Frons list

Top ten movies of 2018, plus, this year's Big Screen Big List

The Other Side of the Wind: John Huston, Orson Welles, and Peter Bogdanovich share a hearty laugh at the thought of their film someday playing on a computer screen.
  • The Other Side of the Wind: John Huston, Orson Welles, and Peter Bogdanovich share a hearty laugh at the thought of their film someday playing on a computer screen.

A few months back, I put out feelers to all of the major theatre chains in San Diego, hoping that one of them would have the good taste (and decency) to book the long-awaited last film by the single-greatest genius ever to step behind a camera: Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind. You may be surprised to learn that the only person not to ignore my plea was a rep from AMC.

Here’s what they wrote: “The chances that we’ll get (the film) is pretty much zero. Netflix doesn’t honor the 90-day window, and doesn’t want to pay 4 wall fees, so they don’t ever come to the large circuits (including AMC) to do business. I do wish they’d give the great titles their due in theatres, but so far, they are sticking to their streaming guns. Maybe they’ll go to Angelika or the Lot?”

After a go-fund-me campaign sparked interest, Netflix put up the $6 million dollars needed to complete the project. Once done, instead of affording the film a proper wide release, the small screen giant dumped it in a few markets, and then only to qualify for awards consideration. For those not living in or near one of the cities where Wind blew through, it meant a subscription to the streaming service so that Welles’ swan song could hold it’s premiere in a living room. Welles deserved better. Maybe if it wins a few prizes the way Roma has, the streaming shitheels will find room in their hearts to honor the director’s legacy and bring it to town. Don’t hold your breath.

For a film-lover, the best thing about San Diego is frequently its proximity to Hollywood. I couldn’t rest without seeing it on a screen. A trip to North Hollywood and Laemmle’s NoHo 7 was in order. After all, when Welles makes a cut, it’s not enough to move my eyes. I want my head to spin. It did!

Here are this year’s top ten movies. For more — including a list of the 200-plus films I logged this year ranked in order — visit The Big Screen.

1- Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind

Is there another director who left behind as many unfinished projects as Orson Welles? Filmed between 1970 and 1976, it took over 40 years for Welles’ vision to finally see the arclight (flatscreen?) of day. It was worth every second of the wait. John Huston stars as a director who, on the last day of his life, screens a rough cut of what turned out to be his crowning achievement. The film-within-a-film, a pungent lampoon of Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, stars Welles’ offscreen leading lady and the film’s co-screenwriter, Oja Kodar. Watching her navigate through light, shadow, and a myriad of highly reflective surfaces is Welles’ way of turning this shanghaied lady’s screentime into a hall of mirrors continuance.

2- Frederick Wiseman’s Monrovia, Indana

Welcome to Monrovia, a town that worships Jesus Christ and Donald Trump in equal proportions. Unlike 99% of his audience, all-seeing, never speaking Frederick Wiseman resists mixing business with politics, treating such hot-button issues as a visit to a gun shop and the validity of CBD oil with the same gravity he would afford buying a park bench for the town library. Kudos to the Digital Gym for bringing quality documentaries, not the celebrity-driven refugees from A&E’s Biography Channel that consume far too much of the Ken’s valuable screen time.

3- Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace

A veteran with PTSD (Ben Foster), paranoid and justifiably skittish about the world around him, lives peaceably with his teenage daughter (newcomer Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) deep in the woods of Portland. A quiet, stately undertaking that in less qualified hands could have easily veered into Lifetime territory. Instead, we’re left with a profoundly moving emotional experience.

4- Abbas Kiarostami’s 24 Frames

The second farewell gesture from a cinematic powerhouse to make this year’s list comes from Abbas Kiarostami, Iran’s perdurable experimenter who, for the first time, tried his hand at animation. 24 individual four-and-a-half-minute shorts that, combined, contain one human figure and one move of the camera. Move over, Spidey, this is 2018’s animated marvel.

