(*homocinematically inclined)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Movie Dearest's Top 10 of 2018


Movie Dearest creator Kirby Holt names his favorite films of 2018.

One thing that can't be said about 2018 is that there was a shortage of good movies. The following are my Top 10 favorite films of the year, a globe-spanning collection that incidentally features a preponderance of strong female protagonists, starting with...

1. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
I'm not sure what I would have said if I was told a year ago that my top movie of this year would be a true story about a bitter, washed-up author who forges literary artifacts and sells them with the help of her flaky gay friend. But then I wouldn't have known how finely-crafted (by director Marielle Heller), sharply written (by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, based on the memoir by said bitter, washed-up author, Lee Israel) and transformatively performed (by Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant) it truly would be.

2. Leave No Trace
Debra Granik's quiet, simple tale of a PTSD-stricken Iraq War vet (a never-been-better Ben Foster) and his devoted young daughter (stunningly natural newcomer Thomasin McKenzie) and their at-times perilous trek to find him peace and her security is simultaneously heart-breaking, heart-warming and, ultimately, haunting.

3. Hereditary
With his hit feature debut, writer/director Ari Aster gave us everything you could ever want in a great horror movie: WTF-worthy twists, gruesome on-screen deaths, pants-wetting moments of pure terror... all that and (not to be spoiler-y) so much more, topped off with a go-for-broke, bravura performance from a fearless Toni Collette.

4. The Guilty
Claustrophobic, taut and intense, this Danish thriller (from another first-time feature director, Gustav Möller) about a disgraced police officer (Jakob Cedergren), working dispatch duty while he awaits a disciplinary hearing for his own sins, gets caught up in a kidnapping case that rapidly, horrifically turns out to be not at all what it seems.

5. Eighth Grade
One can't help but wonder how a male comedian pushing 30 channeled the awkward soul and heart of a modern pre-high school teen girl so well, but Bo Burnham did it (and yes, this is his feature directorial debut as well). Elsie Fisher is nothing short of terrific as our young heroine, with the unsung Josh Hamilton brilliant as her befuddled dad.

6. Shoplifters
As someone whose 'day job' is in retail, I never thought I'd say this: "I love Shoplifters". Hirokazu Koreeda's Palme d'Or winner from Japan centers on a ragtag band of misfits, a 'family' forged on the fringes of society, in a tale that easily could have wallowed in poverty but instead finds joy in the most unlikeliest of places.

7. Three Identical Strangers
A feast for fans of "stranger than fiction" documentaries, filmmaker Tim Wardle tells the amazing but true story of triplet brothers, separated at birth, who reunite by chance years later. Yet their story doesn't end there, with each new shocking revelation making this one of the most "twisted" documentaries in history.

8. Border
With its startling imagery and several disturbing plot points, this grim fairy tale from Sweden will not be for everyone. But I found this to be a fascinating glimpse into an alternate reality where trolls live among humans, yet which one, truly, is the monster? Eva Melander, transformed via some truly impressive makeup effects, is mesmerizing.

9. The Favourite
Chicanery and duplicity run amok in the royal court of Queen Anne of Great Britian in this deliciously catty, visually delirious period piece from director Yorgos Lanthimos. A regal trifecta of great performances from leading ladies Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are the sublime icing on this richest of cakes.

10. Mary Poppins Returns
As the iconic original holds a very special place in my heart, I am happy to report that this belated sequel is as close to "practically perfect" as any follow-up could be, owing a large part of that success to the "supercalifragilistic" Emily Blunt as everyone's favorite high-flying nanny. Can you imagine that, indeed.

Honorable Mentions – The Next 10:
Why stop at just 10? In alphabetical order...

* If Beale Street Could Talk, post-Moonlight Barry Jenkins' styled, sensual adaptation of the James Baldwin novel.

* Isle of the Dogs, the latest loony toon from the insanely original mind of Wes Anderson.

* Love, Cecil and McKellen: Playing the Part, two exceptionally well-made bio-docs about two indelible gay icons from across the pond, photographer/designer Cecil Beaton and actor/activist Ian McKellen.

* A Moment in the Reeds, this Weekend in Finland is just as swoon-worthy and sexy AF.

* Paddington 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet, two family friendly sequels just as lovable and funny as the originals... and with more Hugh Grant and Gal Gadot, respectively.

* Shirkers, another transfixing true life adventure. Shirkers is about the making... and disappearance... of Shirkers, Singapore's first independent film.

* 22 July, Paul Greengrass (United 93) puts you in the middle of another terrifying act of terror, the 2011 Norway attacks, in this harrowing docudrama.

* Upgrade, 2018's best movie you've never heard of, a high tech Death Wish starring future big time movie star Logan Marshall-Green.

Honorable MentionsWhat the heck, here's 10 more: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Crazy Rich Asians, Hearts Beat Loud, Jane Fonda in Five Acts, The Kindergarten Teacher, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Searching, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, A Star Is Born and Vice.

By Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

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