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Tom Tangney’s top 10 films of 2018

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After a year of watching movies, KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney has painstakingly compiled his list of the top 10 films of 2018, though there are technically 13 films on this list because he cheated.

1. The Death of Stalin

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Scottish writer/director Armando Iannucci has crafted another brilliant biting satire, this time about the power struggles in the Soviet Union following Stalin’s death. We may never have to live through another Stalinist regime but the ridiculous jockeying for power is ever relevant. And despite the onslaught of hilarious one-liners in the midst of the most farcical of scenarios, the film never loses sight of the tragedies just outside the camera frame. Black humor at its best.

2. Roma

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A stunningly gorgeous black-and-white reminiscence of Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron’s childhood in Mexico City in the 1960s. Focusing on his family’s nanny but encompassing all the members of the relatively well-to-do family, “Roma” reveals the profundity of the mundane and revels in the richness of life, whether bitter or sweet. A classic that will never show its age.

3. The Favourite

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The ingeniously perverse Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos turns his sights to 18th century British royalty, with a scathing account of a vicious rivalry for the affections of a sad-sack Queen Anne. That these suitors are both women only provides added dimensions to the nastiness of the milieu. The anachronistic vulgarities and the occasional distorted lenswork also slyly undercut the supposed propriety of the upper crust. The sharp-tongued script is well served by Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone, all Oscar-worthy.

4. Isle of Dogs

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Quite likely my favorite dog movie ever, seeing how it eschews sentimentality, this Wes Anderson film is just what you’d expect from Wes Anderson: a defiantly quirky, charming, and wholly original story, done with stop-motion animation just to amp up the degree of difficulty (and twee-ness.) It may trod well-worn ground – man’s relationship with dogs – but it does so with such off-beat flair that you may find yourself grinning throughout the entire movie. A voice-cast that includes the likes of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, and Scarlett Johansson serves the clever script well.

5. Eighth Grade

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What Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” did for high school, Bo Burnham’s first film does for middle school, recreating the personal humiliations that help define adolescence. Actress Elsie Fisher could not be better as 13-year-old Kayla who must endure an excruciating 8th grade in order to come out the other side. Social media makes her journey all the more perilous, and heartbreakingly funny.

6. Blindspotting/Blackkklansman

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Two films that deal with the tricky state of race relations in this country, the first by a first-time director, the latter by longtime veteran Spike Lee. “Hamilton”‘s Daveed Diggs and his lifelong friend Rafael Casal both wrote and star in this semi-autobiographical film about the tensions in their own interracial friendship, with an ever gentrifying Oakland as the backdrop. And “Blackkklansman” is based on an actual, decades-old infiltration of the KKK by a black Colorado police officer. Lee’s footage of Charlottesville and Trump at the end is as incendiary as it’s meant to be.

7. A Quiet Place

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I love how actor/director John Krasinski can have fun with a clever premise – making a sound could cost you your life – without sacrificing all the delights a genre picture can deliver. A very successful commercial film with an art-film idea. (See avant-garde director Guy Maddin’s 1992 “Careful.”) Sure to be a classic horror film.

8. First Reformed

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Ethan Hawke plays a minister suffering a crisis of conscience about his role in this fallen world, both on a personal and philosophical level. Written and directed by Paul Schrader, this challenging and rather jarring film seems a perfect counterpoint to Schrader’s screenplay for his 40-year-old masterpiece, “Taxi Driver.”

9. The Greenaway Alphabet

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One of the delights about putting together’s one’s own Top Ten list is that you can include personally idiosyncratic fare like this documentary about a favorite, albeit obscure, filmmaker. Quite possibly the most cerebral director alive, Peter Greenaway allows his teenage daughter to quiz him about the singularities of his own films, using a favorite technique of his own, the alphabet as an organizing principle. A playful and insightful doc about an aesthetic genius (in my opinion.)

10. Black Panther / The Avengers:Infinity War / Deadpool 2

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The superhero genre doesn’t get much critical respect, but if the powers that be could ever figure out how to combine the sociological grounding of “Black Panther,” the existential ruminations at the end of “Infinity Wars,” and the genre-subverting wit and sarcasm of “Deadpool 2” into the same movie, they’d have a film that might top this list, instead of coming in at #10.

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