Best Films of 2018

I hope it’s not bad form to say that the film highlight of 2018 for me was the small program I helped to organize at Big Ears Festival. I say “organize” because most of the curation was performed by others. David Dinnell brought nearly five hours of 16mm films culled from the collection of Canyon Cinema. Paul Harrill presented “A Sense of Place: A Retrospective of American Regional Cinema, 1960-1989.” Blake Williams curated a diverse and challenging program of 3D work, “Stereo Visions.” And I collaborated with Lewis Klahr on an installation and two screenings. The majority of my favorite film discoveries this year screened during our four-day festival.

The other festival highlight of the year was “A History of Shadows,” a wide-ranging program curated by Gerwin Tamsma and Gustavo Beck in Rotterdam. Also, I was thrilled to finally catch up with Angela Schanelec’s work and to see my first Jean Rouch films, both courtesy of Mubi’s retrospectives.

As for 2018 theatrical releases, Zama and Western towered over every other feature I saw. Looking over my lists, I’ve just now noticed that all of my favorite shorts were also directed or co-directed by women, with special mentions to China Not China, Please step out of the frame., I Hope I’m Loud When I’m Dead, and The Remembered Film. I expect Ash is the Purest White, Transit, High Life, and The Image Book to all rank near the top of my list of 2019 releases.

Writing and Programming in 2018

Favorite US Releases of 2018 (Ranked)

  1. Zama (Lucrecia Martel, 2017)
  2. Western (Valeska Grisebach, 2017)
  3. Dead Souls (Wang Bing, 2018)
  4. Beoning (Burning, Lee Chang-dong, 2018)
  5. If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins, 2018)
  6. Bisbee ’17 (Robert Greene, 2018)
  7. Un beau soleil intérieur (Let the Sunshine In, Claire Denis, 2017)
  8. First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2017)
  9. Milla (Valérie Massadian, 2017)
  10. PROTOTYPE (Blake Williams, 2018)

Favorite Feature Premieres of 2018 (Ranked)

  1. Jiang hu er nv (Ash is the Purest White, Jia Zhang-ke, 2018)
  2. Transit (Christian Petzold, 2018)
  3. High Life (Claire Denis, 2018)
  4. Le livre d’image (The Image Book, Jean-Luc Godard, 2018)
  5. Dead Souls (Wang Bing, 2018)
  6. Beoning (Burning, Lee Chang-dong, 2018)
  7. If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins, 2018)
  8. Bisbee ’17 (Robert Greene, 2018)
  9. L’empire de la perfection (John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection, Julien Faraut, 2018)
  10. What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? (Roberto Minervini, 2018)

Favorite Short Films of 2018 (Alphabetical)

  • Arena (Björn Kämmerer, 2018)
  • Blue (Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, 2018)
  • China Not China (Dianna Barrie and Richard Tuohy, 2018)
  • Fainting Spells (Sky Hopinka, 2018)
  • I Hope I’m Loud When I’m Dead (Beatrice Gibson, 2018)
  • more than everything (Rainer Kohlberger, 2018)
  • Please step out of the frame. (Karissa Hahn, 2018)
  • The Remembered Film (Isabelle Tollenaere, 2018)
  • Walled Unwalled (Lawrence Abu Hamdan, 2018)
  • Wunschbrunnen (Wishing Well, Sylvia Schedelbauer, 2018)

Favorite Features I Saw for the First Time in 2018 (Alphabetical)

  • El Desencanto (The Disenchantment, Jaime Chávarri, 1976)
  • Geschichtsunterricht (History Lessons, Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 1972)
  • Kirmes (The Fair, Wolfgang Staudte, 1960)
  • Mein langsames Leben (Passing Summer, Angela Schanelec, 2001)
  • Moonrise (Frank Borzage, 1948)
  • Only Yesterday (John M. Stahl, 1933)
  • Polyester (John Waters, 1981)
  • La pyramide humaine (The Human Pyramid, Jean Rouch, 1961)
  • Seeking the Monkey King (Ken Jacobs, 2011)
  • Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro, Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)

Favorite Short Films I Saw for the First Time in 2018 (Alphabetical)

  • L’arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat 3D (Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat 3D, Auguste and Louis Lumière, 1935)
  • Billabong (Will Hindle, 1969)
  • Boston Fire (Peter Hutton, 1979)
  • City Film (Lewis Klahr, 1992)
  • Dans le noir du temps (In the Darkness of Time, Jean-Luc Godard, 2001)
  • Hand Held Day (Gary Beydler, 1975)
  • Love It/Leave It (Tom Palazzolo, 1973)
  • On Sundays (Bruce Baillie, 1961)
  • Point de Gaze (Jodie Mack, 2012)
  • Starlight (Robert Fulton, 1970)