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"Good Old JR" Jim Rutkowski weighs in with his TOP 10 films of 2018 at the Mid-Term

No Failing Grades for This Years Mid-Terms

(071418) Good movies don’t wait for awards season, which means loving movies is a year-long gig. You’re probably used to seeing best-of lists pop up at the end of the year, but when you wait that long, too many good ones inevitably get lost in the shuffle. There are just too many good movies these days, and whether they land in theaters, head straight to video or pop up on your favorite streaming network, there’s always a new release to get excited about, no matter what time of year it is. With that in mind, I'm casting a wider net and kicking things off early with our best movies of 2018 so far, from big-hype blockbusters to indie horror, studio comedy, animated gems, and everything in between. Let's look at 10 films that have risen to the top so far in 2018.

These are not in any particular order.

Director: Alex Garland, (For Full Review click the icon)
Although it was sold more as action movie, Annihilation is far more comfortable in the mold of twisted, mind-bending sci-fi. The plot involves five female scientists headed into an alien phenomenon called “The Shimmer” only to discover the rules of time and biology start to become warped within. It’s a truly terrifying movie (the screaming bear made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up), but one with a lot on its mind about the nature of decay, self-destruction, and the possibility of rebirth. Writer-director Alex Garland has crafted the best kind of sci-fi with Annihilation: the kind that keeps you talking about the movie long after the credits have rolled.

Director: Morgan Neville
Yes, this movie will likely make you cry, but as you’ll also see from Morgan Neville’s moving documentary about Fred Rogers, crying is more than okay. What makes Won’t You Be My Neighbor? such a powerful look at Rogers’ life is that it’s really about his ideas. Rather than simply doing a cradle-to-the-grave hagiography about the beloved children’s entertainer, Neville drills down into the ethos of Rogers’ work. While not all viewers will agree with Rogers’ conclusions, we respect them because we respect him because he taught us to respect each other. The most important question the documentary asks isn’t “What would Fred Rogers do?” but “What would you do?” So wipe away those tears and be the person Rogers knew you could be.

Director: Paul Schrader
First Reformed is not an easy movie by any stretch, but it is one of the best movies of the year. Paul Schrader’s meditation on faith and despair follows a priest (Ethan Hawke) of a small congregation who is begins falling further into hopelessness as he attempts to council a pregnant wife (Amanda Seyfried) and her activist husband (Philip Ettinger). Schrader allows the audience to sink into the despair with its priest, but it’s never a punishing experience. Rather than try to emotionally eviscerate the audience with bleakness, First Reformed is almost a conversation with the elements that cause despair from global warming to institutions of faith that seem more designed for profit than for spiritual care. And yet despite its lofty ambitions, it’s never preachy or overbearing. First Reformed can be dark and disturbing, but there’s still light in the darkness.

Director: Ari Aster
Ari Aster makes one walloping directorial debut with Hereditary, an exquisitely crafted trip down a rabbit hole of terror and torment, wherein one family on the brink of self-destruction is torn apart by a supernatural menace. Following the death of her mother, Annie (Toni Collette) and her family wander into an inescapable nightmare of grief and agony, where every choice and circumstance brings them closer to their inevitable doom. Shot with tremendous precision and carefully constructed to drag you into the nightmare alongside them, Hereditary features some of the most stunning technical filmmaking of the year bar none, and the most breath-taking performance of Collette’s career (which is really saying something) — not to mention a score and sound design that would give you nightmares even if you weren't watching the screen. But Hereditary will keep your eyes glued to the madness as it unfolds, watching a family walk into a trap they help build themselves. It’s an intense, physical experience that sticks with you ages after you leave the theater.

