This is NOT a 10 best list. Frankly, this year one would be hard pressed to talk about the best, as in:
We’ve got THE BEST MOVIES.
It would sound too much like that doll-haired huckster on TV shouting, with far too much certainty, things like:
I’ve got the best people…
I’ve got the best brain….
I’ve got the best words…
(Note to self: Whenever someone has been reduced to telling you about their WORDS, run…don’t walk…to the exit).
We like to say movies are all about images but what they really are is a combination of pictures AND words, mostly said by actual human beings, These two essentials are then arranged, ordered, stretched, edited, cut and re-interpreted to the point where they:
TELL A STORY.
But not just any story. The most memorable must sees of any year show you people engaged on a journey that in some way is so unexpected, or familiar, that it grabs you and holds you even when you have to go to the bathroom and desperately want to let go.
Yup. Must see movies have that kind of power and I’m just the middle-aged guy to personally testify to that fact. Because if they’re done right you have a tough time breaking their spell despite what your body is pleading with you to do.
But even more difficult is getting them out of your mind.
Of course, this doesn’t mean they’re THE BEST in any given year. After all, what is best at this point in time is starting 2019. (Note: Hopefully.)
Instead it means that in a time when pretty much everything FEELS and IS more important than any one movie, these films would NOT..LET…GO. They held us, well me, to OUR CHAIR. #ShamelessSelfPromotion
So screw the critics who want to make you feel dumb or out of it when you think to yourself things like:
– I thought The Favourite was ridiculous and mean, as great as those three actresses were.
– I felt Mary Poppins Returns was sacrilege and a sad excuse for Disney to make money.
– Nothing about Dick Cheney is remotely amusing, especially when one of our most handsome actors has to so ugly up his person to play him in Vice.
– I wish Clint Eastwood would just STOP. Or simply make a movie with an animal again.
The 2018 MUST SEES, in no particular order:
Three Identical Strangers
You know how you turned on the news most days in 2018 and thought/said – you can’t make this stuff up? Well, no screenwriter could convincingly concoct this story and have it resonate the way it does – which is why it IS absolutely true.
A documentary about three wooly-haired Jewish triplets is crazy enough but what happens when they’re separated at birth, find each other in college and then….
It’s not fair to reveal more than the trailer. Suffice it to say the story becomes bigger than the three boys and takes you on a JOURNEY…JOURNIES. No excuses, it’s #Streaming.
Many of us weren’t interested in superhero comics as kids and even more of us have little interest in superhero movies now. This does NOT mean we dislike them. Like many adults, we are simply indifferent.
What the team behind Black Panther did in the most in the most subversive way was to NOT treat the film based on a somewhat obscure Marvel comic from the 1970s as SPECIAL It was smart enough to know that with the first Black Superhero Film EVER all that was needed was to tell a STORY that rang true and they could create the most meaningful movie of the genre to date. That they did, and then some.
Does it suffer a few lags in the middle, a couple of confusing plot twists and several overly long action sequences? Maybe. But it also brought suspense and depth to an overdone genre not by adding another star villain but simply by being the best version of itself.
The Other Side of the Wind/They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead
This is the newly finished final cut of the unfinished film Orson Welles started shooting more than 40 years ago and a documentary on the making of said film and of Welles’ final journey of incompletion.
There are more than a few moments of brilliance in Welles’ imperfectly perfect last film. More than anything, this seriocomic mockumentary of itself and its real life filmmaker shows us once again how far ahead of his time Welles truly was (Note: Decades before reality TV) and just how deep his love-hate relationship with Hollywood ran.
The actual documentary on the making of the movie confirms most of what any movie fan could guess about the filmmaker and his subjects. It plays as equal parts loving tribute, cautionary tale and historical document of the Hollywood filmmaking community.
There is no other filmmaker who can bridge the gap from the 1930s, up through the 1970s, and then just time into the 21st century so seamlessly. The fact that Welles does it in two films via Netflix feels like his final middle finger to the town that lauded and then dumped him. And after watching both pieces of work, that seems more than justified.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
What was the last film you saw featuring a nasty middle aged lesbian writer and an even older gay male party boy who strike up an unlikely friendship in 1970s/80s New York City? Based on a true story? Where they bilk collectors out of money by selling fake literary letters while blithely insulting all of the pretentious people you yourself are not fast enough to one-up in real life?
Hmm. Never. Though sounds like a typical Saturday for me. Which is one of the many reasons I LOVED this film and it’s a must see.
The other is the surprisingly multi-layered, in-depth performance of Melissa McCarthy in the lead. What a pleasure not seeing her spitting out a piece of pie to the camera, going to the bathroom in the middle of the road or flying through the air and squashing someone on her way down.
She and her co-star Richard E. Grant should both get Oscar nominations and every writer, or anyone who thinks they truly understand the writing life, or has ever written or read a book, should see it. And not look at box-office figures or read the reviews. #GiveMeABreak
Speaking of the Oscars, do you know Spike Lee has never even been NOMINATED for an Academy Award as best director?? Hopefully that changes this year. It’s hard to imagine anyone but Lee bringing the right mix of comedy, irony and politics to what amounts to a story about race in our country.
Yeah, a real Black policeman in the 1970s DID pretend to be an aspiring member of the KKK on the phone to some real KKK members and actually began to rise through the ranks of his local racists via the white Jewish detective he got to pose as his physical self.
It’s so strange it works and so specifically scary that it resonates in 2018 politics. One more reason it’s one of the must-sees of a year that will not have ended a bit too soon. #DidIAlreadySayThat?
The Cold War
It’s 89 minutes and as special as ANY movie you will see in 2018 or any year. Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski has gifted us the story of his parents’ turbulent romantic relationship set against the 1950s Cold War in Poland. But don’t let the title or the poster fool you. Unlike its title, it is intensely romantic, bizarrely strange, tragically quirky and so musically eclectic as to be right on the border of camp.
It is a pleasure to report that a filmmaker can tell a story with giant gaps in time and not confuse his audience; move arcs of characters in completely odd directions that feel perfectly understandable; and get us to buy it all in Polish and French with only English subtitles to guide us. That and an unwavering bullsh-t detector that never allows for a single false moment.
If there is a film of the year, THIS ONE would be IT.
Ella Fitzgerald – “The Best is Yet to Come”