Best Films 2018 Revised


23 April 2019| No Comments on Best Films 2018 Revised     by Sean Chavel


When it comes to the list, I have no proclivity to win popular tastes. I have a few hits, a few misunderstood titles I want to defend, a few obscure titles and a few I am predicting will be discovered with cult devotion decades down the line. Note: It took a long time to process, and so “Vox Lux” did not initially make the list, but I later had to add it to the year’s best, making it one of only five films I scored 5-stars on the year. LAST UPDATED 4-23-19

BEST OF 2018

Annihilation – Brainy sci-fi with Natalie Portman leading an all-female team into an alien force-field that the military has walled off from civilian life, and to date missions have been recorded with the demise of all male combat teams. If you are wondering if there was a more important film of 2018, I’d say, why wouldn’t this be important. What could be more important than seeing one of the five best science-fiction films ever made? This is a film that, first description aside, is unlike anything that has ever been made, and it contains the ultimate movie predicament: By the time meeting the objective point of the mission, you can retreat and maybe be lucky enough to survive, and going forward will likely result in death but it could hold answer to the secret of what is the evolved power of alien life that exists in the far-out universe. Alex Garland previously directed the absolutely superb “Ex Machina,” my favorite film of 2015, but he has already outdone himself. The lighthouse climax is the only truly terrifying time I’ve had at the movies in the last ten years. And, at last, audacious. We are all genetically fashioned to trigger self-destructive impulses within ourselves.

A Star is Born – The showbiz conflict between man and wife has been made three times previously if not countlessly imitated to death, yet it’s an understatement to say Bradley Cooper’s take is clearly the best. It doesn’t take long before persuading itself as one of the most essential of all relationship movies. Then it kicks in that it transcends even though watermarks, it has Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga delivering maybe the best ever performances of musicians in the business, the script gets very personal of how the male ego degenerates when he loses his male dominance, and perhaps, if I’m getting a little lofty here, it gets you thinking about men and womens’ truest impulses in this particular place in the history of time. It’s storytelling about life and stardom on Earth now, done in a way that offers so much bolt of truth that it is transcendent. As I try in general to figure out what causes broken marriages in this day and age, I turn to this film obsessively in my mind to try to answer that quandary.

Mission: Impossible — Fallout – I’ve had my share of pet favorite James Bond outtings, some reputable, some ridiculous but I love being in on the joke. We’ve all had a thing for expensive globe-trotting spy adventures where the world is at stake. Lately, the “Mission: Impossible” series has gone more exotic, more breakneck, more aero-dynamic, more intriguing in its case of high stakes than anything 007. Movies at their most primal are supposed to be exciting escapades, though we usually shrug and go along with whatever half-baked thing Hollywood cranks out and say, “Not bad.” Tom Cruise, with all his tenaciousness, aids “Fallout” to blow all the competition out of the water, because it is simply more muscular and more sensational in its visual cascade. We love to be entertained and excited. Here is one of the most truly exciting action pics of the century.

BlacKkKlansman – In the early 1990’s, the works of Oliver Stone and Spike Lee burned brighter than any other filmmakers of that period. They were political provocateurs foremost, but they knew how to entertain. As time wore on, their stars tarnished for very complicated reasons. I’ll be brave and say right-wing demagoguery helped do them in. Stone and Lee would always have their followers, but each subsequent film became less of a must-see event as studios shied away from their dream projects. This is finally the Lee film that harkens back comparison to the provocative potency of those early 1990’s works. John David Washington has hip force as police officer Ron Stallworth, who went undercover in the 1970’s with the aid of fellow cop Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to infiltrate David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. Lee exposes the KKK for its inept and pathetic “operations” and illuminates how the Black Panthers – intellectuals with desires to go further than the Civil Rights to attain greater rights to equality but whom as an organization made the mistake of bearing arms – were misunderstood.

Vox Lux – The most disturbing film I’ve seen in years. It is what director Brady Corbet’s final title card says it is, “A Portrait of the 21st Century.” It is all our collective living nightmare, about how we deflect tragic news and how some reap a career from catastrophic events; here, a singer becomes famous from a song performed following a 1999 school shooting (the raw verite feel is what gives it such unnerving power), and 18-years later she’s famous for an entirely different persona. Natalie Portman, who doesn’t make an appearance until right before the 50-minute mark, is in a matter of words, devastatingly astounding as pop singer Celeste — it’s perhaps the best performance by an actress in 2018, and she only spent ten days shooting. Corbet’s film has outraged me, haunted me, obsessed me, whipped me into higher consciousness thinking. I cannot get over it.

