Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 1, 2019

The best films of 2018

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 3:47 pm


Up until a few years ago—I really can’t say exactly when—all of the “art-house” movies I reviewed for CounterPunch or my blog were out of the reach of most readers unless you lived in New York or other cities where theaters like the Film Forum or the Laemmle could be found. Some eventually made their way to art-house versions of Netflix like Fandor or Mubi but they entailed a monthly subscription fee.

Despite my hostility to Jeff Bezos and everything he stands for, Amazon Prime Video is a reliable outlet for such films. So is iTunes, Starz, Hulu and other VOD venues that have helped to keep art-house cinema alive. Along with the digital camera, another breakthrough benefiting independent film makers, such venues ensure that an envelope-pushing film shown at an art-house will have a good shot at reaching a broader audience. As I did last year, I worked my way through the films I reviewed in 2018 to determine which are now available on Amazon (and likely other VOD sites) in order to come up with my decidedly non-Hollywood recommendations.

I should state, however, that the best film of 2018 listed below is a Hollywood film: Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed”. Rumor has it, however, that the film will be snubbed at next month’s Academy Awards because Schrader Tweeted that he would like to work with the disgraced Kevin Spacey. It is worth mentioning that Ethan Hawke, who played the tortured minister in Schrader’s film, has addressed these issues in a Vanity Fair article titled “Ethan Hawke: “There’s a Whole Generation That’s on Trial Right Now” that is in keeping with the actor’s shrewd understanding of the film industry. I particularly liked this quip:

The real problem, Hawke says, is concepts like the best-popular-film Oscar, which would have detracted from awards season’s true goal: to boost the signal on under-seen, artistically challenging films. “There already is a popular Oscar. It’s such a dumb thing to say. The popular Oscar is called the box office,” he said. “They’re mad they don’t get prizes. You know, well—guess what, dude? Your car is your prize. Those of us who don’t have a car need a prize.”

As for the films that will walk away with a wheelbarrow of Oscars, I found that most were unbearable to watch. After 15 minutes, I ejected the following from my DVD player: “The Favourite”, “A Star is Born”, and “Crazy Rich Asians”. Of course, I haven’t gotten around to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “First Man” yet.

Below are my recommended films. Since the idea of rating anything is abhorrent to me in the first place, they appear in alphabetical order. I will excerpt from my review and provide a link to the original. As stated before, the list was culled from Amazon Prime Video but if your hatred for Jeff Bezos understandably keeps you from spending a few dollars there, you can try iTunes, et al. (Not that Apple is any bargain, either.)

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  1. If you truly loathe Amazon and Bezos (Apple sucks too), you would first let your readers know that (nearly) all of the films you have reviewed are available via p2p sources. Rarbg is a particularly good source for art films.

    Comment by ch wallace — February 1, 2019 @ 4:32 pm

  2. Not sure if this is the same thing as BitTorrent but the last time I downloaded something, it contained malware. A quick look at the wiki on p2p states that 63 percent of the downloads contain malware.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 1, 2019 @ 5:46 pm

  3. Hi Louis. I’d have liked to read your review of ‘First Reformed’. As his comments show, Ethan Hawke is more than just a good actor. Paul Schrader, on the other hand, seems pretty confused. His movie pants for spirituality. The director’s desperate grabbing for it only underlines its absence. Toller’s (Hawke’s priest character’s) diary-keeping is as pointless as Georges Bernanos’ country curé’s was central to that story. Toller, bored, drinks. Graham Greene’ s whiskey-swilling priest was taming his nerves in a revolution that negated his God and Church outright and threatened his job, maybe his life. Robert Bresson had an other-worldly camera. Quotes from the talkative Trappist Merton help no more than the sick piety Schrader keeps telling us he suffered as a child. He can’t evoke the spiritual. Even sleepy viewers had to recognize that when Toller and companion made their whimsey-fuelled Peter-Pan flight. By then the script, stuffed too full of topical goodies, was out of control. There was no way to write The End without being arbitrary. So Toller and partner had a good long kiss and that was that. Hawke’s performance deserved a better script. BTW, I’m ninety from midnight. Lift a glass to me, for auld lang syne.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — February 1, 2019 @ 10:42 pm

  4. Great to hear from you, Peter. Happy birthday.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 1, 2019 @ 11:03 pm

  5. Did you see the film “The Rider” by Chloe Zhao?

    It is a mainstream movie, but any plan to review “Vice” in 2019?

    Comment by Aaron — February 2, 2019 @ 4:56 am

  6. Aaron, I haven’t even heard of “The Rider”. I’ll check it out. As for “Vice”, it was made much for the ordinary American who might not have been following his crimes. I tend to take hostile biopics of people like Cheney, Dubya and Nixon as shooting fish in a barrel. Liberal Hollywood on parade. What I’d like to see is a hatchet job on FDR.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 2, 2019 @ 1:08 pm

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