BEST MOVIES: 2018
BEST DOCUMENTARIES: 2018
BEST TV: 2018
- The Other Side Of The World
- Depose Corrupt Presidents trilogy
- Star Trek: Discovery
- Lost In Space
- The Defenders shows
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Note: This will often spotlight directors for special merit.
But Auteur Theory is a shoebox; films are a collaborative effort with everyone involved.
B E S T
M O V I E S :
2 0 1 8
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND ⇧ (1970+)
The best movie of the year was made in the early '70s and never released.
Orson Welles was the god Hollywood couldn't kill. Ostracized in his latter decades, the Golden Boy became the original Indie filmmaker, creating an unsupported ouvre that -in retrospect- is as interesting and challenging as his acolytes Fellini, Kubrick, Cassavetes, or Altman in the same period.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND was filmed intuitively and in pieces between 1970 and 1976. Financial setbacks prevented it from being edited and released until this year (see next entry). If it'd premiered in the '70s, it would surely have been hailed as the decade's 8½ (1963), a radical work visually and verbally quoted ever since.
Welles essentially sums up two decades of the film movement innovations that had been spurred by his early work. He spoofs/honors/savages his legacy as well as the experimental techniques of Italian Neorealism, the French New Wave, and the counterculture's New Hollywood. It is a strobe of metatextual brilliance: stunning visuals, multiple film stocks, films-within-films, intense eroticism, nonlinear complexity, arresting editing, and all with an abrasive wit that is downright Punk Rock.
It is a perfect bookend to CITIZEN KANE (1941): from a debut movie about the making of a myth, to a finale movie deconstructing movie mythmaking. And it's the worthy capstone to Welles' career that he hoped for, deserved, and now has finally achieved.
-THEY'LL LOVE ME WHEN I'M DEAD
The making of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND.
Like Josh Karp's book, this documentary details the insane backstory behind the Master's last great vision.
Welles' film had all the right ideas and all the wrong factors. It was undone by personal excess, betrayed friendships, swindled money, government coups, and indifferent Suits. But crowdfunding and Netflix restored and released the film at last, along with this wry exposé which interviews everyone involved.
-THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN
Set in 1981, this loosely true heist dramady will convince you it was a made then, like a lost New Hollywood refugee.
And Robert Redford, Sissy Spaceck, Tom Waits, and Danny Glover remind you how great acting only improves with wisdom.
The turn into the 20th Century was the birth of the modern world, and the French writer Colette was one of its prime harbingers.
Keira Knightley (like her rhyme, Natalie Portman) has liberated herself through indie character dramas, and brings vivid life to this biopic.
-SKATE KITCHEN ⇧
Crystal Moselle's handheld film about NYC skater grrrls is so real it's practically a documentary.
-MADELINE'S MADELINE ⇧
Josephine Decker's drama about improv theatre and mental illness gains all its potency from the riveting friction between Molly Parker and newcomer Helena Howard.
Alfonso Cuarón's calm meditation on class and identity during the brewing political upheavals of 1970 Mexico City.
Real performances captured in loose-panning cinematography.
The best love story of the year.
Sebastián Lelio's tale of forbidden love amid orthodox Judaism slowburns into glory with Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams.
-I AM NOT A WITCH (Africa) ⇧
Director Rungano Nyoni debuts with her sober eye and a quietly sweet heart.
A young African girl accused of witchcraft navigates superstition, bureaucracy, and class.
The public calm and troubled soul of Neil Armstrong.
The private life is subtle, the flights unnervingly intense.
History is repeating because of mass ignorance. Catch up to history's lessons with the perfect movie trilogy.
-THE POST ⇧ (2018)
The Pentagon Papers blew the whistle on the U.S. Government's illegal and immoral Vietnam War practices in 1971, and President Nixon tried to stop the Washington Post from exposing it to the country.
-ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN (1976) ⇧
After the 1972 Watergate burglary, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein followed the trail of multiple crimes to the President's office.
-MARK FELT: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (2017) ⇧
Woodward and Bernstein were helped by a mysterious informant called 'Deep Throat'. It turns out, the criminal President was deposed because of the leader of the FBI.
Any similarity to current reality is entirely our neglect.
-BURNING (South Korea)
Good craft and mood, dubious story hinge.
Public Enemy's heirs in Conscious Rap were the political firebrands, The Coup.
Frontman Boots Riley wrote and directed this ambitious satire: constantly hilarious, surprising, scathing, and ultimately startling.
-THE DEATH OF STALIN
This adaption of the French graphic novel about the lethal scramble for power in Communist Russia crackles like an '80s Monty Python solo film with a razor ensemble.
