We're still running down our guest commentators' best of 2018 picks and comments.
Danny-Joe Crofford, aka "DJC, the commercial film critic" and a longtime friend of the program: A Star Is Born, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, Crazy Rich Asians, Incredibles 2, Mission: Impossible -- Fallout, Widows, Vice
Dan Lybarger, critic, Kansas City-based frequent contributor:
As much as I hate compiling these lists, I'm secretly happy when I have a difficult time narrowing a list down to 10 choices.
The Favourite -- If you like your historical dramas as brittle and moldy as a neglected text book, don't see this film. Mel Brooks may have been right when he declared, "It's good to be the King," but Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) proves that being Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) can be soul crushing. Her heartbreak is also darkly hilarious and oddly touching.
Roma -- Having seen Alfonso Cuaron's loving tribute to his native Mexico City on the big screen and on Netflix, I can safely say the message is more important than the medium. Cuaron's gorgeous black-and-white photography certainly looks better in a theater, but if Yalitza Aparicio didn't give such a captivating performance, the movie wouldn't be worth it on either screen.
If Beale Street Could Talk -- Barry Jenkins effortlessly juggles the euphoria of young love and the grim realities of what happens when the justice system fails. He also makes the cerebral world of James Baldwin completely cinematic.
The Death of Stalin -- Armando Iannucci does for dictators what he did for the White House in Veep.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? -- Lee Israel was a rude person who turned to crime when her biographies stopped selling. Melissa McCarthy makes her strangely lovable by not asking viewers to care about her.
First Man -- Damien Chazelle restores the sense of danger and opportunity that came with the space program in the 1960s. His Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) fascinates because the first man on the moon has a turbulent inner life but no urge to talk about it.
BlacKkKlansman -- Spike Lee's account of a black cop who infiltrates the Klan is set in 1970s Colorado, but it effortlessly reveals the racial divisions that haven't been healed since then. It's also simultaneously horrifying and hilarious.
Private Life -- Tamara Jenkins has only released three features, but each is a gem. Her latest follows a couple (Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn) struggling to have a child when both of their biological clocks have stalled.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse It's too bad Spider-Man's creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko didn't live to see this audacious take on a nearly 60-year-old character.
Sorry to Bother You -- I had trouble deciding whether freshman director Boots Riley wanted me to laugh, feel nausea or get angry. Thanks to his observant take on labor and race relations and his warped imagination and visual panache, it's obvious the confusion was intentional.
Tara Sheffer, filmmaker from Little Rock, living in New York.
2018 was a huge year for me, full of big (and somewhat scary) firsts and big decisions. I went to Sundance for the first time. I left my job in New Orleans to re-embrace my film education. I moved back to New York City where I started my MFA in directing at NYU Tisch. I directed a short film on 16mm. I crashed my car. I sold most of my possessions. But, most importantly, 2018 was the year I started making movies again.
With these changes and firsts (most good, all bittersweet and challenging), I find myself in a new, open head space. No longer obsessing over my email and consumed by other people's calendars, my active watching has quietly transformed back into a search to understand other filmmakers' grammar. Each film I watch is a crash course into the interiority of another director, constantly reframing and retraining my eye.
This active watching created a solid theme for my 2018 end of year list: gut reactions of home. Home, to me and to the filmmakers I've listed below, is more than a physical structure. Home is a concept, a feeling, and an understanding. Each filmmaker in my list uses their story to understand and capture something about home that you feel deeply. Is home a family? Is home a landscape? Is home a relationship? What is home?
I constantly think about what home means to me, particularly as a filmmaker who dreams of her home in Arkansas but has lived elsewhere for years. While I am considered an Arkansas expatriate, every film I write and shoot I'm thinking of characters and landscape in terms of my home state. I spent a good chunk of my first semester at NYU scouting for a waterfall in New Jersey that looked like Cedar Falls in Petit Jean State Park.
The landscape in Arkansas is palpable to me, the characters unlike anywhere, and, above all, the nature breeds creativity. I caught myself wondering in all of the films I chose for my list: what does coming home look like for me?
