OK, for the sake of time and the large amount of movies I will be listing (in alphabetical order) that I loved with all my heart but could not fit into a top 10, I will be giving each one only one (1) sentence explanations of why I loved them so much. Let’s do this.
Agua Viva (dir. Alexa Lim Haas, USA) – Living up to its title by being made out of its cooling watercolors, Haas has crafted a compulsive translation of the visual detail that might go through one’s head when she does not have the means to communicate with the world around her.
Annihilation (dir. Alex Garland, UK/USA) – Cerebral body horror that presents decay in transfixing but threatening wonder, making its frustrating insolubility a boon to its haunted air.
Aquaman (dir. James Wan, USA) – Little more than a straight man’s underwater version of a Wachowskis movie (and so inferior to Wachowskis), but given the uncertain future for the Sisters in this industry I’m down for any big and bubbly “space” opera we can get, especially when it pulls the miraculous task of making Jason Momoa tolerable.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (dir. the Coen brothers, USA) – An entertaining and comprehensive thesis on the Coen’s fatalistic worldview through a cast utilizing their dialogue like arrows and a genre they’ve always imitated but never directly tackled until now.
Bao (dir. Domee Shi, USA) – It’s easy to remember its “shock” moment over its touching core about a mother in an empty nest state of mind and its earned emotional catharsis once we see the reality and not the metaphor.
The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales… (dir. Benjamin Renner & Patrick Imbert, France) – Not necessarily cinematic or any real revelation from their previous Ernest & Celestine, but Renner and Imbert’s comic children’s book style (adapted from Renner’s own literary work) proves apt for the approachable fable-esque quality of storytelling we see.
Black Sheep (dir. Ed Perkins, UK) – On top of telling a shocking true story of trying to survive in a racially hostile environment (arguably the same concept as the vile Oscar winner Skin but recognizing the opposite conclusion regarding pigmentation than that other boneheaded piece of shit did) through the voice of its victim, Perkins’ understanding of the human face to speak and betray Cornelius’ experiences and thoughts before the words can.
Blindspotting (dir. Carlos López Estrada, USA) – Shockingly deft in tackling the realest issues with a warm sense of humor and a desire to just see everyone ok in the end, Estrada and co-writers Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal have granted us with – if not the better Oakland-based movie of the year – definitely the fuller portrait of the city with brilliant nighttime city photography.
Blue (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand/France) – Joe finally tackles his familiar dream style in the most literal and artificial and patient way.
Breaking In (dir. James McTeigue, USA) – There is an inherent pleasure in watching Gabrielle Union coldly stare at her attackers in the few moments we see her before she turns full-on locked house predator and this movie stuffs itself with that and little else.
Cold War (dir. Paweł Pawelikowski, Poland/France/UK) – I feel like I’m setting myself up for pushback when I say it has the same narrative principles as Boyhood but applies them to a version of La La Land for depressed pragmatists, but that’s literally what made a fool for this film.
Deadpool 2 (dir. David Leitch, USA) – Improves significantly from a first movie I disliked on two fronts: a supporting cast capable of selling the emotional gravitas with levity and charm (namely Julian Dennison and Josh Brolin with returning Morena Baccarin and Stefan Kapčić – also big up to Zazie Beetz even if gravitas doesn’t apply to her character) and thereby giving Ryan Reynolds screen partners that make him look so good and a filmmaker whose whole career has been made of looking for visually creative ways to give us heavy combat.
The Death of Stalin (dir. Armando Iannucci, UK/France/Belgium) – Iannucci protects his title as the sharpest weapon of political black comedy around and begins presenting his hand in the aesthetic craft of his subjects beyond controlling a great cast, like the way things turn grim and serious at a harsh flick or nightmarish utilization of dark concrete and distant violence to imply the atrocities beneath these buffoons.
Destination Wedding (dir. Victor Levin, USA) – Frustratingly artless and dumb version of the Before films trying to be much more intelligent about misanthropy but sold by literally the two best actors to embody these attitudes: Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves, welcome back to the 90s.
Dirty Computer (dir. Andrew Donoho & Chuck Lightning, USA) – The more glamorous and fun videos to come out of the albums I love, the better.
Early Man (dir. Nick Park, UK) – Aardman maintains itself as my comfort blanket animation, not even remotely challenging itself or I but providing pleasant animated handiwork and football-based comedy for me to just chill with.
