Is it list making time already? Every year it feels like I’m playing catch up. Even as I’m writing this there are so many 2018 movies I still want to see; A Star is Born, The Favourite, The Guilty, Blaze, Burning, Free Solo, They Shall Not Grow Old, and Paddington 2 which is apparently the greatest movie ever made. I had a lot of trouble making a list this year. Maybe it’s not my fault. Maybe it’s 2018’s fault. I mean, Bohemian Rhapsody won “Best Drama” at the Golden Globes so who the hell knows what’s good anymore. Enough small talk. Let’s do this…
If Beale Street Could Talk
I know not everyone is a fan of media giant Netflix going HAM and scooping up every film they can get their hands on but it’s the perfect platform for an indie horror movie like Cam. Cam is a small film about a niche subject matter “cam girls” and could easily have been lost on VOD or ignored in theaters. Netflix put Cam front and center on my main page and though I hadn’t heard anything about it, now that I’ve seen it, I will never forget it.
Cam is about a cam girl named Alice (Madeline Brewer) aka “Lola” who makes a living performing cam shows on the internet. Delving into this world is creepy enough but the film takes a turn for the supernatural when Alice finds an exact copy of herself performing more “taboo” shows online and becoming a cam superstar. The film was written by newcomer Isa Mazzel, a former cam girl herself, and is a fascinating look into what it’s it’s like to lose your sense of identity on the internet.
Nothing about this film should work. It’s long, it has too much CGI, too many characters, the only real character with an interesting arc is the villain. Yet I love every second of it. You have to respect Marvel for the time and patience they’ve put into building their universe and characters. There’s not a weak link in the cast and not a moment wasted in this action-packed blockbuster. I feel like I’ve grown up with these characters—even if I was 18 when the first one came out—and feel very attached to them now. They haven’t let me down yet and I have a feeling they aren’t going to when Endgame comes out either.
A western by the Coen Brothers. What’s not to like? Let’s break it down:
– First story – funny cowboy shoot ‘em up. Plays out like a gory Looney Tunes episode.
– Second story – also funny, not a great ending but memorable set pieces and a big plus to pots ’n pans armor.
– Third story – Fucking sad. My favorite segment.
– Fourth Story – Most rounded. Satisfying end. Tom Waits is fucking perfect.
– Fifth Story – A little long but a memorable ending
– Sixth Story – short and sweet. Most creepy. Reminded me of Night Gallery
And that’s all I’m giving ya, you bunch of misanthropes.
All I’ve heard this year is “Hereditary this and Hereditary that”. I get it. Hereditary is great but it has overshadowed a lot of other great horror movies from this year. My favorite horror film of 2018 was Ghost Stories from merry ‘ol England. Written and directed by Jeremy Dyson of the British comedy troupe the League of Gentleman along with actor and supernatural enthusiast Andy Nyman (who also stars) Ghost Stories is a spooky mindbender less concerned with scares and rather how supernatural encounters shape our lives.
Andy Nyman plays Phillip Goodman, a professor, and TV presenter, well known for debunking psychics. Goodman meets famed paranormal investigator, Charles Cameron (Martin Freeman in old man makeup) and is given the chance to investigate three people (another of which is also played by Freeman) who claim to have come face to face with the dead. Each story is told to Goodman, like an anthology film, and with each story, we learn more about people’s relationships with life and death and how these people are in a way a reflection of Goodman’s own personal demons. The film ends in a left-field twist that I would normally hate but Ghost Stories does such a good job of building Goodman’s world and his thoughts and feelings that I loved it.
I felt alone in my love of Ghost Stories until one of my favorite YouTube video essayists posted a video TODAY about Ghost Stories being his favorite horror movie of the year as well. Click here to check it out.
This is a tough watch. Tough because it’s a film about a cycle of violence prevalent in a lot of today’s communities. In this case, that community is Rockford, Illinois, a crime-ridden town that’s seen better days. Our subjects are three teen skateboarders filmed over the course of 12 years. Zack can’t escape his bad habits, abusing his girlfriend Nina and unable to care for his newborn child. Kiere feels trapped in Rockford and haunted by the death of his father, who though abusive was also his hero. And Bing—also the film’s director and cinematographer—can’t escape the memories of being abused by his stepfather and how it’s damaged his relationship with his mom.
