Top 10 Best [INDIE] Movies of Summer 2018
I recently conducted a poll on my Instagram to decide whether I should do an overall Top 15 of all the best summer movies, or separate them by distribution (meaning do one list for all the indies and another list for all the studio films). Over 35 people voted and majority ruled that separation is better, and I kind of agree with that. This summer we were bombarded by more indie films than studio blockbusters. This list was hard. I found myself at the indie-est of indie theaters in order to see these movies, and all of these films gave me nothing but feels.
10) “We the Animals” - You know what’s one of the most chilling themes that we never explore in film? Neglection and domestic abuse. I didn’t post a full review of “We the Animals” solely because this is one of those films that is hard for me to review. It’s a powerfully dimensional story that centers on a dysfunctional family just trying to get by. The movie is taken from the point of view of the youngest of three brothers as he internally witnesses and discovers the neglection he feels from his family, the abuse his mom receives from his terrifying father, and his own sexuality. Oh yeah, this also has a LGBT story concealed within the plot. You will also find some of the most amazing imagery you could imaging for a low budget movie, including a shot where the lead floats. I jumped from my seat and screamed:
9) “Disobedience” - Here is another film I didn’t get a chance to review. “Disobedience” is a queer romance film centered on a forbidden love between two religious Jewish women. Once one of them returns to mourn the death of her father, the romance blossoms yet again. What drives “Disobedience” to such a great ranking is primarily the storytelling and characterization of the performers Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, and Alessandro Nivola. Coming from director and Academy Award Winner Sebastián Lelio, who just won for his foreign film “A Fantastic Woman”, this drama doesn’t only tackle thought-provoking themes of religion, lust, and love, but at the core is a story about self-identity and being free of who you are.
8) “Searching” - Wow, that “MILF” guy from “American Pie" has come a long way in his career. While the film is presented through every form of modern day digital technology, John Cho is the carrier through and through. The film is presented through every technological digital screen and, for the first time, it doesn’t feel like a gimmick, but rather refreshing. Besides having the story shown through a Mac screen, you also watch it unfold through Windows, iPhones, Androids, video cameras, and every other app possible. It works because they’re all used as a means to progress the narrative.
7) “Three Identical Strangers” - Theatrical documentaries have become mainstream again and “Three Identical Strangers” is a huge reminder of why this format of filmmaking needs to be seen on a big screen instead of just your Netflix queue. This true story doc is a mind-blowing spectacle that doesn’t only make you intrigued by the story of the triplets, but leaves you flabbergasted as it progresses. Go see this movie while it is still in theaters because this is a phenomenal story that needs to be seen to be believed.
6) “Tully” - Reitman and Cody. Name a better director/writer duo. I’ll wait. The powerful performances by Theron and Davis carry this movie with the help of Diablo Cody’s original script. From beginning to end you can detect Cody’s personal outlook on motherhood being poured onto the screen and expressed through her characters. With a love-it-or-hate-it twist that I thought was genius, “Tully” is one of the most authentic comedies of the year.
5) “Blindspotting” - If you hear anyone express how poetic this movie is, it's mostly because the movie is comprised of numerous poems. While it might seem gimmicky if it were anyone else, it is rightfully welcomed, mostly because of the writers’ career background. Just when you might want to write this off as a comedy, the movie stabs you through the chest with social commentary and executes it perfectly. The movie from that moment forward (by the 50 minute mark) gets heavy-handed with its social issues, from police brutality to the negatives of gentrification, through visuals and conversations that no other film has ever expressed before. It never lets up with powerful statements and pulse-pounding moments that keep you gripped to your seat from the second half through the end of the movie. Immediately, “Blindspotting” became one of the most powerful and moving films I’ve seen this year.
4) “American Animals” - Have you ever seen any of those ID channel mystery shows (don’t ask which specific show, they’re all interchangeable)? Think of “American Animals” as a theatrical version of an episode of one of those shows. The primary difference is that “American Animals” is extremely creative in it’s narrative format. That doesn’t only apply to true crime films, but the biopic genre in general. The way this story is presented is mind-blowing in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in cinema. This is one of those films where it’s storytelling is the carrier of the movie and never ceased to surprise me all the way through. From it’s style, the crafty writing, and the performances, this is one of those movies that reminded me of why I love movies to begin with.
3) “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” - While the film is mostly a standard formatted documentary, the subject himself makes this movie shine. In a world of hatred and aggression, Mister Rogers’ kindness just touches your soul and leaves you broken inside, but in a happy way. This doc doesn’t just serve Fred Rogers justice, but it’s also a great education opportunity for the newer generation of people who have no knowledge of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood”, especially those who never heard of PBS Kids.
2) “Leave No Trace” - There’s an episode of “Animaniacs” where Slappy and Skippy go see a Bambi-type movie called "Bumbi". After Bambi’s mom dies, Skippy starts crying uncontrollably whenever it’s brought up. That is exactly how I am with the ending of this movie. Every time I think of it, I start bawling because of how poignant and mature it is for a PG movie. “Leave No Trace” is the second movie this year with a PG rating that was so moving, I’m ready to start campaigning for it during it’s awards season run. “Leave No Trace”? More like LEAVE NO TRACE OF MY TEARS AS I LEFT THE THEATER!
1) “Eighth Grade” - Well, no shit this was going to be number one. Nothing gave me the most accurate deja vu/out of body experience than “Eighth Grade”. While Bo Burnham is writing a character he could never fill the shoes of, you get the idea of how much of his own middle school experiences he’s incorporating in the script, but in a more modernized time. Triggering in the best way imaginable, “Eighth Grade” is brilliantly reflective and a throwback to the worst year of an adolescent’s life, primarily benefited from Bo Burnham in his directorial debut, and breakout star Elsie Fisher.
Thus concludes my list of the best indie movies of 2018. What were your favorite movies of the summer? Any films you would’ve liked to see on this list? Feel free to write in the comment section below!