Max’s Top Ten of 2018

It’s that time of year again, and today (tonight for some of you, tomorrow for me seeing as I live on the other side of the water) is the Oscars. As every year, I attempt to watch most of the movies of the year along with the inevitable award nominees. But like every year I fail to get to them all. So, in advance I would like to say that yes much to my chagrin I missed out on You Were Never Really Here, Upgrade, The Favourite, Cold War, Burning, Searching, Shoplifters, Overlord, Suspiria, First Reformed and plenty of others. It sucks, but one day I’ll get to them all. Just not this year.

Overall, I have to say this list wasn’t as hard to formulate, at least once I got down to the wire. And while 2018 was a good year for movies, I can’t help but think in comparison to 2017, it wasn’t AS good. So, in that respect it made things easier when deciding what I liked and what I didn’t.  Before I get to the Top Ten, I want to take a moment to list the ten movies that didn’t make the list. Also, I cheated twice during this list because some things are harder to nail down than others. As you all know this is my opinion, so if you have any disagreements or thoughts feel free to shoot a comment below.

The Ten Who Didn’t Make It:

20. Apostle

19. Aquaman

18. The Predator

17. The Night Comes for Us

16. Bad Times At El Royale

15. The Ritual

14. A Quiet Place

13/12. Death of Stalin/BlacKKKlansmen

11. Avengers: Infinity War

 

And now for the main course, enjoy:

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  1. Halloween

I recently got the chance to revisit this with a dear friend of mine, and while it still shines brightly, the light has dimmed a bit on David Gordon Green’s sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic. Mostly the problem that permeates is not focusing enough on Jaime Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode after her 40 years of living with that fateful night in 1978. That and a twist that comes *almost* out of left field, but still really fails to hold up. Beyond that, the rest of the film plays like gangbusters, especially once we get to The Shape finally stalking Haddonfield again in a riveting one take sequence. Halloween 2018 definitely ranks in the top three Halloween films for me and where ever they decide to go next, I’m both cautious and excited. The Shape is back, and another Slasher Boom may soon follow.

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  1. Sorry to Bother You

Boots Riley’s directorial debut is an absurd dark comedy that takes on America’s modern-day capitalism. It pulls zero punches as the corporations it imitates and points at are very clearly the Amazons of the world. With great performances all around (especially from the magnificent Tessa Thompson), Sorry to Bother You hits the ground running and doesn’t stop in what is the most unique film of 2018. And if you think you’re ready for the film, it throws you for a loop in the third act that may turn off many, but just as well pull in others who are on that wavelength. It’s ridiculous for sure. I’ll admit that it took me a bit to adjust once it was all over, but I’m ready for another go. And soon. Like John Krasinski, its not often a director comes bursting out the gate firing on all cylinders, but Boots does it here and like the former, I’m incredibly excited to see what he does next.

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8/7. Black Panther/Mission Impossible: Fallout

These two couldn’t be farther apart from another, and yet I couldn’t decide which one deserved which spot. Black Panther has an incredible villain that is anchored by Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. He is ridiculously talented, showing both broken and angry within a drop of a dime of one another. His tale can be related to so many other young black men throughout history, that its prevalence in a massive blockbuster from Marvel no less, should not be ignored. At any rate, he should have received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Couple that with some absolutely gorgeous costumes and set design (M’Baku’s throne is the shit), a cast that is electric in every scene, and some very resonant themes, and you’ve got a winner. Meanwhile, Fallout on the other hand has some of the best action and stunts this year. Watching Tom Cruise risk his life multiple times and knowing that Christopher McQuarrie is right behind the lens with him every step of the way as the madness unfolds is absolutely thrilling stuff. It helps that Ethan Hunt is now a man whose convictions are tested almost every step of the way as you wonder from scene to scene; is this the moment? Will Hunt cave? Cruise sells it with everything he’s got, and I for one can’t wait to see what the next two entries are going to be like. It helps that both have great scores, with Black Panther almost coming in with album of the year, were it not for another title down on the list…

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  1. Hereditary

Look, I did not know what to expect going into Hereditary. No idea whatsoever. That said, when I booted it up with a friend and within twenty minutes I got to THAT SCENE. I was floored. To do what they did and to be as brutal. I was all in. And it just kept getting better. Toni Collette plays Annie Graham, a miniaturist artist who has just lost her mother and is working on not only her job, but her feelings for her recently deceased mom. Add in a sudden and major loss not too long after her mother, you suddenly find Annie is WORKING through some intense feelings. While one can try to find a parallel line between this and The Ritual in terms of characters working through grief, Collette fucking DELIVERS here. Her grief is understandable in many ways, and even sympathetic. We all long for the return of a loved one in some way and so for the most part her working through shit seems acceptable. Even towards the end, but that’s where the shit gets most freaky. Look, I have absolutely zero shame in saying Hereditary is the scariest film I’ve seen in quite some time. If not a long time. The way director Ari Aster stages his scares, especially once we get up to the attic, is shit that has bothered me for nights on end. I still think about it. Also, I gotta give credit to both Gabriel Byrne as the father who is really just ready to throw in the towel, but somehow finds the will to keep on going, and to newcomer Alex Wolff who plays their son. He probably gets the award for a character I switched very quickly from wanting a long vicious death to nothing but empathy as I desperately wanted him to survive the climax. But really its all about Collette here as she brings in my favorite performance from an actress this year. Both she and Hereditary are that good.

