May the list speak for itself!
There isn’t a wasted moment in this austere tale of cruelty and revenge, dominated by Florence Pugh’s performance as a 19th-century wife who is both victim and psychopathic aggressor, tormenting our sympathies as efficiently as she dispatches anyone—man, woman, or child—who gets in her way.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
When we look back on the Disney-Marvel era as the abomination it is, this one will retain its gonzo charm. Michael Rooker descending from the sky while proudly declaring “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” was the mostly weirdly poignant moment in the movies this year.
Twin Peaks: The Return
Let’s call it an 18-hour movie (David Lynch does), in which reality, such as it is, finally caught up with whatever the fuck Lynch and partner Mark Frost started channelling 25 years ago. Drenched in sadness and displacement and still haunting viewers weeks after it wrapped up, nothing captured the queasy unknown currents of its time like this thing.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Its central image of a rape victim burned to a crisp is about as funny as Fallujah, and the wild tonal shifts are enough to give the viewer a neck injury. And yet the hype is right: Martin McDonagh’s audacious black comedy features a cast that seems supernaturally attuned to the film’s unpredictable rhythms, nested points of view, and enormous (if mostly broken) heart.
A love-it-or-hate-it proposition set in the Downtown Eastside on the last day of the 2010 Olympics, with a cast drawn for the most part from the community. It’s been picking up awards and charges of exploitation at an equivalent rate, but would the film’s detractors prefer to see these marginalized creatures played by prosperous actorly types with nice homes to go to?
A bunch of middle-class kids carry out a terrorist attack in Paris and then cool their heels overnight in a high-end department store. As in many of the great films this year, our assumptions are scrambled by an artistic voice unafraid to call bullshit inside a dire climate of vacuum-sealed consensus narratives.
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World
Astoundingly timely, this Canadian doc sets the record straight on the massive Aboriginal influence on 20th-century American music, from Charley Patton to Mildred Bailey to Jimi Hendrix and more. All this plus indescribably exciting live footage of Link Wray performing the instrumental of the title, retrieved at long last from its purgatory on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
Nothing about this hardboiled stab at post-Tarantino nihilism should work, and yet it’s a total blast. A tale of soulfully conflicted luchadors, organ-harvesting and white slavery, and a dude with a huge swastika tattoo on his face. And he’s one of the most likable characters!
A distant relative of Ghost World, Greta Gerwig’s semi-autobiographical feature debut strikes a fanciful tone while taking an acutely real view of teen angst and self-defeating parental terror, emerging damn near perfect in every way.
Blade Runner 2049
I admired but never actually liked the original. In this beautifully made nightmare fantasy, the unlivable future feels imminent rather than wowee-zowee, as do the AI wet dreams of demented tech billionaires—even if it’s all just a lot of noise and Musk in our Google newsfeed.More