You could probe me for decades and you'll get the same answer wherever you end up, 2018 was the most diverse year in the history of film, in or out of a theater. The industry came in and out exposed and was loudly shifted by those who honed in their craft in ambitious, hazardous and shameless ways and arguably even louder by those who sat and ingested it all. Strictly saying, most have something they can scream about 2018 cinema that resonates and something they want to dispel from thought for the rest of their own.
First things first, just a little info on how my lists work. If it deserves to be on my shelf, it goes on the list, no limit, no cutoff I was just lucky this year to make it the convenient number of 100. I tried to watch as many films as I could this year (407 to be exact) that's why the list is so late, and I have no problem with that because I got one of the most comprehensive looks at the medium I think I could ever possibly ever get. I really went out of any normal comfort zone to view every end, every single Oscar Nominee (including shortlisted films), Slender Man, yes even every single Netflix original movie, and yes I'm putting that on my resume. So instead of me saying "I just didn't get around to seeing it." if a movie isn't on this list, the real reason is that I probably didn't like it enough.
And by now if you've made it to this third paragraph, I hope that means you aren't just going to skip ahead to the top twenty and find out where I put Netlfix's most exquisite and most historic piece of cinema, Father of the Year.
I hope there's something on this list for the reader that either they haven't heard of and they want to try or just something they can fall in love with like I did. My heart would be ever so full if you shared this list with anyone looking to increase the number on their watchlist. Anyway without me blasting out more words here, from cinema with love here's my top 100 movies of 2018.
Directed by Jeff Zimbalist
Suppression is going to be a recurring theme on this list, Nossa Chape is maybe the perfect place to start with it all. Covering the devastation and reconstruction of the Chapecoense soccer club, a sense of a darkly vigorous brushing off of a resilence, of a memory that few would argue is the vital spirit of those on and off the field. It's an incredibly difficult fight to watch and even comprehend the logic of the so few trying to forget. Nossa Chape isn't a genre-bending, technically impressive doc, but it's far from forgettable.
Directed by Daniel McCabe
Sprawling, startling and sadly hopeless, This is Congo is a bipartisan, close to the ground look over decades of unstable conflict. Millions of lives lost yet little care is shown beyond those patriotic, those with full pockets and those who've lost everything. Unfortunately, this is a painfully relevant sentiment rippling throughout the world each day. This mounts and beings to weigh on you with significant effect throughout, the realization your acknowledgment is your only tool to help is more than disturbing. Now spread it.
There are two movies on this list that I know have a pretty decent vehement disgust looming in the air in more than just pockets. Here's the first one. When watching any "big" movie the thought of "was this fun?" is vital to the longevity of a movie like Deadpool 2. Not only was my giddiness consistent throughout, but Deadpool 2 felt like a legitimately exciting moment of breathless character growth for Wayde Wilson. This sort of made me benummbed, due to the fact I expected to go into the careless nature of its predecessor. Don't get me wrong it's still there but nowhere near as reckless. Does Deadpool 2 have problems? That's a big hell yes. Visually the movie is alarmingly hideous, the VFX work here is on another level of the "why and how" scale. With all it's flaws, Deadpool 2 is still charming, harmless, and somewhat fresh take and vitally fun movie in a genre that’s desperate for it all.
Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu
Is Laurentiu Ginghina selfish? It's hard to say no. It's even harder to say he's not entirely run on the energy of a massive ambitious passion of what he lost. Infinite Football may be a to detailed look into the psyche of not delusion but of desperate detail. Porumboiu honors Ginghina in listening to his struggle and determination to change THE worlds sport. We hear his motives, his rules, and the actual strides he's made to attempt to make the surrogate sport happen, and we hear this for too long at multiple points. It's a cramped and slightly sad watch as you watch what is no less than a deep struggle of self-importance.
96. The World Before Your Feet
Directed by Jeremy Workman
Here, there and everywhere is where you'll find Matt Green. The World Before Your Feet is a small slice of Green's journey of walking each and every street in New York City. All 8000 miles of it. While it's an extremely straightforward and at times falls into some technical shortcomings, The World Before Your Feet brings a reinvigorated otherworldly scope to a simple universal message. Every toe you move there's an entire culture, an entire world, hundreds of stories to discover all in one place that you may be in your whole life. Green as the subject puts in what I could say is no less than an admirable amount of effort not only in the walk, but also in the history that surrounds him. While it's set in New York City, this is an interchangeable story you can apply to anywhere, the tragedy, broken promises, love in unexpected places is all ringing relevant and will continue to for as long as life does. Unfortunately, we are left somewhat hanging as we don't get to see the end of Matt's journey, which was a major hope of mine to see the conclusion to such an incredible endeavor. Instead, we are left wondering, which street is next?
