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The 50 Best 2018 Films We’ve Already Seen

Written by on January 8, 2018 

Not Yet Dated or Seeking U.S. Distribution

 

Bodied (Joseph Kahn)

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This writer will admit that he joked to a friend recently about music video director Joseph Kahn’s slow feature film output over the last 13 years as almost making him the new Terrence Malick. While don’t take that as anything more than a goof, each of his three features do represent a very specific point in time that’s bound to be dated within a short period. His first feature Torque arrived in the middle of the Neal Moritz renaissance and was Kahn’s stealth attempt to smuggle a parody of The Fast and The Furious beer commercial aesthetic within an actual Fast and Furious knock-off. The second, Detention, came at the dawn of social media dominance, as obnoxious and scatterbrained a millennial anthem one could hope for. – Ethan V. (full review)

Cardinals (Grayson Moore and Aidan Shipley)

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On the surface, Grayson Moore and Aidan Shipley’s Cardinals looks like the kind of small, family drama that doesn’t inspire much attention, but overlooking this tense little film would be a mistake. It starts when Valerie (Sheila McCarthy) gets out of prison after serving time for running over and killing her neighbor while drunk driving. But as soon as Valerie comes back home, her neighbor’s son comes looking for answers, accusing Valerie of intentionally killing his father. Moore and Shipley use a restrained, elliptical style that lets viewers connect the dots as to what really happened, and Moore’s screenplay mines plenty of tension and humor out of the decorum these characters maintain when forced to interact with each other. With a terrific ensemble to boot (including a great performance by lead Sheila McCarthy), Cardinals is one of the strongest debut features of the year. – C.J. P.

Claire’s Camera (Hong Sang-soo)

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Hong Sang-soo’s first film starring Isabelle Huppert, In Another Country, counts as one of the more lightweight entries in the Korean auteur’s oeuvre. Compare it to Claire’s Camera, their second collaboration, and it suddenly looks like Inland Empire. That’s not to say Claire’s Camera is bad or unenjoyable. It has plenty of the charm characteristic of Hong’s cinema, and there are far worse ways to spend 69 minutes than in the company of his characters as they amble through sunny Cannes idly chatting about love and life, disappointment and fulfillment. At the same time, knowing the director is capable of achieving so much more with even less – one of his greatest films, Hill of Freedom, is similarly scaled and two minutes shorter – it’s difficult not to end up frustrated by what feels like a rushed and ultimately undercooked work. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Close-Knit (Naoko Ogigami)

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If the direct emotion pull and inclusive vibe of Naoko Ogigami’s Close-Knit could be expressed in a single scene it would perhaps be the moment early (Ogigami’s only use of flashback) when a central character named Rinko (played by Tomo Ikuta) remembers the day when she came home from school to find that her mother had bought Rinko her first bra and knitted her some fake boobs. We learn that some students had been bullying and body-shaming Rinko in P.E. class and so understandably (and adorably) her mother wanted to help her get through it. Like much of the film, it’s a basic enough scene: classy without the need for flash; simply shot in crisp natural light; unmistakably sentimental but with an earnest and playfully subversive undercurrent of humor running through. The rub here is that Rinko was not born a woman and is struggling with her transition. Thus, the great warmth of her mother’s gesture is further enhanced by the fact that she has chosen to accept, embrace and, yes, love her child for who she really is. – Rory O. (full review)

Cocote (Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias)

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Fans of fierce, challenging indigenous cinema rejoice. It’s not every day that you see a film from and depicting the life in the Dominican Republic, let alone one as intriguing as Cocote. Writer/director De Los Santos Arias’ feature debut shines a light on an underrepresented part of the world and casts a truly outlandish spell that confounds and overwhelms. Fair warning: sheer cultural divide would most likely prevent a deeper appreciation of the film, but the authenticity and intensity of its voice alone proves excitingly – if also gruelingly – memorable. – Zhuo-Ning Su (full review)

Custody (Xavier Legrand)

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It didn’t win the Oscar for best live action short in 2014, but Xavier Legrand’s Just Before Losing Everything was by far my favorite nominee. Discovering his debut feature Custody was constructed as an expansion of that story therefore made it a must-see. The short is soon revealed as a prequel, its look at the fallout of domestic abuse hopefully in the rearview considering Miriam Besson (Léa Drucker) readies to plead her case as to why her now ex-husband (Denis Ménochet’s Antoine) shouldn’t retain custody of their son Julien (Thomas Gioria)—his sister Joséphine (Mathilde Auneveux) recently turned eighteen and is free regardless. But while the evidence seems to prove Miriam’s case, a father’s love trumps a lack of concrete proof of his terror. The threat he poses, however, remains very real. – Jared M. (full review)

The Day After (Hong Sang-soo)

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Hindsight is a marvelous thing. To quote the lead character of a recent Hong Sang-soo film (and by recent we mean Claire’s Camera, the second of three the prolific director has premiered so far this year): “The only way to change things is to look back on them, slowly.” It’s a mantra Hong clearly lives by as a filmmaker, as do many of the people who inhabit his movies. Hong’s world is all about repetition, and while the cold domestic and workplace settings of his latest film, The Day After, are somewhat of a departure from the unfamiliar streets his character usually walk down, the majority of his signature ingredients are present and accounted for: sad, unfaithful men abusing positions of relative power; dialogue that meanders between the everyday and the sublime; his current muse, Kim Min-hee; and, of course, generous lashings of Soju. – Rory O. (full review)

First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

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Made with a kind of formal rigor that one would’ve assumed was long past Schrader after the “post-cinema” experimentations of The Canyons and Dog Eat DogFirst Reformed is first and foremost most admirable for its sustained mood. Shot in The Academy aspect ratio and maintaining a stillness and greyness that manages to seem utterly alien to the slow cinema standards of contemporary art films, one gets the sense of the director really having a genuine stake in the making of this picture. It seems the religious content is not so much an affect as a genuine late-in-life plea. – Ethan V. (full review)

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