The end of a year marks the spawning of year-end lists! Compared to last year, my list this time, feels populated by weird-ass movies. First Reform was weird in its own way. Sorry to Bother You was weird in a Terry Gillam way, and The Favourite was weird in the way that only Yorgos Lanthimos can be. And Isle of Dogs, well, Wes Anderson is always weird. And so are the Coen brothers (Buster Scruggs). But I love, love the fact that my 2018 list has a lot of these weird-ass movies, because seeing movies that feels unique, and fresh, and radical is such a exhilirating experience. I also have a few on the list that are inspired by real life stories (BlackKklansman, Leave No Trace, Roma and The Rider). I have two animated movies this year, where I had none last year. And save for the two animated movies all the other eight are as bleak as the dead of winter north of The Wall (who’s excited for April? Valar Morghulis!)
Now, without further ado…..
My Top Ten Movies of 2018
10. First Reform – It took me some time to truly get on board with this one because it has a couple of strange moments here and there (and I am still chewing on that ending), but I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. And yes, it is slow. And yes it is all gloom and doom. But it stays with you, and it will make you ask questions. And Ethan Hawke, who plays Rev. Toller, is acting the hell out of this. Pun intended. I feel the pain of his spiritual crisis. This is unlike anything I’ve seen before.
9. Isle of Dogs – Dogs + Wes Anderson, seems like a movie made just for me. And it is. The story is layered, it is political and yet personal. The animation is brilliant. Ever strand of fur, every tick, is just so alive. And there are just so many gorgeous shots here. Trash Island is a massive world that is explored by the camera with so many amazing shots. And despite the very political story, ultimately what got me was how this was a story about a boy and his dog.
8. Sorry to Bother You – Another weird-ass movie that even days later, I was like: “What the heck was that?” Sorry to Bother You is bonkers. This is like, the Terry Gilliam sci-fi film of today. It takes on big themes like capitalism and race in a progressive, funny and surreal way. The story is unique. And surprises were sprung which made me considerably very surprised. Notable performances from Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson.
7.BlacKkKlansman – BlacKkKlansman came like a piano from the sky. It is very in your face. But I love the brio of it all. And it is funny and entertaining without losing sight of the fact that racism is still well and truly alive. Tacking in footage of the 2017 Charlottesville white nationalists rally at the very end was quite the clincher.
6. Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse – Excellent animation inspired by comic book panels, with phantasmagoric visuals, a breath of fresh air from your usual Pixar-looking animated movies. It has fantastic jokes, the silly but smart kind, that is the signature of the Lord and Miller duo, without sacrificing emotional beats.
5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Give it to the Coen Brothers to offer such a cynical view of humanity in the most hilarious way possible. The eternal pessimist in me cannot not love this movie. And as a fan of short story compilations in written form, seeing one on the big screen is something else. Now, as it is with most short story collections (book), tonal shifts are expected. The first two stories are light, but from three onwards it gets pretty dark and bleak. Individually, all 5 stories are solid in my book. But I feel like the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, with that last story, (especially that bit where the bounty hunter explain the process of dying, or what humans do when on the verge of death) ties everything up about how humanity grapples with death and existence. Also it is a beautifully shot movie, with excellent attention to details.
4. The Favourite – Funny, dark, cynical, with moments of tenderness and vulnerability. The Favourite is strange, fer sure. But it is right up my alley. I laughed a lot. The three lead female characters were all excellently cast. Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, And Emma Stone all gave unforgettable performances. I heard this took awhile to eventually get made because people were unsure of how a movie of this sort, especially one led by women, would work. Well, those people can eat their hats because The Favourite is awards material. And yes, women can top bill a movie! And yes women are funny!
3. Leave No Trace – That final scene just about killed me. I mean I collapsed on my bed and felt exhausted. That is how moving this drama is. And thank god it never goes the mushy, sentimental route, a tale of this sort. I’ve seen PTSD, but never laid out in this way. It feels so unreal, and yet this is based on true events, which makes it all the more mind-blowing. Just go see this because it is good. I love how subtle and how quite this movie feels, but the emotions come in waves.
2. Roma – I had no doubt that Cuaron can spin magic on any tale he tells. And this is no exception. Roma tells of an honest, and heart-rending story of a house maid. In the forefront is a personal story but in the background is the Mexican Dirty War and I love how Cuaron put those two together but Cleo’s story still emerges as the film’s beating heart. And oh, the film photography is lush and gorgeous.
1. The Rider – Cowboys and rodeos are like a world away from me. You might as well be talking about dragon riding. And it is something else when I get to watch a movie that seems like I have no way of connecting to, and yet the result is the opposite. The Rider is about a young cowboy whose dreams are dashed due to an accident. It is a tender, sad, tragic but hopeful film. I love how it goes from long distance shots of a boy riding his horse in a serene field, to close-ups of the boy’s face, that you can practically feel his pain just by looking at him. And even the suporting characters, despite some of them not having much screen time, are equally unforgetable to me. And while the movie ended on a somewhat hopeful note, I think. Still, The Rider left me sad for days. It is the power of cinema at its strongest.