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Best Of 2018

Here are the ten best movies of 2018, followed by a number of superb honorable mentions. It was a solid year at the movies, which should make for a competitive and fun awards season.

For as good a year as it was for dramas, indies and foreign films, it was an even better year for blockbusters, especially Disney’s. Yes, the studio took a hit with “Solo: A Star Wars Story” underperforming, but in the last 11 months three of its releases became one of the top ten highest grossing films of all time. “Black Panther” is third on the list after earning $700 million, “Avengers: Infinity War” is fourth with $678 million, and “Incredibles 2” ranks ninth with $608 million. Thus even with various streaming outlets, home video releases, and more TV than ever before at our disposal, it seems as if the blockbuster movie is alive and well, which means we’ll keep getting more of the same.

There’s only one real blockbuster on the list of the ten best movies of 2018 that follows, because while the aforementioned titles were certainly good, they do not stand out with the best of the best. These ten films, however, moved us with their power, suspense and/or excitement, and provided a sense of deep satisfaction.

10) American Animals
Based on a true story, and swiftly blending interviews with the real participants with reenactments of the events, writer/director Bart Layton’s film chronicles the mishaps of four amateurs thinking they can pull off a heist based on what they’ve learned from “Ocean’s 11” and similar movies. It’s clever, funny, sad and suspenseful. Now on home video.

9) Hereditary
Easily the best horror movie of the year, highlighted by a Toni Collette performance that’s so good she deserves an Oscar nomination. The story is full of surprises and freaky beyond belief, and it has the most shocking moment you will find on screen in 2018. It involves the daughter of Collette’s character – those who’ve seen it know what I mean, and are probably put off by me reminding them of the gruesomeness. Apologies. Now on home video.

8) The Front Runner
On paper, this Jason Reitman-directed, Hugh Jackman-starring film about fallen politician Gary Hart looks standard, and in many ways it is. But Reitman also successfully looks at American media and society, and notes the transition from the press covering up for politicians’ philandering to exposing it, sometimes even without verification. As such it’s an examination of shifting American values and media biases, and is fascinating because of it. In limited theaters now; available on home video Feb. 19.

7) First Reformed
Ethan Hawke gives a career-best performance as a priest who’s lost his way, yet is still called upon by others to guide them to happiness. Greed, corruption, and morality quickly factor in, as his character realizes God doesn’t have the answers to his problems. This was written and directed by Paul Schrader, who wrote “Taxi Driver,” and indeed there are parallels between that film and this one – just not exactly in ways you’ll expect. Now on home video.

6) Spider-Man: Into The SpiderVerse
What a surprise, and what an absolute blast! The beautiful, crisp animation, combined with the boldness and imagination of the story, made this easily the best animated film of the year. Trust me: This is not just a tired retread of the “Spider-Man” story we’ve already seen – it’s much more ambitious than that, and a success at every turn. Now in theaters.

5) Mission: Impossible – Fallout
How does this franchise keep doing it? Six movies in, and they’re still spectacular. For as much as I love James Bond, he only wishes he could be this consistently good. Once again, Tom Cruise, thank you for risking your life for our entertainment: This time you jumped out of a plane from 25,000 feet and trained for a year to fly a helicopter. Now on home video.

4) The Favourite
Such a unique film. The use of a fish eye camera lens creates a distorted, surreal feel in many scenes, and when combined with the quick wit, cutting remarks and divine performances of Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, it becomes a delectable treat you can’t get enough of. Expect it to get showered with Oscar nominations, as this cleverly shot and catty period piece has all the posh elements the Academy loves. Now in theaters.

3) Ready Player One
I did not have more fun at any movie this year. Director Steven Spielberg took me back to my childhood (the ‘80s) in grand fashion, and made an exhilarating film in the process. The only shame is that he humbly didn’t include mentions of any films he directed in the 80s (“E.T.”), which would have made it all the sweeter. Now on home video.

2) If Beale Street Could Talk
A beautiful musical score, intelligent story structure, and terrific performances highlight co-writer and director Barry Jenkins’ (“Moonlight”) latest. Your heart swells as the protagonists fall in love, and breaks as they’re powerless to keep their love together. In theaters Jan. 4.

1) Eighth Grade
Every moment of writer/director Bo Burnham’s feature film debut resonated with me, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever related to a film more. It may have been told through the prism of an eighth-grade girl (a wonderful Elsie Fisher), but the social awkwardness and inherent desire to fit in and be liked is something almost everyone can relate to. It’s painful at times, cringe-worthy at others, yet you’re always rooting for this poor girl every step of the way. Now on home video.

Honorable Mention:
Expect Oscar nominations for Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali for the spectacular “Green Book,” which just barely missed the top ten; Claire Foy should be a supporting actress Oscar nominee for the beautifully shot “First Man”; Christian Bale is Oscar nominee-worthy as Dick Cheney in “Vice”; kudos to Bradley Cooper, in his feature film directorial debut, for getting a great performance from Lady Gaga and making “A Star Is Born” shine; Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant made a terrific duo in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”; Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” is dense, lyrical and lengthy, but also pure cinema at its finest; and welcome back to Spike Lee, whose “BlacKKKlansman” is deservedly receiving ample awards attention.

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