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JASON'S BEST: The Ten Best Films of 2018 (Return to Jason's Best Main Page)


THE TEN BEST FILMS OF 2018


Click Above to Listen to Jason's BlogTalkRadio Show
Discussing 2018 Movies And His Choices For The Year's Best Films
as well as Garney Johnson's and Jamey Duvall's, originally broadcast January 14, 2019


On the whole, this was another year where I didn't get to see as many movies as I wanted to. On a personal level, it was a year of incredible difficulty, stress, and transition, which contributed to not seeing as many films. But for the ones I did see, and especially the twenty I have on my list, I was remarkably moved and absolutely pleased for what the film industry achieved this year. From welcomed fresh takes on familiar material, to truly original risk taking achievements, to powerful true stories brought to life, to stunning documentaries, and even to a restored film from the past. Thank you to these movies for transporting me away from my own troubles, reminding me again why I love this art form and want to create in it, and for truly doing some remarkable things.


1) ROMA
In an age where very few film artists are given the financial support and freedom to present personal stories which end up resonating on levels that end up making them universal, thank God we have a few filmmakers of such incredible talent as Alfonso Cuaron who are able to make the films they want. Itís unfortunate, or maybe itís fortunate since it represents such a seismic shift in the film industry, that Cuaron wasnít backed by one of the major studios to make this film, but instead by the most popular streaming platform, Netflix. In a lot of ways, itís similar to how pay cablers like HBO have ended up becoming the place where visionary filmmakers are able to present bolder, riskier visions than what ends up on the big screen. Unfortunately in this case, the big screen is where Cuaronís most intimate vision needs and deserves to be seen. But wherever itís seen, you must see this film. Itís a film unlike any other, a very deliberately paced film that forces you to actually engage in its story and let it flow over you, unlike a lot of films which insist on attacking your senses every minute to make sure you pay attention. If you allow yourself the gift of taking this film in, I promise you will be moved in ways that you unfortunately donít get a chance to in a lot of contemporary films. Cuaron recently said, ďThe only way to approach memories is from the standpoint of the present. It informs your concerns and the core of understanding that you have about life and existence.Ē Cuaron has presented a reflection of his youth that was so intricately detailed (just look around in so many of these long takes, itís astonishing what he fits into his frame), so gorgeously shot in a contemporary black and white, so realistically acted Ö that it surprisingly made me feel how vivid so many of my own memories of childhood are. Cuaron, truly an auteur here, as he directs, writes, edits, and was even his own cinematographer, is demonstrating just how much of a master filmmaker he is, with complete control of his craft, and constructing shots that are not only awe inspiring in what they contain but HOW theyíre shot. Some shots I canít even imagine how they were filmed. The gorgeous visuals in this film are like exquisite paintings, washing over us like the most amazing cinematic spectacles should be. I so didnít expect that from a story so intimate. One of the best choices Cuaron made in this film was to not focus on himself, but rather the housekeeper, who ends up holding a family together when they endure one of the most difficult things any family can face. Yalitza Aparicio plays the housekeeper, Cleo, in her very first acting role, and what a revelation it is. Her personal story while taking care of the family is so incredibly moving in so many ways, to see how she struggles with her own difficulties while also trying to be strong for the kids she helps to care for. Thereís also remarkable scenes showing how the family embraces Cleo as a member of the family while also keeping a class divide that is so subtly yet strongly portrayed. Cuaron, known for incredibly long takes that defy explanation for how he achieves them, delivers one after the other that are more powerful than the next, including one of the most tragic scenes of the year where Cuaron doesnít cut away, we instead must watch and truly experience the pain of what Cleo is enduring. Itís one of the most astonishing sequences of recent times. And I havenít even mentioned the ending sequences which just made my jaw drop. Amongst this personal story, Cuaron doesnít forget to include the tapestry of the Mexican world they are living in, and how at various times the unsettled times found their way into the family. I could write a novel about this film and all of the cinematic accomplishment on display, but itís a film to truly be experienced. Youíll even forget after a while that youíre reading subtitles, and it will become part of an experience youíre likely to not have in too many films. Cuaron has truly crafted a gift of the power of our memories, and in a time where divisions between us are continuing to be exploited and magnified, this film is a beautiful reminder that our human existence contains so many universal truths, and if we can feel great empathy and love for one family and their housekeeper in 1970ís Mexico, maybe we can do that in our day to day lives as well.
2) WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
