2018 was another big year for Before The Cyborgs and for the movies we love. So to ring in the new year let’s look back and present our picks for the best movies of 2018.
A couple of notes before we begin:
- THIS LIST IS PRESENTED IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER.
- The selection process was done by polling our staff and returning with an aggregate pool reflecting our diverse tastes (and hopefully yours as well!)
- Undoubtedly some of you will be unhappy with some entries while championing others that missed the cut. We wish we could put every great film on here, we do but that is just not practical or beneficial to our audience
- That being said, if you really want to know who specifically advocated for certain films, here are the individual lists posted for each contributor where you can direct your fury
- Finally, on behalf of the entire team, we thank you for reading all our content this year. Each year we do this, we try to be bigger and better. 2018 saw new contributors come in and readership reach new highs. Looking forward to even more in 2019 so without further ado…The 40 Best Movies of 2018.
A Star is Born (Dir. Bradley Cooper)
The fourth remake of a film first released in 1937, A Star is Born may initially seem like just another unoriginal Hollywood picture; yet Bradley Cooper (in his directorial debut) has given us not a simple recreation of a story, but a totally new one built on classic building blocks. This is a modern movie, but also an old fashioned one. It is 21st century filmmaking, yet classic in its themes and characters. By melding the elements of innovation and classicism, A Star is Born is the rare film that leaves a lasting impression for a wide spectrum of viewers.
Add in an excellent performance from Lady Gaga, who not surprisingly steals the show, and the movie becomes both an entertaining popcorn flick and a tenderhearted and tragic tale of love and loss. The music is great (including the main theme “Shallow”) and the chemistry between Gaga and Cooper is real in its joys and pains; more than another remake the 2018 version of this story has shown that it can be refreshingly new as well as perennially classic, and an undoubted highlight of the second half of this cinematic year. – Michael Vecchio
Annihilation (Dir. Alex Garland)
Visually inventive and conceptually challenging Annihilation is the sci-fi follow up to Alex Garland’s feature debut Ex Machina. Much of the media attention on this side of the pond (the UK) was swamped by the film’s controversial distribution – straight to Netflix with no theatrical release because Paramount believed the movie to be “too intellectual’ for general audiences, perhaps incited by the backlash around Darren Aronofsky’s mother! which was an unsuccessful endeavor for the studio. With a predominantly all-female cast of Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez, Annihilation is a functional sci-fi thriller with some questionable writing and character development, but stands out through its mesmerising, surrealist imagery, diverse and talented cast, and an experimental, jaw-dropping final act that is astoundingly bold and risky for a film of Annihilation’s budget. A wordless sequence of wonder and terror towards the end of the film is undoubtedly one of the most memorable cinematic moments of the year. – Ethan Kruger
Andre The Giant (Dir. Jason Hehir)
There was no one quite like him in the world, and indeed this larger than life personality didn’t just tower over everyone physically, but left an indelible emotional legacy on all those who saw him. The HBO documentary Andre The Giant , chronicles the life of the legendary professional wrestler in a deeply personal and sentimental fashion; the film paints a tender portrait of the hardships Andre faced (from physical limitations to personal failings with family and friends) as well as providing an informative look at the emergence of the current world of pro wrestling, and Andre’s and other 70’s and 80’s stars role in making the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) a leading pop culture machine.
