Top 10: Films of 2018 (So Far)
List by Aaron Haughton
2018 has turned out to be an even bigger year for genre film and so far this year, we've received some truly phenomenal projects — and there's still half a year left to go! We thought it'd be fun to give a rundown of our 10 favorite films to drop so far this year, which tends to be dominated by genre.
We're a smaller indie blog and don't get the opportunity to see every film, so this is solely based on the films we were able to see. Also, as the subtleties of taste buds seem to differ from person to person, it's highly unlikely that we'll be in complete agreement, but if you let us know your thoughts in the comments section below, we'd love to have a conversation over the midway's lot of fantastic films.
Without further ado, here's our top picks of 2018 (so far):
10: A Quiet Place
Jim from The Office made a horror film, and it's actually pretty solid. A Quiet Place serves up some genuine moments of pure white-knuckle tension, akin to Don't Breathe, 10 Cloverfield Lane or It Comes at Night, with a heavy dose of heart, all within a near-silent conceit. It's not without its plot holes, but it's incredibly taut for a 90-minute film and contains little to no fat. It effectively attaches you to its central characters and delivers a thrill ride that will have you clinging to your seat. The film is shrouded in the kinda mystery that largely remains unanswered, but it finds interesting and intelligent ways to deliver information and doesn't overly spoon feed.
Upgrade was a early summer surprise that offers loads of quality grindhouse thrills with a heavy dollop of sci-fi and a trace of body horror, in all-consuming entertaining way. Centered by a stellar performance from Logan Marshall-Green, who brings a sense of physicality to the film — both in the sense of the brawling action and his horrified and confused facial expressions that directly contradict the mayhem that unfolds on screen — and enhanced by Leigh Whannell's fiercely stylish and visceral direction, Upgrade delivers a sci-fi actioner the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time. Cut from the cloth of Terminator 2, Robocop, and Blade Runner, with a tinge of the Cronenbergesque, Upgrade is a thoroughly engrossing entertainment thrill ride with twists akin to The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror.
8: Paddington 2
During the dump days of January, we were all saved by this delightful gem of a sequel. The film is brimming with warmth and cheer and will plant a smile so firmly on your face that you'll still be wearing long after it's over. Paddington 2 feels like a cozy blanket, and it's warm and witty in ways that seems to be lacking from most children's films. Like last year's Brigsby Bear, the film is lighthearted, devoid of any true cynicism, and has its heart in the right place: firmly on its sleeve. It offers a bit of everything: thrills, laughs, and a whole lot of feels. Its central message is one of family, community, and the golden rule: treat others as you'd like to be treated. So, really it's everything a kids film should be with a dollop of marmalade on top.
Annihilation is Alex Garlands confounding and spellbindingly cerebral sci-fi thriller that will have you reeling in a tripped out fever dream. Drawing influence from the likes of Tarkovsky, Cronenberg, Carpenter and Kubrick (amongst others), Garland creates a world that pulls from influence without ever feeling derivative and crafts an experience that feels uniquely his own. The film serves as an excellent conversation piece, and does what all great cerebral sci-fi films do: present you with information without spelling anything out, allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions about what the film means to them.
6: Won't You Be My Neighbor?
If Paddington 2 is like a warm blanket, Won't You Be My Neighbor? is an even warmer, more cozy blanket that engulf the entire fiber of your being and tells you you're okay with its whisper of "you're fine just the way you are." The film proves that Fred Rogers and his message are just as sharp now as they were when Mr. Rogers first aired in the late 60s, and it serves as a potent testament to his many achievements. Morgan Neville's approach to the film is one of simplicity, reinforcing and echoing Roger's M.O. with regard to his long-running children's program. In many ways, Won't You Be My Neighbor? serves as a 90-minute uplifting break from the chaos, cynicism and division of the outside world. The film's emotional core is perfectly counterweighted by a surprising amount of laughs and the inspiring boost of Mr. Rogers' legacy, which will have even the most cynical of moviegoers inflated with friendly and positive inspiration.
