Continuing my 2018 reflective (general review and books), I’m going to share with you some of my favorite films I watched last year. I made this list based on the rating I gave the film on Letterboxd.
I was initially going to restrict this to my top five movies but decided, instead, to share the films I gave a five-star rating. In no particular order, here are my thoughts on some of my top-rated films I watched last year:
Polytechnique (2009, Denis Villeneuve)
This film hit me hard in myriad ways. One, in its art form — black and white, the edit, the cuts, etc. — to create the emotive atmosphere of the environment and situation. The other was the brutality, both physical and psychological, against women.
Based on the 1989 Montreal Massacre, Polytechnique is about the massacre of female engineering students at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique by a young man who proclaimed to hate feminists. After ordering a group of men to leave the classroom he took hostage, he huddles the women and shoots, killing and wounding them. The young man then moves throughout the university’s hallways, classrooms, and cafeteria targeting women. He then kills himself with his own weapon.
The film is reminiscent of similar films that dramatize real, traumatic events and what made the emotional hit more insidious were the current events at the time I watched the film. Between the boorish “yes means yes, no means yes” bullshit and the aggression against women in general for exhibiting even an iota of intelligence, control, and demand for better lives, Polytechnique made me afraid of the uninstigated hate that some man may have towards me because I’m a woman.
Phantom Thread (2017, Paul Thomas Anderson)
Beautiful film with a dance between delicate and outright twisted.
The Death of Stalin (2017, Armando Iannuci)
The sheer perversity of the film, coupled with its flair for the dramatic was top-notch. What really put it over the edge was the added bonus of having Jason Isaacs stop by prior to screening to talk a little about the film and wish us a happy time. I can’t keep the actors/characters straight but that did not keep me from enjoying this fucking film.
Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz)
FINALLY and was not disappointed. I finally can appreciate why this is such a classic and recalled with such nostalgia laced with love and bravado all at once.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman)
When I first saw the ads for this on Instagram, I thought it was an ad for a game. Then I learned it was for a new film. I brushed it off at first but after I watched the trailer I admit excitement. The film exceeded my cautious expectations. As far as animated films go, and one that follows the superhero universe, this was an awesome and exhilarating film to watch. To bring about multiple “Spider Man” universes into a single plane is complex and could’ve easily been botched, however, that this film kept its focus on Miles Morales, a high school student from Brooklyn, makes this film more interesting than the other Spider Man films I’ve seen. (He’s probably the more interesting Spider Man character, too.)
The other element that cannot be left unsaid is the insane melding of different animation styles. This also could’ve gone bad but it didn’t! The filmmakers’ ability to bring together the complexity of different animation styles adds to the intrigue and energy of the film overall. If you’re not a huge fan of superhero moves, or you’ve grown tired of them, I recommend spending the time to watch this and then go back to hating superhero movies again.
Hereditary (2018, Ari Aster)
I am a sucker for psychological thrillers and horror films (leave the gore-porn shit at the door though, thanks). So, naturally, when Hereditary came out, I had to see it in the theater. And it’s definitely one of those films where you want a complete blackout room and a good sound system to get the fullest chill, thrill, horror effect possible. Toni Collett’s performance definitely moves you over the edge. Her facial expressions and ability to convey the physicality of her emotions sends you into a panic of sorts. What is real? What isn’t?
The Funeral (1984, Juzo Itami)
If you like dark humor, this is it, done splendidly.
A Quiet Place (2018, John Krasinski)
Here’s my write up of the movie.
Isle of Dogs (2018, Wes Anderson)
I went back and forth about watching this, and the whole internet blowing up about cultural appropriation made me curious enough to watch it. I’m glad I went. I genuinely enjoyed this film. Whatever the critics might say, Anderson and his crew did a great job not just creating another stop motion film, but did a great job creating a film with cultural nuances that might otherwise have been missed. The story itself brought some nostalgia for the other Japanese children’s stories that I grew up with.
The Florida Project (2017, Sean Baker)
The vivid coloring in the film, the scenes, and the story all came together to reveal a kind of story that, I imagine, is very easy to overlook especially in places that are near and within tourist hot spots (Disney World, convention centers, etc.). It’s a story of survival and it’s a story of the cavernous inequality between the residents of these places and tourists who come to play.
Dead Ringers (1988, David Cronenberg)
A very disturbing and twisted film about twins, played by Jeremy Irons, who fall into a kind of madness of their own making.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018, Cohen Brothers)
It starts of silly and satirical. Then you remember it’s a Cohen Brothers film and shit just gets darker, and darker.
Predator (1987, John McTiernan)
Get to the choppa!!