My top dozen movies watched in 2018

My top dozen movies watched in 2018

Earlier this month I posted a list of all movies I saw last year. In the distant past I used to attempt to write sort reflections about each movie I watch. I more or less gave up this dream due to lack of time. I still dream to do it one day though. Meanwhile here are the movies I liked the most from last year and why. FYI: I am not including summaries, you can read short synopsis for each of these at the IMDB links. I only share personal reflections here.

The Big Short 2015 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
It helped me to understand the ugly criminal side of the 2008 real estate melt down. I was aware of the economics of what happened, but not aware of how crooked people created the crooked system and tried to cover their own bases, while millions of people lost a lot of money, sleep and health. Meanwhile none of the bankers responsible ended up in prison. So on hand this movie spoke to my intellect, explained complex processes ad issues on a level I could understand. (Check the quotes to see examples of good, meaningful writing.) On the other hand it spoke to my other senses as it was full of cultural references, most of which I got and could connect to and some of which were beyond me. The editing was refreshingly different from most mainstream movies to. It was a full package of painful delight.
Birthmarked 2018 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
I am a learning parent, i.e. learning how to parent and step-parent as I go at it. This movies taught me quite a bit through negative examples. The biggest one is never lie, not to yourself and not to your children. Don’t experiment on/with them as you only have one chance to bring up a child. The movie wouldn’t have worked without the quirky script  and the sarcastic humor of the “parents” played with gusto by Matthew Goode, Toni Collette. The final lesson worth remembering that children are resilient, creative and a parent cannot opt only one of the nature/nurture: it has to be a combination.
The Death of Stalin 2017 UK DVD IMDB YouTube
The most amazing feature of this feature is how accurate the characters and politics in it seem to be. Everything I recalled from my history studies and reading suggested that these historical figures and events were depicted quite precisely. The only thing the authors added to it was a huge dose of humor. I–being brought up in the late stages of communism in Hungary and being born 15 years after Stalin’s death–might have viewed this film as someone who lived through the era either in the communist block or outside of it, but for me the laughing wasn’t that painful. It is not lost on me that the main characters are responsible for the death of millions of people. But they are fallible too, they are not just full on monsters; they have drives hopes fears too.
Einmal bitte alles / Pretty Far from Okay 2017 Germany DVD IMDB YouTube
I visited Munich in 2017, have some memories of Berlin’s Kreutzberg in the 1980’s, enjoy small independently done movies, can immerse myself into multicultural city life, have an empathy and admiration for struggling artists, like stories with arcs ending with partial happy-ends/redemption. All of these made this movie a good combination for my taste, plus there is a lesson of the value of perseverance, that you can never over-emphasize.
Finding Your Feet 2017 UK DVD IMDB YouTube
Sweet movie dealing gracefully with social class, aging, romance, fidelity, death and of course dancing. The ethos of the movie is summarized in this quote: “One thing of being scared of dying… It is a whole different matter of being scared of living.” That’s something I chose to embrace nowadays and feel so much better. Those who did the same in the movie end up being happier as opposed to those who do things our of fear. This is a lesson I keep learning. Movies that strengthen this belief/experience I align myself easier these days. And it was indeed charming and showing that side of British spirit and style that I care for.
I Think We’re Alone Now 2018 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
I admit: I am non-recovering of sci-fi movie fan. I watch a lot of them although I don’t finish  the ones that are too bad even for me. Most of these movies I at least enjoy the visual aesthetics, how the filmmakers envision the future or an alternate presence. Every once in a while I also see new ideas popping up in them, despite  a fair amount of repetition. This film was original in several ways. As a non-practicing librarian it appeals to me that the movie was shot and set (at least partially) in a library. On a more metaphorical level it also questions the value of organizing knowledge. Who is it for if there is (almost) nobody to appreciate it. Doing it l’art pour l’art has the redeeming quality suggesting that knowledge in itself is valuable, something I can relate too. These may not be the most challenging role for the two main actors, but I still think they (Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning) did a great, professional job. I like when a movie liners with me and poses questions and this one certainly did.
Ida 2013 Poland DVD IMDB YouTube
Black and white, set in the 1960’s bleak, mostly rural communist Poland, slow paced: based on this you’d think it’s a boring movie. Far from it. All of the above contribute to making the growing invisible tension tangible. The cinematography is gorgeous, with plenty of individual pictures and mise-en-scene that in itself woudl make the movie worthy to watch. Add it the deep performances of the great actresses, despite that Agata Trzebuchowska, who plays the title  character has never played before this movie. My gothic sensibility loved every painful moment of this movie.
The Last Word 2017 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Now, that I am getting closer to my midlife I enjoy even more movies that puts aging or elderly characters in the center. When they are behavior is eccentric or their circumstances are unusual it makes and even more interesting story. If they are capable of change even at advance age then I hope that I cans till keep learning to the end too. So all it takes is one great idea (get your obituary written while you are alive), two actresses who seemed to enjoy their parts tremendously (Shirley MacLaine playing the loudmouth sarcastic strong-willed lady and Amanda Seyfried the young, developing journalist) and a fun director (Mark Pellington, who directed indie movies and videos of bands like Nine Inch Nails, U2, Alice in Chains) to make the “movie magic” happen.
Only Lovers Left Alive 2013 Germany DVD IMDB YouTube
Ever since the 1980’s when Jim Jarmusch reached a cult director status in Hungary I watch every movies of his. Plus I am easily entertained with well doe vampire movies and this one injected fresh blood into the genre (so to speak.:-) It is dark–visually and literally–, biblical — the main characters are Adam and Eve–, moral — good vampires don’t kill people for their blood–, and funny — with loads of references to decipher. A hundreds of years long, slow journey of engaging love story you will get sucked into.
Scent of a Woman 1992 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
I don’t know how I missed this movie when it came out. My overall take is that it shows an old fashion version of honor and respect that I can respect and learn from for myself, but am not fully aligned with. Nevertheless I always acknowledge someone else’s principles and values if their are coherence and the person behind it fills it with integrity. Al Pacino’s “colonel” is such an admirable figure. Beyond catching up to fill the whole in my cinematic education the other reason I watched this movie was because of the tango scene I heard of already. Last summer I got married and we learned and danced the tango. If a blind old man could do it with such grace I had to live up to my version too. I may not had such elegance and he did, but I sure was doing it with gusto.
Venuto al mondo / Twice Born 2012 Italy DVD IMDB YouTube
I still recall how shocked I was and incapable of doing anything after watching this movie more than half a year ago. It is one thing knowing about war in general, or even watching movies with fights in them. It is a whole different thing of getting to know individual’s stories in depth; how idealistic artists can turn into empty souls, or how a woman can be kept in captivity for months for being r*ped over and over by a whole gang of soldiers. Another lesson is that one’s own story and sorrow doesn’t negate the other person’s, of which you may know too little about to judge accurately. This movie reminds me how  lucky to be alive and never lived in war. It also makes my heart sick what people are capable of doing to each other.
Vozvrashchenie / The Return 2003 Russia DVD IMDB YouTube
 I recall that right after watching the movie I had a lot of thoughts and feelings about it. It showed me how not to be a father, how to listen to my children and how dangerous information and lack of information can be. It also depicted how tragic bullying can be: it is a Russian film and as such a sens of tragedies permeates the whole scene. New, but desolate light is shed onto concepts like loyalty, fatherhood, brotherhood, nature, road-trip. Alienation at its best in rural Russia, of which I knew very little, but this film confirms what I imagine it to be. I want to re-watch it with someone close to me so I would be reminded of the thoughts I had after the first watching and could share them.

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