-SUPPORT THE GIRLS
What makes a breastaurant comedy worth it?
Satire, heart, and Regina Hall's breakout performance.
-THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
A Coen Brothers anthology of Old West tales breezing on all their strengths.
The enchanting first film gets the expansive, astonishing sequel (see also: BABE).
Director Paul King's triumph is buoyed by an exuberant cast, including the versatile Brian Gleeson.
The '80s-Spoiled-Suburban-Fantasy never worked for me. That said, some smart RomComs about High School love are updating Hughes's formula with needed upgrades.
-TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE
Director Susan Johnson and writer Sofia Alvarez bring more diversity and wit, fronted by the charming Lana Condor.
Greg Berlanti (the CW superhero shows) surprises with this necessary adaptation of Becky Albertalli's book, bringing wider sexuality and personal character issues into the mix.
Ron Howard saves the day by delivering the exact Han Solo origin story we needed: a Space Western (with nods from Ford to Leone to Penn) and a heist story gliding on fun banter, inverse turnovers, edgy grit, and moments of poignancy.
Lawrence Kasdan. Val. L3-37. Enfys Nest.
All fake Flitwits and MalBots on the net aside, the true fans appreciate this fine film.
> Why EMPIRE and LAST JEDI are actually the Best of the STAR WARS films
Ava DuVernay (SELMA) brings lucid life and range to the insular and sometimes abstract classic book by Madeleine L'Engle.
> THE CANON 2: 50 More Books That Created Modern Pop Culture
The best Science Fiction Romance Punk Opera Mindwarp Comedy of the year.
Director John Cameron Mitchell (HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH) returns with this expansion of a Neil Gaiman short story. Bristling 1977 Punk energy, celestial Motorik, latex polyamory, D.I.Y. tribes, metaphor speak, and scabrous cartooning, all laced by the always delightful Elle Fanning.
-PLEASE STAND BY
Quiet and underrated dramady following an autistic writer (Dakota Fanning) in her efforts to win a Star Trek screenplay contest.
-HAPPY AS LAZZARO (Italy)
A class allegory that shifts into enchanted metaphor as gently as a sun beam.
-READY PLAYER ONE
The insane cornucopia of pop cultural Easter Eggs wins the day for me.
Plus Olivia Cooke ('Bates Motel') gets the star turn she deserves.
-MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT
Solid basics, but the epic finale makes it worth the trip.
Killing knowledge kills humanity.
Ray Bradbury's timeless book portrayed how censorship and ignorance is cultural suicide.
Ramin Bahrani's new update couldn't be more timely.
> THE CANON 2: 50 More Books That Created Modern Pop Culture
-THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX
CLOVERFIELD and 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE get an unexpected summation in this SciFi thriller with a great cast, including perennial greats Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, and Zhang Ziyi.
Duncan Jones' long-awaited follow-up to MOON (2009) turns out to be a BLADE RUNNER homage.
An erratic pinball with effective moments and dodgy turns.
Less is always more, implication is always more potent, suspense always outweighs shocks.
All the right moves, and Emily Blunt.
-BIRD BOX ⇧
As effective as A QUIET PLACE, and perhaps more so, through sustained implication and wider ensemble character.
Alex Garland follows EX MACHINA with this lofty headtrip that deserves far more attention than it got.
After a fine run of Indie successes, Natalie Portman reminds the mainstream she can do anything.
There are only three that matter: HALLOWEEN (1978), HALLOWEEN 20 (1998), and HALLOWEEN (2018).
The second and third are alternate sequels that honor and enhance the original well.
Jamie Lee Curtis.
Wrong but mesmerizing, like Hal Ashby slowly getting possessed by a rabid Sam Raimi.
Panos Cosmatos (BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW) applies A-level art to B-movie tropes.
Your mileage may vary, but it sure as hell was shot well.
I M A G E S
(Full reviews for the following films
will be forthcoming from the review site,
Four Color Films).
-AVENGERS: Infinity War ⇧
-ANT-MAN AND THE WASP
-THE DEATH OF STALIN
> Four Color Films,
THE Comic Movies Review Site!
At last, the cinematic debut of Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy, the new heirs to the Spider mantle.
After their kiboshed attempt at helming SOLO, Miller and Lord (THE LEGO MOVIE) return to their strengths here.
Smart story, perfect cast, genuine laughs, deeply touching moments, Pop metatext, all vibrating in a spectacularly innovative visual style never seen before.
All this and Kirby Krackle, too!
