Sunday, December 30, 2018

My Top-Ten Favorite Films (and more) of 2018

This is not a Best-Of list, because ranking art is silly. These are just the filmed entertainments I watched and liked most, and that I felt were fine exemplars of their respective genres.  So without further ado...

2018 Top-Ten Favorite Movies, in Alphabetical Order:
  • A Quiet Place - I don't like horror and I loved this movie, that's how amazing this sorta-kinda horror film is. It's not about the horror, though. It's about family, and parenting, and surviving tragedy together. 
  • American Animals - A stylistically inventive, fun-and-funny caper movie. Also it's got Kevin L. Johnson in it (he was one of the stars of a short film I wrote called TWO FOR TEA), so what's not to love?
  • Black Kkklansmen - I really enjoyed this movie, right up until it punched me in my emotional face at the very end. Super-funny, fun, and the sort of bitingly entertaining exposé of institutional racism we need right now.
  • Black Panther This one made me happy. It was fun, exuberant, and super-cool. It messed with my expectations. It was a spectacle, but it kept me wondering.
  • Farmsteaders - A gently-paced documentary about a young family trying to make it as small dairy farmers in an agribusiness world. Worth a watch.
  • Juliet, Naked - As a rom-com, this movie deftly avoids most all of the tropes. It's funny and heartfelt and I thought has some beautiful insight into living-with-brokenness and being-an-artist, which are two of my favorite themes.
  • Saint Bernard Syndicate - I watched this at the Cucalorus film festival. It's a weird little movie with a lot of subtle laughs and strange cross-cultural moments, leading to an absurd (but satisfying) end.
  • Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse - The most twisty-turny, inventive, self-referentially odd superhero origin-story movie ever. The color-separation-animation-style-thingy they did in some of the background bits got to be a bit hard on the eyes, but everything else about this movie is A+
  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - More an anthology of short films than a movie, this Netflix gem(s) ran the gamut of emotion and tone. The Cohen brothers are masters, and have spun a series of compelling Western vignettes.
  • Won't You Be My Neighbor? - Perhaps the toxicity of the political environment and the endless barrage of unkindness and cruelty coming out of the Orange Man on the White Throne is part of what made this reminder of the importance of  simple kindness so powerful. Regardless, I want Mr. Rogers back. And while we're at it, let's elect him President.

Top-Ten Films from 2017 (and before) that I got around to watching and quite enjoyed:

  • Dangal (2016) - A subtitled movie about a couple of female wrestlers in India? What? This movie was fun, funny, moving, exciting—all sorts of amazingness I wasn't expecting. And great insight into another world-and-culture.
  • I, Tonya (2017) - Hilarious faux-documentary, stylistically similar to THE BIG SHORT. Margot Robbie once again proves she's a gifted and versatile actress.
  • Lost in La Mancha (2012) - The (in)famous story of  Terry Gilliam's doomed attempt to shoot a Don Quixote movie (irony, anyone?). It's a wonderful look at artistic obsession, and has all the can't-look-away appeal of a train-wreck in slow motion.
  • Revenge (2017) - The title says it all. A beautifully-shot, grotesquely violent film that gets its emotional juice from the catharsis of watching a wronged woman fight back.
  • Spy Time (2015) A bizarre Spanish-language parody spy film. Weird and fun.
  • The 12th Man (2017) - A story of resilience, survival, and beating the Nazis. And doesn't it feel so good these days to see the Nazis get thwarted?
  • The Invitation (2016) - This contained thriller is a nail-biter with a crazy twist at the end. Really dug it.
  • The Post (2017) - I watched more comedy than drama this year (it felt like a comedy-escape sorta year, didn't it?), so it's a measure of the quality of this one that I so dug it. Also, Mr. Spielberg in top form is always a wonder.
  • Thoroughbreds (2017) - I clearly have a thing for stylistically-weird movies. A strange, dark comedy.
  • Wheelman (2017) - Shot almost entirely in and around a single vehicle, this revenge-heist movie hasn't got a lot that's morally-redemptive about it... but it's a lot of fun.

This year I watched a lot more TV than films...


My Top-Ten Favorite Television from 2018:

  • Atlanta - In its second season, still a top contender for "The Best Thing on Television." Are you watching this show? Why aren't you watching this show?!?
  • Better Call Saul - Fourth season. Still awesome.
  • Bodyguard - This BBC spy-action-thriller limited series is gripping from the get-go. Available on Netflix. Totally worth your time.
  • Black Mirror The 2017 season (which I watched this January) was as usual a little hit-or-miss for me, but the opening episode (USS CALLISTER) was one of the best episodes of TV I saw all year.
  • Crashing - What I said about season 1 still applies: A comedy about a bad stand-up comedian going through a divorce sounds terrible, I know, but this is a gem for anyone who's grown up in a conservative Christian family, anyone who's experienced a break-up, or anyone who just plain enjoys watching funny people being hilarious.
  • Dark - Technically this is from 2017, but it's a German-language show and those sometimes take a while to make it over the puddle. Sci-fi, time-travel, nature-of-existence brilliance. Easily one of the absolute best shows on TV.
  • Future Man - This Hulu Original is horribly profane. So don't watch it. Also, you might laugh your head off, which would be gross.
  • Maniac- Wildly inventive limited series on Netflix. Still not entirely sure what it all meant, but it was very Charlie Kaufmanesque, and I'm a fan.
  • The Good Place - Still as hilarious and brilliant as ever. A wonderful third season.
  • The Rain - A fantastic Danish sci-fi film in which (no spoiler) the rain falling from the sky is No Bueno. A tough premise to make consistently interesting, but this show manages it.

That's It for 2018!

I'm sure I missed some amazing stuff, so please feel free to leave your recommendations in the comments. Thanks!

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Oh, and one more thing...


Filmed entertainments aren't everything, so check out my novel POUNDERS on Amazon! When two brothers enter the harsh, highly competitive world of Canadian industrial reforestation, jealousy begins to tear them apart.

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