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Best of 2018

Favorite Films of 2018

2018 was a defining year for film in so many ways. In the U.S., I cannot recall any year where there were so many films from African-American directors and involving African-American actors. The stories were diverse – from Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, based on an unbelievably true story, to Sorry to Bother You, one of the most original films in many years that reminded me of Charlie Kaufmann movies. Then there were all of the others – Black Panther, the largest grossing Marvel Comics film of all time and a breakthrough in its central story from a markedly African perspective; The Hate U Give, based on the novel about a girl who witnesses her Black friend being shot by a White police officer; If Beale Street Could Talk, based on the famous novel by James Baldwin; Blindspotting, a film about two friends, one African-American and one White, whose interaction provides an excellent commentary on race relation in American. “Monsters and Men” also involved the stories surrounding people involved in the shooting of a Black man by a White police officer.

The international film selection was the strongest I ever recall. Roma and Cold War, both black and white memoir films, were both exceptional in their direction and cinematography. The first one I saw was The Cakemaker, which stunned me in terms of its complex story and cinematography. Capernaum is outstanding as well about a Lebanese boy who sues his parents for mistreating him – it is like the Florida Project with a lot more grit. The Guilty, from Germany, takes place in one police room as a man intervenes in an apparent abduction. And Happy as Lazarro, a modern parable from Italy, is another (unexpected) favorite.

Finally, this year really showed me my preference for art films. Many of the films that I really liked – The Rider, Leave No Trace, First Reformed, You Were Never Really here – all were not frontrunners in terms of awards but are in any case examples of exceptional acting and filmmaking. By the way, at least three of the above are directed by women, who were essentially shut out of the Oscar best picture and directing categories.

Here are my favorite films of 2018

1. Cold War. This film Poland by the director of Ida is stunning in its use of cinematography, sound, and editing to tell a story loosely based on the ill-fated romance of the director’s parents.
2. Roma. Cuaron gave us his best and most personal film to date about the women, especially the housekeeper, who raised him.
3. You Were Never Really Here: This film about a burned-out private investigator is nearly perfect in every way – acting, directing, sound, editing – and is a triumph for Lynne Ramsey.
4. The Favourite. This film is very funny and provides a razor-sharp satire of life in the high court of Queen Anne and the women around her who fight for her favor.
5. Capernaum. This film from Lebanon about a boy who sues his parents for birthing him is beautifully shot and very gritty.
6. The Rider. This film by Chloe Zhao is amazing to look at and tells a beautiful story about a rodeo rider who must find a new identity after a serious accident.
7. First Reformed. Paul Schrader tells an intense story about a sidelined pastor of a parish in New York who deals with his past as well as a future that grows more and more uncertain.
8. If Beale Street Could Talk: Barry Jenkins directed this beautiful adaption of James Baldwin’s famous novel about a young couple separated when he is accused of raping a Puerto Rican woman.
9. BlacKkKlansman: Spike Lee directed a film about an improbable yet true story of the team of a Black and a White Jewish detective who infiltrate the KKK. Lee makes the story that takes place in the 70’s relevant to today.
10. Leave No Trace: Debra Granik directed this film about a father and daughter who live completely off the grid, and their lifestyle is challenged when they are caught and placed in social services. The cinematography is beautiful and the acting first-rate by both Ben Foster and Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie).
11. Spiderman. Into the Spider-Verse. This film is my favorite of all of the Spiderman films and gives the franchise a fresh and innovative new look.
12. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Besides its stunning cinematography, the six stories mini-stories are varied and slightly unusual depictions of life in the old West; it represents great Coen Brothers’ storytelling.
13. Black Panther. Ryan Coogler’s film about the rise of Black Panther is a cultural breakthrough for Marvel Comics films in its almost exclusive centering on African culture and cultural values.
14. Blaze: Ethan Hawke’s biopic of Blaze Foley is a love letter to the man who is considered by many to be the roots of the Outlaw music movement. It is understated in its directing and features two great performances.
15. Shoplifters. This film from Japan about a shoplifter who trains the children around him to be shoplifters features a great screenplay with many surprises in its storyline.
16. First Man: Damien Chazelle’s take on the life of Neil Armstrong told around the famous mission to the moon features great sound editing and a story that feels much more about the man and less about the mission.
17. A Star Is Born: I think this is the best of the remakes and features Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the star roles. Cooper’s direction, his singing, and the chemistry between Gaga and Cooper elevate this to an exceptionally engaging story.
18. The Hate U Give: Based on the young adult novel of the same name, this story is about the young woman who witnesses her Black friend being shot by a White police officer. It is an inspiring story of how she comes to see herself develop in the larger social and political context.
19. Searching. I loved this film in which a father tries to figure out what happened to his daughter completely through the use of technology. It is a suspenseful, engaging, and very contemporary story.
20. The Other Side of the Wind. This is Orson Welle’s last film, and it showcases the intensely creative side of Welles and his coming to grips with a film industry that was changing toward more independent films in the 60’s.
And my other lists of favorites:

Best Director:
Pawel Pailkowski (Cold War)
Alfonso Cuaron (Roman)
Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here)
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)
Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
Chloe Zhao (The Rider)
Orson Welles (THe Other Side of the Wind)
Ethan Hawke (Blaze)
Paul Schrader (First Reformed)
Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born)
Alice Rohrwacher (Happy As Lazarro)
Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters)
Damien Chazelle (First Man)

Best Actor
Joaquin Phoenix (You Were Never Really Here)
Jim Cummings (Thunder Road)
Wilem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate)
Christian Bale (Vice)
Matt Dillon (The House that Jack Built)
Benjamin Dickey (Blaze)
Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)
Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born)
Adriano Tardiolo (Happy as Lazzaro)
Brady Jandreau (The Rider)
Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)

Best Actress
Olivia Coleman (The Favorite)
Glenn Close (The Wife)
Joanna Kulig (Cod War)
Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)
Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie (Leave No Trace)
Lady Gaga (A Star is Born)
Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade)
Maria Mozhdah (What Will People Say?)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Richard E Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Timothee Chamalet (Beautiful Boy)
Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman)
Ben Foster (Leave No Trace)
Sam Rockwell (Vice)
Sam Elliot (A Star is Born)
Zain Al Rafeea (Capernaum)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Emily Stone (The Favourite)
Amy Adams (Vice)
Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)
Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place)
Clare Foy (First Man)
Constancer Wu (Crazy Rich Asians)

Best Cinematography:
The Rider
Cold War
You Were Never Really Here
Leave No Trace
Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Happy as Lazzaro
Free Solo
The Favourite
At Eternity’s Gate

Best Original Screenplay
Cold War
First Reformed
Sorry to Bother You
Happy as Lazzaro
The Other Side of the Wind

Best Adapted Screenplay

You Were Never Really Here
If Beale Street Could Talk
Ballad of Buster Scruggs
We the Animals
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
A Star is Born

Best Original Score
You Were Never Really Here
First Man
If Beale Street Could Talk
Cold War
Isle of Dogs

Best Visual Effects
First Man
Ready Player One
Mission Impossible: Fallout

Film Editing
The Favourite
You Were Never Really Here

About Gary Burkholder

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