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52 Directors Pick Their Favorite Movies of 2018

Their films were on every Top 10, but what's on their lists? Guillermo del Toro, Lynne Ramsay, Edgar Wright, and more reflect on the best of 2018.

Bleeker/A24/Sony/Screengrab

Lynne Ramsay (“You Were Never Really Here,” “Ratcatcher”)

roma

“Roma”

Netflix

Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” 2018.

Making an epic drama of two women’s everyday life and life changing events into totally immersive cinema.

The sound and image make you feel you’re inside it, experiencing her (Clio).
Virtual reality but more emotional.

Incredible on the big screen.
If you have to see it smaller with the best sound system.

A modern classic, a rarity now. Technically unmatched.
Every detail and moment so considered but feel just happened upon.

So many scenes remain indelibly seared on the brain, the surrealism of life, the connections, horror, humour and beauty.

Reminding what a movie can (still) do, really inspired me.

Matt Ross (“Captain Fantastic”)

"Shoplifters"

“Shoplifters”

Top Films (in no particular order):

“Roma”: For its simple yet profound insights into gender, race, and class, for transporting me to a world and inviting me into a point-of-view I otherwise would never have seen, and for its Black and White photography which, ironically, helped me see that world more clearly; I wept and was left stunned.

“The Favourite”: For the line, “You look like a badger” (among many, many others), for Oliva Colman (as well as Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz), for the super wide lens photography, and for that deliciously crazy dance.

“Shoplifters”: For its exploration of “family” and for those magnificent two kids, Miyu Sasaki and Jyo Kairi, both of whom moved me deeply.

“Cold War”: For its glorious Black & White photography, its controlled frames, for Joanna Kulig’s emotional depth and transparency, and for its jazzy depiction of the insane roller coaster that is love. Beautiful suffering.

“First Man”: For the stunning opening sequence, for its evocative use of 16mm and 35Mmm photography that so effectively transported me to the 1960s, and for its subtle insights into Neil Armstrong, how his personal tragedy ultimately drove and formed him.

“Annihilation”: For that riveting and utterly surprising dance-with-an-alien-being ending – one of my favorite cinema moments of the year.

“The Rider”: For its form (semi-fictionalized reenactment?) and for its insights into rural, working-class American. It was a singular experience.

“Isle of Dogs”: For its exquisite craftsmanship. And because I really, really love dogs.

“Mission Impossible: Fallout”: For Tom Cruise’s London rooftop jump, his running, his Paris motorcycle chase, his helicopter chase + hanging from a helicopter, his skydiving out of a plane sequence, and his rock-climbing sequence + fight in Norway. These jaw-dropping stunts made for the most purely thrilling, adrenaline-pumping movie I saw on the big screen. (The reality of Alex Honnold’s climb in Free Solo was equally mind-blowing; it’s just a different beast) Pure spectacle joy.

“Western”: For its exploration of, and acute insights into masculinity.

“Loveless”: For its dagger into the heart of marriage and into modern Russia.

Honorable Mentions: “Happy as Lazzaro,” “Beast,” “Free Solo,” “Private Life,” “Lean of Pete,” “Disobedience,” “Thunder Road,” “Eighth Grade” (Elsie Fisher’s performance was one of the most raw, most delicate, and most painful of the year).

Films I want to see, but haven’t yet been able to: “Border,” “Burning,” “Old Man & the Gun,” “Blindspotting,” “Capernaum,” “Zama,” “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

TV: There’s so much I haven’t seen, but this year, I greatly enjoyed: “Atlanta,” “Homecoming,” “A Very English Scandal,” “Wild Wild Country,” “Patrick Melrose,” “Bodyguard,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Random Acts of Flyness,” “Salt Fat Acid Heat,” “Sharp Objects,” “Howard’s End,” “The Great British Baking Show.”

Special Mention: I, like so many, mourned the loss of Anthony Bourdain by re-watching many episodes of “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservation and Anthony Bourdain – Parts Unknown.” His fantastic wit, irreverence, intelligence, and profound compassion will be consistently and deeply missed.