El Mar la Mar (dir. J.P. Sniadecki & Joshua Bonnetta, USA) – Decidedly using aesthetic in a restrained and limited manner not to romanticize the situations it documents but instead to help the audience focus in on the minute sensory elements while insisting on areas where all the audience needs to do is listen to the people who have to endure the Sonoran Desert to escape to safety.
The Favourite (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland/UK/USA) – Lanthimos continues his habit from The Killing of a Sacred Deer to supply the most nauseating visual experience in presentation of ostensible regality but devoid of actual dignity, making the fish-eyes and wide-angles turning shots into grotesqueries into an extension of the vile sharpness with which its characters abuse their powers over each other.
First Man (dir. Damien Chazelle, USA) – An instance where I feel like the criticism only reflect exactly the sort of things that made me most engaged with this story: the cold restraint of Ryan Gosling’s screen persona utilized to turn our protagonist into a frustration and the manner of which the scenes down on Earth make us antsy to get out only makes the escape into the stars more exhilarating and the emotional anguish Armstrong is trying to smother feel more vulnerable (in a year that ended with me stuck in Miami and seeking a way to get out before I explode, I wholly related to this in a year of a lot of movies I felt related or spoke to me).
First Reformed (dir. Paul Schrader, USA) – For the first time, that fucking asshole made a movie that wasn’t just for fucking assholes and it shows a surprisingly introspective (if unsurprisingly Calvinist and devoid of any true originality) side of the man, utilizing Ethan Hawke giving the year’s best performance and the boxed-in manner of the Academy ratio (rivaling Cold War’s usage of it) to give us a room to writhe and twist with existential implications growing more and more pleading.
Glucose (dir. Jeron Braxton, USA) – An exhausting dive into video game obsession represented by its colorful but throbbing portrayal of a blocky pixel world.
Grandpa Walrus (dir. Lucrèce Andreae, France) – Animation doesn’t make everything pleasant as this morosely grey short uses absurdesque body horror to tackle immense sadness.
Hereditary (dir. Ari Aster, USA) – A wholly unpleasant time to spend with an understandably wounded but frighteningly vicious ensemble stuck in a distant dollhouse we’re peering into as they’re unable to square with the ugliest side of pain and grief long before the actual horror genre elements come over to play.
Hotel Artemis (dir. Drew Pierce, USA) – A nice pulpish boiler (in a literal way considering the backdrop) with masculine amber tones painting the walls of its futuristic lounge-esque designs led by a dedicated Jodie Foster performance at her most-wired.
The Hurricane Heist (dir. Rob Cohen, USA) – Every year has to give at least one fun bad movie watch and this year it’s Cohen’s utopia of 2nd Amendment flaunting, climate change believing Southerners (played by literally nobody from America) interrupted by storm skulls.
Incredibles 2 (dir. Brad Bird, USA) – I disagree with the consensus and consider this the superior to its predecessor in nearly every way, from its gung-ho approach to its characters’ shapes to its variety in lighting styles to the fact that it’s just plain funnier, y’all, stop hating.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (dir. J.A Bayona, USA) – Utterly stupid, but aware that stupidity has consequences and one of those is giving us a gleeful third-act haunted house monster movie.
Late Afternoon (Louise Bagnall, Ireland) – Cartoon Saloon adopts its style this time to its most fluid so as to take advantage of how it is to predict its ending but give its lines and colors such ephemeral sweep resembling the progressive regaining of memory that its we turn that prediction into a hope punctuated by emotional joy.
Lean on Pete (dir. Andrew Haigh, UK) – A movie that rejects all the idealistic comforts of its type of “boy and its horse” movie without feeling like a sardonic inversion and only slightly going into tiring miserablism, instead giving us the story of a boy trying his hardest to survive and find his place in a cold world.
Let the Corpses Tan (dir. Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, France) – Using their gleeful understanding of the power of the cut and the sound mix, Cattet and Forzani dare to ask the question “What if Free Fire was good?”.
Lost & Found (dir. Andrew Goldsmith & Bradley Slabe, Australia) – Little more than an effective usage of the textures of its characters to give us peril and the cuteness of their design to give us hope but it’s effective enough to hurt my soul in the late “unraveling” moment.
Lu Over the Wall (dir. Yuasa Masaaki, Japan) – The first of two Yuasa US releases (and the first we’ll be talking about), a wonderful utilization of the flash animation style to give splashy greens and blues and bendy fluidity to accompany its wonderful soulful music and give us this aquatic symphony.