5- Hirokazu Koreeda’s The Third Murder

The Japanese director, heretofore celebrated for his contemplative, domiciliary family pictures, tries his hand at a widescreen police procedural. The first of two Koreeda films to open this year (regrettably, Shoplifters slipped past my gaze). What I’d never miss is the San Diego Asian Film Festival’s annual Spring Showcase, which put me in touch with what has my vote for this year’s best foreign language film. Look for the blu-ray. This is one to own, not stream.

6- Jafar Panahi’s 3 Faces

A young woman construes her rejection by a famous actress as an excuse to document her hanging. Apart from the convincing cellphone-suicide that opens the picture, this is Panahi’s cheeriest, most upbeat film since Offside. The director’s films do not generally receive commercial bookings in San Diego. Chalk up just another reason to be thankful for SDAFF.

7- Wim Wenders’ Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word

Whether you worship at the altar of Pope Francis or long to wash and kiss Wim Wenders’ divine dactyls, there’s something for everyone in this spiritually uplifting transdenominational documentary.

8 - Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman

A black police officer infiltrates the KKK. (Guys who wear pointy hoods don’t generally do so in order to cover up their enormous brains.) Not since Bamboozled has a Spike Lee joint been this blunt and tightly rolled.

9-João Dumans & Affonso Uchoa’s Araby

Sent to the home of an unwell factory worker to fetch a change of clothes, an 18-year-old boy discovers a journal — part freeform diary, part shaggy dog story — that changes his life (and the course of this heart-saddening and fiercely naturalistic road movie).

10 - Ari Aster’s Hereditary

One of the few genuinely disturbing psychological horror films to come out of a town generally known for having jumpscares on speed-dial. The fact that Toni Collette isn’t being talked up for every major acting accolade known to humankind proves just how easily distracted awards voters can be. Either that, or its lying at the bottom of their stack of screeners.

And now, presented for your perusing pleasure, the Big List: being everything I saw and considered, whether at home or in a theater, in 2018.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, O. Welles, Laemmle NoHo, 5

MONROVIA, INDIANA, F. Wiseman, Ω, 5

LEAVE NO TRACE, D. Granik, Angelika, 5

24 FRAMES, A. Kiarostami, Digital Gym, 5

THE THIRD MURDER, H. Koreeda, Ω, 4.5

3 FACES, J. Panahi, Ω, 4.5

POPE FRANCIS: A MAN OF HIS WORD, W. Wenders, Angelika, 4.5

BLACKkKLANSMAN, S. Lee, Mission Valley, 4.5

ARABY, J. Dumans & A. Uchoa, Ω, 4

HEREDITARY, A. Aster, Grossmont, 4

PETER RABBIT, W. Gluck, Mira Mesa, 4

THE DESERT BRIDE, C. Atán & V. Pivato, Ω, 4

FLOWER, M. Winkler, Fashion Valley, 4

SUMMER 1993, C. Simón, Ω, 4

BREATH, S. Baker, Ω, 4

AMERICAN ANIMALS, B. Layton,, Hillcrest, 4

WHAT THEY HAD, E. Chomko, Angelka, 4

THE MULE, C. Eastwoot, Grossmont, 4

ALANIS, A. Berneri, Ω, 4

LAST LETTER, S. Iwai, Ω, 4

THE ANGEL, L. Ortega, Ω, 4

LET THE SUNSHINE IN, C. Denis, Ω, 4

THE CAKEMAKER, O. Graizer, Ω, 4

GREEN BOOK, P. Farrelly, Grossmont, 4

WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR, M. Neville, Hillcrest, 4

