For more about the Year in Movies, read Sean Fennessey’s essay about the movies’ many fallen men of 2018, Tom Breihan’s Best Action Movies of 2018, and Miles Surrey’s Best Superhero Movies of 2018.
No film I saw in 2018 improved more upon reflection, or thrives as strongly in memory; Jenkins’s extraordinary image-making hypnotizes the mind’s eye.
Let the Sunshine In Directed by Claire Denis Hopefully, 2019 will be the year of Claire Denis: The acquisition of the great French director’s new, stunning sci-fi movie High Life by hit-making distributor A24 means that her work will be more readily available to American audiences than ever.
For a movie that may ultimately be about the need for compromise, Let the Sunshine In doesn’t make any-and that’s why it’s Denis at her best.
Black Panther Directed by Ryan Coogler Black Panther does something that no other movie has done before.
Zama Directed by Lucrecia Martel The greatest movies make us experience them on their own terms.
No narrative film released in 2018 asked more of its audience than Martel’s Zama, a slow-motion comedy about a Spanish diplomat wasting away in a remote Patagonian outpost in the 1700s; the line between the boredom of Don Diego de Zama, who wants desperately to leave for better things, and that of the viewer is razor thin, but Martel-a genius of mood and atmosphere-stays on the right side in every precise, mesmerizing scene.
Burning Directed by Lee Chang-dong “There is a difference between movies that refuse to fix their meanings for fear of exposing their essential vacuousness-that leave so much space for interpretation that they end up feeling legitimately empty, like a shell game without a marble-and movies that bristle with an ambiguity derived from the complex, irreconcilable nature of reality itself.” I wrote those words about Burning in October, the point being that Lee’s film was in the second category.
The orginal article.
I suspect that the Coen brothers would not regard a ranking of their films with much respect.
For nearly 35 years, the duo from Minnesota have been making movies that celebrate and undermine genre, thumbing their noses at convention and trends, and exploring the meaninglessness of existence with the depth and absurdity worthy of the cause.
Given their constancy‚ it’s easy to forget that the brothers have been at it for quite some time-Buster Scruggs continues a streak across nearly four decades in which no more than three years have passed without a new Coens flick.
Which is to say, it’s based on Homer’s greatest Greek epic and Preston Sturges movies.
Though the concept of death unites all of the stories-and most of the Coen brothers’ work, frankly-each is a stand-alone in its own right.
In a world that trembles before God, the Coens control the fates.
What could have been a movie about Satan-in the form of the bolt stunner-wielding Anton Chigurh- often feels more like Frankenstein or Jaws, movies about unstoppable killing machines moving through the world, tearing apart our very idea of existence.
Played by Joel’s wife Frances McDormand in an Oscar-winning turn, is what catapulted the Coen brothers out of the respected category and into the realm of major American filmmakers.
The orginal article.
Hardly an unsalvageable mess but far from transcendent, a perfunctory exercise that’s elevated only by one particularly good concert sequence and Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury – which, by the way, deserves far better than another rehash of the old rock biopic rubric of rise, fall, and redemption.
I went not in spite of these things but because of them, because “Mediocre music biopic” happens to be one of my favorite micro-genres of film, right up there with “Blatant Goodfellas ripoff” and “Movies about writer’s block.”
In these moments, the mediocre music biopic tends to lean into the skid, often building entire scenes around little more than a famous rock star shaking hands with another historical figure while they each say their full names aloud.
I think the primary reason I’m drawn to the mediocre music biopic is that I know, from personal experience, that most actual bands are incredibly boring.
The mediocre music biopic cuts everything down to a manageable, melodramatic size.
Every biopic struggles with how to make tidy narrative sense out of the messy complexities of a life, and every artist biopic, specifically, is forced to render the mostly internal, often-tedious creative process into something that isn’t deadly dull on screen.
You naturally go into these movies with your guard up, protective of what they and their music mean, so certain that the film will fail to do it justice – sure that no matter how great an actor’s performance, they will never truly become them.