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As any cinephile will likely tell you Claire Denis and Juliette Binoche need little to no introduction. The French duo come together with a tight and reckless script with what is definitely familiar territory for Denis. Where Let The Sunshine In is an outlier from Denis' filmography is in its tone, whereas most of Denis' work is loud inside and out, here it's screaming on the inside while staying more restrained on the outside. Binoche not surprisingly plays Isabelle with a pureness that you would struggle to find any other actor do as perfectly. It's an incredibly complex character in a not so complex film that maybe glosses over more than it should.
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While it may tell a somewhat conventional tale and theres very little to expand that convention, unfortunately this conventional tale is true and happens more than anyone would like to see, Blaze is an energizing debut of director Ethan Hawk and lead Ben Dickey. Hawke takes his hand at directing, and he's clearly familiar with his control. Dickey is astounding as late country musician Blaze Foley, and it's more than just a heavy role, it's a versatile performance thats a head turner especially for a debut. With the help from some slick editing and just overall confidence, everyone in front and behind the camera deserves your full attention with whatever they tackle next.
93. Hale County This Morning, This Evening
The doc that's nothing short of an environmental powerhouse, Hale Country This Morning, This Evening is an observational, meditative and searingly authentic look at Hale County, Alabama. If you don't like airy docs, this might not be up your ally. To say Hale County This Morning, This Evening has a lot of breathing room would be a severe understatement. This is without a doubt a beautifully passionate and most of the time gorgeously shot look at the land and its people but its structureless feel can make a selective number of scenes linger for an entire childhood. Watching a small child run back and forth through a house is fine in the subtext of things but, making it go on for three minutes feels a bit unbalanced in a movie that's just above 70 minutes.
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While some spotty editing and an unbalanced script may keep Bodied from reaching its full potential, it's almost impossible to argue that Bodied is a gift wrapped in mesmeric energy and pure passion for the art of underground rap. Calum Worthy and Jackie Long both provide reserved bellicose performances that should provide a strong stepping stone to both futures. It's hard to ignore some elements or even characters that should be cut entirely out of the movie, but it's even harder to ignore the battle scenes that Bodied embodies with ease.
91. Jane Fonda In Five Acts
Sure it may be a one-sided look, but we also see the prodigious career of Jane Fonda. Fonda is pretty involved in the doc herself, but she's not too afraid to get personal, revealing a rocky path of support and let downs that lead her to become the revered actress, activist and yes, fitness icon she is today. Director Susan Lacy makes it damn sure that we get the full picture while keeping it on the rails to make it authentic. While not a genre-bender, Jane Fonda In Five Acts is a well-edited, honorable, detailed look into one of the loudest voices that will, at the very least, continue long into the next century.
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Directed by Xavier Beauvois
The battlefield is prioritized in war films more than frequently. This is where The Guardians stay far away from its contemporaries while staying far from the carnage. The Guardians is a subdued vie to keep the land and the people in it safe for those who come back and to honor those who can't see the future. The rural foggy French landscape is a slow burning and imposing look into the tireless effort of keeping a farm above the ground during the tumultuous WW1. Inconsistent pace keeps the back from truly excelling, but again the cinematography and the costume work is definitely nothing to scoff about.
89. Elvis Presley: The Searcher
Arguably one of the most famous people to ever live, so famous he can go by just his first name, Elvis gets a hefty two-part documentary scouring over every bit of every time in Presley's life. Part one is rich in its detail and has no problem taking its time with the come up. Part two also is rich in its detail but frolics over far too much, especially for the fact that part two takes place in the most complicated time in Presley's life. Part two covers death, life, his time in the army and an uncomfortably sad suppression that leaves you wondering what his career and life would’ve been like without it. It's an exceptionally well put together doc with great archival footage and great editing to boot but it easily could've and should've been three parts because, if you want the full picture there are a couple more places you'll need to visit along the way.
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88. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Directed by Desiree Akhavan
The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Boy Erased both tackled the same subject in gay conversion therapy, but its The Miseducation of Cameron Post that comes out as the more compelling look into the problematic blindness that many zealots still have today. Moretz and Gallagher Jr. both bring whats in the upper tier of performances in their respective careers, convincingly playing characters conflicted with themselves and everything around them. While the ending is rushed to a sweating extent and it’s less a than satisfying conclusion, for only being her second film, Akhavan brings so much to the table to be convincingly glued to see whatever she brings next.
