Monday, December 31, 2018

Movies for Music Lovers: 2018 Edition

Thomasin McKenzie in Leave No Trace
Click here for the 2017 edition.

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends! Though I spend a substantial portion of the year avoiding ranked lists as best as I can, I wait until the tail end of each one to give in to my most hierarchical impulses.

As with last year, I've decided to keep commentary to a minimum, but if there are any films you feel strongly about that you don't see listed below, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line. If it isn't here, it's more likely that I didn't see it than that I didn't like it...unless you're touting Bohemian Rhapsody or A Star Is Born. It's not that I hated either one, it's just that when it comes to music films in 2018, docs were where it was at. In any case, I have screeners for most of the year's award-seeking films through membership in the Seattle Film Critics Society, for which I've served as trustee for the second year in a row, so I plan to spend January catching up with the films that I missed.

Amanda Seyfried in First Reformed
Links lead to my reviews for or podcast contributions to SIFFBlog, SIFFcast, and The Stranger. A few, like Bad Reputation, also appeared in The Portland Mercury (my reviews for Video Librarian live behind a paywall or by way of a print subscription). Starting in 2018, my Stranger reviews have found a second home at Rotten Tomatoes.

If I did a better job at keeping up with new films than in 2017, I failed to write about as many of them due to a variety of factors, including other responsibilities and distractions. Here's to a more creatively and financially fulfilling year for me, for you, and for everyone we know!

Top 10*
1. Leave No Trace (Debra Granik)
2. First Reformed (Paul Schrader)
3. The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos)
4. Angels Wear White (Vivian Qu)
5. Shoplifters (Hirozaku Kore-eda)
6. BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee)
7. Mandy (Panos Cosmatos)
8. Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley)
9. Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher)
10. Annihilation (Alex Garland)

*The Phantom Thread didn't open in Seattle until 2018, and I missed the 2017 press screening. If I'd seen it then, it would've made last year's top 10. To make room for as many new releases as possible, I've given it a sort of honorable mention by acknowledging that I don't know where to place it, so for the time being: it lives inside this footnote. 

Note: I don't take back anything I've ever said about Lanthimos. Working with Tony McNamara and Deborah Davis's brilliant script made a world of difference to his filmmaking. I still consider The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which folds Michael Haneke's worst traits into one film, among 2017's most overrated art house efforts. Meanwhile, Luca Guadagnino, whose previous two features made past lists, fell from my grace with his pointless remake of Suspiria.

11. 1945 (Ferenc Török)
12. Black Panther (Ryan Coogler)
13. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller)
14. Support the Girls (Andrew Bujalski)
15. Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Dekker)
16. Félicité (Alain Gomis)
17. Don't Worry He Won't Get Far on Foot (Gus Van Sant)
18. Burning (Lee Chang-dong)
19. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen)
20. Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson)

Adriano Tardiolo in Happy as Lazzaro
Second Runners-up
21. Widows (Steve McQueen)
22. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)
23. Claire's Camera (Hong Sang-soo)
24. If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)
25. Private Life (Tamara Jenkins)
26. Thelma (Joaquim Trier)
27. Thoroughbreds (Cory Finley)
28. Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham)
29. November (Rainer Sarnet)
30. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)

Note: I usually include documentaries in my top 30, but decided to separate them from narrative features this year. I don't have a good reason for this; it just felt right. I'll probably revert to form in 2019.

Top Documentaries
1. Won't You Be My Neighbor (Morgan Neville)
2. Monrovia, Indiana (Frederick Wiseman)
3. Whitney (Kevin Macdonald)
4. Filmworker (Tony Zierra)
5. Hal (Amy Scott)
6. Bad Reputation (Kevin Kerslake)
7. M.I.A. Maya Matanga (Steven Loveridge)
8. Shirkers (Sandi Tan)
9. Dark Money (Kimberly Reed)
10. Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes (Alexis Bloom)

