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2018: MY FAVORITE MOVIES OF THE YEAR (ranked)

by manybits
2018: MY FAVORITE MOVIES OF THE YEAR (ranked) by manybits
First, a confession. Overall, I watched fewer movies than last year. I did not attend as many festivals as usual – my preferred way of consuming moving images – and I rarely visit movie theatres these days*. This explains the absence of some festival darlings like Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite, Lee Chang-Dong’s Burning, Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War, Koreeda Hirokazu’s Shoplifters, Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria, and Mariano LLinàs’s La Flor among others. So, this list has an inevitable home video feel to it. At any rate – no pun intended – not only this selection is ranked, but also stratified. There is a considerable distance between the top… Read more

First, a confession. Overall, I watched fewer movies than last year. I did not attend as many festivals as usual – my preferred way of consuming moving images – and I rarely visit movie theatres these days*. This explains the absence of some festival darlings like Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite, Lee Chang-Dong’s Burning, Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War, Koreeda Hirokazu’s Shoplifters, Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria, and Mariano LLinàs’s La Flor among others. So, this list has an inevitable home video feel to it. At any rate – no pun intended – not only this selection is ranked, but also stratified. There is a considerable distance between the top three – Paul Schrader’s First Reformed (#1), an absolute masterpiece, Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman (#3), and Alfredo Cuaron’s Roma (#3) – and the second and third tiers. Blackkklansman is a masterful documentary about theDonald’s white nationalist agenda and the minions in charge of #MAGA. It’s apparently about the recent past (i.e. David Duke), but it really concerns the present (i.e. Richard B. Spencer). ROMA is Cuaron’s most political film. It’s also his best. When a director shows members of the American military training a ruthless Mexican paramilitary group (Los Halcones) in the first act and your average trigger happy American family shooting guns at a party in the second, you know that there is going to be yet another US-supported student massacre in the third act (the previous, CIA-sponsored Tlatelolco massacre, took place in 1968). Francois Ozon’s L’Amant Double is the best film about twins since David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers. Keep it weird, Francois! My top 20+ includes quirky gems like Julian Radlmaier’s Self-Criticism of a Bourgeois Dog (#6) – as a self-conscious bourgeois canine myself, I also wish to live in a Communist world without Communists, “So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on!” – and Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy – Where to start? Cielito lindo, vicious snowflakes, “You ripped my shirt”, chainsaw deathmatches, twenty minutes of uninterrupted money shots… Mandy is the most deranged thing since Beyond The Black Rainbow. It’s Hellraiser meets Mad Max meets Evil Dead meets anything that Rob Zombie ever dreamed to make. Two words: NICOLAS CAGE. The performance of a lifetime. And beyond. Panos! Panos! Panos! – but also Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s Laissez Bronzer Les Cadavres which would work as a video installation as well as a movie, perhaps even better. Heck, it would also make a great video game: the prolonged shootout scenes reminded me of a first-person shooter, with campers & snipers, map editors & cheaters. This is not pure cinema. This is delirious/hysterical Media Arts. Debra Granik’s Leave no Trace (#10) is a tutorial on how to live a mortgage free life in America, while Tamara Jenkins’s critique of the IVF industry, Private Life (#22), is a powerful indictment of the US, neoliberal-driven, healthcare business.  The Kafkaesque situations narrated by Lucrecia Martel’s Zama (#9) and Sebastiàn Hoffman’s Tiempo Perdido (#16) are equally mesmerizing: in the former, hell is a colony in Paraguay, in the latter, a timeshare village resort in Mexico (by the way, in 2013 Hoffman directed one of the most inventive zombie films of all times, Halley). Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot (#12) is about causation and correlation, feedback loops, and Mobius’ strips. Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas’ As Boas Maneiras (#11) is a genre shapeshifting of a movie about class warfare, gender play, and lycanthropy. Basically, A Brazilian Werewolf in São Paulo. Pity, Babis Makridis’s sophomore effort, is a radical reinvention of the serial killer genre (watch and learn, Lars Von Trier!). Joji Koyama and Tujiko Noriko’s Kuro (#19) and Flying Lotus’ Kuso (#20) redefined the very meaning of the term unwatchable. In Kuro, the cognitive dissonance caused by the disconnect between what we hear (for those who understand Japanese) or read in the captions (and thus imagine) vs. what we actually see on the screen is incredibly effective. It is also very taxing on the viewer because Romi’s account is truly terrifying. As brutal as Takashi Miike’s Audition – with elements of body horror that one would expect in an early Cronenberg’s movie – the unseen, imagined film is terrifying precisely because it remains as such. Meanwhile, Kuso is a riddle wrapped in a an enigma. Michel Gondry as a 4chan troll? Eraserhead for millennials? Quentin Duplex on Xanax? Ray Trecartin’s new video art piece? Jon Rafman playing tricks? Truly avantgarde? DaDaDaDaDaDa? Juvenile trash? Simply purulent? Extra eschatological? Mega pornified? Do you have appointment? THose Who Are Fine is the unofficial adptation of James Bridle’s Dark New Age: a sublime commentary on everyday life in a technocratic state. The only Italian film that made to the top 10 is Alice Rohrwacher’s Lazzaro Felice (#7), which focuses on the misadventures of Lazzaro, homo sacer. Rohrwacher’s latest film works as a counterintuitive metaphor of contemporary, populist Italy, a social and environmental disaster where institutional demagoguery is used to exploit the working class. As Italians say, “si stava meglio quando si stava peggio” (it was better when it was worse). Lazzaro is an idiot savant, closer to Charlie Chaplin than Forrest Gump. Kudos to Netflix for producing quirky, genre bending horror movies like Gareth Evan’s Apostle (#26) and Jeremy Saulnier’s Hold the Dark (#24). David Freyne’s The Cured (#25) describes a post-zombie plague world: an ingenious spin on a tired genre. It felt like a smart remake of 28 Weeks Later, with a strong political subtext, i.e. the revolt of the subaltern, marginalized, disenfranchised, resented class. Jim Cumming’s Thunder Road (#21) is both hysterical and tragic, a rare example of a brilliant short adapted into a fully functional movie. Vincent Lindon’s performance in Xavier Giannoli’s L’apparition (#17) is, once again, excellent. Bootsy Riley’s Sorry to Bother You (#14) is the cinematic equivalent of Childish Gambino’s music video “This is America”. Forget San Francisco: Oakland is the place to be. Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here (#13) marches on ruthlessly until it does not, and it features the best soundtrack of the year (Jonny Greenwood is superlative). A recurring figure in my cinematic escapades of 2017 was the sublime Elina Lowensohn, who starred in Let The Corpses Tan, L’Apparition and Bertrand Mandico’s The Wild Boys (#22), possibly the best Cocorosie music video ever. Can’t wait to see her again in Mandico’s follow up, Apocalypse After. She’s the stuff of dreams. And nightmares.

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