With excellent use of unseen archival footage, interviews with wrestling insiders, superstars, and those who knew Andre best, this documentary is a handsomely made remembrance of this giant man, the industry he helped transform, and the power mythology can have on our imaginations. –Michael Vecchio
Blackkklansman (Dir. Spike Lee)
Having gone several years without a sure-fire critical and commercial hit, Spike Lee delivers possibly his most aggressive, relevant, and impactful works since Do the Right Thing. The true story of Ron Stallworth, a black rookie police officer who infiltrated a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s stings with more palpable political relevance now than it did even back then. Most films that deal with stories concerning race relations attempt to soften the blow by celebrating how far we’ve come despite how far we still need to go. Spike Lee angrily posits that absolutely nothing has changed, and in some ways have only gotten even worse, punctuated with the election of Donald Trump, the Charlottesville rally from last year, and the continued presence of David Duke (played excellently here by Topher Grace) as a figurehead of the Klan and proponent of white supremacy. Blackkklansman is a fearless film that pulls no punches in its condemnation of America’s politics and the systemic racism that we have willingly allowed to continue to thrive. – Mike Pisacano
Black Panther (Dir. Ryan Coogler)
Oversaturation and the need for continuous universe building over the past 10 years have led to justifiable criticism of the superhero genre as being stale where everything from the plot to the visual aesthetic and score all bleeds together into one indiscernible mass. Black Panther challenges that perception by fleshing out the world of Wakanda as a vibrant landscape blending African influenced culture/spirituality with advanced future tech. The desire to craft Wakanda as a living breathing society in it and of itself then gives credence to the divergent philosophies that drive the conflict. Exploring these notions generates an empathy – a level of humanity- beyond the spectacle of the action most notably in villain Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Director Ryan Coogler sees the mythos of the Black Panther as more than just tools in the grander Marvel machine which is why the film rises above its peers. Still, it remains guilty of most Marvel affair in its forced humor and lackluster third act, however, Coogler shows so much love for the material that even Marvel’s biggest detractors can’t help saying “WAKANDA FOREVER”. – Nate Lam
Burning (Dir. Lee Chang Dong)
Burning is an exercise in uncertainty fostering the ambiguity of actions, motives, and perceptions to drive home its alluring mystery. Adapted from the Haruki Murakami short story “Barn Burning” an aspiring writer Jong-
Lee Chang-Dong exercises measured patience allowing the trio’s intertwining relationships to fester playing with the continuously shifting opinions of the characters before dropping the film’s stunning conclusion on you like a concussive blast that
Cold War (Dir. Pawel Pawlikowski)
Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War offers up some of the most striking imagery of the year in its black and white 4:3 frame. It follows a romance spanning a decade between two musicians. Speaking to those who have the familiar “one who got away” in their life Pawlikowski’s romance transcends cultural barriers in its relatability. Reminiscent of the classic Hiroshima Mon Amour for its shared wartime setting and love story tied to opposing ideologies, Cold War is bleak but beautiful – cold yet passionate. A must watch. – Nate Lam
Colette (Dir. Wash Westmoreland)
Through handsome set and costume design, an effectively good musical score, and of course strong lead performances, Colette is delightful at being both entertaining and insightful. Looking into early 20th century morals that continue to have relevance in our modern day, this is an incisive and intelligent work. Based on the early life and marriage of celebrated French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954), the movie charmingly shines a spotlight on the formative years of this great writer while simultaneously providing a refreshingly smart outlook on morality and societal values.
Featuring such other themes as homosexuality and trans-genderism placed in a far less accepting time period, Colette is a very intelligent and impressionable film. Using the biographical life story of the titular novelist as a canvas it successfully creates an illuminating look at the mores of the past and the struggle for an equal chance in life. Its ability to not only inform but make us question makes it a film of high artistic value. – Michael Vecchio
The Death of Stalin (Dir. Armando
The brilliance of director Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is its ability to bring out the laughs from a source material that is not really funny at all; how could it be? After all, this is a movie about the Soviet dictatorship and the political squabbling that took place to assume control of millions of Soviet citizens. But Iannucci has taken these historical events (albeit with some inaccuracies and artistic license) and drawn out the inherent absurdity and ridiculousness of them, making this a very amusing and funny film. He doesn’t insert jokes per se, rather he has the characters and situations showcase their utter foolishness which creates laughter.
And with that master touch, we realize that all of this is also quite tragic. For though all these events were ridiculous, still they happened and still, they led to widespread oppression and death. Iannucci thus proclaims that even the most “clownish” of leaders can still have a firm power on all those they rule. –Michael Vecchio
Dogman (Dir. Matteo Garrone)
In a filmography filled with a side of Italy seldom showcased in the cinema, director Matteo Garrone has firmly established himself as a bold and daring new name in Italian filmmaking. Dogman will surely rank then amongst his most effective works; set in the underbelly of Magliana a part of the Roman city limits, audiences may be shocked to see the landscape and may wonder, is this Italy? Garrone and his fellow screenwriters have made the eponymous Dogman an embodiment not solely of the average lower middle class Italian, but of us all.