> Waiting For Spider-Man
-THE INCREDIBLES 2
Pixar only does a sequel when a strong story idea merits it.
Elasti Girl stretches out completely in this crafty expansion.
-MARY AND THE WITCH'S FLOWER (Japan)
A Studio Ghibli producer founded a new company, Studio Ponoc, with former Ghibli animators.
This first-rate Fantasy anime debut does the Miyazaki legacy proud.
-TEEN TITANS GO! To the Movies
All of the goofball fun of the TV series magnified, with a million winks to DC history and more.
-STAR WARS: RESISTANCE 1 ⇧
An anime take, with a fresh location and fun characters.
Great cameos by current film trilogy actors, a comedic tone, a gratifyingly diversified cast, and excellent graphics.
-DISENCHANTMENT 1.0 ⇧
Matt Groening's spoof of Fantasy.
Edgier and bawdier than 'The Simpsons' and 'Futurama', voiced with perfect loopiness by the great Abbi Jacobson ('Broad City').
-HILDA 1 ⇧
A completely winning adaption from Luke Pearson's acclaimed contempo Fantasy kids books, winningly voiced by Bella Ramsey (Lady Mormont from 'Game Of Thrones').
-ADVENTURE TIME 8
Absurdist Fantasy's finest bows out.
B E S T
D O C U M E N T A R I E S :
2 0 1 8
An overview of female directors and expose of the discrimination used to restrain them.
Leon Vitali did everything beyond human endurance to make the greatness of Stanley Kubrick's films happen.
And he still does. Learn the crazed history of this compulsive archivist who deserves his true due.
Singapore was almost revolutionized in the early '90s by Indie Punk auteurs... until their film was stolen.
Sandi Tan's riveting unraveling of the fate of the rebel film she made with Jasmine Ng and Sophie Siddique.
-BOBBY KENNEDY FOR PRESIDENT
1968 was the fork in the road for the world's future.
Much of what went wrong in the USA political landscape followed the (specific) murder of this potentially great leader on the right side of progress.
This maxi-series reminds us what should have been.
Corporations have the right to kill you, and their politician lapdogs will enable it.
How the water of Flint, Michigan, became poisoned by the greedy.
-WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
Fred Rogers was a sweet, compassionate person who brought a lot of good into young peoples' lives.
-HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING
A poetic contemplation on rural reality.
-THE TOYS THAT MADE US: Star Trek (S02/E01)
Like their fine Star Wars episode, this one affectionately details the marketing of Star Trek toys.
-Robert Kirkman's SECRET HISTORY OF COMICS
Very mixed bag.
The first three are Golden Age intro overviews, good if sensationalistic. The latter three are recent trends marred by binary politics and backslapping.
B E S T
T V :
2 0 1 8
Feed your mind and your activism will follow.
-The Rachel Maddow Show ⇧
-THE NAKED TRUTH
-THE BREAK With Michelle Wolf
-LAST WEEK with John Oliver
A crime Noir set in the Weimar Republic just as the Nazis are rising.
Fine cast, cinematic production values, smart music.
-THE HANDMAID'S TALE 2
An original extension of Margaret Atwell's crucial allegorical novel.
Sam Esmail ('Mr. Robot') translates Horowitz and Bloomberg's conspiracy thriller podcasts into live action.
Julia Roberts, Bobby Cannavale, and Sissy Spacek get stiff competition from newcomer Stephan James.
-BETTER CALL SAUL 4
What may be the sharpest, subtlest adult drama on TV weaves all the elements together this season to presage the events of 'Breaking Bad'.
Jumping from 1971 to 1977, Simon and Pelecanos ('The Wire') abetted by female directors trace the rise of Porn in NYC amid the backstory of political corruption guided by slow corporate takeover.
-POSE 1 ⇧
Set in the resulting 1987 corporate NYC, Ryan Murphy ('The Shield') gives wonderful spotlight to the fuller range of human sensuality, following a first-rate ensemble navigating through dance school, voguing matches, identity struggles, yuppie scum, and the neglected onset of AIDS.
Pro-LGBT, pro-compassion, anti-Trump, anti-hate. Nuff said.
One of the best character dramas on television.
Framed in the build-up to the launch of the first personed mission to Mars, it's truly about personal character, visionary science, the tolls of tribulation, and ultimately a hardwon optimism.
STAR TREK: DISCOVERY 1b ⇧
The best 'Star Trek' series we could have hoped for gets bolder and better in its second half.
This is precisely what we needed, a show that recalls where we started from to go where we have yet to go. 'Star Trek: Discovery' vogues the canon and styles of every version that preceded it, and then pogo dances crazed with it. All restraints are over, all possibilites open.
