The thing about movies is that most of the good ones come out at the end of the year, when everyone's trying to go for that Oscar. My list usually solidifies around March or April, when I've seen all the ones I think have a shot at being on this list. Having said that, this preliminary list is so good it could be a definitive one. Walang tapon, as local parlance would put it. I highly recommend you try and watch everything here. If you haven't seen Roma, at least it's only a matter of clicking on Netflix now.
Kip Oebanda's Liway was the perfect movie for 2018's insanely tumultuous political climate. It takes a step back to say that beyond all our online bickering and soapboxing there are actual people whose lives were consumed by Martial Law. It doesn't feel like propaganda, because it never really goes out of its way to say that Martial Law is bad, and I also think that's why it's so effective. This is the role of Glaiza de Castro's career. When she stands up to tell another prisoner, "Ako si Kumander Liway," my hair stood on end.
9. FIRST MAN
Damien Chezelle nails Neil Armstrong's trip to the moon with First Man because of these directorial decisions: to skip major excitement points and instead focus on what some might call mundane; to not color Neil Armstrong with an engaging personality; and, my personal favorite, to shoot this movie like Stan Brakhage would. I'd call Chazelle a director to watch out for, but if you haven't been doing that since Whiplash, you've been terribly missing out.
BlacKkKlansman ranks up there with my favorite Spike Lee joints ever. It feels like a film directed by a long-dormant director who’s just been jolted awake. Yes, it’s one-sided. Yes, it’s didactic. Yes, it’s simplistic. Yes, it’s a fantasy film that shows racism pays. But you know what? FUCK AMERICA. This is a film we’re all entitled to.
The first 25 minutes are the strongest in this film, especially the Black Panther speech by Corey Hawkins in his only appearance, which made me tear up so early in this movie.
7. UTOYA: JULY 22
In the middle of 2018 Paul Greengrass made a film called 22 July, about the 2011 Norway terrorist attacks. That was not the best film about that incident that came out this year. Instead, it was Erik Poppe's homegrown thriller Utøya: July 22. Many have said that the film's one-shot-terror-as-it-unravels style cheapens the event, but I feel that it only makes it more real. At times, the camera hides to dodge bullets, or falls on the ground taking nothing as action around it happens. The catch? It's not a found footage film, and as such no one is supposed to be holding the camera. Let how awesome that is sink in for a minute.
It’s not lose-sleep-over-it scary, but that isn’t a bad thing. At this point I think the more interesting horror films are those that explore darker ideas without the need to elicit jump-scares. Toni Collette, as always, proves herself one of Hollywood’s finest actresses, and I really hope she gets an Oscar nom for this. I appreciate how heavy the Lynch influence is in this movie, and if you know and love Ann Dowd, the movie has a bunch of unintentionally funny moments. All hail Paemon.
This movie is a lot of things. It's a realist black and white tragedy. It's a study on family, and what that really means. It's a quirky magical realism Mexican movie. It's the spiritual return of Federico Fellini. There's so much going on through Cuaron's mastery of mise-en-scène that it will probably take a few viewings to really get what's going on— but the results will haunt you. Roma especially hits close to home, so much so that it feels like Alfonso Cuaron made one of the best Filipino films of all time.
4. COLD WAR
Pure cinema. Every frame a beautiful photograph, from realist post-war Poland to the Doisneau-esque portrayal of '50s Paris. Tomasz Kot exudes 50s Hollywood stardom, and Joanna Kulig is such a free spirit that it sometimes feels the frame can no longer contain her.
3. WIDOWS (STEVE MCQUEEN) - It's always my favorite thing when prestige film auteurs suddenly do genre films, and 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen is a welcome addition to this elite group. It takes an auteur like Steve McQueen to turn this from poor man's Heat to a rich man's Ocean's Eight. Decisions like filming a conversation outside a tinted car as it travels from the projects to a rich household, or having Viola Davis hold her terrier everywhere she goes are just so bold but works so well.
And the cast! Best ensemble of the year. Who is Elizabeth Debicki? I want to see her in every movie from now on. Michelle Rodriguez hasn't been this magnetic since Girlfight. And Daniel Kaluuya is such a good villain that you really just hate him so much you want someone to lobotomize him and transfer his brain into some old white dude's body.
2. YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (LYNNE RAMSAY) - This is Drive (Or any righteous vengeance by a sad man film, for that matter) directed by a woman. Lynne Ramsay takes the genre and spins it on its head, ridding it of violence and vindication to expose what remains: despair, loneliness, emptiness.
Having said that, I also can’t think of any better music + image combination right now. Take the dialogue out and the combination of Jonny Greenwood’s score + Lynne Ramsay’s visual poetry would be even more powerful.
1. ISLE OF DOGS (WES ANDERSON)- Because I'm a basic bitch that way, and this is as Andersonesque as they come: excellent blocking, quick back-and-forths, quirky characters, impeccable production design, and well-curated music. Plus, there's just something so much more Wes about the camera movement and blocking when things are in animation. The ensemble is this year's best —I'm really hoping he gets them together for a live action. In the past 20+ years Wes Anderson has come in and out of fashion, and even I've hated his oh-so-precious style at times. He's been around so long and changed so little, but the films, taken as individual works, still manage to blow me away.
Photographs from IMDB