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Matt's five best movies of the year you didn't go to see

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I liked a lot of underrated stuff this year

I'll admit it. Most years I'm pretty in line with everyone else's opinions of the best movies. I like to pretend I'm super original and trendy and can pick out those indie classics that no one else watched because I'm so with it, but I'm not really. I like what I like and I find that usually the good stuff is actually the good stuff. The cream does rise to the top.

This year, however, I found myself liking a lot of movies that folks just didn't show up for or didn't love as much as I did or didn't pull in an audience outside of "people who watch award-worthy movies." Because of this I've taken a bit different tact this year with my favorite films and dug into the ones more people really should have seen, not just film buffs and critics. Luckily you can all remedy this error by seeing them promptly. That way you can see how incredibly right I am about everything... always.

Bad Times at the El Royale

This is the movie that makes me hate all of you for not seeing it. Drew Goddard's return to the big screen is a brilliant little piece of genre filmmaking that defies most genres. Its initial set up veers wildly and perfectly from one theme to another while dancing around in genres that are seemingly contradictory. His screenplay is so tight and well wound that the film never wastes a moment despite having some incredibly still scenes where "nothing" happens. I've watched the movie twice now and I'll need to do it 20 more times to uncover its secrets, and yet most people haven't seen it once.

I can kind of get it. It's a hard movie to jump into since it subverts your expectations almost every second, but the visuals alone are worth your time. There are slow panning shots that take your breathe away and long takes on actors that can stir your soul. The plot may seem like it's all over the place, but really it's on a stunningly clever track that deals with ideas of loss, evil, corruption, and redemption. From the start of the movie, you're not sure what is going to happen and Goddard keeps playing with you until the end.

Throw in an award-worthy performance from both Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo and the best score of the year from Michael Giacchino and I just can't understand why this one flew under the radar both with audiences and awards.

The Favourite

My guess is that the general public looks at The Favourite and considers it another period piece. They couldn't be more wrong. It didn't do poorly at the box office, but most people aren't racing out to see this one and that's really too bad because it's one of the rare art house films that could really appeal to anyone. Hidden behind the Queen Anne time-period is a vicious, hilarious, and stunningly performed drama that could easily pull anyone in. Everyone should also see it because it is by far the easiest way to get into Yorgos Lanthimos films, and everyone should get into Yorgos Lanthimos films. 

Olivia Coman is justly winning all of the awards for her portrayal of the weak-willed Queen Anne, but it's the cast as a whole that really pulls the film together. Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone subtly weave two characters together so seamlessly with Colman that the trio is practically a character in themselves; the ego, the id, and the super-ego separated, yet combined. It's the kind of thing Lanthimos loves to dive into, except here it's presented in a film that doesn't feel like a puzzle to unfold, but instead a joy to watch.

Tag

I am probably the only person who has this film on any best of 2018 list. Even if I wasn't doing a list of movies you didn't go see I'd have it in my top ten. Most of the rest of the world forgot about the movie, which did OK at the box office and then drifted away with little thought afterward. It shouldn't have. Tag was one of the best bromance/buddy comedy movies I've seen in years. In my younger years, I would have watched this over and over, memorizing the jokes and falling in love with stupid nuances that my friends and I would quote back and forth to each other ad nauseam. 

There's just something that works with Tag. The film's actors jive well together and the comedy hits slapstick at the exact right spot that's just overboard enough to be actually funny. Helms, Howery, Hamm, and Johnson turn a group of four guys into a fantastic funny man that plays against Renner's straight man. Not to mention the funny-as-hell action sequences of tag allow for a brief glimpse at how great a Hawkeye movie would actually be. It didn't look this good from the trailers so it's understandable why folks didn't head out to it but I wish it had gotten better word of mouth from those who did see it. Trust me this movie is actually funny and actually works. 

Roma

Netflix wants you to know that their shit is good and it should win awards, especially Roma. They really want Roma to win all the awards and it looks like it will. It also should. The film is a stunning masterwork by a director who holds two of Flixist's three perfect scores. Grounded and yet somehow magical, the film will be on best of lists for eternity if there's any justice in the world. Simply watching Roma's masterful direction is award enough, but its striking storyline, subtly told through powerful performances from actors you've never heard of, makes the film more.

We should all be streaming this, but instead, everyone is watching Bird Box. Nothing against Bird Box, of course, the movie is serviceable, but all those stellar streaming numbers Netflix is bragging about should be going to Roma. The two films came out near each other and are obviously very different movies so maybe this is a bit of apples-to-oranges but you should be watching Roma instead of Bird Box -- or at least before. Of course, another reason people haven't "seen" Roma is because its theatrical run was so limited. It is a stunning movie that really benefits from the biggest screen with the best sound possible but Netflix gave it a super limited release and only because they wanted it to be eligible for awards. 

In reality, we don't know Roma's true audience since Netflix doesn't release viewing numbers. They have to be plenty happy with the movie no matter what as it looks like it will finally be the film that puts them over as a serious awards contender at the Oscars. So maybe I am cheating a little with this, but I can at least say that most people did not see this in theaters, which is a shame considering just how stunning it looks there. 

Overlord

Overlord was not one of the best films of the year. Not by a long shot. It was, however, a nasty, little grindhouse throwback that deserved to garner an audience of horror fans it never seemed to attract. It does two things really well: subverting expectations and gore. I hate to even dive too deep into the film because it could spoil too much, but while it is built on cliches it never feels cliched. There are a myriad of issues with the movie but they're all kind of awesome. What I mean by that is that the cliche, poor writing, and some questionable plotting and directorial decisions kind of add to its grindhouse nature. It's a movie not trying to be more and so becomes more.

There's also something to be said for the aforementioned subversion of what you expect to see when you go in the theater. A lot like the better respected Sorry to Bother You, Overlord delivers a movie that starts out one way and commits to that film and then veers suddenly in drastic directions. It doesn't quite have the cleverness and social commentary of Sorry to Bother You but it does handle its turns well enough to keep you guessing where the film will go. I'm not about to march down the road yelling about how Overlord is disrespected but of movies that people didn't go to see in theaters this year it's definitely... one of them.


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Matthew Razak
Matthew RazakEditor-in-Chief   gamer profile

Matthew Razak is the Editor-in-Chief here at Flixist, meaning he gets to take credit for all this awesome even though its really the rest of the amazing staff that gets it done. He started as a c... more + disclosures


 



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    Filed under... #Alfonso Cuarón #Drama #Editors Choice #festival films #Film Festivals #New York Film Festival #New York Film Festival 2018 #Reviews #Top Stories

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