Warp conventions, phase into stunned, transport your spirit. All hail.
I was unkind to 'Lost In Space' in the past, and this excellent new version caused me to recant.
My old feeling was that the '60s show was all the cliches of bad '50s movies, geared for kids, and that its concurrent rivel 'Star Trek' brought the maturity of actual '50s SF literature into the living room for adults. Perhaps true, but kids deserve fun, too.
The two became entwined with time. Will Robinson charted the course for young cast members like Wesley Crusher and Jake Sisko (and actor Bill Mumy guested on 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine'). The brief cult hit series 'Earth 2' (1994) was a hybrid of both shows. So was 'Star Trek: Voyager' (1995-2001), with a starship lost in the far cosmos. The reboot film LOST IN SPACE (1998) adapted the cinematic production values common to TREK films. And the opening credits montage of this new series includes the real space shuttle Enterprise.
On the other side of all this comes a new series bettered by all of that. Within two episodes it builds a family we care about in a rough survival series we believe. The locations are grand, the production values first calibre, the science sharp, the twists whiplash. But it's the gravity of the performances that hooks, particularly Molly Parker as the formidable Commander.
There is more, much more.
Television's smartest philisophical series continues to invert while magnifying itself with new depths and scope. One of the best made and fearlessly ambitious productions going.
The first season of this timely political future dystopia and class struggle series was great.
The second is even better, doubling the span while deepening the characters.
The little show that does.
The best alien invasion/dystopian future series that too many sleep on. Fresh location, social barbs, family bond.
Like ETERNAL SUNSHINE refracted inside out by Philip K. Dick.
Brainy, absurd, mercurial, rending, surreal.
Emma Stone is a prism.
-ALTERED CARBON 1
After waiting three decades, we got three BLADE RUNNER sequels within six months: the official BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017), and then two clones, MUTE and "Altered Carbon".
Based on the first book of Richard Morgan's trilogy, this adaptation is a generally solid SciFi Noir that revs up fully every time Dichen Lachman enters the room.
Based on George R.R. Martin's novella, this extension plays like 2001 rewritten by Stephen King.
Interesting trip with a bumpy middle.
-THE X-FILES 11/maxi-series
TV's most willfully perverse stealth horror series was like an art film gone horribly deranged that you couldn't pry your eyes off of.
-BLACK MIRROR: Bandersnatch
An interactive special with multiple endings.
OUTLANDER is one of the finest shows being made.
And my favorite romance, ever.
Jodie Whittaker supercharges the Doctor with her eminence.
History isn't just a package tour. New showrunner Chris Chibnall created all 3 seasons of the acclaimed "Broadchurch"; here he escalates the lightning wit and astonishing locations, while infusing a welcome sociopolitical depth into the adventures.
The core strength that made these seasons of the Hell's Kitchen heroes so effective lay in healing the fractured bonds of family.
-JESSICA JONES 2
The unfolding mystery is chancey, but as brave as it is ultimately successful.
-LUKE CAGE 2
Some may differ, but the second season is stronger, more focused, more intricate.
-IRON FIST 2
The only thing actually wrong with the first season was length, and the second bore out its core quality to fruition.
The "Daredevil" comics by Frank Miller pretty much kicked off the '80s Comic Renaissance, when maturity and artisanship revitalised the industry.
Through these show adaptions, that same revolution is now revising the screen.
This interpolation of the classic 'Born Again' arc is both a renewal and a payoff for all that has been and what can be.
When Netflix first announced these series, it seemed like they would be a single season of each leading up to a finale team-up with 'The Defenders'. Instead we got multiple seasons of each that only got better in ascension.
Although Netflix has now canceled them, short of certain events that needed to happen (Heroes For Hire, Luke and Jess', White Tiger, Elektra anew), I'm just grateful that we got more than we expected, and always better than we could have hoped.
So thank you, kindly, to all involved.
There are degrees of merit.
There's High School, there's College, and then there's Oxford.
There's the CW hero shows, there's the Netflix hero shows, ...and then there's 'Legion'.
The most purely fine art show on television, by light years, has no comparative peers in any sphere.
Showrunner Noah Hawley ('Fargo') burned the envelope on the first season, and now melts reality to his whim heedless here, downright daring any tsks or sloths to whine. You're either on the bus or you're on your ass. It's like YELLOW SUBMARINE recut by Burroughs, "Tommy" staged by Laurie Anderson, a Noh play documented by Buñuel. This is a higher better level, a conceptual contagion spread by airwaves.
