Favorite Films I Saw in 2018

I see a lot of films every year, and as you know, I tweet a review after each one I see for the first time. Below are my Top 12 favorite films I saw for the first time in 2018 – the calendar year, so some are represented in last year’s Oscars, some in this year’s. But above all, I highly recommend all of them. Hope you enjoy(ed) them as much as I did.

Though I’m keeping my original star ranking, I’m re-ranking them based on the benefit of hindsight, so take them with the usual grain of a grain of salt. I’ve also included every film I ranked four stars and above in the “Honorable Mention” category, for those who are looking for something to check out on on demand tonight.

Finally – I saw a whopping SEVEN of these films at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. If you love film, a trip to TIFF needs to be on your bucket list. I’ve noted which ones I saw up north. If you’d like to read more about my time there, check out my blog piece from September.

Editor’s Note: This is my 400th blog post. I’m pretty proud of myself. #JustSayin

TOP 12 OF 2018

12. #MissionImpossibleFallout is a damned fine entry into the M:I cannon. @TomCruise and the crew are at their best, with fantastic set pieces, and a sleek story with just enough twists. Cool callbacks to the previous films, 1 in particular. This is what summer films should be. 4/5*

11. #AvengersInfinityWar is the film that we all deserved, everyone who watched, discussed and dissected the films, everyone who worked on them, everyone who just likes popcorn flicks. Making the villain the lead character was a masterstroke. Hemmsworth took it to another level. 4/5*

10. #Wildlife I’m struggling a bit with my reaction to this film, because parts of it hit way too close to home and; are so perfectly thought out & executed that I’m not sure if I’m reacting to my own life or the film. Which I guess is the point, right? Mulligan should see a nom. 4.5/5* (TIFF)

9. #FirstMan Damien Chazelle has huge balls as a filmmaker; his gritty, in-your-face style could completely blow up in hands of a less-talented director, but he pulls it off. He manages to add drama to a story we all know as well as make it feel personal. Gosling amazes. 4.5/5* (TIFF)

8. #ITonya is unquestionably one of the best films I’ve seen this #Oscar season, and it’s a crime it didn’t get nominated for Best Picture. Robbie was transformative; Janney and Stan were amazing. The story was heartbreaking yet funny. The photography and editing top notch. 4.5/5*

7. #PhantomThread This one really sneaks up on you. It starts strange, but it subtlety builds while also continuing to evolve into a compelling meditation on relationships. Great detail, both in the writing and in front of the camera. Fantastic performances and photography. 4.5/5*

6. #22July is an absolute must-see. One of the best pieces on terrorism, and how to beat them, that I’ve ever seen, which is hugely important in today’s xenophobic climate. Gritty, honest performances from its leads which make it hard to watch at times. Which, it should be. 4.5/5*

5. #TheOldManandtheGun It’s fitting, I suppose, that Redford’s last movie is an homage to his most career defining role: The Sundance Kid. It’s like if you asked Taylor Sheridan to make a comedic solo film for Sundance. Redford has a great time, and so does the audience. 4.5/5* (TIFF)

4. #LifeItself is a masterpiece of 21st century American cinema. Yes, it’s blatantly emotionally manipulative, but so what? So is life, which is the damned point. Every performance is perfect, the twists plentiful, the photography well done and the story just fantastic. 5/5* (TIFF)

3. #LastFlagFlying Just another amazing outing by Linklater. Cranston delivers the performance of his career in the deceptively deep, heartbreaking, hilarious, heartfelt road trip film. Hits on so many points without you even realizing it. Best film of 2017, hands down. 5/5*

2. #Roma is pure poetry on film. Every sight, every sound, every action aims to build and add to your experience. A true slice of life story, so expect a deliberate pace. Hard to watch at times. Cuarón has crafted himself a masterpiece. 5/5* (TIFF)

1. #GreenBook is a truly special film. The chemistry between Mortensen and Ali sparkles throughout, elevating the already-terrific script. It’s the funniest serious movie I’ve seen in years – perhaps ever – hitting on some significant social issues while laughing my ass off. 5/5* (TIFF)

HONORABLE MENTION
#AQuietPlace You’ve seen this construct before, but you’ve seldom seen it done so well. From the opening shot, this film is meticulously crafted through tremendous visuals and the thrilling, visceral performances from everyone involved. Krasinski proves himself triple threat 4/5*

#Annihilation is one of the most challenging movies – thematically – that I’ve seen in quite some time. It’d be easy to drop this into the typical sci-fi tropes, but it doesn’t belong there. Garland’s directing is quickly equaling his writing; a return to form for Portman. 4/5*

#TheBalladOfBusterScruggs gives us the full range of The Brothers Coen, from the dark & twisted to the funny & quirky, joyful, mournful, creepy & all the shades of grey in between, with a cast of true heavyweight thespians along for the ride. @netflix and chill – Coen style. 4/5*

#Creed2 Ain’t no sophomore slump, rather, builds on the reboot’s origins and really makes them come alive. MBJ comes into his own as a star, and the chemistry among the cast crackles throughout the variety of compelling themes presented. The fight scenes were breathtaking. 4/5*

#TheFloridaProject Somewhere soon in a textbook, a student will look up “Slice of Life Film” & it’ll show this as an example. Paints such an intricate portrait of the life of its subjects that it could be mistaken for a documentary. Compelling, heartbreaking, superb acting. 4/5*

#TheFrontRunner One word describes this one: kinetic. From the oner to to open to the clap and beat music, the snappy Sorkin-esque dialogue and the ever-shifting energy, this film is a heck of a ride, though it does drag in a few portions. The story is the star here. 4/5* (TIFF)

#Mudbound In a weaker narrative, its split focus would be its undoing, but here it just adds to the strength and power of the story it has to tell. Rachel Morrison’s photography is stunning, and the entire cast just fantastic. It’s a crime it’s not nominated for Best Pic. 4.5/5*

#OnlytheBrave was surprisingly subtle. They sneak up on you; these characters. You think they’re not spending enough time on character development but that just ain’t true. Not a false note in the performances. They explained enough without being expository. Stunning visuals 4/5*

#ShortTerm12 Beautiful character study, which does a great job revealing them over the course of the film without seeming obvious about it. Brie Larson is amazing, even better than she was in Room. The story is unsure of its direction, much like the characters themselves. 4/5*

#Unsane was one of the creepiest and intellectually scary films I’ve ever seen. Soderbergh does a masterful job building the suspense and keeping us off balance, with a mix of clever plot devices and cinematography. Claire Foy owns every inch of her character. 4/5*