Home for each of the filmmakers below is completely unique and personal. Home is experiencing a community initially as an outsider only to be welcomed with open arms, like RaMell Ross and Chloe Zhao. Home is the fantastical interiority of a young boy coming of age and his complicated family for Jeremiah Zagar. Home is a fraught romantic relationship that spans borders and a lifetime for Pawel Pawlikowski. Home is finding the magical with a dirty frame and a strong vision for Alice Rohrwacher.
I encourage you to think about these films through the lens of home and, more importantly, what home means to you.
Hale County This Morning, This Evening (RaMell Ross)
Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher)
Cold War (Pawel Pawlikowski)
The Rider (Chloe Zhao)
You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)
We the Animals (Jeremiah Zagar)
If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)
Leave No Trace (Debra Granik)
Butterflies (Tolga Karacelik)
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan)
10a. Skate Kitchen (Crystal Moselle)
Films that I worked on and am incredibly proud to be a part of: Monsters and Men (Reinaldo Marcus Green) and A Thousand Thoughts (Sam Green).
Films I saw for the first time: Wanda (Barbara Loden), Vagabond (Agnes Varda), South (Chantal Akerman).
Films I need to see: Shoplifters, Burning, Let the Sunshine In, The Favourite, Vox Lux
Curtis Lanning, Fayetteville-based editorial writer, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
You won't find Avengers: Infinity War on here because I honestly feel that's the free bingo slot of top 2018 movie lists. So don't think I didn't enjoy it, because I obviously did.
Ready Player One: You don't get to say too often a movie is better than the book it's based on, but such is the case for Steven Spielberg's '80s nostalgia fest that finds a future where most everyone in the world plays a virtual reality game. The CGI is done well and the Easter eggs are staggering.
Mary and the Witch's Flower: This little animated gem snuck into a few theaters back in January and captured my heart with its tale of innocence and magic. The art was so beautiful, and this story is based on a 1971 novel called The Little Broomstick.
Creed II: Could be called Rocky VIII; Sly Stallone has played this character for more than 40 years. Michael B. Jordan is no slouch, and these films have gotten better and better since the tragedy that was Rocky V. My wife had to stop me from shadow boxing in my seat during the final fight. I embarrassed her.
Bad Times at the El Royale: It's been three years since we've had a Quentin Tarantino movie, and that's too long. Drew Goddard really captured Tarantino-lite with this sneaky hit. The out-of-sequence story, rich characters, charming setting, and vivid camera work blended together nicely. And I'll be damned if Thor sauntering in with an American accent wasn't the most amazing part of the climax.
Alpha: If there was an underrated and surprise hit for me in 2018, it's this movie of a prehistoric human taming the first wolf. There's no box office smash, no huge actors, and yet, this movie was the most beautifully shot film of the year.
Mission: Impossible -- Fallout: These movies have just gotten so good over the last few releases. Tom Cruise has come a long way from his John Woo days, and this latest release of international espionage truly doesn't deserve a derogatory term like "action flick." The choreography, the story, the car chases, they're right up there with the best of the Bourne movies as their own category of top-tier action thriller. And that's rare for a six-film series.
Incredibles 2: We have lots of superhero movies to enjoy nowadays, but Pixar and Brad Bird really continue to outdo themselves with this franchise of a family superhero team.
Isle of Dogs: If you haven't figured it out yet, I have such a love and respect for animated films. This stop-motion film from Wes Anderson tells a grim tale where an entire city's dog population gets sick and is abandoned on a trash island. I'm not ashamed to admit I cried during this movie. It was that beautiful.
Ballad of Buster Scruggs: Before you get upset that a Netflix movie found its way onto this list, let me remind you it had a limited run in theaters, and it's directed by the Coen Brothers. Anthologies are always a risk with films, but these guys nailed it. Each individual Western story is beautifully shot, and they're not all happy tales. But from the moment Buster Scruggs enters the screen, he has your attention.
Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse: Sony's artists crafted a flawless animated tale full of prodigious sequences ranging from having me laugh so hard I cry to me stunned in silence at what I was witnessing. This is the best movie of 2018 -- not because it's based on a comic book but -- because of the art, soul and style it represents.
MovieStyle on 01/25/2019
Print Headline: Another batch of 'best movies'