THE BLOOD IS AT THE DOORSTEP, E. Ljung, Ω, 3.5

PICK OF THE LITTER, D. Hardy Jr. & D. Nachman, Ω, 3.5

GOOD MANNERS, J. Rojas & M. Dutra, Ω, 3.5

SEARCHING, A. Chaganty, Grossmont, 3.5

THE 15: 17 TO PARIS, C. Eastwood, Mission Valley, 3.5

THE GREAT BUSTER, B. Keaton, Ω, 3.5

LEAN ON PETE, A. Haigh, Hillcrest, 3.5

GEMINI, A. Katz, Ω, 3.5

OH, LUCY, A. Hirayanagi, Ω. 3.5

THE CAPTAIN, R. Schwentke, Ω, 3

THE CATCHER WAS A SPY, B. Lewin, Ω, 3

LEANING INTO THE WIND: ANDY GOLDSWORTHY, T. Riedelsheimer, Ω, 3

PROUD MARY, B. Najafi, Grossmont, 3

ALL ABOUT NINA, E. Vives, Ω, 3

BEIRUT, B. Anderson, Fashion Valley, 3

SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD, M. Tyraneur, Ω, 3

SUPERFLY, Director X, Town Square, 3

TRAFFIK, D. Taylor, Grossmont 8, 3

CHAPPAQUIDDICK, J. Curran, Chula Vista, 3

FIRST MAN, D. Chazelle, Grossmont, 3

NANCY, C. Choe, Ω, 3

COOL FISH, R. Xiaozhi, Ω, 3

CLAIRE'S CAMERA, J. Manhee, Ω, 3

FILM STARS DON'T DIE IN LIVERPOOL, P. McGuigan, Ω, 3

REVENGE, C. Fargeat, Ω, 3

COLETTE, W. Westmoreland, Hillcrest, 3

UNCLE DREW, C. Stone III, Grossmont, 3

OSO POLAR, M. Tobar, Ω, 3

THE HATE U GIVE, G. Tillman, Jr., Grossmont, 3

SWEET COUNTRY, W. Thornton, Ω, 3

SGT. STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO, R. Lanni, Plaza Bonita, 3

TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID, I. López, Ω, 3

BREAKING IN, J. McTeigue, Grossmont, 3

GHOST STORIES, J. Dyson & A. Nyman, Ω, 3

A LAND IMAGINED, Y. Siew Hua, Ω, 3

BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY, A. Dean, Ω, 3

PUZZLE, M. Turtletaub, Hillcrest, 3

GOLDEN JOB, C. Ka Lok, Ω, 3

FINDING YOUR FEET, R. Loncraine, Hillcrest, 3

SMALLFOOT, K. Kirkpatrick & J. Reisig, Plaza Bonita, 3

LOVE, GILDA, L. D'Apolito, Hillcrest, 3

LOVE, SIMON, G. Berlanti, Mission Valley, 3

AQUAMAN, J. Wan, Grossmont, 3

SOLLERS POINT M. Porterfield, Ω, 3

MOUNTAIN, J. Peedom, Ω, 3

FILMWORKER, T. Zierra, Ω, 3

WILDLING, F. Böhm, Ω, 3

BURDEN, R. Dewey & T. Marrinan, Ω, 3

MIDNIGHT SUN, S. Speer, Grossmont, 3

BEAST, M. Pearce, Ω, 3

WILDLIFE, P. Dano, Ω, 3

EIGHTH GRADE, B. Burnham, Hillcrest, 3

WHITNEY, K. Macdonald, Ω, 3

BITTER MELON, H.P. Mendoza, Ω, 3

LOU ANDREAS-SALOME: THE AUDACITY TO BE FREE, C. Kablitz-Post, Ω, 3

40 YEARS IN THE MAKING: THE MAGIC MUSIC MOVIE, L. Aronsohn, Ω, 3

Black Panther, R. Coogler, Mira Mesa, 2.5

Hotel Artemis, D. Pearce, Grossmont, 2.5

Bumblebee, T. Knight, Grossmont, 2.5

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, L. Hallstrom & J. Johnston, Mission Valley, 2.5