Marguerite (dir. Marianne Farley, Canada) – The only nominee for this past year’s Live-Action Short Oscar that did not make me want to fucking die, by giving us a delicate and soft telling of a story of curiosity and melancholy.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower (dir. Yonebayashi Hiromasu, Japan) – Promising us that we won’t feel so empty in the absence of Studio Ghibli, the disciples show they are capable of carrying on the principles of storytelling with wonder and animating with excitement.
Minding the Gap (dir. Bing Liu, USA) – It’s wonderful when films that are essentially amateur are full of surprises such as this and I don’t just mean that for the sort of way that the story shapes itself but also how Liu shapes himself as a visual storyteller, incising into every area of his community he can cut into.
Monrovia, Indiana (dir. Frederick Wiseman, USA) – And then there is the veteran looking into a community from the outside as Wiseman performs his reliably unintrusive observation onto a town that is shuffling despite its dying state without any awareness.
The Nun (dir. Corin Hardy, USA) – OK, it’s not “good” since it’s a hollow franchise stepping stone but it’s got THE goods anyway: foggy cemeteries, dark and empty castles and churches, moving shadows, futile religiosity, ominous chants, and it all just helps it function as a shallow amusement park dark ride.
Private Life (dir. Tamara Jenkins, USA) – Jenkins shows her confidence in her cast (some at their career best) delivering a potentially volatile domestic situation in an intimately forgiving manner.
Roma (dir. Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico/USA) – Cuarón crafting an intimate story in a large world utilizing the dreamy black-and-white stuff of memories.
Searching (dir. Aneesh Chaganty, USA) – Sure, it cheats hella out of its central conceit but that’s because it knows that it’s making a movie and Chaganty still makes it count that we’re essentially sitting alongside a never-better John Cho trying to piece together a daughter he hopes he knows and still gets to know through a world of screens, an effective and emotional thriller.
Shirkers (dir. Sandi Tan, Singapore) – One part a portrait on how exciting it feels to have something you’re passionate about like film and the subsequent crash when your dreams aren’t met, another part a self-inquiry on the true state of Tan’s relationship with her friends, overall a brave and wild ride.
Shoplifters (dir. Kore-eda Hirokazu, Japan) – The sort of movie you make when you just know you have nothing more to prove but the amount of warmth you can stuff in a single film despite all the shit than can be thrown in one family’s way.
A Simple Favor (dir. Paul Feig, USA) – The most pleasant surprise of the entire year as I prepared to write off yet another Paul Feig movie only to discover he’s capable of accomplishing a nice 60’s French style and a pleasantly sarcastic but not insincere tone when he actually tries.
Sorry to Bother You (dir. Boots Riley, USA) – The OTHER Oakland Sundance darling, Riley supplies us with a no-holds-barred leftist manifesto that takes hold of visuals, absurdism, music, and the kitchen sink all in the eagerness of showcasing the sort of inescapable curdled affect capitalism has on the soul of the individual and the world around him and fuck structure while we’re at it, narrative or otherwise.
Suspiria (dir. Luca Guadagnino, Italy/USA) – Speaking of unwieldy narratives, Guadagnino and David Kajganich don’t necessarily hit every target they aim for but there’s a lot of targets they swing for and it altogether coalesces into a hypnotic, experiential, and wholly unique approach to Dario Argento’s concept of a school of dancing witches, rejecting of the conceit that “imitation is the highest form of flattery”.
Vox Lux (dir. Brady Corbet, USA) – I can’t exactly call it a version of A Star Is Born that doesn’t hate that jeans song, but it’s definitely the version that understands why the world needs jeans songs and significantly more aesthetically and narratively radical, bruh.
Weekends (dir. Trevor Jimenez, USA) – Wonderful usage of how sketches look like piles of lines and clutter to imply the sort of messy world that a child can only recognize in degrees, knowing shit’s wrong but not knowing how to identify it.
Widows (dir. Steve McQueen, UK/USA) – McQueen and Gillian Flynn use their clout to give us a TV serial fanfic and relaxedly imbue it with observations of how race and gender factor in a world of wolves with McQueen showing he’s just as deft with genre filmmaking as he is with arthouse.
You Were Never Really Here (dir. Lynne Ramsay, UK/France/USA) – Movies about trauma are a dime a dozen in this day and age, Ramsay takes only the smallest strokes to have us experience Joe’s issues from the margins without trying to diagnose him, instead making it urgent and harsh and muted in a masculine way and ending up making me feel seen.
AND IN THE NEXT AND FINAL PART… MY TOP TEN FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2018…