Staff Picks 2018: Best Movie Nobody Saw
With so many movies hitting theaters each year, it’s hard to catch all the great ones. So if you’re sifting back through last year’s filmography, and are looking for something you might not have seen, look no further than this list: our picks for Best Movie Nobody Saw.
If there ever was a movie for depressed, angsty horse girls, it’s Thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds is a delightfully weird and dark entry in a year saturated with franchise faves and family films. In the meticulously manicured upper-crust Connecticut neighborhood in which Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) lives, there is no room for imperfection. Enter: Amanda (Olivia Cooke), an old ghost from Lily’s middle school friends past who is an emotionless outcast now notorious for euthanizing her own horse with a kitchen knife. That should be enough to at least peak your interest, but the movie gets better after those first ten minutes. These women bond unexpectedly over the very different horrors that plague their lives…pushing and pulling in an intricate game of chess that is either very friendly or about to burst with violence. That is to say, as they challenge one another to see who can hold their breath the longest in the pool, we’re never quite sure if one, or both of them will come up gasping for air or rise stomach-down and hands outstretched. Watching this film is as tense and suspenseful as any Hitchcock, and moments such as tricking their bodies into crying, or plotting the death of a hated stepfather, prove it’s nothing less than extraordinary filmmaking. —Emily Figueroa
One of the biggest surprises of the year was that The Oath failed to gain an audience or even surpass a half million at the box office, despite a wide release. Even comedies of a lesser quality to this one typically find a way to fill seats, and The Oath had the benefit of added depth and satiric political relevance. It ran the risk of alienating audiences with its marketing, but it ultimately came off more reserved than I had expected. The humor itself ranged from surface level laughs to witty observations about how society consumes and deals with modern politics. With The Oath, writer/director/actor Ike Barinholtz crafted a great genre-bending story that combines fish-out-of-water comedy, increasing suspense, and some excellent tonal shifts. What comes as a result is a poignant social commentary that has no shortage of laughs. —Michael Murphy
I had the pleasure of stumbling across Chinese novelist Hu Bo’s first feature at a film festival for new directors. The film almost hits the four hour mark, so the fact that I’m starting this blurb with “I had the pleasure of seeing” is astonishing even to myself. But Bo earns every minute of screen time. I’ve seen a few movies in 2018 that a predictive text bot could have (and should have) made—I’m looking at you, The Kissing Booth—but this isn’t one of them. Not only is An Elephant Sitting Still full of beautiful shots that capture a depth of feeling in its subjects’ faces, but it tells a story that needs to be told; it focuses on the type of people whose lives rarely get explored respectfully on a big screen: individuals who have slipped through the cracks of society, attempting against their economic conditions to get some joy out of life. Unfortunately, Bo committed suicide just after he finished editing the film, making this his first, and only, feature. It’s sad to think that there will never be another film from the budding filmmaker, but If you can handle a contemplative 230 minute epic, then be sure to check out An Elephant Sitting Still. —Bessie Rubenstein
Sicario: Day of the Soldado was so good! It’s the very intense sequel to the first Sicario, which centers on conflicts between various parties in the “war on drugs.” These movies are bloody, hard to watch, and filled with profanity, but they are so intriguing. Both movies shed light on the tragic and terrifying events that characterize the cartel conflicts. They provide a very visceral (sometimes too visceral) portrayal of the conflict at the US-Mexico border, and the ways in which it affects innocent people. This movie is charged with action; it kept me literally on the edge of my seats, and sometimes watching through my fingers. I wouldn’t recommend this movie for anyone who wants to avoid seeing graphic violence, however Sicario: Day of the Soldado is perfect for anyone interested in cartel conflict, or simply looking for a good thriller. —Emma Steiner
Not only did Blaze feature incredible performances, gorgeous cinematography, and immaculate costume design, IT GOT GREAT REVIEWS! And even so, nobody has seen this! Directed by Ethan Hawke, Blaze follows country songwriting guru Blaze Foley as he navigates relationships, the music industry, and substance abuse. Told in three distinct timelines, Blaze is one of the best movies about musicians that I have ever seen. First-time actor Ben Dickey (who won the Special Jury Award for Achievement in Acting at Sundance for this film) is magnetic as the titular singer. Dickey’s performance is the movie, but supporting actors Charlie Sexton (Townes Van Zandt) and Alia Shawkat (Sybil Rosen) are just as good in their smaller roles. Blaze is a visual ballad, a modern day folktale, and one of the best dang movies I’ve seen this year. Hawke’s structuring of the film is borderline experimental, but his vision ultimately carries through. I have rarely seen a director have such a respect and passion for his subject. Working closely with the real Sybil Rosen to adapt her memoir, Hawke uses Blaze as a vehicle to explain everything he believes film should be: personal, affecting, loving, artful. Blaze is all of those things in more, so if you get a chance to see this one on VOD or anywhere else, do it. —David Merkle
To check out our upcoming Staff Picks— including Most Forgettable, Worst Movie of the Year, and Weirdest Movie of the Year— check the Staff Picks 2018 page under the Opinion tab!