2018 is nearly over. And with the new year comes reflection, retrospection, and some top ten lists. This year gave us an onslaught of pop culture, and now Street has endeavored to choose the best of all of it—best albums, best television shows, best books, and best movies from this year, based on staff's picks.
1. Roma: Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
What is there to say that hasn't been said? Roma is undoubtedly Alfonso Cuarón's masterpiece. He returned from his sci-fi streak to deliver this force of a movie, and he did it all—directing, writing, producing, editing, and shooting—and his guiding hand shows through. In many ways, the film is a spiritual successor to Y Tu Mamá También (his second best). In many aspects, Roma plays like a film centered on Tenoch's maid, with much of the same class commentary present. But in Roma, the treatment is distilled and foregrounded—projected onto Cleo, the film's hopelessly kind protagonist. It is without question the most beautifully shot film of the year—shot in rich, wide 65 mm film with the gorgeous framing and wandering tracking shots for which the director is so famous. Several scenes are so gorgeous they'll make you cry: The wildfire sequence and the beach and protest scenes are a few that come to mind. Roma is emotional devastation treated with careful restraint. It emanates a quiet sadness, mixed with some kind of befuddled, desperate hope. You feel Roma in your stomach, and you'll want to see it multiple times to unknot this confusing sentimentality.
2. Cold War: Directed by Paweł Pawlikowski
Just like Roma, Cold War is shot in a haunting black and white, a monochrome palette that transmits an undetectable gloom. Polish Paweł Pawlikowski—who previously directed the Oscar-winning Ida—made a cold movie about doomed romance in Eastern Bloc. It's short and focused, with significant jumps through time. Cold War is all about economy of emotions and shots, and the political and emotional borders that humans put up. The soundtrack is a character of its own, worming its way into the film's roving landscape. Cold War is about a hopeful romance that rots amidst political turmoil. We are never allowed access to the characters' inner thoughts or feelings, pushed away with an icy distance. But it's affecting nonetheless, with one of the best endings of any movie this year.
3. Eighth Grade: Directed by Bo Burnham
Eighth Grade is an unlikely movie. Every single person who saw this movie used the term "cringeworthy" to describe it. And that's the most fitting adjective for the job. There are the glimmers of Bo Burnham's humor in the funny characterizations of the trend-pandering adults, but this movie seems to be a mostly serious one. Kayla as a character toes the line between being the most relatable distillation of Gen Z stereotypes and a forceful character of her own. Eighth Grade features the most truthful depiction of social media use and digital anxiety of any movie to date, and has more than a few novel points to make about youth–hood in the new millennium.
4. Shoplifters: Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
It won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, but Shoplifters is more than a hollow hype–machine. It deserves all the praise lavished upon it. Most reviewers focus on the twist of the last portion of the film, but's that's one of the least important moments. This movie is a meditation on chosen family, cycles of abuse, and class. But it eschews the hopelessness you might expect from these themes. Far more interesting is what is has to say about how social structures can be formed in the most adverse of circumstances. And it begs the question: Can thieving run thicker than blood?
5. The Favourite: Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Here is Yorgos Lanthimos at his most tame, but potent nonetheless. No one would have seen Lanthimos making a period piece in a million years, but this Greek director has reached mainstream appeal by keeping audiences on their toes. The Favourite is a comedy of absurdities with gorgeous costuming and set design, that probes the depths of human motivation in disturbing and hilarious ways.
6. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Directed by Morgan Neville
Mister Rogers might have been the second coming of Christ, but this public television icon was far from apolitical. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? takes a hard look at Fred Rogers' enduring legacy, excavating the subtle ways that he injected progressive messaging into his program His love and kindness came with significant political subtexts, which have become even more timely after the Squirrel Hill synagogue shooting, a hate crime that took place in the very neighborhood that Mister Rogers was from.
7. Sorry to Bother You: Directed by Boots Riley
One of the most rigorous critiques of capitalism to come along in a while, Sorry to Bother You only becomes more relevant as new information about Amazon's labor practices emerge. It's a surreal movie that features timeless debates: assimilation vs. radicalism, personal security vs. altruism, collectivity vs. individuality. It's a searing takedown of gentrification, media, and wage labor, but it's much more surreal and funny than it sounds.
8. Leave No Trace: Directed by Debra Granik
Leave No Trace is about mental illness and sacrifice, as it explores the relationship between an ex–veteran and his young daughter who have been living off the grid in a Portland park. Their routine is strictly rehearsed, though they are ultimately faced with the challenges of integrating into society. This father-daughter relationship is pushed to the limits, as the film examines the challenges of governmental control and dependency. The film's frank realism and curt dialogue take the backseat, to let the beautiful meditation on wilderness unfurl unencumbered.
9. Hereditary: Directed by Ari Aster
It's about time that a quality horror film came along. Loved by critics and tentatively received by mainstream audiences, this is a crafty and well-made movie, with a different kind of horror. It seems that the slow-burning subtlety was lost on many. Hereditary is about dread and unease. The family dissolution—those blistering debates, painful words, and screaming matches—are the most disturbing part of the film. And when the movie whacks you with a surprise half through, you can't help but feel queasy. When it seems like the worst, Hereditary grabs you by the balls for its last quarter, in a cinematic chokehold that hasn't been executed so well in a long time.
10. Crazy Rich Asians: Directed by Jon M. Chu
In one word, Crazy Rich Asians is groundbreaking: It's the first Hollywood movie to have an all–Asian cast in 25 years, and is reviving the dying genre of the romantic comedy. Set in opulent Singapore, the film follows the crazy normal Rachel Chu as she meets her crazy rich boyfriend's family. Loaded with family drama, lavish displays of wealth, and sexy, shirtless Asian men, Crazy Rich Asians is pure spectacle, and a whole lot of fun.