Itís a good thing that Mr. Rogers had an episode or two and even a song about how to deal with anger. Because it will take a while to get over the fact that this wonderful documentary was not even nominated for Best Documentary by the Academy. We all thought this was the clear frontrunner to win! They not only missed nominating the best documentary of the year, but one of the very best films of recent times. When I first heard about a documentary being made about Fred Rogers, the icon of childrenís television for so many years, I certainly didnít expect the incredibly moving story that would be portrayed. In most documentaries about famous people in entertainment, we usually hear about some dark corner of their life that we didnít know about, but there was none of this with Mr. Rogers. Instead, this was a documentary celebrating his positivity, his kindness, and the incredible lessons he taught to generations of kids. I remember watching Mr. Rogers as a kid in the 70ís but certainly never thought of him as revolutionary. Most people might think he was ďsquareĒ or ďboringĒ, but just watch this documentary. Fred Rogers was an incredibly revolutionary, and fought to show inclusiveness as well as shows presenting commentary on very adult issues such as divorce, death, and even helping kids to understand the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968. In this way, he did what the best entertainers can do trying to reach children Ö he knew that kids at a very young age had fears and wondered about so many things, and he found a remarkable way of explaining things in ways kids could understand. His imaginary worlds were places that kids could find answers, help, and guidance. Above all, he reminded kids that they mattered. Filmmaker Morgan Neville has crafted a film which doesnít tear Fred Rogers down, or make him an untouchable icon. Mr. Rogers truly understood children and knew how to talk to them. We see an honest and genuine portrait of the man, and we get several glimpses into moments that are true and honest tearjerker moments and moments of surprise. He finally becomes a real man in this documentary. One of the most moving sequences is when we see when the show was launched in the late 60ís, in the midst of the civil rights struggle, and Fred Rogers was bold enough to have an episode where Mr. Rogers and Officer Clemons cool their heels by dipping their feet in a simple plastic baby pool at a time when the races didnít share water fountains, bathrooms, or pools. His messages of inclusivity were truly revolutionary, and boy we sure could use those messages nowadays. Thatís what made this documentary so moving also, recognizing that someone like Mr. Rogers couldnít reach the multitudes of kids in our current age like he did, and in an era of such distrust and division, how a movie like this reminds us of the concept of kindness, and how valuable that can be to actually moving forward as a species. Neville ends this film with one of the most beautiful sequences of the year, asking the interviewees who in their lives has touched them the most. I dare you to not cry as almost everyone turns to smiles, and shares a personal memory. I canít wait to watch this documentary again, and revel in the concept of kindness that is sorely needed today.
3) A STAR IS BORN
From the moment I saw the first trailer for this film, a remake of a story that seems to be given to each generation, I could tell that this incarnation was going to be something really special. You could tell from the very first trailer that the chemistry between Bradley Cooperís Jack and Lady Gagaís Ally was spot on and was going to totally make the film work. When the film did finally arrive, it definitely delivered on that promise Ö and then some. Bradley Cooper, after having given so many remarkable performances for years, finally stepped into the directorís chair, and made so many incredible choices in making this film stand out. One of which involved filming the concert performances on stage behind the performers, giving us an experience that made us feel far more connected to Jack and Ally, and particularly in the early nervousness as Ally slowly embraces her talents. Probably the best decision Cooper made was in casting Lady Gaga as his Ally. In her first major film role, she totally defied expectations, giving an incredibly believable performance as a woman who has a clear singing talent but is having difficulty overcoming the naysayers who criticize the way she looks. As we follow her journey which leads her to ever increasing fame, we also follow Jackís struggle with alcoholism, and Cooper really shines in another deeply moving performance. The fact that heís directing himself in this performance makes it all the more impressive. Not to mention an Oscar worthy supporting performance by Sam Elliott and an entire ensemble cast at their absolute best. What really helps elevate this film is how much care and attention was given to the music in the film. One original song after another, making you not only believe how Ally could rise in fame like she does, but also in believing how Jackís legend and fame has certainly been earned. And if all of that wasnít enough to make for a truly great moviegoing experience, being able to see it with someone you truly love, someone with whom you have such an incredible chemistry that you could so clearly recognize on screen Ö there arenít enough words to describe what that means, other than that it was the greatest moviegoing experience I had all year.
4) VICE
There was a time when Oliver Stone was one of the primary filmmakers who had an incredible skill at presenting some of the true machinations of government in ways that were thrillingly dramatic, entertaining, insightful, and sometimes horrifying. We don't have Stone anymore really giving us that, but man, we do have Adam McKay. And I was so completely blown away by "Vice", his riveting portrayal of one of the most reviled men in American history, Dick Cheney. First of all, I am amazed at how much history McKay manages to portray in this film. We see Dick Cheney from his earliest beginnings, and see how he was able to slowly become one of the most powerful men in Washington and he did it by staying quiet and calm, not usually what we associate with power, especially with the current occupant of the White House. Christian Bale, who has yet to deliver a bad performance and who goes to any length necessary for a role, gained weight and with incredible makeup, embodies Dick Cheney in a startlingly transformation that makes you believe you're truly watching Cheney, it was hard for me to recognize Bale anywhere in this performance. Alongside his wife Lynne, played wonderfully by Amy Adams, we watch as he occupies various branches of government, is out of power when administrations change parties, and then in