Monday, December 31, 2018

My 2018 At The Movies


I had an incredible year at the movies. In the last 12 months I've seen 126 films on the big screen. These experiences ranged from forgettable to sublime to surreal. 

First a word about the number itself. 126. Last year I saw 125 films on the big screen and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't aware of that number as I was racking up visits to various movie theaters in 2018. I know it doesn't matter to anyone but me, but I thought it would be fun to top my movie count from last year.


On the whole, my experiences seeing new movies this year were positive. I think the film that affected me the most was Alfonso Cuaron's ROMA, a beautifully realized story that manages to be majestic and personal at the same time. Right behind it in terms of personal impact was Paul Schrader's FIRST REFORMED with its powerful central performance by Ethan Hawke as a lonely priest lost in an existential spiral. Less affecting but more tightly controlled was THE FAVORITE, the wickedly funny power/love/sex triangle from director Yorgos Lanthimos.

It was a good year for superhero movies, which is good news because the box office is now dominated by these kinds of expensive blockbusters but bad news because the box office is now dominated by these kinds of expensive blockbusters. I saw most of the big stuff: BLACK PANTHER, INFINITY WAR, ANT-MAN AND THE WASP, AQUAMAN. I enjoyed them all without being blown away by any of them. (I didn't see DEADPOOL 2 because I didn't want to.) I will say that the best of the 2018 superhero flicks--the smartest, funniest, and, curiously, the most comic book-ish--was undoubtedly SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE.

All in all, it was a good year for popcorn. I had a great time at A QUIET PLACE and it was fun to see Tom Cruise come pretty close to perfecting his popcorn-movie game with MI: FALLOUT.  

My most exciting movie experiences this year were retro. I got to see old favorites like SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and SILVERADO, and I got to discover or rediscover classics like DROP DEAD GORGEOUS (which I saw at a packed showing of fans at Chicago's Music Box Theater) and the magnificent 1929 silent (wholly new to me) THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS. I also got to see my beloved HIGH NOON two nights in a row at the Logan Theater. 

Most profoundly, I got to see DETOUR three times. The first time was in a 15th century abbey in Villeneuve-les-Avignon, France, where I introduced the movie at a crime festival. (This was the surreal experience I mentioned earlier.) A couple of months later I was able to see the restored print at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago. Seeing this film--perhaps my favorite film--restored to pristine form was the happiest I've been at the movies all year.

Having said that, the biggest event of the year was the long-awaited release of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, the final feature film to spring from the mind of Orson Welles. Welles was never able to finish his work on the film so we can't simply call it "Orson Welles's TOSOTW", but we're lucky to have this version, recently edited completed by others. It's a fascinating piece of work, a fine and fitting addition to the oeuvre of my favorite filmmaker.  

Here were my favorite experiences at the movies, both new and retro.

New:
1. ROMA
2. THE FAVORITE
3. FIRST REFORMED (tie)
3. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (tie)
4. THE DEATH OF STALIN
5. VOX LUX
6. CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
7. FREE SOLO
8. SEARCHING
9. HITLER'S HOLLYWOOD
10. A QUIET PLACE (tie)
10. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT (tie) 

Retrospective and Classic
1. DETOUR (1945)
2. WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005)
3. DROP DEAD GORGEOUS (1999) 
4. HIGH NOON (1952)
5. ZERO FOR CONDUCT (1933)
6. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952)
7. THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS (1929)
8. PICKUP (1951) (tie)
8. THE REMAINS OF THE DAY (1993) (tie)
9. BATMAN RETURNS (1992)
10. DOUBLE SUICIDE (1969) (tie)
10. THE GREAT SILENCE (1968) (tie)