We are at the penultimate! Which is great because I’ve pretty much closed in on my top 10 of 2019 (or at least as close as I will get until I manage to see certain hard-to-find things).
I did do a top 10 of 2018 this time last year, I don’t think I blogged it but it was definitely up on my Instagram and maybe Facebook.
But that doesn’t matter because this list is different!
Why? I’ve seen more of the 2018 films in the intervening year and, as I’ve had time and space to think on the films I saw earlier, surprising things have stuck with me while others have faded out a bit.
- A Quiet Place: A novel idea for a horror film, expertly executed. I’m looking forward to the sequel this year. Apart from the killer monsters with excellent hearing, it’s also about the importance of family, forgiveness, and sacrifice. And does anyone else have the hots for ingenuity in films? I love watching characters come up with resourceful solutions. It reminds me of when I obsessively read and reread Robinson Crusoe as a child.
- Hereditary: One of the best horror films of the modern era, more artful and deep than A Quiet Place. It has a lot of shock value on the first watch but is so multi-layered that it really rewards rewatches and interpretation. One of my favorite things about it is that even though the characters try to make the smart decisions, the non-stupid-horror-movie-character decisions, it’s not enough to save them.
- The Favourite: We talked about Yorgos Lanthimos yesterday, and, oh look, he made a psychologically twisted, erotically loaded costume drama. In other words, he made a film specifically for me.
- Spiderman: Into the SpiderVerse: It’s exciting, it’s fun, and it’s astoundingly beautifully animated.
- Bad Times at the El Royale: Weirdly prescient of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, down to similar soundtracks (Hush by Deep Purple is one of my favorite songs ever no lie), locations (Nevada/California), time periods (60s/70s), and plots (I see a murderous hippy cult leader). But if what you associate with Tarantino is non-stop violent action, this one is more Tarantino-y, despite not being the Tarantino film. Quite weird, quite overlooked. Look for Cynthia Erivo, Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, and Dakota Johnson.
- BlackKklansman: A suspenseful day comedy about a black man infiltrating the KKK. I’m going to marry both John David Washington and Adam Driver. And also Spike Lee. How was this only Spike Lee’s first Oscar win?
- Annihilation: A sci fi where the alien invader isn’t a ‘who’ so much as a ‘what’. Centered on women. With beautifully disturbing visuals and jarring perils.
- To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before: A very warm and fuzzy-feeling teen drama that put Noah Centineo on the map. I believe this is another one that is getting a sequel this year.
- Game Night: Smart modern comedies are few and far between, but Game Night proves that when you get a good one it can be really really good.
- Upgrade: Wikipedia is describing this film as ‘cyberpunk action body horror’, which I’m not going to try to parse. Long story short, a paralyzed man goes on a revenge mission with a little help from a piece of implanted tech that allows him to move again- except of course that can’t be all that it does. Long story short, it’s excellent.
- Shoplifters: A Japanese drama film about the ties that bind a makeshift petty criminal family, it’s members assembled by need and necessity rather than by blood. It pulls your heart in all the best ways.
Honorable Mentions: Bohemian Rhapsody, Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, The Hate U Give, If Beale Street Could Talk, First Man, Incredibles 2, Eighth Grade, Ca You Ever Forgive Me?, Tully, Searching, Wild Rose, American Animals, Blindspotting, The Tale, Girl.
Haven’t Yet Seen:
2017 was a very good year for me, in term of finding favorites- to the extent that, even after narrowing my list down, I find that I have 14 in the top tier.
They are as follows:
- Call Me By Your Name: Every aspect of this movie is perfect- from the atmosphere to the plot to the chemistry between characters (notably Elio and Armie Hammer and Elio and his father). I want a pair of vintage-y swim trunks. And maybe a peach.
- It: It Chapter 2 disappointed me a bit, but happily this one stands very well on its own.
- Dunkirk: A stylishly-executed war drama about the evacuation of soldiers from Dunkirk. A few people have criticized the “confusing” pacing of the film, but I found that the manipulation of time serviced the feeling of different types of combat in a really interesting way.
- Baby Driver: The use of diegetic music (music incorporated as part of the plot, rather than disconnected soundtrack) in this really blew me away, particularly during action sequences. Shame about Kevin Spacey, but there’s enough Jon Hamm, Jaime Foxx, and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers to provide a good distraction.
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: I’m struggling not to start every single one of these descriptions with “This is one of my favorites”. Frances McDormand is a queen, the supporting cast is amazing, and I hope Sam Rockwell can break out of playing incapable racists (see also Vice and Jojo Rabbit).
- The Shape of Water: This is almost one of my favorites but it is at the same type so elegantly done that I would be amiss not to include it. Yes, it is a fish sex movie. Yes, I watched it with someone I was trying to dissuade from his romantic intentions toward me, not realizing the first scene would be bathtub masturbation. The music is beautiful, the wetly green colors are slimily luscious, the acting is all great. They need to cut out the random musical number. There is some controversy about the disabled marrying literal monsters that is very much worth reading about.
- Coco: Coco is highly predictable, fairly formulaic, and astonishingly beautiful. yes, clearly if I were to take two films off of this list, they would be Coco and The Shape of Water, but I’m including them, so deal with it. I can’t stop thinking about the skeleton who is forgotten, I believe his name is Chich. The true star. Along with that beautiful flying tiger animal.
- Phantom Thread: A psychologically twisted costume drama, one of my favorite genres. For fans of Daniel Day Lewis, couture, Paul Thomas Anderson, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (you’ll understand). Also good on a rewatch (I rarely rewatch because there is so much new to see, but this was on a plane).
- The Killing of A Sacred Deer: You may know Yorgos Lanthimos from The Lobster (too weird for me) or, more recently, from The Favorite (a psychologically twisted costume drama for which Olivia Colman won best actress). The Killing of a Sacred Deer seems less well known than those two and deserves to be more widely seen. It’s disturbing and will put you off spaghetti.
- Hostiles: In 1892 a legendary US Army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne chief and his family back to their lands through dangerous territory. Frankly, I really liked this movie and did not find it to be too problematic or too forgiving toward white people in an era when we did a whole lot of bad shit, but it’s been long enough since I saw the film that I am unprepared to thread the needle of an accurate description with adequate historical disclaimers.
- Wind River: We’ve already covered Sicario and Hell or High Water- this is the third and last installment of Taylor Sheridan’s trilogy. In my mind, it is the best of the three and hideously underwatched. It’s cold and bleak and fairly devastating. Jeremy Renner rides a snowmobile.
- Ingrid Goes West: It’s a compulsively watchable dark social media satire about a disturbed Aubrey Plaza who worms her way into the life of an Instagram influencer.
- Thoroughbreds: Unfortunately not about horses. Fortunately about two teen girls who hatch an evil plan.
- Detroit: A fact-based drama set during the 1967 Detroit riots. I put off watching it for a long while after hearing about how absolutely brutal it is to sit through. I wish I hadn’t, because it’s also appallingly necessary viewing.
Honorable Mentions: Get Out, The Wife, Annabelle: Creation, The Breadwinner, BPM, Good Time, Logan Lucky, Mother!, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Beast, and I, Tonya.
I have not yet seen: Okja, You Were Never Really Here, One Cut of the Dead, Tigers are Not Afraid, The Rider, On Body and Soul, A Fantastic Woman, Au Revoir La Haut, November, and Foxtrot.