Like many accomplices in criminal activity, motives are not always what they seem. But Garrone’s films are also astutely about the sad component of the human condition. With this realist lens, he has once again produced a gripping work of film, both dreadful and hopeful. It is indeed another worthy chapter in this director’s catalog and a successful addition in the esteemed pantheon of Italian cinema. –Michael Vecchio
Eighth Grade (Dir. Bo Burnham)
There exists no shortage of coming-of-age films set in high school or even college, but there are hardly any that focus on the middle school experience. That could quite possibly be because that period of time in everyone’s life is collectively a horrible nightmare that no one ever wants to relive or remember. It’s when we are at our most awkward, and our most emotionally vulnerable, and in our eyes, the world could not seem crueler. It’s a point in our lives when we are the worst versions of ourselves that we can be, but musician/stand-up comedian Bo Burnham decided to tackle all of that awkwardness and insecurity with unflinching reality in his directorial debut feature, Eighth Grade. Burnham’s screenplay and direction along with Elsie Fisher’s powerfully authentic performance paint a portrait of universal adolescence that is so painfully true to life, yet explores that personal hardship to uncover truly resonant and profound depths of reflection and self-discovery. –Mike Pisacano
The Favourite (Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
Known for his quick wit and dark, twisted sense of humor, Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos continues his winning streak of quirky, offbeat satirical comedies with The Favourite, an absurdist farcical interpretation of the monarchy and of the ruling class in general. Held together by three dynamic lead actresses in an intense power struggle which highlights the pettiness of the British hierarchy, The Favourite is almost a Mean Girls-style high school comedy with just as much catty teenage drama, disguised as a high-class British period piece. Its top notch visual aesthetic from every aspect of the production design, costumes, and cinematography make this film an absolute visual feast and one of the most intriguing, sharply written, and expertly acted films of 2018.- Mike Pisacano
First Reformed (Dir. Paul Schrader)
Produced as a vehicle for Paul Schrader’s theories on “transcendental” filmmaking, First Reformed ‘s esoteric and spiritual interiority often feels cold and poignant. Beyond it’s meticulously composed visuals, subdued performances courtesy of Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried, and reserved camerawork, a greater accessible truth for today’s social climate is tackled. By exploring the effect of isolation and disenfranchisement, First Reformed finds a thesis behind the every day of contemporary small-town America; people are confused, lonely, and ready for action regardless of the ramifications. Beyond the appeal of the protagonist’s environmentalist leanings, the film attempts to find psychology behind the need for a political cause. Instead of allowing a newfound concern for politics to become a beautiful ideal, writer Paul Schrader turns ideological passion amidst emptiness into a vessel for the worst of society to act out. – Grayson Lazarus
Free Solo (Dir. Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi)
2018 was a banner year for mainstream theatrically released documentaries becoming runaway box office hits unlike we’ve ever seen in years prior. Films such as RBG, Three Identical Strangers and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? proved to be widespread audience favorites throughout the summer, amidst all of the mega-blockbusters that usually always dominate the season. This documentary resurgence all culminating with a documentary that almost demands to be seen exclusively on the big screen, Free Solo, which follows rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to make a 3,000-foot rock climb without any ropes or harnesses. The pure anxiety of watching a real person scale a mountain without any safety or protection topples the levels of excitement that can be found in even the most well-crafted, high-octane blockbuster action flicks. It balances out heart-stopping intensity with grounded human desires and passion for what fills you with life. – Mike Pisacano
Good Manners (Dir. Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra)
Instead of only considering the corporeal
Green Book (Dir. Peter Farrelly)
Featuring terrific lead performances from its stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, Green Book is a charming, funny and important journey into the past of America, that really wasn’t so long ago. Director Peter Farrelly has used humor and class in creating a portrait of the difficult task of staring down racism and prejudice and has made this movie not only entertaining but heartwarming. It doesn’t have the same emotional punch as a 12 Years A Slave narrative certainly, but still, its morals are the same: we must confront discrimination and continuously strive for that elusive “better tomorrow”.
Green Book tackles these sensitive subjects of discrimination with admirable respect and occasional humor that all contribute to its sophisticated nature. It does not have to blatantly spell out that racism is wrong, rather through its spotlighting of the relationship between the main characters we embrace the idea that true friendship is real while discrimination is nearly always fabricated. This is a movie filled with hope; a hope that good can always prevail. – Michael Vecchio
Halloween (Dir. David Gordon Green)
Michael Myers returns in Halloween (2018), a film that disregards much of the convoluted aspects of the movie series in favor of returning to the basics. As a direct sequel to the original masterpiece of the same name, Halloween may not add anything new to the slasher genre but builds on classic ingredients to create fear; a formula ignored by many of the subsequent films.