5: Sorry To Bother You
Sorry to Bother You presents us with an absurdist dark comedy fable containing aspects of magical realism and science-fiction. The film is filled with a phenomenal cast and an ambitious script, and it's easily one of the most intelligent, inventive and batshit-crazy fun films to drop so far this year. Boots Riley has crafted something cunning and punk rock that starts off running and never loses its steam or gusto. Narratively, it borrows some elements from Charlie Kaufman's body of work and derives some visual cues from Michel Gondry (who they lovely rib in the film) — there's also a tinge of Idiocracy in there as well, mainly in the television program called "I Got The Shit Kicked Out Of Me" — but, just like Get Out, what it has to say about race, society and power/greed is wholly original and a pure delight to watch unfold. Its humor is weaponized and side-splitting good, and if you haven't seen this one already, you're really @#$%ing up.
4: Eighth Grade
Bo Burnham's directorial debut, Eighth Grade, is a gloriously "Gucci" snapshot of the achingly awkward, cringe-inducing days of early adolescence, a time when bodies are changing and clumsily struggling to find their own way. Wrapped in a very effortless and underplayed package, the film is universally relatable, painfully touching, and radiating with love and kindness. Best of all, Burnham manages to subtly comment on our current times through the pitch-perfect metaphorical conceit of actual 8th grade life. Every conversation between the father and daughter is amazing, and like last year's Lady Bird, the parent/daughter relationship and dynamic is the glue that holds the film together. And Elsie Fisher, of course, who shines like the brightest star and absolutely floored me with her Herculean performance.
3: You Were Never Really Here
Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here is an enigmatic slow burning neo-noir, based off the novella of the same name by Jonathan Ames. More concerned about the man behind the hit than it is the hit itself, Ramsay delivers a wickedly dark character study veiled as an action film that still manages, despite its efforts to deny the gratification typically found in an action thriller, to be a unique, viscerally gripping cinematic experience that will hit you with the blunt force of a ball-pein hammer. Joachim Phoenix delivers one of his best performances to date, and Jonny Greenwood furnishes the film with a sonically interesting blend of harmony and dissonance that perfectly marry Phoenix's character's despair. Ramsay's craft on display here is an absolute tour de force full of brutality and fragility, and its effects lingers long after its over.
Ari Aster cultivates a moody sense of foreboding that ebbs throughout Hereditary until all hell breaks loose. It is is extremely well crafted and thoroughly unnerving, filled with great moments of tension and nightmarish imagery, and depending on your individual sensitivity, its persistent creep and unrelenting squeeze has the potential to leave you completely shattered. The level of artistry and meticulous craft is worthy of the praise, and the acting is absolutely fantastic, especially Alex Wolff and the incomparable Toni Collette, both of whom deliver powerhouse performances and are deserving of an Oscar nod (at the very least) for their work here. Similar to Annihilation, the film draws influence from familiar places (namely Rosemary's Baby, The Shining, and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover), but manages to create an experience that is uniquely its own.
1: First Reformed
Everything in Paul Schrader's life has lead him to this moment; all his time spent in the seminary, his adoration (brought on by his brief career in film criticism) for the directors Yasujiro Ozu, Robert Bresson, and Carl Th. Dreyer, as well as his own prolific career as a screenwriter and filmmaker (particularly Taxi Driver and his solitary man films) culminate to a beautiful, albeit ominous head with his stunning modern masterpiece, First Reformed. The film is a thoroughly engrossing slow burn that gives you much to chew on, including its momentous final moments, and it has the potential to quite literally leave you shaken. The story continuously unfolds in unexpected ways and takes you on a darkly thought-provoking trip of hope versus despair. With both Hawke and Schrader at the top of their game, First Reformed is ripe with cinematic perfection. It's not just the best film so far this year, but one of the best film's of the modern era, which is why it's our number 1 pick.
What do you think? Did we leave your favorite film off our list? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!