It was an amazing year in movies, and not just because of the countless record-breaking box office figures throughout it, but also because of the quality of the work.
So, needless to say, it was tough to come up with a list of my best movies of the year. (Guess it’s a good problem to have.)
So after days of putting in, taking out, shifting in ranking – and at one moment wondering why I don’t just make a top 15 list this year and make my life easier – here are my 11 favourite movies of 2018.
I seriously laughed more watching this movie than any other this year. And not just at the disses in the battle rap scenes, but also because the reaction shots are so well done. Joseph Kahn taps into the country’s oversensitiveness about practically everything to tell a fantastic story and showcases an art form that (outside of “8 Mile”) has never really gotten its due on screen.
Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs are an incredible one-two punch playing best friends on two very different paths. The movie explores Oakland gentrification, race, Black Lives Matter, and other topics. There’s a lot to absorb, but director Carlos López Estrada shapes the story (penned by Casal and Diggs) in a way that flows perfectly. This results in one of the most unique movies of the year.
After coming on the scene at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival in September, “Icebox” didn’t get a release until HBO aired it in early December (sadly, it never got a theatrical release for an Oscar push). Despite the time past, the timeliness of this movie is scary. Looking at a 12-year-old’s journey from Honduras to the US border, it mirrors the plight of many who have tried to find a better life in the US. “Coco” star Anthony Gonzalez gives an incredible performance in the lead role, and director Daniel Sawka shows why he’s one to watch.
When I heard Nicolas Cage and “Beyond the Black Rainbow” director Panos Cosmantos were teaming on a project, I knew it was going to be something special. But what we got with “Mandy” exceeded my expectations. The movie is twisted and strange while also poetic and beautifully crafted. It’s top-flight genre filmmaking while also being a haunting look at personal loss.
7. “The Favourite”
Yorgos Lanthimos has been on the scene for a while with movies like “Dogtooth,” “The Lobster,” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” But “The Favourite” is his widest release yet, and boy are people who are getting introduced to his work for the first time getting a treat. The unique camera lenses used, the colourful characters, the weird dances – that’s all commonplace in a Lanthimos movie. But what this one excels at is showcasing its lead performances played by Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz, who are the driving force of this movie.
Another director this year who got a much larger platform to show off his work was Steve McQueen (“Hunger,” “Shame,” “12 Years a Slave”). He takes a crime story set in Chicago and expands it to explore city corruption and female stereotypes, along with delivering a perfect twist at the end. And like “The Favourite,” the movie is led by incredible female performances, including Viola Davis and Elizabeth Debicki.
5. “Eighth Grade”
Bo Burnham’s feature directing debut is a touching look at teenage life that will resonate no matter how old you are. Elsie Fisher’s performance as a girl with low self-esteem, counting the days down to get to high school when she will hopefully do a refresh on her social life, is one of the best of the year.
4. “Andre the Giant”
If you caught this on HBO you know why it’s on the list. In a year when documentaries had a major impact in theatres, this is the one I still can’t get one out of my head. Jason Hehir’s beautifully told look at the pro wrestling great humanizes the man behind the myth. And what sets it above many sports documentaries is you don’t have to be a superfan to appreciate it. Hehir’s storytelling sucks you in even if you know nothing about André Roussimoff.
3. “The Old Man & The Gun”
Director David Lowery is completely in his element here as he gives a texture – from the way it’s shot, to the production design, to the score – to the story of a guy in his 70s (played by Robert Redford) robbing banks. When you’re watching it, you think you’ve been sucked back to the pre-digital era of moviemaking. Every moment is crafted beautifully and on top of it, Redford gives a performance that shows he’s still got zip on his fastball (this may be his final movie … we’ll see).
2. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
From the incredible animation that makes it look like a comic book come to life, to the powerful story about self-discovery, this is a movie that celebrates the universal love for the Spider-Man character – and then goes and redefines how superhero origin stories are told. Though the focus is on Miles Morales becoming your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, it’s also a story about Peter Parker reclaiming his confidence. What makes superhero movies stand out is when the stories successfully humanize the characters, and this movie does it better than most live-action offerings in the genre.
1. “A Star Is Born”
On paper, Bradley Cooper taking the helm of the latest retelling of “A Star Is Born” seems like an instant crash-and-burn project. And that might be why I love this movie so much, because his execution from the first frame eliminated all doubt and I just sat back and enjoyed the story. There are, of course, the performances by Cooper and Lady Gaga. But there’s also the sound design, editing, and songwriting. The movie has so much it requires multiple viewings. And that scene when Sam Elliott as Bobby, the older brother/guardian angel of Jack (Cooper), walks up to him and says, “You stole my voice,” will give me goosebumps regardless how many times I watch it.
I have to admit, I respect “Roma” more than I love it. Alfonso Cuarón proves he is a master of his craft, but it’s one of those movies I’ve seen once and am fine if I never see it again. “Sorry to Bother You” is an amazing story and I can’t wait to see what Boots Riley does next (and just in case you need the reminder, Lakeith Stanfield is the truth!). I’m rooting hard for “Black Panther” for best picture Oscar consideration. Ryan Coogler made a movie that isn’t just thrilling and fun, but also inspiring. And “Blockers” is groundbreaking in its approach to the high-school comedy movie. It’s woke but also makes fun of woke culture.
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