Relying solely on the mythology of the first movie, director David Gordon Green and his screenwriters have created a generational story of horror, trauma and the enduring struggle against evil.
What made John Carpenter’s 1978 film special was indeed this reliance on old-fashioned scares, shadows and the unknown. David Gordon Green’s film thus falls back onto this formula, giving audiences a narrative that is easy to follow, with genuine moments of terror and of course…fun. With this movie, you know that when that famous main music plays and Michael Myers appears, a murderously good time lies ahead. – Michael Vecchio
Hearts Beat Loud (Dir. Brett Haley)
Following 2017’s Band Aid and 2016’s Sing Street, Hearts Beat Loud is this year’s offering of charming, whimsical music-based Sundance indie comedy, which in all honesty, is a genre that deserves to have just as many entries per year as superhero movies do. Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons play a father/daughter duo who, on a whim, write and record a song, titled “Hearts Beat Loud”, which inexplicably becomes a hit on the indie music stations. From there, they contemplate the possibilities of taking their music career further, as well as the other various factors in their lives that would make this dream an unrealistic option. The chemistry between every different combination of actors, whether they be Offerman and Clemons, Offerman and Toni Collette, or especially Clemons and Sasha Lane, is just absolute magic on all fronts. It’s a beautifully uplifting, yet also vaguely melancholy expression of pure passion within the midst of coming to terms with letting go of the things that you hold close and venturing on into new areas in life – Mike Pisacano
Hereditary (Dir. Ari Aster)
At its best, Hereditary turns the minutiae of trauma into a discomforting palette to base a slow burn horror-mystery about a family coming apart. Both the minor regrets and major insecurities of the main characters are turned into a series of sickening expressions of misery. Grief is made as terrifying (and certainly more palpable) as any ghost or conventional monster that could manifest by the conclusion. Here, the meaning of the film’s quietly elaborate and formally masterful horror can be felt in the moment, as opposed to a greater truth to be taken from thoughtfully analyzed subtext. More than a story with a satisfactory ending, it functions as a collection of intensely moving and disquieting sequences. – Grayson Lazarus
The House That Jack Built (Dir. Lars Von Trier)
There is something to be admired about an artist with an uncompromising vision and is unapologetic in the pursuit and outcomes of that vision. Lars Von Trier is one of those directors whose latest film The House That Jack Built predictably has predictably stirred division amongst audiences. The titular Jack (a chillingly brilliant Matt Dillion) is a Ted Bundy
Isle Of Dogs (Dir. Wes Anderson)
Nobody’s style is better suited to the medium of stop-motion animation than Wes Anderson’s, who’s meticulously crafted framing, use of color, and physical comedy not only translate perfectly into this form but are even enhanced, with Anderson being gifted with complete precision and control over the slightest movement, over every inch of landscape, over the individual muscles of a subtle facial expression. Anderson flexes these abilities to their very
If Beale Street Could Talk (Dir. Barry Jenkins)
Barry Jenkins follows his surprise Best Picture winner Moonlight with a soulful, beautiful depiction of love and human intimacy amidst social and racial injustice and prejudice with If Beale Street Could Talk. Populated with a magnificent ensemble cast that maximizes every ounce of their screen time (Brian Tyree Henry gives one of the year’s best performances with only one scene), the film never takes away from the power of Kiki Layne and Stephan James’ intimate chemistry and anchors their love for each other as something so pure and personal to hold onto in the midst of their surrounding situations that are so cruel and unforgiving. The alluring cinematography and divine score also do their parts to create an atmosphere of pure emotion and intimacy against such a harsh backdrop. At the time in which James Baldwin had written the original novel, it was written with the intention of highlighting specific racial and social issues of the time, and nearly 40 years later, those issues still ring true just as strongly now as they did back then, possibly even more so. – Mike Pisacano
Leave No Trace (Dir. Debra Granik)
The visual beauty of nature from the spider’s carefully weaved web to the vast array of lush green forest give the impression of an idyllic garden of Eden. Home to an assortment of wildlife that is largely heard but not seen, we learn that this small piece of unsullied utopia is also home to a father (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter (Thomasin Mackenzie). This is where Leave No Trace opens following the pair’s largely nomadic lifestyle foraging through the environment with little more than some basic camping supplies and their own collective wits. However, paradise sees newfound challenges as the aging daughter starts to question their unique lifestyle and her life beyond it.
