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Top 25 Films of 2018

One of the great film years in recent memory gave us a sizable pile of new classics

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    Before we get to 2018’s best films, a year embarrassed with onscreen riches, a quick word about a bear.

    The year began with dread, held over from the one before it. The last few years have been great movie years, but especially rough years for reality at large, which makes escaping into movies all the more complicated. Do we want to escape? How often can we, or should we? Is it a copout of a sort to escape into art when daily life is perpetually characterized by the oncoming fear of what’s coming next?

    In 2018, realizing that we have to retain our simple pleasures even as we ask questions about them, we started to at least ask the right questions. Why can’t our populist entertainment, our biggest-budget movies, also open the doors that all of pop culture is long overdue for opening? Who are we tasking with making some of our biggest movies? Which stories are we telling, and consequently, which are presently absent or under-represented? Which movies do we value critically, and why do we value those movies?

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    This isn’t to say that a single question we’ve posed has a simple answer. None of them do, and at its best, that’s the exhilaration that film as a medium uniquely offers. You’re drawn into a space, whether your living room or a movie theater equipped for 70mm projection, for a set amount of time, and asked to engage with an experience different from your own. Sometimes they’re similar, sometimes very much so. But movies, at the very least, ask you to relate to another experience enough to be moved by it, or laugh at it, or be edified by it in some small way, until the credits roll and you move on through life.

    Paddington 2 (Warner Bros)

    Paddington 2 (Warner Bros)

    One of the 25 movies on the list you’re about to read is about an immovably kind Peruvian bear, and it’s hardly the only unusual choice our film staff found itself considering this year. Yet the bear sets a good example for how we can reflect on this tumultuous year and proceed into the next one, trying to find our better nature as it’s called into question on a nonstop daily basis. We can look out for our neighbors, even the ones we don’t always readily understand. We can believe that even people who’ve made grievous mistakes can be better than they’ve been. We can liberally deliver a hard stare when the provocation calls for it.

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    The movies felt a lot like reality this year. They were funny and beautiful, painful and personal, animated and oversized and close-hewn and sometimes, against all logic, even quietly lovely. So it then feels appropriate that we follow the bear’s advice as we look back, and then onward: If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right. It might sound simple, but if we’ve learned anything this year, that might be the hardest thing in the world right about now. The most radical thing we can do might just be to try and be nice.

    These are Consequence of Sound’s top 25 films of 2018.

    –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
    Film Editor


    HONORABLE MENTION: The Other Side of the Wind

    The Other Side of the Wind (Netflix)

    The Other Side of the Wind (Netflix)

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    Who’s In It? John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich, Oja Kodar, Bob Random, and a party full of hangers-on

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    ORSON WELLES IS BACK
    What did we do wrong, daddy?
    Back in Netflix form

    You Gotta See This: To paraphrase a colleague, how bleedin’ cool is it that we can boot up Netflix in 2018 and find a brand-new, fully assembled Orson Welles effort? What Welles started nearly five decades ago is now finished, not to mention challenging, and often quite riveting all the same. Death and decay in Hollywood, the transient restlessness of art, Huston versus Bogdanovich in an egotists’ battle for the ages?

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    The point being, even if this could veer into rambling, Welles’ resurrected effort is something to behold, and to feel grateful about. So while The Other Side of the Wind didn’t quite crack the final list, we have to give it up to producer Frank Marshall, editor Bob Murawski, and Netflix’s obscene spending habits. We got a miracle on this one. –Blake Goble

    Extra! Extra! Read Blake Goble’s full review here.
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    25. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony)

    Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony)

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    Who’s In It? Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    Nic Cage got to voice
    Superman and Spider-Man
    In the same damn year?!

    You Gotta See This: That this movie a.) exists and b.) is this good is nothing short of miraculous. Somehow, in the midst of the Marvel renaissance and a pop culture steeped in superheroes, Sony finally got Spidey right with this dizzyingly beautiful, drop-dead funny adventure featuring not one, but six different Spider-People.

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    More than an homage to the characters’ comic origins, Spider-Verse offers a refreshing reminder that Spider-Man could be anyone. If that wasn’t enough, its frenetic blend of animation styles, a dizzying collage of everything from traditional comics art to 3D to street art, is unlike anything we’ve seen before.–Clint Worthington

    Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.
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    24. The Death of Stalin

    The Death of Stalin (eOne Films)

    The Death of Stalin (eOne Films)

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    Who’s In It?: Steve Buscemi, Jason Isaacs, Paddy Considine, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, and Adrian McLoughlin as the fallen dictator in question

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    Josef Stalin died
    Everyone else is a goof
    Power vacuum time

    You Gotta See This: Armando Iannucci’s first film since In the Loop nine years ago is every bit as verbose, and every bit as hilariously profane. But what really distinguishes The Death of Stalin is that it’s the kind of dark comedy which pushes the boundaries of how dark one can get before it’s no longer even a comedy.

