Best of 2018…So Far
by Dennis Campbell
We are now in the early parts of June, which means we are almost officially halfway through 2018. As such, I felt it would be a good idea to create a ‘Best of 2018…So Far’ list. Generally when I create a list like this I include movies that are still in theaters. However, for this list I have limited it to DVDs that have been released this year, and are available through our Clevnet Libraries. As such, acclaimed films such as A Quiet Place or Avengers: Infinity War will not be included. So, without further delay, here are the Best Films of 2018…So Far.
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1. Molly’s Game: Leading off the list is the Aaron Sorkin directed picture about Molly Bloom, a former Olympic skier who became one of the largest underground poker kingpins in the United States. It features a strong script, anchored by Sorkin who is a three time Academy Award nominee, and one time winner for Best Adapted Screenplay. Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba steal the show and deserve every bit of praise thrown their way. Though the film runs a little long, clocking in at over 2 ½ hours, it is a film that you do not want miss and will be remembered for years to come.
2. Lady Bird: I am only twenty-five years old, yet I am now old enough to say period pieces about my childhood are being made. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but if they continue to be as excellent as Lady Bird, then I can’t complain. This film is noted for holding the record for most consecutive positive ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, achieving over 196 positive reviews before being given a negative one. The acting is flawless, and the tension between the characters is so pure and realistic that you feel as if you are living in it. Also, I can recall having the same discussions about the artistic merit of Alanis Morrison. Perhaps I am biased, but if there is one movie you should see this year it needs to be Lady Bird.
3. Blade Runner 2045: The long awaited sequel to Ridley Scotts 1982 masterpiece delivers in a way that does the original justice. Featuring Harrison Ford returning to another one of his classic characters, and Ryan Gosling taking the reigns as the newest form of Replicant, Blade Runner 2045 is just as poignant and asks the same hard hitting questions that Ridley Scott did so many years ago. With a breathtaking visuals and superb acting from the supporting cast, this film is one that should be required viewing for all Sci-Fi fans. The only flaw is that it relies too heavily on the original source material, if you have not seen Blade Runner: The Final Cut, you may be lost. But hey, that just gives you a reason to watch the original Blade Runner.
4. Annihilation: Natalie Portman stars in the second Sci-Fi picture on this list. She plays the role of a scientist sent to investigate a mysterious shimmering wave that threatens to engulf the entire world. All those who went before her, ended up dead, or worse. With an atmosphere that will make you squirm in your seat, and some of the most dedicated performances I’ve seen in years, Annihilation is a must.
5. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women: I will most remember this movie for what a fellow movie goer said during the film, ‘I thought this film was going to be about Wonder Woman!’ Indeed, most of the films hour and forty-eight minutes does not include anything about Wonder Woman. Instead, it is a film about the people who inspired and wrote the comic, along with how it has progressed over the years. Told primarily in flashback, as Professor Marston (Luke Evans), defends his comic to the Child Study Association of America, we see how he and Elizabeth, his wife, (Rebecca Hall) befriend Olvie Bryne, a student at the university they teach at, and form the foundation of the comic through their relationship. A love story as much as it is a Biopic, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women showcases the power of perseverance and determination even in the face of great adversity.
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6. Game Night: The first Comedy to be mentioned, this film deserves to be talked about as one of the funnier and well-thought out Comedy films in recent memory. A very self-aware film, Game Night often references other films such as Pulp Fiction and Taken 3, and while they break the suspension of disbelief, the payoff is very good in both cases. The film is about a couple, Max and Annie, (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams) who hold a weekly get together at their house where friends play different board games. One day, Jason’s brother comes into town and turns the whole operation on its head. It turns out he is in debt with the Russian Mafia and needs to repay his debts soon. The race is then on to help is brother and win the annual game night.
7. Novitiate: The next movie on our list covers many genres. At one time it is a Religious film, while also being a Drama but more than anything, it is a Coming of Age story. Novitiate follows young, seventeen-year-old Sister Cathleen Harris (Margret Qualley) who trains to become a Nun in the 1960s-era of the Roman Catholic Church. She, along with nineteen other hopefuls, are subjected to harsh punishments and rigorous training by Reverend Mother Marie Saint-Clair (Melissa Leo), whose authoritarian ways are very similar to Nurse Ratchet from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Around this time the church undergoes dramatic changes, challenging the faith of many involved, ultimately with some of the potential nun’s questions whether God exists. It is a powerful film that while hard to watch at times, is one of the better of the year so far.
8. Loving Vincent: I’m surprised it took this long to feature an animated film on this list, considering I felt this should have won Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards last year. However, Loving Vincent is still an inspiring work of art that looks at the waning days of the painter. Picking up one year after the death of Van Gough, the film follows Armand (subject of one of Van Goughs collection of painting’s titled, The Roulin Family), as he delivers a letter to Van Goughs brother, Theo. As it turns out, Theo passed away roughly six months after Van Gough, consequently, Armand goes on a mission to better understand the death of the famous painter. Right off the bat, Armand views the death as suspicious, and as his investigation continues he realizes just how deep the rabbit hole goes. Beautifully animated with brilliant direction, Loving Vincent is a masterpiece of artwork.
9. God’s Own Country: A film that was critically acclaimed, achieving a 99% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten tomatoes, but only managed to double its £1.2 million budget (the equivalent of $1,608,729.60 in US currency), God’s Own Country is a film about two farmers, Johnny and Gheorghe (Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu) who struggle to get by. Johnny needs to support his ailing father who recently suffered a stroke, so he hires Gheorghe to help around the farm. While they do not get along very well at first, the two form a deep emotional bond and end up falling in love. The cinematography is breathtaking and although the cast is small, each person gives a highly dedicated performance. Of all the films listed today, this is one of the best made films.
10. Red Sparrow: Rounding out our list at number ten, Jennifer Lawrence returns to a familiar face in director Francis Lawrence (Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Hunger Games: Mockingjoy Parts I & II) and her performance is one of the best parts of the film. This is easily her best performance since Winter’s Bone, and while the film has been criticized for its reliance on violence and sexuality, they are elements that forward the plot. Based off of the 2013 book of the same name, Lawrence plays a Russian Intelligence Agent named Dominika Egorova who starts off as a ballerina but turns to Spy work in order to help her mother and her medical treatments. However, when an early mission goes sideways and her target is assassinated by the United States, she is offered the role of being a Double Agent or being executed so ‘there would be no witnesses.’ From there she goes on a two hour long quest to save herself and to uncover the truth behind a mole operation. Though it is the last on the list, it is by no means one you should miss.
There were several critically acclaimed movies that were released on DVD this year that I have not seen yet. If I had taken the time to view them, it is entirely possible they would have made this list. So, I want to make a brief shout out to those I did not see yet.
Until next time.
Dennis Campbell is a Circulation Clerk at the Willowick Library.