In these preconceived notions, the mediocre music biopic proves you right, and in its own way, it’s a relief.
The orginal article.
Too young to go to a movie alone and too old to go with my parents, I asked my friend Amanda to go see it with me.
I decided right then that the best way to see a movie was alone.
Now I’m 29 and I will only see movies with other people if there are extenuating circumstances.
Watching a movie is best as a solitary experience, which is something that we just need to admit to ourselves.
Going to dinner and a movie is still heeded as an ideal date.
Whenever I watch a movie with someone else, I find myself watching it through their eyes and brains and emotions in addition to my own.
I want my first impression of a movie to be filtered through my brain and my brain only.
Are you wondering if there is a single correct way to go to the movies? Of course there is.
The orginal article.
In 2018, it’s harder than ever to be independent in the world of movies.
What about Boyhood, financed over its 12-year genesis by a series of independent production companies and released domestically by IFC, a company whose name literally contains the word “Independent?” Or how about a movie like Chloé Zhao’s The Rider, one of 2018’s true standouts, which was made completely apart from the traditional moviemaking apparatus before being acquired at Cannes by Sony Pictures Classics-a subsidiary of the studio currently spewing Venom all over American multiplexes.
With this in mind, compiling a list of the best-or maybe let’s say the most interesting-American independent films since 2000 is a fool’s errand.
No movies produced or distributed by major studios or mini-majors, which led to the decision to leave out A24; no foreign titles, since financing structures abroad are even more difficult to categorize; no obvious “Calling card” movies; and no need to include certain films that Ringer readers probably already know and love.
What better way to suggest your movie is about “America” than to name it after a Founding Father? Essentially a “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” riff awash in delicate, ominous lyricism, David Gordon Green’s film was propped up by critics like Roger Ebert and gradually canonized; all you need to do is watch any five minutes of Mid90s to see how an even younger generation of would-be auteurs has absorbed its atmosphere-is-everything ethos.
Heaven Knows What Josh and Benny Safdie, 2014 It’s definitely one way to make a movie: after meeting a 20-year-old former crack addict on the streets of New York City, Josh and Benny Safdie encouraged her to write a memoir of her experiences-and then cast her in the film version.
Richard Linklater’s Before films were never as inherently politicized as Medicine for Melancholy, whose characters-wary, militant Micah and sharp, supple-minded Jo-become embodiments of a larger, argumentative dialectic about the assimilation of African American art, culture, and identity as well as gentrification in that all-time cinematic city, San Francisco.
Sweetgrass Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Ilisa Barbash, 2009 In documentary circles, the films created by the members of Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab have been considered one of the decade’s major and most contentious bodies of work: Does their narration-and-information-free descent into a series of unusual physical environments and socioeconomic ecosystems represent a new stage of verite or is the rampant GoPro abuse in a film like Leviathan just another stylistic gimmick? I like Leviathan’s doomy view of an industrial fishing vessel, but I truly love its directors’ earlier experiment, Sweetgrass, which documents a sheep drive in the mountains of Montana.
The orginal article.
Cummings submitted Thunder Road, a tragicomic 12-and-a-half-minute short, to the Sundance Film Festival just past deadline.
“We were trying to make more of a movie than a film,” Cummings says.
Having missed the window for Sundance, in March the team took the movie to a safe space: the South by Southwest Film Festival.
“Then, there are the films that just get you so excited that it makes it worth it. Last year, Thunder Road came in. Jim was a known person, so we made sure to see it right away. I loved it. He’s so original, and what he’s doing is so hard. That line between comedy and drama, I’ve never seen a character like it. To be able to sustain what he’s done, that was the moment last year when I said, ‘We have a festival. We got it. This is just fantastic.'”.
After playing the public-friendly Deauville American Film Festival this summer, French distributor Paname encouraged the Thunder Road team to open the movie in 67 theaters in September.
