As per tradition, Double Exposure took an extra month to catch up on all the best movies that came out last year, but our hotly anticipated list is finally here! In addition to contributing the individual top 10s from which we built our top 15, our staff has also written a little bit about some films, whether they made the list or not, that meant something to them in 2018. Enjoy:  

  1. Roma
  2. Shoplifters
  3. Zama
  4. The Other Side of the Wind
  5. Burning
  6. Sorry to Bother You
  7. BlacKkKlansman
  8. The Favourite
  9. Black Panther
  10. Jeannette, The Childhood of Joan of Arc
  11. Ash is Purest White
  12. The Miseducation of Camera Post
  13. A Star Is Born
  14. Before We Vanish
  15. Foxtrot

To dismiss Quinn Shephard’s debut feature as a tired tale of a high school outcast in a forbidden student-teacher relationship is to trivialize a lens that differentiates Blame from similar entries in its genre. Beyond the apparent lack of male gaze, Shephard’s script and direction lend a sensitivity to the narrative seldom present in depictions of rivalries between young women or depictions of sexual abuse, which are still too-often played as transgressive romances. While Shephard establishes complex characters in Blame’s more private moments, she also maintains a careful distance from her characters throughout the film. From that distance, I searched for whom to trust, whom to like, as tension mounted between social pariah Abigail (Shephard) and it-girl Melissa (Nadia Alexander), vying for the attention of their drama teacher (Chris Messina). No sooner had I tried and failed to project my assumptions onto these characters than I realized that there’s not much beyond speculation that supports Abigail’s alleged instability, and not much beyond community consensus that makes Melissa all-powerful. Their actions are not a product of some fundamental quality or moral disposition; rather, at the heart of their rivalry is a shared desire for external validation that accompanies teenage girlhood. Put simply, Blame is a story about girls, and, more importantly, children. Not adults in high school, not girls as objects, nor girls as pawns. It’s an overdue triumph that, in this particular film, better informs our understandings of consent and brings depth to the teen rivalry narrative, proving that retelling old stories is just as important as telling new ones. – Maeve Murphy

Black Panther puts its afro-futuristic influences on full display. From the costume design to the score, every aspect of Black Panther emphasizes the importance of being proud of one’s background. The film also comments on the importance of being a progressive force in society. T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, values Wakanda’s closed-off nature, so to the rest of the world, Wakanda seems to be a poor nation with limited resources. Those in the know, however, recognize Wakanda’s advanced technologies and its main resource’s ability to benefit the world. The conclusion of the film illustrates Wakanda’s ability to change despite its thousands of years of history. Superhero films are often criticized for its emphasis on style over substance. Black Panther, however, presents a narrative that is relatable to moviegoers from any background. – Julia Rothkoff

Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War brands itself as a romance, but that does the film a disservice. Taking place over the course of fifteen odd years following World War II, the film follows Zula and Wiktor, a Polish singer and pianist respectively, as they each attempt to find a home for themselves in an upturned Europe. Driven out of now-communist Poland, Wiktor seeks to set roots in allied France, while Zula builds a career singing for the Polish government. Nonetheless, the duo claim repeatedly that they are madly in love with one another, engaging in frenzied bouts of passion every time their paths cross over the ensuing years. In truth, Cold War is a portrait of two bitter, displaced individuals who have lost the country they once knew, each finding brief catharsis in the other’s discontent, and mistaking that for love. Their love does not exist, and it cannot function healthily, but they each keep running from their demons into and out of each other’s arms until the film’s darkly comic conclusion. Filmed in deep-focus black and white shots, Pawlikoski offers a moving, nuanced look at the listlessness gnawing at post-war Europe. – Mohar Kalra

After a nine year hiatus, Argentinian powerhouse Lucrecia Martel made her return to the big screen with a surreal and captivating adaptation of Antonio di Benedetto’s recently-translated 1956 novel, Zama.  An exercise in temporal acrobatics, the film tells the story of a Spanish national stationed in a dysfunctional South American colony, where, sweating through his incongruous bourgeois garb and wig, he awaits permission to transfer somewhere—anywhere—else.  Always attentive to the sonic construction of a scene, Martel’s oceanside settlement is full of the hot, heavy sounds of eternal summer, unintelligible whispers, the escalating drone of mounting dread, and the squeaky pull-levers of ceiling fans operated by indigenous and imported laborers—enslaved men and women who bear silent, condemning witness to each senseless exchange.  As political as it is poetic, Zama underlines the violence of the colonial system through glimpses of the absurd and the cruel: Spanish officials gamble over the severed ears of legendary bandit Vicuña Porto, the camera wanders with unfocused aim through scenes of interrogation, and Zama, consumed by a stale, impotent desire, acts as silent voyeur by the river where the Guaraní women bathe.  As the film comes to a close, Zama is engulfed by the fantastic landscape which laid its claim on him long ago, abandoning viewers to wade waist-deep in a rich dream-world which lingers long after the credits roll. – Madeleine Collier

Jeannette, the Childhood of Joan of Arc is both a very silly film and a very serious one, and director Bruno Dumont is commendably uninterested in reconciling the two impulses. A heavy metal musical about the Maid of Orleans’ coming-of-age, this is a film which features fantastically rendered divine visions, lots of head-banging, and, yes, even dabbing. But the film is also about a young person realizing her potential for social change, and grappling with the paradox that to defend her home she must abandon it. Dumont’s distancing effects (diegetic sounds like the shuffling of sand beneath Joan’s feet or the bleating of sheep punctuate the musical sequences) both serve to remind the audience how bizarre these performances are while also reminding us of the centrality of the land to young Joan’s simple, pastoral existence. There’s a real sadness in the film’s final image, as the camera stays close to the ground and watches Joan ride away from her home to fulfill her destiny. Stay tuned for the sequel (no, really; it’s already been shot). – Etan Weisfogel

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s prolific decades of filmmaking culminate, in my eyes, with Before We Vanish, far and away the best new movie I saw last year. This science fiction triumph deals with a handful of humans faced with aliens who have taken human form in order to gain an understanding of human language and consciousness. They do this by stealing concepts from a person’s mind once the subjective significance a term holds for the target has crystallized, at which point a tap to the forehead is enough to transmit pure knowledge, leaving their prey to shed a single tear and faint. Practically nowhere else in contemporary cinema have I found the shocking exuberance that Kurosawa makes his priority here in every situation and performance. So untried, so invigorating was everything about the experience that when I stepped out into the midnight rain afterwards, I found myself reexamining my surroundings and the workings of my perception, an experience that can only occur with the help of the rare movie that boasts such matchlessly rousing and dense ideas. Before We Vanish, along with its immediate sequel, Foreboding, is formidably innovative and points the way not only to a new cinema, but to a new society. – Miles Emanuel