Which means we can catch our breath, and look back on the past year. So we're continuing our custom of running the Best Of lists of locally connected filmmakers, critics and friends of the program. Where possible, I've included their comments (though some of these have been brutally edited). We'll have at least one more of these next week.
Jay Russell, director (Ladder 49, My Dog Skip, The Waterhorse) and "Resident Hollywood Liberal":
Top Ten: 22 July (Paul Greengrass); BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee); Boy Erased (Joel Edgerton); Cold War (Pawel Pawlikowski); The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos); Green Book (Peter Farrelly); If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins); Roma (Alfonso Cuaro) "my favorite film"; Vice (Adam McKay); You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay).
Honorable mentions: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs; Beautiful Boy; Bohemian Rhapsody; Destroyer; The Sisters Brothers; Won't You Be My Neighbor; Three Identical Strangers; Isle of Dogs; RGB.
Courtney Pledger, producer, executive director Arkansas Educational Television Network:
Top 10: Roma; Three Identical Strangers (Tim Wardle); Minding the Gap (Bing Lui); The Favourite; If Beale Street Could Talk; Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher); Won't You Be My Neighbor (Morgan Neville); Private Life (Tamara Jenkins); Leave No Trace (Debra Granik); You Were Never Really Here.
Mark Thiedeman, filmmaker (Last Summer, KEVIN):
The distribution landscape is changing year by year, and so it seems silly to limit this list to movies that had a theatrical release. Some of my favorite movies of the year ended their big-screen run on the festival circuit, and that's quite all right. More to the point, though seven of these 10 movies were released in theaters, only three of them played here in Arkansas, so thank goodness for small screens. I should note that I've yet to see Roma, Shoplifters and Burning.
If Beale Street Could Talk (In theaters): Barry Jenkins loves movies as few American filmmakers do, and over the course of the past decade and a half, he has been refining his love of Claire Denis, Wong Kar-Wai, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, and others into a truly singular voice. But the real accomplishment of his Moonlight follow-up is its unwavering romanticism. He speaks of love not with sentimentality, but through poetry: the poetry of the image, the poetry of the word, the poetry of the human face ... .
Lover for a Day (Mubi, Amazon): A 23-year-old girl who has never made love for pleasure alone gets dumped and moves in with her father, a professor who is "casually" dating his 23-year-old student. It's the simplest of scenarios and the most complex of love stories, a crystal-clear work by one of the greatest auteurs in French cinema, Philippe Garrel.
First Reformed (streaming): Paul Schrader goes full Travis Bickle on the Prosperity Gospel with his audacious remake of Ingmar Bergman's greatest film, Winter Light.
Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc (Amazon, Kanopy): Also skewering feel-good Christianity, Bruno Dumont asks very serious questions about modern morality in his metal musical about the Maid of Orleans ... .
Zama (Amazon): Lucrecia Martel continues to mine the guilt of privilege and its colonial roots with a feverish hallucination involving disembodied limbs, spectral presences, and an already legendary llama. A master-class in mise-en-scene, editing and sound design.
The House That Jack Built (Amazon): In the film that made me want to be a filmmaker, Breaking the Waves, Lars von Trier sends a woman into a funeral where only men are allowed to declare that no one has the right to consign someone to hell. Here, he consigns himself.
Sleep Has Her House (scottbarleyfilm.com): The most heart-stopping third act of any film this year is the finale of an experimental film without people, plot, or dialogue. Young Welsh artist Scott Barley recalls the grandeur of German Romantic painting in his stunning, ethereal, womb-like movie, which he photographed himself -- on an iPhone.
Frost (Mubi): Journeying toward the heart of the war in Donbass, Ukraine, with smartphones in-hand, two Lithuanian youths, disengaged politically and personally, interact with intellectuals, soldiers and volunteers, to understand an ongoing armed conflict and their feelings for each other.
Vox Lux (Streaming): Brady Corbet's sophomore feature juxtaposes school shootings, terrorism, pop music, Internet celebrity, and fake news in a hot mess of a State of the Union address. American movies are rarely so exhilarating to watch.
M/M: The most radically inventive LGBT film of 2018, Drew Lint's rumination on gay narcissism, masculinity-obsession, and digital dating is best described by a review on the social media network Letterboxd: "White gays just want to date themselves: the movie."
