Best of 2018 #3: The Rider, Annihilation, BlackKklansman, A Star is Born

Rider, Blackkklansman, Star,

3) Troy’s Pick – The Rider

The Rider has grown into a special part of my brain. That’s kinda sad to say about a movie where head trauma is the major lynchpin. Still, there’s something to a movie like this that almost feels like the perfect counterbalance to the recent crop of Westerns. What becomes of the Cowboys in the modern era? The Rider answers that in spade. I’m totally stoked to see how the director handles Marvel’s The Eternals next.

3) Daniel’s Pick – Annihilation

Alex Garland is one of my cinematic spirit animals. Whether he is directing or merely just writing, he regularly seems to know what makes me tick in terms of my filmic wants and desires. From 28 Days Later to Sunshine to Dredd and, to a lesser degree, Ex Machina, he has a real knack from reaching into my movie-loving soul and playing me like a fiddle. Annihilation is no different.

This film is breathtaking for me on almost every level. Any preconceived notions I had about it going in immediately flew right out of my mind. It took me on a ride and gave me haunting, dread-filled sci-fi horror experience that I have rarely had the pleasure of beholding on the big screen. I will cherish this movie forever.

3) Mike Flynn’s Pick – BlackKklansman

Holy shit, have I missed this Spike Lee. Granted, his best work comes along when our political infrastructure is dreadful—hence why Do the Right Thing and 25th Hour are timeless reflections of our national identity. With BlacKkKlansman, Lee could not have found a better story to tackle in the era of Trump and the alt-right. You desperately want to see the Klan get their comeuppance. You’ll chuckle at the heroes trolling them.

Then, from behind, Lee backstabs you, not as an act of betrayal but a reminder of the cruel ignorance that lets evil fester in our world. Most powerful, relating to the latter, is a pivotal turn from Harry Belafonte as an elderly civil rights activist who recounts the 1916 lynching of black teenager Jesse Washington. Belafonte’s single scene and monologue is pure compulsion, one that I wish was getting more attention.

The chemistry between John David Washington and Adam Driver as they work their way towards chasing the Ku Klux Klan out of Colorado is the best interplay I’ve seen all year. Washington, in particular, takes significantly after his father (and frequent Lee collaborator), Denzel, in his charm and charisma. He’s an unmistakable leading man that can liven up any room he walk into. There’s also Topher Grace, whose interpretation of David Duke is the textbook definition of “banality of evil.”

He plays Duke as a bland but unnerving shitweasel, preaching racist ideology, inciting violence, and likely coming home to warm milk and cookies. He also has a reaction shot that might be my favorite single image from any film this year. In his fourth decade as one of our most important filmmakers, BlacKkKlansman is hard proof that Spike Lee’s signature cocktail of fury and irreverence is still potent and more important than ever.

3) Jamie’s Pick – A Star is Born

Jamie likes watching Bradley Cooper’s death scene while clutching his Groot action figures. Who’s dust now is what Jamie keeps muttering to himself.

Rider BlackKklansmanStar Annihilation

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