My Favorite Films I Watched in 2018 – Part 2

Here is the second part of my favorite films I viewed in 2018 and the final blog post of 2018. I will continue in 2019 starting with a State of the Blog post tomorrow.

15. Loveless (2017, dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev)
From my review:
It is entirely understandable to be at the frayed edges of a relationship and want to drag them down in the mud with you on the way down. It’s not a right way to live, but it is a behavior that is very natural to humanity. It is reasonable to want to start a new life and experience that nostalgic freshness that a burgeoning relationship can bring. Are Zhenya and Boris unrealistic in their expectations for their new partners? Oh most, definitely and we see that as the film slowly spirals to its conclusion. Zhenya and Boris are so entirely ordinary, and that is what makes Loveless cut so deeply. These are not exaggerated, grotesque characters. These people could be us if life got bad enough.

14. Happy End (2017, dir. Michael Haneke)
From my review:
Then there is Eve, the troubled teenager at the center of the story. Most scenes we find her on her phone or laptop, and it could be assumed that Haneke is going to make the same tired commentary of “kids on screen is bad.” Instead, she ends up being one of the most honest characters in the story. Technology is how she dismisses the pain and tragedy the adults continually manifest in their lives. Paralleled with Eve is her father, Thomas who uses the same technology to communicate with his mistress, describing the lewdest practices. It is interesting that Haneke chooses never to show Thomas and in mistress in bed or engaging in any sexual activity. All they seem to do is send sexts back and forth via what is apparently a Facebook analog.

13. The Death of Stalin (2017, dir. Armando Iannucci)
From my review:
In The Death of Stalin, the starkest stylistic choice is to have no one speaking Russian or speaking English with a Russian accent. The British actors speak with their accent and the Americans with there’s. This also the dialogue to not come across as performed but looser, more conversational. That is a trademark as well of Iannucci, the casual nature of speech. The result of this is that our primary players come across as entirely amoral and the truth of their belief in “the party” is revealed. They spout the rhetoric you are expected to say when speaking to the public to keep up a false narrative. Behind closed doors they have no respect for each other or the leader they heap platitudes on before the ordinary people.

12. Roma (2018, dir. Alfonso Cuaron)
From my review:
Close up and medium shots appear to be reserved for specific moments. The delivery scene is shot in medium with three layers of action: foreground, middle, and background. Cleo is placed in the foreground and the middle space creates a distance between her and the emotionally rending actions in the background. When Cleo travels to a country estate for the holidays with her employers she ends up at a cantina with a local, both of them and the patrons all from native populations. The camera is much tighter in this scene reflecting the intimacy of these people sharing in festivities. If you ever felt you were lacking an emotional connection remember how deeply talented Cuaron is with the camera and that every single shot has deep intention put into it.

11. Hereditary (2018, dir. Ari Aster)
From my review:
The power of Hereditary is not in some shocking reveal in the plot, but in the outrageous outbursts between family members, particularly Annie and Peter. The film is primarily about the relationship between this mother and son, with the doomed and damned relationship between the late matriarch and her son, Charles looming in the murky shadows. Toni Collette plays Annie and once again reminds us of her power as an actor. She finds that unbalanced place of a mother who has fears about the mental illness that may be present in her family tree.

10. Eighth Grade (2018, dir. Bo Burnham)
From my review:
Burnham didn’t choose to set Eighth Grade in his adolescence of the early 2000s; he chose the setting of modern day. I think this decision to be non-nostalgic is another attempt to communicate that this story is not about our youth, but is about a universal experience. He’s also not going to shit on popular social media platforms the way so much of the adult-led media does. Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube are the ways young adults communicate, and they aren’t some evil force that will steal a young person’s innocence. I found the way Burnham uses these in his film to be one of the most refreshing presentations of technology in film in recent memory.

9. Phantom Thread (2017, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
From my review:
One of the primary notes for someone going into this film is knowing that this is not necessarily a Daniel Day-Lewis vehicle. I would argue that the film belongs to Vicky Krieps, a Luxembourgian actress who plays Alma. Once she is introduced into the narrative a few minutes into the movie, the perspective and momentum of the picture belong to her. Krieps manages to hold her own against Day-Lewis who is also at the top of his game. She delivers a performance that possesses a deep strength while navigating the potentially volatile waters of her relationship with Reynolds. When they finally do have a substantial direct confrontation, eschewing all pretense of civil niceties, it is dirty and raw. She doesn’t walk away wounded, however, and Alma digs her heels in responding very coldly.

