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Rantz: The 10 best films of 2018

From a brutally funny comedy about Stalin and a biopic of a musician most have never heard of to superheroes turning to ash and the pains of being a young adult in a world defined by social media, 2018 featured a variety of some truly great films. Here are my 10 best movies of the year.

10. American Animals: One of the most innovative films of the year, director Bart Layton blends documentary with a somewhat traditional-narrative in a gripping, complex and deep crime drama. The acting is strong, but it’s Layton makes the story of a somewhat goofy theft into one of the best crime dramas in recent memory. (Listen to my interview with Bart Layton here.)

9. Alpha: When you make a movie about man’s relationship with any animal, you can very quickly stumble into cheesy nonsense, but Alpha, which focuses on the origin of domesticated dogs, managed to be visually stunning and a rather thrilling film that mixes the best of survival tales and coming-of-age dramas.

8. Blindspotting: Given the subject matter, this has the makings of a film that focuses on not-so-subtle social justice arguments. Yet, it manages to be audacious, even handed, and brilliantly acted, particularly with Rafael Casal. No matter your opinion on the topics of police brutality, gentrification and the justice system, this movie manages to make you think while being one hell of an entertaining movie.

7. Avengers: Infinity War: Just when I thought superhero fatigue was setting in, Marvel manages to create the most compelling superhero film ever produced, accommodating literally an entire universe into a story that never feels bloated or too long, while still able to entertain and haunt. The final moments of the movie leave you shaken and, despite being part one of the story, you’re left feeling satisfied.

6. A Simple Favor: This hilarious dark comedy/film noir feels like an evolved soap opera or telenovela, minus the guilt or cheap stunts. Propelled by a brilliant performance by Anna Kendrick as a lonely mommy blogger thrilled to finally make a best friend, the film manages to avoid the lame, cheap stunts of “Gone Girl.” The film is a wonderful combination of contradictions: it’s superficial but deep, pretty but brutal, and straightforward but full of twists. I loved every second of this.

5. The Favourite: This is a brutally funny, mean-spirited period piece about a sickly Queen Anne, who is more aware than she lets on. Olivia Colman is brilliant, a shoe-in for an Oscar. It’s beautiful to look at but even more fun to watch as a wonderful ensemble putting their talents on display.

4. Blaze: I had no clue who Blaze Foley was, nor the actor, Ben Dickey, who played him, when I saw this Ethan Hawke directed film. I left feeling close to the musician and closer to the actor who so beautifully expressed the character’s vulnerability and self destruction. This is the best musical biopic I’ve ever seen.

3. Isle of Dogs: Wes Anderson’s talents are on full display in this delightful, inventive comedy about how far one kid will go to protect his dog. It’s as quirky and witty as it is touching, with an ensemble cast firing on all cylinders. To fully appreciate, watch this one twice.

2. Eighth Grade: Writer/director Bo Burnham, thanks in large part to his own age, perfectly conveys the lives young adults in a world defined by social media. You don’t often see adults making such an authentic film, but Burnham so deftly approaches subjects that most director/writers would offensively botch. The film is elevated by the uncomfortably brilliant performance by Elsie Fisher. This is a film as much for parents than it is for young adults. (Listen to my interview with Burnham and Fisher here.)

1. The Death of Stalin: This is a wickedly funny, sophisticated satire that focuses on rich material; actors don’t even try to use fake accents to match their characters. This is all about the clever insults and a brilliant plot. The ensemble cast has shockingly effective chemistry and timing; it’s like they’ve worked with each other for years. I do this film an injustice simply describing it as funny — it’s so much funnier than any single word can convey.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday mornings from 6-9 a.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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