11) Troy’s Pick – Every Damn Documentary
2018 was the year of the mass appeal documentary. Naturally, Troy fell for all of them and wanted to cheat add them into one entry.
Three Identical Strangers – What happens when American kids are exposed to a psychological experiment that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Mengele era? The answer is that it tortures them and leads to one of the kids killing himself. The Academy didn’t feel the need to nominate it.
Hale County Morning, This Evening – The film about the Alabama Bible Belt that uses abstract intertitles to capture a slice of life.
Monrovia, Indiana – The film about a short amount of time in the middle of the Indiana Cracker Belt. Having visited, I have to say that the documentary depiction is apt.
Minding the Gap – Girls skateboarding?!?!? While this isn’t 1989, I’m still cool with anyone trying to gleam the cube.
Shirkers – Asian film fans get ripped off and make a documentary about the crime. I’m sold.
RBG – Her documentary was way better than the terrible biopic that died in theaters about a month ago.
Free Solo – Jimmy Chin has found a new way to make rock climbing into a terrifying endeavor.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – Mister Rogers introduced people to the Feels this year. That’s the term used by disenfranchised youth that can’t related to anything human unless it’s repackaged in bite size portions.
Troy plans on a few more reviews of documentaries he loves in proper form. His Love, Gilda review is super overdue. It’s coming. He promises.
11) Daniel’s Pick – A Quiet Place
I have never been much of a fan of The Office or John Krasinski, so color me surprised that a film by him is one of my favorite of the year. Not only has he managed to craft a gripping family drama about living in hardship, but he did it within the confines of a horror movie! A monster movie at that! Be still my beating heart!
Yes, there are some narrative problems and the characters occasionally make some real boneheaded decisions. Guess what though? People make stupid decisions on a regular basis, you and me included. Why should we hold film characters to higher choice-making standards than ourselves? I know, I know. Plot holes. I don’t give a damn about plot holes when the filmmaking is a good as it is here, however. The anti authority/popularity streak in me was fully prepared to hate this one when I sat down with it, but it won me over anyway. It’s that good.
11) Mike Flynn’s Pick – Annihilation
For a directorial debut, Ex Machina was a hard film to top. What Alex Garland’s follow-up lacks in theatrical simplicity, however, it more than recoups its worth in its visual triumph and turn of the needle from technological caution to transgressive, ecological horror. If Ex Machina was certainly his tribute to film-school gods, Annihilation is his love letter to the kings of the video store. This is a challenging, surreal film, shamefully denied a theatrical release for most of the world but given a shot in the United States.
Having surprised with an Oscar win for Best Visual Effects on his first film, Garland’s visuals are even more ambitious, reflecting the mysterious unknown that its (literally) star-crossed scientists must fight the elements of. Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and Gina Rodriguez are haunting in their skeptical approach, while Jennifer Jason Leigh is reckonable as the team’s holdout that craves a Lovecraftian fusion with other-worldly knowledge.
Despite the Netflix connection, to see a major studio deliver a challenging hard sci-fi film during one of the more tense cycles of the yearly blockbuster season is as ambitious as the man that crafted it.
11) Jamie’s Pick – Tully
Jamie heard that Tully was a fantasy about a magical babysitter that bonds at night with Charlize Theron. Jamie ended up using the tissues for a different reason.