Best Movies of 2018

(originally written at the end of December, and now re-posting here!)

2018 was very long year, an expansive, technicolor, overwhelming year, a great big ocean. We were sailing, tossing and turning, full of seasickness, ocean spray, passing sunrises and shipwrecks, and the beginning of this year is now a tiny spark of sunset at the edge of the horizon, the edge of the world. I have seen more films this year than I have ever seen before, although I have had less favorites then previous years. Remembering all the films I’ve loved before, this year was cinematically subtle, more strange and uneven and unexpected, with a narrower but still wondrous collection of films to reflect on. Pop culture is artful, poetic, and I miss talking about movies. Here are some of my favorites in the last year.

(no I haven’t seen Roma or Leave No Trace or Can You Ever Forgive Me or Mind the Gap or Won’t You Be My Neighbour…shame! On to my list)

SHOPLIFTERS
It’s a strong tie between this film and Eight Grade for my favorites of the year, both films a one-two emotional, transcendent punch to the gut, straight up masterpieces. Shoplifters is a Japanese film from the director Kore-eda, about a ragtag, mysterious, traumatized, makeshift family of runaways, criminals, rejects and misfits. The family is made up of the hilarious, strange couple Osamu and Nobuyo, their adopted grandmother, Nobuyo’s sister with sexual, disturbed, yet innocent undertones, one quiet strong young adopted almost son Shota (whose name rings familiar and frequently throughout the film). Osamu teaches Shota the ways of shoplifting, the various “family” members work various menial jobs and financial schemes to get by in their one room home, squatting together on hot summer nights (one night, hearing fireworks they can not see), living in grime, collective sweat and homeliness. The film revolves around the change to this precarious family when they adopt/kidnap a young abused girl from their neighborhood. This film bowled me over, was a witty tragic bittersweet triumph. The visuals of their home, its dirt and shine and dullness and intimately close space, the various shots that lingered at unexpected, tender angles. The dialogue rung with zaniness, understated feeling, wit in that face of poverty and trauma. Who is helping who, and what morals can these characters follow as they face an unforgiving world and their own flaws? It’s a film with humor, humanity, the ordinary extraordinary beauty of life, a masterful painting of the dark underbelly and bright shining moments of individuals who love each other when forsaken by the world.

EIGHTH GRADE
I love love loved this film! I cried three times this year and two of those times were because of emotional cinematic moments, and one of those times was in Eighth Grade. Bo Burnham is an inspiration for writing and directing such a painfully authentic, emotionally resonant, clever, realistic film with stylized moments. Throughout the film, we follow one eighth grade girl navigating the terribleness of eighth grade, the daily horror and awkwardness of the end of middle school, watch her navigate frightening social swamplands, loneliness and insecurity, a desperate desire for connection and acceptance. It’s a film that articulates anxiety extraordinarily well, that is understated and heartfelt. Burnham explores social media, unspoken societal expectations of young females, sexuality and the layers of consent, the gap between parents and their adolescent children. Elsie Fisher’s performance is so real it seems utterly real, glowing and awkward and yearning. Josh Hamilton is the best father I’ve seen in film in a long time. The other young actors each bring authenticity and humor and also terrifying social moments to this film. Even if the film is not perfect, I walked out gutted, feeling particularly able to relate to this film as a former awkward and miserable eighth grader, with the added dimensions of social media for generation Z.

SPIDERMAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE

One of the best movies of the year, one of the best movies ever if its kind! Endless ingenious and refreshing and emotional and hilarious and the most thrilling fun I’ve had in a superhero movie. I can’t say enough how great this film was, how much it swept me off my feet and had me laughing and squealing in delight. It’s genuinely creative in its look, pacing and humor. It’s a visual feast. AND I did not even get to how revolutionary it is, not just in its design, tone and narrative, but in its hero being black and Puetro Rican, its characters being diverse and full humans. It’s a rollicking ride and high art.

THE FAVOURITE
Going into this film, I had no expectations, and did not actually know what the film was about. The Favourite turned out to be a bonkers, batshit crazy cinematic experience. The film is from the director of The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Yorgos Lanthimos, and he brings his particular off kilter, satirical, darkly uproariously funny, psychologically complex and playful style to this film with possibly his best results to date. The film follows a mostly fictionalized Queen Anne, played by a masterful Olivia Colman, through her gouty health deteriorations (which reminds one of rotting fruit), often childlike and tender and nasty rule, the manipulations of her closest advisor played by Rachel Weisz, and the rising social upstart played by Emma Stone. It’s about vicious and darkly complex female characters, sexism and feminism, power dynamics and the blurry lines between who is on top. Visually, this film is a stunner, and upends you too, shots bouncing off a concave miscroscope, wide and discombobulating. This film manages to be razor sharp and expertly crafted, wickedly hilarious, existing between absurdity and satire and a warped humanity, navigating psychological and social and sexual intricacies between three women in a hypothetical British court. The men were hilarious, but secondary.

