Movies

The Year in Film

From a resurrected Orson Welles project to a Netflex masterpiece, the best of 2018
Though the film was released straight to Netflix (with select theaters screening it), Roma is a clear frontrunner in the Oscars race.

Snap your fingers, like Thanos, and half of all existing motion pictures turn into a shower of disintegrating pixels. Imposing scarcity is a tragic task, but it had to be done to make room for more tentpoles. Just ask the FilmStruck proprietors who made so much vanish, so that deserving stockholders might affix ermine mud flaps to their Porsche Cayennes.

The process needs no empurpled Josh Brolin, though. The decay-prone qualities of an all-digital media is bad enough—as opposed to 35mm, which can survive decades in a frozen dump. Preserving all this digital cinema is going to be a technical challenge for anyone watching 100 years from now. (Of course, you could be like that now-infamous professor from Lafayette College who, in the Washington Post opined that the loss of FilmStruck just cleared the deck of a lot of moldy old films enshrining racism and sexism. So why not dump it and make room for something new?)

Such academic nuance may be immaterial to our descendants, roasting radioactive rats on rusty rebar spits, as the Sayir of the Mov-ee pantomimes the plot of Avengers: Infinity Wars around the fire.

But the contradiction of supposedly having everything at hand—we certainly don't—and being able to figure out exactly what is available is aggravating. So much of the lineup on streaming services is for-us-to-know-and-for-you-to-find out, a self-fulfilling forecast of "content" unwatched.

Happily, Roma, did build in the good old way of word of mouth.

And all honor for exhibitors such as 3Below, taking a gamble that people would want to see a real movie in a real theater even while it played on Netflix.

Yet some of these names will be unfamiliar. The documentary Active Measures took the spot reserved for Won't You Be My Neighbor? Tender and moving as that profile of Mr Rogers was, you ought to give primacy to the kind of documentary filmmaking that could get a reporter killed. The analysis of Putin skullduggery was as menacing as supervillainy in any Marvel epic.

BlacKkKlansman and Black Panther are forever linked by titles. The first is a New York film school-style attack on a wild tale—based on a true story the way a cube of bouillon is based on an ox. It's a reminder of how much infuriating fun Spike Lee can be. There's still a point on that Spike, after all. And there isn't a white American alive who should miss Harry Belafonte's lecture on the weight of cinema.

Slurping megarhino aside—it's for the kids, be nice—Black Panther may be another Wizard of Oz someday.

Cold War, which opens in January, is an ironical black and white romance of missed connections amid the Soviet days. It has the lyricism of the best of Nabokov.

First Reformed's somberness—and its mussy ending—make it a challenge, but Paul Schrader's mystical cinephilia deserves all the honors its getting.

Speaking of cinephilia, the finished The Other Side of the Wind shows the limberness of late period Orson Welles. What else might be resurrected?

In Sorry to Bother You Boots Riley uses comedy to cut up racism, matching the vigor, ferment and outlandishness seen in last-century counter-culture satire, from the Firesign Theater to Lindsay Anderson's Candide story O Lucky Man! (1973).

Viva Support the Girls, one of the best, yet least-known on this list. Andrew Bujalski's study of a titties-and-beer bar in suburban Texas honors the ingenuity of a sharp middle manager (an endearing Regina King) intervening between the friendly young imbeciles she employs and her swine of a boss.

Luca Guadagnino's deeply frightening 1970s-set Suspiria remake is my idea of a solstice movie, since a season of darkness is perfect for tales of death and night and blood. More on its satanic powers later when Amazon decides to "drop" it for streaming (the word is significant, somehow—it can mean either 'bestow' or 'get rid of").

As for the worst movie of 2018? Pass. I barely had time to see all the good ones.

Making a top-ten list is always a hassle.

Best Films of 2018

Ranking great art is something of a fool's errand. But, hey! People love the lists, so we'll give you an alphabetical one. That said, even if it is impossible to give a definitive order to this list based on meric, there is one film from this year that stands out above all the rest—Roma. After that, we have:

Active Measures
BlacKkKlansman
Black Panther
Cold War
First Reformed
The Other Side of the Wind
Sorry to Bother You
Support the Girls
Suspiria

Runners Up

Active Measures
Blindspotting
Can You Ever Forgive Me
First Man
Leave No Trace
Shirkers
Won't You Be My Neighbor?


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