Let The Sunshine In (Dir. Claire Denis)
Utilizing Etta James’ “At Last” as the backdrop to disappointment rather than a symbolic tribute to an everlasting love is one of the many striking ways Let The Sunshine In declares itself as the anti-romance. In a year that saw the revitalization of the rom com thanks to Set It Up and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Claire Denis’ film opts not for the fairy tale romance but the soul crushing one filled with disappointment, heartbreak and sorrow.
Juliette Binoche plays an artist looking for love but only finding a series of underwhelming men. Here intimacy feels like a means to an end and conversations only serve to show the egotistical shallowness of the men on the other end of them. Bleak as it may sound, the film is riveting for Denis’ approach to the subject matter reveals
Minding The Gap (Dir. Bing Liu)
“When you’re a kid you just do, you just act and then somewhere along the line everyone loses that”
There’s a certain subset of people born in the mid to late nineties and into the early 2000s that embraced skate culture spearheaded by the popularity of Tony Hawk and the desire to be “Xtreme”. For most this was a fad quickly replaced by the next big thing, for others like the subjects of Bing Liu’s documentary Minding The Gap it became a passion. Bonded by their mutual interest in skateboarding three kids (including the filmmaker Liu himself) turn to their shared interest as a form of escapism from their troubles. When they are
As they get older new rigors associated with adulthood bring newfound difficulties into their personal lives. Liu doesn’t filter these moments or use them as leverage for an emotional response instead he depicts these men as they are: young adults trying to figure it out, hanging onto their mutual love for skateboarding once more as a means of retaining those halcyon days of childhood. – Nate Lam
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Dir. Desiree Akhavan)
Caught in an unfair comparison with Boy Erased ala Deep Impact and Armageddon or Antz and A Bug’s Life, 2018’s pair of gay conversion therapy films both shed light on a particular area of the larger issue of LGBT discrimination that often gets overlooked. Both films handle this same issue from different perspectives and each have their own merits. While Boy Erased focuses more on the religious and familial complications surrounding this issue, it also plays up the drama to a more heightened and overt approach with much more screaming and Bible-thumping. Meanwhile, The Miseducation of Cameron Post handles it in a more subtle and intimate manner, focusing more on the interpersonal torment and erasure of identity that these camps inflict upon young teens struggling with their sexuality. Cameron Post speaks to the heart of the issue when she explains how even though they were never being physically abused at the camps, the practice of making someone despise themselves for who they are is just as harmful. It’s this revelation that truly understands the dangers that these types of institutions hold in society. – Mike Pisacano
Mission Impossible: Fallout (Dir. Christopher McQuarrie)
The sixth movie in a franchise over 20 years old has no business being as good as Mission Impossible: Fallout is. Part of this is because the franchise has stayed true to itself opting for pure action escapism and adhering to the old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Over the years different directors have injected their own personal nuances to the series to varying degrees of success but with McQuarrie at the helm for Fallout and its predecessor, it has found a sense of stability. The ability to maintain such lasting longevity stems from its cast chiefly star Tom Cruise who only seems to be bolder in his stunt work the older he gets.
Speaking to Fallout specifically, the pure adrenaline rush of the ambitious action sequences is an unmatched exhiliharation at least to the expansive scale that they are executed in. Throw in characters both familiar and fresh into the fray (including a magnificent Rebecca Ferguson) and the end product is a film that is first and foremost endlessly entertaining. Isn’t that what going to the movies is all about? – Nate Lam
The Mule (Dir. Clint Eastwood)
It is not Clint Eastwood’s greatest effort, but it is clear that with The Mule , the 88 year old icon still has a firm grasp of his craft, both in front and behind the camera. With humor and sensitive emotional themes this based on true events story is clearly not really about the war on drugs and its players on both sides of the law, but on one man who finds himself in a world, he could have never imagined.