    In a kind of dissonant comic jazz, screwball comedy and pratfalls are undercut by constant executions and “disappearings” in the background of almost every scene. Like so much of Iannucci’s work on television, politics can be funny as hell, but there’s no magical point at which the power such people wield is anything less than terrifying. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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    Extra! Extra! Read Blake Goble’s full review here.
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    23. Black Panther

    Black Panther (Marvel Studios)

    Black Panther (Marvel Studios)

    Who’s In It? Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Sterling K. Brown, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman

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    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    WAKANDA FOREVER
    But Killmonger had some points
    Still, Wakanda? Real.

    You Gotta See This: Black Panther is big, sincere, and kinetic. It’s also never desperate for a hook, or an obvious YouTube moment. This is adventure filmmaking on a grand scale that should last, because the story is so good. No tricks. Few gimmicks. Just the art and artistry of seeing a charismatic good guy on screen, brought to life with a verve and imagination seldom seen in a constantly growing genre.

    It should not have taken this long to have a black-led tentpole comic movie, but instead of being a referendum, Black Panther seems defiantly comfortable with embracing tropes on its own terms. Oh, and Michael B. Jordan? That soundtrack? They don’t hurt either. –Blake Goble

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    Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.
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    22. Burning

    Burning (CGV Arthouse)

    Burning (CGV Arthouse)

    Who’s In It? Yoo Ah-in, Jun Jong-seo, Steven Yeun

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    Greenhouses in flame
    Glint off glassy eyes above
    An unhidden yawn

    You Gotta See This: Lee Chang-dong’s Burning, a gauzy, languid adaptation of a 1993 Haruki Murakami short story, isn’t a romance, although the casual viewer might mistake it for one. It begins, after all, with a tryst between a young, struggling writer (Yoo Ah-in) and a schoolmate he doesn’t remember (Jeon Jong-seo), one that becomes complicated when she returns from an international trip with the confident, well-off Ben (Steven Yeun).

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    What emerges from this triangle, however, isn’t romantic in nature so much as it’s cultural, with Chang-dong emphasizing distinctly Eastern themes of class and confusion. The film’s third act is nightmarish in its gravity, building to a gutting final scene rich in metaphor and pathos. I can’t stop thinking about it. –Randall Colburn

    Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.
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    21. Widows

    Widows (20th Century Fox)

    Widows (20th Century Fox)

    Who’s In It? Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal, Robert Duvall

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    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    In pristine white suits
    Viola shakes the game that
    Tried to deal her out

    You Gotta See This: When people talk about Widows in the decades to come — and mark our words, they will — the first thing they’ll mention will be The Drive. A fiendishly smart setup from director Steve McQueen sees Colin Farrell’s politician travel through an underserved ward, the neighborhood transforming from impoverished to prosperous, reflected in the windshield of his rich-ass car. It’s a terrific shot, but it’s deceptive, because Farrell’s is perhaps the least important voice in this film. Widows belongs to its women.

    One hopes that once audiences have marveled at McQueen’s incredible eye, they’ll move on to the screenplay, co-written with Gillian Flynn, which fills its central figures with contradictions and complexity, whether they’re railing at each other, summoning their courage, shopping for guns, or running to catch the bus. And we hope that the film’s final scene — in which a smile spreads, at long last, across Viola Davis’ face — is at least as reverently discussed as Farrell’s commute. The latter may dazzle, but the former lingers, on and on. –Allison Shoemaker

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    Extra! Extra! Read Sarah Kurchak’s full review here.
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    20. Mandy

    Mandy (RLJE Films)

    Mandy (RLJE Films)

    Who’s In It? Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, and an acid biker gang from hell

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    Panos Cosmatos
    Nicholas Cage makes an axe
    Love you, Mandy Bloom

    You Gotta See This: On paper, a revenge flick set in the ’80s at a cabin by the lake sounds redundant, if not precious. But Panos Cosmatos couldn’t be precious if he tried, and while some might argue the two-hour fellowship that is Mandy may tend to get redundant, they either have no appreciation for seeing a sobbing man in underwear or they’ve witnessed some serious shit themselves. Because what most can agree about on Mandy, even those who walked out feeling exhausted, is that there’s never really been anything like it.