The Favourite – Surrealist specialist Yorgos Lanthimos somehow became out of nowhere one of my favorite directors of this past decade (“The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”). Now he’s made a historical piece, set two hundred years ago in England, about the triumvirate struggle between a queen (Olivia Colman) and two servants (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) whom ratchet up serious political influence. Guess, which of the actresses is most cunning in that delicious, backstabbing way? Lanthimos seems less interested in teaching you about the history of Queen Anne than he is saying that socio-political struggles have likely been an absurd mess like this one for most of the history of time. The cinematography, like “Barry Lyndon,” is natural-lit and a little icy, and uses a fish-eyed lens in some shots like one would use a looking glass if you could see into the past.

Hereditary – Shuddering horror film that commits the specious crime (at least in the way it was received) of being… too intellectual. Before we uncover the meaning of the roaming spirits that invade one specific family rebounding from trauma, the director Ari Aster explores a family that seems to be afflicted by inner demons, comprised of self-loathing, fear and distrust with the same power as achieved by Martin Scorsese’s thriller “Cape Fear.” There’s one aspect of “Hereditary” that annoyed me, that a freaky death takes place and a scene is missing where the police would arrive to question the family. The film just brushes by it by skipping ahead a week. Notwithstanding, this is horror of ghosts and exploration of a mother’s nervous breakdown (Toni Collette is phenomenal), and the mood of fear and paranoia it creates is a high artistic achievement.

Eighth Grade – Maybe the saddest movie of the year. Misguided 13-year old Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is trying to make a friend, or even just get her voice heard, during her final junior high year. What’s sad is that every one of her peers communicates by Twitter and Instagram, and if you’re not part of that conversation that they’re on, you’re not relevant. Kayla makes YouTube videos on the art of “self-confidence” on the side, but finding an audience is tough, and finding wisdom at that age is near impossible. On a higher level, writer-director Bo Burnham is not just talking about eight grade he’s talking about new era technology and social media addiction on a grand scale.

Loveless (Russia) – What I find fascinating with the films of Andrey Zvyaginstev (“Leviathan,” “Elena”) is that he doesn’t seem to make films for his own people. The way he even arranges shots fills the purpose of letting other countries see what drudgery surrounds daily Russian life. It’s as if he’s saying, “Look at how much we suck. We’re corrupt and capricious. We’re frigid and disaffected. We live in cold, empty surroundings.” Zvyaginstev’s film is a passion play of a missing child feared dead and the parents holding out hope as they track him. But what really sticks is the idea that Russia is the last place I’d ever want to live, a broken and corrupt culture absent of empathy.

If Beale Street Could Talk – The kindest young black man and black woman are the heart of this 1970’s set story, based on the James Baldwin novel. The lovemaking is tender, and out in public, the charisma of them is dignified and enviable. Fonny will be arrested for a rape he was nowhere near, and Tish will have his baby. Director Barry Jenkins has a miraculous poetic gift, expounding lush emotions and contemplative musings from scene after scene. If there’s anything difficult to deal with here, it’s that in the larger scheme of things this is a short-lived love that is surrounded by much duress. Here’s a film that struck a permanent chord in my heart, but it does ache, and I don’t think I’d be able to see it again any time soon.

The #11 Award That Would Have Made A Top Ten List Any Other Year:

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – The Fred Rogers documentary in which I became first nostalgic about revisiting moments of a squeaky clean TV program I once watched, then transformed from that it means a whole lot more to me now than it did then. Now it seems: Wow, what bold, spiritually cleansing segments “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” contained. A mensch in a cardigan who began strictly as a reverend for the Presbytery of Pittsburgh, Rogers went to pursue Public Access television because he didn’t like television and thought children deserved better. I found myself waiting for a clip to come around to show me, what’s the catch? What’s the hidden skeleton in the closet for Fred Rogers? What’s astonishing is that simply he was the most genuine article alive. He also did more to bridge the gap of racism in this country in the 1960’s than any of his contemporaries.

