Below are Mo’ Money’s top films of 2018 only including films that premiered anywhere in the world in the calendar year.
2018 was a great year for me, but one way that it really shone was all the great movies I was able to access via streaming and physical media. My war against theaters continues, and yet I was able to see 57 movies that premiered in 2018 including a number of independent Midwestern productions. While I missed a lot of films that only played in festivals or haven’t released in the United States yet, and my list may change over the years, I believe the following movies are great and worth watching if you can access them.
1) The Other Side of the Wind – directed by Orson Welles
Shot in the 1970s and unfinished before Orson Welles’ death, The Other Side of the Wind, is a revelation for lovers of cinema. I contributed to the Indiegogo campaign, before Netflix came into the picture, but did not have high expectations as I have little exposure to Welles’ later work and other works released after his death received little fanfare. Upon seeing it, and viewing it a second time, I can say the film lives up to the expectations set by its absence for decades. It is fresh and exciting, and requires active viewing as the film is dense with plot and has a quick pace through the main story and the film within the film. It demonstrates that there is still so much possibility in the medium. The fact that the film is placing on end of the year lists confounds me. Welles’ tackles eroticism, masculinity, film culture, and so many things with mastery that film lovers will find much to love, question, and marvel at during all the times they return to it.
2) Skynd Deg Sakte – directed by Anders Emblem
A quiet, slow (even at 68 minutes!) movie about a young woman who takes care of her brother with a disability, works at a ferry, and works on her musical hobby. The feature debut of its director, it shows an assured talent who knows when to let the moment linger. It features great performances, and I hope everyone involved continues to make movies.
3) Happy as Lazzaro – directed by Alice Rohrwacher
I do not want to give too much away about the plot, but will say that if you accept the magic at the heart of this movie, you will have a good time watching Lazzaro endure with selflessness the suffering Italy has to offer. The movie takes inspiration from a real-life stories of exploitation, but at its heart the movie is a fable or fairy-tale about how kindness can endure modernity’s progress.
4) La Casa Lobo – directed by Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León
La Casa Lobo is about a young woman who runs away from a German colony in Chile upon being threatened to solitary confinement due to deriliction of duty. She escapes into the forest and finds a cottage. She takes refuge here from a wolf, and happens to discover two pigs that she transforms into children, and then terrible things. Boldly animated over the course of five years as part of a traveling exhibition in museums around Latin America and Europe, it is movie that you will not forget. The fact the film is inspired by a real life colony run by Paul Schäfer, a Nazi who ended up in Chile, only adds to the power of this movie.
5) 306 Hollywood – directed by Elan Bogarin and Jonathan Bogarin
A brother and sister examines their grandmother’s house after her death in an attempt to better understand her. The buzzword around this documentary is magical realist. When I saw this at a film festival, many in the audience complained afterwards that the film becomes too fantastical. I happen to love the turn the movie makes towards the end. If fits the tone of the film, and helps the filmmakers better come to terms with the death of their grandmother because at the heart of it, the movie is about how people process grief. I love this movie!
6) Shirkers – directed by Sandi Tan
A young woman, the director of this documentary, learns how to make movies from the tutelage of an American, Georges, living in Singapore in the late eighties and early nineties. She wrote a script while studying in London and filmed it with her friends and the American during one summer who served as the director. After filming, Georges absconds with the movie. After his death, the materials are returned to the director of the documentary minus the sound. The documentary follows her attempts to make sense of Georges and how her movie, rather than becoming a huge part of Singapore’s film history became a ghost. A beautiful, haunting documentary about a man of mystery and an intriguing film that sadly will never be realized.
7) Isle of Dogs – directed by Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson’s latest film created a lot of critical controversy regarding issues of cultural appropriation, lack of female representation, and white saviors, but I think purveyors of these criticism miss how respectful the movie is and how serious it takes modern issues in Japan. Plus, for a director who has a history of harming dogs in his movies, this film makes him look like a dog lover. Visually stunning, the film features some of Wes Anderson’s best set-pieces. While not my favorite film by the director, it is fantastic. If you like Fantastic Mr. Fox, give this film a shot.
8) How to Get Over a Breakup – directed by Bruno Ascenzo and Joanna Lombardi
A funny Peruvian comedy about a woman who spends six years with a man only for him to break off their affair when we studies for a Master’s in Spain. She gets a roommate and starts a blog in an effort to move on from the relationship. Unlike similar comedies, not only did the movie make me laugh, but it had interesting things to say about one’s late twenties, relationships, social politics, and how to endure the bitter and sweet of life. Not that the film delves deeply into any one of these issues, but it does have more on its mind than just being an excellent example of how to successfully make a female driven comedy. Would make a great double feature with the Brazilian film Todas As Razōes Para Esquecer (Pedro Coutinho, 2017) also on Netflix, which has a far more somber ending.
9) A Thousand Girls Like Me – directed by Mani Mosawi
A devastating documentary about a young woman, Khatera, who became pregnant twice by her biological father who sexually abused her for thirteen years. The movie follows her attempts to protect her family by being the first woman in Afghanistan to pursue criminal charges against incest and publicly discussing her case on television. The push-back she receives from relatives, including her brothers and even her own daughter, forces her to fight harder for the women unable to fight against this evil. Throughout the film, she navigates the complex and frustrating judicial system of Afghanistan. The film gives voice to a woman long abused and neglected, and hopefully the success of Khatera’s pursuit for justice will encourage greater rights for women in the country.
10) The Image You Missed – directed by Donal Foreman
A documentary about an absent father, but also about the Troubles in Ireland. Arthur MacCaig was a director of documentaries about the conflicts in Northern Ireland, and his son is also a director who made this movie to have a conversation with his deceased father. By examining his father’s work and belongings left behind in a Parisian archive, as well as his memories of his estranged father, Donal Foreman has created an interesting examination of what images mean and how can fail to live up to one’s politics.
What are your favorite movies of 2018?