Because we’re living at a time when retroactive censorship is a reality, I wonder how many of these films will still be around after the dust settles.
Is Bradley Cooper’s remake of “A Star is Born” artistically invalid simply because Dave Chappelle plays its only non-white character of consequence? Will “Blackkklansman” be ignored by the Academy due to its wildly irrational pigeonholing of Spike Lee as cinema’s “Angry Black Guy?” Should critics only celebrate films based on how many inclusionary boxes are checked off upon release?
As someone who has been obsessed with cinema from a tender age, I often find the current landscape unrecognizable. Film, like music, shouldn’t discriminate or be judged on anything other than its own terms. What follows is a list of films that spoke to me without concern for quotas or political correctness.
Before I get into my choices for the 10 best films of 2018, here are some that just missed the cut:
“A Simple Favor” – The end result isn’t as important as how Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick take us there.
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” – Nobody ruminates on death and dying quite like The Coen Brothers.
“Deadpool 2″ – A rare sequel that is even better than its predecessor. Re-cutting it into the PG-13 “Once Upon a Deadpool” misses the point of what makes the material so appealing.
“Ready Player One” – This is Spielberg having fun later in his career, so, while it’s nothing revelatory, the visual roller coaster is still worthy of your time.
“Eighth Grade” – Bo Burnham’s vision is so painfully realistic that I began to have flashbacks to my own middle school experience.
“Andre the Giant” – One of the best wrestling documentaries I’ve ever seen.
“Blockers” – In terms of one-liners, this thematically mature take on female sexuality is the funniest film of the year.
And now, the list:
“If Beale Street Could Talk”
Barry Jenkins proves that 2016 Best Picture winner “Moonlight” was no fluke with this exquisite adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel.
“Sorry to Bother You”
Watching this dystopian satire unfold is akin to experiencing “She’s Gotta Have It” or “Reservoir Dogs” for the first time. It’s that powerful. We’re seeing a director challenge his audience to think and react in real time while delivering one of the most scathing roasts of unchecked capitalism I’ve ever seen. Some may complain that the ending borders on absurdity, but, if Rod Serling can get away with it, why can’t Boots Riley?
Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo flipped the heist genre on its ass in Steve McQueen’s follow-up to “12 Years a Slave.” It’s a raw and uncompromising look at what happens when a group of women decides to finally take what’s theirs.
I was 15-years-old when I heard Spike Lee speak at Daemen College and the effect that night had on my intellectual development can’t be overstated. His take on Ron Stallworth’s infiltration of the Colorado Springs chapter of the Ku Klux Klan is filmmaking at its finest and the best non-documentary work he’s done since “25th Hour.”
Tamara Jenkins takes a private matter that myriad couples deal with and lays it out there in a way we’ve never really seen on screen before. Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn are perfectly paired as a New York City couple fighting like hell to start a family.
“The Hate U Give”
In a perfect world, Amandla Stenberg and Russell Hornsby would be getting showered with Academy Award attention for what they did with Angie Thomas’s source material.
A masterpiece, plain and simple. Alfonso Cuaron’s larger-than-life canvas is accented by Yalitza Aparicio delivering the most shattering performance of the year.
“A Star is Born”
I’ve never been taken by either Lady Gaga or Bradley Cooper as performers until now. Their chemistry is electric and it’s the closest thing to old time Hollywood that you’ll find on this list.
Comedy doesn’t get enough love when it comes to year-end lists, but this was exceptionally well-staged.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor”
It’s hard to imagine something as wonderful as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood existing in today’s society given how both sides of the political spectrum are conditioning us to hate each other.