My Favorite New (to Me) Films of 2018   6 comments


Looking back, it was a good year for movies.

Every year I say I’m going to keep track of what I watch. Sometimes, I make it to April before I stop logging films into Letterboxd. Sometimes, I don’t even make it that far. This year, I did it! I logged every film I watched this year. Well, I may have missed a few, but no matter. Huzzah!

According to Letterboxd, I watched 442 films this year. That’s kind of a lot. I only watched 13 films in the theatre, which is low for me, but I have a longer commute and I got a puppy. Whadya gonna do? The 13 were cool though. I saw Eighth Grade at the Independent Film Festival of Boston with Elsie Fisher and Bo Burnham in attendance. At the same festival, I saw American Animals and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? — both wonderful. I also went to the first Boston Noir Festival at the Brattle Theatre and got to meet Eddie Muller and hear his insights on rarely seen noirs. This summer, I braved the elements, met Jason Voorhees, and lived to tell of it after seeing Friday the 13th Parts 5 and 8 as a part of the Coolidge After Midnite at Rocky Woods program. Oh, and I watched Space Mutiny accompanied by the humor stylings of the Rifftrax crew and Isle of Dogs, accompanied by my daughter. Yay!


It didn’t come to this. Honest.

Of those 442 films, I watched 212 for the first time. That makes me happy. Few are from 2018, but there are a bunch from this decade. Here’s the breakdown of first-time watches.

2010s: 54
2000s: 16
1990s: 17
1980s: 26
1970s: 49
1960s: 19
1950s: 19
1940s: 8
1930s: 3
1920s: 1

There were so many this year, it was hard to choose a top 20, so I chose a top 35. You’re welcome.


Sometimes you have to flip a coin to decide.

My top 35 by the numbers

2010s: 18
2000s: 3
1990s: 3
1980s: 4
1970s: 5
1960s: 2

These are listed in the order I watched them.

Wake Up and Die (1966)

Breathless meets Baby Driver meets Brighton Rock, in Italy, kinda. The Baby Driver part is because it can’t seem to find an ending. A master thief goes on the run with his lady while police launch a nationwide manhunt. This early poliziotesschi is based on the real life thief, Luciano Lutring, the submachine gun soloist, who kept his weapon in a violin case. Lisa Gastoni and Robert Hoffman make a dashing pair and her outfits are fab!

Ski School (1990)

Yes, really. Dean Cameron (Chainsaw!) leads a bunch of party-crazed skiers in a quest to annoy the stuffy establishment types at Whistler. Fun, 80s snobs vs slobs film. Yes, I know it’s from 1990, but it’s an 80s film. Cameron channels early Bill Murray in this.

Bad Day for the Cut (2017)

Irish farmer, Donal (Nigel O’Neill) lives a quiet, lonely existence with his mother. When thugs violently change his life, he goes on a mission to find the culprits and get revenge.

Along the way, he meets an odd cast of criminals and helps a brother find his lost sister.

This is a violent, funny film with terrific dialogue that had me caring about the characters. It had a real Layer Cake/The Limey feel to it. Donal’s use of improvised weapons was always entertaining too. I expect to hear more from writer/director, Chris Baugh.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)

Part prison movie, part crime drama, part exploitation film, and part character study, Brawl in Cell Block 99 is the brutally violent story of Bradley (Vince Vaughn), who makes tough choices and lives with the consequences. Vaughn doesn’t get enough credit. He’s really good in this and I hope he continues to find these offbeat roles. I loved this one.

The Ritual (2017)

I can’t say enough good things about this film. I wrote a piece last year about grief in modern horror films and this one would fit in there nicely. A group of friends go on a hiking trip in the Swedish forest to honor their dead friend. The local people and/or gods are displeased. It’s not perfect, but it’s tense, scary, and frighteningly realistic with some terrific special effects. Yes, The Descent is better, but I’m happy to see people making moody, well-shot horror films, so I’m cool with it.