It takes a lot of courage to talk about abuse and put your whole life out there for the world to see. This combined with the joyous moments in life, like skating and hanging out with friends, provides for a shockingly intimate portrait of living in middle America. These are the stories we need to listen to and not ignore.
Imagine if you sunk all of the money you had, all your creative energy, and all your youth into your first feature film then one day POOF. It all disappeared. That’s what happened to Sandi Tan. In the summer of 1992, 19-year-old Sandi wrote and starred in a feature film about a 16-year-old girl who goes on a road trip around Singapore killing people. The film was called “Shirkers” and Tan made it with her two best friends Jasmine Ng and Sophie Siddique. Tan enlisted her enigmatic former professor, Georges Cardona, as director and they shot the film in two months. The three girls went back to school as 70 reels of film were taken by Cardona to be developed. Except the film never was developed. Cardona took the footage and disappeared.
In this documentary directed by Sandi Tan, also named Shirkers, Tan shares her strict upbringing in Singapore, her early love of punk rock and arthouse cinema and how she conceived her wildly creative first film. We get glimpses of what the film could have been through Tan’s recovered footage and one can’t help but wonder if Shirkers could have been a cult classic if not for its unfortunate fate.
The second half of the film explores the mystery of Georges Cardona. A man that Tan tries to piece together through meetings with those who knew him, old recordings, and her own personal recollections. Shirkers is a film about beauty, lies, deception, a loss of innocence and so much more through the lens of cinema. It’s on Netflix. Check it out.
Just when you think it’s not gonna get any crazier it gets crazier. Boots Riley has made a splash in a big way with his colorful, cool, and crazy debut film. You could have solely made a film on the fact that we have a black telemarketer, Cash (Lakeith Stanfield) pretending to be a white guy over the phone to succeed. Then you have him selling arms and labor and then… let’s just say it escalates. I can’t think of anything like Sorry to Bother You it’s satire, it’s sci-fi, and comedy. It’s surprising that the latter is getting harder to come by these days.
Three Identical Strangers is the kind of movie that lures you in with a fun premise but keeps you watching with the mystery that lurks underneath. A brief recap if you’re not familiar, Three Identical Strangers is the story of three orphan brothers separated at birth and reunited as young adults in the early ‘80s. The trio becomes celebrities and goes on to open a popular New York restaurant. Tragedy strikes when one of the brothers struggles with mental issues and spirals into depression, and then worse.
As the film progresses the brothers look into their history and discover they along with other groups of twins and siblings were part of an experiment through an adoption program. An experiment to study how twins/triplets would develop if split up and raised in different environments. “What was learned?” and “Why was this study covered up?” is what the latter half of this film explores and it is gripping. You know you’ve seen a good documentary when you feel the need to go out and try to uncover the truth yourself.
Yes, this is more or less the plot of that Ryan Reynold’s movie Waiting but Support the Girls is so much more. Regina Hall gives an award-worthy performance (Where’s the buzz?) as Lisa, the manager of a cheap breastaurant. Supported by a talented cast including; Shayna “Junglepussy” McHayle, Dylan Gelula, and indie star on the rise Haley Lu Richardson, Support the Girls is a subdued yet impactful feminist comedy from the father of mumblecore, Andrew Bujalski. I could watch these characters for hours.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard cinephiles say a movie is like Taxi Driver or has a “Taxi Driver feel”. It’s a comparison I hear often though it rarely feels apt. First Reformed feels like Taxi Driver. Which makes a lot of sense seeing as it was was written and directed by the writer of Taxi Driver
Ethan Hawke plays Toller, a lonely minister at a historic church in upstate New York. Suffering from a serious illness and a sense of insignificance, Toller’s world is turned upside down when a member of his congregation tells him about the impending doom of mankind via climate change. This realization challenges Toller’s views of mankind to the point where he contemplates blowing himself up to make a stand against a powerful local industrialist. The tension is palpable.
First Reformed is as much an environmental horror story as it is a dark character drama. “How can we save mankind from its own mistakes?”, “Is the end of all human life inevitable?” There are so many questions to ask and ponder from Paul Schrader’s script. Combine that with a unique visual style and enough ambiguity to make this film one that’ll burn itself square into your brain and eat away at your thoughts. God have mercy on all of us.
Thanks for reading!