RaMell Ross (“Hale County This Morning, This Evening”)

"Madeline's Madeline"

“Madeline’s Madeline”

Oscilloscope Laboratories

High Five

“Madeline’s Madeline”
Enthralling. Ocular.
Amalgamative. Bewildering.
Humane. Delirious.
Therapeutic. Combative. Gnawing.
Serous. Lonely.
Multi-registering.

“Bisbee ’17”
A singular call to imagine the nonfiction film as responsive to the complex cultural associations and forms embedded in the content. The personal and public risk of failure of Robert Greene’s ‘reenactment’ endeavor surpasses, by leagues, the risk of documentarians working within documentaries’ formulas. It’s power then surpasses theirs, in that it will be revisited and revisited and revisited for form, content and its non-polarity, by those interested in using the medium and genre as a way to reconfigure our relationship to history to contemporarily behold it, and (re)visited by the non-deconstructing public in order to encounter a film masterfully rising to the challenge of reconciling the present’s entanglement with the past.

“Sorry to Bother You”
Like the highest art, this film does more than inspire, it gives writers, filmmakers and artists or whoever, permission. Like ‘oh, I didn’t know I could do that or think that or be honest with my imagination’.Can someone give Boots Riley a bunch of money? This might be the biggest shame on the industry, that it took 10 years to raise money for this obvious treasure.

“Zama” (a haiku)
Lucrecia Martel
must have teleported to
the past, to make this

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
In addition to the formal and aesthetic narcotic of the film, as luscious and enduring as a visual everlasting gobstopper, it delivered, (the apparent totality of Spiderman’s comic book and cartoon history and 2D renderings), through our culture’s mainstay white male redemption story, the passing of power and reign (and audience) to recently mentored middleclass Black-Latino, Spanglish-speaking boy. Can I get an amen (and some Systane, I still haven’t blinked)?

Rodney Rothman (“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”)

Makoto Shinkai Your Name

“Your Name”

I wish I’d seen more this year, but I have a 4-year-old, a 3-month-old, and we didn’t wrap our movie until early December. Which apparently you can do for a December release, I didn’t know that. This year I spent all day on “Into the Spider-Verse” and at night, when everyone was asleep, I’d “clear my brain” by watching animation on Blu-Ray to steal ideas from the masters. Some stuff I stole from:

“Your Name,” a soulful, funny, and evocative, an “Eternal Sunshine” caliber movie.

“Tekkinkreet,” which Patrick O’Keefe our art director lent me. A beautiful labor of love by Michael Arias.

“101 Dalmations,” on the recommendation of Bob Persichetti, and for which I developed a new appreciation for its technique and innovation.

“Paprika” and “Tokyo Godfathers,” by Satoshi Kon, a new favorite director. Why hide it, I want “SpiderVerse” to do well enough that we can all make our own movies like these.

On television, I was blown away by:

“Atlanta,” whose gonzo spirit made us want to go further. Hiro Murai is the new filmmaker I’m watching most closely.

“The Zen Diaries of Gary Shandling,” because it was so deep and dense I could barely handle it.

“Patriot,” by Steve Conrad, who I’ve quietly admired ever since I read his script “Quebec.”

“Barry,” for the risky and deeply-felt tone, and for Henry Winkler’s Emmy acceptance when he told his grown 30-year-old children at 5 PM in the afternoon “go to sleep, Daddy won!”

And hey if you really want to get down to brass tacks I spent most of time watching and re-watching children’s programming so big thank you to “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Motown Magic,” “Octonauts,” “Puffin Rock” and “Moana” for all being shockingly good and not making me want to punch myself in the face and you can put that in your ads.

As for films this year? The whole reason I’m supposed to be writing this? I was inspired and amazed by: “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” (I cried at the trailer and didn’t stop), “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Paddington 2,” “Hereditary” (free advice, if you watch this on a plane you’re gonna deal with your seatmates), “A Quiet Place,” “The Incredibles 2,” “Isle of Dogs,” “Mandy,” “Sorry to Bother You,” “Bathtubs Over Broadway,” “Mid90s,” “Game Night,” “Ready Player One,” “The Long Dumb Road,” “Bad Times at the El Royale,” “Hotel Artemis,” all of a sudden I’m realizing I watched too many things this year and I should reconnect with my family.

