It’s the end of the year which can only mean one thing: end of the year lists. As with last year’s I feel like I need to post a full top 25 because there are just too many good films out there. Due to availability, I’ve not been able to view the following films which all could have easily made this list had I been able to see them: A Fantastic Woman, Foxtrot, The Post, Phantom Thread, and Wonderstruck.
Without further ado, the list:
25. Landline – Gillian Robespierre: A great look at familial women relationships. Gillian teams up again with Jenny Slate and it’s clear that they have an intimate understanding and ability to reflect the lives of women.
24. Mudbound – Dee Rees: Some of the biggest hype coming out of Sundance, Mudbound earns its reputation. A black and white family both struggle in rural Alabama but find a connection in themselves. All of this is done while both avoiding anachronisms and not falling pray to the white savior trope.
23. Dawson City: Frozen Time – Bill Morrison: A documentary of a gold mining town told entirely through a collection of film from 1890 – 1930 found buried in the town.
22. Thelma – Joachim Trier: Part lesbian coming of age film, part super hero origin story, and part Norwegian art house. Thelma’s blend of genre puts it ahead of the competing foreign thriller film Raw
21. I, Tonya – Craig Gillespie: While a rather traditional biopic. I, Tonya makes the list because of it’s hilarity. Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding is one of the best performances of the year.
20. The Beguiled – Sofia Coppola: A distinctly feminine take on the Eastwood classic, Sofia explores the female gaze in a way the few films ever have.
19. My Happy Family – Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groß: An intimate emotional journey of a Women who unable to take the stress of her living situation leaves her 3-generation home for a small apartment of her own, despite living in a strict patriarchal society.
18. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – Noah Baumbach: Adam Sandler is the best he’s been since Punch Drunk love as one of three emotionally stunted adults (Ben Stiller and Emma Thompson round out the three) all struggling with their relationship with their father (Dustin Hoffman).
17. mother! – Darren Aronofsky: One of the more divisive films of the year, ultimately, it’s artistic merits won out for me. The first half in particular was a haunting story of a woman trying to understand her role in life which is strongly connected to her husband.
16. Baby Driver – Edgar Wright: Easily the most fun I had in theaters all year. Edgar Wright’s take on the musical is a fun ride and even the gratuitous violence of the ending. The dedication to pace every scene with the music show’s his love for film
15. All This Panic – Jenny Gage: A documentary shot over three years of a group of teenage girls. They are not famous nor are they involved in any monumental event, but the film just shows what it’s like to be a teenage girl on the cusp of womanhood and what their connection with each other looks like.
14. Blade Runner 2049 – Denis Villeneuve: Wow, I did not expect this to be as good as it was. The cinematography immediately transported me back into the 1982 classic. Villeneuve manages to capture the quiet solidarity that few major Hollywood films would allow to happen but is essential for this film.
13. The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro: Maybe the prettiest film of the year, del Toro’s vision is in full form for Water. As opposed to some of his more recent films, it’s very clear that The Shape of Water was a passion project, not a studio agreement. This love puts Water in the same del Toro category as Devil’s Backbone or Pan’s Labyrinth.
12. The Florida Project – Sean Baker: The decision to tell a story of poverty from the eyes of a 6-year-old (played by an amazing Brooklynn Kimberly Prince) was genius. She doesn’t fully grasp the desperate nature of her situation, but instead is able to explore and adventure with the other children in similar positions. When the adult reality can no longer be hidden from the children their reaction offers a unique look into the world of poverty
11. World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts – Don Hertzfeldt: The sequel to my favorite film of 2015 is almost as amazing as the first. Hertzfeldt’s animation is breathtaking as he uses the simplest stick figures and computer graphics to create a surreal picture of the future and its technology. Using his young niece as Emily Prime again leads to countless humor in the mindful and serious themes.
10. Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan: Real talk, I kind of hate Christopher Nolan. His treatment of women is garbage, and his style is overrated all because he did Batman and introduced the mainstream world to a slightly more educated auteur. That said, Dunkirk is brilliant. The film feels cold and desperate perfectly reflecting the experience of its inhabitants. The cinematography, pacing, and score all combine to make an enchanting journey.
9. Good Time – The Safdie Brothers: After robing a bank together, Robert Patinson’s brother is caught, and he spends the night trying to break him out. Pattinson is his all time best working in a Safdie film. He excels at playing desperate for the masters of fruitless desperation. Dark and anxiety inducing Good Time creates an overwhelming cinematic experience.
8. Song to Song – Terrence Malick: After a string of forgettable Malick films, Song to Song marks his return, and is my favorite of his since The New World. The Austin music scene provides a grounding balance to counter Malick’s meandering style. Between this and A Ghost Story (which barely missed the list), Rooney Mara has really cemented herself as the premier American Art-House actress.
7. Columbus – Kogonada: The premise has been dozens of times over. Two unconnected people in search of meaning or guidance cross each other’s path and create an intimate (though not necessarily romantic) relationship. They wander and discuss and help one another find meaning in their lives. Columbus is another of that ilk, and yet somehow much more. By subverting the dialogue heavy standard for the genre with silence and character contemplation, Kogonada creates a cinematic experience outside of the expected.
6. The Square – Ruben Östlund: The follow up to the underseen Force Majeure, the 2017 Cannes Palme d’Or winner is another blend of drama and satire. Exploring both the creative process and the consumption of art, Östlund manages to poke fun at himself and other artistically driven creators, while also demanding a more respectful level of admiration form the consumers of the media.
5. Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig: One of the biggest tearjerkers of the year, after just one film, it’s apparent that Gerwig has the makings of a great auteur. Her voice translates from her writing with Noah Baumbach into her direction as Lady Bird exists in a distinctly Gerwigian world. Focusing on Lady Bird’s relationships during the often-tumultuous final year of high school, Gerwig presents a feminine voice to the male dominated coming of age story.
4. Faces Places – Agnès Varda and JR: Potentially Varda’s last film, Faces Places encapsulates her love for the lives of people in the small French towns. As a team, Varda talks with people and learns of their stories and lives so that JR can best capture them for his giant pasted photographs. Together they highlight the lives of those that would never have a film created about them otherwise.
3. All These Sleepless Nights – Michal Marczak: Of all the experimental documentaries that made my list, this may be the most experimental and is the best of them. Following Kris through a year of Saturday nights, a picture is painted of a young man amid his quarter-life crisis. He mourns love only to find it and fall out again. He searches for answers in drugs, parties, and endless walks through the quiet night.
2. Call Me by Your Name – Luca Guadagnino: A wonderful European queer coming of age story. The young Elio’s pining for the older Oliver pushes him to explore his passions. Beautifully shot Call Me by Your Name is nothing less than a masterpiece. The fact that a film so far from the American standard instead embracing a more European pace and restraint has captured the American consciousness gives me hope for the future of film.
1. Personal Shopper – Olivier Assayas: The combination of Kristen Stewart and Olivier Assayas is perfect. I honestly don’t know what I can add to that. Stewart is the best actress of her generation, and Assayas tells the personal, emotional stories that play to Stewart’s strengths. Her steady and reserved demeanor is shaken as the events of the film unfold and her frailty is palpable in a way to which none of her contemporaries can hold a candle.