Sarah’s Top 10 of 2018
10. Support the Girls
Support the Girls looks at a day in the life of Lisa (Regina Hall) and her staff at a Hooters-like sports bar. Lisa is a great manager. She is upbeat, she cares about her staff, she creatively solves problems, and she knows how to toe the line to keep the business running. The way Lisa’s day get slightly worse as it goes on and how her attitude changes throughout the day is a tribute to the script, as is the film’s ability to take a business that is built on the exploitation of women and fill it with empowered female characters who each in their own way use the system for their own gain.
This was the scariest movie I saw in 2018, maybe one of the scariest movies I have ever seen. The structure of the film created a slow burn that has you on your toes from the first scene. The best example of this is the shot of a young man in car after an accident. The camera sits on a shot of him in shock for exactly the same amount of time that it takes the audience to accept what they just saw. With incredibly strong performances, lead by Toni Collette doing some of her best work to date, the film draws you in while still keeping your at enough of a distance to not let you in on the secret until the time is right. On top of it all the film is beautifully shot, which only amplifies the horrific images and events that occur. I still have trouble sleeping when I think about this movie; I can’t think of higher praise for a horror movie.
After spending almost an entire year on probation, Collin’s freedom hangs in the balance of staying out of trouble for three more days. Blindspotting is incredibly relevant, with the #blacklivesmatter movement still a hot-button issue. Blindspotting manages to be entertaining while also addressing heavy geo-political issues. Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal’s performances help the film toe the line between entertainment and exposé. Collin and Miles are a compelling pair as they use their street savvy and lyrical gifts to make it through Collin’s last few days of probation. Despite a slightly heavy-handed third act, the film addresses issues of identity, gentrification, police violence, and the American prison system.
I love it when a film can completely take me by surprise, and Dumplin’ sure did. I went in with very low expectations and was absolutely delighted. I feared Dumplin’ was just going to be another makeover movie where they straighten her hair and give her nice clothes and suddenly people value her. But Dumplin’ is so much more than that. Instead the film explores ideas of self-expression, self-value, and deeply rooted family issues. The film is only helped by being jam-packed with Dolly Parton music and sayings. With Dolly as its patron saint, the film embraces her signature confidence, pizzazz, and Southern charm and lifts Dumplin’ from standard fare to a contender for the crown.
6. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was the latest addition to my list. I had started it awhile ago, but I didn’t really get into the first entry into the anthology. I am so glad I came back to it and gave it a second try. Westerns are one of my favorite genres of film and the Coens really understand how to tell a story in this genre (or in this case, many stories). Each story within the anthology tells a small piece of the larger of story of how the American West was explored and changed. The Coens put their signature touch on each part making them wonderfully strange, beautiful, funny, and sad.
5. The Cakemaker
I am a sucker for a romance and this quiet film gently wrapped itself around my heart. The film starts with a sweet romance between a German baker, Thomas, and a married Israeli man, Oren. When Oren dies suddenly Thomas is left alone and full of questions about the man he had fallen in love with. Thomas goes to Israel in search of answers and then he finds himself in a new romance. I learned a lot about Israeli culture and specifically about Kosher requirements along with Thomas as he navigates his new home. The film captures how complicated our lives are as we entangle ourselves with other people through work, and love, and life.
4. Three Identical Strangers
I was so glad I knew almost nothing going into Three Identical Strangers. This 96-minute documentary often plays out like a thriller, a mystery, and a tragedy. The documentary explores the mystery of its subjects, the triplets, but it also looks at the wider impact that their lives had on their friends and family. The film feels like it moves in waves – just as you start to think you have things figured out, another wave of the mystery crashes over you and you are dragged deeper in. The range of people they interviewed added to the comedy and mystery at the films core. I was thrilled, disheartened, shocked, and delighted by Three Identical Strangers.
3. Paddington 2
I absolutely loved 2014’s Paddington, so I was dubious that a sequel could live up to my expectations. To my delight, Paddington 2 was another complete homerun. Paddington the bear brings his passion, creativity, kindness, and manners to every situation he finds himself in throughout the movie. Surrounded by a magnificent cast of human counterparts, the film is a colorful adventure through London. Paddington 2 is certainly a lovely film suitable for the whole family, but it is also perfectly crafted story and set of characters that it kept me enraptured at every moment.
2. Eighth Grade
Middle school is one of the hardest times during adolescence and director Bo Burnham holds his camera right up to all the awkward, cringe-worthy, and painful moments. Burnham forces you to observe several difficult situations that are merely a movement in time, but to Kayla they feel like the end of the world. The audience roots for Kayla to find some confidence and make friends as she finishes up her last week of eighth grade. There is a lot of hope in the film too. I think there is a little bit of all of us in Kayla and since we made it through, we know she can too.
1. Won’t You Be My Neighbor
I fell in love with this movie the first time I saw it. Admittedly, I also ugly cried my way through most of it. I grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, so it was already a subject close to my heart. This documentary in so many ways feels like a balm for world around us. Won’t You Be My Neighbor takes an hour and a half to remind us that there was once a good man who genuinely cared about children’s welfare and found a way to reach a generation and tell them that they were special just as they were. The news seems to be constantly telling us how our differences divide us, Mr. Rogers reminds us that our differences make us unique and special. Won’t You Be My Neighbor touched me to my core and I haven’t been able to shake it, it feels essential to me in 2018.