Man, it feels like yesterday that we were surviving the cinematic cold-front that is the month of January. Now, the year is half over! And with the shift towards the back nine of 2018, I thought it might be a bit of fun to look back at the first half of the year, and recount what films have been my favorites so far.
Keep in mind, these are by no means the “Best films of 2018” per any account. It’s just my own personal list, plain and simple. Also, despite the fact that I’m at the movie theater quite a bit, there’s a good chance that something deserving of inclusion here just won’t make the list, and that’s because I simply didn’t have the time/transportation necessary to see these said films. With major apologies to ‘First Reformed’, ‘Love, Simon’, ‘Won’t You be my Neighbor?’, and ‘Sorry to Bother You’, I’m fairly positive you all would’ve made this list. Rules are over and done, let’s not waste any more time.
10. Ready Player One (dir. Steven Spielberg)
Yeah, yeah, sue me. I’m of the understanding that not a whole lot of people liked this film. And to be honest, I completely understand why. At only a moderate 2-or-so hours, it’s completely filled to the brim with nostalgia, references, gags, action, and easter eggs galore. This saturation does at times come at the expense of the film’s narrative and character development. However, I absolutely can’t deny just how much fun I had with this film. Hell, if anything, it felt more like a movie to me than it did a film. I wore my Space Invaders t-shirt, I kicked back with a large Coke and Popcorn, and I had a complete blast. It’s important to have fun at the movies, and this film, while nowhere near perfect, reminded me how. That’s definitely worth something in my book.
9. Deadpool 2 (dir. David Leitch)
Where do I even begin with this film? Despite my lifelong love of Marvel comics, it pains me to admit that I was never really much of a Deadpool guy. When the 2016 smash hit roared into theaters, I was completely surprised and thrilled by how gleefully rambunctious it was, and couldn’t wait for any potential sequels. This film took my expectations, fed them sugar for breakfast, and turned every dial up to eleven. From the very first shot onward, this film simply doesn’t stop. It crudely and hysterically races towards the finish at a billion miles per hour, and doesn’t care who it hits along the way. It is bodaciously insane and unmistakably hilarious, but is surprisingly full of so much heart and soul that a lot of contemporary superhero films lack. It quite simply got better and better with every rewatch, and has very quickly become one of my favorite superhero films.
8. Isle of Dogs (dir. Wes Anderson)
What can I say about this film that people already haven’t? It’s another fantastic outing by one of the most artistically unique filmmakers to ever grace a camera. The stop-motion animation is masterful, and gives this film’s deeper themes and ideas something of a temporary veil, making for great character moments and a charmingly wonderful story. I wanted to see this film again immediately after the credits started rolling.
7. A Quiet Place (dir. John Krasinski)
Wanna know the secret to a good debut film? Work for a number of years in comedy television, and then direct a 90-minute Blumhouse horror thriller. Jordan Peele’s Get Out set the terms, and John Krasinski’s debut does just the same. This film is wickedly frightening, with one of the most original concepts I’ve seen in quite a while. Krasinski’s precise direction and the insanely talented cast deliver one for the ages, and an experience that I won’t soon forget.
6. Upgrade (dir. Leigh Wannell)
In the realm of moviegoing, there’s nothing quite like seeing a random film on a whim. Placing your money and trust in the unknown can be nerve-wracking, which truthfully just made this film all the better. Upgrade was a hell of a surprise. I always love a good dose of sci-fi cinema, and this film’s fairly original concept lays the groundwork for what is a really solid film. The action is well-shot and inventive, and the ‘hands off the wheel’ type narrative gives way for some genuinely great character moments. The film’s finale is also quite a good one, with a hell of a moment that I won’t dare give away. When it releases on Blu-ray, please see it. You’ll be glad you did.
5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (dir. Martin McDonagh)
Stop right there. I know what you’re about to say. Yes, this film came out in 2017. However, I didn’t get to see it until its Oscar run in about late January or so, and therefore, it’s a 2018 film. I make the rules here. Three Billboards’ biggest strength is arguably the fact that it doesn’t have a biggest strength; every ingredient in the mix just fuses so damn well with one another. From the rude, crude, hilarious, and dynamically heartfelt script all the way to the film’s dynamite performances, (especially from Sam Rockwell, who has very quickly become one of my favorite actors) there’s no denying just how special this film is. I nearly stood up and cheered when the credits began to roll. It’s something of an indie arthouse kinda joint, but it’s also not afraid to be whatever else it wants, and I applaud it for being so.
4. Hereditary (dir. Ari Aster)
Why do we go to the movies? On top of the many reasons why (that I personally could think of), I feel that we go to the movies for experiences that we will never forget. I will never forget the delightfully terrifying experience that was Hereditary. Director Aster came to play in his debut outing and crafted a film that shook me to my core, making the audience feel as though they themselves were in this film. This film also helped to put names like Toni Collete and Milly Shapiro (ESPECIALLY Shapiro) on my radar, as they gave some truly unforgettable performances. Everything about this film is just wild, and has to be seen to be believed.
3. Black Panther (dir. Ryan Coogler)
Anyone inquiring as to who some of my favorite directors are will always come to find Ryan Coogler’s place on any of my lists. 2013’s Fruitvale Station and 2015’s Creed were some of the best films of those respective years, and I personally couldn’t wait to see what a visionary like Coogler could do upon stepping into the vast and unstoppable MCU. Black Panther, while a critical and commercial smash and one of the most solid entries into the entire Marvel Universe, is a film that, in one summative word, is important. This is a cinematic and cultural triumph, pushing the limits of what’s possible both onscreen and offscreen. This film also contains what is arguably one of the MCU’s best villains, with a knockout performance for the ages from the incomparable Michael B. Jordan. Black Panther is not a film to be missed, be it in this generation or any other.
2. Molly’s Game (dir. Aaron Sorkin)
I’m a simple man. I see Aaron Sorkin’s name on anything, I aggressively throw money at it like there’s no tomorrow. This film, like a number of other Sorkin joints, takes a high-profile and real-life character study and utilizes smart dialogue and precision-style storytelling to give us one of the best-written films of the year. In addition to a masterful screenplay, performances from Chastain, Elba, and especially Costner elevate Molly’s Game to another fantastic notch under Sorkin’s belt.
And my favorite film so far this year is……
Annihilation (dir. Alex Garland)
This film embodies everything I love about going to the movies. An ambiguous and inventive sci-fi thriller, Annihilation reinforces its themes by using its characters as pawns in an intricate game, building to what is the most unforgettable conclusion of the entire year. Upon finishing my first viewing of this film, I sat in the theater lobby for half an hour and talked with complete strangers, debating the film’s ending and themes. You will never forget this film, for better and for the stranger, as Garland has continued to prove that he is one of the best science fiction directors working today.
So, that’s my list. There were a ton of films that I wanted to include here, but stopped it at only ten. It’s been a great first half of the year, and I can’t wait to see what the back of 2018 has to offer us. Let’s go to the movies, shall we?