From "Black Panther" to "Mary Poppins Returns," "Roma" to "Widows," here are 10 movies that moved and thrilled Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald, making her laugh, cry — and want to see them all over again.
As 2018 lumbers to a close, my movie-related thoughts turn to two annual traditions. One is my annual year-in-review movie poem, which is nothing but fun. (Fun, and a lot of sitting around muttering things in rhyming couplets, which might have more than a few people questioning my sanity.)
The other is one I have more complex feelings about: the gathering of an annual Top 10 list. I’ve never been quite comfortable with the idea of saying that my own personal favorite films are the year’s best — I didn’t see everything (and, after a change in job responsibilities last year, I now see fewer movies because I’m busy reading books), and what resonates with me might not have the same effect on you.
But I understand that it’s customary, so here’s my annual compromise: a “10 favorites” list, presented alphabetically. (It has never made the slightest bit of sense to me how somebody could differentiate between, say, the year’s sixth-best and seventh-best movie.) Of what I saw this year, here’s what moved me, thrilled me, made me laugh and made me cry — and, at its end, made me only want to see it again, immediately. Here’s hoping that all of you saw 10 films in 2018 that had the same effect.
“Black Panther.” As with all superhero movies, goodness prevailed, evil was punished, zippy suits and gadgets were unveiled, and some asses got well and truly kicked — but this thrilling Marvel Comics installment, from the wildly talented Ryan Coogler, showed us a world (and a cast) worth celebrating. I saw it three times; each time breathless.
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Marielle Heller’s second feature is a small, perfect study of nastiness, deliciously wrapped in a rom-com veneer and showcasing two marvelous performances. Melissa McCarthy, as grumpy con artist Lee Israel, has never been better; Richard E. Grant, deploying a remarkable array of cat-ate-the-canary smiles, is her sly partner in crime.
“If Beale Street Could Talk.” Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to “Moonlight,” an adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel, lets its viewers wallow in gorgeous close-up shots of a young couple (KiKi Layne, Stephan James) in love — and in trouble. Like its predecessor, the film casts a powerful spell; there’s beauty in every meticulously composed frame.
“Mary Poppins Returns.” No movie this year was more anxiously awaited by me — and no movie this year made me happier (or, in the best way, weepier). Both sequel and loving homage to the 1964 Julie Andrews classic, it’s pure cinematic joy.
“Paddington 2.” Can Hugh Grant (perfection as a self-absorbed actor/villain/twit) please be in every movie? And can every movie — well, OK, the comedies and the family films — please have the deliciously wistful playfulness, colorful creativity and innate kindness of this one? (Yes, it was a very good year for family-friendly sequels.)
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“The Rider.” What would you do if the one thing you loved to do was forbidden? That’s the question explored in Chloé Zhao’s poetic, meditative Western, about a rodeo cowboy (Brady Jandreau) who’s told after an accident that he should never ride again. In the quiet of an endless prairie, Zhao crafts an emotional journey and a magic-hour mood piece.
“Roma.” Alfonso Cuarón’s memories of his childhood in 1970s suburban Mexico City, filmed in gorgeous black-and-white by the director himself, focus on a year in the life of a young domestic worker (Yalitza Aparicio in a quiet, powerful screen debut). It’s hard to put a finger on exactly how “Roma” casts its spell; how it blends utterly devastating moments (several of which quite literally involve life and death) with a poetic, quiet everydayness. I only know that I watched it spellbound, and that it seemed over in an instant.
“Shoplifters.” All of Japanese master filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda’s films are about families, but this gentle, haunting tale showcases a different kind. Its first half feels like a loose, unconventional portrait of a happy family; its wrenching second half pulls the rug out from under us, asking the enormous question “What, exactly, makes a family?” As with all his films, by its end, the family on screen feels like your own.
“Widows.” Smart, soulful and surprising in every frame, Steve McQueen’s crime thriller manages to make some powerful statements about race, gender, crime and grief while being a tiptop heist film along the way. It featured quite possibly the year’s best acting ensemble, a murderers row led by the great Viola Davis. Steal this movie; it’s that good.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Movie theaters probably needed mops to wipe up the tears after screenings of Morgan Neville’s gentle documentary about Fred Rogers and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Mister Rogers is gone and the world is a much scarier place; this film, like a gift, briefly transports us back to the calm we felt long ago.
A splendid second 13 (hey, 10 is not enough), any one of which might have made my first list on a different day and/or different mood: “BlacKkKlansman,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Disobedience,” “Eighth Grade,” “The Favourite,” “Incredibles 2,” “Leaning Into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy,” “Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” “Searching,” “A Star Is Born,” “Where Is Kyra?” “Whitney,” “Wildlife.”
As always, I’ll close out the year by wishing all of us laughter, beauty and peace — at the movies, and elsewhere.