By juggling the images of a repentant senior along with those of a complicit crime associate, The Mule makes us question just how far we would go to right the wrongs of the past. There is not ultimately a big moral revelation to be had here, but even on a surface level, the movie is content to proclaim that not all criminal activity is what it seems to
The Night is Short, Walk On Girl (Dir. Masaaki Yuasa)
In a year where Into The Spiderverse broke new boundaries in computer animation, The Night is Short Walk, Walk On Girl reminds us that there is still room for more traditional animation styles to exist. But just because the technique is traditional doesn’t mean the execution is any less exciting. Weaving a tale of magical realism into one young woman’s night wandering the city while a potential suitor follows close behind. The film begins with a pub crawl before proceeding to a drinking contest, a classic book fair and finally a romantic musical production. It is a testament to the film’s inventiveness that it manages to incorporate these elements into a coherent narrative aided by a distinct art style that separates it from its peers. – Nate Lam
Paddington 2 (Dir. Paul King)
It may be impossible to find a film that will truly please everyone, but Paddington 2 is perhaps the closest we can get. Like its predecessor, this is a movie with a tremendous heart and a persistent spirit of goodwill to all. It’s a wonderful reminder in a world of cruelty that love does indeed triumph if we look for it. Paddington Bear is mischievous, curious, but always well-intentioned and his escapades are wonderful excursions for young children and adults alike. This is a delightful movie that will surely melt the iciest of hearts and please a wide spectrum of viewers with good light entertainment with a noble message at its core. –Michael Vecchio
Roma (Dir. Alfonso Cuaron)
Alfonso Cuaron’s semi autobiographical passion project finds itself in the midst of mid 70s Mexico where economic, social and political strife is a prominent fixture. Acting as the surrogate into this time capsule is Cleo, a housemaid / caretaker whose position as one of the “invisible” members of society allows her a largely uninhibited view of the issues impacting the country. Roma is tinted with Cuaron’s nostalgia and love in every frame, his fingerprints literally on every aspect as he fulfills the role of editor, cinematographer and producer in addition to directing. The result is an undeniable technical masterpiece that is the projected front runner for Best Foreign Film (if not Best Picture).
The deeply personal nature of the subject matter may lend itself to criticism that the film is too myopic to be appreciated by a mass audience however, art is a reflection of the soul; With Roma, Alfonso Cuaron bears his soul for all to see – Nate Lam
Shirkers (Dir. Sandi Tan)
What do you do if your dream gets taken away? Once seemingly destined to be an underground cult indie gem, the film that Shirkers actually became differs drastically from what it was meant to be. Interspersed with archival footage from the original shoot, Sandi Tan’s documentary is a haunting time capsule made possible by meticulous documentation of the time period wherein the then teenaged filmmaker and her friends sought to make the next great indie masterpiece before being robbed of that dream by a man who betrayed their trust.
Tan & her collaborators reflect on their experiences through the lens of far more mature people capable of admiring their youthful spirit while also lamenting mistakes those same youths made in their adolescent hubris. It is this honesty that makes the film work speaking to anyone who has ever had a passion project of their own but doing so in a way that does not hide the negative aspects of the past as so many documentaries tend to do. Shirkers is a cautionary tale but also one that encourages you to pursue these endeavours. For even though it is possible to lose it all, the act of trying itself can yield unexpected results. – Nate Lam
Shoplifters (Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda)
“sometimes it’s better to choose your own family”
Contrasting real-world political discourse, the best movies in 2018 aimed to find reasons for unity rather than division. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters defines family as beyond genetic makeup to suggest family is chosen reflecting those who treat us with love and selfless generosity. Such is the case when the Shibata family takes in a young abused girl off the street despite living in poverty themselves.
Like Burning, Shoplifters has a way of sneaking up on you in unexpected ways ultimately crushing you in a wave of emotion. Kore-
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-verse
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-verse showcases many alternate universe versions of Spider-Man only help to reinforce that notion that literally anyone can have the power to be Spider-Man, from a black Brooklyn teenager, to a Japanese schoolgirl, to even a talking cartoon pig, heroism knows no limitations. It captures that childlike awe and inspiration that we are supposed to feel towards our superheroes while still maintaining their interpersonal humanity in a way that hasn’t been done as well since Sam Raimi’s own Spider-Man, along with its sequel.
