Top 25 Films of 2018

on December 19, 2018, 12:30am
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05. If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna Pictures)

Who’s In It? KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Brian Tyree Henry, Teyonah Parris

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Baldwin lives onscreen
The hopes of the young will fight
Love survives, somehow

You Gotta See This: It’s like the whole world is against Tish and Fonny. For one, they’re too young to be so deeply in love, even if they’ve known each other their whole lives. And Tish, well, she’s expecting their first child. This love is budding in early 1970s Harlem, where stable employment, social mobility, and all that so many take for granted are like boulders up a hill for these two. And Fonny is incarcerated, wrongly accused of a crime he didn’t commit even if somebody else did.

And yet If Beale Street Could Talk, in its poetically weary, wise, and wonderful way, really makes you believe in them. It is a film about love, tested. Only an open-hearted filmmaker, with a trusting cast and crew, could have pulled this off. Only a writer-director with a sensitive hand, and a true respect for the complex prose of James Baldwin, could have adapted If Beale Street Could Talk for the screen. Only Barry Jenkins could have made a film with this much soul, splendor, and hope. This is a passion project in every sense, one for the ages, a story of life, love, and grief that swings for the fences every time and comes out a champ. This is a new romantic classic. –Blake Goble

Extra! Extra! Read Sarah Kurchak’s full review here.

04. Paddington 2

Paddington 2 (Warner Bros)

Paddington 2 (Warner Bros)

Who’s In It? Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Imelda Staunton, and Ben Whishaw as the good Peruvian bear

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Honest kindly bear
Loves to share his marmalade
A wonderful world

You Gotta See This: This is not an ironic choice. It’s not a hip choice, either. We will absolutely die on this hill: Paddington 2 excels both as a movie for children and a film in general, and it has more than earned its spot near the top of this list. A heady combination of rich production design, inventive visual storytelling, and a deeply empathetic computer-generated furry protagonist render it a remarkable technical achievement, and the fact that director Paul King isn’t being talked about more as one of the year’s best directors is enough to make us want to give someone a hard stare.

But what makes Paddington 2 truly exceptional is the seriousness with which it approaches its ideas, and the lightheartedness with which it approaches everything else. In the world of the Brown family, there’s compassion enough even for the dastardly Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant, giving one of the year’s best performances), and a stint in the clink can include endless jokes about marmalade and a gentle rejoinder about prison reform, side by side. It’s funny, thoughtful, inspiring, and impeccably made. What more can you want from a film, no matter the age of its target audience? –Allison Shoemaker

Extra! Extra! Read Blake Goble’s full review here.

03. BlacKkKlansman

BlackKkKlansman (Focus Features)

Who’s In It? John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Alec Baldwin

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

With a phone and wits
A black cop goes KKK
This really happened

You Gotta See This: Spike Lee has never stopped, and if BlacKkKlansman is any indication, we should be pretty goddamn grateful. At once Lee’s latest functions like a ’70s crime thriller revival, a greatest-hits compilation of some of the director’s boldest tonal and stylistic moves from throughout his entire career, and a ferociously immediate indictment of the ways in which there’s never been an American moment in which racism was anything less than omnipresent. It’s such a riot of clashing ideas and striking images that only a filmmaker of Lee’s skill could hold it all together.

But as it unfolds into a wearily bitter story of how easily racism can take over every corner of society, BlacKkKlansman distinguishes itself as one of the great films in a career flush with them. Its haunting final montage, as agonizing a piece of film as Lee has ever put together, offers a stark reminder (and admonishment) to its audience: the minute you let up, even for just a little while, the “tiki-torch motherfuckers” are just around the corner again.

Also, remember this one, because it’s the exact point at which John David Washington became a movie star. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Extra! Extra! Read Blake Goble’s full review here.

02. Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade (A24)

Eighth Grade (A24)

Who’s In It?: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Luke Prael, Jake Ryan, the “Lebron James” kid

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

“Oh, just be yourself”
Kayla stammers, terrified
Nuggets still to come

You Gotta See This: Bo Burnham stepped the hell up. The kid who came up as one of YouTube’s first major stars has now, at the age of 28, created one of our best, most resonant documents of youth in the internet age. Eighth Grade follows teenage Kayla (Elsie Fisher), in the final week of her eighth grade year, as she struggles to reconcile the confident, savvy girl she is online with the introverted, insecure person she is in real life. Modest in its ambition, Burnham’s film quickly reveals itself to be deeply necessary, its authenticity and empathy making it a unicorn in a field that struggles to chronicle internet culture in a way that doesn’t feel instantly dated. Credit Burnham’s familiar and complicated relationship with the culture that helped create him, as well as Fisher’s lived-in performance, which pivots from giddy sweetness to curdled sourness.

It was a risk to make an R-rated movie that speaks so directly to an audience that can’t technically see it, but ratings have become moot in the streaming age, which Burnham likely knew when he made it. It’s silly, after all, to think one can make a teenage coming-of-age movie that isn’t crass, sexual, and cruel, the hallmarks of any middle school experience. Burnham leans into the muck without indulging it, juxtaposing the nastiness with an unfussy sense of innocence that’s painfully, hilariously familiar. Eighth Grade doesn’t pander to kids; instead, it reminds us that movies about young people are best when they’re made by young people. –Randall Colburn

Extra! Extra! Read Dan Caffrey’s full review here.

01. Hereditary

Hereditary (A24)

Hereditary (A24)

Who’s In It? Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, Paimon

“Garth, that was a haiku!”

Charlie, you’re alright
I was trying to save you
Hail, Paimon! Hail, Paimon! Hail!

You Gotta See This: The greatest kind of horror is that what we wish not to see, and not too many people wanted to see Hereditary this year. Upon its release, the film received a staggering D+ on CinemaScore, most likely because those that bought a ticket weren’t expecting to find the anxieties they were ostensibly running away from at home. At the very least, they weren’t expecting something so cynical, so dreary, and so suffocating. Alas, that’s what makes director Ari Aster’s feature film debut a haunting and confounding feat several months later.

There’s a truth to this modern Greek tragedy that shouldn’t sit well with anyone, and it’s how there’s no choice with regards to the past. The past is stonier than a man’s heart, to borrow from a more grizzled veteran, and it will break the best and worst of us, no matter how hard we try to ignore it. Hereditary hinges on that inevitability, offering zero hope in the way of a resolution, and that’s an ugly thing to sit with, all things considered. But, in a year where truths are squandered at every level of society, there’s something freeing about these notions.

Hail Paimon, indeed. –Michael Roffman

Extra! Extra! Read Randall Colburn’s full review here.

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