Our critic's picks for the best from a great year in film
While I still have a fair share of the year-end fare to see, I'm struck by how many early releases stuck with me through the year. Some movies that may very well have made this list I've not seen (“If Beale Street Could Talk” et al.). Some big movies I've seen are not even close. (Is “A Star Is Born” seriously the Oscar frontrunner?) But this is a list of movies I wish you'd all see, because I love movies, and I love you.
1. “Eighth Grade”
Sweet, funny, occasionally cringe-worthy and wrenchingly honest, comedian Bo Burnham's directorial feature debut was a coming-of-age story for the social media era that could resonate across generations. And don't forget star Elsie Fisher for the year's best performance by a young actor.
See it in a theater while you can, but see it on Netflix if you won't. Just see it. Alfonso Cuaron's love letter to his upbringing outside of Mexico City is a stunner that feels big and small, often at the same time. This is why we have movies.
3. “The Favourite”
Comedy of the year, hands down, is the latest from director Yorgos Lanthimos, a period romp set in the 18th-century court of Queen Anne (an astonishingly good Olivia Colman) as two people (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, both also astonishingly good) vie for her, um, favour.
It was my under-the-radar pick for most of the year, and it holds up. A pitch-black comedy about two upper-class teens plotting a murder, it was one of the year's great surprises. If no one else will give it love, I give it a bunch.
5. “Isle of Dogs”
Wes Anderson's stop-motion delight is another film that stayed on my shortlist most of the year. The voice cast was uniformly amazing — from Bryan Cranston to a bit part from Tilda Swinton that was one of my favorite movie moments of the year. What can I say? I love dogs.
I say, again, has everyone forgotten about this one? Director Alex Garland's follow-up to his amazing “Ex Machina” was a mindbender with an ending that probably didn't leave mainstream audiences thrilled, but I'll be following his career like he's the next Kubrick. No pressure, dude.
7. “Sorry to Bother You”
Sometimes a movie is so out of the mainstream, you're just happy it got made. Boots Riley turned his hip-hop concept album into the year's weirdest, wildest, funniest deconstruction of modern capitalism that just gets more and more bonkers as it goes.
And speaking of bonkers, we have “Mandy.” Anchored by a Nicolas Cage performance that may be the most wonderfully unhinged of his career (and isn't even my favorite performance in the movie), this blood-soaked horror tale of love and revenge is a new weirdo classic.
9. “First Reformed”
You wouldn't expect anything “feel-good” from the screenwriter of “Taxi Driver,” but Paul Schrader's tale of a small-town minister is magnificently bleak with just a glimmer of hope. Then it's pretty bleak again. Ethan Hawke should also be remembered for this one.
10. “You Were Never Really Here”
It was a seven-year wait for director Lynne Ramsay's follow-up to “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” but it was worth it. Heavier on tone than dialogue, this one was anchored by a Joaquin Phoenix performance in a movie that went to some dark, violent places. It seems apropos for the times.