Presenting: my 2018 Year In Review video montage! In lieu of brief write-ups on a listicle, I opted to teach myself iMovie (be gentle!) to wrap up the movie year as it comes to an end. Featured in the video are my Top 20 films of the year, preceded by a quick love note thrown at the year overall and mentions for every film featured on my overall yearly ballot. Speaking of which, below is the rest of my year-end ballot!
Consider Peter Hedges’ Ben is Back as a natural antecedent to his Pieces of April, with a few key improvements. The largely despised previous film was a Thanksgiving-set early-digital filmmaking effort with effortful emotional maneuverings in telling a story of a fractured family. This time he turns to Christmas to display deeper and wider reaching splinters within a broken home, this time coping with the addiction of the eldest titular son Ben Burns, played by Lucas Hedges. Though the writer/director delivers something less garishly composed than its quasi cinematic cousin, Ben is Back is largely aided by the vigor of Julia Roberts’ turn as the mother Holly.
Hirokazu Kore-eda returns to the family drama in his Palme D’or-winning Shoplifters, crafting a graceful melodrama about the human contradictions of survival in indifferent societies. Once again the modern master looks at a family dynamic, and one that strays a outside of both the nuclear unit and socioeconomic demands of traditional society. Living in a tucked away shack in Tokyo, the Shibata family’s volatile existence is challenged further when they take in an abused toddler locked out of her home in the cold. Though they originally intend to host the young Yuri for only an evening, they decide to keep her when overhearing the full extent of her parents’ disregard.
What follows is a series of expertly structured and unexpected emotional landmines that keep its questioning of social ethics planted in their inherent humanity. That Kore-eda can do this so gently is part of what makes Shoplifters a masterpiece, what makes it sink into your heart with unassuming ease. Where his contemporaries want punishment and moroseness, he reaches for us to leave the theatre a little more thoughtful about the world around us.
Adapted from Gerrard Conley’s memoir, Boy Erased paints a picture of repressed queer white middle America, in all of the religious familial practice and assumption of normalcy to go with the setting. Lucas Hedges plays the author (here named Jared Eamons) as he is sent to a gay conversion center called Love In Action by his parents, played by Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe. In the hands of sophomore director Joel Edgerton (himself playing Love in Action’s mouthpiece and leader Victor Sykes) however, this search for healing is detrimentally willing to sacrifice what’s real.
The Happy Prince suffers the familiar strains of the modern biopic, charting the humiliating downfall of Oscar Wilde with structurally scattered and emotionally limited effect. Obviously a project of great importance to Rupert Everett, as the actor wrote and directed the film in addition to starring as the notorious writer, the film is still notably passionate despite its haphazard expediency. What we ultimately get is affectionate portraiture shoved into a soggy package that often mistakes its ping ponging construction for insightful texture.