—and yet, already celebrated by some, as if she has already arrived at the table of proven directors like Steven McQueen, who runs circles around Ramsay when it comes to tapping into the darkness of humanity. Like Martin Scorsese with Daniel Day Lewis in the Age of Innocence, Ramsay largely wastes the talents of Joaquin Phoenix in a strangely reminiscent rendition of the aptly titled I’m Still Here. Like Affleck’s pretend documentary, it wasn’t so much the acting in YWNRH that works to some degree, but Phoenix’s sheer physical display of self-destruction that remains with you after the film. I can’t tell if it’s Paul Thomas Anderson who brings out the best in Joaquin, but I can assure you that Ramsay’s Phoenix remained dead in its ashes.

These things were of course wasted on critics like Barry Hertz (Globe and Mail), who embarrassingly gave the film a PERFECT score or Sheila O’Malley (Roger Ebert), who likewise gave the film a perfect score while in the process destroying her credibility by comparing Phoenix in The Master to some-distant shadow of Phoenix in Inherent Vice. 

Let’s all stop pretending that this is the best she can do. Ramsay’s masterpiece remains to be made. I look forward to her next film and hope we won’t have to wait so long.

RATING: C+

April

Here is what we’re excited to see this month

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE – April 6

You were never really here

This most promising film in April. A contract killer uncovers a conspiracy while trying to save a kidnapped teen from a life of prostitution. Winner at Cannes for Best Director (Lynne Ramsay) and Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix). And, oh yea, Jonny Greenwood is doing the score.

Trailer.

MONEY HEIST (LA CASA DE PAPEL) – April 6

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The show follows 8 con artists as they try and rob the Royal Mint of Spain. Having won many awards in Spain this show was picked up for a second series. IMDb gives the show an average of 8.8 which puts it almost in the top 100 shows, and the critics are also raving. Netflix will have the second series available on April 6th.

Trailer.

PATERNO – April 7

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Barry Levinson (Rain Man) and Al Pacino (Godfather) join forces to bring to life the story of Joe Paterno, who failed to report sexual crimes of one of his coaches Jerry Sandusky after allegedly being informed about these crimes. His life and legacy are on the line. This movie will premier on April 7th on HBO.

Trailer.

THE RIDER – April 13

Rider

Another Cannes winner, this time the C.I.C.A.E. Award. After a riding accident leaves him unable to compete on the rodeo circuit, a young cowboy searches for a new purpose.

Trailer.

BORG VS. McENROE – April 13

Borg

Two tennis greats: a rivalry between the placid Björn Borg and the volatile John McEnroe. I have my doubts, but being an avid Tennis fan, I’ll be forced to watch it.

Trailer.

ZAMA – April 13

Zama

In the late 18th century in a remote South American colony, corregidor Zama’s situation deteriorates as he longs for a better assignment from the Spanish Empire.

Trailer.

THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH – April 20

Amorth

Filmmaker William Friedkin, who directed the original Exorcist, follows the Rev. Gabriele Amorth as he performs an exorcism on a woman in Italy.

Trailer.

GODARD MON AMOUR – April 27

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During the making of one of his films, French film director Jean-Luc Godard falls in love with 17-year-old actress Anne Wiazemsky and later marries her. Directed by the guy who did The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius.

Trailer.

DISOBEDIENCE – April 27

DIsobedience

After the year LGBT-fimmaking had in 2017, they’ve already scored big with the press in Love, Simon and not so much with Saturday Church. Now comes this feature, starring Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz, directed by Sebastián Lelio, who just won an Oscar for his foreign film, A Fantastic Woman.

Trailer.


Westworld” (season 2) | Premieres Sunday, April 22, at 9 p.m. on HBO

Handmaids Tale” (season 2) | Premieres Wednesday, April 25, on Hulu