I haven’t watched my screeners yet. I’m sorry. My parents took them. They always take them. And Bob Persichetti our co-director, who is on vacation off-the-grid, wanted me to mention that he loved “Annihilation,” though he wasn’t clear if he meant the movie or the worldview. I liked the movie.

Josie Rourke (“Mary Queen of Scots”)

“Generation Wealth”

1. “Roma”
2. “The Death of Stalin”
3. “The Favourite”
4. “Black Panther”
5. “BlacKkKlansman”
6. “Cold War”
7. “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”
8. “Generation Wealth”
9. “Crazy Rich Asians”
10. “You Were Never Really Here”

James Schamus (“Indignation”)

Regina King stars as Sharon in Barry Jenkins' IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, an Annapurna Pictures release.

Regina King in “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Picture

The year 2018 in cinema is marked for me by extraordinary performances by and roles for women. As of this writing, the awards prognosticators list the most likely Oscar nominees for Best Actress as: Lady Gaga, Glenn Close, Olivia Coleman, Melissa McCarthy and Emily Blunt.

These are all great performances. I’d simply add that in a just world, Ando Sakura, the childless mother in Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s masterpiece, “Shoplifters,” and Miyu Sazaki, the six-year-old scene-stealer in the same film, would most likely top that list, along with, perhaps, in no particular order:

Yalitza Aparicio in Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma.”
Lilly Jandreau in Chloe Zhao’s “The Rider.”
KiKi Lane in Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
Elsie Fisher in Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade.”
Sarah Silverman in “Ralph Wrecks the Internet.”
Toni Colette in Ari Aster’s “Hereditary.”
Regina Hall in Andrew Bujalski’s “Support the Girls.”
Regina King in Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
Lola Duenas in Lucretia Martel’s “Zama.”

And I haven’t yet seen “Mary Poppins Returns” and a few hundred other movies I want to catch up to, so of course I’m reserving all rights.

Daniel Scheinert (“Swiss Army Man”)

Minding the Gap

“Minding the Gap”

Sundance

“Minding the Gap”: Reminded me of my jackass obsessed youth, then totally devastated me with it’s candid confessional beauty.

“Daily School Pickup with Jalen” (link): Jalen has restored my faith in humanity and given me hope for the future.

Boots Riley’s tweet about “BlacKkKlansman”(link):  This year Spike and Boots got the country talking, but this tweet by Boots about Spike is what got me talking. I can’t stop thinking about the ethics of rewriting history with ‘based on true story’ movies. Are biopics fake news?! Why do filmmakers get a pass?

New York Times: “Operation Infektion” (link):  A three part documentary series that so simply breaks down the historical foundation of 21st century fact ambiguity…

Rosalia “Malamente” (link): Music video of the year. 🔥🔥🔥

“You Were Never Really Here”: The Kitchen Scene!!!

“Thunder Road”: I was moved and laughed so so loud many many times during this little indie that could.

“Wild Wild Country”: My allegiances shifted again and again. I can’t decide: Should I join that cult? or move to that small town? or dedicate my life to exposing the Sheila’s of the world?

“Tully”: I’ve got so many new mom friends, and loved seeing their beautiful, shitty, heartbreaking story on the screen. Ignore the haters.

“Joe Pera Talks with You”: TV series of the year. Radical Punk Rock Sweetness. You don’t know you need this, but you need this in your life.

Paul Schrader (“First Reformed”)

Patrick Melrose Benedict Cumberbatch Episode 1

Benedict Cumberbatch, “Patrick Melrose”

Ollie Upton / Showtime

Rather than scattershot 2018 favorites I’ll point to just one: Episode One of “Patrick Melrose.” The successive episodes are top notch but Episode One breaks the bar in terms of what filmed entertainment (do we still call them movies?) can do. The writing and directing are first rate but Benedict Cumberbatch takes it to that other level where you’re left slack jawed and wondering if what you just seen is really what you’ve just seen.

