Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Roma is the most important film of 2018. While it didn't walk home with the almighty trophy, in the end, it's hard to argue that Alfonso Cuaron's didn't shift heads on numerous fronts. Netflix's film division felt finally legitimized, and a much broader audience got exposed to modern black and white film making and just international film as a whole. This is all a win-win for the industry, and thankfully Roma backs up its own importance with immense quality. Cuaron is a quintuple threat, directing, writing, producing, editing, and even doing the cinematography. All these are unsurprisingly remarkably consistent, and its evident Roma is so much more than just personal blip to Cuaron, Roma is his passions and his growths wrapped into one. Yalitza Aparicio delivers a radiance so poignant and so epically towering that her name and the word "debut" will never mix together and be believable when talking about Roma. Roma is an aggressively relevant delicate moment, for yesterday, for today and especially for tomorrow. While it may be impossible to tell now, the odds are on Roma's side for being known as the lavishly illustrious catalyst that rushed in an all-new wave of the industry.
38. A Bread Factory Part Two: Walk with Me A while
I really thought about clumping these two films together as I did with the other two-parter films on this list but alas, I couldn't. Specifically due to both parts of A Bread Factory are distinct from one another, while they may follow the same narrative the vibrant commentary from both feels like the heart and soul and Walk with Me a While is the soul. Walk with Me a While takes elements of musicals into account which For the Sake of Gold doesn't tackle at all, Walk with Me a While is spontaneously forceful is its view on how art can bring energy to the poetic sense, revitalizing those who never believed. Wang's visual style on Walk with Me a While feels clearer than the first part, while the traditional aesthetic remains intact, the rough edges that brought so much character to For the Sake of Gold isn't nearly as prominent. If you have a Criterion Collection going, then you should have no issue fawning over either part of A Bread Factory cause it's real hard to think of any film that feels so Criterion than Walk with Me a While.
A Bread Factory Part Two: Walk with Me A while Will release on platforms and Physical in the fall of 2019
37. A Bread Factory Part One: For the Sake of Gold
As I said, each part of A Bread Factory is either the heart or the soul and For the Sake of Gold is the heart to it all. A dialogue rich pinpointed attack on the difficulties at making any form of art freely. Economic priorities and lack of faith in ambition centralize For the Sake of Gold. Wang's piebald group of characters are noisy and balanced, making them corkingly difficult to not wrap your arms around them with a varying amount of strength. The rubric visuals of For the Sake of Gold harken back to a stiffer time, a time that still resonates an enchanting warmth, not only in art from that period but in the art that's being produced here. Both parts to A Bread Factory are epically echt films, quirky suppressed tales of empowering struggles to make the future loud and proud. Hard to argue that it wasn’t successful.
A Bread Factory Part One: For the Sake of Gold will release on platforms and Physical in the fall of 2019
Horses may have been the most prominent living subjects in movies, but the skateboard rules the land of the inanimate object subject and Minding the Gap may be the centerpiece for the zeitgeist of the culture. The penchant feeling of adoring the board and the intimate social structure of those who roll by your side is captured brilliantly by newcomer Bing Liu. Liu also has no issue interrogating himself in the picture, spanning from abuse, poverty, and adapting to growth, skating is proven to be a vital form of escapism that becomes harder and harder to achieve. Minding the Gap feels like an effortless stunt, some pinpointed camera work and musical cues add to the aesthetic of the world the three boys were destined to tread, Liu's journey is, at its core, a freshly honest pure self-reflection and even purer curiosity of mindfulness.
Directed by Alice Rohrwacher
The desired effect of being helpful is puzzling in Happy as Lazzaro, the need to be needed, and the satisfaction of accomplishment are both finely balanced in Italian fable. Alice Rohrwacher’s lavish vision on it all, while at times can be a bit heavy-handed in its symbolism, is supremely wholesome. Adriano Tardiolo gives an overwhelmingly charming turn as Lazzaro, a somewhat stiff soul with a profoundly comedic energy. The production and art design reach levels of borderline spirituality with a screenplay that can change on a whim, and it does many times, and those many times should not work, but even then it still feels cohesive. As the unknown rewards of pleasure appear in Happy as Lazzaro, the mystery of Lazzaro's happiness inducts itself in the realm of soaring magic, never to be seen but always to be heard.