Tune in to the turnaround or drop out.
-AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. 5b
The first arc, set in the future, was stronger.
But Marvel's most underprized show always proves its worth regardless with maturity, craft, and sly wit.
-THE GIFTED 2a
Who could foresee the day when Claremont, Byrne, and Austin's "X-Men" comics would be on the screen every week, and yet there it is.
Steve Ditko's "Hawk And Dove" comics were Rand-ian absolutist caricatures which dishonored the '60s youth rebellion. Bill Mantlo and Ed Hannigan's "Cloak And Dagger" always risked being similar absolutes of 'race' misconceptions for the '80s inner city.
They were usually more canny than that, and this TV series does even better.
In a current era still being cynically manipulated into kneejerk separatism based on cliched absolutisms, any mature sociopolitical show with sophistication is a breath of fresh air. Generally aware enough that 'white' and 'black' are just enforced delusions>, the show navigates its two young leads past those dumb deadends as kindred spirits helping each other forward in union.
The pleasure of the DC-TV shows is seeing the Silver/Bronze Age Of Comics come to life.
As a desperately needed antidote to the dour Snyder-verse films, any formula loops, teenie focus, or dumb missteps involved are forgiven in the fun of it all.:
-SUPERGIRL 3b/ 4a
Brainic 5. Dreamer.
-THE FLASH 4b/ 5A
Elongated Man. XS.
-LEGENDS OF TOMORROW 3b/ 4a
-ARROW 6b/ 7a
The vigilante team.
-BLACK LIGHTNING 1b/ 2a
Extremely mixed feelings.
The mature Robin, streamlined team, and actual comics continuity are right solutions.
But the ultraviolence, cursing, and kill-ethic are a disease that poisons the show.
It's everything wrong about the ('90s-damaged) New 52 comics era now ruining the screen.
Retrograde Newsflash: Aggro ≠ Adult.
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A female Holmes and Watson in modern Tokyo.
Crack cast, great fun, steady build.
-SHARP OBJECTS 1
Gillian Flynn's mystery novel is actually a bruising Midwestern Gothic.
Amy Adams, taking chances.
-THE ALIENIST maxi-series
A solid if stolid adaption of Caleb Carr's book, with some unnecessary expansions.
THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL 2 ⇧
One of the best shows on television, bar none.
Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino ("Gilmore Girls") makes going for glory seem easy, in a sterling production as elaborately ornate as Zhang Yimou films, as chaotic and sharp as Lucille Ball.
Set in 1959, this supercharged season hoofs our fierce stand-up comedian from Paris to Manhattan to the Catskills. It all flows like a musical, in long one-shot scenes with complicated dialogue in big locations with an army of extras in period costumes and cars woven together by a spin cam, sometimes with dancing or fights. (One sequence is more complex than other shows' episodes.) It's a mesmerizing juggle as aware of fashion, etiquette, color, and pace as it is sexim, anti-semitism, classism, military industrialism, and political dissent.
The ace cast cracks wise like clockwork stage plays. Zachary Levi (the original Captain Marvel in SHAZAM) is a fine new foil. Luke Kirby gets ever deeper into the pathos of Lenny Bruce. But, better than anyone out there, Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein are the dynamic duo of screen comedy.
This show is a blessing as much as it is a major achievement. And knockdown hilarious.
TV's most surreal and subversive comedy only gets ever better.
Jim Carrey's dramady spins a modern Mr. Rogers into something both harrowing and poignant.
Donald Glover returns.
THE BIG LEBOWSKI and 'John From Cincinatti' were fun, but I like this more.
Spinning its title off Thomas Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49", this evolving narrative of the Holy Fool surfer and his laconic sister, the alchemic Lodge, its eclectic members and missing artifacts, and the mysterious Captain binds all together with heart.
Is it stoner comedy, quest allegory, magic realism? Plus.
And it has easily the smartest soundtrack on TV, shimmering on waves of Pop Psyche from all decades.
-ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT 4 Remix
The oddly structured return season (2013) gets re-edited in chronological order, feeling more like the original show, with more cast interplay and some lessening of the excessive narration. (Mitchell, give Ron a chance to breathe.)
-ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT 5a
Learning the lessons of Season 4: tighter story, more ensemble scenes, lessened narration for the cast to do their magic together.
Hey, who has time (or money) to see everything?
A PRIVATE WAR
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
JEANNETTE: The Childhood of Joan of Arc
MARY POPPINS RETURNS
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET
THE TERROR 1
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How STAR WARS Is Changing Everything!