Director: John Krasinski, (For Full Review click the icon)
The second horror film on the list. The genre is on a high note currently. I hope you’re ready to talk about A Quiet Place! Not just right now when it’s new and buzzy, and not just at the end of the year when it’s popping up on Best of 2018 lists. (And who knows? Maybe even Academy Award prediction pieces as well.) A Quiet Place is a cinematic and genre achievement that’ll be discussed, analyzed and celebrated for years to come. It’s a movie that fires on all cylinders. It boasts a chilling core concept, stellar performances oozing with emotion, and technical elements that bring it all together in a way that makes it a visceral viewing experience. A Quiet Place doesn’t let you sit back and watch the scenario play out. You are wholly consumed by the atmosphere and sound design to the point that you – the moviegoer – are terrified to make even the slightest sound. It’s a standout film that no doubt will make John Krasinski a hot commodity as a director and also continue what genre successes like Get Out, IT, The Witch and more have recently highlighted; horror is a genre where style, craft and ingenuity can thrive. A Quiet Place helps break the mold and pave the way to more widespread and prestigious recognition.

Director: Lynne Ramsay
It’s been too long since the last Lynne Ramsay film (We Need to Talk about Kevin), but her latest feature shows she’s lost none of her bite or ferocity. In the hands of a lesser director, You Were Never Really Here would just be Taken with Joaquin Phoenix, but Ramsay turns the picture into a fascinating portrait of violence and madness. The brutality is absolutely gut-wrenching, but Ramsay never loses the thread of her protagonist, who has been consumed by a lifestyle he never really wanted and no longer knows how to escape. The film also features one of Phoenix’s best performances, making full use of both his vulnerability and his viciousness.

Director: Ryan Coogler, (For Full Review click the icon)
Inarguably one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movies ever, director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is a thrilling, moving, thoughtful, and challenging piece of blockbuster filmmaking. The superhero pic doesn’t skimp on the heroics or humor we’ve come to expect from the MCU, but the Creed and Fruitvale Station filmmaker also threads a strong thematic needle of what it means to be black in America vs. what it means to be African, exemplified by the struggle between Wakandan King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and the film’s antagonist Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). That’s not the only theme at work, as the film also traverse issues relating to isolationism, escalation, and gender dynamics, and Black Panther gives us one of the most complex superhero “villains” to date with a positively incisive performance from Jordan, resulting in a surprisingly emotional viewing experience. And then there’s the women of Wakanda, as Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Ramonda (Angela Bassett) fill out a delightfully dynamic ensemble filled with complex and engaging female characters. We’ve come to expect enjoyable experiences from Marvel movies, but never have we been presented with one as rich and invigorating as Black Panther, which transcends the genre as one of the best films of the year so far, period.

Director: Paul King
If you could bottle pure joy and turn it into a movie, it would look something like Paddington 2. I almost get mad when I think of all of the people that didn’t see this movie in the theater, and then I calm down because that’s what Paddington would do (he might give them a hard stare, though). The film is a pure delight from start to finish and it carries a great message about what it means to not just be a good person, but the importance of treating other people with kindness. The fact that the message doesn’t come off as mawkish or maudlin is a minor miracle, and 2018 will be hard-pressed to find another movie that leaves the audience feeling so uplifted. Plus it features Hugh Grant giving one of the best performances of his career.

Director: Chloé Zhao
What’s so subtly special about Chloé Zhao’s intimate, lyrical film is the way it takes what easily could have been reportage and turns it into modern American myth. Injured cowboy Brady and his rodeo riding friends live in a milieu both quintessentially American and completely obscure to most 21st-century Americans. And yet, their story will feel immediately relatable to any person — or country, for that matter — that has ever had to accept a fundamental change or loss or blow to their sense of self.

Director: Debra Granik
The extraordinary saga of a 13-year-old girl (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) who lives in the woods, hiding from authorities with her traumatized Iraq vet father (Ben Foster), is both melancholy and brimming with hope. They have an easy tender relationship — the actors seem keyed to each other’s thoughts. Though she loves her dad, she slowly realizes that his damaged psyche doesn’t have to be yoked to hers. Of all modern feminist directors, Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone) is the most mournful. Her heroines don’t move on happily, but they’re responsible for themselves, kids, and, implicitly, the life of the species. So move on they do.

Hear Bocepheus, Rod Flash and Yours Truly discuss their Top Ten Films of 2017 lists (30 films in total) on Episode 58 of The Alternate Reality Podcast....



Discussion of the Top 10 Films of 2017

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