The Perfect Host (2010)

John Taylor (Clayne Crawford), on the run after a robbery gone awry, shows up at Warwick Wilson’s (David Hyde Pierce) place, hoping to hide out for a bit and perhaps steal something before going back on the lam. Warwick has other ideas.

This is a pretty neat little thriller. Pierce and Crawford are both terrific and the twist-filled story keeps you on the edge of your seat. This was a nice surprise.

The Descent (2005)

This is the real deal. A group of women friends go spelunking for some reason. Seriously, this sport/hobby/whatever baffles me. Anyway, one of the women has just lost her husband and child in an accident (grief, again) and so she goes in a cave. The group gets lost and meets up with some scary folks. This is such a frightening movie. I watched this with my daughter and we both held our breath a lot. Great horror.

Tenebre (1982)

Tony Franciosa is a writer of gory crime novels on a book tour in Rome when people start dying with parts of his books stuffed in their mouths and junk. Whodunnit? This is a terrific Argento film, full of violent deaths, red herrings, and plot twists. The music, by Simonetti-Pignatelli-Morante, three members of the band, Goblin, is one of my all-time favorite soundtracks. John Saxon! You should see this right now.

Deep Red (1975)

David Hemmings witnesses the murder of his neighbor, a psychic, and investigates. Fortunately, he’s a musician with no day job, so he can devote his full attention to crime-solving. People die violently as Hemmings gets closer to the truth.

Dario Argento does giallo proud. Bloody, atmospheric, and spooky, Deep Red (Profondo Rosso) has a psycho killer (Qu’est-ce que c’est?) some great deaths, and a terrific score by Goblin. Just wonderful.

The Cat O’ Nine Tails (1971)

This time, Argento directs Karl Malden and James Franciscus in this thriller about a series of grisly murders which may be related to corporate espionage. Another Argento giallo classic.

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Hey! This one came out in 2018! Wes Anderson’s sweet, funny stop-motion story follows Atari (the voice of Koyu Rankin), who travels to the titular island, where the evil ruler has exiled all dogs, to find his beloved dog, Spots. There, he meets a motley crew of mutts who help him and have an adventure. The animation in this is a marvel. The voiceovers, by Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Bryan Cranston, and a bunch of others are spot on. Get it? Teehee.

Hearts of the West (1975)

Jeff Bridges, in an early role, plays an Iowa farm boy who comes out west to write western novels like Zane Grey. He wanders onto a movie set, becomes an extra, and meets a bunch of oddball characters. Alan Arkin, Alex Rocco, Blythe Danner, Donald Pleasence, and a cool performance by Andy Griffith make this fun to watch. It gets a bit slapstick at times, but it’s a sweet story. Howard Zieff directed this, Slither, Private Benjamin, and a bunch of other films and TV shows.

Dead End Drive-In (1986)

Brian Trenchard-Smith directs this fun Ozploitation film about a futuristic society that captures unemployed and unwanted youth and keeps them prisoner in an old drive-in. Authorities supply the kids with all the junk food, drugs, sex, and B-movies they can handle to keep them docile. Crabs (Ned Manning) wants out and he spends his days trying to escape. This is a fun one. They even show Turkey Shoot at the drive-in.

Kill the Irishman (2011)

Extreme bad ass, Danny Greene was a low-level mob guy in Cleveland in the 70s. He pissed somebody off. Over one summer in 1976, Cleveland saw dozens of car bombs detonate all over the city. They were aimed at a few guys, but many of them were meant for Greene. This is an entertaining look at a real life character who was also an enforcer. Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken, and Vincent (oh yes!) D’Onofrio star.

Eighth Grade (2018)

Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is an awkward 13-year-old girl dealing with all the normal pre-teen/teen angst while posting super confident-sounding videos on her YouTube advice channel. What’s refreshing about this film is Fisher’s character and Burnham’s story and dialogue. She’s not a genius hiding her smarts to get by or a dazzling beauty hiding under Goth makeup. She’s a smart, regular girl who’s trying to figure it all out. There are some great scenes in this that really bring you back to that time when you doubted everything you did and worried so much about whether or not you’d fit in.

Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the 70s (2012)

This is a terrific documentary on Italian poliziotesschi films of the 1970s. Henry Silva, John Saxon, Franco Nero, Fred Williamson, and a bunch of other actors, directors, and stuntmen discuss the genre and tell stories. I learned a lot about the industry and production methods in Italy at that time and came off with a gigantic list of films to see. If you’re into Italian crime films of that era, you’ll like this doc.

Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) (2010)

I went into this film blind and learned a decent amount about Nilsson. The doc is full of celebrity anecdotes (He was pals with the Beatles.) and Nilsson’s music. I enjoyed it even though it didn’t delve as deeply as I would have liked. I liked it so much, I went right out and bought some of his music.

Skippy and the Intruders (1969)

Skippy, the bush kangaroo! Pirates try to salvage an underwater wreck illegally. When Sonny and Skippy, who’s a kangaroo, by the way, witness the crime, pirates kidnap her, her pet, Sonny, and his babysitter, Clancy. Will Sonny’s park ranger dad get there in time?

Probably.

I loved the series, Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo, as a kid. She is a kangaroo who solves crimes. What’s not to love?

Who Saw Her Die? (1972)

Don’t Look Now is on a bunch of top horror film lists, but I liked this one more. George Lazenby and Anita Strindberg star in Aldo Lado’s giallo about a serial killer of young girls. This one’s set in France and Lazenby takes an active part in finding the killer. An excellent film.

The Stepfather (1987)

Terry O’Quinn plays a man desperate to be a part of the ideal American family. That would be lovely except he longs for something he already had — and slaughtered brutally in the living room. He takes it all in stride though and moves right along to the next family. What will happen to them? DA DUMMMMMMMMM!

Based, in a small part, on John List, who murdered his mother, wife, and three children, then left town and started a new life somewhere else. Sweet.

O’Quinn is absolutely brilliant in this film. Seriously, this is a fantastic movie.

Shutter Island (2010)

I’m not sure why I waited so long to watch this film. I think it’s because they made it right down the street from me and I was worried it would let me down. It didn’t.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo are police detectives sent to a mental hospital on a Boston Harbor island to find a missing inmate. As they delve more deeply into the case and the institution, they discover things aren’t what they seem.

I don’t want to say too much more because I don’t want to spoil it. This was a cool mixture of crime, psychological thriller, and Gothic horror and I wish there were more films like it.

The Onion Field (1979)

On a quiet night in 1963, two career criminals took two police officers hostage. What happened next would change the lives of the policemen, their families, and a host of legal professionals for the next twenty years.

The film is authentic and full of the actual locations where the crimes took place. Joseph Wambaugh, who wrote the book and film and co-produced it, was on the LAPD when it happened and he felt strongly about being true to the people involved.

James Woods and Franklyn Seales play the criminals and John Savage and Ted Danson play the detectives. They’re all wonderful. Ronny Cox is great as the lead detective on the case.

I recommend the film and the book highly. It’s a tragic story told well.

The Robber (2010)

This is the fascinating, action-packed, true story of an Austrian world champion marathon runner who robbed banks. Seriously. In one scene, he wins a breathtaking surprise victory, dons a mask, and robs a Viennese bank. It’s bonkers. I watched it in German with English subtitles.

War on Everyone (2016)

What a fun movie! Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña star as bent cops trying to bust seriously twisted bad guy, Theo James. The lines are quick, funny, and literate and the humor is jet black. John Michael McDonagh wrote and directed and it’s whip-smart and incredibly funny.

I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore (2017)

This one caught me by surprise. Melanie Lynskey, who’s terrific, is fed up with people being assholes. After a series of small indignities, she’s had enough and decides to fight back.

Macon Blair wrote and directed this quirky film that had me rooting for the heroine and hoping for a happy ending. Elijah Wood has an odd role and does a great job. Worth seeing.

Shimmer Lake (2017)

Shimmer Lake is a creative thriller with some neat twists and turns. Writer/director, Oren Uzial plays with the chronology of the story and the performances by Benjamin Walker, Rainn Wilson, and Wyatt Russell (Kurt and Goldie’s kid) are solid. Quirky and inventive.