Gothic Estonian horror in November
Doc Runners-up
11. Milford Graves: Full Mantis (Jake Meginsky)
12. Bisbee '17 (Robert Greene)
13. Hale County This Morning, This Evening (RaMell Ross )
14. Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat (Sara Driver)
15. Naila and the Uprising (Julia Bacha)
16. McQueen (Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui)
17. Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami (Sophie Fiennes)
18. Departure (Lana Wilson)
19. RBG (Betsy Cohen and Betsy West)
20. Three Identical Strangers (Tim Wardle)

Note: Of the fashion-oriented films released in 2018, Bonhote and Ettedgui's portrait of the late British designer Alexander McQueen ranks above them all. By contrast, Lorna Tucker's Vivienne Westwood documentary, Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist, plays as if the subject pressured her to stick to a narrow script, and she probably did. Free rein shouldn't be a requirement for effective portraiture, but the film needed a director who saw the limited scope as an opportunity to tap creative impulses rather than a directive to keep them in check. As a corrective, I'd recommend Viv Albertine's 2014 memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys., for a more idiosyncratic take on Britain's fashion scene during the punk era, including appearances from Westwood and Malcolm McLaren.

Also worthy of note*: A Ciambra, After Louie, Aida's Secrets, Ask the Sexpert, Big Sonia, Birdboy, Blaze, Borderline, Borrowed TimeBreaking Silence, Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit, The Children Act, DamselThe Death of Stalin, The Divine Order (2017), Driving with Selvi, En el Séptimo DíaForever Chinatown, Gemini, Gender Troubles: The Butches, The Gospel According to André, Half the Picture, Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Hereditary, I Miss You When I See You, The Issue of Mr. O'DellJohn McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection, Just Charlie, The Kindergarten TeacherLarger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story, Last Child, Lean on PeteLet the Sunshine In, Little Stones, Logan Lucky (2017), Lou Andreas-Salomé: The Audacity to be FreeLove After Love, Love, Gilda, Mama Colonel, Mankiller, Men: A Love Story, M.F.A., The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Mom and Dad, Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart, Oh, Lucy!A Private War, Pushing Dead, PuzzleRevenge, Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, Serenade for Haiti, The Sisters Brothers, Skate Kitchen, Spettaculo (2017), A Star Is Born, Stumped, That Summer, Tania Libre, Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Unsane, The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin, Virus Tropical, Whipping ZombieA Woman and Her Car, Wildlife, Yours in Sisterhood, and Zama.

*I count video releases, and I review a lot of videos, though it's worth noting that some films received theatrical releases in previous years, while others made their 2018 debut on video.

Barbara Loden in Wanda, her sole directorial effort
Missed or haven’t seen yet: Anna and 
the Apoc-
alypse, Aquaman, Assassination Nation, Beautiful Boy, Ben Is Back, Border, BumblebeeCapernaum, Charm City, Cold War, Colette, Crazy Rich Asians (though I've listened to the score; it's fine), Destroyer, Disobedience, The Endless (didn't grab me; may try again later), First ManFree Solo, The Front Runner, The Great Buddha, Green Book, The Hate U Give, Hearts Beat Loud, Hold the Dark, Incredibles 2, The Land of Steady Habits, Last Letter, Let the Corpses Tan, Mirai, Monsters and Men, The Old Man & the Gun, On Chesil Beach, On the Basis of Sex, The Other Side of the Wind, Paddington 2, A Quiet Place, Ralph Breaks the Internet, SadieSearching, A Simple Favor, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, They'll Love Me When I'm Dead, Tully, and The Wife.

Top Archival Releases
1. Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi)
2. Wanda (Barbara Loden)
3. Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel)
4. Edward II (Derek Jarman)
5. The Crime of Monsieur Lange (Jean Renoir)

Didn't like: Maniac (though Emma Stone is quite good), Mary, Queen of Scots, Molly's Game, and Wim Wender's Submergence.

Endnote: I watched less TV than usual, but I enjoyed GLOW the best (props to local filmmaker Lynn Shelton for her excellent work on the Netflix series). Also, that one bonkers episode of Law & Order: SVU with Judd Hirsch and Wallace Shawn. I look forward to catching up with Atlanta, Barry, Better Call Saul, Sharp Objects, and the final seasons of Breaking Bad and Justified in the months to come.

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