It is an unabashed love letter to every facet of Spider-Man’s history, from the silliest memes to the most reverent and inspiring notions that represent everything that the character was meant to stand for. Both in terms of the film’s overall quality, as well the quality of its animation, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse embodies the distinction of being the best animated film of the year, and hopefully, it can be honored as such at this year’s Academy Awards. – Mike Pisacano
Summer of 84 (Dir. François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell)
Beginning as yet another nostalgic ode to the 1980s, featuring synth, kids on bikes and a passing acceptance of homophobic slurs, Summer of 84 appears indistinguishable from Stranger Things and its well documented/think-pieced fallout. What comes from its longing preoccupations with the past decade is a thoughtful consideration of what happens when someone dwells too much on the past and the appeal of finding an emotionally safe place to go to. Its conclusion features one of the most thoughtful and self-aware reflections on the progression of contemporary popular media I have witnessed this decade. Beyond being a consistently enjoyable film viewing experience, its flaws and warts build to a vision of nostalgic media that is subverted and cleverly criticized, making it perhaps the most essential 80s throwback trip of the year. – Grayson Lazarus
Support the Girls (Dir. Andrew Bujalski)
“ I started this day off crying, so if you ask me, laughing is progress.”
Andrew Bujalski’s Support The Girls is an examination of a single day at Double Whammies – A Hooters-style restaurant that caters to a clientele typically more interested in the staff as objects of desire rather than actual people. Like Shoplifters, it is a film about unconventional families, this one headed by matriarch Lisa (Regina King) who serves as the restaurant’s underappreciated and overworked shift manager. She watches over the girls in her employ, protecting them and encouraging what’s best for their own well-being often at the cost of her own. King is stellar here as she perseveres past issue after issue. There are no reprieves here because this is
The title “Support The Girls” acts as tongue in cheek double entendre and also speaks to the need for people to demonstrate kindness, carry positivity and faith in the good of man in the face of hardship. For there will be days where everything seems to go wrong despite your best intentions; where prayers to the cosmic forces of the universe seem to go unanswered. These screams may grant little return in terms of karmic reward outside of momentary catharsis but multiple voices supporting one another suggests a higher chance of being heard right? – Nate Lam
Suspiria (Dir. Luca Guadagnino)
Suspiria is a rare horror remake that manages to take the elements that made the original so distinct and memorable and improve upon them in ways that differentiate itself from the original while still staying true to what made that film such a beloved classic as it is today. It is a film that is undoubtedly excessive in every conceivable capacity including its length, pace, and violence, which will surely turn many viewers away, however, it is also excessive in its creative vision, ambition, and visceral emotion. Suspiria is a tough sell for most moviegoing audiences, and even most hardcore cinephiles might not even be prepared for what they would be getting themselves into with this film, but for those with a deep appreciation of filmmaking craftsmanship, or even those looking for a film experience that will make them feel unclean and depraved, Suspiria is a must-see, even if you can only stomach to see it just once. – Mike Pisacano
Widows (Dir. Steve McQueen)
Coming five years after his Best Picture-winning powerhouse, 12 Years a Slave, director Steve McQueen delivers with a heist crime thriller that successfully functions as both riveting mass appeal entertainment as well as thought-provoking commentary on the state of America.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Dir. Morgan Neville)
One doesn’t have to look far to see the many despicable things on this Earth and the awful things humans do to each other. Yet just when it seems there’s no hope for humanity, people like Fred Rogers (1928-2003) emerge to remind us of the eternal power of love and simple everyday goodness. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a sweetly sentimental, inspirational and informative documentary on the life and work of Mr. Rogers, and the importance of his message of positivity, encouragement, and hope.
Through archival and behind the scenes footage and interviews of Fred Rogers and those who knew him best (including his wife and children, and the other actors and producers on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood), this documentary presents a portrait not just of one of the most genuinely good people who has ever lived, but of why his life mission is needed now more than ever. Love does triumph when we find the room for it, and Fred Rogers always did.
Whether it’s children or adults his message has continued to show why its transformative power matters. Evil may affect the world, but love will always reign as long as we can ask the person next to us “Won’t you be my neighbor?” – Michael Vecchio
You Were Never Really Here (Dir. Lynne Ramsey)
Seven years since her most recent feature film We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lynne Ramsay delivers another equally psychologically disturbing outing with her 2017 Cannes Film Festival darling, You Were Never Really Here. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as a veteran suffering with PTSD who tracks down missing girls for a living, Phoenix gives one of his most emotionally vulnerable and personally subdued performances of his career, which is saying a lot given the sheer variety of his previous roles. Ramsay explores the ramifications of violence from a restrained perspective without ever indulging in the graphic nature of the acts we are witnessing. Every scene is shot with such precision and beauty, including a scene that takes place at a lake, which has the potential to remain one of the most visually stunning and emotionally fulfilling scenes of the year. – Mike Pisacano