Top Films of 2018, By Marc Glassman
Sorry to Bother You
It’s a rare film that confounds and delights audiences and critics alike. You know you’re viewing one when you aren’t sure how to react. Get Out, U.S. black filmmaker Jordan Peele’s first feature, was the outstanding example of that up-the-applecart type of film in 2017. While it was certainly part of the horror genre, it was also wickedly funny, suspenseful and a truly thoughtful satire on race relations. Perhaps it’s no surprise to see yet another debut feature appear this year by a black artist, Boots Riley, whose work goes beyond even the wild accomplishments of Peele.
Sorry to Bother You will shock, enrage and excite you. Like Get Out, it makes you think about the politics of our society in a different way, while making you laugh and almost weep with anger. Although it has elements of science fiction in it, the film is one of the truest reflections you’ll see of what’s happening in the U.S.—and Western society—right now.
This unabashedly romantic tale of a love affair between a young Polish singer and her pianist band leader lover is shot in gorgeous black and white and directed by Oscar winner (for Ida) Pawel Pawlikowski and dedicated to his parents. His leads Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot bring passion, musicality and fine technical acting to their charismatic performance.
Alfonso Cuaron’s semi-autobiographical account of a privileged Mexican family in crisis in the late Sixties and the maid whose loving support helps to keep them together may be the most highly regarded film of the December Oscar sweepstakes. Like Cold War, a black and white reminisce, the film mixes personal dramas and politics to evoke a problematic period in history. The only question is: will Roma win best foreign film and best film at the Academy Awards?
A subtle brilliant mystery, this film by Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong is an unsettling examination of contemporary youth culture. When Lee Jong-su, a secretive neophyte writer meets Hae-Mai, a girl from his village in Seoul, sparks fly—but not enough to prevent her from returning from a trip abroad with Ben, who is rich, charming and almost psychopathically cool. They become a synched together Odd Trio until Hae-Mi vanishes, leaving Jong-Su suspecting that Ben knows too much about her sudden disappearance. A film that compares to L’Avventura in its cultural dissonance, Burning is a remarkable film.
Anthropocene: The Human Epoch
My top five has to include at least one Canadian and documentary film—that’s how I’m hard wired. For 2018, there’s only one work that fits the bill: Anthropocene: The Human Epoch. The concluding piece in a trilogy of works about the abuses of nature provoked by humankind’s greed and willful ignorance, this film was created by the internationally recognized photographer Ed Burtnysky, and the award-winning documentary duo Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier. It’s the bulwark of a project running at the AGO this weekend to make the environment a key issue for the thoughtful art gallery crowd as well as filmgoers. At the AGO, you can see parts of the film as installations working with Burynsky’s photos and other artistically rendered “evidence” of the coming global crisis. Antrhopocence as a film, photo and art show is reaching an audience that might never seen how the current global crisis is affecting the world.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
Tune in to hear Marc Glassman’s Art Reviews
Friday’s at 9:07am on Classical Mornings with Mike and Jean.