Happy Hunting (2017)

I’m a sucker for a Most Dangerous Game storyline. Martin Dingle Wall drifts into the wrong town and ends up running from a bunch of would-be murderers. Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson (Mel’s kid) wrote and directed this violent, action-packed tale. Fun.

The Collector (2009)

Arkin, an ex-con (Josh Stewart) needs money to save his wife from some baddies so he breaks into a house where he’s been working to rob the safe. During the crime, he sees a masked man brutalizing the family who lives there. As he runs around trying to save them, he finds elaborate traps set all over the house and the mom and dad being tortured.

Who is the masked man? Why is he doing this?

This was tense and violent and well done. It feels like Saw, in a way, except we don’t know this guy’s motivation. Maybe he’s just nutty as a fruitcake or maybe he has some other plan.

[REC] (2007)

In this Spanish film, Manuela Velasco and her film crew are profiling the men from a local fire station when the firefighters get a call. Velasco and her team go on the routine run which turns out to be more than routine. Scary, tense, and unexpected.

8MM (1999)

A wealthy widow hires Nicolas Cage’s private detective to find out if the snuff film she finds in her husband’s effects is the real thing. Joachin Phoenix is excellent and Peter Stormare and James Gandolfini are fabulously sleazy.

Filmworker (2017)

A fascinating documentary about Leon Vitali, a promising young British actor, who, after working as an actor in Barry Lyndon, decided to dedicate his life to Stanley Kubrick.

It’s an odd story about loyalty, obsession, and the lengths a man will go to for someone he idolizes.

I was unaware of this story before watching the film so I was astounded. It’s a good doc and Vitali is an intelligent and reliable witness to Kubrick’s eccentricities.

Hard Eight (1996)

Philip Baker Hall is an experienced gambler who takes John C. Reilly under his wing. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the cocktail waitress/prostitute Reilly loves and Samuel L. Jackson is Reilly’s profane friend.

The dialogue is spare and perfect and Hall is absolutely amazing. Paltrow was miscast, but other than that, this is a great watch. I’m glad I finally saw it.

Blitz (2011)

Detectives, Jason Statham and Paddy Considine are partners trying to stop a serial killer targeting London police officers. I’m a big Statham fan and he worked well with Considine. A cool action film.

Wind River (2017)

When a young Native American woman is found dead on a reservation, an inexperienced FBI agent and a local hunter team up to find her killer. Taylor Sheridan wrote and directed the film and it’s riveting and spare. Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, and Graham Greene all give terrific performances. Sheridan is great at the dialogue between men of few words.

Southern Comfort (1981)

Walter Hill directed this film about a squad of National Guardsmen who piss off the wrong hunters in the Louisiana bayou. The cast is amazing. Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine, Fred Ward, Peter Coyote, Franklyn Seales, Brion James, and Sonny Landham! Yikes! This is a terrific movie that combines aspects of Deliverance, The Deer Hunter, and Predator.

This was a long one. I saw so many good films this year, I just couldn’t stop at 20.

Thank you for your time. Please enjoy a hot towel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted January 3, 2019 by Kerry Fristoe in Lists

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6 responses to “My Favorite New (to Me) Films of 2018

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  1. Congratulations on accomplishing a feat that I haven’t been able to match! I just started using Letterboxd so hopefully, I will get there.

    I’m not as into horror, this we knew, but I do always enjoy your reviews, and I did just set the DVR for Hearts of the West.

    Happy New Year!

    • Thank you! I like letterboxd. It helps me keep the films straight. Sometimes, the titles mush together in my head. Did I see that? Hearts of the West is a goodie. Let me know what you think of it, Paula. 😀

      • Isn’t that the truth? Especially since they seem to be released in batches, like a whole mess of films with “boy,” or a couple years ago, “wonder,” in the title.

      • Exactly. They sometimes have dopey titles anyway that don’t tell you much. That way you wait and see the entire film in the trailer.

  2. Brilliant, thanks Kerry for all your commentary and big up for doing the hard work watching them films!

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