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    Granted, that’s a cheap argument, so here’s another one: At a time when ’80s nostalgia is lazily used as a storytelling medium — see: this year’s hollow Summer of ’84Mandy actually earns it, wearing its decade in a literal suit of heavy metal armor. It’s brutal, it’s dreamy, but above all, it’s a midnight movie that would actually be a midnight movie in the ’80s. People forget how visceral these bastards used to be, but not Cosmatos, who assembled a surrealist thrill ride that feels of another time and another place … and another world. –Michael Roffman

    Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.
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    19. Cold War

    Cold War (Kino Świat)

    Cold War (Kino Świat)

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    Who’s In It? Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    Cue up that old song
    They dance a dance of heartbreak
    Loving and alive

    You Gotta See This: “In his poem “The Testing Tree”, Stanley Kunitz wrote, “I played my game for keeps–/ for love, for poetry,/ and for eternal life–/ after the trials of summer.” Kunitz’s speaker is remembering their childhood and parents, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that Pawel Pawlikowski’s extraordinary Cold War, which captures the on-again off-again romance of his mother and father in post-war Poland and France, resonates so beautifully with Kunitz’s poem.

    Captured in black and white with light that renders actors Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot positively lustrous, with a 4:3 ratio that recalls the great romances of yesteryear and allows Kulig to command every inch of the frame each time she steps behind a microphone, Cold War reverently chronicles a tumultuous romance stunted and warped by the shadow of a looming and lingering war. It’s perhaps best summed up by another few lines from “The Testing Tree”: “In a murderous time/ the heart breaks and breaks/ and lives by breaking.” –Allison Shoemaker

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    Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.
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    18. Wildlife

    Wildlife (IFC Films)

    Wildlife (IFC Films)

    Who’s In It? Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    American woe
    Mom and Dad may not make it
    This is growing up

    You Gotta See This: Paul Dano’s directorial debut is full of several things that have come to characterize the American 1950s in hindsight. Soft, melancholic light. A stillness that’s at once pastoral and eerie. The simmering tension of trying to exist in a time that enforces and demands certain performative roles from its men and women. But Wildlife, Dano and Zoe Kazan’s adaptation of Richard Ford’s novel, finds something far more achingly human beneath its trappings.

    As the teenage Joe (Oxenbould) watches his father (Gyllenhaal) run off to fight brush fires somewhere in the too-far distance, and his mother Jeanette (Mulligan) begin to consider the life she might have instead, he learns the hardest lesson, and the one we all eventually do: your parents were a great many different, contradictory people before they ever got around to being your parents. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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    Extra! Extra! Read Clint Worthington’s full review here.
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    17. A Star is Born

    A Star is Born (Warner Bros.)

    A Star is Born (Warner Bros.)

    Who’s In It? Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron

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    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    Tell me something, boy
    Haaaaa-eeehhhh-AHHHHH-ahhh-ahhhhhhhhh-AAAAAHHHHH-ahhhhh
    Or do you need more?

    You Gotta See This: The $30-50 million dollar adult melodrama seems bygone in this excessive era of filmmaking, but Bradley Cooper found curious new life for an old tale anyway. We got a great, grown-up throwback with his new A Star is Born. In the actor’s directorial debut, he took a staple story about love, performing arts, and other pitfalls, and made an ultra-appealing blend of romance both modern and traditional.

    Modern in its glam-slam aesthetic and wheezy, druggy rancor. Old-fashioned in Cooper’s insistence that this simply be a film about a couple in love, surrounded by incredible challenges. And what a debut for Lady Gaga. To quote record industry execs, she’s got the “It” factor. Presence. Affability. And those pipes, wow. If you still have the chance, see this one in a theater with good sound and heavy bass.

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    You’ll feel it when “Shallow” comes on. –Blake Goble

    Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.
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    16. Leave No Trace

    Leave No Trace (Bleecker Street)

    Who’s In It? Ben Foster, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie

    “Garth, that was a haiku!”

    The outside world lives
    Indoors, but Tom learns that
    Gardens need tending

    You Gotta See This: Leave No Trace, Debra Granik’s follow-up to 2010’s Oscar-nominated Winter’s Bone, is even sparer and sadder than the filmmaker’s previous effort. Its story of a father attempting to live off the grid with his 13-year daughter serves as a quiet reflection on PTSD and the power of community. Ben Foster’s cautious, restless veteran is the film’s empathetic, frustrating anchor, but its real magic comes in watching Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie discover for herself the world that’s so wounded her father.

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    Refreshingly, Granik’s film doesn’t adopt the same viewpoint as its protagonist; the denizens of this world are compellingly kind and, in short bursts, vividly drawn. That doesn’t mean that life can’t be unforgiving, of course, but it’s a gorgeous, optimistic way of asserting that we all need to find that out for ourselves. –Randall Colburn

    Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.
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