The Samuel Project, M. Fusco, Ω, 2.5

White Boy Rick, Y. Demange, Grossmont, 2.5

Minding the Gap, B. Liu, Ω, 2.5

The Hate U Give, G. Tillman, Jr., Grossmont, 2.5

Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me, S. Pollard, Ω, 2.5

If Beale Street Could Talk, B. Jenkins, Fashion Valley, 2

The Legend of Buster Scruggs, The Coen Bros., Ω, 2

Burning, L. Chang-dong, Ω ,2

Roma, A. Cuaron, Ω, 2

The Last Suit, P. Solarz, Ω, 2

Mission: Impossible - Fallout, C. McQuarrie, Grossmont, 2

The Quake, J. Andersen, Ω, 2

The Happytime Murders, B. Henson, Grossmont, 2

Mandy, P. Cosmatos, Ω, 2

Back to Burgundy, C. Klapisch, Ω, 2

Creed II, S. Caple, Jr., Grossmont, 2

Disobedience, S. Leilo , Angelika, 2

Widows, S. McQueen, Mission Valley, 2

The Female Brain, W. Cummings, Ω, 2

Game Night, J. Daley & J. Goldstein, Grossmont, 2

The Rider, C. Zhao, Hillcrest, 2

Halloween, J. Gordon Green, Grossmont, 2

Fritz Lang, G. Maugg, Ω, 2

The Favourite, Y. Lanthimos, Hillcrest, 2

RBG, J. Cohen & B. West, Hillcrest, 2

House of Tomorrow, P. Livolsi, Ω, 2

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero, K. Alavi & A. Jamal, Ω, 2