Honorable Mentions: First Reformed; Burning (South Korea); Get Me Roger Stone; The Wizard of Lies; The Rider; Fahrenheit 11/9; Paterno; Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again; Chappaquiddick; You Were Never Really There; At Eternity’s Gate; Green Book; Whitney; Widows; Sorry to Bother You; The Bleeding Edge; Filmworker; Crazy Rich Asians; Boy Erased


Best Actor: Bradley Cooper in “A Star is Born.” Runner-Up: Ethan Hawke in “First Reformed.”

Best Actress: Natalie Portman in “Vox Lux.” Runner-up: Lady Gaga in “A Star is Born.”

Best Supporting Actress: Olivia Colman in “The Favourite.”

Best Supporting Actor: Adam Driver in “BlacKkKlansman.”

Best Ensemble Cast: “Widows.”

Best Film Editing: “A Star is Born.”

Best Cinematography: “Annihilation.”  Runner-up: “The Favourite.”

Best Art Direction: “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.” Runner-up: “The Favourite.”

Best Costume Design: “Crazy Rich Asians.” Runner-up: “The Favourite.”

Best Music Score: “The Rider” by Nathan Halpern

Best Sound Design: “Hereditary.”

Best Visual Effects: “Ready Player One.”

Underappreciated B-Movies: “Unsane.” Runner-up: “Tomb Raider.”

Most Unexpected Movie I Came To Love: “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again.” The 2008 original was a decent programmer, but not only do I love this one a hundred times more I believe it harkens back to classic paradise-trap, debonair Hollywood.

Most Overlooked Art Film: “You Were Never Really There.” I find the plot absurd with its contrivance two evil senators from the same state fighting over forced sex slaves, but the virtuoso direction and Joaquin Phoenix’s volcanic performance deserve praise.

Most Overrated: “Black Panther.” It’s just another Marvel movie. Get over it. Black voices in film? Yes, please. See “BlacKkKlansman,” “Get Out,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Hidden Figures,” “Moonlight,”  “Sorry to Bother You” and “Marshall” from the last three years.

Biggest Disappointment: “First Man.” How could Damien Chazelle, the pre-eminent classical craftsman of Hollywood, dispose of that gift and jerky cam his own epic to smithereens? Will the real Chazelle come back?

Worst Actress: Greta Gerwig’s voice in “Isle of Dogs.”Worst Actor: Sam Elliott in “A Star is Born.” I obviously love the film, and while the character is necessary, I couldn’t understand half of what came out of Elliott’s gargling mouth.

Worst Films of the Year

Isle of Dogs – Only strict undying apologists of Wes Anderson could make outrageously stretched-out excuses how this dogs in Japan stop-motion animation “comedy” is sly and satiric. It’s just wretchedly monochrome and geeky and nauseating and repellent and appalling. While I’ve basked in enjoyment a handful of times with him, Wes Anderson is however not a god with immaculate taste. You’re delusional to think otherwise.

Zama (Argentina) – A period costume drama set several centuries ago in which you are not sure what the movie is telling you, what if anything is supposed to be visually interesting and which character is the one we should be focusing on. Supreme torture.

Gotti – The gangster flick stinker has a not-bad John Travolta, but that’s about it. We’re not sure how John Gotti ever got wealthy or vicious. It’s all prelude flashbacks and prison flash-forwards with no middle.

Welcome to Marwen – Tragedy reduced to synthetic cartoon tropes, with Steve Carell as a vet and assault victim nerd crumbling and running for cover when faced with adult problems. The fantasy dolls fighting Nazi is imagination at its disposable infancy stage. PTSD issues needs to be talked about in movies, but let’s give it a voice somewhere else where somebody with a perspective can actually deal with it, realistically. Oh, so you’re telling me it’s based on a real guy? That defense? It still didn’t have to be this retrograde sitcom-y.

A Wrinkle in Time – For twenty-five minutes it’s A-OK smart children’s entertainment, or so it seems. It goes to a neverending alternate world where we’re not sure if there’s even a society that occupies there, and a vague evil entity must be conquered by the children… and what the hell is happening in this movie?

Mandy – This avante-garde horror piece may  be reminiscent of David Lynch or Alejandro Jodorowsky crossed with the bloodsplatter of Tobe Hooper, and it is establishes a distinctive mood of Earth turned into a dissolute red sky hell. It’s also supposed to be a comeback work for actor Nicolas Cage. But beyond the nihilistic “mood,” it doesn’t say anything transcendental about hell or metaphysics or, heck, say anything coherent.

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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