2018’s Best of the Best :Top 10 Films of the Year
By Scott Kurland
2018 was a busy year and, sadly, not a great one for films. Usually I do three lists for my end of the year wrap-up: Best, Worst, and Hidden gems. However, I simply didn’t have enough to create separate hidden gems and best-of lists, so this year, I combined them. Keep in mind, this list is steeped in personal opinions-my own to be exact. So take seat and let’s talk about the best films of the last year.
10. First Reformed
This film snuck in under the radar back in May, and left a huge impression on me thanks to the collaboration of Paul Schrader and Ethan Hawke. I am a huge fan of Hawke, something I have made made known in previous reviews. In this film, he shines bright as the enigmatic Pastor Ernst Toller. Schrader has always been a dark director/writer, having penned “Taxi Driver,” “Bringing Out The Dead,” and directed“Affliction.” “First Reformed” is his best film in over a decade; taking a man of faith down a rabbit hole of conflict and forcing him into the role of detective. I saw this back in May and it followed me for seven months. I feel that Hawke deserves award recognition, but that may not happen. Even so, “First Reformed” is one of the darkest most powerful films of 2018 and the perfect film to get this list going.
9. Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse
I’m not surprised that one of (if not the best) “Spider-Man” film of all time is an animated movie. It honestly makes sense. One the greatest “Batman” movies is the animated “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.” I think this is the first year in quite some time that a Pixar film hasn’t made my top ten. I loved “The Incredibles 2,” but “Spider-Verse” floored me from beginning to end. I hope this the film to sweep award season in all the animation categories, including the “Annie Awards.” What makes “Spider-Verse” one of the best films of the year is that it turns the spotlight away from Peter Parker and places Mile Morales, Gwen Stacey, and Peni Parker and yes…Spider-Ham center stage. (Granted, we also get post-divorce Peter Parker and works marvelously). This is one of the most impressive animated movies I have ever seen; combining classic 2D animation, CGI, and a style that makes every frame look like it’s straight out of a comic book page. Filled with laughs, drama, action and heart-this is the “Spider-Man” I’ve been waiting for.
8. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Who would have thought that the documented life of Fred Rogers would become one of the most moving cinematic experiences I’ve had in years? What makes “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” one of the best films of the year is that we see the true vulnerability of man we all thought we knew. Fred Rogers never had a dark side per-se. I’m referring more to a depression within Rogers that we never knew existed. Director Morgan Neville explores this in great detail. How could someone that the world loved so dearly be filled with such doubts? That’s right, Mr. Rogers doubted himself just like you or I, and that’s why this is the number 8 film of the year. Mr. Rogers reared four decades of children through the good times and the bad. He taught them to read, to love, and helped them to better understand the world around them.
7. Eighth Grade
Bo Burnham does not seem like a man who could thoughtfully tell the story of a 13 year old girl navigating her final year of Middle School. I mean, how could a 30 year old man have such insight? “Eighth Grade” is one of the most captivating films of the year specifically because of the performance of Elsie Fisher. Fisher gives us a heartbreakingly beautiful portrayal of a socially awkward girl who is eager for a fresh start. We see some pretty awful things from Kayla’s POV including the indifference of other girls and an encounter with a high school boy she wishes to forget. Josh Hamilton, starring as Kayla’s well-meaning father, delivers one of the best speeches of the year. I still can’t get past how much I loved Burnham’s first directorial efforts. “Eighth Grade” is not just one of the best films of the year, but it should also be required viewing for all students going into high school.
6. A Quiet Place
God Bless Jim Halpert-I mean John Krasinski. On paper “A Quiet Place” should not be a good film. It’s a simple story, the premise has some flaws, and let us not forget 90% of the film is silent. Then you watch this movie and are left awestruck by what you saw. “A Quiet Place” has stuck with me since March because of its originality. The world that Krasinski sets in motion is the closest I’ve seen to storytelling perfection. On closer examination “A Quiet Place” is a film that addresses family loss, growth, and acceptance of their respective fates. The Abbott family has adapted to a silent life whereas the other families we see in the film give up and scream for death. “A Quiet Place” unearthed feelings of great unease and sorrow, all while winning me over. I think that’s why this film is so high on the list, because it’s a winner.