Operation Finale, C. Weitz, Hillcrest, 2

The Ballad of Lefty Brown, J. Moshe, Ω, 2

Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes, A. Bloom, Ω, 2

Félicité, A. Gomis, Ω, 2

Museo, A. Palacios, Ω, 2

Tea With Dames, R. Michell, Ω, 2

1945, F. Török, Ω, 2

Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco, J. Crump, Ω, 2

Alpha, A. Hughes, Mission Valley, 2

Ryûichi Sakamoto: Coda, S. Schible, Ω, 1

Gotti, K. Connolly, Chula Vista, 1

Girl In The Spider's Web, F. Alvarez, Grossmont, 1

Beautiful Boy, F. van Groeningen, Hillcrest, 1

Second Act, P. Segal, Grossmont, 1

Killing, S. Tsukamoto, Ω, 1

Destroyer, K. Kusama, Fashion Valley, 1

In Between (2016), M. Hamoud, Ω, 1

A Fantastic Woman, S. Leilo, Ω, 1

Hunter Killer, D. Marsh, Grossmont, 1

Baja, T. Vidal, Ω, 1

The Guilty, G. Möller, Ω, 1

Ant-Man and the Wasp, P. Reed, Grossmont, 1

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, G. Van Sant, Hillcrest, 1

In the Fade, F. Akin, Ω, 1

Vice, A. McKay, Town Square, 1

The Wife, B. Runge, Hillcrest, 1

Bohemian Rhapsody, B. Singer, Grossmont, 1

Tully, J. Reitman, Fashion Valley, 1

Bad Times at the El Royale, D. Goddard, Grossmont, 1

Capernaum, N. Labaki, Hillcrest, 1

Stan and Ollie, J. Baird, Hillcrest, 1

Final Portrait, S. Tucci, Hillcrest , 1

Assassination Nation, S. Levinson, Grossmont, 1

Love, Cecil, D. Vreeland, Ω, 1

The Insult, Z. Doueiri , Ω, 1

The Front Runner, J. Reitman, Town Square, 1

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, S. Fiennes, Ω, 1

A Kid Like Jake, S. Howard, Ω, 1

Foxtrot, S. Maoz, Ω, 1

Gringo, N. Edgerton, Grossmont, 1

Believer, L. Hae-young, Ω, 1

Little Pink House, C. Balaker, Ω, 1

The Bookshop, I. Coixet, Ω, 1

A-x-l, O. Daly, Grossmont, 1

Ocean’s 8, G. Ross, Mission Valley, 1

Fahrenheit 11/9, M. Moore, Hillcrest, 1

Journey’s End, S. Dibb, Ω, 1

American Chaos, J. Stern, Ω, 1

Blockers, K. Cannon, Plaza Bonita, 1

Krystal, W. Macy, Ω, 1

Night School, M. Lee, Grossmont, 1

Hal, A. Scott, Ω, 1

Director’s Cut, A. Rifkin, Ω, 1

Trouble, T. Rebeck, Ω, 1

7 Days in Entebbe, J. Padilha, Fashion Valley, 1

A Quiet Place, J. Krasinski, Grossmont, 1

Papillon, R. Noer, Ω, 1

Viper Club, M. Keshavarz, Ω, 1

First Reformed, P. Schrader, Hillcrest, 1

Records Collecting Dust II, J. Blackmore, Ω, 1

The Miseducation of Cameron Post, D. Akhavan, Ω, 0

On the Basis of Sex, M. Leder, Hillcrest, 0

Sorry to Bother You, B. Riley, Mission Valley, 0

Crazy Rich Asians, J. Chu, Grossmont, 0

Pacific Rim Uprising, S. DeKnight, Mira Mesa, 0

Red Sparrow, F. Lawrence, Grossmont, 0

The House With a Clock in Its Walls , E. Roth, Plaza Bonita, 0

Kin, J. Baker & J. Baker, Town Square, 0

Christopher Robin, M. Forster, Mission Valley, 0

Overboard, R. Greenburg, Grossmont, 0

Meow Wolf, M. Capps & J. Spitzmiller, Ω, 0

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, G. Tartakovsky, Mira Mesa, 0

Ideal Home, A. Fleming, Ω, 0

I Feel Pretty, A. Kohn & M. Silverstein, Town Square, 0

Life of the Party, B. Falcone, Grossmont, 0

Action Point, T. Kirkby, Grossmont, 0

Show Dogs, R. Gosnell, Mira Mesa, 0

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, O. Parker, Grossmont, 0

A Star is Born, B. Cooper, Grossmont,

Suspiria, L. Guadagnino, Hillcrest, 0

The Nun, C. Hardy, Grossmont, 0

Boy Erased, J. Edgerton, Hillcrest, 0

Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, J. Wadlow, Grossmont, 0

Aardvark, B. Shoaf, Ω, 0

Wedding Doll (2015), N. Giladi, Ω, 0

Book Club, B. Holderman, Mission Valley , 0

Fifty Shades Freed, J. Foley, Grossmont, 0

The Oath, I. Barinholtz, Fashion Valley, 0

Mary Shelley, H. Al-Mansour, Ω, 0

The First Purge, G. McMurray, Grossmont, 0

The Misandrists, B. LaBruce, Ω, 0

Mile 22, P. Berg, Grossmont, 0

A Bag of Marbles, C. Duguay, Ω, 0

Chef Flynn, C. Yates, Ω, 0

The China Hustle, J. Rothstein, Ω, 0

Early Man, N. Park, Plaza Bonita, 0

Peppermint, P. Morel, Grossmont, 0

You Were Never Really Here, L. Ramsay, Hillcrest, 0

Death Wish, E. Roth, Mission Valley, 0

Custody, X. Legrand, Ω, 0

Boundaries, S. Fest, Hillcrest, 0

A Wrinkle in Time, A. DuVernay, Mira Mesa, 0

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Comments

I don't know how many films were on your very long contrarian's list, but I recognized (and saw) maybe 15 of the ones you noted -- and I go to the movies often. Your never even mentioning "A Star Is Born" makes me sad that you somehow missed the century's most amazing romantic/tragic film and putting "Roma" in the second tier makes me think you must have watched it on some small screen or never been to Mexico.

How about just the re-release of the "Andrei Roublev" restoration and forget the rest!!!

First Reformed was excellent. 5-stars.

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