The summer of 2018 was filled with a number of excellent films, many of which will likely be hitting SAB Lost Films throughout the year. Here’s the five films from this summer that I loved the most – in no particular order.
- Three Identical Strangers – The hallmark of any quality documentary is a presentation that manages to keep the viewer interested in what’s to come, while providing them with enough enticing clues to maintain consistent intrigue. The brothers featured in Three Identical Strangers do a great job at recalling the incredible series of events that lead to their discovery (many of which are recreated in between t
heir speech), before immediately following it up with an unexpectedly gut-wrenching final act which digs deeper and deeper into the bizarre circumstances that lead to their separation. This results in an ultimate revelation that feels like something straight out of science fiction. Three Identical Strangers is an emotional and incredibly gripping story, one which asks larger questions on life itself, sticking with the viewer long after the film ends.
- Eighth Grade – The very uncomfortable and often regrettable period of life from which Eighth Grade draws its title is wonderfully transformed into an achingly relatable portrayal of the human experience in Bo Burnham’s directorial debut. It does so without ever sacrificing its understanding of modern adolescence or letting its presentation get in the way of the emotional resonance. Eighth Grade tackles the issue of social media and its impacts on younger generations without ever vilifying or demonizing them. It instead emphasizes both the positive and negative repercussions of its ever growing influence in an impressively nuanced way – even questioning how the newer apps can affect generations that are just a few years apart. While the events experienced by our protagonist Kayla may seem specific to her age and gender, the emotions that come from them can be relatable to anyone — the anxiety of entering a social setting, the tension in meeting strangers, or the inescapable fear of being surrounded by people who make it clear they don’t want you there. Successfully relaying the crushing reality of isolation and anxiety that comes with being an insecure teenager is no simple feat, yet it’s what makes Eighth Grade so powerful – and certainly more enjoyable than the real thing.
- American Animals – While a book heist may not sound like the most compelling groundwork for an exciting thriller, American Animals is surprising in many ways – not the least of which is that it’s one of the most compelling and engaging films of the year. Animals relies on its unique and stylized presentation, combining archive footage with recreations and interviews from the real characters involved, as well as moments when they make appearances alongside their actor counterparts. They exchange dialogue about their own personal feeling
s on the events and how they’ve changed with age. The editing makes these events stand out, as it embraces the fact that the story is reliant entirely on their accounts, even suggesting certain events we witnessed may have been entirely fictitious. This turns it into a unique application of the unreliable narrator framework. This film also benefits from several fantastic performances, namely from Evan Peters as Warren Lipka, the center of Animals psychological evaluation, carefully documenting the transition from “what if?” to an imminent and inescapable reality. These themes are what makes the film so unique, as well as fun to watch. Its weighty conclusion comes as somewhat of a gut punch, quickly transitioning from the group’s absurd antics to the painful, real world consequences of their actions. American Animals exceeds because it asks, and answers, more questions than it needs to, elevating it beyond its genre to something unexpectedly intelligent and undeniably special.
- Upgrade – If John Wick landed in an episode of Black Mirror, the end result would look an awful lot like Upgrade, a sleek and ultraviolent techno-thriller that uses its simplistic and formulaic setup as a jumping off point into a surprisingly morbid and gleefully over-the-top descent into near-future chaos. Upgrade borrows story and filmmaking elements from past titles like Dredd and Robocop, but by the end has carved out an unexpectedly unique experience that allows it to stand out from the plethora of low-budget sci-fi thrillers of a similar nature. While it drags a bit through the first half hour, Upgrade quickly shifts into high gear for an immensely entertaining last hour bolstered by a great central performance and fantastic fight choreography, and an excellent, neon drenched visual aesthetic. By the end, Upgrade leaves us not only entertained, (and perhaps disturbed at the grisly violence) but also wondering how many, if any, of its high-tech concepts could invade our lives in the near future.
- Blindspotting – On the surface, Blindspotting seems like a straight forward buddy comedy centered around two friends in Oakland – one of which is Collin, a convicted felon on his last days of probation, attempting to stay out of the trouble spawned by his friend, Miles. Dig a bit deeper, however, and you begin to unravel the satirical commentary on the effects of gentrification that make this film so unique. What’s e
ven more impressive is that it manages to do this without a whole lot of actual story elements. Blindspotting carries its brief runtime through a plethora of scenes focused on our two protagonists in their moving job, filling their time by coming up with freestyle lyrics or commenting on their changing environment. It’s an incredibly humanizing and personal film that takes a different approach than most films do when tackling issues of racial injustice and gentrification, and it’s this unique approach that lets it stand out from the crowd. Blindspotting is a funny, suspenseful and emotional film that’s my personal favorite of the trilogy of satirical films about race of this summer – the other two being Sorry to Bother You and BlacKkKlansman – though all three are very unique and worth watching.