By Chad Guyton
To listen to The Screeners talk about their favorite films of 2018, check out our Top Ten of 2018 Episode. Already a fan of The Screeners Podcast? Help us reach new listeners by leaving us a review and rating on iTunes.
10. THE FAVOURITE
Yorgos Lanthimos has crafted a darkly funny tale of suspicion, betrayal, and ambition. While this may be his most accessible film to date, his unique point of view still permeates every frame of The Favourite. The cast is universally excellent, and Olivia Colman's Queen Anne is among the best performances I saw in 2018.
9. A QUIET PLACE
A Quiet Place was one of my best theatrical experiences of 2018. First time director, John Krasinski, does a masterful job using silence to enhance the narrative arc and create a hovering sense of dread. Millicent Simmonds stands out among a strong ensemble, and Krasinki's world building lays a foundation for a return to this universe.
This passion project, written by and starring Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal is the epitome of artistic intelligence. Hilarious, heartfelt, frantic, and piercing, Blindspotting explores multiple social issues through the lens of a transforming friendship. The risky spoken word segment near the end not only works but elevates the film with a ferocious and emotional gut punch.
Twenty years from now we will look back at Alex Garland's Annihilation and appreciate it for what it is: a sci-fi masterpiece. The feeling of something being slightly "off" tightens into a palpable sense of dread and mystery. Beautiful terror best describes the experience of watching this film, and the ambiguous ending will be the source of discussion and think pieces for years to come.
6. IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
The most visually sumptuous and romantic film of the year, If Beale Street Could Talk is at once heartbreaking and hopeful. Barry Jenkins' follow-up to the Oscar-winning Moonlight is bright and textured and features an evocative score from Nicholas Britell (my favorite of 2018). Don't let the unexplainable lack of awards recognition keep you from seeing this beautiful film.
5. LEAVE NO TRACE
Debra Granik's exploration of PTSD and homelessness avoids the traps of sentimentality and instead gives us a subtle inside view of a father and daughter trying to survive and redefine what family really means. Thomasin McKenzie and Ben Foster give naturalistic but affecting performances as two people who can't bear to be apart but clearly need to be. Brutal but honest, Leave No Trace is that rare film that stays with you long after you leave the cinema.
4. SPIDERMAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was my biggest cinematic surprise in 2018. It's been said that certain movies are like watching a comic book come to life, but this film may be the first to actually do it. Utilizing cutting edge animation techniques, Spider-Verse crackles with an energy and vibrancy that is impossible to resist. Combine that with an inspiring central theme, intricate story structure, and exhilarating set pieces, you get not only the best animated film of the year but one of the best films of the year, period.
3. The Rider
It's hard to believe that this is only Chloé Zhao's second feature film. She wrote and directed The Rider using non-actors, their real family members and friends, working from a story based loosely on the real-life experiences of her cast. In the wrong hands, it could have been a disaster, but Zhao expertly blurs the line between documentary realism and the cinematic poetry of the Dakotan landscape and the people who inhabit it. Real life rider, Brady Jandreau is a star in the making and by the end of this film, I wept over his struggle to find purpose after losing the one thing he felt he was born to do.
2. First Man
I'll never understand how First Man isn't nominated for multiple above the line Academy Awards. Damien Chazelle has crafted an authentic look at the daily sacrifices made by NASA families and the unbearable toll it takes on each of them. Never has a film so accurately and thrillingly captured the terror of early space flight and First Man is packed with aviation sequences that are unlike anything seen in a movie. The film's refusal to glamorize the race to the moon is precisely what makes this movie connect on an emotional level. While Damien Chazelle's first three films explore different genres and tones, one thing they have in common is that they are all borderline masterpiece level films (and Whiplash I consider a masterpiece) and he's already become one of the best working directors in Hollywood.
1. A Star is Born
The first 80 minutes of A Star is Born is perfect. Literally perfect; The direction, performances, cinematography, script, and music. My goodness, the music. And while there were some minor issues with the last third of the film, my overall experience with A Star is Born is one of joy, inspiration, heartbreak, and awe. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga give the two best performances of the year, and while Gaga is a revelation, Cooper's turn is his most nuanced to date. Sam Elliot is sublime as the older brother trying to keep things together against the backdrop of his own insecurities, and the cinematography by Matthew Libatique is vibrant and employs a flowing camera that makes the musical performances come to life. The coda of this movie is flawless, and, unlike many of this year's Best Picture nominees, A Star is Born will have an enduring legacy. This is the best film in 2018.
Won't You be my Neighbor