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The 50 Most Overlooked Films of 2018

Written by on December 20, 2018 

Lu Over the Wall (Masaaki Yuasa)


Japanese animation director Masaaki Yuasa, long a cult figure in the U.S., is getting new exposure this year. Following up on Netflix’s release of his series Devilman Crybaby, GKIDS has picked up three of his films for distribution this year. One of these, Lu Over the Wall, demonstrates everything that makes Yuasa one of the best contemporary anime filmmakers. It’s an energetic, frequently hilarious, always visually riveting ride. – Dan S. (full review)

Madeline’s Madeline (Josephine Decker)


While many breakthrough directors achieve such a status by helming one feature, Josephine Decker achieved acclaim with two films, Thou Wast Mild and Lovely and Butter on the Latch, which received theatrical releases simultaneously in 2014. Marking her return to narrative feature filmmaking at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Madeline’s Madeline is a drama of boundless spontaneity as Decker deftly examines mental illness and the potentially exploitative lines a performer may cross when pulling life into art. – Jordan R. (full review)

Milla (Valérie Massadian)


Director Valerie Massadian’s intimate and honest depiction of poverty distances itself from conventional Hollywood theatrics–these are not “movie protagonists” as we know them, they just are. Both stunningly ethereal and brutally real, Milla patiently earns every one of its emotions. Comparisons to the work of Barbara Loden and Chantal Akerman are apt, but don’t be mistaken–this work is still startlingly unique. – Jason O.

Mrs. Hyde (Serge Bozon)


Serge Bozon adapts “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” to the French education system and properly criticizes the universal failings of one-size-fits-all public education and the bureaucracy thereof, applying his wonderfully absurd sense of humor, a brightly-hued eye-candy color palette shot on film, and a charmingly goofy performance from the legend of the cinema herself, Isabelle Huppert. It doesn’t have to take itself seriously–it still says a lot. – Jason O.

NANCY (Christina Choe)


Rare is it that one gets to see a performance as strong as Andrea Riseborough’s in NANCY. Written and directed by Christina Choe, the film concerns a thirty-something woman living in Oswego, New York who begins to suspect she was abducted when she was a child. Following the death of the woman that raised her (Ann Dowd), the titular Nancy reaches out to a couple (J. Smith-Cameron and Steve Buscemi) whose daughter disappeared thirty years prior, as she learns from the local news. Cautious but hopeful, they take in the young woman while they attempt to confirm she is their long-lost child. What they don’t know about her will soon cloud circumstances and complicate the visit. – Dan M. (full review)

November (Rainer Sarnet)

What is the point of having a soul if everyone around you doesn’t? That’s the central question asked by Rainer Sarnet’s November, a bleakly told Estonian fairy tale tragedy adapted from Andrus Kivirähk’s novel Rehepapp. At its core is romance — the kind based in unrequited love that will never bear fruit. Liina (Rea Lest) is a peasant girl trying to catch Hans’ (Jörgen Liik) eye while his sights are affixed well above his social stature upon the German Baron’s (Dieter Laser) visiting daughter (Jette Loona Hermanis). They each leave their homes at night to watch the objection of their affection, the latter hiding in the shadows behind the Baroness as she sleepwalks and the former transformed into a wolf so she may spy in plain sight. – Jared M. (full review)

Personal Problems (Bill Gunn)


“The attempt to bury Bill Gunn began in his life,” wrote Greg Tate of filmmaker Bill Gunn (Ganja and Hess) in a Village Voice piece in 1989. Gunn, who scripted Hal Ashby’s The Landlord, passed away that same year, leaving behind a stunning catalogue of work, including the unreleased erotic melodrama Shop. His masterpiece may be the sprawling shot-on-video epic Personal Problems, originally produced in 1980 with the intention of airing on public television. That never happened. Now, nearly 40 years later, Gunn’s collaboration with novelist Ishmael Reed finally hit screens, and it’s a revelation. Following a Harlem nurse whose life changes after she learns of her husband’s infidelity, Personal Problems is half soap opera and half kitchen-sink melodrama. Textured by a Brechtian layer of motion ghosting, complete with falling boom mics, the film is not only a one of a kind work of aesthetic boldness and emotional sincerity, it’s also an essential entry in the filmography of an unfairly forgotten pioneer of African American cinema. – Tony H.

Revenge (Coralie Fargeat)


Sometimes we need a good slap in the face. One of this year’s most refreshing and frankly needed slaps comes courtesy of writer-director Coralie Fargeat. Revenge is a ferocious film, unflinching yet startlingly entertaining. Fargeat apes the male gaze, then obliterates it with sledgehammer intensity. In almost every way, Revenge is accomplished; a full-blown fable, Fargeat conjures pure elemental imagery and cuts every moment together with panache. Horrific psychedelic dreamscapes, impossible (and impossibly awesome) tattoos, and men screaming in pure bloody anguish (a joy, I promise) are all tied together by the absolutely righteous quest of one determined woman. If that wasn’t enough, ingeniously labyrinthine geography propels Revenge’s climax, a nerve-wracking and awe-inspiring decision that solidifies Revenge as a new horror classic, just as it heralds in a new voice in cinema, and signals that star Matilda Lutz is not to be fucked with. – Mike M.

Scarred Hearts (Radu Jude)

Scarred Hearts 1

A few years after its initial premiere at the Locarno Film Festival, Radu Jude’s drama finally arrived in theaters this summer. Back then, Ethan Vestby praised it, saying in his review, “Like another two-and-a-half-hour Romanian dry comedy about the medical process, Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. LazarescuScarred Hearts plays up the control doctors hold over us in a critical state for maximum absurdity, of course the joke of antiquated health care emphasized in director Radu Jude’s case.”

Skate Kitchen (Crystal Moselle)

Skate Kitchen - Still 2

For her breakthrough documentary The Wolfpack, director Crystal Moselle discovered a group of sheltered brothers in NYC’s Lower East Side and captured their passion for filmmaking. With a muddled style and questionable directorial choices, it didn’t quite live up to the film’s initial hook, but Moselle clearly showed talent for making a connection with the youth of the city. That latter quality continues with Skate Kitchen, which uses a narrative backdrop to place us in the center of a female teen skater group–who Moselle discovered on a subway ride–all of whom exude a care-free independence as they make NYC their playground. It’s such a step-up in vibrancy, scope, and emotion that it feels like the introduction of an entirely different, more accomplished filmmaker. – Jordan R. (full review)

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