A little late due to sickness and life. But here is my final Top 10 list for 2018 focusing on my favorite films. I’m still behind in reviews, so haven’t added Paddington 2, Aquaman, Bumblebee, Roma and a couple others, but only one of them made the list. BUT WHICH ONE?
Natalie Portman leads a strong ensemble in this creepy sci-fi thriller that unfortunately looks like we’ll never a sequel to. A shame because it’s amazingly shot, excellently performed, and offers an intriguing premise.
Full review: Annihilation
09. Won’t You Be My Neighbor
A surprising character study that offers only minimal new insight or deep plot details, but makes up for it in overwhelming joy and the supportive belief that there are good people in the world.
Full Review: Won’t You Be My Neighbor
08. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Beautiful animation is great, but working in service of this zany, complex tale is even better. Equally hilarious and heartfelt.
Full Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
07. A Quiet Place
A unique approach to the horror genre that makes for its general weaknesses in plot and logic with a well-crafted story, amazingly tense scenes and great performances, especially from Emily Blunt.
Full review: A Quiet Place
06. Three Identical Strangers
A surprising documentary that begins with the tale of three identical triplet brother who didn’t meet until college, but veers into creepy, weird psychological territory where further truths are explored and exposed.
Full review: Three Identical Strangers
05. Mission Impossible: Fallout
The best action film in years, and easily the best in the should-be-but-isn’t tired Mission Impossible franchise. With a greater tie to the previous films that any of its predecessors, Fallout also succeeds in its intricate plotting and phenomenal stunt work with more than one scene leaving me breathless.
Full review: Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Alfonso Cuaron’s tangentially autobiographical tale about a family in a small Mexico City neighborhood. Stunning camera work, beautifully presented in black and white, and anchored by a strong central performance from Yalitza Aparicio, as Cleo, who works as a maid for the middle-class family of Sofia.
03. Black Panther
One of the shiniest jewels in Marvel’s cinematic crown, Black Panther would be a great movie just on its surface merits, but the deeper connotations to the black experience, the un-forced feminism in the background, and a number of great performances make this one of the best Marvel has to offer, and one of the best of the year.
Full review: Black Panther
02. The Favourite
The crazy twisty aristocratic All About Eve, with its low-angle shots and fish eye lens cinematography is anchored by three stunning performances from Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman. It’s darker and funnier than it should be, and more resonant and heartfelt than expected.
Full review: The Favourite
Really surprised that this one shook out to be my favorite, but the sheer craftsmanship at work, from the way its shot, to the way the story unfolds, and the all-around great acting (most notably from Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, and Ann Dowd. It’s creepy, disturbing and doesn’t quite wash off, but is mind-bogglingly awesome outside of that, and even more so on subsequent viewings.
Full review: Hereditary
Honorable mentions for performances would go to Adam Driver (BlackKklansman), Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased, Ben is Back, Mid90s), Timothee Chalamet (Beautiful Boy), Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians), Amy Adams (Vice), Alex Wolff and Toni Collette (Hereditary) and Hugh Grant (Paddington 2). And no, I haven’t seen The Wife yet.
Top 10 Film Performances
10. Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
Capturing awkward like this generation’s Dawn Wiener (Welcome to the Dollhouse), Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade is un-self-conscious perfection, and imminently watchable even as her actions make you cringe.
09. Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther
The greatest villain in the MCU, Jordan succeeds by having such a strong character with clear motivations that have real-world resonance and (gasp) actually make sense. His sly smile and buried rage are unleashed remarkably and center the entire CGI-fest with an intriguing weight.
08. Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
With his grizzled voice, and stumbly swagger, Cooper’s Jack is a man spiraling downward, and pulling his lady love down with him. Cooper seems too young to be playing a has-been veteran, which is what adds depth to his performance. That his songs come off as real and decent is an added bonus.
07. Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
While the rest of the film is kind of a mess, the central performance deserves all the credit it is getting. Malek captures all facets of Freddie Mercury’s life perfectly, from his flamboyant stage persona, to the sad, isolating territory that comes from superstardom.
06. Tilda Swinton, Suspiria
Swinton could make this list just for her steely performance as the hard-nosed, harder to please, and suspiciously supernatural dance teacher in a separated Berlin at the center of the gore-tinged fever dream that is Suspiria. However, it’s her completely unshowy, delicate work as a German psychologist octagenarian that adds an entirely different layer to her work.
05. Ryan Gosling, First Man
Playing such an internal character can be a tough nut to crack, but Gosling’s quiet, structured mannerisms work so well in First Man as national hero Neil Armstrong, a man with a mission, fueled by tragedy and ambition.
04. Lakeith Stanfield, Sorry to Bother You
Stanfield as Cassius, the black telemarketer who finds success when he begins using a white voice (which actually belongs to David Cross), has to balance a ridiculous premise with enough personal depth to make it believable. He does a remarkable job carrying the film through its more absurd tendencies, and even as the film goes off the rails, he maintains the integrity of his character without suffering alongside it.
03. Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
I’m now ready to add King to my list of national treasures (along with Maura Tierney, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo, among others). Everything she does is golden, up to and including this thoughtful, nuanced performance as the matriarch of a poor black family, dealing with the unexpected pregnancy of her teenage daughter, and the unlawful incarceration of the young man who fathered her child.
02. Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Behind a tragic wig, and 70s specs, Melissa McCarthy channels a simmering rage into her Lee Israel, the real-life author who developed a side hustle of plagiarizing famous signatures and writing personal letters for them that were complete fabrications. Her acerbic wit juxtaposed with the tragic self-defeating nature of the character are lovely to watch.
01. Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
It’s hard to isolate a favorite from this trio, as they veer between extremes in this film, matching each other spite for spite, barb for barb. The playful chemistry that appears between their shifting allegiances and sexual escapades make this movie a full-on acting clinic and it’s hard to imagine how the film would’ve survived without each actress in their role.