THE DEATH OF STALIN
Saw this film twice in theaters, and it still feels like eons ago in this lengthy 2018. This film is in the same wavelength as Lanthimos’s work, but this time the director is Armando Iannuci, who creates viciously funny and tragic satire and drama as well, and has directed films and TV like In the Loop. This time, he creates a satirical, darkly comical, brutal take on Stalin’s last days of rule and the aftermath of his death. It’s hard to create a satire of executions, totalitarianism, labor camps, and secret police, but this film manages to showcase the oppression, brutality, egoism, and terror of Stalinism in absurd, helpless jokes, in a certain nihilism undercut by humor and humanity, showing the utterly unjustified and destructive consequences and mechanisms behind this Soviet regime. One of the best scenes is the very first one, a gorgeous classical music concert, upended at the end of the show because Stalin requested a recording of it, forcing the participants to scramble back, recruiting farmhands and other musicians out of their beds, to replay the entire concerto. I do feel I need to read up on actual Russian history though.

BLINDSPOTTING
A damn great film that took me by surprise, and I really hope everyone sees it. This film comes the minds of Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs (of Hamilton), long time friends who wrote the screenplay and starred in this film. It’s a story about two friends growing up in Oakland, one white and one black, best friends navigating the same socioeconomic tier, a life-long pride in and love for Oakland. This film explores racism, gentrification, police violence, trauma, friendship, the complexity of understanding how we move through the world differently. It’s stylized, comedic, dramatic, a musical, an explosion of colors and trippy rap moments and high art. Loved it!

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
This is an exuberantly fun and feel good film. I loved it and it’s not at all perfect, cheesy and predictable at times, but nails so much of the eccentric, energetic, exciting, cool vibes and musical triumph of Queen’s music, and the mystique and energy of Freddie Mercury himself. I loved every musical re-enactment in this film, which capture the thrill and presence of Queen’s songs, their sailing dips and hooks, their stage presence. I swear I did not know much about Queen beyond their actual music, and not much about Freddie Mercury himself, but I am excited to go back and learn more about the legend. Rami Malek is so so good, charismatic and over the top while remaining flawed, arrogant, talented, human, heartbreaking. The depiction of Live Aid rocks.

BLACK PANTHER
What else can I say that has not been said? I will say, re-watching Black Panther with my family over Christmas break, after the months of hype and hullabaloo, I saw it with fresh eyes and loved it even more. It’s a damn good superhero movie, fresh and exciting, stylistically bold and intricate, well-paced and consistent, full of thrills that go beyond super powers, to the thrill of black power, a history and legend steeped in black american and black african humanity that everyone can revel in. It’s deeper because of it, more profound, full of visual and thematic innovations, self-assured. Few superhero movies have been this profound without just being dour. Every character is multidimensional and fun to watch and relate to, even the villians. Black people can be the heroes and the villians, the underdogs and love interests and bad ass female warriors.

LOVE, SIMON
I spoke about Love Simon in a previous post.(https://pegasusunder.wordpress.com/…/how-are-our-resolutio…/).
I loved this film, re-watched it, and hope to watch it again soon. Just lovely, and surprisingly subtle and understated. Gay kids for the win.

TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE
Similar to Love Simon, not ground breaking in a mainstream movie showing a gay kid learning to navigate the world as his true self, but ground breaking in letting an Asian girl be the lead and be our dream girl and hero. I loved this film and yes, I watched it three times. It’s a resurgence in the delightful high school romantic drama, and more importantly it’s a story about self-actualization, parental and sibling dynamics and misunderstandings and love, friendship. It’s sweet, it takes its time and gives you genuine, everyday, emotional moments when it could have been trite.

BURNING

So so so…I reluctantly put this film on my favorites list because it is objectively well crafted and eery film of psychological subtlety, everything unspoken but unnerving. I was left uneasy by much of the film, felt emptied out by it, but maybe that was the point. Every performance was excellent and layered, and there was not enough of Jeon Jong-September as Hae-mi, bringing off kilter vulnerable female energy.

Honorables-

If Beale Street Could Talk (flourishing, that scene with Brian Tyree Henry will stun you), First Man (Damien Chazelle is a wunderkind, this movie has some of the most breathtaking and exciting and surreal sequences set to film, an almost favorite but lulled in some parts out of space or rockets…but still this film and Ryan Gosling deserved noms!)

Boy Erased (very emotional for me, well-acted), A Star Is Born (wtf to the plot turn at the end, but really rousing and Cooper and Lady Gaga have amazing chemistry, great directorial debut), Blackkklansman (super savvy and stylish and cutting), Annihilation (creepy and weird and luminescent), Sorry To Bother You (insanity and joyfully weird and radical), Puzzle (just saw this the other day, more complex then expected and i love Kelly McDonald)

I’ll add Wildlife and Crazy Rich Asians and The Wife (psychologically subtle and fascinating!) to honorables, and mention last years triumphs I saw in 2018 including Personal Shopper, Loving Vincent, and Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Originally published at pegasusunder.wordpress.com on March 2, 2019.

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Zebib K. A. is a psychiatrist, writer, and cinephile. (Previously https://pegasusunder.wordpress.com/)

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Pegasus Under

Pegasus Under

Zebib K. A. is a psychiatrist, writer, and cinephile. (Previously https://pegasusunder.wordpress.com/)

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