a brilliant cinematic move, McKay starts end credits in the middle of the movie with soaring music imagining how life could have been had Cheney not been asked to be George W. Bush's vice president. Then the movie shifts into gear as Sam Rockwell arrives playing Bush, and it's truly haunting to watch how Cheney managed to find a way into true ultimate power, the ramifications of which we'll feel for decades. McKay manages tone so wonderfully in this film, with his usual intelligent wit and so many bold visual choices, including one sequence where he imagines Dick and Lynne in bed reciting Shakespeare together as they contemplate the ultimate power they're about to take on, and even having characters talk to the camera at times. It's an accomplishment of such a high order, I can't wait to revisit this film many times and discover more things. The narrator chosen for the film has a connection to Cheney that we never could guess as the story goes along, but when it is revealed, it hits us with a punch we didn't see coming. And I haven't even mentioned Steve Carell playing Donald Rumsfield, actually making us feel sorry for him as he sees Cheney surpass him in power. This movie has SO much to say about the people who truly hold the power in government, and how unfortunately, so much of the country tunes out while some people get away with everything. McKay somehow finds an incredible way of presenting such complex histories and issues (just like he did with finance in "The Big Short") in ways that remain highly entertaining. And his bold choices represent such revolutionary filmmaking as to make us wish we had more filmmakers this bold telling such important stories that we need to see and discuss.
5) BLACKkKLANSMAN
What an incredible return to form for director Spike Lee! I've been a fan of his for a long time, I think "Do The Right Thing" is a masterpiece of cinema for one. But in recent years, I haven't felt his movies have lived up to his past classics, but thankfully this one did. I remember back in 1989 seeing "Do The Right Thing" and hoping that in a few years, we wouldn't have race problems, but now more than ever, we still do. Although this film takes place in the 1970's, Lee tells the story in such a way that its timeliness to today is incredibly strong. If this weren't based on a true story, it would be hard to believe that something like this could have worked! John David Washington gives an incredible performance as Ron Stahlworth, the first African-American officer hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department. He decides to try to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan chapter, which he's able to do by talking on the phone to Klan members (and even to the grand wizard himself David Duke), and having another officer, played by Adam Driver in another wonderful performance, actually be Ron in person. The tension throughout this film is incredibly real, as Driver fears at any moment that he'll be found out. Lee's visual style is back in full force with this film, and accompanied by his great composer Terence Blanchard, and with wonderful period production design, Lee has created a film with such an engaging story, and he is able to maintain a perfect balance of comedy, tension, and drama, which is no easy task in a story like this. From the incredibly strong opening exposing the racism from the very early days of cinema with "The Birth of a Nation" to its sobering final moments seeing real footage from a recent tragedy, Lee shows us that we have been here for so incredibly long, particularly in the racist attitudes and ideas that sadly never seem to change. It's so great to see a master of craft like Spike Lee firing on all cylinders, and seeing another powerful entry in what needs to remain a national conversation on true much needed change.
6) THE LAST MOVIE STAR
This past year, we lost Burt Reynolds, but not before he gave one of his best and most moving performances in this film which served as a parallel to his own fame and career. In this film, Reynolds plays Vic Edwards, a 1970s era movie star now in the twilight of his life who receives a notice that he is invited to the "International Nashville Film Festival" to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award. Thinking he's about to step into a prestigious festival accepting a really great honor, he instead finds a festival run in a bar by a small group of young film fans. Realizing this isn't quite what he thought he might be, Vic ends up turning the trip into a journey through his past, not only with his film work where he was once one of the biggest stars in the world, but also into his own personal life and the many regrets he has. To see Reynolds portraying a character so close to his own was truly moving, and an example of how cinema can sometimes rise above its own story to become something truly brave and moving. But that's not why I found myself in tears so much while watching this film ... it's also because of how this film deals with regret with such honesty, and when Vic finds his way into a nursing home to meet the woman he wronged so many years before, their scene together is truly heartbreaking beyond words. By the end, I was so deeply touched not only by Reynolds's performance and the journey of discovery for both him and the young sister of the film festival's director who becomes his caretaker for the weekend (played brilliantly by Ariel Winter), but also by the portrayal of the people at the film festival, and what their love for Vic and his legacy of film means to them. I loved how this movie dealt so honestly with the concept of expectations for what we think we should have, and how sometimes we should realize that what we HAVE achieved is often more than most people even dream of. Major kudos to Reynolds for baring his soul in a role so resembling his own life, and major thanks to director Adam Rifkin for giving us an incredibly moving final film for Reynolds that provides such a strong and moving finale to his career.
7) FIRST MAN