8. A Prayer Before Dawn (2017, dir. Jean-Stephane Sauvaire)
From my review:
In the same way, Billy grows as a communicator; we see his boxing technique becoming refined. When we watch his first match, he’s frenetic, infused with yaba, and chaotically beating away at his opponent. The coach inside the prison emphasizes the techniques and the muscle memory needed to become a good fighter. Billy strains to adapt at first and then a moment comes in the middle of the fight where you see it all click, and he becomes something more than he started as.

7. Burning (2018, dir. Lee Chang-dong)
From my review:
What I found to be the thematic core of Burning was the questioning of certainty. Lee never sees the full picture he gets small, seemingly contradictory facts from a few people. The moments where you could argue he has the strongest confirmations of his suspicions are weaker upon further examination. A cat responding to its name maybe didn’t react to that name, there was something else that caused it to come to Lee’s arms. There’s never enough there to know for sure what happened, but Lee still makes a decision of finality that stays with us beyond the fade to black and rolling of credits. That feeling of dissatisfaction you feel is the natural result of a film structured not to give you closure.

6. The Rider (2017, dir. Chloe Zhao)
From my review:
Zhao tells the story of male identity and the myth of the cowboy through this quiet passage in Brady’s life. His friends circle around him assuring the young man that he will make a comeback and be riding competitively again. There is constant encouragement from people around him, but it is Brady who harbors internal doubts. He begins experiencing small seizures that seize up one of his hands which he has to pry back open with the other. He’s not going to die from his injuries but he may well if he gets back up in the saddle again. His best friend Lane acts as a warning, played by Lane Scott another real-life rider who was injured so severely he was left partially paralyzed and incapable of speech.

5. First Reformed (2017, dir. Paul Schrader)
From my review:
First Reformed is a movie about the end of the world on both a literal and personal perspective. The film is very uncomfortable in many moments and not a smooth piece of art to digest. It doesn’t follow a typical act structure, and it deals with contemporary moods without directly referencing political parties or figures. The environmental crisis should be a politically neutral issue, and Toller’s struggle with adhering to authority while hearing the words of his God becomes fascinating viewing.

4. Suspiria (2018, dir. Luca Guadagnino)
From my review:
Suspiria is a film about the transfer of power from the old generation to the new and how that transfer is never a clean one. Often the older generation tries to cover up its guilt, shaming the young for their hubris and ambition, motivated out of their shame. Suzy doodles her dreams of traveling from her Mennonite household to Berlin and has her drawings tossed out. Later, Suzy’s mother catches her in a closet pleasuring herself and has her hand scorched by an iron. The young women are often not believed, particularly by Dr. Klemperer. He shrugs off Patricia’s manic rant as signs of her mental illness, not entertaining the reality of it until it’s too late. As his history with Anke is revealed, we see there was another instance of refusing to listen to a woman who was trying to communicate a warning.

3. The Favourite (2018, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
From my review:
I am a rare fan of period pieces, particularly English historical ones. However, the lure of director Yorgos Lanthimos brought me to this one. His acidic humor has given us great films like Dogtooth, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The promise of more of his particular style combined with the talents of the three actresses helming this production (Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, and Olivia Coleman) was enough to entice me to the theater with little argument. What I found was a profoundly complex comedy about depression and the nature of codependency. Overlooking the trimmings of the age, the story at the heart of The Favourite is both relevant for our modern political times and our personal experiences.

2. Cold War (2018, dir. Pawel Pawlikowski)
From my review:
In the span of just 88 minutes director, Pawel Pawlikowski tells a complete sweeping story of a tragic love affair over an entire decade. I never felt the runtime but never sensed that important moments were being rushed. When the scene needs to linger, it does so as long as it needs, but when a moment should be fleeting, you must hurry to hold onto it. There are lots of music moments ranging in style from Polish folk music to smokey Parisian jazz to Cuban. As expected the music tells an important story, like in a musical working as the expression on the internal thoughts. There’s a folk song sung from the point of view of young lovers whom Fate has kept apart, a lamentation. The song is transformed over the course of the film and reflects both the changes in Zula and Wiktor’s relationship as well.

1. You Were Never Really Here (2017, dir. Lynne Ramsey)
From my review:
And the way this film portrays its violence is another way it separates itself from the pack. The first scene of pure brutality, as Joe pulls out his ball peen hammer and gets to work, is shown through the fuzz of CCTVs forcing it to be obscured. This is not a relentless gore-fest, each kill is for a reason, and Joe is very conservative how he metes out these strikes. There is even a moment Joe holds the head of a dying man whom he shot, showing a shocking empathy in the middle of the violence.

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