While there was no avoiding the big-budget blockbusters and franchise films that are churned out in a never-ending cycle of sequels and reboots, 2018 also provided a full slate of movies that thrived on specificity. Smaller scale, but fully-realized, stories got a ton of critical acclaim, offering audiences a look into the mind of a reverend questioning his faith—in everything, the trajectory of a telemarketer on a very precise path to the top, and a tween's YouTube page, among other deeply personal narratives. That so many films this year dug deep into such singular stories is perhaps a good sign that, in the otherwise precarious cultural landscape of 2018, we still value stories that are different from our own.
Here are the best movies of 2018, according to Popdust staff:
LEAVE NO TRACE | Official Trailer www.youtube.com
Leave No Trace (and Eighth Grade)
Chosen by Rebecca Linde, Staff Writer
Call me a sucker for stories about teen girls and their single dads. Eighth Grade somehow captured the horror and hope of adolescent girlhood in excruciatingly awkward, accurate, and deeply empathetic detail—a formidable challenge for any writer/director, but handled delicately by comedian Bo Burnham with help from the heart-wrenching performance of star Elsie Fisher. Despite its title, Debra Granik's Leave No Trace left a lasting impact. Granik leads her audience through the depths of the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest and into the world of 14-year-old grifter/survivalist Tom (a great Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) and her father, Will (Ben Foster, also great) with stunning cinematography. Yet when it comes to Will's motivation for keeping them there, the restrained dialogue and almost bucolic pace keeps Tom—and us—achingly on the margins.
CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? | Official Trailer [HD] | FOX Searchlight youtu.be
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The strangest aspect of Marielle Heller's film about a down-and-out writer turning to a life of copyright crime is the real story behind it. Lee Israel not only forged and sold over 400 letters from literary giants, but she wrote a memoir in 2008 exposing it all with little apology. Starring Melissa McCarthy, the adapted film of the same name recounts how an under-appreciated writer decided to market her talent by stealing original letters from libraries and replacing them with forgeries or outright drafting copycat letters to sell for thousands of dollars apiece. The penalty for her crimes? In 1993 she pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce. She was sentenced to six months' house arrest and five years' probation.
ISLE OF DOGS | Official Trailer | FOX Searchlight www.youtube.com
Isle of Dogs
Chosen by Brooke Ivey Johnson, Assistant Editor
The Death of Stalin Official Trailer #1 (2017) Jason Isaacs, Steve Buscemi Biography Movie HD www.youtube.com
The Death of Stalin
Chosen by Matt Clibanoff, Editorial Lead
In his newest film, Armando Ianucci manages to turn a new batch of politicians into bumbling idiots, this time taking on the post-war Soviet government and the turmoil that followed Joseph Stalin's death. Lavrenti Beria, head of the NKVD, played by Simon Russell Beale, is a chubby, screeching loon whose megalomaniacal urges come across less like Hitler's and more like Eric Cartman's. Jeffrey Tambor plays Stalin's ineffectual deputy, Georgy Malenkov, a man so incapable of command the entire Soviet inner circle allows him to function as head of state for two years while they secretly jostle for power. And Steve Buscemi, as Nikita Khrushchev, is so fidgety and anxiety-prone you'd think he was playing a bit part on Curb your Enthusiasm.
Bonus: The 2018 Popdust Movie Awards
Most Audience Moms in Need of Tissues: A Star is Born
Most Surprising Horse Phallus: Sorry to Bother You
Least Surprising Horse Phallus: The Rider (ok, we haven't seen it, but of all the films that came out this year, this is the most likely to have at least one shot of a horse penis)
Superhero We'd Been Waiting For: T'Challa
Superhero Body We'd Been Waiting For: Aquaman
Best Use of a Rabbit: Leave No Trace
Worst Use of a Rabbit: Peter Rabbit
The "These Two Movies Came Out on the Same Weekend and Therefore We Will Never be Able to Distinguish One from the Other" Award: Social Animals & American Animals
Movie That Definitively Proves that Lord of the Rings Drove Peter Jackson Insane: Mortal Engines
Worst Father Figure: Thanos
Best Father Figure Who Always Comes Back: Thanos
Least Frightening Creature: The Meg, The Meg
Most Frightening Creature: The Bush Administration, Vice
Best Music Video: Bohemian Rhapsody
Most Effective Stoking of Cold War Tensions: Creed II
Least Effective Stoking of Cold War Tensions: Red Sparrow
Worst Childhood Memories: Eighth Grade
Best Childhood Memories: Never being subjected to The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Most Clearly Made for Horny Gamers: Tomb Raider
Movies That, Apparently, are Still Being Made: Fifty Shades Freed, Bumblebee, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, The First Purge
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