10 Honorable Mentions: Western (Valeska Grisebach); The Strange Ones (Lauren Wolkstein and Christopher Radcliff); Skate Kitchen (Crystal Moselle); The Wild Boys (Bertrand Mandico); Double Lover (Francois Ozon); The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci); Beautiful Boy (Felix Van Groeningen); Let the Sunshine In (Claire Denis); McQueen (Ian Bonhote); Marfa Girl 2 (Larry Clark)
Philip Vandy Price, reviewsfromabed.com:
10.Vox Lux: Never have I felt more bewildered by a movie after watching it ... It has to mean something for a film to be so internally divisive so as to not even be sure of where one ultimately lands in overall opinion of the film days after seeing it. I still don't know if I liked Vox Lux or not, but I kind of loved it and I know I'm still thinking about it ... I need to see this again. Immediately.
9.A Quiet Place: People talk about how having children will change your life ... how it will do so for the better as well as how tough things will be at different times for different reasons, but no one ever seems to warn expectant parents just how much fear will encompass their lives and in what are otherwise seemingly normal situations.
8.If Beale Street Could Talk: A meditation session of a movie and a complete experience.
7.Paddington 2: As anyone who has ever been around little children knows, they tend to latch onto a movie and stick with it repeatedly for a couple months time. While my daughter had various favorites throughout the year the one I always found myself suggesting was Paddington 2. She and I saw it in the theater over MLK weekend at the beginning of the year and both of us found it endearingly charming. I couldn't wait to buy the Blu-ray and show it to my wife, and then we would throw it on again, and again, and before I knew it I couldn't help but to admit that I completely adored Paddington 2: "If we are kind and polite, the world will be right."
6.First Reformed: Paul Schrader has made a career of analyzing the psyches of tortured male souls and their having to grapple with the varied struggles and conflicts their environment and/or time in history dictates they deal with.
5.Mission: Impossible -- Fallout: The older Tom Cruise gets, the less time between his M:I sequels. This is the pinnacle of the series ... by far one of the best action movies ever made.
4.BlacKkKlansman: A history lesson and galvanizing procedural all in one, Spike Lee's film is one for the ages. An incredibly heavy, effectively powerful film that drenches you in the world in which it operates, pulls absolutely no punches, and presents a conversation that needs to happen with style, eloquence and immense profundity. Many of Lee's films are pointedly about what they're about, but when Lee actually has a story to work his themes through he is able to create more fulfilling experiences.
3.Ready Player One: Director Steven Spielberg has a way with not only bringing the viewer into the spectacle, but making them appreciate the aura of the spectacle he has concocted onscreen. We're not just in awe of what we're seeing onscreen, but we're in awe of how it makes us feel.
2.A Star Is Born: Here Bradley Cooper goes from movie star to film director, screenwriter, musician and songwriter. In taking on these new roles and applying them to what is the fourth incarnation of A Star Is Born Cooper has found a way to work through his creative process by exploring the creative process. Cooper and Lady Gaga's performances define the film, their chemistry enrapturing, and the music is pretty damn great too.
1.Avengers: Infinity War: As sprawling as you could imagine, as epic as you would hope, and as devastating as it needed to be, but hoped it wouldn't be.
Joe Riddle, copy desk chief, film maven:
This is my list of my favorite films of 2018. I can only come up with eight. The number doesn't necessarily represent the place the film holds. (Although Roma is actually No. 1 in my book.)
Roma: Cuaron may have been channeling Imitation of Life. But this story of two women and their family is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. And the black and white cinematography is stunning.
Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda): Korean family gets by as best they can (hence the title), especially when they rescue a little girl who has been abandoned by her abusive family. Quite moving.
Boy Erased: Joel Edgerton directs, writes and stars in this harrowing account of a gay teen who is sent to a church-sponsored program to make him straight. Based on a true story with three excellent performances from Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe.
The Favourite: (Lanthimos) Deliciously deviant black comedy of two women vying for the affections of Queen Anne. Did the ghost of Oscar Wilde write this? Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone give award-worthy performances.
Leave No Trace: Granik's sad tale of a father and daughter living off the grid and how she eventually realizes her father is just not able to live in the real world. Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie are perfect in their roles.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller): Melissa McCarthy shows what she can do with a serious role, ably abetted by the delightful Richard E. Grant as her partner in crime.
Bohemian Rhapsody (credited to Bryan Singer): As a film, this bio-pic is just OK. But the performance of Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury is the raison d'être.
Incredibles 2 (Brad Bird): Charming and sweet sequel to The Incredibles.
More next week.
MovieStyle on 01/18/2019
Print Headline: Movie fans weigh in on the best flicks of 2018