Film Feature: The 10 Best Films of 2018, By Patrick McDonald

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CHICAGO – With 2018 in the rear view mirror (finally), it’s time in this first week of 2019 to reflect on what was, with the 10 BEST FILMS of 2018… as selected by Patrick McDonald, the Über-Critic of The list includes docs, animated films and even superheroes, along with the snooty film critic fare that’s always ripe for the watching.

Last year (now switching to first person), I began breaking down the films ranked 25th through 11th, with the option to click on the highlighted titles for reviews or associated interviews… 25th - SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, 24th - LEAVE NO TRACE, 23rd - SHOPLIFTERS, 22nd - BLACKKkKLANSMAN, 21st - COLD WAR, 20th - FIRST REFORMED, 19th - WE THE ANIMALS, 18th - YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, 17th - THE RIDER, 16th - MARY POPPINS RETURNS, 15th - VOX LUX, 14th - EIGHTH GRADE, 13th - ISLE OF DOGS, 12th - BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS, 11th - ON THE BASIS OF SEX.

HONORABLE MENTION: In a testament to the power of cinema to heal, the first film I took in for review after the passing of my brother was GAME NIGHT, a silly action comedy that simply made me laugh. There are many times in life we are put down, but there are always the movies to lift us up.

Below each film description in the 10 BEST will be a link to full reviews and/or interviews, when applicable. And away we go…


Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
Photo credit: Columbia Pictures

For movie joy, it may be difficult to beat this instant animated classic, which combines the nuttiness of our current superhero universe with a cartoon expressiveness and morality. The Spider-Man we know, Peter Parker, bites the dust, which leaves his job open for the reluctant Miles (voice of Shameik Moore). At the same time, the multi-universes have opened up, and a new web slinger also has to deal with other Spideys, including Gwen Stacy and Peter B. Parker, plus the hilarious anime Peni, 1930s Spider-Man Noir (“I like punching Nazis”) and the 2D animated Spider-Ham. This coterie of heroes have to figure out how to get everyone back to their own worlds, and save Miles’ universe. With mind-blowing visuals, a necessary swagger and comedy galore, this is both pure entertainment and a celebration of all things comic book.

HIGHLIGHT: The late Marvel Man Stan Lee (RIP) has his usual cameo, but this time there are no returns.


The King
Photo credit: Oscillioscope

Elvis Presley was one of the most famous entertainers of the 20th Century, but died in 1977 when his dream faded, despite being an icon. Director Eugene Jarecki created an amazing documentary about Elvis called “The King,” that uses his rise and decline as a symbol for the lost American Dream. The film is part bio picture, part fan film and all about America. Jarecki borrowed Elvis’s actual Rolls Royce and put celeb admirers like Alec Baldwin, Ethan Hawke, Ashton Kutcher, Emily Lou Harris and John Hiatt inside the car to talk about the significance of the Elvis celebrity, bigger and brighter at its time than any other, and burnt out to the end. The film is simply a truth about who and what America is, through one of the biggest personalities it ever produced, for better or worse. Whether you love Elvis or this metaphor, it’s a must see.

HIGHLIGHT: The final Elvis concert clip, expressing a longing and a passion that is soon to be extinguished… is this the fate for America?

Click here for the full review of “The King,” with a bonus Podtalk with director Eugene Jarecki.


Photo credit: Focus Features

The subject matter of a postpartum mental state for an after-baby-birth mother has never been explored in a film like this amazing bit of creativity from writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman. Charlize Theron wistfully portrays the Mama, who takes extreme advantage of a “night nurse” named Tully (Mackenzie Davis), offered to provide some respite after she delivers her third child. There is nothing in the film that is expected (pun intended), yet at the same time it emphasizes the overwhelming elements of being a hormonal/biological multi-mother, and provides an ardent empathy for the toll it can take, on the mother, her family and her life.

HIGHLIGHT: The Theron character reliving her youth in Brooklyn.


Madeline’s Madeline
Photo credit: Oscillioscope

And then the baby grows to teenage proportions. The debut of actor Helena Howard as the title character is pure revelation, as she portrays a 17-year-old acting student with a tense relationship with her past, which includes her mother Regina (the great Miranda July). Her acting teacher Evangeline (Molly Parker) is part of the equation for pushing Madeline, without realizing she is playing with fire. This the third feature film for actor/director/writer Josephine Decker, who displays an expressive soul of cinema in her delicate treatment of that inner Madeline’s Madeline, and the character spiral into the ultimate dance… as much a natural occurrence as a film.

HIGHLIGHT: The performance art of the freaky endgame for the teacher and her student.


The Death of Stalin
Photo credit: IFC Films

There is nothing more pathetic than men who desire power, and the fantastic satire THE DEATH OF STALIN provides more fuel to burn the patriarchy. Set in Russia during the title event, the film is expressed in the King’s English, with an impressive cast including Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor and Michael Palin. Based on a graphic novel, it was helmed by the director Armando Iannucci of HBO’s VEEP and contains his signature epic swearing, which emphasizes the childish playground antics (with violence) that fascist rule eventually devolves into. The USA should take note, but it’s mostly a laugh out loud comedy.

HIGHLIGHT: Russia banned the film.

Click here for the full review of “The Death of Stalin.”

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