Ten Best/Favorite Movies of 2018
I wasn't going to do a Favorite/Best Ten of 2018, because it was such a lackluster year at the movies. But my webmaster said that I say that every year.
So lackluster or not, here goes:
- Springsteen on Broadway
My entertainment event of 2018 came at the end of the year. Thank the God of Rock.
The documentary Springsteen on Broadway was born to run. It is exhilarating, thought-provoking, and a genuine memory-inspirer. It brought back a rush of memories and created a potent new work that will become a lasting memory in the future.
Bruce's New Jersey -- Freehold and environs -- was challenging and provincial. My New Jersey -- Ocean City during summers -- was safe and comfortable. It was the New Jersey of Grace Kelly and Jack Ramsey. But New Jersey is New Jersey.
I grew up in Philadelphia. Now living in Las Vegas, what I miss most is the Atlantic Ocean and theater in the east. Philly was a pre-Broadway try-out town. Springsteen on Broadway brought it all back.
Bruce Springsteen is an irrepressible force of nature. He is a story-teller and an eloquent presence. His tales and songs of his life shake the dust from memories.
Springsteen on Broadway is Bruce's pursuit of truth. He seeks it with unyielding intelligence. Truth matters to him.
To me, that's everything.
- Leave No Trace
I sought empathy at the movies in 2018, because it was hard to find it elsewhere. The most empathetic film of the year is Leave No Trace.
It is based on an actual experience in Oregon, which gives its empathy greater relevance. It was directed with heart and humanity by Debra Granik. Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie give sensitive performances as a mentally-damaged father and his daughter trying to escape civilization and its control.
- Black Panther
This was a conundrum for me. Every single one of the black viewers I asked about it over months was not much impressed. They liked it, but basically thought it was just another Marvel movie. Many non-black viewers thought it was special. Director/writer Ryan Coogler did research and created a seemingly-viable sense of history and tradition. That impressed me.
- A Star Is Born
This is homage to old Hollywood with a patina of 2018, especially in language. Bradley Cooper -- every woman's favorite -- and Lady Gaga give powerful starring performances. Cooper's first movie directorial stint will garner a lot of Oscar votes from the phalanx of actors.
- First Reformed
This was a film for 2018, a year when almost everywhere the ends justified the means. And Jesus said the means do not matter, didn't he? In 2018, it seemed so. But writer/director Paul Schrader doesn't think so.
Schrader offers the dilemma of what does a good man do when he faces corruption and greed?
Ethan Hawke portrays the suffering, tormented pastor of "a tourist church that nobody attends." It is engulfed by a mega-church.
Hawke, one the most underrated actors in film today, gives a memorable performance as the battered pastor. Hawke has the best forlorn expression of any actor today.
First Reformed is a harrowing -- at times excruciating -- experience.
Ironically in all the turmoil, fate prevails.
A great ensemble brings this film to unexpected life. Christian Bale is extraordinary as Dick Cheney and Amy Adams gives substance to Lynne Cheney. Director Adam McKay directed with style. This is a film you have to stay through the credits to witness a crucial scene that changes the tone.
- Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Director Morgan Neville captures the compassion and empathy of Mr. Rogers in this entertaining documentary. But the television icon may seem an anachronism today.
Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen also create a documentary that captures the spirit of its subject. This icon is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who became a singular, legal warrior.
- Isle of Dogs
Director Wes Anderson provides an unexpected treat in this stop-action animated feature. It lacks pretension and expresses a unique personal vision by its maker.
- The Mule
This is a great rebound from this year's first Eastwood-directed movie, the hapless The 15:17 to Paris. The Mule is the first film Clint has both directed and acted in since Gran Torino (2008). It is essential Clint. It would be a fine farewell.