Damien Chazelle has continued to prove what an accomplished young director he is, turning out one unique film after another. At first, when I heard he was going to be making a movie about the first Apollo moon landing, I wondered how someone as distinctive as he is would tackle a story where we all know the outcome and which we've had so many documentaries and recreations already made about. But I shouldn't have worried. Chazelle wisely chose to keep the focus of this film on the astronauts and their wives, and particularly Neil Armstrong, one of the most difficult people to truly understand. Ryan Gosling delivers another strong performance here, and I was particularly fascinated to see how Armstrong essentially used the space program as a way to deal with the tremendous loss of a child. Of course, the moon landing is presented in stunning visual detail, and major kudos goes to composer Justin Hurwitz for also defying convention in creating a haunting, unique score for this most familiar of human achievements. For a film dealing with such a vast subject, it is a surprisingly intimate film with many great performances, the aforementioned Gosling and a very strong Claire Foy as well. Chazelle has yet to make a misstep, and I can't wait to see what he tackles next.
8) IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
The first line of dialogue in this beautiful film says everything about the power and themes of this film: "I hope that nobody has ever had to look at anybody they love through glass." Director Barry Jenkins, fresh off the Oscar success of his incredible film "Moonlight", has followed up with another deeply moving film here. While not on quite the same level as that previous film, this movie nevertheless succeeds at portraying so much of the same honesty and beauty in human beings. Kiki Lane and Stephan James are absolutely amazing together as Tish and Fonny, a couple very much in love who have to try to maintain through relationship while trying to exonerate Fonny from jail for a crime he didn't commit. The film's narrative brilliantly jumps back and forth in time in their relationship to see how they fell in love and how they're still trying to navigate their relationship (and her pregnancy), while he's in prison. They are surrounded by stark differences of family around them, from one family who can't accept them, and Tish's family, who works even harder to show them love and particularly with Regina King's mother, going to every length possible to try to prove Fonny's innocence. Throughout the telling of this story (adapted from the novel by James Baldwin), Jenkins crafts a film of wonderful period detail (set primarily in 1970's Harlem) and manages to interweave just enough social commentary to create an even stronger impact for the story it tells. But even more than that, I felt this film speaks to the power of love in all its forms. As James Baldwin so eloquently states in the book, "It's a miracle to realize that somebody loves you." It is indeed.
9) THE FAVOURITE
In this day and age, it's usually incredibly difficult for me to come to any movie without knowing a good bit about it already. But this was one of the rare treats this year where I had NO idea what to expect and was so delightfully pleased. Director Yorgos Lanthimos crafted a delightfully vicious comedy of two very conniving women competing for the favor of Queen Anne, the monarch who ruled Great Britain in the early 18th century, mostly from her chambers. Olivia Colman is an absolute delight playing the Queen, and matching her wit for wit are Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. From the film's unique structure, to the clever and surprising screenplay, to the visual style (so many incredible shots), Lanthimos has shown that a period costume film can be SO much more than overstuffed drama. Best of all, he makes us care about these women warriors who, without compromising their strength, also manage to reveal in such raw honesty, their sorrow and vulnerability. It's a creative feat that is remarkable to experience. I was particularly fascinated to watch Colman's performance and how her allegiances could be swayed, never quite able to get a grasp on what exactly she is doing.
10) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND
Of all of the notorious missing films that we've wondered about for years, none was probably higher on my most anticipated list than wondering if we'd ever see the final film by the legendary Orson Welles. The behind the scenes story of what happened with this film has been so fascinating for years, and finally this past year, a great experiment came together to see if a finished film could be put together that would reflect the true vision that Welles had for this film for so many years. Of course, we'll never really know if this film matches that vision exactly, but one thing's for sure ... the individuals involved who constructed this film based on notes and already assembled film have constructed something really remarkable. It's a film that stands true to the revolutionary nature that Welles always had, going back to the masterpiece "Citizen Kane" and how it changed cinema. To appreciate that revolutionary spirit in this film in 2018, one must transport yourself back to the time Welles was shooting this film, back to the early 1970's when Hollywood was changing in a massive way. The film's story is about the last day in the life of a legendary film director Jake Hannaford, played with gruff authority by John Huston. Filmed with a variety of different cameras and film stocks, the party where Jake is celebrating his latest film becomes a dizzying array of individuals all trying to understand Jake and his latest film. That latest film, called "The Other Side of the Wind", screens at various times throughout this film, showing a confounding yet fascinating attempt by a filmmaker trying to adapt to the changing cinema of the time. Many scenes are gorgeously shot and edited in ways that seem even revolutionary today, and Oja Kodar is a breathtaking force in these scenes. It definitely was unlike any other film I saw in 2018, and it's one that I can't fully know what I think about it, as they are so many things to take in and consider. But I remain grateful that this film did eventually see the light of day, and for contributing a bit more to the remarkable cinema of a bygone era.

