Annual Report 2018

Top 25 Films of 2018

on December 19, 2018, 12:30am
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20. Mandy

Mandy (RLJE Films)

Mandy (RLJE Films)


Who’s In It? Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, and an acid biker gang from hell

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Panos Cosmatos
Nicholas Cage makes an axe
Love you, Mandy Bloom

You Gotta See This: On paper, a revenge flick set in the ’80s at a cabin by the lake sounds redundant, if not precious. But Panos Cosmatos couldn’t be precious if he tried, and while some might argue the two-hour fellowship that is Mandy may tend to get redundant, they either have no appreciation for seeing a sobbing man in underwear or they’ve witnessed some serious shit themselves. Because what most can agree about on Mandy, even those who walked out feeling exhausted, is that there’s never really been anything like it.

Granted, that’s a cheap argument, so here’s another one: At a time when ’80s nostalgia is lazily used as a storytelling medium — see: this year’s hollow Summer of ’84Mandy actually earns it, wearing its decade in a literal suit of heavy metal armor. It’s brutal, it’s dreamy, but above all, it’s a midnight movie that would actually be a midnight movie in the ’80s. People forget how visceral these bastards used to be, but not Cosmatos, who assembled a surrealist thrill ride that feels of another time and another place … and another world. –Michael Roffman

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.
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19. Cold War

Cold War (Kino Świat)

Cold War (Kino Świat)

Who’s In It? Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Cue up that old song
They dance a dance of heartbreak
Loving and alive

You Gotta See This: “In his poem “The Testing Tree”, Stanley Kunitz wrote, “I played my game for keeps–/ for love, for poetry,/ and for eternal life–/ after the trials of summer.” Kunitz’s speaker is remembering their childhood and parents, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that Pawel Pawlikowski’s extraordinary Cold War, which captures the on-again off-again romance of his mother and father in post-war Poland and France, resonates so beautifully with Kunitz’s poem.

Captured in black and white with light that renders actors Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot positively lustrous, with a 4:3 ratio that recalls the great romances of yesteryear and allows Kulig to command every inch of the frame each time she steps behind a microphone, Cold War reverently chronicles a tumultuous romance stunted and warped by the shadow of a looming and lingering war. It’s perhaps best summed up by another few lines from “The Testing Tree”: “In a murderous time/ the heart breaks and breaks/ and lives by breaking.” –Allison Shoemaker

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.
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18. Wildlife

Wildlife (IFC Films)

Wildlife (IFC Films)

Who’s In It? Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

American woe
Mom and Dad may not make it
This is growing up

You Gotta See This: Paul Dano’s directorial debut is full of several things that have come to characterize the American 1950s in hindsight. Soft, melancholic light. A stillness that’s at once pastoral and eerie. The simmering tension of trying to exist in a time that enforces and demands certain performative roles from its men and women. But Wildlife, Dano and Zoe Kazan’s adaptation of Richard Ford’s novel, finds something far more achingly human beneath its trappings.

As the teenage Joe (Oxenbould) watches his father (Gyllenhaal) run off to fight brush fires somewhere in the too-far distance, and his mother Jeanette (Mulligan) begin to consider the life she might have instead, he learns the hardest lesson, and the one we all eventually do: your parents were a great many different, contradictory people before they ever got around to being your parents. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Extra! Extra! Read Clint Worthington’s full review here.
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17. A Star is Born

A Star is Born (Warner Bros.)

A Star is Born (Warner Bros.)

Who’s In It? Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Tell me something, boy
Haaaaa-eeehhhh-AHHHHH-ahhh-ahhhhhhhhh-AAAAAHHHHH-ahhhhh
Or do you need more?

You Gotta See This: The $30-50 million dollar adult melodrama seems bygone in this excessive era of filmmaking, but Bradley Cooper found curious new life for an old tale anyway. We got a great, grown-up throwback with his new A Star is Born. In the actor’s directorial debut, he took a staple story about love, performing arts, and other pitfalls, and made an ultra-appealing blend of romance both modern and traditional.

Modern in its glam-slam aesthetic and wheezy, druggy rancor. Old-fashioned in Cooper’s insistence that this simply be a film about a couple in love, surrounded by incredible challenges. And what a debut for Lady Gaga. To quote record industry execs, she’s got the “It” factor. Presence. Affability. And those pipes, wow. If you still have the chance, see this one in a theater with good sound and heavy bass.

You’ll feel it when “Shallow” comes on. –Blake Goble

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.
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16. Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace (Bleecker Street)

Who’s In It? Ben Foster, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

The outside world lives
Indoors, but Tom learns that
Gardens need tending

You Gotta See This: Leave No Trace, Debra Granik’s follow-up to 2010’s Oscar-nominated Winter’s Bone, is even sparer and sadder than the filmmaker’s previous effort. Its story of a father attempting to live off the grid with his 13-year daughter serves as a quiet reflection on PTSD and the power of community. Ben Foster’s cautious, restless veteran is the film’s empathetic, frustrating anchor, but its real magic comes in watching Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie discover for herself the world that’s so wounded her father.

Refreshingly, Granik’s film doesn’t adopt the same viewpoint as its protagonist; the denizens of this world are compellingly kind and, in short bursts, vividly drawn. That doesn’t mean that life can’t be unforgiving, of course, but it’s a gorgeous, optimistic way of asserting that we all need to find that out for ourselves. –Randall Colburn

Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.
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