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  1. Roma

This moving tale by Alfonso Cuaron focuses on Yalitza Aparicio’s Cleo, one of a pair of family maids in Mexico during the 1970s. This time of social upheaval is both political and personal, as both Cleo and the family she cares for experience their own growth and change throughout the course of the story. The way Cuaron presents his story is astounding considering its objective nature as a semi-autobiographical take. For that I found myself appreciating him telling what was instead of what he wished it was. Lensing it with no music throughout, this tale hinges on newcomer Aparicio who gives Cleo a subtlety and nuance as she tries to navigate working for a family matriarch that hates her while loving the children and trying to stay strong despite the fact her personal life is falling apart. All of this culminates with an emotionally explosive finale that is as earned as it is lifting, telling us: ‘It will be all right.’

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  1. Annihilation

Alex Garland’s second directorial effort (his third if you believe the rumors about Dredd) is a gorgeous and melancholic film about human self-destruction. Opening with a monologue by Natalie Portman on the nature of cells both creating, multiplying, and eventually destroying themselves, Annihilation is as much an ouroboros of destruction and creation as is the tattoo on Portman’s arm. Garland directs the film with an ethereal beauty that probably ties with Mandy for the most beautiful film this past year. And with a cast as good as this (including the afformented Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Oscar Issac) each character feels fully formed and each brings their own baggage to the Shimmer, the giant structure that drives the story forward, as they fight some form of their demons in one idea or another. Special shout out to the terrifying Bear sequence in the middle of the film, that ties with Hereditary for sheer creepiness that stays with you long after the film is over. With more questions than answers as our heroes fight to know who or rather what they are, Garland delivers one of the best cerebral sci fi films of the decade.

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  1. Mandy

Hoo boy. Mandy. This a cult film destined to play in hushed screenings for ages to come. This is a film where my friend looked at me as soon as it was all over and said: “I want to shake this mans (Director Panos Cosmatos) hand”. This is a film I desperately want merch from. It is an 80’s psychedelic action horror film that looks like a goddamn dream. A dream that was infused with Cenobites and the heaviest of heavy metal. With an ethereal score by the late, great and dearly missed Johann Johannson, Mandy descends upon you like a garish nightmare that is ready to rock your socks off. And it delivers. Nicolas Cage delivers what could be his very best performance yet as a man whose grief is both loud and subtle, yet his vengeance isn’t done until he’s squished the head of one Jeremiah Sand (played to icky, evil perfection by one Linus Roache). Mandy is filled with rage and sadness and lovely color. And it demands to be seen.

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  1. If Beale Street Could Talk

Full stop: If Beale Street Could Talk is one of the most empathetic and touching films this past year. In a world where Trump is President and we are so often at each other’s throats for every little thing, I feel that we forget how to love each other. Famously unfilmable because of its ethereal structure, Jenkins does his best to accommodate the non-linear story and for the most part succeeds as he drowns the film in lively yellows and browns. There are tons of closeups as we focus on these characters and their passion for one another and how their love for friends and family drives their every action. And while the film is set in the 70’s, its practically timeless in its nature as the systematic oppression of many institutions reverberate time and time again. Regina King has a stand out performance as she fights and fights for her potential Son-In-Law and grandchild-to-be that culminates in her heading to Puerto Rico for an emotionally charged standoff that paints neither side as right or wrong. At the end of the day, love is all these people have and it’s all they need to get through each and every single day. If Beale Street Could Talk is the film we need for 2018, one that reminds us to love no matter the hardships. To not fight with hate, but to fight with love, because at the end of the day it may be all we have.

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1.Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

Come on? What did you expect? It was tough competition, but there was a strong possibility nothing was gonna beat this out. Look I’m not a big Spider-Man fan. I’m not a big Peter Parker fan. And I never thought an animated movie would make my Top Five of a Best of List. I sure as Hell didn’t think an animated Spider-Man film from Sony no less would make this high on my list. But we live in strange times. And this is one of those rare birds where I don’t mind the strangeness of things. Into the Spiderverse is a goddamn masterpiece. No film from 2018 has made me laugh, or cry, or cheer as much as this one did. Glorious, gorgeous animation is sprinkled about, all mixing and matching to create a tone that is downright amazing to behold. Each Spider-Persona has their own “life” to them that gives the film an energy most animation films, Hell most superhero films lack. Every Spider-Persona could be their own character in a movie (and it’s telling I want to see both Nic Cage and Jake Johnson’s live action version of these characters based on this alone). It’s kinda unfair that I saw this before I saw Aquaman because it was impossible for Aquaman or any other cape flick to hold a candle to this. The way this balances its themes, its humor, its visuals, its music, everything is just incredible. Especially when you throw in people like Mahershala Ali and Bryan Tyree Henry as both Miles’s Uncle Aaron and his dad respectively, you’ve got a film that’s gold. Other superhero films wish they were this good. And that’s to say nothing of the soundtrack, which after listening to Sunflower a couple hundred times, its safe to say Spiderverse wins album of the year for sure. Peter Parker may not be my favorite Spider-Man, but Miles Morales is. And I can’t wait to see where his adventures take him next.

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