And the next ten:

11) EIGHTH GRADE
If there's one thing I'm grateful for, it's that I didn't have cell phones or social media when I was growing up. Man oh man. And I certainly felt that after seeing this remarkable film from Bo Burnham, a YouTube star who so clearly gets what the awkwardness of adolescence is truly like, and presents it in this film in such a raw, honest, funny, and touching way. Elsie Fisher gives an incredible performance as Kayla, a quiet socially anxious girl who is trying to navigate her last couple of weeks at middle school. Burnham so completely understands that middle school is probably the most awkward time in a kid's life, and particularly in grappling with the society of today. I so admire movies that present adolescence and coming of age stories in such honest ways, and it is truly a rare thing. Elsie Fisher is so amazing and touches your heart so much with her struggles, and in one of the best scenes where she finally finds her voice, I don't know how you can't be moved to tears. The film captures so achingly what it's like to be a girl at this awkward age through wonderfully lived in performances, an intelligent screenplay, and incredibly competent directing.

12) FIRST REFORMED
I have so admired the films that Paul Schrader has either written or directed. He's managed to present a raw honesty about the human condition not seen by many filmmakers. He is particularly skilled at showing tortured souls in a way that is so brutally honest and impactful. And he definitely did so again with this film. Ethan Hawke gave one of the year's best performances playing Reverend Ernst Toller, a Protestant minister in upstate New York. Toller's church seems from a bygone era, and we see a man still trying to do good with his church and the congregration while struggling with so many personal demons. As the 250th anniversary of the churchís consecration approaches, this torment only escalates. Compared to Toller's small church, the Abundant Life mega church nearby only contributes to Toller's disdain for the materialism that seems to come with big churches but also feeling a sense of loss and disconnect to his calling, even saying at one point "this is not the church I was called to". Schrader has always been at his best telling stories about characters struggling with their purpose in life and their sometimes disdain for the world they inhabit, and this one fits right in with all the ones before. By interestingly presenting simple camera angles combined with innovative sound design, shadowy cinematography, the effect almost conjures up a horror film. And in a way, it's the horror of a man's soul on display, which can be even more horrifying. I wish we had more brave filmmakers like Paul Schrader, because the mess and real complications of a human life are something we need much more films about.