Directed by Crystal Moselle
The brisk execution of the fear of hesitation in Skate Kitchen gets structural support from socially powerful distinct character. Director Crystal Moselle takes a subdued approach to the flamboyancy of skating to focus strictly on the characters, specifically following Camille's (Rachelle Vinberg) introduction into a more weathered group that's been used to the volatile nature of the sense of community. Camille's intricacies are alone worth the price of admission to it all, dealing with the more complex understanding of self-consciousness. Skate Kitchen is an uncompromising and honorable take on a culture and its effect on sprouting into adulthood.
Marilyn Ness' sharp bubble pops with visceral visuals in the searing look at street violence in Charm City. The city of Baltimore struggles in as catalysts of human service attempt to make living at least comfortable yet, racial tensions and territorial spouts are floating reminders it won't happen overnight. Charm City is not only subjectively spellbinding, but the guerilla way the camera works here will stop you in your tracks, these are sights straight out of action films, yet Charm City gets so close to the chaos that tension feels like second nature. While Charm City may make you sick to your stomach, especially if the all too common violent similarities is close to home, there is a light at the end of the tunnel that citizens are striving to achieve to no longer make this a trend and just for that alone, there's no reason to lose hope.
Directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios
Similar in subject to American Animals, Alonso Ruizpalacios' Museo takes a more mature and cultural approach to desire. The theft of some of Mexico's most prominent patrimonies is told in a grandly tension-filled fashion, brimming with stiff greed and an innocence sucking screenplay that is able to somehow sneak legitimately humorous moments throughout. The slick energy behind Museo's camerawork, music and especially its editing is a far cry from mostly everything released in not only 2018 but just in recent years in general. Museo is one of the more kinetically creative heist films to surface as for late, a superb ensemble and an honest conclusion build this world of 1980s' Mexico into one culturally rich local worth visiting.
Directed by Xavier Legrand
I went in blind when sitting down to watch Custody for the first time, little did I know that right before pressing the play button that it would be the last time I would feel any sort of comfort for the next few days. Custody is a wicked look a the turmoil of family dissolution and domestic abuse, and while Custody may stay technically flat, director Xavier Legrand decision to strictly focus on the performances and screenplay make for what is nothing short of terrifying. Denis Ménochet is the majority of the fear that wafts off the screen, whether on or off screen his character Antonie is broodingly present. Legrand knows this; quiet moments are even quieter when the characters aren't the only ones terrified about what could come next and as a viewer, the louder moments make for scenes of straight anxiety, hoping people will quiet the fuck down. This is just genius psychological sound work that for a movie like Custody should never go underappreciated. Custody is a supremely important film that can be difficult to watch for many if you think you can expose yourself to it, do it.
30. Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda
Directed by Stephen Nomura Schible
Ryuichi Sakamoto is a consistently revered musician, not only staying in sync with his homeland's precarious history but in Coda Sakamoto deal with what's quite possibly his own and his nations biggest struggles yet. Sakamoto was bought even further into the public eye after Fukushima, as his political involvement increased his health began to decline eventually succumbing to a cancer diagnosis. Coda highlights the humble peace during this time that Sakamoto seems steadfast on, but once death stands in front of him, reignition kicks in. During the time of sickness Sakamoto puts out one of his most beautiful albums Async and composes one of the decades most pristine scores with The Revenant. But it's in Coda's most silent moments where Sakamoto gleefully dives into the soundscape where you truly see what it means to be a creative juggernaut.
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Directed by Russell Harbaugh
Russell Harbaugh's debut dual character study is a depressively honest love story that proves love is a meticulously built puzzle and when a piece goes missing, its never the complete again. Love and death are two of the most commonly explored subjects in all forms of art, while they both are stunning in the execution, it's only when a new perspective is expressed when either can become exciting. Love After Love tackles both of these with both of the titular characters trying desperately to avoid repeating past trials, to trying aggressively to latch on to the benefits of previous warmth and acceptance. Harbaugh & Eric Mendelsohn's screenplay is escalated tenfold with dynamic leading performances from Chris O'Dowd and Andie MacDowell, O'Dowd's performance specifically is the best of his career showing a range of humiliation and aggression we haven't seen from him before. Love After Love is one of the more expressively hushed films of the year, even with that it and the audience remain transfixed on its regretful nature of moving on and staying staunchly in love.