“I’m like, ‘Jim, that’s not how it works.’ Then I sent it to the acquisitions guy at Netflix. I’m like, ‘I told Jim this is not how it works but this film is great. It won a prize. Is it on your radar. Do you want me to connect you? He was like, ‘Absolutely, I’m happy to connect to him.’ It didn’t work out, but what’s so funny about that story was Jim has been doing that every day. Who do I know who can review my movie? It makes me laugh because he’s doing it so much his own way. He’s just going out there and creating this different paradigm, but it’s working for him. It’s a beautiful thing.”
On the one hand, digital film projection and viral marketing make it feasible for virtually any movie to find its way into theaters and then capture an audience.
“Posting stuff on Reddit, engaging with other filmmakers who were struggling like we were for years and saying, ‘Hey, this is how it’s working for us.’ We’re so lucky to have as many champions as we do in film schools, because they were able to send the ladder back down,” Cummings says, “We were able to give people insight and help when nobody else does, and, really, using the websites like Reddit and Imgur to share content, it’s been very useful to get people to see our longform content.”
The orginal article.
It’s what happened when I met Steve Carell this past summer.
In rapid succession you will have the opportunity to see Carell as a father struggling to understand and help his drug-addicted son in Beautiful Boy; as a brain-damaged trauma victim who copes with his emotional wounds by re-creating World War II battles with Barbie-like dolls in Robert Zemeckis’s Welcome to Marwen; and as former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld in Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic, Vice.
According to the actress Maura Tierney-who plays David Sheff’s second wife and Nic’s stepmother-when Chalamet first showed up on set several weeks later, “I remember Steve going, ‘Oh my God, he’s losing weight!’ in a very dadlike way. Their relationship was really like that.” Carell told me that his unfeigned dismay at Chalamet’s appearance that day-“He just looked terrible with the added makeup, like really shockingly bad”-kickstarted one of the film’s most wrenching scenes.
So much talk of fathers and children made me curious: Are Carell’s kids Carell fans? Do they watch his movies and binge seasons of The Office? Or does he try to keep them away from all that? “They keep themselves away,” he said, laughing.
With Carell now something of a household name and the series finding its creative sea legs, The Office would double its ratings in season two and win the Emmy for outstanding comedy series, while its star would receive the first of six nominations-inexplicably, he never won-for lead actor in a comedy series.
In between seasons, Carell shot a number of broad movie comedies, including Evan Almighty, Get Smart, and Date Night, which all did okay at the box office but weren’t nearly as interesting as what he was doing on TV. He wasn’t slumming, but he wasn’t moving the needle on his career, either.
As in Beautiful Boy, Carell does some subtle but affecting physical work.
Carell showed me a picture on his phone of himself in makeup as Rumsfeld, and the transformation was astonishing: If he didn’t look exactly like the former secretary of defense, he looked like Rumsfeld in an odd, slightly unrepresentative photograph, or maybe Rummy on a day when the air conditioners have broken at Madame Tussauds.
The orginal article.
Nicolas Cage is the greatest American actor working today, full stop.
Only Cage superfans said such things; in the eyes of the rest of the world, well, sure, he could act – he did win the 1996 Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, after all – but he was too eccentric, too laughably over the top, just too damn Cage-y to be taken seriously.
In a 2013 Reddit Ask Me Anything, Ethan Hawke confirmed that he, too, is a Cage superfan: “He’s the only actor since Marlon Brando that’s actually done anything new with the art of acting; he’s successfully taken us away from an obsession with naturalism into a kind of presentation style of acting that I imagine was popular with the old troubadors.”
These days Cage lives in “Well, the ROMANTIC way to put it would be the Mojave desert, but the CRUDE way of saying it is I live in Las Vegas”.
Cage is incredibly watchable as the devastated lumberjack, Red, who sets out to avenge the death of his girlfriend at the hands of a cult leader.
These are the very actors Cage always wanted to be like, having grown up watching them with his beloved father, Augustus Coppola, who made sure his son was grounded in the classics.
Cage’s various attempts to explain his acting style, using terms such as “German expressionist”, “Western kabuki” and, my personal favourite, “Nouveau shamanic”, haven’t done much to dispel the impression he is, at the very least, a little bananas.
