Don't Forget About 2018
The start of the New Year presents two options: run blindly into the future by accepting the Bird Box challenge (disclaimer: don’t do it – serious permanent injury is not worth jumping on a bandwagon everyone will forget in two days) or reflect upon the past. For the Bird Box group, perhaps try a different high concept horror meme with A Quiet Place challenge instead? Those who feel there simply wasn’t enough time to watch all the movies in 2018 have a point, what with all the royal weddings, presidential porn star drama and trade wars to name just a few highlights of the previous year. Thankfully, the best time of the year to catch up on everything we missed in 2018 is January of 2019. Hollywood makes it easy on us: the Oscar movies have all been released (quite of few them available to stream!) and January is a notorious dump month for Hollywood misfires. We’ve gathered together some of the titles that are likely to wind up on critics’ best of the year lists, as well as some that might not but probably should.
The service that still sends out DVDs in red envelopes doubled, tripled, then quadrupled down on original streaming features this year. Throwing so many darts, Netflix produced a few Oscar contenders, most notably Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma. The Coen brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs might be a little too off-brand for the Academy, but this collection of short meditations on life and death in the Old West in a fascinating study of tone changes that’s alternately hilarious, poignant and depressing. Tamara Jenkins’s Private Life and Nicole Holofcener’s The Land of Steady Habits are two films from accomplished women directors that thoughtfully explore affluent white people problems (hey, before you sneer, think about the filmography of cinema titans like Ingmar Bergman and Eric Rohmer).
While Hulu might not have invested as much in original features outside of a monthly, seasonally-themed horror anthology, it is streaming what’s arguably the most intriguing movie of 2018. Musician-turned-novice filmmaker Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You is weird and wonderful, a workplace dystopia satire that plays out like a Charlie Kaufman script laced with race and class consciousness. Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls may have been one of the most overlooked movies of the year, a lo-fi comedy about the struggles of working people in a Hooters-like restaurant. There are two different entries from the mini-skate film renaissance of 2018: Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap, a moving documentary about three friends in the most depressing town in Illinois, and Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen, a narrative portrait of girl skateboarders in New York.
Anyone wishing there should be more adaptations of French structuralist critic and theorist Roland Barthes’s works, Let the Sunshine In from director Claire Denis answers your deconstructed prayers. Lastly, Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s literary horror dramedy Ghost Stories offers another window into the effectiveness of framing stories and short form narratives, as well as an offbeat performance from Martin Freeman.
Amazon’s foray into original features last year didn’t make the same splash as Netflix, but Lynne Ramsey’s You Were Never Really Here offered a chilling update onTaxi Driver with a standout performance from Joaquin Phoenix. Similarly, Taxi Driver scribe Paul Schrader returned from the abyss of The Canyons with First Reformed, a thoughtful meditation on religious faith in the face of environmental apocalypse that featured a standout performance from Ethan Hawke. Ari Aster’s Hereditary redefined the family horror movie and featured a standout performance from Toni Collette… last use of that phrase, we promise.
Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace offered a nuanced look at PTSD and extreme environmentalist lifestyles, and secured Granik’s reputation as the discoverer of talented young actresses in Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie. The Aussie western has come a long way since Quigley Down Under, with Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country the latest to explore the nation’s complicated (to put it very mildly) past with indigenous people.
On HBO, there are two of 2018’s best animal-centric family movies in Paul King's Paddington 2 and Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. Cinemax also features Cory Finley's dark upper-class teen satire Thoroughbreds. Somewhat ironically from a prestige TV perspective, Veep creator Armando Iannucci's historical/political satire The Death of Stalin streams on Showtime. Chloe Zhao’s The Rider, available on Starz, is a neo-Western about the crisis of masculinity and economic hardships of the white working class.