Directed by Affonso Ochoa & João Dumans
While many feel mislead by the atmospheric opener, our narrative carrier André turns the story into a second-hand novelistic experiance. Araby is a character study for the working class - Brazil and its citizen's hardships never really get the sense of exhalation that we desperately want to see studied in Cristiano. Structurally Araby is purposeful in its bleak outcome, and while Cristiano vocalizes little, his expressions relay the pain of a resilient outcast. Leonardo Feliciano cinematography is framed with a silky sheen that gives a nice contrast to the gruff downwards gradation that everyone is attempting to escape. Araby may take a while to sit with you, but when it does, it will universally attach to everyone you meet.
Eight years after rocketing Jennifer Lawerence to stardom with Winters Bone director Debra Granik comes back with another survival story to create a new star with Leave No Trace. As we follow the father and daughter pair or Will and Tom the powers that be interrupt the reclusive lifestyle the two have decided and grown with after Will's despondency with society becomes personal. Thankfully Leave No Trace distances itself from most off the gird films and is much more grounded and realized in reality, Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin McKenzie are absolutely dynamite with and without each other. Granik has found a diamond in the rough with McKenzie who gives a gobsmackingly rich performance full of distant curiosity for everyone and everything. Throughout, Will and Tom get obscenely honest character progression that's a far cry from movie magic and by the of Leave No Trace few questions need answers and the ones that do the path is up to you to decide.
26. Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts
Comparisons to Tarantino will surely be made when chatting about Mouly Surya's pulpy revenge film Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts - the surreal and gratuitous tale briskly stands on its own ground as a culturally significant film for Indonesian cinema. Technically speaking Marlina the Murderer is one of the more stunning pieces of film of 2018, the graceful cinematography and the composition in the score and production design are drool-worthy. Surya's unnerving and satisfying stylistic direction is an ideal way to handle such a subject, rather than being exploitive on the matter the film is an expletive with a laser sight to the head of power. Hopefully, after more are exposed to Marlina the Murderer that an oath will be made among cinephiles to glare at all Surya does.
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25. Mission Impossible - Fallout
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
Over the past decade, the action genre has delusioned itself into thinking, "Now this is good action!" needless to say, the genre and consistency go together about as well as sheep's milk and gummy bears. That is with the exception of the Mission: Impossible, a series that so far this decade has set multiple standards for American action and with the sixth entry Mission: Impossible - Fallout the streak continues with the biggest crater the franchise has ever left. Christopher McQuarrie directs the shit out of what are easily the most grandiose and practical set pieces we've seen since Mad Max: Fury Road. Sure motorcycle chases are cool (and they sound exemptional here) and yeah there's an exhilarating helicopter chase but, how about risking it all for HALO jump for the silver screen. This is all a testament to the pristine and passionate work that goes into the stunt work in film, a sorely neglected field to this day. Strangely though, and maybe for the first time in the M:I series the characters are the true columns that hold up Fallout, and really it's the women of the film who finally get the much-needed attention and development that the series needed. Rebecca Ferguson is thankfully given more room to expand her character and proves she is still the best thing to happen to the six Tom Cruise run fests since, well, Tom Cruise. With McQuarrie & Co. having two more Mission: Impossible films coming down the pipe it's hard to see how Fallout will be topped - yet again we have said that five times now.
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Directed by Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen is one of the best filmmakers working today, each one of his films has set a new standard for contemplative art in cinema. six years after best picture win with 12 Years A Slave my fears and expectations for Widows were justified, this is McQueen's most mainstream film to date, even in saying that my worries were tamed after the first five minutes - this is much more than just a digestible heist movie. Sheer abundance in the craft of Widows is nearly endless - this is a heist movie with class, striking despondency and desperation for independence. One of the most potent across the board ensembles is on display here, and while everyone is superb, it's Daniel Kaluuya and Elizabeth Debicki who both deliver career-defining performances here, the kind that McQueen seems to obtain with ease from most actors. Sean Bobbit and Joe Walker are back for there fourth collaboration with McQueen, and it's hard to see why these three wouldn't work together - the energy in the first five minutes alone is evident enough on how perfect the chemistry is with the direction, cinematography, and editing. I would've loved to see Widows expanded into something like a mini-series with the same crew but, what we got is a cabinet full of talent and another step in a hot streak that will go down in cinematic history as one of the best and most consistent body of work we've seen.