Did Presley not find it strange that, before they married, Cage had dressed as her father onscreen twice, in Wild at Heart and Honeymoon in Vegas?
The orginal article.
For Jamie Lee Curtis, the star of both films, talking about her character, Laurie Strode, means also addressing #MeToo and PTSD and ways of connecting the horror genre – which, despite its unprecedented box-office ascendance, she knows to be disreputable – with healing.
The new Halloween, the #MeToo hack-’em-up, is one of many in a line of horror films – past and doubtless future – in which traumatized women take their battle to the bogeymen.
Things are so bad that we’re turning for uplift to horror movies, which tell us how not crazy we are to be paranoid in a world of predators, some in high office.
Where classic horror films proceeded from the quaint assumption that the universe leans toward stability but that poisons do build up, producing monsters that must be put down, most contemporary horror films, like Get Out, The Purge, and A Quiet Place, see the presence of monsters as the baseline, the worst-case scenario as the rule, not the exception.
How could any movie treatment of Black Lives Matter connect with a mass audience as effectively as Jordan Peele’s Get Out? It said to black people who suspect that all white people are racist, “Hey, you’re right. Not only that, but Obama-voting liberals who’ll praise your sense of rhythm and happily let you date their daughters are actually out to snatch your bodies.” And yet, presented as a horror comedy, a mixture of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? and The Stepford Wives, it’s blissfully entertaining.
Eighteen years before Laurie was dodging the knife of the masked killer who’d just murdered her best friends, Curtis’s mom stepped into a shower onscreen and, in 78 camera setups and 52 cuts, the modern horror film was born.
“The irony is that in those movies I am smart, intellectual, brave, romantic, and chaste. But in order to become ‘legitimate,’ I’m a Playboy centerfold who’s murdered by her husband , or I’m topless in a big studio comedy.” She’s paraphrasing a horror nerd’s line from one of the Scream movies, which proves the genre can be much more sophisticated in its satire than, say, Trading Places.
That’s what Jamie Lee Curtis has learned from horror films: that fighting demons isn’t just about saving oneself; it’s also a magnificent design for living.
The orginal article.
Bradley Cooper! Scion of Philadelphia, soulful scamp, passionate bookworm, soon-to-be movie star, dreamer of dreams, leerer of leers, stonewalling bane of profile writers, charmer of innumerable babes.
Bad Bradley Cooper movies tend to announce his character’s sexy dangerousness outright: In 2015 alone came the wayward Cameron Crowe Hawaii romance Aloha and the kitchen-nightmare foodie drama Burnt.
“I think Bradley Cooper is weirder than Tom Cruise,” a trusted confidante of mine recently observed, “Because he has not found an ideology through which to channel his deep discomfort with himself.”
Which leads us to the central, timeless conundrum of Bradley Cooper, which is: Is he serious? Is he funny? Is he funny on purpose? Are his increasingly intense attempts to convey his seriousness funny? Will A Star Is Born betray even one iota of self-awareness? If it doesn’t, will that make the movie better or worse? Is he one of his generation’s truly great leading men? Or is he a more pedestrian movie star with delusions of grandeur? And can the delusions, themselves, constitute a sort of grandeur?
Cooper is still elevating his game in Limitless, reacting to his first dead body the way a better character in a much better movie might.
He’s playing a cocky FBI agent, and his early patter with Adams has a tone familiar from far lousier Bradley Cooper movies: “I break the rules. I like you.” Very long story short, he gets wrapped up with some black-diamond con artists and is soon in way over his head, with all the disco hedonism and eventual freakouts that implies.
Based on Kyle’s own 2013 memoir, Sniper is unceasingly reverent toward the man and unsparing in depicting the viciousness of the war, and Cooper clings valiantly to the character’s fundamental decency despite shooting a truly alarming number of men, women, and children, and throwing the word savages around with casual aplomb.
Of course Bradley Cooper wound up in a bunch of Marvel movies, and of course he did it in the weirdest way possible.
The orginal article.