13) A QUIET PLACE
I've never been a huge fan of the horror film genre, mostly because so many rely on gore and overused scare tactics that make so few that original and actually not even that scary. But when a really good horror film concept comes along, and is crafted with sound direction and character development, you get something really extraordinary, like this film. By presenting a family who has to try to survive from creatures who are blind but hunt by sound, this film gives us a unique experience where our we engage even more strongly with the visuals and especially the sound design in a film that truly earns its horror and its shocks. John Krasinski, directing and acting alongside his wife Emily Blunt (who gives such a strong performance in this film ... in a less competitive year, it would be so great to see her in the running for acting awards) employs the concept I wish so many more horror filmmakers would remember ... what we DON'T see is always much more horrifying than what a filmmaker or CGI can conjure. By this family being forced to communicate in silence, we also get a really great depth of story into all of them, something also that most horror films lack, and it's particularly engaging to see the different creative ways they are forced to come up with to survive. Deliberately paced to perfection and crafted by everyone involved (from the score to the sound design, etc), it thankfully takes its place as a proud example of what good horror films should be. Movies that earn their shocks and have you haunted and thinking about them long after you have seen them.

14) BLACK PANTHER
There's so much to admire about what this film has achieved, and what it yet may achieve. But the achievements wouldn't mean much if there wasn't a truly great movie behind it. And thankfully, this movie was extraordinary. And that word coming from me about a Marvel superhero movie is definitely surprising. I've made no secret of the fact that I haven't been a fan of the glut of superhero movies, but every so often, one does come along that does something truly exciting. In a film which transcends the typical superhero movie, this one truly has something powerful and meaningful to say, with a storyline of real depth, and actual good performances that are nuanced and memorable. So much credit for this success has to go to director Ryan Coogler, who brings his incredible sensibilities for character and story into a universe that was much in need of more depth. I don't think I've ever seen a more heartfelt epic in the Marvel universe.

15) FREE SOLO
I'm always so amazed and pleasantly surprised when documentaries are not only able to bring us so totally into the life and psyche of its subjects, but to also have us truly experience their world. Imagine the daunting task of allowing us to experience the life and passion of this man, Alex Honnold, who specializes in free solo climbs ... meaning that he climbs up impossible landscapes without any climbing equipment. I can hardly imagine even climbing some of these peaks with equipment, much less with nothing helping at all. The primary focus of this documentary is Alex's biggest challenge, the free solo climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. I found this journey so fascinating, particularly in learning about Alex himself, who definitely is one unique individual. I loved how this documentary went much further to understand this man, even going so far as to have him have an MRI done, revealing that his amygdala ó the portion of the brain responsible for the fear impulse ó doesnít show a lot of activity. That explains a lot. That combined with this documentary portrait shows in such great detail how different we all are, and how something like this may seem foolish by some, but a normal passion for a man like Alex. How often could that apply to so many people and how better to understand and appreciate why people so often pursue what seems crazy to others. We get all of the typical stuff we expect of a documentary like this, showing all the physical requirements and preparation for a climb like this, culminating in a final sequence of the climb which is one of the most suspenseful sequences I've ever seen in a documentary. Kudos to Alex Honnold for his achievement, and to filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi for their dizzying visuals and incredible attention to detail.

16) COLD WAR
Oh, how I love it when a great filmmaker chooses black and white and delivers something so beautifully moving. Such was the case with writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski with this film. Set in Poland a few years after the devastation of World War II, it tells one of the most powerfully compelling love stories of recent times embodied by two absolutely devastating performances. With the newly created Communist government attempting to connect with its citizens in rural areas, it sends a few urban intellectual types around the country to record traditional folk music all under the purpose of propaganda. It is from this setup that Wiktor meets Zula, and their passionate love struggles against so much, as the competing themes between freedom and compromise, the ways of the culture and the state, and more play out in the larger themes of their relationship. This is no overacted romantic melodrama ... this is a spare, honest, and unflinching love story which I'll certainly never forget. Pawlikowski's attention to period detail is also extraordinary, so many scenes are like moving paintings.