Directed by Robert Greene
The past and the present pits itself against suppressive anger with its sprawling, dramatic recreations of one of the United States hidden tragedies in Bisbee '17. An immense amount of care is thrown on screen not only as a tribute to the victims of the Bisbee Deportation but an eerie warning to not repeat it. The recreations of the event are the central sail, achieved 100 years later by the town citizens, many of whom are descendants of the victims. As Bisbee grew farther from torn families, the deportation became a taboo in some households, a permanent stain that caused rivalries among folk. Robert Greene is a continued force in the genre, giving new light to fictionalizing non-fiction when the subject retains an omnipresence throughout. Cinematographer Jarred Alterman needs major applause here as well, his seamless versatility when switching between the two tones is fervent to the extreme. The nerves of Bisbee '17 oozes with distressful relevancy that gets even worse when you see that the '17 in the title is far from 2017, the town of Bisbee may be the only one prepared for the next round.
22. Spider-man: Into The Spider-Verse
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Pater Ramsey & Rodney Rothman
A week prior to the release, I had wholly forgotten that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was even in existence. Fatigue was the culprit, and I hadn't even a second thought - I was about sick of the spandex train. My expectations for Into the Spider-Verse continued to be muted up until the first frame. From that first frame, we are reminded about the wonders of animation and shown a palette that won't quit. The faux 3D animation on display is nothing short of invigorating, comic book dots nostalgically engross the screen making for instant eye candy, and this bold look is what sold me in a blink of an eye. And sure the animation is gobsmacking and arguably the selling point for Into the Spider-Verse, but an unforgettable thick heated sheet of character moments glue itself deep within even the coldest hearts. For all the times the web slinger's story has been recycled Into the Spider-Verse seems like such a risky departure from what anyone would consider the "comfort zone." This is a fever dream of spider-men, women, and pig that balances well-executed villains and time travel that somehow isn't stale. Arriving at Into the Spider-Verse with no expectations was the most appropriate thing I could've done. Here I thought more coal would keep the never-ending train going but, coming out not only was this the most vibrant Spider-Man film to date, it also ended up being the one of the finest in the genre, a new pioneer in superhero and action focused animation films that will make me keep buying tickets for a few more rides.
Watch Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Directed by Paul Schrader
A sober meditation wafts over the screen while divine questions turn into devilish realities in writer-director Paul Schader's latest. The bulk of Schader's acclaim rose from his three collaborations with Scorsese, none of which landed him an Oscar nomination, and while that remains true for First Reformed, it's still easy to get pissed off about the snub. Transcending with precision with what is possibly the most aggressive form of a midlife crisis, the screenplay tackles a glance and a dilution into the unknown, covered by a height flexed by the 1:37 aspect ratio in the cinematography. Schader's screenplay carries wholesome hopelessness, open-minded banter between Ernest (Ethan Hawke) and Micheal (Philip Ettinger) is near pitch perfect and the conclusion of the story of these two broods over each of them far past the run time of the film itself. Hawke diverges into another realm with his performance as the quizzical pastor, embodying himself into spiritual high tide, and to say Hawke gives an impressive performance feels like an annual celebration at this point, but the strain displayed here needs to be commended in Hawke's career and noted by peers.
What may be the final horse movie on the list (if you wanna get literal) The Rider takes a touch as nails and contemplative approach to its fictionalized true story. Director Chole Zhao takes the events that happened to Brady Jandreau, his family and the string of locals and puts the real-life people on screen to be able to tell their own story; it's the kind of personal space that most directors struggle to find, even if it's a middle ground. Jandreau's brilliance is self-evident, his restraint not only in the narrative itself but in deciding to open this story up to anyone watching is the palpable core to The Rider's pacing. Joshua James Richards cinematography is another elegant example in his short filmography of how he's continuing to change the way we look at the empty and hardy landscapes, going from a glance as you pass them on a long road to a long glare of pure reshaping of thoughtful fresh air when opening up a curtain. The Rider is a symptom of nearly every movie in the western genre of the past decade, one that gloriously meanders to a head nearly every scene - time will tell if it's the western cure.