The yearly job of the critic is to take all the nuance of the work of the last 12 months and turn it into a horse race. It is said that people love lists; post something on the Internet with a headline of “10 best” anything and people tend to read it. As a critic, we like to think that our choices here reflect our taste and show just how cool we are. Have we put in something obscure that will make people’s heads scratch, or perhaps in a good way draw people to the edges and away from the middle? By the time you have dropped your hope for change with your New Year’s resolution(s)—gone off the diet or stopped the gym-going, again—will you even remember what any of us put on a list?
Nevertheless, here is mine.
Let me start with cinema, with a list that is heavy in documentaries (all by nos. 8, 5, and 3). In a year of crazy politics and a president who likes to belittle the notion of truth, it is good to see films that derive from a high level of “truthiness.” Also, my list is festival-heavy but many of these are available to stream if you look for them—and I hope you do.
10. 306 Hollywood by the brother-and-sister team of Jonathan and Elan Bogarin, who turn an archeological exploration of their grandmother’s house into a magical-realist cinematic delight.
9. Filmworker by Tony Zierra explores the life of Leon Vitali, who was Stanley Kubrick’s right hand man. It gives insight in to the madness and genius of Kubrick and how Vitali devoted his life and help make things in that perfect way that Kubrick demanded.
8. Blindspotting by Carlos López Estrada, an interracial buddy film that comically and lyrically looks at gentrification and life in Oakland, Calif.
7. Mr. Soul!, by Melissa Haizlip and Samuel D. Pollard, looks at Ellis Haizlip, who produced the TV show Mr. Soul, which is the greatest TV show you never saw. This film rectifies that.
6. They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead by Morgan Neville, looks at the last film by Orson Welles, The Other Side of the Wind. You could go ahead and watch the film on Netflix, but watching this is much richer, then if you want you can see the film that Welles tried to create. Note that it’s the second of two films on my list that are about legendary filmmakers who probably have more books written about them than they have actual films.
5. BlacKkKlansman Spike Lee brings back his cinematic genius in this great story. Let’s hope that Spike is really back.
4. Minding the Gap Bing Liu’s poetic look at his skateboarding friends in the Rust Belt and how they try or don’t try to grow up before the camera’s eyes.
3. Roma by Alfonso Cuarón is the first great film to come from Netflix. It’s also in movie theaters, so see it on a big screen while you can. It is a visual meditation of life in the Roma section of Mexico City in the 1970’s through the eyes of a domestic.
2. Won’t You Be My Neighbor Morgan Neville’s second work on this list, this one about Fred Rogers, is a two-tissue film, which is hard for a documentary. It is the film that reminds us of who we were before Trump and the values that America really stands for. I was too old to see Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood when it ran on TV, but this film shows what I missed out on.
1. Bisbee ’17, a doc by Robert Greene that you might have missed. It mixes narrative and non-fiction, so it is both doc and feature. It tells the story of a town on the Arizona/Mexico border, where in 1917s, 1,200 miners thought to be union activists were taken in the middle of the night, herded into cattle cars and dumped into the desert, where they all died.
My film list is top-heavy on films about TV shows and filmmakers—I’m guilty of loving films about media. Speaking of, here are my favorite TV shows of 2018:
10. Succession (HBO) A modern remake of King Lear.
9. My Brilliant Friend (HBO) Beautiful tone of this epic story.
8. The Americans (F/X) Still greatness.
7. Random Acts of Flyness (HBO). Created by Dallas’ own Terence Nance, a Booker T. Washington for the Performing and Visual Arts graduate, and son of local director vickie washington.
6. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Netflix). The Cohen Brothers are back.
5. Wild, Wild Country (Netflix) Great doc series about the religious cult of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The genius of this series is that the creators, brothers Chapman and Maclain Way, make you see both sides of this conflict. You will keep changing your mind on which side you think is right.
4. Saturday Night Live (NBC) I guess the only good thing you can say about Trump is that he made SNL great again.
3. Homecoming (Amazon Prime) I love that this podcast was made into a show, with the great Sam Esmail at the helm.
2. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime) I love the portrayal of 1950’s New York Jewish culture portrayed here.
1. BoJack Horseman (Netflix) If you have not seen it, you must. It’s one of the snarkiest shows ever. Especially the episode “Free Churro” in which the show becomes a dark, twisted eulogy for the character’s mother. Here is a link to the script.
» Bart Weiss is an award-winning independent film and video producer, director, editor, and educator who has lived in Dallas since 1981. Mr. Weiss has taught film and video production at Texas A&M’s Visualization Lab, Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas at Austin and Arlington, Dallas Community College District and West Virginia State College. He currently serves as President of the Board of Directors of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, serves on the Board of Directors of the University Film and Video Association, is a past Vice President of the Texas Association of Film and Tape Professionals, founder and past president of the West Virginia Filmmakers’ Guild, and co-founder of VideoFest and the Video Association of Dallas. He has been a video columnist for The Dallas Morning News, The Dallas Times Herald, United Features Syndicate and KERA 90.1 FM Radio in Dallas. Mr. Weiss received an MFA in Film Directing from Columbia University in 1978 and a B.A. from Temple University in 1975. Bart can be reached at email@example.com.
Bart's column Film Notes will return as a monthly feature in TheaterJones beginning in January 2019.
2018 YEAR IN REVIEW
Friday, December 28
- The Year in Comedy by Chief Comedy Critic Kevin Beane
- Danielle Georgiou's Sixth Position: A Year of Movement
Saturday, December 29
- The Year in Dance by Chief Dance Critic Cheryl Callon
- The Year in New Dance Works by Katie Dravenstott
- The Year in Dance by Emily Sese
Sunday, December 30
- The Year in Music and Opera by Chief Music and Opera Critic Gregory Sullivan Isaacs
- The Year in Music and Opera by J. Robin Coffelt
- The Year in Music and Opera by Wayne Lee Gay
Monday, December 31
- The Year in Performing Arts Books by Cathy Ritchie
- The Year in Classical Music Recordings by Andrew Anderson
Tuesday, January 1
- The Year in Theatrical Recordings by Jay Gardner
- The Year in Film and TV by Bart Weiss
- The Year in Theater by Frank Garrett
- The Year in Theater by Jan Farrington
- The Year in Theater by Janice L. Franklin
- The Year in Theater by Martha Heimberg
Wednesday, January 2
- The Year in Theater by Jill Sweeney
- The Year in Latinx Theater by Teresa Marrero
- The Year in Performing Arts News by Mark Lowry
- A challenge for our readers
Thursday, January 3
- The Year in Theater by Mark Lowry
Friday, January 4
- Looking ahead to 2019