17) FAHRENHEIT 11/9
Love him or hate him (and I personally love the guy), Michael Moore has made a career out of making extremely engaging documentaries shining a light on major problems in our country. While most probably thought this documentary was going to simply being about bashing Donald Trump, it went so much more deeply than that, taking a look at America and where we are (and how the hell we even got here). In doing so, Moore made a film that sadly made me realize something. Going back to his breakthrough documentary "Roger & Me" in 1989, Moore has been tirelessly bringing so many important issues to light, but sadly, nothing much has changed. In fact, it only seems to have gotten worse. A large portion of this new film brings us inside the water crisis in Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan, and if no other sequence in this film gets you as angry as that one, I don't know what will. How ANYONE can excuse what the governor of that state did to save money and endanger the lives of its citizens is beyond me. The film isn't all about these dreadful headlines, but Moore also highlights the citizens who are truly trying to change things in the wake of so many tragedies. But I was thinking by the end of it ... will this documentary be the one to affect change? Will any film? Can our country be saved at all or will these kinds of problems just get worse and worse? This film also brings together so many of the themes from Moore's past films, providing an almost complete Moore experience and what he's been fighting to expose for 30 years. I sure hope one of these days a film like this can actually convince someone who once thought differently. It might surprise many on the conservative side to know that this film doesn't spare anyone, offering up an incredibly sad incident of how President Obama reacted about the water crisis in Flint and disappointed so many who believed in him. Unfortunately, it seems these films will only be even seen by those of us who already agree with Moore and truly want to see real ADULT change. But the fight must go on, and I hope Moore's work continues to inspire others to use the power of cinema to expose corruption, injustice, and attempt to effect real change.

18) CREED II
I'm honestly not a fan of most sequels and retreads, but every so often something comes along that takes a series into a new direction, puts a brand new spin on what had come before, and expand a world into even greater places. The original "Creed" from a couple of years ago managed to do that, taking the "Rocky" saga which we thought had all been told into such an exciting new direction. When I heard that "Creed II" was going to resurrect the themes of "Rocky IV" and bring Adonis Creed face to face with the son of Ivan Drago, I admit that I was intrigued by the possibility of the story, but didn't think the film would manage to still be fresh and exciting. While "Creed II" is not as original and fresh as the first film, this film did manage to surprise and entertain, taking a lot of themes that the earlier Rocky films had presented, and spinning them so well in this new series. I was particularly moved to see the continued story of Rocky Balboa, and seeing how Sylvester Stallone has managed to truly embody a character long past when we thought his story is over. Stallone has said this would be the true final appearance for his Rocky character, and if so, he delivers another moving performance of this man in the final stages of his life. I was excited to see Adonis's character struggling with a lot of the same things as Rocky did in the early movies, but how originally they were able to present his struggle, particularly in the haunting legacy of his father having died in the ring. The returning Dolph Lundgren was particularly effective to see Ivan Drago as an older man, and even a surprise glimpse by Brigitte Nielsen was particularly effective. The "Creed" series may continue beyond Stallone, but it's been great to have lived with a character for so long that has so inspired and moved us.

19) JANE FONDA IN FIVE ACTS
I've always been fascinated by documentaries about film artists, always looking forward to what I can learn from them and apply to my own development. I'm also incredibly fascinated to learn more about the lives of true film legends, and this documentary provided both of those things. This film's unique structure managed to break down the life of Jane Fonda, and in doing so, managed to show us so many facets of her life. In showing how she took on so many different causes and personas in relation to the men she was with, by the end, we see a woman who has finally become comfortable in her own skin, independent of the men in her life. I was particularly moved though to see how she talked about the men in her life, particularly her relationship with Ted Turner, something very unexpected when I watched this film. This film was one of the best journeys I had in recent times covering not only a film artist, but a woman of incredible distinction.

20) A PRIVATE WAR
This was an example of a performance of such magnitude that it elevated a more standard biopic to something truly memorable. Rosamund Pike went to extraordinary lengths to play one of the most celebrated war correspondents of our time, Marie Colvin. The journalist who lost an eye during her coverage and ultimately her life in Syria, the film is a mesmerizing look into the life of Colvin and how she felt at home in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Sri Lanka, and how important her work and the work of some truly brave others was and is able to bring the horror and atrocities of war to public light. Rosamund Pike brings us deeply into her portrayal of Colvin, seeing all facets of her character, as well as experiencing the trauma she experienced having witnessed so much carnage up close and personal. Director Matthew Heineman, primarily a documentarian, brings the sensibilities of the documentary craft to this film, and puts a truly memorable human face to one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. I was fascinated to watch and marvel at what kind of soul is drawn to a job like this, and in a time where we can't seem to trust any kind of news, this film was a remarkable breath of fresh air of what true news gathering is.