5. Black Panther
This film is proof that Marvel can do anything. Not only did “Black Panther” break all sorts of box office records, but it made the first real award-worthy film of the MCU. I know a lot of fans will disagree with me, but “Black Panther” is an Oscar-worthy film. Whether it is Michael B. Jordan’s electrifying performance as Erik Killmonger, or Ryan Coogler’s direction and script; this film flies high. I always loved how Marvel was not afraid to take risks on unfamiliar characters from its less popular comics. While I always loved the King of Wakanda, many didn’t even know he existed. Chadwick Boseman is the perfect T’Challa, and this is the first MCU hero that might not have any flaws. That’s right, I said it! If you think about it…its the elders who messed up, and it’s T’Challa who pays for it. He’s not oblivious like Thor, nor is he cocky like Stark. He’s the King. I never usually put a Marvel movie on this list, but it’s the Black Panther. How could I not?
4. Hearts Beat Loud
I’ve been singing this film’s praises for months, no pun intended. Never has a filmed moved me the way Brett Haley’s “Hearts Beat Loud” did. I am a sucker for a good father-daughter story, but it’s not just the story… it’s the heart. Kiersey Clemons breaks out of this film in a star-making performance. I’ve loved Clemons since the movie “Dope,” but she is truly remarkable in this film. I never thought that a movie about starting a family band would have captivated me the way this movie did. This is a film that I have watched many times since its release. There’s nothing new that I can say, because I’ve spoken at length about this movie, and I’ll continue to do so.
3. A Star is Born
I didn’t write a review for this movie when I saw it months ago for one simple reason; I had nothing new to say. As soon as “A Star Is Born” was released, it seemed like audiences and critics alike were loving this film, and not just because Bradley Cooper was sitting in the directors chair . I don’t know why I love this film so much, I mean there’s three other films that are all practically the same story. You have a fading star (Cooper) discover a new talent(Lady Gaga) and must come to terms with his irrelevance as his leading lady becomes an icon. What I liked about this version is that Cooper takes the male lead and gives him depth. In the past we got generic Kris kristofferson or James Mason. Cooper adds realism and pain to Jackson which is refreshing. As for Lady Gaga as an actress, what can I say? A Star Is Born.
I can’t talk at lengthabout Alfonso Cuaron’s masterpiece that is Roma for one simple reason: You need to see it. And there’s no reason you aren’t watching it because it’s a Netflix movie. Cuaron’s look at a family in crisis is stunning. I never thought that Cuaron could top himself after making “Y Tu Mama Tambien.” I was wrong. Whether it’s the gorgeous black and white cinematography or Cuaron’s passion for his characters; this film soars high. Once again, I can’t talk much about the film because I want you all to watch it on Netflix. You’ll know what a special film it is within the first five minutes.
Initially, I couldn’t decide what film was better Roma or my number one pick “BLACKkKLANSMAN.” I don’t know if I’m somewhat biased due to my love of 70s Blaxploitation cinema, or because I love this collaboration of Spike Lee and Jordan Peele. “BLACKkKLANSMAN” is a film that took multiple viewings for me to bring it to the top of the list. Originally this was my number five pick, but after re-watching the movie over and over again, I couldn’t shake what a masterpiece this film is. “BLACKkKLANSMAN” depicts the slightly true, slightly exaggerated story of Ron Stallworth, an African-American Colorado Detective who infiltrated the KKK and rose through the ranks. It’s hard to believe that this is John David Washington’s first leading role, not just because his dad is Denzel Washington, but because he’s a star. Washington is incredible as Stallworth; a realistic man trying to change an intolerant world. What makes “BLACKkKLANSMAN” the best film of the year for me is the story and performances, especially from Adam Driver. Kylo Ren truly is one of the greatest actors working today. Driver and Washington have a chemistry that harkens back to Redford and Newman, and that makes for a better movie. “BLACKkKLANSMAN” is the best film of 2018, whether it is awarded at Oscar time will be determined soon.