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Wes Anderson continues his non-stop consistent quality going with his latest film and his second foray into animation. While I'd probably put Isle of Dogs on the low end of my Anderson preference list due to the undefined characters that just really exist, though they are brought up a bit by the excellent voice work, Isle of Dogs chokes you with the sheer amount of texture it brings to the table in the production design and cinematography specifically. Chief is the most well rounded Anderson feeling character and is great, but still, he's the only character like that here, this time around the dogs don't scream as loud as the fox.
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Speaking of gobsmacking cinematography and production design Luca Guadagningo's reimagining of the 1977 horror film Suspiria is pretty high on the cake for some the best of the year. Some of the imagery here will put you in a state of pseudo-comfort, and hey you signed up for it. Guadagnino directs with a floating command with support of a sticky elegant score from Thom Yorke, which is also a major highlight this year. Suspiria feels a bit overlong, and while I like Guadagnino's visual style he brings, I would have loved to see those colors from the original pop more, no doubt no though what we got suffices. Also Tilda Swinton.
85. Life and Nothing More
Directed by Antonio Mendez Esparza
The title describes it all Life and Nothing More is a harrowing look at Andrew, a teen on the bridge of maturity but all too relevant parental issues and struck down by the pressures of poverty. Life and Nothing More is an almost uncomfortably authentic look into someone not only trying to survive his surroundings but not succumbing to the things that could keep him there. Pacing wise this is a slog, probably the slowest movie I saw this year, but the performances (specifically Regina Williams who is in total control) and script are so tight that it's impossible to ignore.
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Directed By Kevin Macdonald
I've always had a soft spot for director Kevin Macdonald's documentaries, with his new and most focused documentary Whitney, Macdonald takes a pretty unfiltered and painful walk through Whitney Houston's troubled life to death journey. Massive shoutout to editor Sam Rice-Edwards for making this whole project come together not only is the pacing here solid but there are a few sensational time jumps where Houston's music is in the backdrop. It's done in a way that's epic, disturbing and at times may make your arm feel like a dirt road that hasn't been taken care of in a decade, this is the major reason Whitney stood out from plenty of other documentaries this year that missed the ride on the S.S. Interesting Editing. While some stuff is defiantly held back, Houston's story is a profoundly troubling and suppressive tale that only one can hope that if eventually when someone reaches a peak so high, you don't always have to watch them fall.
Director Boots Riley debuts a socioeconomic and sometimes too ambitious for its own good with one of if not the boldest movie of the year. Sorry to Bother You struggles hard coming to an end, running 20 minutes longer than it needs to and overall the third act is pretty inconsistent, not entirely undermining its message, but the way it goes seemed forcefully absurd. That being said, the first two acts are so intriguing in its lurid tone and progressive visual flair that Sorry to Bother You stays so far away from anything on this list. Tessa Thompson and Lakeith Stanfield both bring confidence, and Armie Hammer excels in the small role he's got. Lot's of horse movies on this list.
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82. Three Identical Strangers
One of the more invigorating and frustrating stories the year was Three Identical Strangers. A set of triplet brothers get separated at birth for absurd reasons the film itself can't even come to the conclusion of why it happened. Three Identical Strangers shines in its personal story going over each of the siblings in pretty great depths, and this is another doc that has some pretty inventive and just all around tight editing. It's when Three Identical Strangers gets into more prominent themes like the idiosyncratic fame and without getting too spoiler-y the scientific aspect of it all, is when you start to feel its a bit too thin. This easily could've been another hour, and I would have been all ears because what's here while at times unbalanced is genuinely shocking.
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81. John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection
Directed by Julien Faraut
The patient doc covering the career of the short-mood precise tennis legend John McEnroe is a slightly repetitive, glued position on the art of cinema and sport. There's a pile of great footage here that's done with pinpoint desire while also trying to distance itself from obtaining a broken lens. McEnroe doesn't really chat about the content on display here (which I wish he would've), but the enhanced guerrilla style we see on the restored 16mm footage is urgent, elegant and tense. Tennis fans should flock out to watch this if they have any interest on the psyche of one of the best thats ever played.
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80. They Shall Not Grow Old
Directed by Peter Jackson
They Shall Not Grow Old is WW1 at its most brutal. Peter Jackson's doc is a technical marvel that's a new stepping stone in archival restoration. At times the narration can feel a bit disorienting and at times can be hard to grasp on to the people who fought and instead be sucked into the violence that's put before you. The imagery here is more of a graphic gut punch than anything else and its a look at WW1 that feels necessary, especially as we get further and further from when these battles happened. While Jackson's goal seems clear to honor those who were on the front, it's hard to grapple onto one individual story, and you're forced to look at this from a broader human perspective. That broader look does allow you to take in the visuals and those are worthy enough for all emotions to rush in.
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