Whit Stillman (“Love & Friendship,” “Metropolitan”)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover UsageMandatory Credit: Photo by Burn Later Productions/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (9838587h)Haley Lu Richardson as Maci, Regina Hall as Lisa'Support the Girls' Film - 2018

“Support the Girls”

Burn Later Productions/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Last year I was very happy to discover “Lucky” which continues to tread across memory like a desert tortoise. This year so far (still watching) I have loved “Support the Girls,” “The Death of Stalin,” and “Green Book” – all of which have much more going on “under the hood” than might be thought, are beautifully and cleverly done, and eschew lying naturalism while remaining virtuous in intention and result.

Sophia Takal (“Always Shine,” “Into the Dark”)

"Vox Lux"

“Vox Lux”

Venice Film Festival

Movies I loved that I watched recently enough to remember that I watched and loved them:

“A Star Is Born”
“Vox Lux”
“The Favourite”
“First Reformed”
“Roma”
“The Other Side of the Wind”
“Madeline’s Madeline”

Nacho Vigalondo (“Colossal,” “Timecrimes”)

“Mandy”

My favourite movie of the year: “Mandy”

Adolescent rage is a dangerous weapon for an adult filmmaker, and anyone who wrote a screenplay when he was 17 can testify this. But Panos Cosmatos has crafted a miracle, a pure teenage dream shot by a full powered grown-up auteur without betraying the raw purity of the kid nor the delicate sensitivity of the bearded director.

As if this was an Edgar Allan Poe tale, the spirit of a deceased woman vampirizes reality and guides Nicolas Cage under the crimson primordial sky, turning him into a black metal hero that defeats cenobites on cocaine, a chainsaw knight and Charlie Manson while Jupiter rises. In other hands this story would be infected by irony, self-aware nostalgia, and winks to the audience. But everybody involved here, from the always extraordinary Nicolas Cage to the outstanding Jóhann Jóhannsson are speaking from their bleeding hearts.

“Mandy” is what we expected movies to be when we went to the video stores by the end of last century and also what we need in theatres at the beginnings of the new one.

Adam Wingard (“Blair Witch,” “The Guest”)

wont you be my neighbor

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

Favorite Films of 2018

1. “Mandy”
2. “First Reformed”
3. “Ready Player One”
4. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

Edgar Wright (“Baby Driver,” “Shaun of the Dead”)

"They Shall Not Grow Old" Peter Jackson WWI Documentary

“They Shall Not Grow Old”

Warner Brothers

TOP 11 2018 (Though still watching many movies as we speak)

“Roma”
“Mandy”
“Eighth Grade”
“They Shall Not Grow Old”
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
“Cold War”
“Searching”
“Mission Impossible: Fallout”
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
“Hereditary”
“Leave No Trace”

Very Honorable Mentions: “Sorry to Bother You,” “Bad Times at the El Royale,” “The Old Man and the Gun,” “Shadow,” “First Man,” “Ghost Stories,” “Wildlife,” “Annihilation,” “Isle of Dogs,” “Ray & Liz.”

Bonus List of 10 Great Films I first saw in 2017:

“First Reformed”
“Custody”
“On Body and Soul”
“Foxtrot”
“You Were Never Really Here”
“Lean on Pete”
“Thoroughbreds”
“Beast”
“The Insult”
“Sweet Country”

Jeremiah Zagar (“We the Animals”)

"Thy Kingdom Come"

“Thy Kingdom Come”

SXSW

I could write forever about what I loved this year, fuck, I love almost everything, from “Roma” to “Call My Agent!” to the slow motion YouTube videos of animals that my 3½-year-old son watches. But instead, I want to tell you about a film that crushed my heart and haunts me even still (in the best way). That film is:

“Thy Kingdom Come” by Eugene Richards

The footage from “Thy Kingdom Come” consists of excised footage from Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder” involving Javier Bardem’s character Father Quintana. Eugene Richards was commissioned by Malick to seek out local Bartlesville, Oklahoma residents and interview them for their stories. When the scenes ultimately did not make the film, realizing the potential of what could be done with them, Richards petitioned Malick for access to the footage so he could make his own film from it.

What emerges is neither fiction nor documentary. It is something new, all at once, brutal, euphoric, visually stunning and imperfectly human. Trust me, this film in unreal! Seek it out, it demands to be seen!

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